Monday, June 29, 2015


(A Longmire Mystery)
By Craig Johnson
Penguin Books
335 pages

First of all, we really wish we could read these in order, but life has conspired against us with this particular series so we plow ahead reviewing whichever is within arms reach at any given day.  Two week-ends ago, we were packing for a flight to Kentucky and wanted a lightweight paperback to read on the plane.  The nearest on hand was this Longmire mystery by the ever reliable Craig Johnson.  We stuffed it in our bag and headed out.

Having read several Longmire mysteries, we’ve only ever found we really didn’t care for.  Not a bad track record and “A Serpert’s Tooth” falls into the positive box in a big way as it delivers all the things we love about this series.  When a runaway teenage boy is discovered in Absaroka County Wyoming, it’s left to Sheriff Walt Longmire and his  team of deputies to uncover the boy’s identity and get him back to his family.  It is soon learned that he escaped from a fanatical religious cult with headquarters in South Dakota.  Upon further investigation Longmire learns that the boy’s mother has gone missing about the same time he popped up in the sheriff’s backyard.

When his routine probes into the church’s history, and past run-ins with the law, start to draw some very reactionary actions from the cult, Longmire soon suspects the group is hiding more than just a body.  Further investigation links the group to former government agents with connections to illegal oil drilling.  Like all good mysteries, this one comes with all sorts of pieces that at the beginning seem totally unrelated; impossible to form into one cohesive image.  But Longmire is tenacious if nothing else.  He’s got an orphan boy on his hands, a possible dead mother and the shady dealings of a cult group that attempts to impede his investigation at every turn.  Then, amidst this convoluted puzzle, a crazy bearded fellow shows up claiming to be a two-hundred years old Mormon gunfighter on a mission for the prophet John Smith.

Johnson’s best stories are those that mix his wry, sarcastic humor with brilliant flashes of intuition that peers into the human psyche like a laser beam.  He mixes dark humor with love and loss so brilliantly, you’ll find yourself reading some of his passages out loud like the poetry they really are.  “A Serpent’s Tooth,” is classic Longmire and honestly, we couldn’t give it any higher praise. 

Sunday, June 07, 2015


(Senior Year)
Nick Ahlhelm
Metahuman Press
151 pages

Kevin Mathis is an only child living in a world with superheroes.  He lives in a town called Federation and is about to start his senior year of high school.  Neither a nerd nor a jock, Kevin is pretty much your average American teenage boy.  He has two close friends, Andy, who he has known since childhood and Millie, his neighbor next door. 

As the school year begins, Kevin is plagued by strange dreams in which he is flying while at the same time hearing strange, ominous voices.  Over a period of a few days he discovers he has the ability to move things with his mind; telekinesis.  He gets so good at using this skill he eventually ends up saving the city from a runaway robot and decides to become a masked superhero.  He takes the name Lightweight.  Though he shares his secret with Millie, he still finds having a dual identity a problematic challenge.

Which only gets worse after he is confronted by a hooded figure called the Gray Man who informs Kevin he is actually a pawn in an ancient war between the forces of good, the Eloi, and the forces of darkness, the Morlock.  Yes, they’ve taken their names from the H.G. Wells classic sci-fi novel, “The Time Machine.”

Nick Ahlhelm has a keen awareness youthful awkwardness and insecurity.  Kevin, Millie and Andy come across as believable teenagers all of us have met before.  It is this juggling of life, school and hormones that make Kevin such a fun character.  By the time he meets a sexy, female werewolf named Howl, the book is speeding along like a runaway freight train until it comes to a screeching, cliffhanger finale.  And that, fellow readers, is our one warning in regards to this tome; it is only the first in a series and the ending is by no means the climax.

So if you don’t like continuing series, then you’d best let this one pass.  On the other hand if you enjoy well written superhero fiction that takes a fresh, new look at this familiar genre, then “LIGHTWEIGHT – Senior Year” is something you really should pick up.  It’s a quick and fast read and we enjoyed it a great deal.  Happily, the next one is sitting on our bookshelves and we’ll be digging into it shortly.  Stay tuned.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015


By I.A. Watson
Pro Se Press
204 pages

If you haven’t been paying close attention over the past few years, then it might have escaped you that one of the leading voices in New Pulp Fiction these days is British writer, I.A. Watson.  We can confirm that easily enough by telling you in the past ten years he’s won two of the coveted Pulp Factory Awards for Best Short Story.  The first was for a Sherlock Holmes story and the second for frontier adventure featuring the characters from James Fennimore Cooper’s “Last of the Mohicans.” 

Now that bit of information leads us into this particular volume which is a pure reading light.  You see those Pulp Factory Awards I just mentioned are given out by the internet group on Yahoo called the Pulp Factory; an informal group of New Pulp writers, artists, editors, publisher and fans with a membership numbering 128.  Watson has been a member since its inception nearly ten years ago and he has used this particular internet board to regale his fellow members with entertaining essays covering such a wide range of topics it sometimes boggles the mind.  Let anyone even hint at an odd tidbit found on-line and instantly Watson is putting forth a two page dissertation on the subject, filled with insightful commentary, humor and the most outlandish historical notes once could ever imagine.

Watson’s Pulp Factory essays have rambled freely over such topics as the birth of heroic fantasy and fairy tales; the legend of King Arthur, heroes, the most powerful female monarch in history, how bad guys die, the purpose of using chapters, the dead World War II hero, Hollywood’s misunderstanding of pulps, etc. etc. etc.  Just to name a few of the dozens between these pages.  There’s even an essay explaining the genealogy of British Kings which I confess still confuses me to no end.  But what was crystal clear from the first page to the last was just how much fun this book truly is.

And this is where, as a fellow publisher in the New Pulp field, I humbly tip my hat to Tommy Hancock of Pro Se Press.  While the rest of us were reading Watson’s essays and enjoying them, it was Tommy who had the oh-so brilliant idea of publishing them and producing this remarkable book.  Oh, and if you are wise enough to pick up a copy, there’s a challenge for you in the very cover by Jeff Hayes, which includes an item related to every single essay in the book itself.  Can you pick them all out?

“Where Stories Dwell,” is that rarest of books; on that both amuses and informs at the same time by a writer I’ve come to believe is truly the World’s Last Renaissance Man.
Read it and then tell me I’m wrong.  That’s a safe bet on my part.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015


By Joel Jenkins & Derrick Ferguson
PulpWork Press
306 pages

In the world of New Pulp fiction, two of the coolest heroes out there are Derrick Ferguson’s Dillon and Joel Jenkins’ Sly Gantlet.  The latter has appeared in several in adventures along with his brothers as they are a world famous rock and roll band who just happen to work for the U.S. Government as a side job.  Whereas Dillon is a globe trotting adventurer much in the tradition of Leslie Charteris’ Saint, only with a lot more punch and swagger.

That these two larger than life heroes would team up for one action packed tale would cause for celebration.  To do so in three tales, as this volume collects, is nothing but sheer pulp action Nirvana. 

In “Dead Beat in Khusea,” our two heroes cross paths in Northern Africa and immediately butt heads over a beautiful Princess who once left Dillon out to dry in a previous adventure.  No sooner do Dillon and Sly start going at each other when the lady in question is abruptly kidnapped by a group of black-clad terrorist and taken to a long hidden Nazi stronghold in the desert mountains.  Their aim is to revive a horrible biological weapon that has lain dormant since World War II and use it to blackmail the rich countries of the world.  The problem is the chemical threat has no antidote and could easily destroy all of mankind if allowed to spread freely.  Now it’s up to our two heroes to find this hidden base, rescue the damsel in distress and save the day.  And that’s just the first story.

“Dead Beat in the Gobi,” has Sly and Dillon fleeing from a Russian military base with the biological weapon they’ve just stolen.  When their helicopter goes down in the frigid wasteland and they open the sealed canister they discover a beautiful woman awakening from a cryogenic nap.  What’s her connection to the biological weapon and how will our two adventurers escape an all out attack by wilderness cannibals hoping to make them the main course of their next meal?

“The Specialists,” is the novella length final entry of the volume and easily one of the most action packed tales we’ve ever read.  It’s pretty much a final swan song to one of the characters as Sly, Dillon and a half dozen other special operatives are sent on a suicide mission into Russia to destroy a munitions factory that has built four electronic pulp generator bombs; any of which could knock out the power grid of any country if denoted in the upper atmosphere.  From its inception the mission is plagued with mishaps until it is obvious to our two central characters that there is spy onboard determined to see the mission fail before it is even begun.  “The Specialists” reminded us a great deal of some those early Alistair McLean thrillers such as “The Guns of Navaroone” and “Where Eagles Dare,” only set the clandestine world of modern espionage.  Our only critique is that at the offset there are too many characters to keep track of and it becomes confusing to remember whose who.  But again, a minor quibble, as before too long many of them are dead and the core group of survivors that manages to infiltrate the hidden Russian facility are finally etched as the story goes into hyper-drive.  Once begun, “The Specialists” is impossible to be put down.

This book is one of the finest produced since the inception of the New Pulp Movement and we urge you to pick up a copy.  They don’t get any better than this.