Wednesday, October 28, 2009


By John Abbott Nez
P.G.Putnam’s Sons
Illustrated 31 pages

Since the Wright brothers first took to the air, the history of aviation in America has revolved around unique individuals. All of them possessed indomitable courage which gave them the impetus to reach for the clouds and the annals of flight are filled with their names and exploits from Amelia Earhart to Charles Lindbergh.

Recently all of us were duped by a balloon-boy hoax that was cooked up by a warped, celebrity craving couple from Colorado. No sooner was this story plastered all over the news, then I received this marvelous book about the “real” balloon boy, Cromwell Dixon.
It is a beautiful illustrated children’s book that relates how, in 1907, a fourteen year old Cromwell, in wanting to emulate his flying heroes, decided to build a flying bicycle and ride it in competition over the streets of Columbus, Ohio.

After a few setbacks, to include a disastrous fire that destroyed his first lighter-than-air balloon, Cromwell, with the loving support of his mother, finally triumphed. He actually affixed a modified bicycle to a giant balloon and flew it. So successful was he that eventually the newspapers tagged him, “America’s Boy Aeronaut.” Now, thanks to the extremely talented John Abbott Nez, who has over fifty children’s books to his credit, this long forgotten story of Cromwell Dixon is finally retold. There is even a photo of Cromwell and his mother in their garage in the book’s special epilogue.

Everything in this marvelous adventure book is true. If you’ve any young readers in your family eager to experience the early years of flight through the eyes of one of their own, you should pick up a copy of this book. It is truly inspiring.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


History’s Mechanical Marvel
By Paul Guinan & Anina Bennett
Abrams Image
163 pages

Bogus documentaries have been a comedy stable of the film industry for many years now. In 1983, Woody Allen, using state of art the trick photography, invented a fictional biography of a fellow named Zelig; a living chameleon who was present at some of the major political events of the 20th Century. The film was so flawless in its special effects it helped coin a new word, mockumentary. Later Roger Zemeckis employed the same movie magic interweaving the life of the fictional Forrest Gump with real, historical personalities such as John F.Kennedy and John Lennon.

Now, thanks to the amazing work of graphic artists Paul Guinan and Anina Bennett, we have this wonderful oversized coffee-table book detailing the history of the most famous mechanical man ever created, Boilerplate. Through the use of archival pictures, we are shown the histories of inventor Archibald “Archie” Campion and his sister, Lily, at the end of the 19th Century. Both siblings are pioneers for social revolution and deeply affected by the constant scourge of warfare that continues to take thousands of lives throughout the world in various global conflicts. Thus, in 1893, Archie builds Boilerplate to be a robot soldier, his dream being that one day governments will adopt his philosophy, and employ only armies made up of mechanical warriors.

In the process of promoting his grandiose vision, Archie and Lily travel the world with Boilerplate and thus find themselves intimately involved with some of the most monumental events of the late 19th and early 20th Century. From charging up San Juan Hill with Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders, to saving the life of Mexican revolutionist, Pancho Villa and battling with Lawrence of Arabia against the Turks in World War One, Boilerplate and the Campions move through history in an amazing visual Odyssey beautiful detailed in hundreds of authentic (hmmm) black and white photos and colorful pictorial essays of the time.

The fun of this volume is captured on every beautiful laid out page and even though the entire conceit is adult make-believe, let me make one thing extremely clear, Guinan and Bennett have done their homework and the history they present framing their fanciful tale, is true and absolutely just as fascinating. You can read BOILERPLATE for the sheer audacity of its gimmickry, but will also come away with a vast knowledge of little known historical data that is nearly worth the price of the book itself. Now that’s a double treat for any real lover of history, bogus or not.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

SENTINELS - The Shiva Advent

SENTINELS – The Shiva Advent
By Van Allen Plexico
White Rocket Books
238 pages

Van Allen Plexico seems determined to create a new sub-genre of adventure fiction I like to call tekno-pulp. The link between the roots of American pulps and comics books are so intertwined, it would take a Solomon to untangle them. At the height of their popularity in the late 20s and early 30s, hero pulps were the main course for imagination starved kids in this country. They feasted on tales the Shadow, Doc Savage and the Spider with unabashed relish, and then they grew up to create their own heroes; Sueprman, Batman, Captain Marvel, Wonder Woman, etc.etc. And thus as the pulps died out, at the end of World War II, the superhero comics easily stepped in and took their place in the hearts and minds of the new post-war generations.

Over the subsequent decades, many writers have made cursory attempts to bring the excitement and wonder of super-hero sagas into the prose field. Few have had limited success. Which is why this series by an avowed comic-book lover, is finally breaching that gap between the two formats and doing it brilliantly. Plexico, inspired completely by the Marvel and DC books he read as a child in the 70s, has invented his own super-hero team, the Sentinels, and they are clearly his homage to those comics. But with a truly wonderful difference in his understanding of prose and the potential it offers to dig deeper into the psyches of his spandex-wearing characters. His gift of storytelling is razor sharp and he captures the reader’s interest from the first chapter to the last, never allowing the action to flag once.

SENTINELS – The Shiva Advent is Plexico’s fourth book in this series, taking up where he left off with his first Warlord Trilogy. Resting on their laurels from having the saved the world in that first series of books, the Sentinels are attacked by an alien robot of unbelievable power and their leader, the mighty Ultraa, is kidnapped. Now it’s up to super scientist, Esro Brachis, the armor clad champion, to lead the team and not only rescue Ultraa, but learn the secret of their new foe. At the same time, Plexico begins to delve into Ultraa’s mysterious past as the layers of his amnesia slowly begin to peel away to reveal an amazing history filled with alien visitors to earth during the time of the American Revolution.

Using the classic pulp styling of weaving in and out of several plots, Plexico delivers a gripping adventure that is so much fun, I hated to see it come to end. But be forewarned, this is only the first of a trilogy and the climax is a mind-blowing cliff-hangar of gargantuan proportion, leaving the fate of the world in jeopardy. If you are one of those readers who enjoyed comics growing up and have since put them away because of some ill conceived idea that they are no longer relevant, here’s your answer in recapturing that old magic, but in a brand new, clearly sophisticated adult approach. This is pure tekno-pulp heaven!

Thursday, October 08, 2009


By Joel Jenkins
PulpWork Press
303 pages.

The year is 1987 and the world is grappling with the economic collapse of the Soviet Union and end of Russian Communism . Fritz, Sly, Matthias, Mitz and Otto are the Gantlet brothers, a family rock group with a rather dramatic past. Born in East Germany, the five boldly escaped over the Berlin Wall to freedom years earlier. In the process, they acquired certain skills which, once relocated to the United States, they found commercially beneficial to their survival. To fund their music career, the brothers hire themselves out as bodyguard/security experts. This in turn leads to them into various adventures conducted in the shadowy alleyways of global espionage.

As this story beings, we learn that a disgruntled former KGB general is determined to see the Hammer & Sickle returned to its former glory. To achieve this end, he and his fanatical followers, hatch a plot to smuggle three nuclear bombs into the U.S. in small, harmless looking suitcases. It is only by chance that Sly and Fritz Gantlet discover the plot and are soon working hand in hand with the C.I.A. to find the three deadly containers and disarm them before the mad Russian can start World War III.

From the Agean Ocean to London, New York, Seattle and San Francisco’s Chinatown, the brothers find themselves propelled into a tense race against time, with only their wits and reckless courage to see them through. And as if three nuclear suitcases weren’t enough to deal with, a former German adversary turned mercenary appears with his own personal vendetta to settle against the brothers. And then there’s the beautiful female rock star who Sly finds himself enamored with. But is she one of the good guys or a double agent sent to destroy them?

Jenkins is a capable storyteller who is clearly having fun with this old fashion thriller. He has created a marvelous cast of characters unlike any others we’ve encountered in action fiction before and the sibling dynamics is a truly fresh approach to the genre. This is clearly modern pulp and worth your attention and support. Here’s hoping we haven’t seen the last of the Gantlet Brothers.