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.