Thursday, December 03, 2020

MATTHEW HENSON and the ICE TEMPLE OF HARLEM

 

MATTHEW HENSON and the ICE TEMPLE OF HARLEM

By Gary Phillips

Agora Books

232 pgs

In contemplating this particular review, we were reminded of the old McDonald’s campaign ad in which people were encouraged to increase their initial order from a simple burger and fries to Super-Size. Not that that was good for anyone’s overall health, but the idea of exaggerating something seems an appropriate theme here. You see,Matthew Alexander Henson (August 8, 1866 – March 9, 1955) was a real person. He was an explorer who joined Robert Peary on many Artic voyages over a period of twenty-three years. Best known for his part in the 1908-1909 expedition wherein Henson claimed to have been the first human to reach the geographic North Pole on April 6, 1909.

All of which describes a truly heroic character in the flesh. Now writer Gary Phillips has turned Henson into a bonafide pulp action hero; in other words, he Super-Sized him. And he did it with his usual writing flair and panache. The history setting is accurate throughout the book and it is obvious Phillips is having so much fun having Henson interact with such notable figures as crime boss Dutch Schultz and inventor Nikola Tesla. Focused on Harlem, characters like Langston Hughes and Bessie Coleman also appear and Phillips enjoys sharing little known facts about that part of the Big Apple during the post-World War One era. When reading historical pulp, and that’s what this is, we really appreciate these true facts.

The plot itself is a basic one. While on his last venture to the frozen North, Henson and a close Eskimo friend discovered a meteorite containing unbelievable energy. He is unclear as to what to do with the fragment he brought back with him. When he discovers certain unscrupulous men with money want to use it to power weapons of mass destruction, the world weary explorer is determined to thwart their plans. Thus begins a deadly hide and seek contest that leaves several people dead and threatens a horrific attack on a large public gathering where a noted black leader is speaking. Henson must convince his friends of the danger and recruit them to his cause in the hope they have time to avert calamity and save the day.

“Matthew Henson and the Ice Temple of Harlem” is a pulp romp, with a wonderful storyline filled with amazing characters, both real and fictional. Phillips, like the best musicians, never misses a beat between the drama and bullets flying. It’s a page turner from start to finish and we loved every bit of it.  


Sunday, November 29, 2020

 

PULP REALITY No 1

Edited by Charles Millhouse

Stormgate Press

154 pgs

Kudos to writer/editor Charles F. Millhouse for creating as yet another pseudo/magazine devoted to New Pulp fiction. Note, PULP REALITY isn’t the first such as over the past decade or so various other outfits have tried their hands at bringing back that old style of storytelling. As with all such endeavors, this volume has its ups and downs, hits and misses. Let’s look at the good stuff first. This premier issue features seven fun stories, the majority of them well written. In fact a few are outright pulp gems.

“Showdown on Scavenger Quay” by Bobby Nash.  Lance Star and Captain Hawklin to team up to battle on foes. We’ve always enjoyed stories bringing together heroes and Bobby Nash is one of the most well established, capable writers in New Pulp today as this tale clearly demonstrates.

“Reel One for the B-Man” by Clyde Hall.  An old movie house is haunted by all but forgotten matinee cliffhanger heroes. The mere concept here is wonderful and any lover of classic cinema will be smiling broadly as the young hero finds himself morphing into well known heroes to bamboozle a group of biker thug thieves.

“Captain Hawklin and the Clockwork Buccaneer” by Brian K. Morris. A German operative steals American freighters enroute to England during Lend Lease. Though a decent story, we had the feeling the writer simply overcooked his stew with too many elements and it might have benefited with a touch more cutting.

“Testament of a Forgotten God” by Charles F. Millhouse. Captain Zane Carrington transports an aged professor to the middle of the Pacific Ocean for an appointment with Poseidon. Easily the best yarn in the book and masterfully told. Though the ending was no surprise, it was the one we hoped for. We really need to read more of his work. Going to recommend this one for the Pulp Factory Awards.

“Ace Anderson and the Curse of Doctor Atomika Part One” by Kellie Lynn Austin. Undersea adventure Ace Anderson and Huck Finn battle German agents attempting to gain the secret weapons of Atlantis. Fast paced and often times confusing, we could barely follow along as the narrative was so intent on action it left little room for characterization. Pulp is action and adventure, but we also need to believe the characters are real.

“Prepare to be Mr. Fye” by Pete Lutz. Detective Jinx Duncan has a special occult power bestowed upon him; that that might come in handy when going after criminals in the big city. This is another of those gems we mentioned earlier and as an original tale, it is delivered smoothly making us want to see what comes next.

“Mercury Rises” by Rick Bradley. Clock repairman and part time P.I. Jack Mercury is kidnapped into outer space and becomes the hero of his own fantastic adventure. Finally the entire collection ends on a grand note that clearly demands lots more. Bradley knows how to write and this one was fun. To repeat, a terrific way to lower the curtain on a spectacular first issue.

Okay, so now a personal critique. Whatever the publisher’s intent, the oversized format really doesn’t work. It is an awkward shape difficult to hold, even when reclining in one’s comfortable recliner. The average reader would appreciate its size made to conform to the actual classic pulp mags.

There you have it.  PULP REALITY is fresh and exciting and off to a grand start. Here’s hoping it is around for a long time to come.

Friday, November 27, 2020

INVASION OF THE BRAIN TENTACLE

 

INVASION OF THE BRAIN TENTACLE

A Celluloid Terrors Title

By P.J. Thorndyke

Available from Amazon

332 pgs

Scientist Claire Weldon and her family move to the small rural town of Ralston, California in the summer of 1957.  Daughter Judy and son Tommy soon find themselves embroiled with typical high school drama while stay-at-home-dad Ray Weldon is responsible for baby rose.  Everything seems to be going smoothly until a meteorite falls out of the sky one night and lands next to a series of water canals use to irrigate the local farms in the area.

What no one knows is the meteorite contained eggs for an alien life form that, after centuries of traveling through the cosmos, comes to life in the water. One ugly, octopus like creature that can sting humans with a mind-altering chemical that makes them its slaves. By the time Claire and Ray begin to suspect this fantastic threat, lots of the village’s most influential citizens have become the alien monster’s puppets.

If all this reminds you of the 50s and early 60s schlock sci-fi movie matinees, then you’ve just hit the bull’s-eye as that is exactly the tone writer P.J. Thorndyke is after and he achieves it beautifully. In the end, “Invasion of the Brain Tentacles” becomes a clever mash-up of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” with “Happy Days.” Need we say more? Go find this pulpy horror romp. It’s just too much fun.


Monday, November 16, 2020

THE DEATH OF PERSEPHONE

 

THE DEATH OF PERSEPHONE

By I.A. Watson

A Chillwater Publication

337 pgs

Okay, so let’s be extremely clear here, New Pulp scribe I.A. Watson is a genius. Period. In the time we’ve come to know him as a friend, collaborator and fan, he has constantly amazed us with his knowledge about….well, everything. Not only has he contributed to practically ever major New Pulp publisher out there, his new Sherlock Holmes adventures are marvelous and his recently completed retelling of the classic Robin Hood series for Airship 27 Production was incredible in both richness of storytelling and authentic historical background.

So what would you expect when Watson turns his amazing mental library on Greek Mythology? What you get is a truly bizarre mash up of myth and Gothic Romances. We won’t elaborate as the author himself pens an essay at the book’s end detailing the conception of this particular tale.

Kore Deione, the Maiden Goddess of Spring Harvest and the daughter of Zeus, is kidnapped by Hades, the King of the Dead. He has fallen madly in love with her and envisions her bringing to the Underworld a true completion it has never known. He sees what others can, but the task at had is to convince she, who he now calls the Lady Persephone, of his genuine love for her and the realization of what it can bring forth. And like any iconic Gothic Romance, Hades has a dark secret which the maid is obsessed to uncover, even if it means her own ruination.

With “The Death of Persephone” Watson has infused pagan myths with a decidedly salvation perspective that puts an exciting philosophical twists on the most important trinity of them all; life, love and death. It is an original, fresh tale and yet as old as time. We loved every single page.

 


Tuesday, November 10, 2020

A CHRISTMAS CAROL at 221 B

 

A CHRISTMAS CAROL at 221 B

By Thomas Mann

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Publishing

22 pgs

 

So we are on Amazon buying books recently when we see the cover to “A Christmas Carol at 221 B.” What? A Sherlock Holmes Christmas story. Okay, we need to read this one. We put in our order and the book arrives three days later. To our amused surprised, it is a very, very, VERY small book totally a grand 22 pages. All of which tell a truly amazing, wonderful story perfect for the holiday season.

It is Christmas Eve and Holmes and Watson, both in their later years, are warm and safe in their 221 B digs enjoying a glass of wine and smoke while outside a wintry storm blows. Holmes finds himself melancholy, the rarest of all rarities for this man and Watson immediately inquires as to why. Holmes replies that the answer lies in a long ago event in his youth past when, at the age of 24, he met a 95 year old Ebeneezer Scrooge.

Holmes tells Watson Dickens’ tale is all true and his experience provided the good doctor, and we readers, with a truly wonderful little sequel to what happened to all those marvelous people after Scrooge’s change of heart. There’s also a crime being hatched which young Holmes must grapple with to save the day.

In all, “A Christmas CAROL at 221 B” is a gem. Thank you Mr. Mann and Merry Christmas to us all.


Wednesday, November 04, 2020

THE BATTERED BADGE - A Nero Wolfe Mystery

 

THE BATTERED BADGE

A Nero Wolfe Mystery

By Robert Goldsborough

Mysterious Press

234 pgs

What we love about Robert Goldsborough new Nero Wolfe stories is his willingness to break the mold established by Wolfe’s creator, the late Rex Stout. Such a statement will certainly anger the purist out there, but we stand by it completely. No writer ever wants to bore his readers and a repetitive plot structure will guarantee that malaise eventually. Meaning quite simply, had Stout lived longer and continued to write new stories about his rotund sleuth, we can easily imagine him developing many of the same new elements Goldsborough has delighted us with over the past few years.

With “The Battered Badge,” Goldsborough centers his plot around one of the series most amiable supporting figures in Inspector Lionel Cramer, Wolfe’s opposite number on the NYPD. So many times Wolfe has frustrated the veteran copper in his pursuit of his duty, only in the end to hand him the killers and let the police take all the credit. It was easy for any astute reader to see both men respected each other but neither would ever admit it.

When a popular anti-crime personality is gun downed gangland style, criticism is directed at the police immediately and the new commissioner, bowing to political pressure, has Cramer relieved of his duties. The Homicide Division replacing him is an egotistical incompetent. This is extremely bothersome to both Wolfe and Archie and invariably they are caught up in the case even before they have an actual client. Goldsborough is clever enough to make us wait for the eventual meeting between Cramer and Wolfe. The last thing in the world Wolfe wants is for Cramer to know he is manipulating events to have the dedicated lawman reinstated.

Meanwhile Archie and fellow P.I. Saul Panzer continue to interview likely suspects all of which leads to a climatic gathering in police headquarters. Not the brownstone. And that is all we’ll reveal here, daring not to spoil what was one of the most enjoyable finales this series has ever delivered. Thank you, Mr. Goldsborough, for keeping these great characters fresh and exciting. Mr. Stout would have approved.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

THE BIG SHOWDOWN - A Caleb York Western

 

THE BIG SHOWDOWN

A Caleb York Western

By Mickey Spillane & Max Allan Collins

Pinnacle Western

283 pgs

Several years ago we reviewed “The Legend of Caleb York.” It was an adaptation by Max Allan Collins of a movie screenplay by the late Mickey Spillane. We liked it a great deal and believe it was a one-shot at that time. Later we learned Collins had been persuaded to write four additional books featuring the gun fighting sheriff of Trinidad, New Mexico. Earlier in the year we received the fourth (The Last Stage to Hell Junction) and the fifth (Hot Lead, Cold Justice). Both were excellent and we said so in our respective reviews of each title.

Of course having now enjoyed three Caleb York oaters, there was no way we were going leave out the second and third entries. Our apologies for reviewing them out of chronicle order. Actually, Collins is so good at filling-in his readers with the start of each novel, readers needn’t worry. Each title stands on its own quite well. With “The Big Showdown,” we find ourselves arriving in the growing little town six months after the events of the first tale in which legendary gunfighter Caleb York rescued the community from the corrupt tyrannical sheriff Gauge and his band of killers. Having done so, he reluctantly accepted the sheriff’s badge until the citizen’s committee could appoint a qualified replacement.

It is York who recommends his old friend, Ben Wade for the job. Wade is an aging lawman looking for a peaceful town in which to settle and at the offset it seems like he and Trinidad were made for each other. That having been established, York is set to continue his journey to San Diego where he had hoped to sign on with the Pinkerton Detective Agency. Fate intervenes at the last minute when three masked men are caught in the act of robbing the local bank. In the ensuing gun battle, York manages to shoot of the robbers but the third, while making his speedy getaway, manages to shoot and kill Wade. Seeing his friend lying dead on the street, Caleb York vows to find the third crook and bring him to justice; be that a bullet or the hangman’s noose. At the same time retrieve the stolen money which was most of the town’s economic base.

Of course like any Max Collins tale, there is always a mystery to be dealt with. York becomes suspicious that the three men who committed the crime might have had help from an unknown source. No sooner begins his investigation when a new figure appears on the scene. He’s Zachary Gauge, a New York businessman and the last living heir to the former sheriff. It seems this Gauge has inherited his dead cousin’s estate. This includes several ranches and interests in many local enterprises. Then the new Gauge declares he will cover the bank’s losses with his own money, which quickly makes him very popular with towns folk; especially Willa Cullen, the daughter of a rancher with whom York is smitten.

As always, Collins moves his story along at a good clip and it’s obvious he’s enjoying himself bringing these iconic western characters to life. Each and everyone one of them is a familiar player to those of us who love westerns and he does them perfectly. The dialog is both amusing and lively and the shoot-outs brutally vivid. “The Big Showdown” deserves its title and then some. So saddle up, readers. This one is another keeper.


Tuesday, October 27, 2020

THE TITANIC SECRET

THE TITANIC SECRET

By Clive Cussler & Jack Du Brul

Putnam Paperback

466 pgs

In 1973, Clive Cussler, the master of modern pulp fiction, wrote “Raise the Titanic” as part of his popular Dirk Pitt underwater adventures series. It was a huge hit and would become the first of only two Dirk Pitt books to ever be made into a movie. The other was “Sahara” many years later. But we digress. In “Raise the Titanic” Pitt is charged with not only finding the famous ocean liner’s resting place, but bringing it up all to retrieve thousands of pounds of a rare metal lying in the ship’s vaults. Metal that had been mined by nine Coloradans working for the French government believing its radioactive properties would be extremely valuable. Of course Pitt succeeds and the old ship manages to conclude its voyage, arriving in New York where American agents are waiting to take possession of the ore. End of story. Or so we all thought.

Jump ahead a few decades and the ever creative Cussler invents a new hero in detective Isaac Bell, who lived and worked during the turn of the century. After his debut in the novel “The Chase,” Cussler then handed over the reins of the Bell adventures to the very capable Justin Scott. Scott would do nine Isaac Bell books before Cussler’s passing last year. Considering the Isaac Bell series was only one of several such spin-off series being produced, fans and reviewers alike had to wonder if any of them would continue now that Cussler was gone. Before his death, he had brought his own son, Dirk Cussler, on board to cowrite the Dirk Pitt books and we assume the younger Cussler will keep that flagship series alive. But what about the others?

Well “The Titanic Secret” is a partial answer, though it does raise a few other questions. Not only is it a new Bell story, but it is one that actually ties in with unanswered plot holes from the classic “Raise the Titanic.” It goes much further into the background of who those nine Colorado miners were, how they came to be involved with the project and Isaac Bell’s part in rescuing them from the frigid coast of Siberia and the action packed odyssey they undertake to reach England to see the ore loaded on that ill-fated trip. The other intriguing issue is it the fact that the book is authored not by Scott, but by another Cussler long-time collaborator, Jack Du Brul. Readers of the Oregon Files series will be familiar with Du Brul’s name; he’s penned six of those.

This was our first introduction to his fiction and we came away truly impressed. “The Titanic Secret” moves at breakneck speed from the Rocky Mountains, to the Paris, then the fjords of Norway to the coast of Siberia, the Scottish countryside and finally the docks of England without let up. Granted, Du Brul’s take on the character of Bell is not exactly as we’ve become familiar with via Justin Scott’s interpretation. There’s less finesse and unlike his own series, he pretty much goes it solo in this book. Still, it works and we applaud it as a great new addition to the series as a whole. That Cussler would have planned this strange interaction between his two most amazing heroes, Dirk Pitt and Isaac Bell, though they lived in different times, is truly wonderful and in the end a treat for all lovers of great adventure fiction. Cussler fans will revel in delight. We sure as hell did.


 

Monday, October 26, 2020

The Eldritch New Adventures of BECKY SHARP

 

THE ELDRITCH NEW ADVENTURES OF BECKY SHARP

New Expanded Edition

By Micah S. Harris

Minor Proft Press

181 pgs

What follows is our review of the first edition released in 2008. All we’d add to it is the expanded edition has more wonderful artwork and a cleaner overall design. Still a great book.

 One of the true rewards of this job is being able to share with all of you amazing books that, for one reason or another, simply do not get the exposure and acolytes they deserve. This is such a case. It overflows with so much old fashion adventure, I’m hard pressed to describe the fun I had reading it. Be aware, it is not a graphic novel, despite both its gorgeous cover, by artist Loston Wallace, and its comic dimensions. It is a prose novel, but packaged differently with a nice overall design. It’s both very easy to handle and read. For those of you not versed in classic English literature, Becky Sharp is the heroine of William Makepeace Thackeray’s 1947 novel, VANTIY FAIR; a book that satirized the mores of 19th century English society. Harris actually teaches English Lit, thus his familiarity and obvious fascination for the character. But it is what he does with her in this madcap tale that is pure pulp genius. Since the lovely lass came to a rather tragic ending in the Thackeray version, Harris’s offers us a duplicate Becky Sharpe from an alternate world. In this reality, Becky is recruited by a sect of Lovecraftian aliens posing as human to help them defeat a rival monster known as Tulu. But to do so, Becky will first have to be granted immortality and then sent on a globe-spanning quest to obtain the required talismans needed to defeat Tulu. Once her journey begins, through both geography and time, Becky manages to meet Asheya, known as She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed, encounters the giant gorilla Kong of Skull Island, enters into a passionate romance with the Scarecrow of Romney Marsh, travels with Nemo and battles a super strong Egyptian Mummy alongside the Ape Man of the African Jungle. And these are only a few of her amazing exploits. The delight of this book is not only its marvelous conceit, but Harris’ talent as a gifted writer. His use of language is deft and exact, with a very beautiful command of style. The narrative has such grace as to carry to reader along effortlessly, all the while painting unbelievable scenes of action and daring-do with panache. This is easily one of the best books I’ve read all year. Last word, if you enjoy reading fresh and original fiction, then consider picking up THE ELDRICTH NEW ADVENTURES OF BECKY SHARP as a Christmas gift to yourself. You can order it at Amazon or go directly to the publisher on-line at (www.booksofmicah.com). Tell them I sent you.

 

Friday, October 16, 2020

THE GUNS OF PLUTO

 

Edmond Hamilton’s Captain Future

The GUNS OF PLUTO

By Allen Steele

Experimenter Publishing

195 pgs

 

We first discovered sci-fi writer Edmond Hamilton while in high school and immediately became a fan of his unique action/adventure stories. Unlike the hard science fiction of writers like Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke, Hamilton gave us Flash Gordon – Buck Rogers style tales we later learned to identify as “space operas.” As time went on we read more and more of Hamilton’s work but these were the 60s and we simply were unfamiliar at that time with his sci-fi pulp hero, Captain Future. The closest we came to that part of his legacy was when he created the Star Wolf series for a paperback outfit. We find it odd that in his bio at the back of this volume, that particular series is totally forgotten.

But we digress. Fact is during the heyday of the pulps Hamilton created Curt Newton, a tough as nails science hero and his team; a robot, a cyborg and an encased human brain. They were known as the Futuremen and over time their adventures brought about a truly loyal fanbase. One of these was writer Allen Steele who dreamed of one day writing new Captain Future novels. This book is part of that dream fulfillment. Although we should mention it is not first Captain Future book he wrote. That was published by another publisher and if you’re lucky, you might find copies at second-hand retailers via Amazon. For now, our focus is on this now on-going series established by the folks operating under the famous Amazing Stories banner.

In “The Guns of Pluto,” one of Newton’s old foes, the Black Pirate, attacks an interplanetary prison on the frozen planet. He then sends a message back to our hero claiming to hold two important hostages who will be executed unless Captain Future arrives on the site within the next twenty-four hours. Naturally Newton and his allies know the Black Pirate has an ulterior motive, other than simply besting his nemesis. What that is can only be uncovered if Captain Future acquiesces to his demands and thus begins the adventure.

Sure enough, once on Pluto, there are betrayals and surprises in store for our hero and his Futuremen. Eventually they learn the Black Pirate’s plan; a daring space voyage that if it succeeds will have severe consequences for the entire galaxy. Like all the classic pulps of old, “The Guns of Pluto” is a fast paced, rollicking adventure and Steele’s re-imagining of the Futermen is terrific. His writing has a sophisticated edge we truly believe Hamilton would have happily approved of. Just one note of caution, loyal readers. The book does not have an ending but climaxes with a cliffhanger to be resolved in the next volume. This may turn some of you away, but for this reviewer, it was a marvelous tease that worked. We cannot wait for the next installment.

Monday, October 12, 2020

BLACK STILETTO - Endings & Beginnings

 

THE BLACK STILETTO – Endings & Beginnings

By Raymond Benson

Oceanview Publishing

324 pgs

Sometimes a series is so damn good, we wish it would never end. Whereas going into Raymond Benson’s homage to old fashion comicbook superheroes, we knew that it would be told in five installments. From our initial delight at the first volume, each new chapter not only thrilled and entertained us, but at the same time saddened us as we could see the finale approaching.

Without repeating my reviews for the previous volumes, let’s get into how magnificent that ending is. The story picks up exactly where book four, “Secrets and Lies” left off. Judy Copper, aka as the masked vigilante Black Stiletto is in Los Angeles in 1962 involved with a handsome criminal named Leo Kelly. Kelly has aspirations to rise in the hierarchy of the Vegas mob run by brutal Italian family. But his beautiful, but psycho sister, Christina, isn’t willing to wait and disguised as the Black Stiletto, she murders the Boss’s daughter and later one of his top lieutenants.

Judy is trying to clear her name when she discovers she’s pregnant with Leo’s baby. That pretty much turns her world upside down. All this is told via Judy’s diaries now in the possession of her adult son, Martin Talbot. In present time, an aged Judy is confined to a senior facility suffering advanced Alzheimer’s and nearing her last days. When two criminal hitmen from Texas show up and nearly kill Martin, he realizes his mother’s past exploits are about to catch up with them. Meanwhile is own daughter, Gina, has become an expert in martial arts and reminds him all too much of his mother. When he finally reveals Judy’s secret to Gina, she volunteers to travel to Odessa and uncover exactly what happened there decades earlier.

Though most of the interweaving threads are predictable, that doesn’t in any way diminish their impact as Benson has created truly likeable characters that the reader comes to know and love. The last few chapters pack an emotional wallop that had us brushing back tears. This has been an exceptional series brilliantly told with heart and understanding. And there’s even an opportunity for a “new” Black Stiletto, one we truly hope Mr. Benson will explore some day.

 

Sunday, October 04, 2020

THE MYSTERY OF THE COWBOY SUMMIT

 

MYSTERY OF THE COWBOY SUMMIT

A Hollywood Cowboy Detectives Adventure

By Darryle Purcell

A Buckskins Edition

144 pgs.

Okay, so right up front, we love this series by Arizona writer Darryle Purcell. The concept is a fun one and the action revolves around Republic Studios in the early 1940s. At that time they were pumping out B westerns super fast. Folks like Tom Mix, Gene Autry, and Tim McCoy were the childhood heroes of boys and girls across the country. Curly Woods is the studio’s flack, i.e. marketing rep with the task of promoting these horse operas and their stars via newsprint, radio and the popular newsreels. Curly’s boss is Rick Danby, an Executive Producer at the studio while his brother, Nick Danby, works as a chauffeur for the company. Curly and Nick are beer drinking buddies who regular chum around with silent film cowboy Hoot Gibson. The three of them are the principal protagonists in the series of which “The Mystery of the Cowboy Summit” is the tenth.

In each new book, Purcell often features cameos by other popular stars of the time. In this story, Federal Agents working for President Franklin Roosevelt have come to recruit the trio to be his “goodwill” ambassadors at a South American political summit to be held in Brazil. The affair will be attended by dozens of foreign business men from the surrounding countries and Roosevelt hopes to assure their allegiance should the war in Europe ultimately reach our shores. Knowing these cowboy personalities are recognized and admired throughout South America, Roosevelt believes they are the perfect envoys to win over these powerful financiers.

Tagging along this time is Buck Jones and Crash Corrigan. Of course like all previous capers, once in the Amazon jungles of Brazil, en-route to the fancy hacienda where the summit will be held, our guys soon learn there are other aspects of their mission the G-Men failed to mention. They find a field of giant corn inhabited by giant bugs, scorpions, worms and spiders. They are told this is all due to a super growth chemical invented by one Dr. Anita Lafond, a guest on the ranch. The idea is to supposedly perfect this potion and sell it to American farmers; the giant insects are a by-product not yet resolved. This is all well and good until they discover the ranch’s owners, Dom Sebastian and his sister Maria, may be German agents in cahoots with opium growing Arabs also in bed with Third Reich.

As ever it doesn’t take long for the action to ramp up and pretty soon our Cowboy envoys are in the battle of their lives attempting to stop thwart an insidious Nazis’ plan while at the same time having to rescue the innocent diplomats caught in the crossfire. Purcell, as in all his previous books, knows his history and depicts the characters with as much authenticity as his wild tale will allow. Himself an Army veteran of Vietnam, he’s familiar with weaponry and combat. He’s also proud patriot unashamed to cheer the old red, white and blue.

The Hollywood Cowboy Detectives series is one of the finest in New Pulp today. “The Mystery of the Cowboy Summit” is an excellent addition to it and now we can’t wait for the next one.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

CURSED SANDS

 

CURSED SANDS

By B.C. James

Available at Amazon

96 pgs.

Having read some of our reviews, writer B.C. James send along his self-published “Cursed Sands” asking if we’d read and review it. Coming in at only 96 pgs, this volume is a novella which gives proof to the old adage, “Big things come in small packages.” In those 96 pages, James packs enough action and adventure to equal any of the currently bloated bestselling paperbacks on the market today.

The setting is Iraq today and four members of an American military squad are traveling through the desert when they are attacked by terrorists. After firing several shots, the black-clad enemy runs away and Corporal Kace McCrae suspects the soft-contact was simply a ploy to lead them into an ambush. The shooters have fled into the ruins of the ancient city of Babylon. Being a one time seminary student, Kace is aware of the city’s history and curse. Still, his men support his decision to pursue the enemy. Leaving their armored vehicle behind, they enter the ruins.

Immediately upon doing so, they find themselves caught in an alternate reality as other buildings and edifices suddenly materialize all around them. With them come living nightmares actually culled from their own imaginations. When one of them is brutally murdered, the three remaining soldiers realize they are now battling the supernatural. Their new battleground is home to weird, twisted demons who take pleasure in torturing their victims.

Throughout the tale, James never lets the pacing lag, propelling his narrative along while at the same time expertly defining his characters so that in a relatively short time, we found ourselves rooting for them. There is also a healthy does of humor that is very indicative of men in combat, a dark gravesite jesting that adds another layer to an already terrific read.  Will Cpl. McCrae and his men survive? And if so, how? “Cursed Sands” is pure pulp, loyal readers and we enjoyed every single page of it. You will too.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

SON OF RAVAGE

 

SON OF RAVAGE

By J.P. Linde

El Dorado Publishing

310 pages

 

What happens when a comedian takes it upon himself to write a pulp adventure? What you get, if you’re lucky, is a wacky, fast-paced and totally outrageous tale called “Son of Ravage.” Now attempting to satirize something that is already satirical could give one headaches. Pulps were never meant to be taken seriously and by their very nature they were exaggerated stories filled with larger than life characters. Whereas Linde opts to up the ante and make his own characters ever more audacious.

Can you image Doc Savage having a son? One who is unaware of his heritage, is brought up by adoptive parents and at the age of thirty is a shiftless slacker with absolutely no ambition at all. That’s Barry Levitt and unbeknown to poor Barry, his real father was none other than the 40s world trotting adventurer, Rock Ravage. Whereas by some quirk of cosmic destiny, Barry, like his famous sire, has accumulated four colorful pals who are extremely loyal to him. They include Doc, portly chemist, Brain, an intellectual genius, Face, a self-centered thespian and Beast, a rough and tumble redneck with an addiction to action. Thus, when a mercenary named Tanktop (he wears a mini-tank turret on his head that actually has a firing canon) attempts to kill Barry, his friends come to his aid and thus begins their quest to learn who is real father was and why people are tying their best to end his life.

Sound wild and madcap? It is. Honestly, from killer robots guarding an underground marijuana field to space aliens hiding in the ocean, a family of Bigfoots on the loose in the Northwest and a mechanical dinosaur on a lost tropical island. These are just some of the dangers the five will encounter as they race to find the actual mastermind; the villain who actually murdered Barry’s dad.

“Son of Ravage” is hilarious and a really fun read. Enough so that we’ll forgive Linde for constantly misspelling HANGAR; you know, those big structures on airfields that house aircraft. Hangers with an E are for hanging up clothes. And will hardly mention that pathetic excuse for a pulp cover. Really? A book filled with so many wonderful, zany characters and this was the best you could put together to sell it? Shame, shame.

That all being said, we loved this book. All too often pulp scribes forget the element of humor and offer up intense stories with so much angst, one wonders what actual enjoyment can be had from these offerings. Whereas “Son of Ravage” is pure entertainment from start to finish. And we’ll swear to that on a stack of classic pulps any day of the year.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

LEVON'S HOME

 

LEVON’S HOME

By Chuck Dixon

Wolfpack Publishing

241 pgs

We’ve been wanting to read a Chuck Dixon Levon Cade book from some time now. As always, time seemed to get away from us. According to Amazon, there are seven of these with this one being the latest. Before anything else, let us state the book was a gift from the writer, who is a friend. But that has never stopped us from posting an honest review.

From what is only hinted at in “Levon’s Home,” our protagonist is a military veteran of recent Middle Eastern conflicts and known in his Alabama hometown as some kind of war hero. There are also brief mentions of post-service duty with secret government agencies. Again, we really need to pick up those first six books. Whereas this one is fairly easily laid out. Cade is a widower living with his Uncle Fern and daughters Merry and Hope in the country. When an ex-con cousin named Teddy comes to see him, it is with an unusual plea. Teddy’s ten years old son Jason, who lived with his ex-wife, has disappeared and Teddy wants Levon to help find him.

At Uncle Fern’s urging, Levon reluctantly agrees and begins his own investigation by questioning the mother and confiscating the boy’s laptop. At the same time the local sheriff is dealing with other cases of missing boys and it soon becomes obvious that Jason’s disappearance isn’t an isolated event. Someone with deep pockets is kidnapping these boys and holding them as sex slaves for powerful men with perverted souls.

By the time Levon begins to put the pieces together, he’s ready to mete out his own brand of “southern” justice and the bodies start to pile up. Dixon isn’t one to shy away from the horrors that infest the human spirit and the required merciless retribution required to combat it. Something Levon Cade has no trouble dispensing. “Levon’s Home” is an old fashion pot-boiler that our fingers turning pages as fast as a casino blackjack dealer flipping cards. Action junkies, this is the good stuff. Don’t miss it.

 


Monday, September 14, 2020

SGT. JANUS on the DARK TRACK

 

SGT. JANUS ON THE DARK TRACK

By Jim Beard

Flinch Books

197 pgs


Six years after it was officially announced, book # 3 in the Sgt. Janus series by Jim Beard is at long last here. We are happy to report that the wait was a worthwhile one.

The adventure begins with Sgt. Janus and his companion, Mrs. Valerie Havelock-Mayer, on a train for home having just attended a conference for occult investigators.  Aboard the train is a politician named Clowers and his teenage daughter Laura. When Laura unexpectedly takes sick, Janus suspects she has been possessed by the ghost of another young woman whose own life ended tragically on that very train.

As his previous two books, Beard narrates the story from the first person accounts of the supporting players, never Sgt. Janus himself. Thus in the first half of the tale, Valerie’s diary entries share that task along with letters and notations by the other passengers including those written by the assistant conductor, Gabriel Butters. We soon learn that Butters has knowledge of an old African magic referred to as “the Dark Track.” Is the train itself haunted by the specter of a notorious outlaw and what was his connection to the ghost now controlling Laura?

To solve that mystery, Janus, Valerie and Butters decide to leave the train at a country station and proceed along the “Dark Track” on foot. This brings us to the book’s second half where becomes a whole lot more complex. The trio find themselves in what can only be described as an alternate timeline…as other people. If that wasn’t confusing enough, they are in Jordon, a small town dominated by the ironworks factory. It is the hometown of the dead girl; only here she is still among the living and the mystery of her actions and their repercussions to the events on the train only deepens.

Beard’s strength as a writer is his use of language to define his characters. It allows us an intimate glimpse as to their purposes and motivations. Sadly it is also his weakness as this attention to each individual flower fogs our view of the entire garden. Meaning quite simply that at the book’s conclusion neither the principle characters nor we readers are exactly sure what the actual resolution was. Much like H.P. Lovecraft, Beard is truly skilled at creating atmosphere and mood, which works beautifully in ghost stories but we would have appreciated a more defined conclusion. It is our one and only critique.

“Sgt. Janus on the Dark Track” is unique reading experience one the reader will not soon forget.

 

 

Sunday, September 06, 2020

WHERE THE BULLETS FLY

 

WHERE THE BULLETS FLY

A Sheriff Aaron Mackey Western

By Terrence McCauley

Pinnacle Books

345 pgs

 

Ever since the emergence of the New Pulp movement several decades ago, we’ve noticed a resurgence in so many different genres of popular fiction long defunct. We’re not saying westerns ever went out of style; it is perhaps one of the more staple genres in American fiction. But it, like all the others, has had its ups and downs. There were decades when all one saw on paperback racks were westerns and then times when one was lucky to see a few Louis L’Amours. Those are cycles most readers soon become familiar with. As to the whys, that’s beyond this reviewer’s ability to comprehend. What we do know is that westerns are back in a big way and store racks are debuting new and exciting writers.

One such is Terrence McCauley who appeared on the scene only a few years ago writing suspenseful crime and spy thrillers. Knowing the author personally, we quickly became fans. Little did we suspect he was about to give us two of the best western heroes ever to appeare in print; Sheriff Aaron Mackey and his Deputy Billy Sunday.

“Where The Bullets Fly” is the first in the series and it kicks off with a bang. Mackey, a West Point graduate and former Calvary Captain, is drummed out of the army after his hair-trigger tempter gets the best of him. Thinking himself a failure, he returns to his hometown of Dover Statrion Montana. Accompanying him are his former black first sergeat Billy Sunday and old veteran scout Sim Halstead. Ultimately pressure from his Irish father and the town council get Mackey elected sheriff shortly after marrying a naïve young girl named Mary. She sees him as her knight in shining armor.

As the story opens, Mackey’s marriage is nothing but a convenience and his life has become routine. Dover Station, thanks to the railroad line, is beginning to grow and Eastern investors are seriously looking at helping that along. Mackey could care less. He’s content with keeping the peace whenever a few cowhands or miners get out of hand on a Saturday night. Then one day, five strangers ride into town and start start a ruckus at the Tin Horn saloon, savagely beating the owner and his bouncer. Mackey and Sunday attempt to arrest them only to have the drunken cowboys draw their six-guns and lead starts flying. When the gunsmoke clears, all five men are dead in the street and Mackey is left with mystery of who they were and why had they come to his peaceful town?

He soon learns the answer to that question in the form of a vicious killer named Darabond who commands a group of some fifty men hellbent on raiding and destroying any town they come upon. Now their target is Dover Station and they are about to fall upon it like human locust with only Mackey and his few allies to stop them. Suddenly, the ex-soldier is once again hurled into a bloody war and it will take all his skills and grit to save his home from the merciless raiders.

In Aaron Mackey, Terrence McCauley has created one of the toughest, most brutal and believable heroes ever to ride the wide open ranges. Once started, this was a book we just couldn’t put town. Sure, there are familiar tropes one expects in any western, but McCauley has the verve to shake them up and there are quite a few surprises in store for the jaded reader. This is one oater, you won’t soon forget.

Tuesday, September 01, 2020

ASTROMAN Book Two - Arsenal of Wonders

 

 

ASTROMAN

Book 2 - The Arsenal of Wonders

By Dwight R. Decker

Vesper Press

298 pgs

 

In 2019, writer Dwight Decker delivered “Astroman Book One – The Secret Citadel,” the first part of his rollicking homage to all the great comic book heroes including the Man of Steel himself, Superman. In that volume, Matt Dawson, a young physicist from our world is hurled into an alternate Earth where villainy and injustice is battled by a super being from another world named Astroman. As if that wasn’t spectacular enough, Dawson then discovers he possesses those self-same super powers as some kind of reaction of his being transported to this “other” Earth. Eventually he meets Astrogirl, the beautiful cousin Astroman. She confides in him that she and Astroman actually came not from an alien world, but the future where mankind has colonized another planet in a distant galaxy.

If that was shock enough, she confesses that Astroman is dead, a fact she has been keeping secret from the public. He was murdered by a genius evil scientist named Garth Bolton. By now astute readers translate that to Lex Luthor. Bolton has invented a weapon that can kill super being and if Astrogirl and Dawson have any hope of defeating him, they must travel back to the future to obtain an even more powerful weapon. Thus ended book one.

With book two, “The Arsenal of Wonders,” Dawson and Astrogirl arrive back at her homeworld and there experience several adventures. It’s all too clear Decker is giving us a grand tour of all the alien worlds that were prevalent in sci-fi paperbacks of the sixties and tips his hats to such authors as Edgar Rice Burroughs, Gardner Fox and Edmond Hamilton, among others. Eventually our heroic couple get the Super Neutralizer and return to Astro-Earth in time to stop Bolton from taking over America. Battles ensue and when Bolton commandeers an orbiting space station, things truly look bleak for our heroes.

If, like this reviewer, you grew up reading sci-fi paperbacks and comics in the 50s and 60s, “The Arsenal of Wonders” is going to be a truly pleasurable trip down memory lane. Yes, it is overly long in some places and could have been trimmed, but one can’t fault Decker for truly loving his subject and not wanting to leave anything out. In the end, we’re only too happy to give this a jolly thumbs up. Again, not for the everyone, but if you know who Ka-El really is, go grab a copy and enjoy.


Tuesday, August 18, 2020

NEXUS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 NEXUS 

By Mike Baron

www.bloodyredbaron.com

403 pgs

We’d guess most reading this review are well aware that Nexus was a science-fiction comic book series created by Eisner winning writer Mike Baron and illustrated by Steve Rude. Now, long after the days of First Comic and the Bronze Age of the Independents, Baron has given us a truly amazing Nexus novel that will simply blow your mind.

Baron’s prose doesn’t so describe a setting as injecting it directling into your imagination with his verbal scalpel. His prose is a joyous romp elevating the art of storytelling to a whole new level. One you shouldn’t even consider passing by.

The plot is basic good versus evil, only on a cosmic scale. Gourmando is an eater of worlds and he’s chosen the planet Ylum as his next galactic entrée. What this all powerful devourer doesn’t know is Ylum is also the home of Horatio Hellpop, the universe’s own avenging angel. Nexus will do anything within his own amazing powers to save his world and its wonderful, spirited freedom loving alien citizenry.  Even to point of sacrificing himself so that they might live.

“Nexus” does what Baron has always done in his brash, no-holds-barred career. It takes chances, it makes one laugh and cry while musing the eternal question, “Why?” Unlike Victor Hugo’s Quasimodo, we think Horation Hellpop might counter, “Why not?”

Monday, July 20, 2020

MURDER in the RUE DUMAS


MURDER IN THE RUE DUMAS
By M.L. Longworth
Penguin Books
296 pgs.

We confess to not reading all that many new books from other countries and perhaps should do so more often. “Murder in the Rue Dumas” comes to us from France by way of M.L. Longworth. She actually resides in Aix, the setting of this story and so generously paints a warm and beautiful picture of the area. Enough to have us wondering how delightful a town it would be to visit. Just not when people are being murdered there.

The head of philosophy department at the nearby college is planning to retire and several of his colleagues are hoping to be his replacement. The position not only comes with prestige and a raise, but also included is a fabulous apartment suite on the campus itself. Some actually believe the apartment if more valuable than the title itself and there is the fact that once awarded, it is a lifetime position. Things go awry when at a party in his apartment, Prof. Moutes tells his friends he has changed his mind and is not going to retire. The next morning he is found dead in his office, his head smashed in.

Enter Judge AntoineVerlaque and Inspector Bruno Paulik to systematically interview the usual suspects from among the faculty and student body. Longworth never rushes the plot along and some readers may be distracted by several of her musings on travel, cooking and love, but we found each delightful. Each of these digressions enhanced our overall enjoyment of the story. Of course the mystery is solved in the end, both by intuition and solid clues but honestly, with “Murder in the Rue Dumas,” it is the journey to it we appreciated most.

Maybe its time to see if our passport is still valid.

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

WHO'S WHO in NEW PULP


WHO’S WHO in NEW PULP is now available at Amazon. Here are 222 bios of the finest New Pulp writers, artists, reviewers, editors and publishers. All proceeds from sale of the book to go to the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.  Note – all participants can purchase copies directly from Rob Davis – Art Director Airship 27 Production.
Thanks to all who helped make this book possible.
AMAZON LINK –
(https://www.amazon.com/dp/1946183830?ref_=pe_3052080_397514860)