Saturday, February 18, 2017


By Andrew Hilleman
Penguin Books
332 pgs

At the turn of the century, Pat Crowe and an associate kidnapped the teenage son of one of the wealthiest meatpacking tycoons of Ohmaha, Nebraska, Edward Cudahy. The they were paid twenty-five thousands dollars in gold coins as a ransom. They then released the boy unharmed and fled state kicking off one of the most intensive manhunts in U.S. history. Eventually, Crowe, found himself alone and the most wanted man in America. Many considered him the last of the real wild west outlaws.

His flight took him through the southwest, then across the sea to Japan and into Africa in time to participate in the Boer War. Years later, upon his return to America, he gave himself up to the authorities and was brought back to Omaha to stand trial. Then, in the most shocking twist of all, he was exonerated though everyone knew he was guilty. His crime was so blown out of proportion during his years on the run that by the time of the  trial, his character had become the stuff of legend and average American saw him as a cowboy Robin Hood battling the elite rich. He became a hero around which they could somehow rally and strike back at what they perceived to be the injustices of the world.

Now all that is fact.  There was a Pat Crowe, he did kidnap Edward Cudahy Jr., abscond with the gold and ultimately win his court trial. These facts alone make for a fantastic story, but author Hilleman isn’t content to simply give us a dry, fact for fact recitation. Rather, in a truly amazing creative tour de force, he opts to “fictionalize” the story of Pat Crowe and in so doing produces a work so exuberant and outlandish as to clearly classify as a true piece of pulp melodrama

From the onset Crowe, tells us he is no hero and that is the most understated truth in the entire narrative. Crowe is in fact a simple minded, hard working soul who simply cannot accept the injustices the times imposed on the uneducated poor. No matter what financial endeavors he attempted to pursue, the political and economic forces of the time would conspire to assure he was never successful. These was not the days of making dreams come true. Thus, defeated at ever turn, Crowe pragmatically saw his only recourse was to break the law to achieve his goals.

He does so with absolutely no remorse. He is not a cruel man, but then again, has no problem harming, to the point of killing, those lawmen who attempt to apprehend him. The real genius of Hilleman’s tale is that he systematically deconstructs the romanticism of the western.  Regardless of heroic figure the press makes of him, Crowe remains content with his own identity. It is this stoicism that allows him to survive the current of public opinion and in the end see him through these remarkable events as nothing by a solitary survivor; an old man with one hell of a tale to tell. Which is exactly what this book is, one hell of a whopper.  Highest recommendations here.

Monday, February 06, 2017

NIGHTSCAPE - Double Feature No. 1

Edited by David W. Edwards
Part One – by Derrick Ferguson & David W.Edwards
Part Two – by Arlen M.Todd
Imperiad Entertainment
299 pages

What we have here is a title with two different pulp actioners; both edited by David W.Edwards. Thus will give you or take on each separately.

Kicking of this volume is “The Thousand-Eyed Fear” by Editor Edwards and popular pulp writer, Derrick Ferguson. It’s a deliriously delicious pulp romp evocative of some the best classic tales of the early 30s. Set in World War One, the story follows a Doc Savage clone named Lt. Nolin Quigg, known around the world as Strongboy, and his team of young soldiers to include Brits and Americans referred to as The Lost Boys.
Occult scientist working for the Germans have somehow tapped into another dimension and captured a monstrous, evil entity capable of spreading fear throughout a limitless region and turning people into babbling fools or heinous monsters.

The Germans have devised a way of draining the occult energy from this “thing” and are going to use it to power their new secret weapon, a giant tank three times the size of such war machines. Thus it is up to Strongboy and his crew to infiltrate the German’s hidden underground base, thwart the fiendish beast and destroy the super tank. As we stated at the start of this review, this is magnificent pulp brilliantly written. We’ve no clue which of the two writers did what sections, as the prose is seemless and we have to add, aside from the violent, bloody action, Edwards and Ferguson infuse some thought provoking philosophies throughout giving their characters an original twist.  All in all a great read and we are hoping to see lots more of Lt. Quigg and company in the future.

Next up is “The Q for Damnation” by Arlen M.Todd and storywise it is another stellar pulp tale with as yet another new hero in the French female masked vigilante/detective known as Monteau. Lina Mayen, when not on a case, disguises her operations under the guise of being a criminal mob boss herself. A nice tip of the hat to the Green Hornet set up. When one of Lina’s old friends, a curator of a Paris museum, is brutally murdered during the theft of a special painting said to possess arcane mysteries. Monteau is soon caught up in a truly bizarre case involving elements reported during a World War One battle. Lo and behold, we readers suddenly realize this story, happening almost thirty years after the first adventure, is actually a sequel that reveals some of the horrendous aftermaths of that previous tale.  All in all, Todd’s writing is competent and we had fun challenging ourselves to properly translate much of his French dialogue; it being one of the languages we were raised in.

Now we’d love to give “The Q for Damanation” the same high marks as we did for “The Thousand-Eyed Fear,” but unfortunately that becomes impossible due solely to the printing gimmicks scattered throughout the text. By that we mean there are entire sections done in faux cursive, ala diary entries that go on and on, or reprinted hospital forms filled with supposed doctor’s notes etc. etc. There is even a section presented to us ala a scene in a play! We have to wonder if the editor believed this was a “fun” way to break up the monotony of page after page filled with only text?  Keep in mind, all books are for the most part just pages of text. It was those words do that matters, not how they are dressed up visually. Thus this stuff fails miserably as it merely creates annoying, jarring visuals that instantly take the reader out of the narrative. Something that should be avoided at all cost. In the end, we’d suggest, if he truly needs to break up the repetitiveness of text pages, he revert to the traditional use of pulp interior illustrations. When done by talented graphic artists, such pieces actually enhance the fiction.

In the end, this is really a good, solid package and we do recommend it highly. The level of imagination in this volume is noteworthy and will entertain even the most jaded pulp fan.