Saturday, August 13, 2022

THE HAM REPORTER

 

 

THE HAM REPORTER

By Robert J. Randisi

Double Day Western

370 pgs

 

When picking up this volume, we noted the sub-titles being “A Novel of Bat Masterson in Twentieth-Century New York.” Randisi sets his creative imagination post Wild West life and career of the legendary lawman who at one time fought alongside other larger then life figures such as Wyatt Earp and Wild Bill Hickock. Seeing the frontier succumbing to civilization, Masterson and his wife Emma migrated to the booming metropolis on the Hudson, New York City. There the one time law-dog became a popular sports writer and eventual publisher.  

As the tale opens, one of Masterson’s colleagues and fellow drinking mates, Inkspot Jones, a sports writer, suddenly goes missing. Attempts to involve his police detective friend, Charles Becker, prove fruitless. It is assumed the writer is simply on some kind of drinking jaunt from which he’ll eventually resurface. Tragically it is the fellow’s corpse that floats to surface thus morphing the missing person case is one of cold blooded murder. Having no faith in police’s ability to solve the crime, Masterson takes it upon himself to find the killer and provide Jones’ widow with some kind of justice.  

Aiding him in the hunt is popular paper columnist, Damon Runyon. As the duo of amateur detectives begin to gather information on Jones’ last days, it soon becomes evident that the dead man had crossed paths with one of the Big Apple’s several crime lords. And in doing has suffered the consequences. Soon Masterson discovers the back alleys of the big city are just as dangerous as the streets of Doge City and Tombstone.  

“The Ham Reporter” is a brilliant work of historical fiction wonderfully put forth by a craftsman. Randisi’s prose is fun and he spins his tall tale with vigor and affection guiding the reader to a fitting, gun blasting climax. Our copy was picked up at a used book store. Here’s hoping you can find your own. It is truly worth looking for.

 

 

Saturday, July 30, 2022

GRIP OF DEATH

 

GRIP OF DEATH

By Len Levinson

Rough Edge Press

242 pages

 

Set in New York City in the turbulent year after the start of the Civil War, Levinson’s story revolves around a group of Southeners known as the Chivalry who hatch a plot to cripple the North’s economic strength. Their goal, to murder the wealthiest New York financiers and frighten off others from supporting Lincoln’s campaign.

 

Fate intervenes when Deputy Chief of Detectives, Timothy Flanagan, hires two new detectives on the same day. The first of these is Derek Lancaster, an intelligent, well-to-do blue blood whose patriotic duty resulted in his being wounded at the Battle of Bull Run. Now discharged, he wants to join the Secret Service and continue his fight to abolish slavery. Sadly he’s rejected for lack of investigative experience and thus turns to the City Detective Department. Flanagan’s second recruit is a lovely young lady named Catherine Satterfield, formerly of South Carolina. Rebelling against her stubborn father, Catherine had been sent to a girls’ school in London just prior to the war. There she falls in love with the theater and acting. Upon her return to the states, she hopes to find work as an actor but instead, crosses path with the veteran copper. 

Seeing the potential in both Lancaster and Satterfield, Flanagan has them team up and begin the investigation of the murdered business man, Amos Symington. From that point on, Levinson’s story takes on a life of its own. Brilliant at capturing both he wonder and squalor of New York at the time, his setting is historically authentic and it breathes added weight to the challenges Lancaster and Satterfield must overcome to solve the mystery. Levinson skillfully weaves his fictional players with historical characters such as Horace Greely, John Wilkes Booth and a hack driver named Bonney, whose son will one day become a legend out west. 

Like most veteran pulp scribes, Levinson economy of words is so efficient. He paints pictures fast as easy, as the drama unfolds. From the sweet prostitute caught up in conspiracy beyond her comprehension to the runaway slave trying to find his own place in a frightening new America. They crisscross the stage propelling the plot ever forward to a truly satisfying, marvelous finale. “Grip of Death” is both a thriller and history lesson in one, with Levinson’s cold hard prose. One should never attempt to change history as it is a folly reserved only fools and politicians. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

LEVON'S TIME

LEVON’S TIME

A Levon Cade Thriller

By Chuck Dixon

Rough Edge Press

228 pgs

 

In the tradition of the great Lee Falk, creator of the Phantom cartoon strip, “for those of us who came in late.” Chuck Dixon, one of the top comic book scripters in the country, started writing a series of vigilante thrillers featuring an ex-marine named Levon Cade. We were only vaguely aware of the paperbacks but hadn’t had to the opportunity to check them out until several years ago when the author surprised us with a copy of book # 8, “Levon’s Home.” We devoured it. Reviewed it and then when # 9, “Levon’s Hunt” came out we picked it up fast.  

So let’s backtrack a little here from what we’ve picked up so far. Cade, after his time with the Marines, was recruited by a secret government organization, given more intense training; both mental and physical and became an assassin for Uncle Sam. Somewhere in all this, he’d married and had a daughter named Merry. When his wife died, Cade and Merry went to live in the Alabama countryside with his Uncle Fern. Then things with his job went south and for a while he was himself hunted by the government. Dealing with information he’d accumulated during past missions, Cade made peace with his former employees and now does his best to live a peaceful life in those Alabama hills.  

Of course our reader’s curiosity wanted to play catch up and tried picking up book # 1 from Amazon only to learn it is only available on Kindle. (Sorry, we don’t do digital. Reading is a pleasure best enjoyed with a real book in one’s hands while reclining in a comfy chair and enjoying either coffee or beer.) Whereas the oldest volume still in print form was # 7, “Levon’s Time.” Which brings us to this review. It begins with our hero in Turkey where, because of a noble unselfish act, he finds himself locked up in a hellish Turkish prison (thus the title) located on the coast of the Black Sea. Cut off from any official contacts or help, Cade’s options are limited as to his continued survival. 

Meanwhile back home, a twelve year old Merry gets into her own kind of mischief when she and a friend rescue a young Guatemalan girl from two cruel and sadistic sex traffickers. When they bring the girl back to Uncle Fern’s farm, they set of a chain of events that puts all of them in danger.

Dixon’s fast easy prose switches back and forth from both plots smoothly and it is this quick pacing that drives us towards not one, but two action crammed climaxes. Not bad for one little slim paperback. With now having read three of the Levon Cade books, we’re hooked. In Cade, Dixon has created the ultimate American hero, a loyal, dedicated patriot whose love of God, country and family is unquestionable. Move over Rambo, there’s a new kid in the club.


 

Thursday, July 14, 2022

THE MASKED AVENGER

 

A few months ago, Canadian editor/publisher Alex Michaud sent us copies of his new quarterly magazine, “The Masked Avenger.” Each of these little books (5 ½ by 8 ½ inches) is crammed packed with both prose stories and comic strips. The strips primarily feature the hero himself, an international wrestler turned crime fighter. The strips are a great deal of fun and reproduce well enough. Unfortunately the prose isn’t to lucky in that many of the articles and reviews are of such small size, our old eyes simply couldn’t finish any of them. It is mags only really flaw. It needs to be bigger. And I recently attempted to check out their web page only to learn discover it wasn’t available at the link listed in the book.  So we hopped over to Amazon and found a couple of the Masked Avenger books there. See link below. 

I really like what Michaud and his team of put together here and their enthusiasm for pulp action and adventure is so obvious. Here’s hoping they’ll rethink the mags format in the future. My old eyes would be most appreciated.

https://www.amazon.com/Masked-Avenger-Dragons-Grave/dp/099174926X/ref=sr_1_1?crid=2GKCPTZBEQ5RO&keywords=The+Masked+Avenger&qid=1657807637&s=books&sprefix=the+masked+avenger%2Cstripbooks%2C148&sr=1-1

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

DISTURBING THE PEACE

 

 

DISTURBING THE PEACE

A Jeremiah Halstead Western

By Terrence McCauley

Pinacle Western

325 pgs

Available 26th July.

 

Coming on the heels of the first Jeremiah Halstead western, “Blood on Trail,” this new book has the young U.S. Deputy Marshal traveling into northern Montana on the trail of the outlaw Ed Zimmerman. After Hastead had wiped out his gang and stronghold, Zimmerman managed to escape to hills and mining camps where he hopes to ally himself with another vicious killer, one Rob Brunet. Zimmerman has come up with an elaborate scheme that goes beyond simple robbery. He plans on using the stolen loot he, Brunet and the gang of outlaws they recruit, to buy a small town.. Hard Scarbble is on its last leg economically and as the story opens, the majority of its citizens have moved to the newly established township of Battle Brook. 

Of course Halstead and his fellow deputy, young Jerry Sandborne, have no inclination of the outlaw’s grand scheme. Their simple directive from Marshal Aaron Mackey is to find and apprehend Zimmerman and Brunet and bring them to justice; dear or alive. Once again, McCauley establishes his plot fast and keeps the action moving smoothly. Along the journey, Halstead makes friend with Battle Brooks veteran lawman, Marshal McBride, who quickly becomes a valuable source of information. He also crosses path with Abigail Newman, a new arrived school teacher and almost instantly the sparks fly between them as both become enamored of each other. All of which is both an exciting and frightenting experience for Halstead. Exciting in that this beautiful, intelligent young woman has taken a genuine fancy to him; frightened because as she becomes someone dear to him she also becomes a vulnerability. Were Zimmerman to learn of his affection for her, he would have no remorse in using her as a pawn in his game of destroying the deadly Halstead.

“Distrubing the Peace” once again adds validity to the fact that Terrence McCauley is one of the finest new western writers on the paperback scene today. First we had his wonderful Aaron McCkey trilogy and now he’s back with this spin-off series proving to be just as much fun as the first. Honestly, saddle pards, waiting for the next Halstead tale is going to be damn tough.

 

 

Tuesday, July 05, 2022

THE TROUBLE WITH TRIBBLES

THE TROUBLE WITH TRIBBLES

The Story Behind The Popular Star Trek Episode

By David Gerrold

Available at Amazon

208 pgs

 

The Star Trek episode, “The Trouble With Tribbles” aired in Dec of 1967. We were in Vietnam at the time and so obviously didn’t see it. Most likely our first viewing had to have been as a rerun sometime in 1968 after we’d come home and been discharged back into civilian. Our initial reaction; what a fun story. We’d always been sci-fi fans since our high school years. Our heroes were Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, A.E. Van Vogt…and too many others to mention.

Thus it was only a matter of time before we learned who this David Gerrold guy was and via several interviews in various magazines ala “Starlog” we recognized him as the writer of our second favorite Star Trek episode. So we picked up a few of his books and were never disappointed.

Jump ahead lots of year (in between which we became a writer) and who should pop up at our local comic shop one Wednesday afternoon but Mr. David Gerrold, who was making a pit stop in our town of Fort Collins, Colorado, his trip back to California. Meeting him was a pleasure and with other friends, we shared a few hours of lively conversation. Among the books Gerrold had available to purchase and autograph was his behind the scenes book regarding the making of “The Trouble With Tribbles.” We scoffed it up immediately.

Lest you think we only enjoy sci-fi and fantasy, our reading taste has always covered a wide spectrum of genres, as the title of the blog will attest. One of the most cherished being books about writing by writers we enjoy. In reading through Gerrold’s memoirs of his experiences was eye opening to say the least. His story of what it took to bring his initial idea to actual production is as harrowing an adventure as Ulysses’ own Odyssey. That the thing was produced is in itself almost a miracle. His recollections of working with producer Gene Coon is fun and his tales about being on the Desilu set during film endearing. For all he endured, in the end it is his self-effacing humor that makes this memoir worth your time. Especially if you’ve ever entertained the idea of writing for television. 

On that idea we’ll take a pass. Finally two things. One, his last chapter is precious. If you think little acts of kindness have no lasting affect on the world, think again. Secondly, you can find this wonderful book at Amazon in paperback, hardback and on Kindle. Sadly the only thing you won’t get there is the beautiful wrap-around cover by Ty Templeton that is on our edition. That you’ll have to get from the man himself. Do yourself a favor, it’s more than worth it. As is this truly wonderful book. 

 

Friday, July 01, 2022

MEN"S ADVENTURE QUARTERLY Vol 5

 

MEN’S ADVENTURE QUARTERLY

Issue # 5

Edited by Robert Deis & Bill Cunningham

Pulp 2.0

166 pgs

 

Issue 5 of this terrific magazine arrived like a 4th of July rocket-blaster. Jammed packed with the usual assortment of informative articles and awesome illustrations, we didn’t waste a second digging into it. The visual prize this time was the Eva Lynd pictorials, both actual photographs of this one time model/actress and the MAMS’ drawings they inspired by the leading artists in the field. Photo after photo followed by dozens of bright cover reproductions were wonderfully compiled. It was also nice to see modern day pin-up model, Mala Mastroberte’s own redone pulp covers wherein she inserted herself in the images via photo-shop magic. 

This issues’ fiction theme was “Dirty Missions” suggesting that movies like “The Dirty Dozen” had a big impact on MAMS. It was clear they inspired many exaggerated tales of daring, secret missions mixing fact and fiction all adhering to the MAMS’ formula of tough-as-nail action heroes battling alongside enticing, bodacious female freedom fighters. There’s a great article on British war comics by Justin Marriott and a second introduction piece by Joe Kenney relating how he discovered both golden age comics and MAMS in his father’s barber shop at a young age. That struck a chord, as this reviewer grew up in the 50s and our neighborhood barber also owned a huge collection of Golden Age comics. We discovered so many incredible heroes on those worn comics from Plastic Man to Captain Marvel.  As for the MAMS, we never really paid them any attention until getting out of the army in 1968. 

There are nine “dirty missions” reprinted in this volume and each delivers what MAM readers expected; wild, incredible stories featuring go-for-broke Yanks taking on sadistic Nazi butchers.  MAMS were literary junk food for World War II vets and its see easy to see with this new edition of Men’s Adventure Quarterly the why of that. Hats off to editors Bob Deis and Bill Cunningham for hitting another one out of the park. Keep’em coming, gents. This is the good stuff.