Friday, July 23, 2010


A Dirk Pitt Novel
By Clive Cussler & Dirk Cussler
Berkley Novel
593 pages

Once again civilization is on the brink of collapse. Global warming is increasing to the detriment of the environment and all life on the planet. When an American research scientist discovers a way to artificially create photosynthesis, the process by which plants transform harmful carbon dioxide into oxygen and water, a glimmer of hope is found. But this amazing planet saving solution depends entirely on a rare mineral known as ruthenium which then becomes the treasure target of an unscrupulous Canadian businessman who controls most of the gas and oil production in the northern latitudes.

Through the use of government bribes, murder and extortion, this greedy megalomaniac is willing to let mankind face global destructions rather than give up his bloody wealth.
He devilishly orchestrates a conflict between Canada and America which soon has both suspecting the other of harboring militaristic goals. Into this convoluted plot of evil twists and turns arrive the brave men and women of NUMA, the National Underwater and Marine Agency, led by Dirk Pitt; the most popular pulp hero of current literature.

Created in 1973, Dirk Pitt and his NUMA crew have traveled the seas of the world battling some of the most colorful villains ever invented all in defense of mankind and the world. It is no wonder that ARTIC DRIFT, their twentieth outing is a big, fat, rollicking adventure set against the topical themes of global warming and the world’s oil and gas addiction. Leave it to a master storyteller like Cussler to inject a real world crisis into an over-the-top thriller that had me whipping through the pages non-stop. There is plenty of action, death-defying escapes from impossible traps and an ancient sea mystery to be solved before the final chapter is closed.

This is also the third collaboration between the senior author and his son, Dirk, who shares the same name as his dad’s enduring hero. I have no idea what their routine is like but Dirk Pitt fans should take heart that their seamless prose melding should herald the continuation of the series long after Clive hangs up his thesaurus. And that, for pulp fiction fans, is the best news ever.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


One of the most respected publishing companies in the world is celebrating it's 75th anniversary with a truly wonderful contest. Go to the on-line site and register and you can win 75 old and new classics from this distinguished house. Tell them Pulp Fiction Reviews sent you. (

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


By Percival Constantine
Pulpwork Press
210 pages

When this book first arrived, I was really eager to dig into it as I’ve generally enjoyed most of the titles put out by this loose outfit of writers. Sadly the book disappointed me greatly and the first warning it would do so was in the introduction wherein the writer gives us a detailed history of the book and how it came to be and how much he loves these characters. In the future, allow the readers to make their own judgments and leave the histories, if you feel they are warranted, to the end of the book as an afterward.

Only in science fiction movies and comics do characters die and then come back again and again and again. It has become such a trite norm all of us have come to expect it in these medias. But not in literature, which truly should be held to a high standard than a B movie gone direct to video.

LOVE & BULLETS takes place in the world of super secret, deadly assassins who are suppose to be the most elite killers in the world. Angela Lockhart, described as "beautiful, deadly and cunning" is the best of the best. We are given a few glimpses into her training with Agency, another ultra-secret government group, and she excels in all facets of mayhem. Her teachers claim she is not only the most adept assassin they have ever trained, but her intelligence IQ borders on genius. Angela is the perfect killing machine. If all this sounds a wee bit cliché, that’s because it all is and had it actually been realized as a comic book, would have worked extremely well. But this isn’t a comic.

When Angela’s husband is murdered, the Agency refuses to help her investigate his death and punish his unknown killers. Angela quits the Agency to go solo and find the bad guys all on her own. But before she can do so, she immediately comes under the radar of a colorful, master villain known as Dante. Dante offers her assistance in finding her husband’s killers if she in turn will come to work for his ultra-secret organization known as the Infernum. If this sounds a little bit like Spy vs Spy, well, that’s perfectly legitimate as espionage thrillers have always stretched credulity to the max.

Unfortunately Constantine seems unable to resist the temptations of making Dante all things in one. A man of mystery, a man of the arts, an expert on pop culture, a movie fanastic, oh, and a deadly martial artist. All the while being this mysterious spy master with a world wide network under his command. A little would have gone a long way here, but that’s not what we get. These characters are exaggerations and when they begin to act illogically, one can only sigh with resignation.

We are told Angela has a brilliant mind but from the first page to the last she is completely manipulated, first by Dante, then by the Agency spy who falls in love with her and then again by Dante. Brilliant, hardly. Naïve, completely.

Throughout the book it is made blatantly clear that Angela and Dante will invariably have to fight each other to the death. Which is as good a point as any to applaud Constantine’s technical writing skills. He is a good writer in that his prose is precise, economic with excellent dialogue and creates some truly amazing action sequences. For this he gets top marks, but that cannot save his unimaginative storytelling. Once again he eschews logic and commits the final, major sin with the outcome of that battle royal.

Following the book’s own logic, Dante is a superior fighter and should kill Angela with little difficulty. But she’s the protagonist and we hope she will figure a way to survive. This is classic thriller suspense, rooting for the underdog. And that’s exactly what happens, in that Angela manages one final trick and gets the drop on Dante and stabs him in the back with his own Katana blade. At which point, she would have then found a pistol and put two slugs into his head to make sure he is truly dead. Kaput. That’s the cold, methodical professional we are told she is. But Constantine doesn’t want Dante to be dead and so Angela simply walks away from his body, steals some money and flees. In other words she acts totally uncharacteristically.

The final chapter arrives and lo and behold Dante walks out of a hospital all smiles and good cheer. Surprise. Hardly. Good writing is about discovering who your characters are and then being faithful to them, regardless of how painful the outcome. The lack of this realism is evident on every page and like Angela, we readers are manipulated with a heavy hand that serves no one but the writer. Despite this misstep, Constantine is talented and it is my hope he’ll forgo any plans for a sequel and instead challenge himself to give us something totally new.

Thursday, July 08, 2010


By Preston & Child
Vision (Hatchette Book Group)
566 pages

Here is a reviewer’s riddle. When is a big book like a little book? Answer; when it’s so well written you breeze through it in no time at all. Which is what happens with each new Speical Agent Pendergast novel from the extraordinary imaginations of Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. Individually both are extremely popular and talented thriller writers, but when they join forces to chronicle the adventures of the FBI’s most brilliant sleuth, the prose rises to an entirely new level of excellence.

When a famous New York City journalist is brutally murdered in his own apartment, it is cause of enough to stir up both the police and the press. But when the overwhelming evidence gathered points to the perpetrator being a fellow who died two weeks earlier, things suddenly take a turn for the macabre. Enter Special Agent Pendergast and his long time friend and colleague, Lt. Detective Vincent D’Agosta of the NYPD.

Are there zombie killers loose in the city and if so, what are their connections to a secretive cult that meets in an abandoned old church in the woods at the north end of Manhattan? As Pendergast and D’Agosta dig deeper into history of the area known as the Ville, they uncover allegations of voodoo and ritualistic animal slayings. But what was the dead man’s connection to the cult and the motive for his grisly slaying? Before any of these questions can be answered, the body of the slain journalist vanishes from the city morgue. Several days later it reappears at a Press Club function and in front of hundreds of witnesses, stabs a young woman to death on the stage before escaping through a backdoor exit.

The city is locked in a grip of fear, as the news of the walking dead begins to spread and Pendergast and D’Agosta find themselves in a desperate race to solve this bizarre puzzle before others are targeted by the undead. CEMETERY DANCE is the thirteenth Pendergast thriller and I consider this the finest modern pulp series being written today.
Typical of the classic pulps, they feature a colorful, nearly super human hero pitted time and time against the most exotic crimes by fiendish masterminds of villainy.

Were Walter Gibson, creator of the Shadow, alive today, these are the kinds of stories he would be writing. Here’s a big tip of the pulp fedora to Misters Preston & Child and there amazing Special Agent Pendergast and here’s hoping he’s around for another lucky thirteen.

Friday, July 02, 2010

SUN-KOH Heir of Atlantis

SUN-KOH (Heir of Atlantis)
By Dr.Art Sippo
Age of Adventure Press

Dedicated pulp fans are aware of the fact that the concept of hero pulps was not limited to the United States. During the 30s and 40s, pulp magazines were popular all over the world and there were hundreds of original crime fighting heroes created in England, France and Germany. One such foreign star was Sun-Koh, Heir of Atlantis written by German writer Paul Muller and clearly intended to be an Aryan version of America’s Doc Savage. Like Savage he was larger than life and throughout his hundreds of adventurers was accompanied by a group of loyal, unique individuals.

Beside the similarities there were also major differences and these were what have created an on-going controversy over this character. Whereas Doc Savage was a man of science and his companions all experts in various technical fields, Sun-Koh was slanted towards mythology and magic. He was supposedly a time-traveler from the sunken continent of Atlantis, a member of the royal family and master of mystic abilities. And although there was plenty of super scientific gizmos in his adventures, it was the magic that took center stage. His aides were also magicians, immortals and religious Hindu assassins. Quite an eclectic mix.

Still the biggest divergent was Sun-Koh’s political philosophy. It reflects the superman philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. Muller easily adapted it into his character, a near perfect specimen of man. Yet these stories were being written at the same time Adolf Hitler and his Socialist Democratic Party were manipulating the philosophy to suit their own claims that pure blood Aryan supremacy was destined to rule the world. Initially the pulp writer and the new German administration were raising the same platform but in the end, unable to make allowances for anything they did not consider intellectual superiority, the Nazis shut down the flamboyant pulps for being cheap entertainment. Thus ended Sun-Koh’s adventures.

Today’s pulp fan have a natural disdain for the Sun-Kon tales and it is to Dr.Sippo’s credit that he chose to bring this volatile character back in this new collection. Sippo believes there were real ideological differences between Muller’s creation and Hitler’s Aryan propaganda and this is what he explores further in his own original adventures. SUN KOH-HEIR OF ATLANTIS features five of Sippo's original Sun-Koh tales, the first three had been published previously and set up the series and introduce this marvelous cast and the last two are brand new, continuing the adventures. The transfer is seamless and I was very impressed in how Sippo captured the over-the-top plotting of classic pulp writing. There is nothing small in these adventures, from invisible super planes run on cold fusion, to super-powered armored warriors battling each other like the knights of old.

There’s also a very large dose of violent Tantric sex thrown in which is brutal and savage and not for the timid. This is adult fare and although not lascivious in any way, the reader should be wary that these tales are not sanitized for some PG rating. In the end, this is a truly remarkable book and one no true pulp fan should pass up. Sun-Koh remains one of pulp history’s most remarkable figures and now, thanks to Dr.Sippo and Age of Adventure, all of us are discovering him for the very first time.