Tuesday, April 28, 2015


(A Joe Picket Novel)
By C.J. Box
Berkeley Prime Crime
320 pages

One of the things readers often do is give books as presents.  We’ve been doing that for years and recently our good friend, Gary Kato, send us “Nowhere To Run,” by C.J. Box.  In the past, we’d sent Gary several Longmire mysteries by Craig Johnson and mentioned how much the setting of Wyoming was an integral part of the tales.  Thus Gary’s opting to introduce us to Box’s work which, as it turns out, stars Wyoming Game Warden named Joe Picket. 

Like Johnson, Box uses Wyoming’s rugged mountains and valleys as a major part of his storytelling and it makes the book all that much more fascination.  In this day and age, particularly for urban dwellers, we often forget how big America truly is and just how much of it is still primal wilderness; wilderness that can prove deadly to the unwary travel. 

While investigating a strange incident reported to him by several hunters, Picket rides out into the deep mountains and comes across two brothers, identical twins, living in the mountains like hermits.  When he attempts to question them as part of his job things suddenly get violent and Joe finds himself on foot, wounded and being hunted by two men who clearly know the ways of the mountain.  But that’s only the beginning of this edge-of-your-seat thriller.  Through strength of will, Joe manages to escape his hunters and makes it back to civilization.  While recovering from his wounds, he learns that every single search party sent into the mountains to find the two supposedly psycho brothers has failed to find any physical evidence of them to corroborate his report.  Now people are questioning Joe’s integrity and even his sanity.

Frustrated by this turn of events and angered that no one will believe his story, Joe is more determined than ever to go back into those dark mountains and not only find the deadly twins but learn the reasons for their being there in the first place.  The answer to that question is somehow caught up in a political scandal with ties to Washington and several government agencies.  Is there a conspiracy involved?  Is someone purposely trying to impede Joe quest for the truth?

“Nowhere To Run,” is a taut, gripping adventure with a political undercurrent that many people will find unsettling.  Kudos for Box for having the courage to say what many of us feel today; that the real dangers to our way of life don’t lie in the wilderness, but in the halls of Washington D.C.  And now we need to thank Gary for introducing us to this amazing book and character.  If you haven’t met Joe Picket yet, what are you waiting for?

Thursday, April 23, 2015


By Mickey Spillane & Max Allan Collins
Kensington Publishing
229 pages

Say the words Mickey Spillane and most readers will immediately Mike Hammer and hardboiled mysteries.  Perhaps the furthest thing from anyone’s thoughts would be a classic western adventure.  Which is exactly what this book is and its history is as fascinating as the tale it tells.  In his introduction, Max Allan Collins relates the friendship that existed between Spillane and John Wayne, one of the most famous western actors to ever grace the silver screen.  He believes it was this camaraderie that inspired Spillane to try his hand a writing a western screenplay that he hoped his pal, Wayne, would someday produce and star in.

Alas that never came to fruition but lucky for us, Spillane actually wrote the screenplay and it remained hidden amongst his files for all these years.  Upon discovering it, Collins opted to novelize it, sticking to the plot and action as Spillane had envisioned for his shoot’em-up horse opera.  After reading this book adaptation, we’re truly disappointed it was never filmed.

“The Legend of Caleb York,” is a classic western with a tried and true plot about a nameless stranger who rides into the small New Mexico town of Trinidad and finds himself caught up in a war between the corrupt sheriff and local ranchers. Harry Gauge is a sadistic gunfighter who uses his badge to systematically gain control of most of the ranches in the area.  Gauge’s only real challenge comes from a blind rancher named Cullen and his lovely daughter Willa.  Within minutes of arriving in Trinidad the stranger guns down two of Gauge’s men in a fast-draw display that has the locals guessing the unassuming gunslinger’s true identity.

Reading “The Legend of Caleb York” is much like watching one of a dozen famous western movies; each character in the story is molded from iconic elements all of us are immediately familiar with.  The good guys are stalwart and the villains black-hearted as they come fueling the reader’s imagination in such a wonderful, traditional way.  Give this one big thumbs way up, western lovers.  It’s a six-gun blasting winner from the first page to the last.

Friday, April 10, 2015


Edited by Nicholas Ahlhem
Metahuman Press
177 pages

Exploit – A notable deed or act. To use to best advantage.  To make use of selfishly or unethically.

The word exploit didn’t attract any particular attention until the folks in Hollywood got  hold of it and then we were given the Exploitation film which was usually applied to any film which was considered to be low budget and attempting to gain financial and critical success by “exploting” a current trend or a niche genre of a base desire for lurid subject matter.  This meant these movies needed something to exploit and for most it was either sex or violence.  And we’ve all heard the term, Sexploitation.

So it is only logical to assume an anthology calling itself “Pulpsploitation” is going to be saturated with excessive, gratuitous sex and violence in large quantity.  To varying the degrees, the five writers in this collection have no qualms of dishing out both whenever necessary to keep their stories moving.  Still, the idea of seeing a classic hero like Airboy having sex is a bit unorthodox to this pulp fan; to say the least.  So this review comes with a very emphatic Adults Only recommendation. 

Now the five tales that make up this book spotlight not only classic pulp heroes but a few popular comic book stars also make an appearance.  Every story is a reimagining of the character in a new, more modern setting and that is the real fun here.

Ahlelm starts the collection with that vary Airboy adventure, “Time Enough For Love,” which has Davy Nelson reawakens after having been a prisoner aboard the Air Tomb for over thirty years.  The world of the 1980s is strange and alien to him to say the least Still he has the aid of the Flying Dutchman’s beautiful daughter to help get familiar with this brave new world.  She explains to him that remnants of an old Japanese foe are about to launch their own atomic bombs on the US and its up to Airboy to save the day.  But first he must find his super-plane Birdie and satisfying the lustful longings of his beautiful ally; which is where the tale gets R rated.  Alhelm’s a solid writer and he knows these golden age characters extremely well and we doubt seriously after reading through the obligatory “sex scene,” many of you will ever consider Davy Nelson a “boy” again.

Next up writer Teel James Glenn showcases as yet another comic hero; the Gunmaster.  Although personally not familiar with this character, we were educated easily enough in his story, “Praey For The Raven.”  Following the theme of the anthology, the story opens in the past with Gunmaster Dumas Poe chasing after his nemesis, the Raven.  He fails to capture him and many years later, it falls to his son, Darian Poe, to complete the mission.  In reading through this story, we were struck with how much Gunmaster has in common with another classic pulp/comic hero; the Green Lama.  Both are given backgrounds involving Far Easter mysticism, they both employ the same phrases and there exist a connection in their names.  All in the all, the original Gunmaster was very much a Gun Toting Green Lama.  Glenn is to be applauded for moving the series forward by the creation of the original’s son and promises to do much more with the concept in future volumes. 

By far our favorite entry in this collection was Frank Byrns creation of a brand new Black Bat to follow in the footsteps of the iconic pulp hero.  In the 80s, retired lawyer Tony Quinn has begun a legal foundation to help the impoverished minorities living in the poorer sections of New York.  One of his lawyers is Jackie Clay, a black man whose own brother is involved with dealing drugs.  When a gang war with a rival faction threatens to destroy innocent lives in his home community, Clay adopts the mantle of the Black Bat to bring justice to these modern evil-doers, all under the watchful eye of old Mr. Quinn.  And set to aid Clay in his future battles are two rather important members of the Quinn Foundation; Carol O’Leary, the redheaded daughter of Butch O’Leary and Detective Danny Kirby, the son of former conman, Silk Kirby.  Byrns’ new Black Bat and company is wonderfully realized and we can’t wait to read their further adventures.  We also appreciate that he eschewed any kind of sexual encounters; leaving us to enjoy a more traditional pulp yarn.

The fourth tale is another winner; this one by Australian writer Steven Gepp.  He offers up a jungle hero named Tabu.  Having never heard of this character, we’ve no idea if he appeared in the pulps or comics.  It would have been nice if Gepp could have provided us with a little background history along with his bio.  Regardless, Tabu is very much a cookie-cutter figure who has been transplanted out of Africa and into a metropolitan US city where’s he’s become a big-time wrestling personality.  That alone was enough to have us enjoying this action story.  The Col War Russians are after a Star Wars type weapon invented by America and it’s up to Tabu to make sure it doesn’t fall into their hands.  All in all a very fun romp.

Lastly we have E.A.G.L.E. – Alpha & Omega by Caine Dorr that reads a great deal like many of the old classic pulp spy thrillers ala Secret Agent X and the Secret Six.  Commander Shannon is a veteran operative for a super secret outfit called E.A.G.L.E., which is his personal codename as well, that eliminates threats to America that cannot be dealt with by conventional law enforcement agencies; to include assassinations.  We have no idea if this tale is based on an actual pulp or is the author’s own original creation.  Either way, Commander Shannon comes across like an older version of Mack Bolan and the writing here is crisp, fast paced and delivers the standard action one would expect from such a genre.

All in all, book one of “Pulpsploitation” is extremely well realized with five top-notch stories any “adult” pulp readers will find entertaining.  And we would be remiss if we didn’t give kudos to a gorgeous cover provided by the super talented Nik Powliko.  This is a great package cover to cover and we’re only to happy to give it major thumbs up.  Hopefully a volume two is in the works.

Thursday, April 02, 2015


By Ashley Sherer

One of the first rules of good genre writing is; never attempt to re-invent the wheel.  And by that we mean; each and every genre of fiction has its set of rules which you should never tamper with.  That is never more crucial then when writing space operas.  Space operas are those fun, action packed tales nowhere near the boundaries of hard sci-fi that is all about extrapolating current science know-how.  Space operas are Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers, Star Wars, and yes, Star Trek.  They are about larger than life heroes having over-the-top outer space adventures.

So buckle up and get ready to blast off with the latest bonafide entry in this club; space pilot and adventurer, Jake Astor, as created by writer Ashley Sherer.  Jake is a loveable rogue in the Hans Solo mold and his own alien sidekick/co-pilot is a paranoid, conspiracy addicted green lizard-man named Mikja.  This first volume of their exploits contains five stories; the first three being connected.  Each is tons of fun and had this reviewer chuckling all the way through them.

Jake is a classic space-opera hero who, no matter how simple the job, is always going to end up in trouble thus having to depend on his wits and tenacity to survive.  No matter how much he considers himself a hustler, in the end he always does the right thing.  The adventures in this collection range from Jake and Mikja exploring jungle planets to uncover ancient treasures to battling space ghosts on a frontier mining colony.  Like we said at the offset, standard fare for this genre, but done with a real panache that proves irresistible.  The best space-opera every penned?  Hardly.  But without reservations you will have fun spending a few hours with Jake Astro.  He’s one cool dude.