Sunday, June 29, 2014


By Derrick Ferguson & Joshua Reynolds
An Airship 27 – Pulp Work Press Production
238 pages
Guest Reviewer Shawn M. Vogt 

Derrick Ferguson's character Dillon is an absolute favorite of mine. Taking inspiration from both old pulp characters, and from more modern action heroes that at one time ruled the cinema, Derrick has come up with a highly unique hero. It also helps that the man can write his butt off. He knows when to fill in the blanks, when to tease you with a cool concept, and when to remain silent on a particular subject. In essence, he knows how to build a detailed world for his characters to exist in... and his highly enjoyable and visual writing style always brings you back for more. Dillon is a character who always has the knowledge and skills to carry him through, no matter what mission he happens to be on. But where did he gain this type of training? There has been a number of mysteries surrounding Dillon, especially regarding his younger years, which I've been hoping Derrick would eventually get around to filling in... and then one day I happened to check Amazon, and found out that The Vril Agenda had been released! Co-authored with Joshua Reynolds, this release tells a tale of Dillon's early days, and of one of his mentors. It's my first experience with the character of Jim Anthony: Super Detective, and I have to say that Joshua writes the character in an extremely effective and entertaining manner. An older pulp character that shares some similarities with Doc Savage, Jim Anthony is revamped in fine form by Joshua. A master of all things martial, an inventor, and a renowned murderist, Jim is living in semi-retirement now, despite keeping his hand in the game. Just the type of man a younger Dillon would want to be trained by... and that's exactly what takes place in this 238 page adventure, published by Airship 27 Productions/Pulp Work Press.

It's been two years since Dillon left the fabled land of Shamballah, and returned to our reality. He has traveled across the world, and finally arrived at his destination. Which is the New York chapter of the Baltimore Gun Club, where he hopes to encounter Jim Anthony, and convince the Super Detective to train him. Dillon's family has enemies, enemies that slaughtered his mother and father... and Dillon wants to pay them back in kind. His seven years of training under The Warmasters of Liguria has partially prepared him, but he knows that he needs to learn much more, in order to survive his quest. Dillon lays out his story to Jim Anthony, who (much to Dillon's disappointment) does not immediately agree to train him, but does agree to think on the matter, as he gets to know the young man better. Unfortunately Jim also has a number of enemies that are still active, and after a number of violent assaults on the two men, they are left wondering who exactly is trying to kill them. The adventure that follows will be an examination of both men's past, will drive them apart and pull them back together, and in the end they will stand united, facing an evil that plans to reshape the very fabric of reality...

In my opinion, The Vril Agenda is a perfect example of New Pulp done right. In fact, it's just a really great story, regardless of genre. An excellent team up between a modern hero, and a hero from the past, that takes place across the years. The writing from both authors is absolutely top-notch, the characters compelling, the story action-packed. The story flows along seamlessly, and once I started reading, I didn't want to put it down. The time and thought that go into fleshing out both men's history is greatly appreciated. Derrick and Joshua give you enough to satisfy, but hold back enough to preserve the aura of mystery surrounding the two characters. Dillon and Jim Anthony are consummate heroes; willing to sacrifice everything for the greater good, even themselves. The villains aren't one dimensional in any way, they are given their own motivations, which (in their own mind) justifies their actions. They think of themselves as heroes, who are working towards a better reality that will benefit humanity. This makes the villains themselves much more interesting. The settings are imaginative, and well rendered. Basically, this is an outstanding release. I'm not sure what more I can say, other than go out and grab a copy, and get reading! You won't be disappointed.

Saturday, June 21, 2014


By Joel Jenkins
Pulp Work Press
224 pgs.

One of the many aspects of Joel Jenkins’ writing is how innovative it is.  It seems he is always putting a new spin on old concepts.  This was never more prevalent to us then when reading his latest book, “Skull Crusher.”  Set on the alien world of Carapath where heat-powered balloon ships sail the skies and empires are ruled by sword and magic, we were reminded of the old “Gor” paperback series made famous by the artist Boris Valejo’s barbarian and half-naked slave girl covers.  There is a great deal in “Skull Crusher” that echoes those salacious titles.

Strommand Greatrix is a warrior prince with a weakness for woman.  This is exploited in the opening chapter when a beautiful temptress seduces him with both her voluptuous body and goblets of drugged wine.  When Strommand awakens, his beloved city of Covallis has been overrun by an invading force and his entire family, father, mother, siblings….all have been slain by a sadistic general named Bastor Megalith; the merciless henchman of the Emperor Damion. 

Realizing how easily he was duped, Strommand, while managing to escape into the desert wilderness, makes a vow of celibacy.  He will not have sex or imbibe in any alcoholic drink until he has defeated the evil Damionites and put his uncle, his last living relative, on the throne of Covallis and seen it restored to its former grandeur.  Of course the second he makes this oath, he is immediately put in the proximity nubile wenches through a series of adventures.  One such is the alluring Amber, a slave girl he encounters and frees from the clutches of cruel desert bandits.

And here is where Jenkins turns his tale on upside.  Up until this point, the book is related in Strommand’s first person narration.  Now, at the half-way point, Amber takes over the story-telling and we quickly discover she is really a conniving, selfish character who will do anything to win the handsome’s Strommand’s affection and eventually become his queen when he returns to Covallis and completes his bloody mission.  Amber is a vile creature and will stop at nothing, including murder, to achieve her ends.

That Jenkins can easily switch between her and his protagonist, Strommand Greatrix, is truly marvelous and again we applaud in his ingenuity.  “Skull Crusher” is the first in the series and is jammed packed with lots of great action, both on the ground and in the air; it also leaves this reviewer impressed, delighted and most anxious to see what comes next. 

Sunday, June 15, 2014


By James R. Hannibal
The Berkley Publishing Group
371 pages

As promised, upon finishing the first Triple Seven Chase adventure, “Shadow Catcher,” we jumped right into its sequel, “Shadow Maker” and having just finished it, a little R & R was order.  Phew!  Somehow Hannibal manages to amp the action, suspense and all-out thrills in this second book featuring Major Nick Baron and his allies.  The stakes are also higher as Baron finds himself dueling electronically across the globe with an insane Chess Grandmaster seeking revenge for the death of his father at Baron’s hands years earlier.

Identifying Baron’s colleagues and family as chess pieces, the Emissary, as he calls himself, plots various terrorist acts according to classic game maneuvers.  Somehow, despite Baron and his pal, Major Drake Merigold’s best efforts, their cunning foe manages to stay one step ahead of them.  From a bombing assault on Washington D.C. to a gun battle in the catacombs of Turkey and a gas attack on London’s financial district, the Emissary and his league of fanatical Hashasins leave an escalating trail of death and destruction behind them.  One by one Baron’s associates are shot, poisoned and crippled systematically as the twisted sadistic genius plays his evil game.

In the end a biological weapon threatens the U.S. while a Nuke is primed to detonate in Jerusalem simultaneously.  Even the intuitive and gutsy Nick Baron can’t be in two places at once.  As the action races towards the final confrontations, Hannibal skillfully whips up a frantic climax that will the reader’s heart beating faster all the way to the very last page.  Sequels are always a daunting task, having to bring back characters one’s readers have come to know while at the same time creating new threats and challenges so as not to retread the same old thriller clichés.  At the heart of both books, Baron’s love of family is the connecting chord that makes him a true, vulnerable hero that we can cheer for as he battles impossible odds.

With Major Nick Baron, Hannibal has given us a new pulp hero that continues to ascend in reader popularity.  Thumbs way, way, up for “Shadow Maker.”  This reviewer can’t help but wonder…what comes next?

Monday, June 09, 2014


By James R. Hannibal
The Berkley Publishing Group
360 pages

A while back I received an e-mail inquiry from a marketing manager at Berkley Publishing asking if I would like a review copy of “Shadow Maker,” the sequel to last year’s “Shadow Catcher.”  Obviously the latter being the beginning of a new military thriller series.  Of course it is virtually impossible for these managers to keep track of every title they send out and to which reviewers.  Thus it often happens that I’ll get offered the second or third or fourth ….books in a series without ever having had the chance to read the first.  Yes, that can be most frustrating and generally if that happens, I’ll politely opt out of accepting the sequels.

Whereas I do love modern day military techno thrillers and have been a huge fan of Clive Cussler, James Rollins and Matthew Reilly amongst others.  This Hannibal sounded like a brother-in-arms what with his Air Force career as a fighter jock etc. and I was really intrigued by the ad Berkley did up.  So, on a whim, I let this marketing fellow know I would be happy to receive a copy of this second book but at the same time asked if they might also send along the first in the series as well.  Hey, you don’t try, you never win.

A week later I received copies of both “Shadow Catcher” and “Shadow Maker.”  Such a magnanimous gesture will not go unrewarded. I’ve decided to read both back-to-back and review them accordingly.  Something I’ve never done before.  So, sit back and buckle up for some top-notch action adventure.

Air Force Majors Nick Baron and Drake Merigold are the primary agents of a top secret military unit known as Triple Seven Chase and work directly under the command of the President and his Chiefs of Staff.  The unit commander is a tough-as-nail Army Colonel named Walker.  From a hidden underground headquarters under Andrews Air Force Base, Baron and his colleagues, supported by skilled engineers and computer experts, deploy at a moment’s notice to combat America’s foes and thwart their various plots to destroy our way of life.  If this all sounds like something out of an old pulp series, that’s because it is.  The set up is pure old fashion, patriotic pulp and it works brilliantly.  Hannibal is a fearless writer willing to amp the action at the drop of a hat and the more he puts his heroes through the paces, the fast you turn the pages.

In “Shadow Catcher,” Baron and his team are given the mission of extracting a downed American pilot who has been kept in a Chinese prison camp for the past twenty-five years.  Publicly listed as dead on the C.I.A. scrolls, Tom Novak is an emaciated lost soul desperately trying to come home.  After escaping his captors, he manages to locate a hidden C.I.A. cache equipped with supplies, canned foods and a still functioning radio which he uses to transmit his coded pleas for rescue.

The men of Triple Seven Chase are initially suspicious of the S.O.S. and set about researching Major Novak’s career and his last spy mission to verify the identity of the radio appeal.  Bit by bit they unearth the story of Novak’s last flight and the validity of his message becomes clearer with each passing hour.  Satellite images detail unusual troop activity in the vicinity of the hidden prison compound.

Even with the evidence supporting Novak’s call, Baron’s instincts are at odds with the facts.  Long suspecting a mole in their intelligence circle, he is leery that the entire rescue mission may be a clever Chinese ruse to lure them into delivering their newest stealth aircraft, Shadow Catcher, into the hands of a Chinese Master Spy.  What Baron doesn’t know is that this Espionage Mastermind is in fact planning something far more insidious and world shattering.  They are being manipulated with Major Novak as the bait.

James R.Hannibal, with this book, easily gets added to my favorite-writers list.  His characters are succinctly put forth in an economy of words that is most welcome and never slows down the pacing; which is break-neck.  Like the fighter jets he’s flown, Hannibal never lets up.  He propels his story into a stratosphere of white-knuckle action and suspense that had this reader hooked from page one to the cataclysmic finale.  In a time when many so called thrillers are padded, overblown phonies, “Shadow Catcher” is the real McCoy! 

Tuesday, June 03, 2014


By Joseph Lamere
Pro Se Press
110 pages

Imagine if you had the power to enter fictional worlds and once there meet and bring back famous characters.  That’s exactly what Diogenes Ra can do; with ease.  At an early age, while visiting a Hollywood movie set with his mother, Diogenes somehow stepped through a portal and met his fictional heroes from a very popular space opera movie.  By the time he grows up, Diogenes soon learns his ability to bring these make-believe figures into our world is a very profitable talent.

All of know of agencies that rent out Look-Alike actors for private partiers.  If you want Tom Cruise, they have someone who looks like Cruise’s mirror image, and for the proper fee, he will liven up your gathering.  Etc. Etc. Etc.  Whereas Diogenes doesn’t offer doubles, he is giving his clients the real McCoys.  Alas, somewhere along his highly public dealings, Diogenes came to the attention of the military.  They begin envisioning a cadre of agents able to cross back and forth at will.  Aware of their clandestine agendas, he is naïve in believing there is no way his abilities can be duplicated.

He’s proven wrong as one series of misadventures soon begins following another like a set of falling dominoes.  First Sherlock Holmes disappears in New York for several hours leaving Diogenes scrambling to learn his whereabouts and get him back to Victorian London fast.  Shortly thereafter, Don Juan, on a crossover for an undergraduate student, is stung by a genetically altered bee and nearly dies.  Diogenes begins to suspect the General he is working with is manipulating these events and is about to unleash his own hidden dimensional-hopping superhero.

And if that wasn’t enough to keep Diogenes scrambling, elements from his own mysterious past begin to resurface.  Could his father be a fictional character his mother, a writer, invented?  And if so, does that make Diogenes half-real and half-fiction??   Honestly, dear readers, Lamere’s story is one wonky, fun, head-trip that had me chuckling all the way through.  It is one of the most original ideas ever put forth and works beautifully in the context of the adventure.  I, for one, would really like to see more of Diogenes Ra and his exploits.  Once you’ve read DRAMATIS PERSONAE – Public Domain, I’m betting you will too.