Wednesday, January 15, 2020

CUTTHROAT


CUTTHROAT
(An Isaac Bell Adventure)
By Justin Scott & Clive Cussler
Putnam Books
381 pages

We’ve been fans of this series since first created by Clive Cussler and then picked up by Justin Scott. These are historical action packed stories of a turn-of-the-century Van Dorn detective Isaac Bell and accurate settings and history are as much fun as the adventure stuff. With “The Cutthroat” Bell and his confederates uncover the startling truth that a serial killer has been active in the US for nearly twenty years. The more they begin collecting data from across the country, one similarity continues to rise prominent in all the various police reports and newspaper accounts; the murders are highly reminiscent of London’s notorious Jack the Ripper killings.

Considering the fact that the Ripper was never apprehended, speculation arises as to the possibility that the fiend ended his reign of terror in England because he escaped to America. As outlandish as the idea seems, Bell is determined to solve the case and travels to England to re-examine the Ripper’s crime history. Ultimately creating a feasible timeline, the savvy manhunter comes to the conclusion that had the Ripper committed his crimes while in his early twenties, the idea of his coming to the US and continuing his evil ways is not only possible but with the mounting evidence gathered by the Van Dorn agents, highly probable.

Set against the backdrop of flamboyant American theater groups in the early 1900s, Scott weaves a mesmerizing, suspenseful tale that had this reviewer turning pages late into the night. “Cutthroat” is a gem in what is already a great series worth of any pulp lovers support.

Monday, January 06, 2020

THE BEGINNER'S GUIDE TO PULP FICTION


THE BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO PULP FICTION:
The Heroes, TheVillains and the Writers.
By Jonathan W. Sweet
Brick Pickle Media
138 pgs.

We really appreciate little introductory books like this one written by award winning journalist and editor Jonathan W. Sweet. It offers a very clear cut explanation of what pulp fiction is and its history in American Literature. Divided into definitive sections, the author introduces new readers to the most famous of the Golden Age pulp writers. It is the biggest section in the book and rightly so. Some truly remarkable men and women created those amazing stories that thrilled several generations. There is some mention of various pulp artists, but sparingly as the focus is on the fiction here.

Sweet then offers brief descriptions of the most popular pulp characters, starting with the greats ala the Shadow, Doc Savage, the Spider and others. This is followed by a roster of the more colorful villains and then ends the section with a look at the B-heroes who, though popular with readers, never had their own titles.

Finally, Sweet wraps it all up by showcasing current publishers who are today endeavoring to keep the pulps alive, both in quality reprint collections and others offering up new adventures such as Airship 27, Pro Se and Flinch Books. All in all nice, informative package. We’re told a Volume Two is in the works and will be most eager to read it.

Sunday, January 05, 2020

STRAIGHT OUT OF DEADWOOD


STRAIGHT OUT OF DEADWOOD
Edited by David Boop
Baen Books
265 pgs

All too often we’ve heard literary types bemoan the fact that the art of writing short stories is dead in America. Now that is geared to the fact that many of the classic slicks like Saturday Evening Post and others of such renown are no longer in existence. And yet it is in the field of New Pulp that we find short stories are not only alive but flourishing thanks to a new generation of talented young writers.

One genre in particular exemplifies that fact and it is Weird Westerns. Recently writer/editor David Boop put together three good-sized weird westerns anthologies of which “Straight Out of Deadwood” is the latest. It contains 17 cautionary tales filled with suspense, horror and a good dose of sheer creepiness. We confess most of the writers in this collection were unknown to us, but after having read their stories, we certainly plan on searching out more of their fiction.

In a perfect world, all anthologies would have nothing but great stories. Alas, in our real world “Straight Out of Deadwood” runs the spectrum in quality from top to bottom. Among our personal favorites were Mike Resnick (a writer we are quite familiar with) “The Doctor and the Specter,” about Doc Holliday’s last words before dying. It’s a gem. Charlaine Harris’ “A Talk with My Mother,” has a marvelous O’Henry ending that had us chuckling.  Derrick Ferguson’s well known Sebastian Red character shows up in “The Relay Station at Wrigley’s Pass” much to our delight. We were impressed with Marsheila Rockwell’s “Dreamcatcher.”  Honorable mentions for pure scary stuff goes to Betsy Dornbucsh’s “The Petrified Man” and Travis Heerman’s “Blood Lust and Gold Dust.”

The remaining entries were so-so, with one absurdly morbid to the point of being disgusting. As we stated at the offset, anthologies generally are a mixed bag. Overall, because there were more winners than clunkers and so we gladly recommend you pick this one up.