Saturday, February 23, 2013

TARZAN The Jungle Warrior

The Jungle Warrior
By Andy Briggs
Open Read Media
180 pages

Several weeks ago we reviewed the first book in this new, licensed Tarzan series; The Greystoke Legacy.  Following in the footsteps of Tarzan’s creator, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Andy Briggs continues his new adventures of the Jungle Lord exactly where he left off in this second installment.  Anyone familiar with the original classics is knows that “Tarzan of the Apes” and “The Return of Tarzan,” were actually one story told in two parts.  So it is with this series though it dares to be even more ambitious and by the conclusion of this excellent sequel the saga is far from over.

In the first book, young Jane Porter and her widowed father, Archie, are living in the Congo.  Archie is operating an illegal tree cutting operation with his lifelong friend, Clark. Working at the camp is a young American named Robbie Canler who is on the run from the law.  By the end of that first story, Jane had met the wild jungle man, Tarzan, and earned his trust and friendship.  She had also discovered he might very well be the long lost heir to a British fortune.

In Burrough’s classic “Return of Tarzan,” the principle villain was a sadistic Russian named Nikolas Rokoff and his henchman, Alexi Paulvitch.  Tarzan foiled their various schemes until in the end they traveled to Africa and allied themselves with his cousin, Lord Cecil Clayton, in an attempt to destroy Tarzan and thus nullify his claim to the Greystoke fortune.  In “The Jungle Warrior,” Briggs wonderfully reintroduces Rokoff as an obsessed big hunter who has made a fortune bagging endangered wild animals for his rich clients.  Having heard the rumors of a “white ape” inhabiting the heart of the Congo, Rokoff and his aid, Paulvitch, set out to find and capture this legend.  The cruel hunger has become jaded and much like his fictional peer, General Zaroff from Richard Connell’s “The Most Dangerous Game,” believes Tarzan will provide him with the most challenging hunt of his life.

Once again we are given a fantastic adventure with some of the most incredible action sequences ever written.  In his works, Burroughs made Tarzan larger than life, almost superhuman in some aspects and reimagining him as anything less would have been a serious mistake.  Not so with this new and exciting interpretation.  Here is wild, amazing action that knows no boundaries and a Tarzan as courageous, magnificent and totally unstoppable as he has ever been.  Reading these new Tarzan exploits is a joyous, fun experience; one no true pulp fan should miss.  We can’t wait for volume three.

Friday, February 15, 2013


Detective Agency Vol. One
By Michael Panush
Curiosity Quill Press
250 pages

One of the finest pulp novels we enjoyed last year was Michael Panush’ “Dinosaur Jazz.” In fact this reviewer nominated it as Best Pulp Novel in 2012 for both the Pulp Factory Awards and the Pulp Ark Awards.  Yes, it is that good and if you haven’t read it yet you should certainly go out and do so immediately.

Of course having discovered Panush’s marvelous fiction, we went hunting up some of his earlier works.  We found two volumes of stories starring a duo of occult detectives operating in the years after World War Two known as Stein and Candle.  We’ve just finished reading the first collection and are thrilled to report Micael Panush is yy no means a one-trick literary magician.  “Stein and Candle” features seven hair-raising, fast paced, pulp tales of the most unusual and original new occult heroes ever invented. 

Mort Candle was an army sergeant with the 101st Airborne during the war and is one tough as nails character.  During the last days of the European campaing, he and his squad were sent on a mission to rescue a Jewish family, the Steins, being held captive in their Austrian castle by a group of sadistic Nazis SS unit.  Count Wolfgang Stein was a scientist who dabbled in arcane lore and the Germans wanted him to create a zombie army with which to stem the tide of the war and save the Third Reich.  When Stein refused, he and his wife Hannah, during a daring escape attempt, were killed and only their young eight year old son, Weatherby survived to be rescued by Sgt. Candle and his team.

This volume opens six years later as we learn Candle, now a civilian private investigator, has become the fourteen year old Weatherby’s legal guardian.  Together they take on weird cases tainted by the occult.  These pit them against all manner of horrific adversaries such as vampire bikers, a deadly ghost haunting a British movie company and a zombie plague in a Los Vegas like city in the California desert.  Each case is narrated by Candle in his rough, non-frills voice, and is a thrill ride this reviewer relished to the max.  Whereas the volume contains only one story presented in the third person style and it is the actual origin story of the young occultist, Weatherby Stein.  It is a most moving story and Panush deserves much credit for holding back towards the end of the volume.

Bottom line, dear readers, if you like hard-edged fantasy that combines both horror and pulp action, “Stein and Candle” is the book for you.  Panush continues to whip up fresh new ideas coupled with truly great characters establishing him as one of the best new writers in the New Pulp arena.  We fully expect his name and award titles are going to be synonymous all too soon.

Sunday, February 10, 2013


Edited by Jim Beard & James Palmer
208 pages
Mechanoid Press

Talk about hitting a homerun your first time at the plate, this book does just that.  It is the first title from writer James Palmer’s new company, Mechanoid Press, and it is a pure joy for monster junkies of all persuasions.  Working with co-editor, Jim Beard, what the two have done is created an alternate world where giant monsters appeared just prior to the outbreak of World War II.  Then, in various stories by their colleagues, the effects of their presence is made known throughout the history of the next thirty years.

Thus the theme of the collection is to answer that question, “What would our world be like if all those movie monsters like Godzilla and all the rest were real?”  Aiding Beard and Palmer answer that question are five other talented monster-lovers providing us with marvelous tales of sheer unadulterated imagination.

“The Parade of Moments,” kicks everything off with Jim Beards relating old man’s memories his days as a newsreel cameraman.  He was in China during the height of the Japanese – Chinese conflict in 1937.  It was his good (or bad) luck to be on the scene with the first giant tentacle demon appeared under the command of the Japanese.  Later, in Shanghai, he films the arrival of the gargantuan Foo Dog monster of Chinese myth as it does battle with the enemy sea monster.  This is where the world changes forever.

Writer I.A. Watson picks up the thread with his “The Monsters of World War II, or, Happy Birthday, Bobby Fetch.”  You have to give some applause for that title alone.  The story takes place in Hawaii on the morning of Dec. 7th, 1941 and the attack on Pearl Harbor by Japanese forces; this time aided by their giant squid-like sea creature.  Young Bobby Fetch, newly arrived with his scientist parents befriends a beautiful young girl who teaches him the myths of the Hawaiian dragons.  Giant winged monsters devoted to protecting the islands and their people.  The boy soon learns all true heroism comes with a cost.

With the end of the war, countries find themselves having to lock up their monsters, such as the American fur covered beast called Johnson in Jeff McGinnis’ marvelous entry, “The Beast’s Home.”  Military authorities keep Johnson imprisoned in Los Angeles because of its being on the west coast.  When the monster breaks free on several occasions, wreaking havoc and great loss of life, the city is soon abandoned by the movie industry and becomes nothing more than a gilded ghost town.  This was our favorite story in the book.

“And A Child Shall Lead Them,” brings us into the 1960 where writer Nancy Hansen tells of a giant Snake Goddess from India who chases a false guru to the shores of Boston attempting to reclaim what was stolen from her.  When the U.S. Military unleashes its own monster, a giant Thunderbird, a battle royal ensues that threatens to completely destroy the Hub City unless a teenage boy and old derelict can soothe the savage behemoths with their ancient folk-music.

Edward M. Erdelac continues this Native American thread with his “Mighty Nunuq,” a giant polar bear connected to the Inuit people of the frozen north.  But once again, all such supernatural beings demand sacrificial offerings.

Fraser Sherman’s sixth entry, “Peace With Honor,” is set in the last days of the Vietnam War with both sides using monsters to not so much to win as to find a honorable exit to the conflict that so ravaged both sides.  Thus the North Vietnamese unleash their giant bat-monster the Shrieker who must battle Junior Johnson, the offspring of the famous L.A. monster used to defeat the Japanese in World War II. 

The unifying thread that moves through all these stories is used to maximum advantage here as each new story builds on the foundations set by the others thus world-building a very believable Earth and its horrifying history.

Co-Editor James Palmer wraps up the book with “Some Say in Ice,” which is the most exaggerated, bombastic, over-the-top fishing story ever told.  American monster scientists head to the frigid arctic waters to capture an illusive sea creature few have ever seen.  How they go about this is fantastic and wonderfully captures the true core of “Monster Earth.”  It’s a grand send off and left this reviewer applauding soundly.

“Monster Earth” is what New Pulp is all about.  It’s fresh, original, with a tip of the hat to those old black and white cinema thrills we all enjoyed as youngsters.  If this book doesn’t have a sequel, then there’s something really wrong with this Earth. Go get it now…before the monsters get you!

Wednesday, February 06, 2013


By Mickey Spillane & Max Allan Collins
Titan Books
244 pages
Available May 2013

Beginning a new year with a new Mike Hammer novel is a cause for jubilant celebration.  In his short preface to the book, begun by the late Mickey Spillane, Collins informs us that the setting is 1964 and “Complex 90” is in part a sequel to the 1961 Mike Hammer novel, “The Girl Hunters.”  For those of you unfamiliar with that private eye classic, a brief summary is in order. 

“The Girl Hunters” opens with our down-and-out hero discovering that his secretary, and one true love, Velda, has returned from the dead.  Having lived in an alcoholic haze since her disappearance seven years earlier, he learns that Velda had been on a spy mission for the government, captured by the Russians and thrown into one of their of their prisons where she had endured physical tortures until managing to escape.  Now back on U.S. soil her ordeal is far from over as the Soviets send a specialized assassin team to terminate her permanently.  Instead they run into Hammer and it he who does the exterminating.  You can easily enjoy “Complex 90” without having read “The Girl Hunters,” but why on earth would you settle for one great Mike Hammer book when you can enjoy two?

Okay, back to this “sequel” of sorts.  The cold war is still in full tilt, even though Hammer and Velda have slowly gotten their lives back on a normal track.  Then an old colleague recruits Hammer to assist him as a bodyguard for a controversial senator throwing a lavish cocktail parting in his New York penthouse.  Hammer sees it as an opportunity to make a few fast bucks.  In the middle of the soiree, an assassin attempts to shoot the senator but instead guns down Hammer’s pal. Hammer takes a slug to the leg before sending the killer through a window eighty stories up via a hot lead tivkry from his .45 automatic.  So much for an easy few dollars.

Suffering only a flesh wound, Hammer is soon back on his feet.  Immediately he is offered a new assignment; that of bodyguard to the senator during his fact-finding junket to Moscow. The senator wants Hammer to replace his dead friend who was scheduled to accompany him.

No sooner are the two in Russia then Hammer is arrested and imprisoned by the KGB for being a spy.  Fortunately for the savvy P.I., they detain him in a city facility and he waste no time escaping, leaving half a dozen bodies behind.  By the time he makes it back to the States, he’s left a trail of forty-five dead Russians creating an international incident.  Now the Russians are clamoring for his hide and the State Department isn’t any too pleased with the notorious New York private-eye.  What bothers Hammer is why he was kidnapped in the first place and why the Commies are so hell bent on bringing him back to the U.S.S.R.

Finding the answers to those two questions is the major plot around which this fast paced thriller revolves and like all Mike Hammer tales, there’s plenty of two-fisted action along the journey.  Collins prose never lets up for a second propelling this reader to a slam-bang climax that had us needing a drink when it was over.  Cold war intrigue, sexy femme fatales and in the middle of it all, one tough son-of-bitch throwback whose conservative patriotism will not be shaken by gun-toting foreign agents or two-faced  Washington politicians. 

In a time of when America is being torn apart by a culture war, Spillane’s Mike Hammer is a cleansing storm that makes no excuses for loving ones country and doing whatever it takes to keep her strong.  Makes us wish we had a lot more like him.

Monday, February 04, 2013



A Review of Patrick Lee's Breach Trilogy

By guest reviewer

Andrew Salmon

In these days of overhyped, over-marketed, multi-volume mega-series, it's hard to find a series of novels that truly justifies their existence. It's all about branding and stretching stories out to 1000s of pages for purely economic reasons is, sadly, the norm these days.

Patrick Lee's incredible Breach trilogy is the exception to the rule.

In three of the best edge-of-your-seat thrill rides this reader has ever had the pleasure to read, Lee gives us a New Pulp trilogy for the ages. The novels are The Breach, Ghost Country and Deep Sky and all three are lean, mean, thrill machines you do not want to miss.

But enough hype. What is this rollicking trilogy about?

In the first novel, The Breach, we are introduced to ex-con, ex-cop Travis Chase who is seeking to escape his past and find solace in the frozen, isolated wastes of Alaska as he tries to decide what to do with the rest of his life. That answer comes unexpectedly when he stumbles upon a unmarked 747 that crashed in the frozen wasteland just days before. To his surprise, no one has reached the wreck despite clear weather and the proximity of the crash to the nearest town. Added to this mystery is the discovery that the survivors of the crash have been tortured and killed, including the First Lady who has left a note providing the location of the torturers but also desperate instructions for whoever finds it to kill not only the torturers but also the two remaining surviving passengers. Chase heads to the scene but instead tries to rescue the two prisoners, a man and a woman. In a great action sequence, he fails to save the man but manages to save the woman who is critically injured during the battle.

The woman, Paige Campbell, it turns out, is an agent of Tangent. Their goal is a simple one. They are trying to save the world. Not from a terrorist plot, or from some unseen enemy representing a shadowy, potential threat to the US or democracy. No, they are literally, trying to save mankind from ultimate destruction.

Destruction by whom? Ah-ah. That would be telling. But I will tell you this: Tangent agents are trusted to guard, examine and study, The Breach, which is a form of wormhole that resulted when a particle collider was tested back in 1978. Since that time, items have been appearing on our side of the breach, items sometimes mundane, often unfathomable, and often deadly dangerous with strange properties and powers. Are they from the future? Another dimension? Are they the prelude to alien invasion? No one knows. Called Brach Entities, the good guys need to keep these items away from the bad guys.

That's the set up and I'll leave the first novel here so as not to spoil the action. And there is a ton of great action in this first installment despite the novel being somewhat hampered by the need to introduce the above premise.

The action picks up in the next novel, Ghost Country, which is the biggest and boldest entry in the trilogy. This one kicks off with the President's motorcade being taken out. Now such a sequence would normally be the climax of a great action tale but here Lee begins the tale with this breath-taking action. And it's an indication of the action that is to come. Campbell, with mere seconds before capture, must get a message to Chase telling him to retrieve a Breach Entity similar to the one lost in the destroyed motorcade. Chase, who has left Tangent and Campbell for compelling reasons set down in the first novel, has no choice but to re-involve himself with Tangent and the Breach and sets out to find this second artifact.

This device turns out to be a means for the user to jump ahead 73 years into the future - a future where mankind has been wiped out by a Breach entity. To reveal more would be to spoil the biggest, boldest, grandest entry in the series.

Put simply, once you pick up Ghost Country you will not put it down. It is filled with trips through time, government conspiracies, action galore, heroism and sacrifice and enough left over to set up the third and final novel.

Deep Sky is much smaller in scale and tone although the main mystery remains intact and there is still tons of action. Reading it after Ghost Country, however, may seem like something of a letdown because of this scaling back and, really, there is only one thing that can elevate the work: and that's the revealing of what the Breach is while wrapping up the various plot threads. The world is still ticking down to destruction and here the baddies are taking out anyone associated with the Breach and this is all compelling stuff. But it's the secret of the Breach that will either make or break the book after the compelling first novel and the exemplary Ghost Country. I, too, was somewhat taken aback by the approach in Deep Sky. Don't get me wrong, as a standalone work, it is an action thrill-ride but after Country the action paled somewhat even though I was still feverishly turning pages.

This brings us to the secret of the Breach itself. No, I'm not telling. It would be a crime to spoil the fun for readers. Here Lee is faced with the problem of all mystery-driven fare: how to come up with an explanation that will wow readers who have had the time, over the course of the previous two novels, to theorize and come up with their own explanation for the ultimate secret. Obviously it is impossible to satisfy every reader in this situation. As for this reader, no stranger to this type of story, the reveal blew my mind. I never, in a million years, saw it coming and it truly surprised me. All in a good way. That said, and for the reasons stated above, your mileage may vary when Lee draws back the curtain. All I can say is that it worked for me and I was left in awe after reading the last page. Needless to say I've got an eye out for the next Patrick Lee book. The Breach trilogy is simply brilliant.

Story aside, a word about the presentation of the work is in order. Spread over three novels, the 1168 pages of the trilogy could just as easily been presented as a single, large work and shelling out for three novels might put some readers off. However now that all three books have been released, readers can avoid the frustration of being left hanging while awaiting the next installment. This is a series you will want to devour. The books are available for Kindle but, given that these are released by mainstream publishers (Harper Collins) the ebooks are ridiculously overpriced and are actually more expensive than printed copies. But they are an option for those who prefer reading that way.

For me, the money I spent on the Breach trilogy was money well spent. I was glued to my chair, slicing my fingers to shreds turning pages long past bed time. Some of the best New Pulp writing on the market today. I loved it!

ANDREW SALMON – is one of the finest New Pulp writers in the field today, having won the Pulp Factory Award for Best Short Story of 2009.  He resides in Vancouver, Canada with is wife.