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 na├»ve 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.