Friday, July 31, 2015


A Timothy Wilde Novel
By Linsay Faye
The Penguin Group
451 pages

In 2012 writer Lyndsay Faye set mystery fiction world on its collective rear with the release of her historical mystery, “The Gods of Gotham.” That it went on to receive a Best Novel nominations from the Mystery Writers of America was no surprise to any of the millions of fans who had to read it. In that book we were introduced to two orphaned brothers of Irish immigrant parents, Valentine and Timothy Wilde, both living in New York City in 1845.

The plot of that first story was centered about the creation of New York’s first ever Police Department and related how the brothers, for their own personal reasons, chose to put on the copper star and join this new law keeping body. Shortly thereafter Timothy uncovered the works of a child serial killer and was successful at tracking him down and ending his reign of terror. But his triumph was not without personal sacrifices from the abandonment of the woman he loved and the vicious animus of another who vowed to cause him unending suffering.

“Seven For a Secret,” picks up with Wilde brothers almost a year later. Though missing Ms. Mercy Underwood badly, Timothy has been able to focus his energies on his new career as a detective.  According to Commissioner Matsell, Timothy has a “gift” for solving puzzles which makes him ideal for police work. Soon enough, our hero finds himself caught up in another tragic murder; one that revolves around the heinous practice of slave catching that occurred all too often during this time period. With the advent of the Underground Railroad, more and more slaves fled to northern cities in hopes of making their way to Canada and freedom. Sadly the laws regarding such abductions were vague at best and legal magistrates found themselves unable to determine whether the captured black men and women were actually runaway slaves or northern born free men and women.

When Timothy learns that two black women and a child have been abducted from their home by southern bounty-hunters, he enlists Valentine’s aid in rescuing them. Two days later one of the women is found strangled in Valentine’s apartment and her sister and son once again missing. Ms. Faye weaves a powerful story set against one of history’s ugliest eras, embroiling her characters in the hellish boiling pot of mixed cultures that was New York. As in her previous novel, the city is always a major element in the tale and her ability to capture its people, their language, hopes, dreams and agonizing despair is as skillful as any sculptor shaping a stone figure.

Her command of words is the essence of poetry and we found ourselves relishing each new metaphor that would fly from her imagination. She is a gifted writer with an uncanny sense of time and place…and above all the human condition. If you enjoy solid history mixed with heartfelt drame, you won’t do any better than “Seven For a Secret.” It is a great book!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

LADY ACTION – The Sands of Forever
By Ron Fortier
Airship 27 Productions
91 pages
Guest Reviewer – Bob Deis

Ron Fortier has a long and distinguished career as a writer for comics. I’ve been a fan of his work in that realm for years, especially his contributions to the Green Hornet and Terminator series published by NOW Comics. In 2006, Fortier created his own publishing company called Airship 27. At that point, he became a pioneer in publishing “new pulp” novels and story anthologies that are inspired by both classic comics and old pulp magazines.

THE SANDS OF FOREVER is a short novel that has genes from both realms. It features the character Nicola Sinclair, a beautiful, butt-kicking international spy code-named “Lady Action.” Although she comes from the popular Captain Action comics series, you don’t really need to know anything about that series to understand and enjoy THE SANDS OF FOREVER. It’s a self-contained action/adventure romp that takes Nicola to Libya to find another agent who has gone missing. He was searching for the mysterious “Tree of Life” mentioned in the Bible, which was said to have tremendous powers and be hidden somewhere in the Libyan Desert.

The search-and-rescue mission soon turns into a fight for survival. A local, colorfully-evil Arab sheik has also heard of the magical tree and wants it for himself. This leads to a series of bloody fights between Nicola and the sheik’s henchman, a wild car chase through the streets of Tripoli, a race across the desert and a final confrontation in an ancient underground maze of tunnels full of deadly giant scorpions. It’s a fun read with a quick-paced, cinematic style: kind of a novelistic mashup of Lara Croft, Indiana Jones and James Bond with its own unique characters and flavor. I enjoyed it and look forward to reading future Lady Action novels by Fortier.

Friday, July 17, 2015


Editor Arkay Olgar
Contributing Editor D. Blake Werts
Larque Press LLC
151 pg

Having really enjoyed issue #1 of this terrific new digest, I was delighted to find # 2 in my mailbox a few weeks ago.  Much like the first volume, this second issue features a wonderful balance of articles, interviews and short fiction.  Being a writer/editor, the latter has particular appeal to me and writers Rudolf Schmitdt, D.D. Ploog, Richard Krauss and John Kuharik all deliver quality tales filled with adventure, horror and fantasy.

After the fiction, the two lengthy interviews with writers Gary Lovisi and Robert Lopresti were excellent; each giving the reader personal insights to the careers of these two talented penmen.  Add articles on Australian crime pulps, an Italian comic named Mister No and various other fascinating pieces and biblio entries and you have a solid package worthy of the best digests of the past.

A hardy applause to the entire editorial crew, writers, artists and designers.  If you aren’t following “The Digest Enthusiast,” you are missing out on a very entertaining title.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Sunday, July 12, 2015


Edited by Deis, Friedman & Doyle
New Texture
416 pages

Telling you this book is amazing would be perpetuating the biggest understatement of all time.  It is a fantastic collection of over-the-top fiction and articles from those garish, exploitive men’s adventure magazines that proliferated throughout the 50s, 60s and ultimately died in the 1970s.  Chief Editor Robert Deis gives the reader a brief history of this macho movement, connecting it with the post World War II era wherein millions of American veterans came home after having saved the world from the dictatorial evil of fascisms.  They returned home heroes not afraid to challenge whatever the future might throw at them while rebuilding a new, brighter society.

This was the macho nature of times, particularly in the 50s where a John Wayne attitude pervaded both in literature and on the giant silver screen.  So it’s no surprise magazines that lauded brave, he-men protagonist willing to take on overwhelming odds, battle ravenous beasts, and take on tribes of love hungry nymphomaniacs.  It was the age of the tough guys and dozens of publishers eagerly flooded drugstore racks with their fantastic exploits.  Deis makes a solid case that these were the direct descendants of the cheap pulp mags of the 30s and 40s; something he has been extremely passionate about and this collection bears out his theory wonderfully.

What is also startling about this anthology is the caliber of writers it showcases; writers who later went on to earn accolades and awards in the more sophisticated, accepted publications of the times.  Names like Lawrence Block, Harlan Ellison, Mario Puzo and Robert Silverberg all cut their literary teeth writing for these men’s adventure titles thus making them a training school for the best of the best.

Then there are the bogus scientific articles dealing with drugs and sexual proclivities, never mind the outlandish battles with maddened beasts of all types from the cover spotlighted weasels to ravenous snapping turtles and killer-mad monkeys.  “Weasels Riped My Flesh!” not only entertained the hell out of me, it also educated me in the process.  No self-respecting pulp enthusiast should be without this tome.  We tip our fedora to Misters Deis, Friedman & Doyle.  Thanks for the oh-so enjoyable lesson.

Friday, July 10, 2015


By W. Nikola-Lisa
113 pages

This is not the first time we’ve reviewed a non-fiction book in this column.  That is not the relevant note here but rather what the theme of this new review is and our own personal passion.  Let it be known loud and clear, this reviewer is a bonafide Red Sox fan.  Always have been and will die as such.  So what on earth would possess us to read, let alone review a book about the history of the Red Sox’s greatest rivals, the New York Yankees?  Our answer isn’t complicated at all.  We not only love baseball, in all its incarnations, but we are history buffs as well.  Thus when this book was offered to us, there was absolutely no hesitation in requesting a copy.

“The Men Who Made the Yankees,” is a wonderful story filled with little known anecdotes about the real history of America’s favorite pastime.  Chapter after chapter, author Nikola-Lisa sets forth the twisted, often antagonistic, rise of professional baseball in America and completely it was intertwined with the post-Civil War growth of our great nation.  Baseball’s evolution was tied to rising prosperity of its major eastern cites as the industrial revolution came into full force.  As Americans left the 19th Century agricultural mores of being tied to 18 hour days and through the advent of fantastical new machines found themselves with the treasure of leisure time, sports and theater entertainments mushroomed across the land.

Every “big city” wanted its own baseball team.  Savvy entrepreneurs from all walks of life began to see the money-making potential of professional baseball and leagues began to sprout up like weeds; so many that it was difficult for the average fan to keep up with what players were playing for what teams…in what leagues during the years between 1890 and 1910.  Those twenty years saw the emergence of dozens of teams, ornery managers, colorful club owners and truly gifted ballplayers.

We loved how deftly the author wove his way through this convoluted period while at the same time etching these larger-than-life personalities that would give their blood, sweat and tears to make baseball successful.  He tells the beginnings of traditions, gives us simple factoids such as how the first balls were made from wood and cloth and how their ultimate transformation into the hard spheres we know today would change the entire game fundamentally.  It is these side-line essays that enrich the entire book and make it something truly special.

The long time baseball fan will recognize many of the names in this story whereas the rookie with a pension for understanding history will be equally rewarded by picking up this little book.  As a kid growing up in New England, we fondly remember an old radio sportscaster who would end his show with this phrase, “Next to religion, nothing contributes more to the wellbeing of America than sports.”  “The Men Who Made The Yankees,” has that very same philosophy and to that we simply say, “Amen.”

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

SHERLOCK HOLMES - Blood to the Bone

Blood to the Bone
By Andrew Salmon
A Fight Card book.
89 pages

Among today’s writers of New Pulp fiction, two men have risen to the top of their generation’s class in writing new Sherlock Holmes mysteries.  One of these is Canadian Andrew Salmon, the other is British and I’ll let you guess at his identity.  Last year, after having penned a half dozen traditional Homes and Watson tales for Airship 27 Productions best selling series, “Sherlock Holmes – Consulting Detective,” Salmon accepted an offer from Paul Bishop, the creator of the popular Fight Card series, to write a Sherlock Holmes boxing story.  The result was “Work Capital,” one of the finest Sherlock Holmes tales this reviewer has ever enjoyed.  That it went on to be nominated for several publishing awards came as no surprise to anyone who had had the pleasure of reading that novella.

Now Salmon and the Fight Card crew have given us a sequel that is as good, if not better, than its predecessor in “Blood to the Bone.”  Again, as he did before, Salmon digs deep into the history of British bare-knuckles fighting and offers up an amazing plot heavily dependent on the incredible fact that that form of pugilism was not confined to men.  I had never heard of the fairer sex’s participation in this rough and tumble sport and reading through the story was truly amazed at this revelation.  As he did in “Work Capital,” Salmon cleverly puts forth authentic facts and then weaves his elements of fiction around them so that the two become symbiotic.  Thus leaving the reader with both having experienced a wonderful read while at the same time expanding his or her education on the history of boxing.

Eby Stokes and her husband, Richard, are boxers who work for a traveling circus and often fight together in tag-team fashion taking on challengers from the audience, both men and women alike.  When Richard goes missing just prior to their new engagement just outside of London, Eby seeks out the aid of Mr. Sherlock Holmes and his faithful chronicler, Dr. Watson.  Watson is quick to point out that Holmes’ interest in the manly art of fisticuffs was of a scientific nature and he relished any opportunity to study the martial sport and increase his own considerable abilities in that field.

In short order, Holmes and Watson find the missing boxer only to have him snatched away and murdered within a matter of minutes of their locating him.  If Richard Stokes disappearance had piqued the Great Detective’s curiosity, the man’s cruel murder instantly stokes that flame into an obsessive flame.  Having established a warm rapport with the lovely Eby Stokes, Holmes devotes himself to solving the murder and bringing her husband’s killers to justice.  But to do so, he will have to disguise himself as a professional fighter and Eby’s new partner in the circus bouts.  Something dear old Watson objects to soundly.

I’ve always believed that one of the greatest challenges in writing Sherlock Holmes isn’t so much detailing his exploits and understanding Dr. Watson.  All too often, less accomplished writers forget Watson is very much his own man and his relationship with the bachelor sleuth wasn’t always smooth sailing.  Such is the case in this adventure and the contentious head-butting between the two companions is what makes the book especially entertaining.  Salmon channels the stodgy old Afghan veteran brilliantly and in doing so brings us intimately into his tale.  We are spellbound from the first page to the last.

“Blood to the Bone,” is a magnificent addition to the Holmes canon and should be in the library of every Holmes enthusiast in the world.  Yes, it is that good and I honestly believe Conan Doyle would have truly loved reading this book.  I know I did and believe so will you too.  Thanks Andrew Salmon and Fight Club.  This book is a treasure.

Thursday, July 02, 2015


(Book Two of the Exchange)
By Dale Cozort
Available at Amazon
235 pages

In book one of this series, a huge portion of Illinois was transplanted to an alien world and vice versa.  The people, who chose to remain on that other, more hostile world, tagged it Bear Country.  By the end of that first novel, there were two colonies of humans established in Bear Country.  One made up of good people longing for a simpler, more basic life and eager to recreate the old frontier spirit in themselves.  The other group was escaped convicts from the Illinois State Prison, dozens of hardened murders, thieves and rapists preferring this new savage land rather than return to their incarceration back on our earth.  The book ended with survivor Sharon Mack and her fiancĂ©e, government agent Leo West, resigned to the fact that eventually there would be a bloody confrontation with the convicts to resolve which group would ultimately control Bear Country.

With “Devouring Wind,” writer Dale Cozort picks up the story of Bear Country and immediately adds a new wrinkle to his tale, aliens.  Another “exchange” has occurred and this time, rather than transferred another chunk of our familiar earth to Bear Country, the unexplained phenomenon has brought over a piece of land from an alien world.  At its core is an ancient, ruined city buried under a jungle of black vines.  Both the settlers of Fort Egan, the frontier community, and the convicts, under the leadership of Sam Kittle, see the new alien presence as something dangerous; to be studied with extreme caution.

When surveyor drones fly out of those supposedly lifeless buildings and begin scouting both camps, it soon becomes clear some manner of automated alien machinery is still active in the ruins and poses a real threat to all humans in Bear Country.  In the end both sides have no recourse but to form a shaky alliance to explore this alien territory.  All the while several members of the convict town are plotting to overthrow Kittle and take control of Fort Egan.  Sharon, her autistic daughter Bethany, and a former convict named Woody are caught in the middle of these machinations doing their best to keep things together while at the same time solve the mystery of what destroyed the alien city and learn if it is still a viable danger to their own existence.

We’ve read lots of science fiction over the years with alternate world themes but nothing quite like what Cozort has created in this highly imaginative series.  His characters are wonderfully complex and their interactions with one another are the sparks that fire up this storytelling engine.  He mixes human psychology with our understanding of social mores and from this recipe offers up a truly thought-provoking adventure we thoroughly enjoyed.  Hopefully there is a book three on the way.  That would make us very happy indeed.