Friday, December 30, 2016


A Snapshot Universe Novella
By Dale Cozort
Chisel & Stone Publishing
77 pages

Writer Dale Cozort enjoys alternate world fiction and several of his full length sci-fi novels have dealt with this theme. Whereas most such books require much elaborate world building and can be complicated to establish. Now he seems to have found the perfect solution to all that in his Snapshot novellas.  We don’t claim to understand the set up fully, but it appears that in the far future bubbles of alternate worlds have been created in which people can travel freely and intermingle with both animals and cultures from various eras in human history.

Now one of those major bubbles is Madagascar where various hybrid lemurs and other bizarre creatures live in the wilderness. The land has also been colonized in specific areas to even include an Amish community.

It is in this fantastical setting that we meet our protagonists, Scott Hardy and Athena Anders. Both work for a traveling zoo which keeps many exotic animals from lots of different Snapshot worlds. The most popular of these are two dog-sized dinosaurs named Mister McGuffin and  Horny Chick. Days prior to the zoo’s opening show, the two dinos escape and it is up to Scott and Athena to find them fast.  Apparently Horny Chick is in heat and should she and Mister McGuffin begin breeding, their eggs could hatch and systematically destroy the fragile Madagascan ecology.

And if that wasn’t serious enough, they soon realize the animals’ escape might have been caused by someone for nefarious reasons beyond their comprehension.  And so the couple races against time to both find the missing creatures and solve the riddle of their disappearance.

Cozort has a whopping fun time with this tale and his characters are charming.  Enough so that the reader immediately take to them and their odd dilemma.  The Snapshot world is a crazy hodgepodge of Sci-Fi stables skillfully employed as an exotic backdrop to a really enjoyable and fast paced novella.  If you like the exotic, you’ll find get your fill with this marvelous little book.  Enjoy.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016


By Mike Baron
WordFire Press
401 pages

Since turning his considerable talents to prose, Eisner Award winning comicbook writer Mike Baron has been knocking out some fantastic over-the-top fiction. Among these is “Banshees,” a horror fantasy set squarely in the world of rock and roll and its tale is as loud and boisterous as the craziest heavy metal performers blasting out musical Armageddon.

The tale revolves around the apparent resurrection of a 70s trio known as the Banshees who went out in a blaze of glory when their private plane crashed into the unyielding Scottish Highlands. Now, decades later a new group appears on the European circuit claiming to be the Banshees and playing the old band’s repertoire in perfect mimicry. Enough so that several people begin to wonder if this may in fact be the actual Banshees returned from the dead.

Chief of amongst these is Ian St. James, the only progeny of the original three, being the son of the Banshees’ drummer Oaian St.James. Himself a one time musician, now down on his luck, St. James attempts to contact the group only to be thwarted by the group’s manager, a decidedly thuggish Russian mobster associated with an occult group known as the Mad Monks. When an attempt is made on his life, St. James quickly realizes there is more going on than merely a publicity gimmick by a group of rock and roll posers. Something totally beyond his ability to deal with alone.

His luck changes when a reporter for the popular In Crowd magazine, Connie Cosgrove, enlist his aid chronicling the Banshees newly scheduled tour from Berlin to Paris, London and ultimately the US; all to culminated at a sold out venue in Los Angeles.  Along the way they meet a weird fellow named Prof. Klapp who is convinced the Banshees are the resurrected dead and their appearance in the world signals the end of times. Whereas only St. James has the ability, through his blood connection, to stop them and save all mankind.

Baron’s book is a rocket blast of suspense that moves at breakneck speed. Along the way it is crammed with hundreds of hilarious cultural bon mots and innuendos that set it leagues above other mundane horror tales.  “Banshees” is a brilliant achievement by a creative force that is just getting warmed up. 

Sunday, December 04, 2016


By Jerry Gill
Ann Darrow Co.
203 pages

The old adage about not judging a book by its cover has never been more valid than with this particular paperback novel.  But we’ll get to that aspect at the end of our review. We’d much rather focus on the vital stuff, the story itself.

With Victoria Challenger, Jerry Gill has created one of the most original, fun, pulp heroines ever.  The back story explains how Vic, as she is known by her legion of fans, is the reincarnation of a primitive cave girl who lived at the dawn of time.  Somehow Vic’s memories of her past life survive in her DNA and among these is the fact that in that first life she was mated to a might hunter name Nu, her eternal love. Now reborn in the early 20th Century, she senses that Nu has also returned. This, in her job as a travel writer, she begins to search him out wherever her assignments take her.

In this, the fifth book in the saga, Vic, and her best friend, Lin, visit Australia.  One of Vic’s aunts, Ethyl Hudgeons, and her husband Pete, live there on an Outback ranch.  Eager to explore this new, rugged continent, both young woman arrive at a western seaport and are taken to the wilderness home by an aborigine named Woorak, who works for the Hudgeons.  Along their buckboard journey, the friendly native points out all manner of wildlife and flora to the lovely visitors; information that ultimately proves to be life saving.

Several days after their arrival, during a dance put on for their benefit, the station is raided by outlaws known as bushrangers in the Outback.  Among the loot they purloin from Mrs. Hudgeon’s guests is a map detailing the whereabouts of a long lost family treasure.  Through various circumstances, Vic and Lin learn that the posse being led by her Uncle Pete has been sent on a false trail and the gutsy Americans decide to go after the brigands on their own.  What follows is a harrowing chase across some of the most savage terrain on the planet.

The real fun of Gill’s writing is the overabundance of research he has packed into this really fast paced adventure.  Enough so that the reader, while enjoying the action, is also given a glimpse into both the natural dangers and beauties of Australia’s Outback.  It’s as if Vic’s own travelogue articles had merged with her personal derring-do exploits.  This is a rousing tale expertly written with memorable characters, both good and bad.  On his website, listed above, Gill tags Vic as the Queen of the Pulps, and after having enjoyed this outing, we’re not about to argue the point.  She is clearly one of the most original such ever put to paper and worthy of your attention.

And that’s the end of the review.  Whereas Gill’s obvious one-man operation, is prey to the typical amateur pitfalls of photo-shop like cover images that are really bad.  Enough so that they do the fiction a major disservice, in this reviewer’s opinion.  We would admonish our readers not to be put off by them.  At the same time, we also plead with the author do some web-surfing and find a professional artist who can dress things up professionally.  Vic Challenger deserves nothing less.

Thursday, November 24, 2016


By Van Allen Plexico
White Rocket Books
206 pages

If, like this reviewer, you are a fan of Van Plexico’s star spanning superhero saga, The Sentinels, then the arrival of this book, the eight in the series, was a much anticipated reading pleasure.  Of course with this many volumes into the saga, it would be impossible for any reviewer to explain everything without having to write a book-length tome about what has gone before.  Here’s a thought, as we’ve had the fun of reading and reviewing the previous seven books, feel free to scroll through our reviews and find those early critiques.

Otherwise, leave us offer up an abbreviated synopsis to launch you into this truly amazing series whose inspirations derive from the classic comic books of the 70s and 80s, specifically Marvel’s the Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy with DC’s Green Lantern.

The Sentinels are a group of human super powered heroes led by Ultraa.  In recent adventures they battled invading alien beings and ultimately came to ally themselves with  a squad of Kur-Bai warriors known as the Elites.  No sooner do they save the Earth, then it is discovered a civil war has broken out on the Kur-Bain homeworld and the Elites are compelled hurry back.  Only now half the Sentinels agree to accompany them, led by Esro Brachis, the millionaire genius inventor, who has fallen in love with the beautiful Kur-Bai Captain Mondrian.

No sooner to they depart our solar system, then a charismatic fellow named Law convinces the Earth’s governments that the Kur-Bai Empire will remain a continuing threat unless a human led space armada can be sent against them; under his leadership of course.  What the world leaders don’t know is that Law is actually a powerful super being known as the Black Terror and his desire to destroy the Kur-Bai is fueled solely by a personal vendetta.  Thus the ominous crusade referred to in the title.  Now if this dozen or so characters wasn’t enough to hold your interest in the main plot, Plexico throws a little background history concerning the martial arts fighter known as the Black Dragon and then brings us up to speed with the situation concerning teenage hero Mitch Michaelson, who now possesses the powerful golden armor of a Star Knight.

Confused yet?  Well, in all truth, you needn’t be; ever.  Plexico’s enthusiasm for the stories he tells has never once waned.  From the very first Sentinel novel to this new chapter, his love for these myriad characters remains as strong as ever, infusing his fiction with a clear, precise storytelling economy that is to be envied. He tells a truly fast paced adventure that never slows down from opening scene to climatic, cliffhanger finale.  And as ever, we are left wanting more, much, much more.

We love this series, Plexico’s writing, and the gorgeous art of Chris Kohler.  Honestly, if you call yourself a fan of New Pulp and haven’t latched onto The Sentinels Saga yet, you are missing out on something special.  Don’t say we didn’t tell you.

Friday, November 11, 2016


A Carpenter & Quincannon Mystery
By Marcia Muller & Bill Pronzini
Forge Books
219 pages

This is the second Carpenter & Quincannon mystery we’ve had the pleasure of reading and are eager to point you in its direction.  Authors Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini are both accomplished and cherished mystery scribes whereas how this series allows them to merge their considerable talents is a pure delight.  We wonder if each, alone, actually crafted their respective gender avatars in the stories.  Both the former Secret Service Agent Charles Quincannon and the widowed Mrs. Sabina Carpenter are terrific characters and their pension for solving complicated, criminal cases makes them unstoppable as a team.

They operate out of San Francisco, where they have their offices, at the turn of the century.  In this book, the bodies of two very different, and equally important, personages have been stolen.  The first corpse mysteriously taken belonged to a high ranking Tong mobster in Chinatown.  The ghoulish theft has the potential of igniting a bloody war between the rival gangs unless the perpetrators can be caught and brought to justice.  When a young woman hires Quincannon to locate her heroin addicted husband, a lawyer for one of the Tongs, he has to venture into twisted mazes of the opium dens.  No sooner does he find the missing husband than the man is shot to death in his arms, the detective barely avoiding a second bullet meant for him.  Somehow the lawyer’s murder is related to the missing corpse.

Then, a few days later, Sabina is hired by a wealthy upper-crust widow whose financier husband recently passed away.  Shortly after his interment, unknown parties managed to break into the family mausoleum and kidnapped the body.  Now they are holding it for ransoming.  If she refuses to pay, they threaten to desecrate her beloved’s remains.

The bodies of two prominent men from totally different social circles are snatched within days of each other.  Coincidence?  Or is there an actual connection between the two?  Once again Muller and Prozini offer up a fast paced adventure with some of the most colorful characters to ever grace the pages of a mystery novel.  “The Body Snatchers Affair” is twisty romp that will easily satisfy even the most jaded reader.  Personally, we can’t wait to see what this duo tackles next.

Monday, October 31, 2016


By Kate Pilarcik
Down & Out Books
114 pgs

Stream of consciousness writing is the process by which a writer jots down words faster than the output of a Thompson submachine gun. It is not easy to do, as often what ends up on the paper is a mish-mash of thoughts and disjointed ideas that simply don’t fit together at all. On the other hand, if you’re Kate Pilarcik, you end up with a book that is so energized with rapid-fire slang-slugs, it’s almost impossible to keep up with.  Honestly, if you aren’t an experienced reader who truly loves the written word, we are going to warn you away from this little gem. Why? Because to fully appreciate its nuances and word-games, one needs to love fiction. Pulp fiction to be exact. And of course we do, which in this case is a very happy happenstance.

Nelle Callahan is a gusty, tough-as-nail female P.I. who agrees to help a mysterious, handsome stranger locate his father’s lost will.  Seems like a simple enough, run-of-the-mill plot. Right. So she takes him to her favorite coffee shop down the street where they are assaulted by a mob thug. Then, after Nelle puts the mug’s lights out, with the owner’s help via a swinging fry pan, she finds herself chasing after a famous baseball player who just happened to be in the joint and witnessed the confrontation.  Apparently a talented player for the Phillies, this sportsman, it turns out, was at the shop looking for Nelle in the hope she can get him reinstated and back on the playing field.

All of which takes the story into the world of pre-World War II baseball and it is a ride as wacky and joyous as an extra innings pitchers’ duel.  Do recall my earlier warning; this is the kind of book that takes detours you never saw coming. Then, before you can sing “Take Me Out To The Ballgame,” we discover this troubled big leaguer is in possession of a priceless J.R. Reach bat made of white ash, of which only three were made.

Oh, and did we mention Nelle is also a secret agent for the O.S.S.?

“The Damp Fedora,” once we managed to cut our way through the first five pages, took off like a bucking bronco fresh out of the rodeo shute forcing us to hold on for dear life. With every wondrous phrase, evocative of times long gone, we experienced a thrill ride like none other found between the pages of such a slim book. Pilarcik is a bloody genius and you heard it here first.  Now, Lady, you owe me a cold one.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016


By C.E. Martin
50 pgs.

Here we have the second little chapter book in C.E. Martin’s fun series which has the Greek Gods returning to Earth, but this time during the days of the American Wild West. Each takes on a different, iconic western persona while attempting to advance their ancient agenda of getting mortals to worship them anew.

The main protagonist is Hercules, now living the life of a frontier Catholic priest named Father Sergio Ercole.  When a band of murdering Indians made up entirely of squaws go on the rampage, the mysterious Jack Black cajoles Father Ercole in going after these female killers to discover the reason by their deadly war-party.

Honestly, with only 50 pgs, this chapter book packs a wallop.  We can’t recommend this series strong enough. Check out C.E. Martin’s webpage.  You’ll be glad you did.

Monday, October 24, 2016


The Journal of Weird Fiction and Dark Fantasy
Edited by Mark Finn, Chris Gruber & Jeffrey Shanks
Skelos Press
160 pgs.

It is always a pleasure being surprised by something straight out of the blue.  Perhaps the most extinct publication form today is the genre themed magazine.  Over the years, they have gradually died out; due in most part to economic reasons.  Books are simply easier and cheaper to print while a magazine, regardless of its scheduling, simply demands a great deal more work.  Which is why the appearance of a full blown, illustrated periodical devoted to weird fiction is nothing short of miraculous these days.

So before even getting into the contents and quality of this title, we have to tip our pulp fedora to the Herculean efforts of editors Finn, Gruber and Shanks.  They have achieved something truly special and much needed in the world of literature today.  “Skelos 1” is brimming with creepy, frightening tales of various lengths, all guaranteed to produce nightmares in unsuspecting readers.  While peppered amongst all this excellent fiction are several critical essays examining such topics as Robert E. Howard’s world building to the comparison of H.P. Lovecraft with Welsh writer Arthur Machen. 

These scholarly pieces may not be for the average pulp readers, but for those devoted to the genres, they provide intriguing insights to their respective subjects.  And if that wasn’t enough, the magazine also features fantasy poetry, something unseen since the early days of the pulps.  Add to this evocative artwork and deft design work and the reader comes away holding on to a true pulp treasure.  In fact, after reading issue # 1 from cover to cover, this reviewer can easily imagine how long ago fans of Weird Tales must have felt when it first appeared on the scene.  Like that august title, “Skelos” offers up unlimited potential and could prove to be welcome platform in discovering new creators with a genuine talent for the macabre.  “The Yellow Death” by David Hardy was our personal favorite in this collection.  Still, in the end, the title’s greatest challenge will be building a supportive, loyal audience. 

For now, they’ve taken a huge, successful first step.  Here’s hoping issue # 2 is not too far on the horizon.

Friday, October 21, 2016


By Max Allan Collins
Hard Case Crime
209 pages
Release Date – Oct 4, 2016

Regardless of one’s opinion of the new “Quarry” Cinemax TV series, it has shined a light on these fantastic books and that is a benefit worth applauding.  As Collins says in his Afterward, the first Quarry book came out in 1976 and was topical at the time. Upon reading these new editions, one is catapulted back to very different America and thus they have truly become “period pieces.”

Which, in the case of “Quarry in the Black,” is poignantly ironic with its setting being the presidential campaign of ’76 pitting Richard Nixon against George McGovern.  And here we are smack in the middle of another contentious race with all the same circus atmosphere they all seem to engender.

Quarry, the Vietnam sniper vet turned professional assassin, is given the job of killing Reverend Raymond Wesley.  A one time drug addict and pusher, Wesley found redemption while in prison and upon his release became a vocal crusader for the Civil Rights movement and McGovern supporter.  Although Quarry normally has no qualms as to who his targets are, the political implications of this assignment bother him. Enough so that he questions the Broker, the middleman who gives him his contracts, as to the relevancy of such a hit.  In other words he wants to know why a good man like Wesley should be slated for death.  The assignation of Martin Luther King is very much on his mind and he has no desire to be the next James Earl Ray.

The Broker, sensing his unease, explains that their client claims Wesley’s ministry is a sham; that he is still dealing drugs.  Only now he is using his new public persona to facilitate his old criminal ways.  The moral issue put aside temporarily, Quarry takes the job and signs on to Wesley’s organization as a disillusioned veteran wanting to help the preacher’s noble cause.  But as in any Quarry novel, things are never exactly what they seem and before long, our sarcastic protagonist is caught up with white supremacists, crooked drug dealers and a beautiful campaign worker who had an affair with the holier than thou Reverent.

Bullets fly, bodies fall and in the end, Quarry, as ever, unmasks the truth for all its sweet bitterness.  Having come to this series late, we will be forever grateful to Hard Case Crime for having the wisdom to bring them back in these beautiful produced new editions.  Do yourself a favor and get every single one of them.  Nobody writes noir better than Max Collins.

PS – As for that TV show, we give it a B plus.  Keeping in mind, this is an altogether different medium and the creators’ vision of Quarry.  It isn’t a bad one and we have enjoyed season one.  Hopefully with a season two, we’ll see the character evolve into one more aligned with his prose identity. 

Monday, October 10, 2016


(A Phillip Chandler Mystery)
By Bill Craig
Whiz Bang LLC
274 pgs

Bill Craig can knock out a half dozen crime thrillers faster than most established writers can do one. The amazement is, they are all damn good books. With “Circle City Shakedown,” first released in 2014, he starts a brand new series featuring a former U.S. Deputy Marshal named Phillip Chandler who has come to Indianapolis to start his new career as a private investigator.

Before going much further here, let’s state that one of this book’s many pluses was setting it take place anywhere other than New York, Los Angeles or Miami.  Not that we have any issues with books using those locales, only that they’ve been terribly over-used in the past and it is truly refreshing to see a private eye working somewhere else for a change. That Craig knows Indy all too well, is evident from the first page and thus is able to bring the reader into this tale effortlessly.

Chandler’s first case as a new private dick is to locate a missing stripper with the stage name Rita Red. According to her friend, another dancer named Mary Norman, Rita went to a private party on the suggestion of the stage manager and never came home.  Taking the case, Chandler soon begins to suspect Rita has met with foul play at the hands of a sadistic city official with both deep pockets and ties to corrupt financial power brokers.  That corruption even extends into the police department and the more he digs, the more dangerous his job becomes.

“Circle City Shakedown” moves fast like the blast of a .45 lead slug.  Craig never lets his plot languish and keeps Chandler moving through this twisted maze of crime and corruption like a juggernaut on auto-pilot.  We eventually learn that Chandler’s wife and daughter had been brutally murdered by a former gang boss and one of the men responsible for their deaths is connected with the people he is investigating. 

The characters here are rich and appealing and Craig orchestrates the entire story so that it builds to a powerful climax that delivers everything a good thriller should have.  By the last page, we were glad to have met this new shamus and his supporting cast and will be anxious to see what other kinds of trouble they get into next time. 

Tuesday, October 04, 2016


By William C. Dietz
Ace Books
327 pgs
Guest Reviewer – Andrew Salmon

This isn't the first time Dietz has destroyed the world and he's gotten better at it. INTO THE GUNS doesn't waste a second getting going right out of the gate. On May Day 2018, 60 meteors hit the Earth and send the world into chaos. The United States lose Washington and the government is wiped out in one disastrous stroke, sending the country into upheaval where resources are the new currency and power is up for grabs.

We initially experience the catastrophe through the eyes of First Lieutenant Robin "Mac" Macintyre. She's career military as is her sister and father though they don't see eye to eye on most things - to put it mildly.  In the wake of the strikes, her first concern is protecting her unit while trying to hammer out her next move now that the military command structure is either gone or cut off.

Dietz then switches the action from Mac to Samuel T. Sloan, the United States Secretary of Energy. He's in Tampico on an official function when meteor strikes send a tsunami into the coastal city - while an attempt is being made to kidnap him.

With the players in place, things heat up as Mac is confronted by roving bands or small and well organized raiders, hoarders and those making power grabs while Sloan finds himself faced with enough troubles to give James Bond the jitters. Dietz's action scenes are, as usual, second to none. It's not just one gun blazing scene after another. Strategies are employed and they don't always work. The battles are realistic, heroic, tragic, chaotic and impactful in driving the story forward.

The characterization is spot on and you can't help but root for the novel's heroes as they gradually are united against a common enemy. The world becomes a very, very dangerous place overnight and everyone is in it up to their necks. Actions have consequences here and our protagonists are not necessarily given a free pass. As INTO THE GUNS is the first of a trilogy, Dietz does a great job of setting things up for the next installments but doesn't skimp on the action and plot movement.

All this makes for an engaging reading. We're not talking about a series of cool action scenes strung together. No, INTO THE GUNS has a definite goal and it gets there in spades.  The stakes continue to rise as the meteor dust settles. Battles big and small are waged but they are only the opening shots of a war to come. By the time you get to the last page, you're out of breath. But things are really only getting started. This reader is looking forward to the next book in the series.

INTO THE GUNS delivers! You don't want to miss this one.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016


The Autobiography of Yakima Canutt
With Oliver Drake
Walker Publishing Company
Published 1979
237 pages

Having been a fan of the movie serials for most of my life, I was familiar with Yakima Canutt; considered by many to be the most famous stunt man of them all. Sometime in 1979, film critic Leonard Maltin reviewed Canutt’s autobiography, “Stunt Man,” co-written with biographer Oliver Drake. I recall at the time wanting very much to pick up a copy and read it. Alas, that never happened and decades later, the only place to find a copy was on E-Bay if one was willing to pay an exuberant, over inflated price. I pretty much resigned myself to never realizing that old wish. Then, much to my amazement and delight, my daughter Michelle gave me a beat up old library copy she’d gone on-line to purchase it for me as a Christmas gift several years ago.

Enos Edward Canutt was born on Nov. 29, 1895 in Yakima County, Washington and grew up to become a champion rodeo rider. His knowledge and love of horses eventually led him to Hollywood where, in the early 1920s, he became a silent western movie actor.
By the time the “talkies” arrived, Yak, as he was known, had become one of the premier stuntmen in films and a good friend of rising star John Wayne. Both were employed by the new founded Republic Pictures and Yak would double in such popular serials as “The Lone Ranger” and “Zorro Rides Again.”  While attending a live stage musical in Los Angeles, Yak and serial director William Witney were taken by the dancers’ intricate choreographed routines. They began to speculate on how such pre-planned steps could enliven the fight sequences in their serials and would soon create some of the most memorable and dramatic fights ever staged.

Still Yak’s renown was his horse stunts and while working on John Ford’s memorable “Stagecoach,” he developed the famous “transfer” wherein he jumped off the stagecoach onto the horses, continue to leap frog to the front pair, then fall to the ground as the team and coach ran over him only to catch the rear of the coach and pull himself back on board. To this day it remains one of the most well known western stunts ever devised.

By the 40s, Yak had suffered so many bodily injuries, he eventually gave up stunt work to become a 2nd Unit Director; the guy who actually directs the big action sequences for movies. All of which led to his setting up and directing the famous chariot race in the 1959 version of “Ben-Hur” with Charlton Heston. In 1969 Heston presented Yak with an Honorary Academy Award for his lifetime achievement in stunt work, being credited for making the profession safer over the years with his overriding concern for the well being of his crews and their animals.

Yak passed away on May 24th, 1986 at the age of 90.  His autobiography is a treasure of wonderful memoirs of this incredible man’s life and all the films he was a part of. I truly hope some day the publisher does a new edition so that more film buffs like myself can read this truly wonderful book.

Sunday, September 11, 2016


A Jake Diamond Mystery
By J.L. Abramo
Down & Books
242 pgs

We generally do not enjoy books wherein the writer moves back and forth between first and third person narratives.  Most of the time these shifts are jarring  in that the reader, safely ensconced in the hero’s personality finds themselves tossed out of that mindset into a detached world vision…and then back again.  But as all things, there are exception to the rules and writer J.L. Abramo proves to be such; at least to this reviewer.

“Circling The Runway,” is a convoluted mystery that has more twist and turns in it then a box full of intertwined old shoelaces.  Within the first few pages we are introduced to at least a half dozen different characters all running to and fro; some with serious criminality on their minds while the others are the unsuspecting victims.  In this dense population of characters we meet Lt. Laura Lopez and Sgt. Roxton Johnson of the SFPD who find themselves investigating the murder of a well loved young Assistant District Attorney. Then there’s private investigator Jake Diamond and his gal-Friday, Darlene Roman who have their own hands full helping a known San Francisco mob figure clear one of his nephews of a murder charge.

That both cases will ultimately collide is a the result of some amazing plotting that has more twist and turns than a mountain back road.  And yet through it all, Abramo shows a flair for characterization that is not only flawless but crucial to making a tale like this work. There are so many moving parts all going off in different directions; you have to wonder if he isn’t a mechanic as well as a mystery writer.  No matter, in the end he has this plot engine purring like a well oiled machine with a truly remarkable finale that was more than satisfying.

All in all a terrific book we recommend happily.  J.L. Abramo is a writer to keep an eye on. He’s having way too much fun here and it’s contagious.

Friday, September 09, 2016


Bikers & Motorcycle Gangs in Men’s Pulp Adventure Magazines
Edited by Robert Deis & Wyatt Doyle
A New Texture Book
116 pgs

Even since appearing on the pulp scene a few years ago, Robert Deis and Wyatt Doyle have done a truly wonderful job of educating the reading public about the evolution of pulp magazines into the post-World War II Men’s Adventure Magazines (MAMS) that proliferated across the drugstore racks between the 50s and 70s.

In such beautifully produced books such as “Weasels Ripped My Flesh,” “He-Men, Bag Men & Nymphos,” “Crypto-Zoology,” and “A Handful of Hell,” they have brought us an amazing collection of reprinted fiction from so many of the most popular MAMS.  But for the most part, despite being beautiful adorned with classic art reproductions, those titles were focused on the stories and the writers.  In that fashion, Deis and Doyle clearly made their point in depicting the gradual evolution of American pulps.

With this, their fifth title, they’ve turned the spotlight on the artwork that graced the pages and covers of those latter day pulps.  Using the highly popular theme of the Outlaw Biker Gangs that infused itself into the America psyche of the era, they’ve collected some of the most beautiful illustrations and cover art ever produced for commercial periodicals.  Throughout these pages you’ll find the work of such talented artists as Mort Kunstler, Earl Norem, Marti Ripoll, Al Rossi, Gil Cohen, Basil Gogos and others you’ve most likely never heard of before. Which is itself a sin that needs correcting.

These were giants who month after month provided drawings that accompanied such features as “Sex Life of a Motorcycle Mama,” or “Havana Joy Girl Who Became a Guerilla Queen,” among the more sedate such titles. This book is a bountiful treasure that is summed up poetically with crime writer Paul Bishop’s afterword memoir. A tip of the pulp fedora to Deis and Doyle, you guys are batting 500!! 

(There is also a hard cover with 16 extra pages available.)

Friday, September 02, 2016

SINGULARITY - Rise of the Posthumans

Rise of the Posthumans
Edited by Jaime Ramos & Wayne Carey
Pro Se Press
164 pgs.

Shared world anthologies are always fascinating and at the same time a really challenge to pull off properly. In this wonderful book from Pro Se Press, editors Jaime Ramos and Wayne Carey have created a post-apocalyptic England controlled by a despotic Queen in which humanity begins to arise from the ashes. Still a poisonous gas called the Creeping Green covers the land and people have to wear protective gas masks and goggles when out and about.  A group of resistance fighters begins to appear; each with his or her back story and some with enhanced abilities. These are their stories.

Jennie Wood’s “Charada” has overtones of the Jewish Holocaust in that a secret government facility in New Southampton is mindwiping people and then using them as a private police force to hunt up undesirables. Once captured, these people have their organs harvested and used in scientific experiment to help create stronger soldiers known as Evols. Riley is one such hunter whose memories were erased to make her a better, more obedient agent but something has happened. Her memories are slowly beginning to resurface and with them agonizing moral issues as to the true purpose of her organization. A gripping tale with dark overtones you won’t soon forget.

Next is Nancy Hansen’s “Simon Simple,” the story about a young man whose chameleon like abilities can make him nearly invisible when blending in with his backgrounds. As the tale begins, he’s an enforcer working for a criminal gang but when his female friend, Mattie Fox is captured by the Queen’s Regulators and scheduled for execution, Simon’s conscience gets the best of him and he becomes a real hero.

In “The Rebel” by Lee Houston Jr., a steampunk Zorro-like figure appears on the scene thwarting the Queen’s plans on resurrecting ancient technology to strengthen her cruel hold on the remnants of mankind. A rollicking fun adventure.

Brant Fowler next offers up, “The Eye of the Mind.” It is the tale of a telepath refugee named Littleton who is using his skills to get by as a small time crook. But when he comes to the attention of the Queen, he soon finds himself being manipulated into becoming one of her agents. A skillful story about how even the best of intentions can go horribly awry. Like this one a lot.

Lord Basil Faulkner works for the Ministry of Transportation, assisting the Queen and her elite to obtain the scare perishables such as fresh fruits while the common folk scavenge for scraps.  But when the night falls, he dons a black cloak, a synthetic eye which allows him to see in the dark and he becomes “The Pistoleer.” Written by Chris Magee, this masked champion also is immune to the “Creeping Green,” allowing him to travel sans gas mask through the ever present poisonous gases that cover the city.
His is a short tale, but fast paced and professionally delivered.

Finally this first collection wraps up with “The Bride of Dr. Bravo” by co-editor Jaime Ramos. This one reveals that the main villain throughout the collection, Queen Anne Wintersmith, has a brother, Bradley, who has conspired against as well under the guise of the steampunk hero, Dr. Bravo. But his motive is in keeping his French wife, Salome, alive after she suffered radiation poisoning from the “Creeping Green.” In the end there is a climatic confrontation between the siblings that moves the tale into the world of the supernatural whereby Bradley’s wife transform into a truly mystic being of remarkable powers.  A tense, brutal yarn.

All in all “Singularity – Rise of the Posthumans,” does offer up a treasure of terrific story but in the end, there seems to be a lack of genuine connection between them, as though we’ve seen glimpses of different dwellings but the entire neighborhood in which they exist is still vague and unknown to us. In the end, this reviewer would love to see these same characters actually interact with one another and provide us with that adhesive that is so vital to a shared-world environment.  It could be prove to a challenge, but these writers, with this first entry, have all proven they are all more than capable of delivering something special.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

THE MYTH HUNTER - Curse of the Necronomicon

Curse of the Necronomicon
By Percival Constantine
Nifty Entertainment
145 pgs

Of the various series created by new pulp scribe Percival Constantine, our favorite is his Myth Hunter books starring beautiful Elisa Hill; a trained archeologist who travels the globe in search of arcane artifacts often believed to me mere legends.  In this latest adventure, Hill, in an effort to save her old lover-partner, Lucas Davalos, finds herself caught up in the quest of the notorious book known as the Necronomicon.

First revealed to the public in the horror stories of pulp great, H.P. Lovecraft, the Necronomicon was described as a book of magic which could offer untold powers. The source of thes dark powers were the Elder Gods; a race of monstrous beings banished to another dimension before the dawn of time. A wealthy, recluse financier whose health has him at death’s door, believes the book actually exist and that it can grant him immortality.

And so the hunt is on with Hill and Davalos aided by the beautiful Japanese kitsune Asami (a magical being who can turn herself into a kind of were-fox creature) battling an evil demonic cult and army of paid mercenaries to stop a madman from achieving his perverted goals. The action is non-stop as Constantine controls pacing like a fined tuned Ferrari engine whipping through delightful character scenes with just the right moments of personal tension.

We’ve said all along that Constantine just gets better with every new book he writes.  “Curse of the Necronomican” continues to prove us right as it has become our favorite Myth Hunter entry thus far.  If you enjoy great pulp adventures with gutsy female heroes, look no further, dear readers.  This one’s for you.

Saturday, August 20, 2016


(Hour of Darkness)
By John C. Bruening
Flinch! Books
408 pages

The traditional classic pulp novels that appeared in the 30s magazines generally ran   60,000 words.  In them one would find a fast paced narrative that would explode across the pages in colorful, purple prose. Over time many of these tales were reprinted in paperbacks and continued to be labeled as novels. Whereas in truth, they were actually novellas that once took up the main portion of a monthly periodical that also featured two to three additional shorts to fill them out. We raise this topic because over the years, most novels coming from the big New York publishers grew to well over 120,000 words and were easily distinguishable from their pulp paperback cousins. Of course this ultimately led to the over-written, padded monstrosities we are cursed with today and the dwindling sales margins have forced big time publishers to demand “bigger” books. But that’s a whole other topic for another time.

Our purpose here was to point out that the fact that even with the emergence of New Pulp, writers found themselves sticking with the tried and true 60,000 word format which isn’t a bad thing at all. Whereas a few daring penmen have attempted to bridge the gap between pulp and traditional novel and the results have been haphazard to say the least.
Up until now no one had been able to deliver a realistic hybrid we are hereby calling the pulp novel. And that, my fellow dear readers, is what John Bruening has brilliantly achieved here. “The Midnight Guardian – Hour of Darkness,” clocking in at twice the size of an average pulp book is a genuine novel in every sense of the word….and still pulp. The significance of that is going to felt for a long time to come.

 When Jack Hunter was a young man of high school age, his policeman father, Lt. James Hunter, died heroically saving Union City from a sadistic gangland boss named Nicky Diamond. Diamond was caught and sent to prison for fifteen years, while young Jack went on to college and eventually law school. The plot kicks into high gear when Diamond, upon his release, returns to the city and immediately begins setting up his old gang He recruits new soldiers with the intent of finally realizing his twisted dream of taking complete control of Union City.

Whereas Jack is now an Assistant District Attorney who, along with his boss, the police Commissioner and a dedicated police detective named Dugan, is not about to let that happen. The added menace in Nicky Diamond is that he loves to blow things up and hires both a demolition expert and a talented radio engineer. Together he has them fashion deadly timebombs which he uses in leveling several buildings with the city limits. These acts of destructions are his public calling card announcing his return.

Angered by Diamond’s effrontery and total disrespect for the law, Jack finds himself stymied in not being able to go after the crook directly. The memory of his father’s death continues to haunt him and his temptation to make this crusade a personal one is at constant struggle with his career as a representative of the justice system. Eventually, it is Jack’s cousin, Buzz Hunter, who offers him a fantastic alternative to his dilemma.  Eight years older and a veteran of World War One, Buzz owns and operates an electrical store and is himself a genius inventor.  It is Buzz who creates a leather helmet wired with special sensors that when worn, affect a stimulating wave that heightens the brain’s sensory capabilities. Simply put, when one wears the helmet, one can hear and see far beyond the normal human range. Adding goggles and a mask to the helmet, Jack ends up with a remarkable scientific marvel that helps him gain an edge on Diamond and his murderous crew.

Wearing the disguising helmet and whipping through Union City on a souped-up motorcycle, Jack becomes a mysterious vigilante and begins his campaign to thwart Diamond and his insane goals.

If all this sounds familiar, it’s because Bruening has no issue with following classic pulp elements to weave his over-the-top adventure and he gives us a new pulp hero who is truly a legitimate heir to such battlers as Secret Agent X and the Black Bat. By the time we had come to the novel’s last fifty pages, all this reviewer could do was keep turning pages and hang on tightly. Every single action sequence that races towards the dramatic finale is a Republic Serial put to prose. There is no lack of action in this tome, and even though Bruening does give us a larger entree than we are use to, he makes it so damn tasty; it becomes a remarkable pulp feast.

“The Midnight Guardian – Hour of Darkness” is a pulp novel.  As such it is the first of its kind, and this reviewer has to believe, having now set the bar to this quality level, Bruening’s colleagues have one hell of a challenge ahead of them. We wish them luck.