Thursday, December 28, 2017


(Book One of the Utgarda Trilogy)
By Joab Stieglitz
Available at Amazon
109 pgs

In the summer of 1929, three people are summoned to the hospital by an ailing college professor. Fearing his time is short; Prof. Jason Longborough confides a terrible secret to his prorge, Anna Rykov, a Russian anthropologist, Dr. Harold Lamb, a general practioner and Father Sean O’Malley, a Catholic priest versed in the church’s exorcism rituals. Fifty years earlier, Longbrough, then a college student, and several friends, made the foolish decision to dable in the occult; the end result being they actually summoned a horrific demon named Urgarda. Trapped in our world since that time, the shape-shifting monster has kept his existence secret by murdering those with any knowledge of presence.

The old professor realizes it is his responsibility to somehow re-summon the demon to the abandoned farmhouse where he first appeared and there destroy him. The task is too difficult for one person and thus Longborough brings his three young colleagues into his plans. But time has run out for the guilt ridden teacher and after relating his wild story to the trio, he dies. 

Initially all three question whether the old man’s tale was factual or the rantings of a failing mind. Still, to ignore it would have serious consequence; chief among these allowing the demon to continue his evil machinations in our dimension. Bit by bit, each of the three begin to accept the mission that has been foisted on them and the real horror it portents. Having no other recourse, it is up to them to carry out Longborough’s final request and confront the beast.

Joab Stieglitz offers up a really well crafted thriller filled with enough suspense and action to adroitly move his plot along.  Anna, Dr. Lamb and Father O’Malley aren’t superheroes, but rather good people caught up in an affair far beyond anything any of them had ever experienced before. It will take all their courge and mutual trust in one another to summon the demon and defeat it. If that is even possible? “The Old Man’s Request,” is a sure fire page turned.  Need I say more?

Thursday, December 21, 2017


By Loren D. Estleman
Forge Books
231 pgs

This being a fictionalized tale based on historical personages by one of the most enjoyable writers in the western field. But before launching into the review, let me confess that Mr. Estleman is one of those treasures we only discovered a few years ago much to our consternation as he as quickly become one of our favorite writers. With over eighty novels to his credit, ranging from mysteries, both historical and modern, to westerns, for which he has often been times recognized with numerous awards, the man just naturally knows how to spin a good yarn. And this latest is no exception.

The plot revolves around two men, one a daring and resourceful outlaw and the other the manhunter who was tasked with bringing him to justice. From 1875 to 1883, the poetry writing criminal known as Black Bart held up 28 Wells, Fargo stagecoaches. What is more remarkable is that he did these crimes on foot and armed only with an empty shotgun. All of which became a personal affront to company agent James B. Hume who became obsessed with catching the road agent no matter how long it took or how much he had to spend to do so.

It is the irony of the tale itself that Wells, Fargo, via Hume, ended up expending much more money in capturing Bart than he ever actually got away with. In the end, the book reads like a marvelous comedy as Estleman skillfully explores each man’s character and seeks to discover what motivated them in their chosen professions. That he finds similarities in their natures and world views is fascinating and by the time we’d reached the book’s middle there was no way we could possibly put it down.

Estleman richly deserves every award he has ever been given and “The Ballad of Black Bart” is a fitting example of why he is so well admired and loved. We’re still sorry we came to the party late, but we’re doing our best to make up for lost time. You might want to join the club with this truly wonderful title.

Sunday, December 17, 2017


An Issac Bell Adventure
By Justin Scott & Clive Cussler
Putnam Books
406 pages

This new Isaac Bell adventure is set in 1905 and begins when a highly skilled sniper sets about murdering high officials working for Standard Oil, the biggest energy empire in America. Bell, as a Van Dorn detective, is assigned to the case and suspects the killings are a prelude to even further crimes all meant to discredit the man referred to as the “Most Hated” in the country, none other than J.D. Rockerfeller.

Once again, writer Justin Scott’s fast moving tale is meticulously researched and his depiction of Rockerfeller an acute one. It offers us a look at a giant of industry who was neither monster or saint, but a complicated mixture of both. To complete his mission, Bell gets himself hired as Rockerfeller’s personal bodyguard and accompanies him to Russia’s Baku oil-fields caught in the middle of an armed revolution. Amidst this violent environment, Bell is sure the assassin will strike again, this time directly at the infamous tycoon.

At the same time the daughters of a company officer, Nellie and Edna Matters become involed with the affair. Nellie is a balloonist and diehart suffraget battling for women’s rights while her sister Edna is a truth-seeking journalist sensing Bell’s investigation will uncover ties to their family history. If so, what are those links and do they lead to the killer?

“The Assassin” is another page-turning thriller in a series that has yet to falter. Each new Isaac Bell book is a cheer delight to even the most jaded action reader. Kudos, Mr. Scott and please, keep’em coming.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017


A Hollywood Cowboy Detectives Mystery
By Darryle Purcell
A Buckskins Edition Western

If you are a devoted movie buff who knows William Pratt was Boris Karloff’s real name and Bela Lugois was originally Bela Blasko then you most likely will know in which Republic Serial Reed Hadley starred? Now if you are nodding your head with a giant smile on your face, then dear readers, you are absolutely going to love this book by Darryle Purcell. It is the 11th in his Hollywood Cowboy Detectives series and just unabashed fun from the first page to the last. Purcell knows his Hollywood history and weaves it through out his story via his three heroes; Sean “Curly” Woods, Nick Danby and Hoot Gibson. 

Curly, our narrator is a PR writer for Republic Studios specializing in their B-westerns while Nick is a studio chauffeur working for his older brother Nick Danby, a studio big-wig. And lastly there is silent western star Hoot Gibson, trying to keep his career going in the age of the “talkies.”  Whenever something strange or bizarre happens in the tightly knit film community, Nick calls on Curly and his pals to investigate. In this book, someone is trying to sabotage a newly reformed Monogram Pictures by causing accidents on the set. One invariably results in the death of a stage hand.

The three compadres begin their investigations and hook up with Karloff in the middle of doing a Mr. Wong short for the small studio. The dynamic actor offers to help and soon thereafter they find themselves protecting Bela Lugosi as clues indicate both actors are primary targets of the saboteurs. 

Honestly we could go on and on but that would be spoiling the fun. That Purcell has a genuine love for old classic movies is obvious. The adventure is fast paced, filled with equal amounts action and slapstick humor. Enough so, we wish someone would option this book and film it.  And as if that wasn’t enough goodness, this volume contains a bonus short which features both Ken Maynard and Lon Chaney Jr, who is apparently being haunted by the characters his dead father played in the movies.

Purcell also did the art illustrations in the book and the cover which is masterfully rendered. How much talent can one man have?  In the end, we are just sorry we hadn’t found this series a whole lot sooner.  If you love serials, historical monster movies and the pulps, we urge you to grab this one now. Trust me, once read, you’ll say you owe us one big time.