Saturday, March 28, 2015


By Joel Jenkins
Pulpwork Press
305 pages

For ever reviewer, there are always books we cannot read fast enough because, not only do we personally enjoy them so much, but because we also can’t wait to share them with our fellow readers.  This is such a book.

Joel Jenkins is among the elite of the new pulp fiction writers working today.  Like most prolific scribes, he has several different series available to pulp fans.  Of all of them, my favorite is hands down the weird western stories he’s done featuring his wonderful character, Lone Crow.  Crow is the last of his tribe; they were all butchered by a renegade band of Apaches.  Crow’s travels take him all over the North and South America, from the freezing rugged Alaskan frontier to the thick, hot cloying jungles of Brazil.  Wherever there is some strange mystery dealing with the occult, you are bound to find this Indian gunfighter making an appearance.  And when he does, look out!  Then the action kicks up a notch and it’s blessed bullets against all manner of beasts and monsters.

“The Coming of Crow” contains fourteen of Crow’s amazing adventures; a few having been previously published in other anthologies over the past few years.  That I’d already read some of these before didn’t bother me in the least, as having bound together in one glorious collection is the treasure here.  Another fanciful element of many of Jenkins’ Lone Crow stories is that he peppers them with historical western figures.  Among these accounts, Crow crosses paths with the likes of Wyatt Earp, Bass Reeves, Shotgun Ferguson and many other colorful western legends.

If you are a fan of weird westerns, then your library isn’t complete until you have this book in it.  I was happy to see Jenkins purposely labeled it Volume One which means he has a lot more Lone Crow stories coming our way and this reviewer couldn’t be any happier about that.

Thursday, March 12, 2015


By Ed McBain
Hard Case Crime
223 pages
Available July 25, 1915

As both a reviewer and writer, I am often asked who my favorite writer is…or was.  With over fifty years of reading behind me, there are many writers who’ve entertained me and I follow faithfully.  But the one who tops the list and stands above all the others is the late mystery/crime author, Ed McBain.  And that isn’t even his real name.

Ed McBain (Oct. 15, 1926 – July 6, 2005) was born Salvatore Albert Lombino.  He legally adopted the name Evan Hunter in 1952 under which he became a very successful writer.  In 1956 he adopted the penname Ed McBain when writing Cop Hater, the first novel in the 87th Precinct crime series.  These were cop procedural mysteries starring a group of detectives working the fictionalized city of Isola, based on New York.  Hunter would use many other pseudonyms in his stellar career but none ever achieved the success he earned under the McBain moniker and the more than fifty 87th novels he wrote.

I discovered the 87th Precinct mysteries while in high school and immediately was mesmerized by the smooth flowing prose. There was a fresh economy of words employed by McBain and he was a genius at dialogue.  Within a few short sentences, he could capture a character’s entire persona thus setting the table quickly and allowing his readers to enter his tales effortlessly.  His plots were ingenious and fun and I became an instant, lifelong fan.  When he passed away in 2005, I purpose held off reading his last 87th Precinct book, published posthumously, because I simply hated the thought there would be no others.

In the 1960s various publishers began reprinting many of his earlier crime shorts and novels using the McBain by-line and now Hard Case Crime is following suit.  So Nude, So Dead, has the distinction of being the first crime novel by Even Hunter published 1952 as The Evil Sleep.  It was later reprinted in 1956 under its current title and has been out of print since.  It tells the story of a gifted pianist named Ray Stone who falls prey to drugs. One night, while on a heroin high, he falls asleep next to a beautiful blond singer after they both shoot-up. He awakens the next morning to find her dead beside him, having been shot several times during the night by an unknown murderer.

Confused and dazed, Stone flees the scene and is immediately tagged as the police’s number one suspect.  An All Points Bulletin is put out on him across the city.  Normally any clear thinking person would immediately turn themselves in to clear their name.  The problem is Stone hasn’t had a “fix” in over twenty-four hours and his addiction is torturing him so that he is doing anything but thinking clearly.  Initially his first thought is to find a dealer and get another shot but that plan quickly falls apart when he realizes he is a wanted man and his own suppliers are afraid to get anywhere near him.  In his delusional state, Stone desperately decides the only way to prove his innocence is to find the killer and he begins investigating the dead girl’s associates, some already known to him in the city’s close-knit music community.

All the while he has to keep evading the police manhunt chasing after him.  Then when one of the people he questiones is also murdered, things go from bad to nightmarish.  McBain paints a picture of a pathetic lost soul in Ray Stone and does so vividly.  He never makes excuses for his protagonist’s fate but at the same time pulls us into his grim narrative where the elusive possibility that there might be redemption at the end of the story does exist.

So Nude, So Dead  is a remarkable glimpse Ed McBain’s early efforts and the evidence of his amazing talents is apparent throughout.  If, like me, you are an avowed fan of this master storyteller, you need to pick this up and at the same time thank Charles Ardai of Hard Case Crime for resurrecting it.

Thursday, March 05, 2015


By Dale R. Cozort
Stairway Press
246 pages

One of the most favorite sci-fi themes is that of multi-dimensional copies of the same world.  The writer posits there are countless versions of our earth all existing simultaneously in other dimensions removed from our own.  That’s the core plot foundation for Dale Cozort’s new adventure novel, “Exchange.”  In it, the entire city of Rockport, Illinois has been removed from our earth and placed on another earth, whereas it has been replaced by a chunk of terrain from that other world.  In other words, exchanged.  And the world it has dropped into has saber-tooth tigers, mastodons and green monkeys that appear to be semi-intelligent.

The government, using the Marines, attempts to evacuate as much of the population as it can once the exchange terminates and both sections revert back to their own dimension.  Should anyone be in what is referred to as Bear County when that happens, they would be forever trapped on this alternate earth.  Caught up in all this is single mother, Sharon Mack, who is frantically doing her best to keep herself and her autistic daughter, Bethany, alive.  Unfortunately her ex-husband is an abusive alcoholic who has decided he, and his clan of relatives, would be better off living in the savage world.  Thus he kidnaps Bethany and heads for the untamed surroundings of this dangerous environment.

But Sharon is no pushover and she is determined to track him down and get her daughter back before the final shift occurs.  Along the way she encounters a religious cult that has opted to relocate in Bear Country and establish colony there.  Amongst them is a handsome, enigmatic fellow named Leo West who early on befriends Sharon and volunteers to aid her in rescuing her daughter.  But West has secrets, chief among them what his real agenda is with both the cult camp and Sharon.  Complicating matters is the fact that she is attracted to him and with each passing day realizes this attraction may be clouding her judgment and jeopardizing her mission.

“Exchange,” is a well written, fact paced sci-fi thriller with both familiar concepts and new original twists.  Cozort creates interesting characters and keeps the pace humming along.  But at the same time, towards the second half of the book, many of the scenes seem to be repetitious of previous events so that we began fidgeting as if caught on a carousel going nowhere fast.  When the plot finally reaches the finale, it is with a relieved welcome.  Some editorial tightening here might have been helpful.  Still, “Exchange” is worthy of your attention and Cozort a writer to watch.  He’s by no means reached his full potential yet, but “Exchange” is a big step in the right direction.