By Michael Panush
Curiosity Quills Press
Early last year we reviewed a book called “Dinosaur Jazz” by Michael Panush of California. It told the story of a strange and mysterious island in the South Pacific discovered at the turn of the century by British explorers. On the island were found all manner of creatures thought to be long extinct from dinosaurs to saber-tooth tigers and wooly mammoths; plus a race of ape-like people. Of course the discovery of such a place had scientific repercussions around the world and soon the island was being invaded by scientist but also tourists, hunters, adventurers and entrepreneurs. The place was called Archeron Island.
“Dinasaur Jazz,” told the story of Sir Edwin Crowe, the son of the man who had discovered the island and a World War One veteran wanting to put the horrors of the trenches behind him. The book was a glorious introduction to this unique setting and one filled with so much action and adventure that this reviewer nominated the book for the Pulp Factory Awards ad Best Pulp Novel of 2012.
Now Panush has profuced a sequel, “Dinosaur Dust,” and as unbelievable as it seems, it is just as wonderful as its predecessor. The book opens in the United States ten years after the events in the first book. The Jazz Age has given way to the Depression and Americans are in dire straights, to include convicted gangster, Norris Hall. A former Marine, Hall has no intention of spending his days in an Oklahoma prison and escapes to hunt down the man who betrayed him. He returns to St.Louis to inform his mob boss that he is out and once again available do to his bidding.
The Boss owns part of a Hollywood movie studio which produces B-movies featuring a trained raptor named Rusty. Someone has stolen the loveable dino and Hall is ordered to Los Angeles to learn who snatched the scaly star and retrieve him unharmed. Now if that wasn’t odd enough, he’s also ordered to take along a young pulp writer named Nathan Whipple whose father is a New York attorney who had been helpful to mob families in the past. The naïve writer wants to learn more about gangsters as fodder for his future pulp sagas.
Of course readers of “Dinosaur Jazz” will immediately recognize this character as the same ten year old precocious lad who was part of that book’s cast of characters. Having him reappear in this sequel as a struggling pulp writer was a real treat and it helped tie the two books together. Still, one needn’t have read the first to enjoy this new tale.
The fun of “Dinosaur Dust” is getting to know tough-guy Hall and to watch his character develop a real conscience as he is cast into an entirely new experience unlike any he has ever known before. He and Nathan manage to uncover the villain who stole Rusty only to learn the creature has been shipped back to Archeron Island and so they must travel there to complete their assignment. When they arrive, they quickly discover the island has become a microcosm of the world’s current political unrest. Causing part of this tension are Russian Bolsheviks who have organized the Apemen laborers and are inciting them to revolt against the rich who control most of Victoria City, the island’s capital. They also discover a huge contingent of both Japanese military and a company of Nazis storm-troopers, all pumping their chests with nationalist fervor and clearly eager to ignite a new world war to achieve their mutual mad dreams of conquest.
So what the hell does have missing Hollywood dinosaur have to do with any of that?
By the time Hall and Whipple discover the answer to that puzzle, things heat up fast and the action explodes non-stop across the pages all leading to a pulp-glorious final battle in the Hollywood Hills between Nazis, dinosaurs, airships and American gangsters to be forever known as “The Battle of L.A.”
Michael Panush is one of the best New Pulp writers on the market today and “Dinosaur Dust,”is by far his most original and exciting book yet. We will be nominating it for Best Pulp Novel of 2013. It deserves to win.