Monday, September 30, 2013


Stories inspired by the art of Mark Wheatley
Edited by Gary Henry
Guest Reviewer Derrick Ferguson

See, I had no idea at all there there was even a Lesbian Vampire genre in print or movies. If I had, you can bet your sweet bippy I’d have been all over it in no time at all. Mark Wheatley explains it all in his highly entertaining introduction to LEZ VAMPS but I’ll give you the thumbnail: the short stories in LEZ VAMPS are based upon one of Mr. Wheatley’s paintings. His fans liked it so much a contest was launched to find the best short story based on that painting. And an extraordinary painting it is.  But don’t take my word for it.  Bounce on over to his Facebook fan page and check ‘em out for yourself.
Fortunately for us, the decision was made to collect some of the best entries into a digital anthology that is available for free. And it’s made a believer outta me when it come to the Lesbian Vampire genre.

But the first story “The Adoption” by James Smith wasn’t the one that did it for me. It’s the sort of story that as I was reading it I was way too aware of the fact that I was reading a story. It’s supposed to be humorous, I get that. But the overall effect on me was that of a guy in a bar jabbing you in your ribs with his elbow telling you what he thinks is the funniest joke in the world and you’re sitting there praying he’ll finish so you can get back to watching the ball game and drinking your beer.

“Boundary Dispute” by Cynthia and Mike Arsuaga did sell me on the premise, I’m happy to say and it should have been the first story in the book. This piece is drenched in sensual atmosphere and moodiness. Let’s face it, you give me a story that’s about Lesbian Vampires and I expect my fair share of erotic titillation. This story delivered exactly that.

“Lez Vamps” by Johnda Estep is what I call a Hit The Ground Running Story. It starts off fast and doesn’t let up. Most of it is carried along by dialog which is something I greatly admire in any writer as I feel my own work just doesn’t feel like if it has much meat unless I provide description. But some writers can convey exactly what they want to a reader by the skillful use of dialog and that’s what’s going on here. It’s a nice change up from the previous story which is heavy on description that feels like a heavy cloak wrapping around you. This one bounces back and forth and never slows down from start to finish.

Gordon Dymowski’s “Out There In The Night” is a straightforward story of vampire seduction. Mr. Dymowski tells a story that could easily be the beginning of a novel, if he wishes to take it further. But then again, he doesn’t have to. Between this story and “Boundary Dispute” I was beginning to get the whole thing about Vampire Lesbians…it’s not about sex and it’s really not even about the vampirism. It’s all about the seduction. Like the song says, that’s the hook that keeps you coming back and that’s the hook that kept me reading.

“Theatrics” by Bill Nichols did what I think “The Adoption” was trying to do: be a funny Lesbian Vampire story. The difference is that “Theatrics” actually is funny because Mr. Nichols got out of the way of his story and told the story instead of trying to impress me with how much of a funny guy he is.

“The Prey” by Askshat Sinha is really one that made me sit up and go ‘whoa’ because it started out to be one kind of story and subtly shifted into another so smoothly that I got blindsided and that’s exactly what I think the author was going for. This is the kind of story I read anthologies for and why I love them so much. “The Prey” has a gut punch of an ending I found very satisfying and enjoyable.

“The Undead” by Charles Baird also continues in that theme of seduction that I found I responded to in my favorite stories of this anthology. The sex and the actual vampirism is almost a byproduct of the way that the characters come into vampirism. They want to be seduced and they want to feel the overwhelming emotion of being pursued and seduced.  It’s like a drug and this story as well as “The Prey” and “Out There In The Night” communicates that very well.

“Vampires: A Short Essay” by Russ Rogers didn’t turn my crank at all.  Just like “The Adaption” it’s a story that came across to me as the writer trying to show how how hip and cool and funny he is rather than giving me a story worth my time to read.
There are a couple of poems in this anthology as well: “Night” by Johanda Estep and “Savior In The Tent Of Countess Reynardine” by Steffan Gilbert” that I didn’t review because when it comes down to poetry, I am way outta my league. My appreciation of poetry begins and ends with Dr. Seuss and I’m not ashamed to admit it. But if if you’re a fan and appreciate erotic poetry then by all means, check out the two offerings and maybe you’ll get more out of them than I did.

So should you read LEZ VAMPS? Well, first of all it’s a free read so there’s that to take into account. And most of the stories are pretty good so I’d say Yes. As for me, I’m going to hunt up more movies and stories about this Lesbian Vampires genre apparently you guys have been hiding from me.

(This E-book is avaible for FREE at the following links.)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


By Barry Reese
Pro Se Press
146 pages

The fun of any Barry Reese pulp fiction is that very element; the fun.  It is an inherent element in every thing he writers and this, the premier volume, of his latest new character series is no exception.

Charity Grace grew up on the way-way wrong side of the tracks in Sovereign City.  The end result of this hard-knock life was her becoming a petty thief and ultimately led to her violent murder.  But cosmic forces manifested by a mysterious Voice are not prepared to allow her eternal slumber just yet.  Instead, floating in a weird limbo state between life and non-existence, Charity is offered a proposition.  She will be allowed to return to the land of the living for a period of three years.  In that time she must become an agent of righteous vengeance and eliminate, permanently, all who prey on the innocent in Sovereign City.  In other words she will become a vigilante executioner.  Considering her only other option is most likely eternal damnation, Charity wisely accepts the Voice’s offer.

Once back, her body renewed with new found vigor and abilities, she soon learns that she is only one in a long line of such special avengers known by the name, Gravedigger, though she has the dubious distinction of being the first female to assume the role.  With the all too brief mentoring of the former Gravedigger and his big, black British assistance, Charity begins to adapt to her new role.  Of course this being pulp fiction, she soon finds herself coming up against an assortment of supernatural menaces to including the gruesome Headless Horseman of American folklore; only he now proves to be a real entity and nearly impossible to kill.

We could go on and on about the cool elements Reese throws into this heady pulp stew chief of which are the cameo guest appearances by two of his other popular heroes, the Rook and Lazarus Gray and their very different reactions to the Gravedigger’s arrival on the crime-fighting scene.  And then there’s the historical back story that adds even more mysterious layers to the plot and is a clever hook for future volumes.

“The Adventures of the Gravedigger,” is another winner from one of the most entertaining writers in New Pulp today.  And friends, that’s saying a whole lot.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


By Michael Patrick Sullivan
Pulp 2.0 Press
110 pages

World War II has been raging for months when the white haired man awakens in a hotel room with no memory of who he is or what he is doing in America.  All he knows is that he speaks and thinks in German, vocally with an Austrian accent. So why is he in America?  And why does he have dreams that lead him to various cities where Nazis agents are about to launch acts of sabotage against US bases and interests?  Could it be that he planned those mission?  That he is the Nazis Master Spy and if he does get his memories back, will they prove him to be a heartless monster?

And therein lies the premise of the Auslander; a word that translates in German to mean alien.  With this enigmatic character, writer Michael Patrick Sullivan has created a truly original hero but with all the trappings of traditional pulp action.  This little booklet contains ten very short tales, each approximately 3,000 words in length that are quickly put forth, filled with frenetic pacing that never lets up.  Obviously being so short, there is no room for wasted exposition which is what makes each a gem of pulp fiction.

Sullivan also writes with a modern sensibility devoid of the melodramatic romances of the early pulps.  The Auslander kills, both the guilty and the innocent, to accomplish his missions and foil the saboteurs.  It’s a morally ambiguous line he is willing to cross time and time again.

Kudos to publisher Bill Cunningham and Pulp 2.0 for collecting these stories in a terrific paperback you don’t want to miss.  This reviewer is hoping we haven’t seen the last of the Auslander.

Thursday, September 12, 2013


By Dale Cozort
Stairway Press
303 pages

So I’m at the Windy City Pulp & Paper show earlier this year having a conversation with crime novelist Terrence McCauley when a fellow walks up and hesitantly interrupts us. He introduces himself to Terrence and explains how they had both been finalist in a recent writing contest, with Terrence beating him out for the top prize.  At which point I’m then introduced to writer Dale Cozort who asks if I review books. I said yes and he handed me a copy of “All Timelines Lead to Rome.”  Believe me, we reviewers come by books in some truly interesting ways.

So here I am, months later, having worked my way through my To-Read-And-Review stack and there’s Cozort’s book.  Okay, I think, let’s see what this guy has to offer.  Answer, a whole lot, all of it good.  Within the first two chapters, I was hooked.  Cozort is a damn good writer with a gift for creating original characters that constantly surprised me by acting completely logical; a very rare occurrence in most of today’s fiction.  His dialogue is wonderfully fresh and realistic.

The plot revolves around American scientists in our world having discovered several natural portals that open into another, alternate earth.  On this other earth, the Roman Empire stagnated and Western European culture was never developed; thus indigenous races living in the Americas were allowed to evolve their own cultures far beyond anything we are familiar with today.  Because of the modern, instantaneous communication environment in our world, keeping the existence of the portals a secret is impossible and therefore the government creates a special department, the Bureau of Timeline Integrity – BTI, to guard and monitor the portals to Timeline X. 

When the headless body of young murdered woman is discovered possessing an ancient Roman scroll from Timeline X, Boston Detective Darla Smith is assigned to the case.  She travels to Chicago headquarters of the BTI to team with BTI Archeologist Scott White.  While investigating the murder, the two begin to suspect a wealthy computer outfit called Bergen Industries may have created their own portal and are using it to travel back and forth between worlds for some unfathomable scheme.

“All Timelines Lead to Rome,” is a deft mixture of science fiction and mystery thriller that moves at such an easy pace, it never bogs down.  The reader is instantly invested in the characters and their motivations that propel the action and builds to a memorable finale that is superbly realized.  This is one of those few books that, by the time I’d reached the last page, I was sorry to see it end.  Dale Cozort has set up a really plausible setting with richly complex characters in a story told with thought provoking imagination; the hallmark of any good science fiction.  Should he ever return to the world of BTI and Timeline X, I’ll be the first buy another ticket.  You should too.

Monday, September 02, 2013


Edited by David White
Pro Se Press
91 pages

Last year, veteran pulp writer, Charles Boeckman self-published a collection of his many short stories entitled, “Suspense, Suspicion & Shockers.”  At that time many of us involved with the New Pulp movement greeted this volume with a great deal of excitement and fanfare.  Here were 24 short pulp nuggets by one of the best wordsmith ever to pound a typewriter.  I recall giving the book a glowing reviewing, urging all my readers to pick up a copy.  (And yes, it is still available.)

Normally that’s where this story should end, but it doesn’t  Several weeks after Boeckman’s book made a splash, Pro Se Press Managing Editor Tommy Hancock, came up with the idea of producing brand new stories by other writers featuring some of Boeckman’s characters that has appeared in those shorts.  He put out the word throughout the pulp community grapevine and several writers took up the challenge; signing on to write these new stories.

CHARLES BOECKMAN PRESENTS JOHNNY NICKLE is the first result of this concept and it stars itinerant trumpet player, John Nickle, a footloose and fancy free musician trying to eke out a living with his horn during the post World War II era.  This slim volume features two stories.

“Notes in the Fog,” was written by Richard White and has Johnny and his new band, the Daybreakers, playing a gig in Monterey, California.  Keeping with the tradition of pulp pacing, we no sooner are made of aware of Johnny’s current situation when he is approached by the beautiful wife of an old buddy.  She tells the jazz man that her husband has been murdered by a known mobster but the authorities are unable to bring the gangster to justice.  It seems this powerful boss has half the local police in his pocket.  Of course Johnny doesn’t want any part of this, as he prefers to avoid bloodshed, particularly his own.

But within a few minutes of his encounter with the lovely widow, he’s roughed by two thugs and then witnesses the shooting death of a stranger.  Now the police are breathing down his neck.  “Notes in the Fog,” isn’t a bad story idea, but its execution and editing are shoddy.  It seems slapped together hurriedly without a clear plot path defined. Each scene, rather than clarifying the story seems to compound the confusion. 

As for editing, let me make this crystal clear, I do not have an issue with typos….ever. I found them in 100% (yes…100%) of the books I read.  It’s an imperfect world, live with it. So I do know how to ignore those little beasties, but what I cannot overlook is how, in two different places in this story, told in third person, the narrative jumps to first person.  Both instances stopped me cold and frustrated me greatly. 

“The Devil You Know,” by Brad Mengel completes the second half of this paperback and is the it’s saving grace.  Mengel’s writing is crisp, well thought out and wonderfully captures Boeckman’s characters; their personalities, nuances, etc.  He does this so well, the story feels like an extension of Boeckman’s tale, “Run, Cat, Run.”  Johnny and Nona Alexander, the widow of Bob Alexander from that solo story, are doing just fine with Johnny’s new band when they meet a slick agent named Captain Manning.  He wants his client, a young black guitarist, Connor Johnson, to audition for the band.  The talented guitar man soon demonstrates his skills much to Johnny’s delight and is soon playing and recording with the band.

But things are never quite that easy in the world of cool jazz. Connor has a way with the ladies and is soon flirting with the band’s torch singer, a sexy redhead who once dated the drummer, a tough bruiser with a mean jealous streak.  Then there is the young writer researching a book detailing the connections between the music world and the supernatural.  Rumors, suspiciously started by the boy’s agent, begin floating around that Connor, like the more famous Johnsons, may have sold his soul to Devil for the requisite fame and fortune.  When someone drops dead on stage during a live performance, all bets are off and the cops immediately zero in on Johnny Nickle because of his own notorious past.  Now it’s up to him and Nora to find the real killer and expose his, or her, twisted motivations.

Like any anthology, even one with only two entries, their level of appeal will vary.  In this case, “Notes in the Fog,” just doesn’t work.  Whereas “The Devil You Know,” is an excellent pulp yarn that truly pays homage to its source.  Brad Mengel is a gifted writer who delivers a quality effort. Whether that is enough to warrant picking this up, I leave to you, dear readers.

One final note may possibly tip the scales.  I rarely discuss a book’s cover or design, believing those are not the elements a reviewer should be focusing on.  Still, in the true tradition of the original pulps, JOHNNY NICKLE provides a gorgeous cover as rendered by Adam Shaw and slick packaging by Pro Se’s own Sean E. Ali.  Making this little book very, very easy on the eyes.

Sunday, September 01, 2013


(Ray Palmer’s Amazing Pulp Journey)
By Fred Nadis
Tacher/Peguin Books
263 pages

The first time I ever heard about someone named Ray Palmer, it was in the pages of DC comics Silver Age title, “The Atom,” written by former pulp writer Gardner Fox with art by Gil Kane and edited by Julius Schwartz.  What I, and many of my kid colleagues didn’t know was that Schwartz had named the miniscule hero after the legendary science fiction pulp editor, Raymond Arthur Palmer (August 1, 1910 to August 15, 1977), one of the most colorful and controversial characters ever to put pen to paper.

And now we have “The Man From Mars,” by Fred Nadis, a truly remarkable, in-depth look at a unique, one-of-kind personality who both helped in the development of science fiction as a legitimate literary genre and was later accused by fanatical fans for having betrayed it by publishing works of sheer fantasy professing outlandish claims.

Crippled by an accident at the age of seven which broke his back, Palmer suffered a botched operation that stunted his growth and left him with a hunchback; he would never grow beyond four feet tall.  And yet there was an inimitable will inside him that burned like a spiritual nova propelling him to explore the world’s mysteries.  Credited with starting the first ever fanzine, The Comet, in 1930, Palmer would become a driving force in the sci-fi community until being hired to be the editor of Amazing Stories in 1938.

Nadis’s narrative is a rollicking, topsy-turvy ride through the ups and downs of one of the most fascinating personages in the cultural history of America.  Whether praised or vilified, it was clear Ray Palmer, nicknamed Rap, was an original and this volume is an honest look into both his life and the origins of “geekdom.”  If you are a fan of the pulps, comic books, science fiction, or occult mysticism, you will find something in this tale to make you sit up and take notice.

I am always leery of biographies, as too many do their subject matter a cruel disservice.  The last thing a book about a showman like Ray Palmer should ever be is dull and boring.  To Fred Nadis’ credit, “The Man From Mars” is truly anything but a fascinating and fun read from beginning to end.  Pick up a copy and get to know a truly amazing man.  You will be glad you did.