Wednesday, November 21, 2007


by John Levitt
Ace Fantasy
297 paged

Half way through chapter one of this book, I began get a very familiar feeling as if I was entering a fictional neighborhood I’d been to before. Mason is a jazz guitarist who lives in San Francisco and makes a comfortable living playing occasional gigs in night spots throughout the city. He is a talented musician but admits he could be much better if he worked at it. The same applies to his ability to do magic.

The word wizard is never used, rather Mason tells us immediately that there are people who can “do” magic and those that cannot. Whoa, now where have we heard that before? Of course it is Harry Potter’s setting, the non-magic folks being the muggles. That is what DOG DAYS reminded me of from start to finish, as if I’d stepped into a mature version of a J.K. Rowlings adventure.

Like Harry, Mason also has a pet ally, a small brown dog named Louie who is much better realized as a character then Harry’s owl ever was. Levitt develops the relationship between Mason and Lou so deftly, it becomes one of the major plot points to what is actually a very fast paced suspense mystery. An unknown practitioner, the word replacing wizard here, has attacked Mason on several occasions and both times nearly killed him. Desperate to understand why his life is suddenly in jeopardy, Mason seeks out the help of Victor, an Enforcer who oversees the magical well-being of the city, and his old mentor, Eli, another powerful practitioner.

As much as Levitt uses magic throughout the story, he never allows it to drift free, keeping his reality-anchor in check throughout. Much like the Rowlings books, because we believe in the mundane, normal every day environment the protagonist lives in is our own, we can then suspend our disbelief and imagine a secret realm co-existing in the shadows, just a little askew from our vision. A place of deadly arcane goblins and crystalline cave dwelling monsters that Mason must escape and defeat before he can hope to unravel the mystery and the villainy behind it.

It is a terrific story, well plotted and written. Mason and Lou are fascinating and I’m thrilled to know DOG DAYS will have sequels. I enjoyed taking this journey through the fog enshrouded, magical streets of the Golden Gate city with the two of them and am very eager to do so again.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

MY LINKS - Who Are Those Guys?

Ever since starting Pulp Fiction Reviews I've kept my links file short. Whereas this site is dedicated to books and readers, I didn't want to put lots of links related to other endeavors, even if they were fun and special to me. But there are five there and I thought I'd give you an introduction to each in the hopes you will check them out.

Airship 27 is my personal home webpage and it is here I ramble and rant every Friday morning on my weekly Flight Log essay which will cover anything from movies, my grand kids to the Boston Red Sox. So if you want to know a bit more about what makes me tick. Please, stop on by.

Pulp Factory is an informal club of pulp enthusiasts. It was the brain child of my buddy Anthony Schiavino and we have about 25 members. We use this blog regularly to promote our various projects.

Hard Case Crime is without the best new paperback publisher to come along in the last twenty years. Publisher Charles Ardai selects the finest hard edged mysteries from both the new and classic ranks and then dresses them up with eye-popping covers. If you've never read a HCC book, you are missing out on lots of fun.

Docs 50 is another review site very similar to this one and is the work of Troy Holaday. I wasn't unaware of it until he wrote me to suggest we swap links and added that he was a frequent visitor to this column. After checking out his site, I was amazed at how similar our taste are in a totally eclectic fashion. So if you enjoy reading my reviews, please, check out Troy's column. It's superbly done.

I Was A Bronze Age Boy - I cut this title on the link, only because it is a wee bit long to print. Ha. And this is such a quirky site, describing it is difficult. My good buddy, fellow writer, Mark Justice, seems to have opened the vaults to his massive collection of old comics, paperbacks and pulps and every day posts these fantastic covers from days long gone by, but never forgotten.
So if you are a few decades past 30, you may find yourself, like me, going down memory lane every time I click on to his nostalgic treasure mine.

There you have it. Don't expect to see more. Ha. And as always, thanks so much for stopping by and commenting on my reviews. You are the folks who have made this so much fun for me over the past year. Thanks ever, Ron.

Saturday, November 17, 2007


by Van Allen Plexico
White Rocket Books
269 pages

Finally the third and final book in this epic super hero saga. Not that there won’t be more adventures in the future, but this volume does complete the story arc established with book one and continued throughout the second. It’s a slam-bam, in your face slug-fest this time out as Earth’s heroes, new and old, must come together to stop one intergalactic threat after another.

And I am not exaggerating in the least here. The first assault on planet Earth is by a series of quickly replicating robots known as Xorexes that are virtually unstoppable. The more the powerful Ultraa and his young team attack the destructive machines, the stronger they become by absorbing the heroes own powers; which are then transferred to all the Xorexes instantaneously. This contest is remindful of Hercules’ mythological encounter with the multiple headed Hydra monsters.

Yet somehow the Sentinels’ own alien robot ally, Vanadium holds the solution to saving the world from this robot infestation. Then there is the fate of the twin Warlords, each battling the other to invent a machine that will erase the known universe. Never mind the mind-control conspiracies of the mysterious Randall Nation lurking in the shadows of the very Pentagon itself.

Plexico stirs a heady stew of fast paced action that never once lags. In fact I often found myself flipping pages so fast they began to blur. The one and only weakness of this entry is the fact that it does depend heavily on the reader having read the first book two books to enjoy it to the max. The author does provide a two page recap at the start of the book, but it in itself only serves to show just how much has gone on in books one and two; events that are extremely crucial to identifying the characters here, as there are lots of them, good and bad.

So thumbs up to a smashing wrap up to what has been a triumphant glorious homage to comic book super hero teams. Whether you’re a DC or Marvel fan, there is much for you to relish and appreciate in these adventures. Thumbs up, Plexico. This is another solid winner.

Sunday, November 11, 2007


by D. M. Cornish
Speak Books
312 pages

The real success of any fantasy adventure is how complete the writer creates the protagonist’s world. If a background is grounded in details that remain true and logical, then the story can be told with an added richness not often found in literature. Such is the case with D. M. Cornish’s amazing new novel, FOUNDLING.

From the second you enter this world, you know at once that you are venturing somewhere new and perhaps dangerous. Then, with a subtle shift in emphasis, we are introduced to the hero, one Rossamund Bookchild and that unsettled anxiety is immediately dispelled. Why? Because Rossamund is so real and sympathetic. He joins the ranks of many other classical orphan heroes ala Oliver Twist, Pip and even Harry Potter. He is an optimistic lad who, as a babe, was abandoned on the footsteps of Madame Opera’s Estimable Marine Society for Foundling Boys & Girls. In that one title we are informed that Rossamund’s people are a seafaring culture. And what a sea it is, by all the accounts and adventures related to him and by Head Master Fransitart, a retired sailor whose background is misted in mystery.

By the time Rossamund attains a certain age, he is allowed to be apprenticed to any reputable government agency. In other words, when ready to leave the orphanage, he must assume gainful employment. Rossamund learns he’s been chosen to be a Lamplighter for the Empire. It seems a terribly boring choice for a career, but again, he has no say in the matter and is quickly bundled up, given a stipend, letters of recommendation and launched into the real world.

And again, let me reiterate, what a world it is. It resembles the Victorian Age of Charles Dickens’ famous stories with a big dash of Robert Louis Stephenson thrown in to keep things humming. Rossumund is to travel to a distant city by river, only he mistakenly takes the wrong boat which results in his being kidnapped by a group of unsavory pirates. He manages to escape and then finds himself in league with a professional monster fighter. Oh, did I mention this world’s frontiers are populated by all sorts of monsters? And to combat them, certain brave souls acquire special powers and hire themselves out as mercenaries. They acquire these so called talents by undergoing radical surgeries and having foreign organs grafted into their bodies.

Such a monster fighter is the beautiful Lady Europe, with whom Rossamund soon becomes a traveling companion. FOUNDLING is the first in a series and is sub-titled Book One – Monster Blood Tattoo. Once I started reading it, I was completely mesmerized by the spell it wove. There are more new and fresh ideas in this one book then half a dozen others I read over the years. Enough so that Cornish isn’t satisfied to let his readers go even when they’ve reached the end.

I listed this novel at 312 pages. The actually book, with all its beautiful illustrations, also by the author, goes to 434 pages. The remaining 112 pages consist of appendices, maps and a remarkably comprehensive glossary. Note, you don’t have to read any of it to love THE FOUNDLING. Consider it a literary after-dinner-mint to be enjoyed later at your leisure. If you enjoy fantasy at its highest level, then I urge you to not to miss this new book. It truly is one of a kind.

Thursday, November 01, 2007


by Christa Faust
Hard Case Crime
252 pages
Available Jan.29

Angel Dare ran away to Los Angeles from Chicago to find a glamorous life. At least more glamorous then marrying some beer-guzzling slob, getting fat and raising a pack of snot-nosed brats. It is easy to see the girl had a cynical perspective on life in middle America. Once in L.A. she quickly turned her natural assets into profit by becoming one of the hottest porn queens to ever orgasm on tape. For such a hard edged soul, life seemed okay, if not great. Then, as it does with all mortals, age began to catch up with the saucy vixen and rather than turn into some pathetic sex matron, Angel quit the business, or at least the action in front of the lenses.

An intelligent business woman, she realized there was a good living to be made handling new talent. Along the way she might have began to sense a conscience at work, but philosophy was never her strong suit. Angel simply believed, because of her own experiences in the trade, she could not only manage young, naive performers, but that she could also protect them. This is the setting as the book opens. It quickly deteriorates. By the end of the first two chapters Angel has been brutalized, raped, shot, left for dead in the trunk of a car and framed for the murder of one of her dearest friends. Writer Christa Faust doesn’t waste a single sentence propelling her hero in a maze of suspense, mystery and gut wrenching desperation.

The book is very much an odyssey as Angel, alone, wounded and hunted by the police, must find a way to survive beyond the next few hours. Not only to stay alive, but to somehow regain her strength and administer a merciless retribution to the men who victimized her. She manages to contact a tough ex-cop whom she had recently hired to act as a bodyguard/escort for some of her girls. His name is Malloy and he’s been through the ringer himself, having lost his badge years earlier when he became obsessed with the death of a beautiful prostitute. Malloy found the murderer and returned the favor in kind. Now he’s become Angel’s savior and as the succeeding days roll by, Malloy teaches her how to disguise herself and avoid detection by both the police and the gang that is still after her.

Part of the plot revolves around a briefcase full of stolen money. It is the reason for Angel’s predicament and ultimately the deaths of many others before the book reaches is powerful, action packed climax. I was amazed at Faust’s confidence in telling this story about the porn industry and her frank depiction of its practitioners, both good and bad. What I found particularly astute was her portrayal of Angel and the many layers that make up her character. The book’s ending is not so much a surprise to the reader as it is to Angel herself. Convinced throughout the book that she is a selfish, hard hearted bitch, she refuses to give in to that nature and does something completely noble and selfless. It’s a gem of a scene and had me musing about the fact that there was more “angel” in Angel Dare than even she was aware.

MONEY SHOT is a homerun of a novel that will have you cheering and wanting more from this exciting new writer.