Saturday, November 26, 2022

THE SHADOWED CIRCLE # 4

 

THE SHADOWED CIRCLE # 4

Editor/Publisher Steve Donoso

A Renaissance Arts Press Publication

66 pages

 

What a delight to get this new issue in the mail recently. As ever the articles are so much fun and all of them contributed by true Shadow fans. Both Will Murray and Tim King hunt for whatever origins may have led Walter Gibson to come up with the name B. Jonas as the “drop box” for his New York City agents. It’s fascinating to see how each writer approaches this mystery from different points.   

This was followed by several articles in regards to the Shadow in comic books. Although we didn’t completely agree with Todd D. Severin’s conceit in regards to the character’s overall importance to the four-color media’s history, we found his facts both fascinating and informative. Whereas Daryl Morrissey piece on the comic book team up of the Shadow and Doc Savage was a wonderful trip down memory lane as we proudly own all the issues referred to in the article.  

The second of half Michael Uslan’s interview was very comprehensive dealing with the various aspects of his involvement with classic pulp and radio heroes. Then we have the finale of the issue which was a hoot. John Olsen, working from the actual radio script, narrates the final Shadow episode which aired on December 26, 1954. He does so with such panache, it was easy to imagine the actual show itself, with the actors playing their part against the haunting mood music background and nerve shattering sound effects.

Finally a tip of our pulp fedora to the artists who graced this issue. From the cover to the interior illustrations, each delivered amazing drawings. 

“The Shadowed Circle” has proven to be the finest fan publication on the Shadow ever produced. ‘Nuff said?

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

A CHRISTMAS CAROL MURDER

 

 

 

A CHRISTMAS CAROL MURDER

By Heather Redmond

Kensington Publishing

303 pgs

 

This is the third book in the unique Charles Dickens mysteries devised by writer Heather Redmond. In the books, which began with “A Tale of Two Murders” and was followed by “Grave Expectations,” the author has a grand time having a young Charles Dickens become involved with murders and then attempt to solve them with the help of his fiancée, one Kate Hogarth. The added twist is obvious from the titles in that they revolved around one of the famous writer’s novels.

“A Christmas Carol Murder,” was our introduction to the series because although fans of Mr. Dickens, we’ve always had a particular fondness for arguably his most famous story. In this tale, Charles and Kate are celebrating the Christmas season by joining several of their friends in caroling through various London neighborhoods. When they arrive at the home of one Ebenezer Screws, they have barely begun to sing a few songs when the body of an elderly gentlemen falls dead at the feet out of a second story window. He is Mr. Bob Harley, Screws business partner in their countinghouse. Oh, and wrapped around the dead man’s throat is a sturdy iron chain. Did he fall out of the window by accident or was he pushed?

Upon meeting Screws, Dickens is put off by the man. Whereas it is Kate who feels pity for him and urges Charles to investigate. As he reluctantly does so, other familiar characters from the classic appear adding extra fun to the narrative. There’s also an endearing sub-plot wherein Dickens takes in an orphaned baby boy named Timothy whose mother died in a house fire where she worked as a maid. Allegations arise that the baby might be the journalist bastard child. Although false, Dickens is worried such charges will jeopardize his engagement with Kate, never mind bring about the wrath of her father, his boss at The Chronicle. 

All in all, “A Christmas Carol Murder” is brilliantly delivered and the author’s research into London and its social mores at the time are spot on.  What Christmas just around the corner, we can’t think of a more appropriate book for our readers pick up and relish. It truly is a wonderful surprise.

 

Tuesday, November 01, 2022

GOLGOTHA - CITY OF SKULLS

 

GOLGOTHA

City of Skulls

By Jaime Ramos

Lucky Comics LLC

20 pgs

 

“Golgotha – City of Skulls” is an odd little book labeling itself a novelette. Considering its brevity, it is obviously not a novella. Whereas it seems to fall in that gray zone of what would be called a “long” short story. We know, that’s an oxymoron, but novelette seems to fit here quite nicely.

 

The story itself concerns a psychic investigator named Johnny Normandy who is called upon by the police of Golgotha, a dark and grim city on the lake shores of Wisconsin. The mayor’s young daughter, Betsy, has been kidnapped and Normandy is apparently the only person with a chance of saving here. Once into the story itself, it soon becomes evident there’s more to the tale. Our hero has an antagonistic relation to his honor the mayor. One that may yield a dramatic surprise before the case is finished.  

One should also note, Ramos conceived the setting of Golgotha to be a shared backdrop wherein other writers will be invited to create their own tales that take place within its environs. This is nothing new in pulps, as we seem to recall publisher Tommy Hancock doing a similar shared world called Sovereign City years ago. That project featured writers like Barry Reese and the late Derrick Ferguson. It’s always a fun idea and we’ll be intrigued to see how this one develops.  

Till then, “City of Skulls” is a damn good beginning. Go find a copy and see for yourself.

Saturday, October 29, 2022

KILL ME IF YOU CAN

 

KILL ME IF YOU CAN

By Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins

Titan Books

273 pgs

 

Once again writer Max Allan Collins has completed a Mike Hammer story left unfinished by the late Mickey Spillane. If you’re a Spillane fan, this is always a cause for celebration. Note, this volume is divided into two sections. The first being the actual novella length, “Kill Me If You Can,” and the second is a bonus collection of several Spillane short stories.

 

Whereas the novella itself is a fun read, it is very formulaic and contains most of the iconic tropes most Hammer tales are known for. The murder victim is an old Hammer acquaintance. The list of suspects includes the usual group of mean, sadistic gangsters and lastly there’s the drop-dead gorgeous femme fatale. A seductress who is both good and bad tempting our tough guy hero to ignore his instincts and just put out the lights. Now formulas are not inherently a bad thing. Every mystery series since Sherlock Holmes came on the scene has use them; from Nero Wolfe to James Bond. Formulas are those comfortable pieces we’ve come not only recognize, but also appreciate when delving into the series’ latest entry. If you’re a bonafide fan, you’ll see the climax coming a mile away.  

The enjoyable surprises arrive in the book’s second half and those short story gems. There are five total; several adapted from radio plays and two featuring Hammer. Of the five, the standouts are “The Punk,” a grim, honest look at dope addiction and “Tonight My Love,” delivering P.I. Hammer as the knight in tarnished armor destined to rescue a certain damsel in distress. The last line will put a smile on your face.  

“Kill Me If You Can” is another great addition to the completist wish list. For Spillane fans, it’s Christmas come early this year.

 

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

THEY STABBED MY BOOK!

 

THEY STABBED MY BOOK

File this episode under Weird. As most of you know, we’ve been writing our review blog, Pulp Fiction Reviews for over twenty years. In that time we’ve received books from both writers and publishers that have arrived in every shape possible. From pristine copies to those so ripped or bent one wonders what game the postal carriers were playing with the package before eventually delivering it into our hands. We thought we’d pretty much seen it all.  Ha. Never say never. 

A few weeks ago, much to our delight, Titan Books sent us package. Inside was the newest Mike Hammer thriller “Kill Me if You Can,” written by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan. Folks who read the blog know we are big fans of both the late author and his super talented protégé. So, again, we are very happy and began flipping through to the pages. Which was when we realized several pages had a torn hole in the middle of them. Upon closer examination, we realized something had penetrated the book from the front as if stabbing through the hard cover and penetrating all way through to page 138! We have no idea what was used in the stabbing, but it would appear to have been some kind of very tough nail to have cut that deep into the volume. 

Of course the damage is minimal in we are still able to read the book, which we are currently doing. Still, it is strange. And perhaps a case for a tough guy P.I. like Hammer to solve were he able. Our introduction would have been, “Mike, somebody stabbed our book!”

Next up - the actual review. Take care.

Sunday, October 23, 2022

LAWLESS and the FLOWERS of SIN

LAWLESS and the Flowers of Sin

By William Sutton

Titan Books

359 pgs

 

London in the mid 1860s. Vice Detective Sgt. Campbell Lawless given the unsavory assignment of numbering how many young ladies are employed in local brothels from the most tawdry to the elegant catering to the city’s elite gentry. In a nutshell, he’s tasked with tallying how many prostitutes ply their trade in the capital city. It is a ridiculous job devised to produce a fictional number by which a commission can then be inaugurated to look into dealing with the societal plight of these poor ladies. It is all a sham to make the local politicians look.      

Unfortunately, Lawless, a conscientious fellow, soon comes to realize the extent of trade is far greater than he had ever envisioned. In one form or another, prostitution pervades the entire metropolis and the number he is seeking soul shaking. At the same time, he and two of his squad colleagues begin to suspect a secret network of opportunists have devised a hellish system by keeping the trade bustling. Under the organization of a mysterious mastermind, a school for courtesans had been established in the rougher river front area where stolen little girls are brought and educated in roles of sex partners. Everything from proper diction, to etiquette and manners are part of curriculum along with the more basic erotic physicality. Once of age and sufficiently schooled, they are then sold to wealthy men throughout the city. They are referred to as the Flowers of Sin.  

As Lawless tells the readers at the start, this tale is not so much about the mystery as it is about the exploitation of women throughout the ages, from pre-cultural ages to the dawn of so-called civilization. So many men of power have constantly abused that power to treat womankind as mere objects to satiate their depravities and then cast them aside. Author Sutton’s depiction of these women is profoundly disturbing as it should be. What is sad is our modern world hasn’t changed all that much in regards to that sin.  

“Lawless and the Flowers of Sin,” is not for the faint of heart. But it is worth your attention.

 


 

Saturday, October 15, 2022

BENEDICT AND BRAZOS # 18 : Bo Rangle's Boothill

 

BENEDICT AND BRAZOS

# 18 : Bo Rangle’s Boothill

By E. Jefferson Clay

Bold Venture Press

116 pgs

 

So we’re heading out the door about to go on a ten day vacation in New England to view the magnificent Fall foliage. Hastily we scan the books on our shelf and grab two to stuff in our suitcase. One of these was “Benedict and Brazos # 18 : Bo Rangle’s Boothill. For those of you who came in late, this is one of the better western paperback series ever produced. Duke Benedict is a former Union officer while Hank Brazos an ex-Confederate sergeant. Through a bloody encounter towards the end of the Civil War, the two become partners to hunt down a killer named Bo Rangle and his gang. Rangle stole a shipment of army gold and each new book is the series is part of this extended chase saga.

Which as it turns out terminates in this particular volume.  I.e. our two gritty heroes manage to finally catch up with their prey in a gun blasting finale. But not before lots of other folks, both good and bad become collateral damage. Watching the friendship develop between the main characters is one of the real pleasures of these action packed books. And as luck would have, the kind folks at Bold Venture actually quoted one of our earlier reviews right there on the cover. This in no way prejudiced this review. “Bo Rangle’s Boothill” is a classic western from the first page to last. Now we’re curious what will come next for these two rough and tumble saddle pals.