Thursday, June 30, 2016

TALES FROM THE FLIP-SIDE: The Adventures of Big Daddy Cool & The Bombshell Kittens

The Adventures of Big Daddy Cool & The Bombshell Kittens
By John Pyka
Pros Se Press
169 pages

When our colleague and fellow reviewer, Tommy Hancock, handed us a copy of this book and said, “It has everything from Nazis vampires to flying cars!”  We knew instantly we were in for a real pulp treat.  And of course Tommy right. Enough so for that to have become an understatement.

New Pulp writer John Pyka’s adventure takes place in a glorious fun-house of an alternate world where the Earth was invaded by Martians; shades of H.G. Wells.  But thanks to scientist such as Tesla and Edison, we managed to beat the bug-eyed monsters and then pretty much stole their technology to create our own weapons; all to insure they would never try that invasion gig again.

Thus the world is filled with both new and alien inspired inventions.  Time passes and as the 1930s roll along, stirrings in Germany begin to make themselves known as an egomaniac named Adolf Hitler comes to power under the ministrations of Count Dracula.  See, we told you this one had everything a pulp reader would want.  Whereas these vampire Nazis pose a threat to our world, there is always the possibility of another attack form the stars.  Ergo the super heroes have divided themselves into two groups; the spacefaring Defenders of Earth and the earthbound superheroes that fight your assorted crime and evil masterminds.

Among the latter we found our protagonist, an ex-thug turned nightclub entertainer named Johnny Dellarocca better known as Big Daddy Cool.  Johnny’s powers are his ability to read minds…after he’s felt pain.  Sure it’s twisted.  Every time he needs to use his abilities, somebody else has to punch the hell out of him.  So let’s give Pyka a ton of credit here, these superheroes totally break the mold while being so much damn fun.
Johnny takes it upon himself to find other supers and recruits them in his battle against villainy.  Chief among these are the absolutely beautiful women he finds all over the country, each possessing a fantastic gift…and all of them eventually falling madly in love with their new boss.  These of course are The Bombshell Kittens as advertised in the sub-title.

“Tales From The Flip-Side: The Adventures of Big Daddy Cool & The Bombshell Kittens is easily one of the wildest rides this reviewer has ever been taken on and we loved every single minute of it.  Is it silly? Totally.  Is it wacky? That word doesn’t even come close.  But that’s what it is suppose to be and delivers far and beyond its initial promise.  If you are tired of the same old plots and heroes done by rote, then shake up your reading habit and dive into something so damn original it will leave you laughing for hours after you put it down.

This one is one of a kind.  And thanks, Tommy, we so owe you one big time.

Saturday, June 25, 2016


By C.E. Martin
Available at Amazon
55 pages

Just when you think a genre of pulp fiction has been fairly well exhausted, up pops a new wrinkle. In this case the genre is the Weird Western and the guy offering us a new twists on this popular field is C.E. Martin with his “Outlaws of Olympus” concept.  The title pretty much gives the idea away, but for those of you who somehow missed Classical Mythology in high school, here’s what C.E. sets forth.  The ancient Greek Gods, you know, Zeus, Mercury and the others have reappeared on Earth during the Westward migration of the late 1860s.  Ergo, you have gods, demi-gods and mythological monsters sharing the wild frontier with your cowboys, settlers and Indians.

It’s a heady stew and with this first little chapbook, things get kicked off fast. Mercury, in the guise of an outlaw known as the Quicksilver Kid, is causing mayhem and destruction as he mows down anyone foolish enough to confront him with a special six-shooter that fires gold bullets.  Then Hercules arrives in the guise of a Catholic Monk named Father Sergio Morricone.  (Yes, we know where that came from. C.E. has a fine sense of humor.)

The Kid is holding an entire town captive and forcing them to offer him a blood sacrifice every few days or else he’ll wreak bloody havoc.  When Father Morricone shows up, their confrontation is as one would expect between two gods.  But who is the black cavalry soldier riding with Hercules and what role will he play in their final battle?

Fifty-five pages flies by when the action is this colorful and frenetic.  We’ve been a fan of Martin’s “Stone Soldiers” series for a few years now and are thrilled to see him launching another great new pulp saga with tons of potential.  Stay tuned.

Friday, June 24, 2016


By Theresa M. Moore
Antellus Books
285 pages

In 1878, young Robert St. John, a descendant of the fabled Earl of Loxley, aka Robin Hood, joins the army to fight in Afghanistan.  On the journey east via the Orient Express with the new recruits, he encounters two very strange European noblemen.  They prove to be vampires and one of them, unable to control his blood-lust, attacks Robert in the middle of the night.  In doing so he turns the young Englishman into one of the undead.  From that point forward, this imaginative adventure focuses on Robert’s learning to adjust to his new life as a vampire.  He quickly learns to adapt his unearthly powers on the battlefield and soon becomes a war hero succeeding in exploits beyond the abilities of normal men.

Upon his return to England, he is knighted by Queen Victoria and, via Prime Minister Disraeli, put in charge of created a new secret service for the empire.  It is clear from the very first page that Ms. Moore had a genuine affection for all things British and she skillfully weaves both its actual history and those myths and legends that have endeared themselves to fiction fans for generations.  Via the exploits of Sir Robert, we glimpse a Victorian world on the cusp of the Industrial Revolution and a burgeoning 20th Century that will be filled with both wonders and horrors.

None of the latter is more gruesome than the appearance of Jack the Ripper on the streets of White Chapel.  As the empire’s colonial strength begins to wane around the globe, its own moral decay accelerates in the swelling ranks of the poor and homeless.  And amidst this changing world walks the Ripper, a madman with his own brand of soulless insanity.   Ms. Moore offers up Sir Robert, and his fellow vampires, as agents of good working in the shadows to keep civilization on track.  Soon our hero and his vampire companion are on the hunt to find Saucy Jack and end his murderous rampage.

Though not what we would label a fast paced action pulp, “The Queen’s Marksman,” is a steadily told adventure focused on developing rich, full realized characters both good and bad.  We enjoyed it a great deal and it once again adds substantial evidence to our beliefs that the best new fiction on the market today is coming from small, independent publishers like Antellus.  Bravo, Ms Moore and well done.

Saturday, June 18, 2016


By Mark Justice
Graveside Books
304 pages

A few reviews earlier we talked about book titled “No Rest for the Dead.” This particular review should be offered under the heading of, “A Voice From Beyond.”  It’s pretty easy to rift off titles as this collection of weird, horror yarns by the late Mark Justice sports a mouthful itself.  And maybe that’s because of Mark’s talent for black comedy and his love of the truly bizarre.  Also let’s clear things up front here.  Unlike the times we review books by friends and colleagues where we do our best to remain fair and impartial, this time around it’s sincerely personal.

Mark Justice was a pal and one hell of a damn great writer.  And no, we don’t toss that adjective around lightly.  This collection of 18 twisted tales of various lengths and subject matter are some of the best, funniest and truly creepy tales ever penned.  Each is a solid gem of wit, wisdom and incredible insight into what wise folks call the human condition.  Which in the end is the purpose of all fiction: to view the world through one’s unique life experiences and then have the courage to share them with others.  Mark does that so well, there were moments when reading through these yarns we were either laughing, crying or weary of any strange noises in the house around us.  The man had the ability to pull you into his fabulous imagination and hold you there until the final, bloody end.  And he left us there better for having gone along for the ride.

A quick glance at the table of contents and instantly we recall savoring these truly wonderful stories.  “Black Wings” is perhaps the most disturbing of the bunch and will most likely generate nightmares for lots of readers.  Whereas “Nursing Home of the Gods” and “Agent of Death” are hilarious, side-splitting black comedies.  Then there is the longer entry, “The Autumn Man,” which is both haunting and nostalgic with a good dash of horror thrown in for good measure.

Mark Justice left us too soon in the grand scheme of things.  Yet, during his short time with us, he wrote memorable works of fiction that will continue to both entertain and scare the hell out of readers for ages to come.  In that we take much comfort and devote ourselves to helping spread the word.  If this is the first time you’ve ever heard of Mark Justice, please, go find this book, it is a truly a gift from beyond.

Monday, June 06, 2016


By Thomas Wheeler
A Bantam Trade Paperback
325 pages

Here’s a question for you; can a book ever be too much fun to write?  Or how about the other side of that coin; can a book ever be too much fun to read? Well, not when it’s Thomas Wheeler’s “The Arcanum.” Of course our only regret here is that we waited so long to pick up a copy.  We love team-up tales wherein certain characters, either fictional or historical, meet and share an adventure together.  From the comic adventures of the Justice League of America and the Avengers to Alan Moore’s amazing “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen,” such team-ups have always fired our imagination with the idea of multiple heroes coming together to fight the forces of evil.

Published in 2004, this story informs us that long ago a mystic named Konstantin formed team that included author Arthur Conan Doyle,  magician Harry Houdini, New Orleans Voodoo Princess Marie Laveau and weird-fiction writer H.P. Lovecraft to help him fight all manner of occult evil.  He called them the Arcanum, deriving from the word arcane pertaining to the secret and mysterious.  The book opens twenty years later with Konstantin’s murder and the theft of a rare, lost religious tome called the Book of Enoch.  Supposedly it tells of fallen angels who still inhabit our world.  Whoever possesses the book will gain the power to find and control these supernatural creatures.

Realizing that threat, Doyle, now sixty-years old, both famous and tired, travels to America to reassemble the Arcanum for one last adventure. At the same time a maniacal serial killer begins murdering the poor and destitute homeless in the slums of New York by tearing out their spines.  All too soon, Doyle learns these killings are directly related to the Book of Enoch and the mastermind behind the killings is somehow using them as part of larger scheme.

Honestly, the second Doyle and Houdini are reunited, the sparks begin to fly.  Wheeler’s ability to capture the essence of these two wildly different personalities works to perfection in propelling the plot.  All of us are aware of the true friendship between these two turn of the century super stars and how it was ruined by Doyle’s emotional conversion to spiritualism after the death of his son in World War One. All these elements weave their way into this story.  Then there is the shy and enigmatic Howard Philip Lovecraft, one of the greatest horror writers of all time and the exotically beautiful and powerful Marie Laveau.

When one has such colorful characters, it is near impossible not to lose one’s self in the melodrama. It is clear from the onset that Wheeler had a genuine affection for the members of the Arcanum and writing their final adventure is truly a work of love on his part. That passion is infused in every single chapter. So much so that the reader can’t help but share it. Thus upon reaching the end, we were simulatneously happy and sad.  Happy for the ride Wheeler had given us with his marvelous imagination and sad that like all great carnival rides, it too had to come to an end. Please, if you love true, fast paced, action filled pulp adventure, you will not find any better than “The Arcanum.” Now go buy a copy.  You can thank me later.