Friday, December 13, 2019

GAUGE BLACK - Hell's Revenge

GAUGE BLACK – Hell’s Revenge
By Mark Justice
Available at Amazon
128 pgs

Revenge plots are a standard in westerns but in “Gauge Black – Hell’s Revenge,” author Mark Justice rips the format to shreds in this unforgiving tale. A Corporal in the Union Army during the Civil War, Gauge Black wants nothing more than to return to his life as a farmer once peace is declared. He is savagely robbed of that goal when several privates, in retaliation for a few disciplinary reports, accuse Black of torturing and killing a captured Confederate officer during the final days of the conflict.

Scared the news of the atrocity will reach Washington, the Advocate General and his staff opt to ignore Black’s pleas of innocent and with only unsubstantiated testimonies, find him guilty. He is sentenced to serve three years in an Arizona federal prison known as Hell.

Run by the sadistic Warden Peck, Black endures the worst depravities imaginable and uses his obsessive desire for revenge to survive. He endures each attack and brutally murders other inmates at the Warden’s pleasure. No sin is too perverse to stop him. The three years pass and finally papers arrive officially sanctioning his release. What leaves Hell is not the wronged army corporal, but a violent killing machine with absolutely no conscience left. Gauge Black has only one desire, to make those who stole his life suffer and die…as painfully as possible.

Justice prose is knife sharp and by the time his protagonist has begun his mission of vengeance, the reader soon learns there is not a single ounce of redemption left in this story. In the end, Gauge Black is a heartless monster who lives to destroy his creators.
This is rough stuff, pulp readers. You’ve been warned.

Monday, December 09, 2019


By Fritz Leiber
From a Screenplay by Clair Huffaker
ERB, Inc.
320 pages

Clair Huffaker was one of the finest American writers to ever work in Hollywood. In 1965 he was hired by producer Sy Weintraub to write a new Tarzan film which would feature a modern sophisticated version of Edgar Rice Burroughs’s classic hero. It would be the first of three to star former football pro Mick Henry as the new, suave and debonair Ape Man. “Tarzan and the Valley of Gold” was released in the summer of 1966.

The plot has Tarzan flying to Mexico in answer to a summons from an old friend who works for the government. A treacherous villain, whose hobby is blowing people up, has located the whereabouts of a lost civilization and is going there at the head of his own private mercenary army. Tarzan’s job is to stop him and save the lost city of gold. Eschewing the previous Tarzan movies, Weintraub and Huffaker purposely ignored any references to Jane, Boy or any other trappings that had been added over the years. Trappings that had turned Burroughs savage champion into a middle-aged, family man as exciting as a bowl of porridge.

Henry not only looked the part as envisioned by readers, but this Tarzan was also intelligent, multi-lingual and resourceful. The movie moves at a fast clip and the action never stops. It remains one of our favorites. It wasn’t till years later that we discovered sci-fi writer Fritz Leiber had written a paperback novelization of the screenplay. It was the first authorized Tarzan novel by an author other Burroughs and was officially listed as the 25th book in the series. With only one printing, the book soon disappeared and became a unique literary treasure sought by many fans over the years. Now ERB, Inc. has produced a beautiful hardcover edition which features a gorgeous cover by Richard Hescox and three black and white interior illustrations by Douglas Klauba.

Known for his creation of the sword and sorcery characters Fathrd and Gray Mouser, Leiber took Huffaker’s lean tale and turned it into a full blown, detailed novel that in the end had very little resemblance to the actual movie. In the book most of the story takes place in the jungle of Brazil and is purposely adjusted to the Tarzan canon as written by Burroughs. Thus there are footnotes galore referring to past Burroughs books and the missus is mentioned, though never by name. Leiber even alludes to his hero’s supposed longevity as having to do with the supernatural.

Where Leiber’s story shines is his complete characterizations of all the principles from Tarzan to the villain Vinaro. No longer cookie-cutter Bond-like figures, each of them is fully realized adding great depth to the adventure. We’re even given Tarzan’s personal self-refection as he continually struggles with his duel natures; one civilized and the other a primitive beast. All in all, the book is truly something unique and a wonderful read. Thank you ERB, Inc. for rescuing it from the obscurity and giving all us Tarzan fans this beautiful edition.

Friday, November 29, 2019


By Derrick Ferguson
Pulp Work Press
138 pgs.

New Pulp writer Derrick Ferguson is best known for his action packed adventures, be they the exploits of Dillon, Fortune McCall or Sebastian Red. All of these should already be on your reading list. But back in 1914, Ferguson wrote this truly amazing novella, “The Madness of Frankenstein” that is his homage to the great Hammer horror flicks of the 60s and 70s. Having finally picked up a copy, we were eager open its pages and discover what special grisly treats Mr. Ferguson had whipped up for his unsuspecting readers.

The book is a non-stop, frantic, over the top story with enough colorful characters to cast a dozen movies. A young scientist named Peter Holden is imprisoned because of his fanatical obsession with the infamous Doctor Victor Von Frankenstein; the monster-maker. But Holden isn’t the only person seeking the notorious villain. The Holy Mother Church has inaugurated a group of warrior clerics calling themselves the Justicers and their singular mission is to find Frankenstein and put an end to his blasphemous career.

When a ravenously beautiful young woman named Angelique appears with news of Frankenstein’s whereabouts, a Justicer named Christopher Wrightson has Holden released in his charge. Angelique’s information has Frankenstein somehow connected to an insane asylum located far in the northern woods. The party sets out immediately unaware of the true horrors that await them in this damp, dark fortress of madness.

Aside from the sheer brutality of Ferguson’s prose, there is also a strain of black humor evident as he peppers his tale with some very recognizable names. These are his personal “Easter eggs” and makes the story that much more fun. Not a word is wasted, not a classic action ignored as “The Madness of Frankenstein” delivers a truly unforgettable reading experience.

Our only request; when is the sequel coming?

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

MIDNIGHT GUARDIAN - Annihilation Machine

(Annihilation Machine)
By John C. Bruening
Flinch Books
328 pgs

John Bruening’s second novel in his Midnight Guardian pulp series answers the question; Can one have too much of a good thing? Sadly the answer in this case is most definitely. We recall reviewing the first book in this series, “Midnight Guardian – Hour of Darkness” and at time thinking it was a bit long for a pulp thriller. We were concerned about Bruening failing to understand the basic tropes of what made the pulps work. If he continued to produce overly long books, then they would only serve to deaden the impact of his fiction. Which is exactly what has happened with “Annihilation Machine.”

The basic plot is a familiar one with most pulp readers. It is 1938 and a mad, disfigured German scientist calling himself Sensenmann has been smuggled into the U.S. and is threatening to destroy Union City with a powerful machine that annihilated buildings from miles away with uncanny accuracy. Naturally he’s working for Hitler and the Nazi High Command. That’s it. Nothing overly complicated. Then it is up to Assistant District Attorney Jack Hunter to stop him as the masked vigilante, the Midnight Guardian.

John C. Bruening is a very good writer and he has created some really terrific characters with this series. Unfortunately he falls into the trap of being so meticulous in his storytelling that he has to put down every single incident, conference meeting and interview as if each were so vital to the overall book. Not true. Had Bruening had the benefit of a veteran pulp editor, he could have easily trimmed his massive tome by a hundred pages and still told his story; only a whole lot faster and meaner. Pacing is a crucial element to any pulp thriller and most of this book’s middle section seems to be locked into Snail Gear.

Another irksome point is the writer’s refusal to name his hero. Let me clarify. In the majority of classic masked avenger pulps, the classic writers understood the duality of the hero once he, or she, assumed and second identity. Thus when writing his Spider adventures, Norvell Page would not call his hero Richard Wentworth, while he was in action as his crimefighting hero. He would call him The Spider. Whereas throughout “Annihilation Machine,” Bruening eschews calling his protagonist anything but his Christian name. Thus it is always Jack Hunter in action and never the Midnight Guardian. We have no clue what the author has against calling him by his colorful title? It’s almost as if he were embarrassed to be writing pulp.

In the end, “Midnight Guardian – Annihilation Machine” is a good book by a good writer. We simply believe it could have been better.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

BLACK STILETTO - Stars & Stripes

Stars & Stripes
By Raymond Benson
Oceanview Publishing
384 pgs.

In this, the third installment of Raymond Benson’s female vigilante saga, Judy Cooper comes to the aid of a Chinese family in New York, gets in involved with the 1960 presidential campaign and ends up saving both John Kennedy and Richard Nixon from being shot by a Russian assassin. All in a day’s work for the vivacious readhead from Texas.

As in the previous entries, all this is revealed via her diaries by her son Martin. Judy today is an elderly soul residing in a senior care facility suffering from Alzeimer’s. Never having revealed her secret crime-fighting career in the past, the truth revealed in those diaries becomes an unbearable burden to Martin. At the same time, his only daughter, Gina, has endured a rape and assault and is now studying martial arts taking her on a path and eerily mirrors that of her grandmother.

The delight of this series is the humanity Benson infuses in all his characters and allows each to tell his or her story. All of them begin to form the picture of a real family, each member in flux doing their best to make through the greatest puzzle of them all, life. This is such a great series and here’s hoping we’ll soon be hearing Gina’s voice.

Friday, November 01, 2019


By Geoff Habiger & Coy Kissee
Shadow Dragon Press
200 pgs

Last year we had the pleasure of reading the first book in this series called, “Unremarkable.” In it we met Saul Imbierowicz, a boring postal clerk in 1929 Chicago. By the book’s end, poor Saul had been murdered by Mobster Al Capone who, as it turned out, was actually a vampire. Thus, to his own horror, Saul was turned and rose from the dead as a bloodsucker himself.

This new book opens with Saul having been recruited by Elliot Ness to join his anti-crime task force. Ness is aware of the fact that Capone and many of his gang are supernatural monsters. The G-Man decides that having a vampire on his own team would be beneficial in future encounters. He pairs Saul with a federal agent named Christian Wright who is devoutly religious and has a deep aversion to all things unnatural, including Saul. Thus their working together is contentious from the start with Christian insulting Saul constantly while our naïve protagonist stumbles through his new existence desperately trying to understand everything that has happened to him.

Like the first entry, writers Habiger and Kissee have a wonderful talent for mixing both action and humor. That Saul mentally imagines his Jewish family, mother, father and sister, chastising at the most inopportune moments is really very funny. At the same the authors do an excellent job of weaving their imaginative narrative around actual historical accounts that transpired at the time. What we’ve always loved about New Pulp is its ability to offer new twists to old stories. With both “Unremarkable” and now “Untouchable”, Habiger and Kissee have delivered something truly unique and thoroughly enjoyable.

We have to assume there is a third volume in the works and quite frankly we hope it arrives sooner than later.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

EVA - Men's Adventure Supermodel

EVA – Men’s Adventure Supermodel
Edited by Robert Deis & Wyatt Doyle
New Texture Books
183 pgs.

Bob Deis and Wyatt Doyle have devoted their time and energies in preserving the history of Men’s Adventure Magazines that overflowed the newsstands racks after World War II throughout the 50s, 60s and into the early 70s. Their books fall under the appropriate umbrella title of “The Men’s Adventure Library” and their latest offering is a retrospective look back on the career of one of the most successful models of the period, Ms. Eva Lynd.

Ms. Lynd’s career covered a wide cultural spectrum from model, to pin-up, actress, singer, writer and actress. The Swedish born beauty modeled for some of the best glamour and pin-up photographers of the time while appearing in both films and television. Whereas the book’s primary focus is on her adventures as model for the great pulp artists such as Norm Eastman, Al Rossi, Mike Ludlow and even James Bama. It would be fair to say Ms. Lynd’s likeness appeared on hundreds of MAMs both in the over-the-top cover paintings to the black and white interior illustrations. On many occasions she was teamed with Steve Holland, the premier male model for these periodicals.

What is captivating here is Ms. Lynd actually narrates the book in her own words as she recalls many of her experiences vividly with charm and melancholy. It truly was a simpler time in many ways and she describes it with an honest sincerity that infuses the volume with a special, elegant grace.

This is a book long overdue. MAM’s were the evolution of the classic pulps of the 30s and 40s, both in fiction and art. Ms. Eva Lynd, via her natural beauty and charm was clearly one of the movements most endearing pioneers.

There are two different editions available from Amazon, one in paperback and the other a deluxe hardcover. The softcover is focused on Ms. Lynd’s work as an artist model while the hardcover contains an additional 80 pages. These include many of her classic glamour photos and others from her various acting roles.   

Sunday, October 20, 2019


Vol 68, No.1 -Issue # 363
Editor Marvin Kaye
Weird Tales Inc.
76 pgs.

Reading this “new” Weird Tales had us going backward in time when this pulp monthly was the most popular magazine on the newsstands. Via its pages, the “old” Weird Tales gave the world Robert E. Howard and H.P. Lovecraft. If that’s all it had delivered, it would clearly have been enough. But it gave the world of American fiction so much more with an endless list of writers and artists today considered cultural legends.

Now a new group of dreamers have picked up the banner, collected a group of talented fantasiest and given us a whole new treasure chest of dark, twisted tales. Here are stories to build nightmares upon, beautiful told by Victor Lavalle, Josh Malerman, Lisa Morton, Jonathan Maberry, Hank Schwaeble and Marc Bilgrey.  Of them, our personal favorite being Maberry’s “Shadows Beneath the Stone,” which is as good a sword and sorcery yarn as we’ve ever read.

There is also bizarre poetry we are totally unqualified to judge and artwork we do hardly applaud. Desgin Director Jeff Wong has created such a beautiful package; just looking through the issue was a rewarding experience and his melding of story and illustrations simply inspiring.

So thank you, all who had a hand in bringing back Weird Tales. You’ve done something truly special here and it’s our hope, like the old classic, this new incarnation is around for a very long, long time.

Monday, October 14, 2019


(A Hollywood Cowboy Detectives adventure)
By Darryle Purcell
Buckskin Editions Westerns
166 pgs

Reading a new Darryle Purcell book is like having your favorite sweet dessert. In this, his latest Hollywood Cowboy Detectives tale, he pulls out all the stops and offers up another fast paced, action packed adventure that is pure pulp. 

In 1929 a newsreel crew disappeared in the Cascade Mountains of northern California while searching for the legendary creature known as Sasquatch. Years later, one of their film cameras is found in a charity auction held in an isolated mountain town. The head of Republic Pictures assigns top press writer, Curly Woods and studio chauffeur Nick Danby to go and investigate. Curly immediately contacts retired silent screen actor William S. Hart known to have a cabin in the area. Then he, Nick and western star Hoot Gibson, drive to up to rendezvous with Hart, who will guide them on this particular hunt.

Upon arriving in the Cascades they are ambushed by several members of the American communist party which only adds to the puzzle. What are Reds doing in the area and what is their connection to the missing film crew? This is followed by an encounter with a smelly, hairy beast and then an attack by a mechanical robot of unbelievable power.

From monsters, to spies and eventually a hidden underground city, our heroes never get a moment of rest as their quest leads them to an amazing discovery that underscores the dangers facing the world. Once again, Purcell invites his readers along displaying a genuine love of his characters, both real and fictional, and his understanding of the times. “Mystery of the American Yeti,” is a rootin-tootin’ gem.

Sunday, October 13, 2019


By Nick Mamatas
Tor Books
302 pgs  

Hexen Sabbath is an 11th Century British knight who enjoys his life of battle and pillaging. He considers himself a Christian warrior and meets his death in combat when he refuses to slay an innocent boy. Centuries later he awakens in modern New York brought back from the dead by an Angel to complete a mission for God. The seven deadly sins have been personified in human form and are planning to destroy the world in a nuclear holocaust. It is Sabbath’s mission to find them and slay them all by decapitation thereby saving mankind.

Before he can begin his gruesome work, Sabbath is befriended by a young woman of Russian descent named Jennifer. Realizing he needs a guide in this new age, he reveals his identity to her and his mission. To his surprise, she reluctantly becomes his ally. By doing so she instantly becomes a target of Sabbath’s most cunning opponents, Pride. In our world, Pride is a powerful politician with aspirations to become the President.

“Sabbath” is dark, humorous romp through today’s sensibilities as it satirically depicts each of the Seven Deadly Sins in all too recognizable personas the readers will be familiar with. There is also lots of blood and gore along the way. It is a daring romp with no quarter given as philosophy meets spirituality head on. This books rocks.

Monday, September 23, 2019

(A Caleb York Western)
By Mickey Spillane & Max Allan Collins
Kensington Books
224 pgs

It is always fun to see writers known for a particular genre wander off into unknown territories. Which is exactly what transpired with mystery/crime writer Max Allan Collins took it upon himself to novelize a western movie script by the late Mickey Spillane. The result was four cowboy actioners featuring former gunfighter turned sheriff, Caleb York.

We read book one, a few years ago and thought it a very decent western. Having just finished the fourth in the series (yes, we know, we’ll have to find 2 & 3 eventually) we have to say Collins has adapted to the genre like a cowhand to his Stetson.

At the start of this novel, three of Trinidad’as most well known citizens board a stagecoach for Los Vegas from where they plan on catching a train to Denzer. One is Raymond Parker, an influential business man in the little New Mexico community. The others are rancher Willa Carter and saloon owner Rita Filley. Only a few miles out of town, the stagecoach is waylaid by the Hargrave gang, the driver and shotgun guard murdered and the passengers taken hostage. It is the outlaws’ plan to demand a hefty ransom from Parker’s business partners in Denver.

By the time Sheriff York learns of the incident, it is too late for him to successfully track the bandits. Somewhere in the nearby hills exist an old ghost town and a hotel that offers its services solely to outlaws. The Hargrave gang has made their headquarters and where they are holding their prisoners. Such outlaw lairs were not uncommon in the years after the Civil War. In fact there were actual documented histories of actual “outlaw” towns.

Once York does lean of Hell Junction, the rest of the book is focused on his out-thinking Hargrave and finding a way to rescue his friends, the two women especially dear to him. For a story that is somewhat claustrophobic in that it doesn’t cover a lot of ground, Collins manages to keep the narrative moving forward. As ever, just when we readers need some action, Caleb York’s .44 is there to provide it in a seamless fashion. This is solid story-telling with fascinating characters and could easily be transferred to the big screen by some enterprising movie producer. We can only wish. In the meantime we have the books and that in itself is a pleasure.


Now we don’t usually do this, but with this paperback edition we simply could not hide our distaste for the cover. Having grown up in the 50s and 60s, we were treated to western paperbacks that sported painted covers by some of the finest artists in the world, ala Robert McGinnis and many others. Whereas this title looks totally photo-shopped with the supposed hero looking like a Chippendale model from Beverly Hills. If we were female and a devotee of Harlequin romances, then we might it find it appealing. But not for a rough and tumble, old-fashion shootem-up. Publisher…take note.  Please.

Tuesday, September 03, 2019


(A Signal Airship Novel)
By Robyn Bennis
Tor Books
367 pgs

Among the more than fifty novels we read last year, one of our favorites was Robyn Bennis steampunk adventure “The Guns of Above.” Now she has given us its sequel, “By Fire Above” and it not only as good as her first outing, but in many ways far superior. Simply put, it’s a page-turning delight.

We are reunited with the Garnian airship Mistral and its crew of stalwart men and women led by the no-nonsense Captain Josette Dupre; aided by the flamboyant and witty Lord Bernat Hinkal. The same Lord Hinkal who just happens to be her mother’s lover. There’s also recently promoted Ensign Kemper and Sgt. Jutes among others. Believe me, within a few pages of introucing each, Bennis fleshes them out brilliantly.

In the previous novel, Josette’s hometown of Durum had fallen to the enemy forces of Vinzhalia. In the first half of this book, she learns how to gain favor among the Garnian royal court in hopes of persuading the Command Staff to approve the retaking of the town. With the help of Bernat and his older brother, Roland, she miraculously manages to gain an audience with the King and then is stunned to learn he is willing to grant her wish; the army will march on Durum with Mistral flying support.

Bennis’ satirical depiction of court life and politics is both insightful and funny. Yet it is only the prelude to the heart of the adventure. Once the campaign to retake Durum is underway, she pulls out all the stops and the action ramps up to full speed ahead. It is so fast and precise; you’ll have trouble catching your breath from chapter to chapter. Her weaving of multiple, fascinating characters throughout explosive, suspense filled combat is simply amazing.

Bennis is one of the finest writers we’ve ever had the pleasure of discovering and her Mistral adventures exceptional in every way. Think C.S. Forester’s Horatio Hornblower in the sky and you’ll get the idea. If you love imaginative action, adventure and truly remarkable characters, please, do not miss “By Fire Above.”

Saturday, August 24, 2019


Book Three of the Utgarda Trilogy
By Joab Stieglitz
Rantings of a Wandering Mind
185 pgs

In the first two books of this trilogy we were introduced to Father Sean O’Malley, a Catholic priest, Anna Rykoy, a Russian anthropologist, and Dr. Harold Lamb. The three of them encountered strange occult happenings at a north-east college which in turn led them to New York and the strange disappearance of pulp writer Brian Teploy. At the conclusion of the second novel, the trio discovered Teploy had been committed to a sanitarium having suffered a mental breakdown and were off to find him.

“The Other Realm” picks up where the last ended only to have our heroes uncover a startling revelation. Aliens from another dimension have been visiting our world and in doing so run afoul of a scientist with delusions of grandeur. He ultimately goes insane with the power he is able to leech from them. At the same time he manages to kidnap Teploy and imprison him in another dimension actually constructed from the pulp writer’s own imagination.

The only way to save Teploy, according to alien beings, is for Anna and Harry’s minds to enter that fictional world and become a part of it. Thus after two books clearly set in a normal 1920s background, Stieglitz then throws us into a sword and sorcery adventure that reads like a blending of H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Rice Burroughs. He offers up a dangerous quest unlike any we’ve ever encountered before.

“The Other Realm,” is as enjoyable as the first two books and the added genre twist gives it a surprising romp we were not expecting. At the conclusion the author sets the stage for possible future adventures with O’Malley, Rykoy and Lamb. We’d like nothing better.

Friday, August 09, 2019


A Tokey Wedge Swinger
By Jack Lynn
Grizzly Pulp
168 pgs

Tokey Wedge is an old throw-back Private Eye ala Shell Scott. Operating in the big city with a couple of friends on the police force, Tokey has a way of getting into trouble when it comes to hot-blooded dames. In this outing, he’s hired by a rich tycoon named Langland, to protect his precious rock, the Black Opal. The financier has serious money troubles and Tokey is convinced he’s planning on stealing the gem himself to collect the big insurance policy.

Adding dangerous spice to the situation is Langland’s wife, a buxom sex-pot named Virginia who is into a local mobster for serious gambling debts. She needs the cash to get her neck out of the noose. As if she wasn’t dynamite fleshly delights enough, Virginia has an identical twin sister who was once her husband’s former lover. Abbigail, nicknamed Nabby, is an alcoholic lush who despises her sister for stealing her man. So Tokey has two raging nymphos two handle…pun intended. But the trouble doesn’t end there. The case also offers up a third femme-fatale in the shape of Langland’s beautiful stepdaughter from his deceased first wife, Sonya. Though only a lowly 36 C, the half-Japanese Sonya makes a living as a bra-model.

“Torrid Twins” is so true to its sweat-mags roots as to propel the reader on a pulp time-travel adventure. The raunchy humor, the two fisted punches and the flying hot-lead resound with genuine authenticity from a time long gone. If you recall those days with fondness and need a good laugh, grab a copy. As Tokey might say, “It’s a handful of action.”

Monday, August 05, 2019


A Snapshot Novella
By Dale Cozort
121 pgs

I’ve been a big fan of writer Dale Cozort’s unique Snapshot books since the start. In them he envisioned an all powerful race of aliens who could duplicate any part of human history on our planet and duplicate it perfectly, molecule for molecule. Imagine these god-like beings creating an exact duplicate of Argentina in 1920, meaning everything in that country at that time would then exist in a bubble…while the original Argentina would still exist here on Earth. Thus there would be two, with the “snapshot” double now at the whims of these aliens, where by they could attach that bubble to another that might contain France in 1955 and then allow the people in both bubbles to cross a zone tunnel and interact.

Okay, so yes, it gives us headaches too. The thing is Cozort is crafty enough to use this world building to his story-telling advantage. In his latest Snapshot Novella, “Jace of the Jungle” he totally goes all Edgar Rice Burroughs with a young eleven year old white boy living in a hodge-podge Africa that features ape-people, Roman Legions, lost cities and dinosaurs. See what I mean? This is pulp-weaving and he pulls it off with so much fun and enthusiasm, this little 121 pg book is a tease appetizer leaving us wanting a whole lot more.

Like ERB? Like romantic jungle adventures? Like action and adventure galore? Then what are you waiting for? “Jace of the Jungle” is waiting for you.

Monday, July 29, 2019


A Mike Hammer Mystery
By Mickey Spillane & Max Allan Collins
Titan Books
198 pgs

Whenever Max Allan Collins delivers another Mickey Spillane Mike Hammer book, our thought is how the hits just keep coming. That is what each of these has been to date, bonfide gems based on either unfinished manuscripts or detailed plot outlines written by Spillane before his death. Collins efforts in bringing each to publication has been truly astounding and we mystery fans are all the richer for them.

In this latest outing, the New York based Hammer is hired by a handsome state senator with aspirations to being President. Unfortunately his extra-marital affairs have made him the target of a blackmailer and he requires the private eye’s help in extracting himself from his own warranted dilemma. Hammer reluctantly takes the job, though not his typical kind of work. There is a hefty payday involved and he’s not about to shrug that off lightly. His assignment, learn the identity of the blackmailer and retrieve the tape recording of the senator and his lovely secretary doing the hanky panky after hours.

Within the first twenty-fours, Hammer, and his faithful Velda, find the extortionist and it begins to look like an open and shut case. At which point a former state governor and World War II war hero, enters the story and things take a decidedly ugly turn. It’s the world of politics and when several characters end up dead, Hammer learns that all that is dirty and corrupt doesn’t only apply to the criminal empires.

Where power is the prize, evil will often extend its foul claws.  “ Murder, My Love,” is another fast reading mystery with enough action to keep any Spillane enthusiast thrilled from beginning to end. Amen.

Friday, July 26, 2019


A Baker & Llewelyn Novel
By Will Thomas
Monitaur Books
290 pgs.

“Fatal Inquiry” is the sixth in Will Thomas’ series about Cyrus Barker, London Agent of Inquiry and his assistant clerk, Thomas Llewelyn. Set in the same period as the Conan Doyle stories, these adventures offer Holmes fan a differet perspective on the great city and its social eccentricies. Each new story has been built upon the previous creating a marvelous cast of fun, wonderful defined supporting characters.

In this new entry, Barker comes under the attack of his arch enemy, Sebastian Nightwine, a former military officer whose path he has crossed on several occasions; much to his regret. Now Nightwine has returned to England to convince the Foreign Office to assist him in his madcap scheme to invade and rule Tibet. Such a coup would greatly enhance the Empire’s prestiage and power in that region of the world.

The villain is well aware Barker will be an impidement to his grandious plan. Thus he frames the detective for murder and puts a price on his head. Within twenty-four hours, Barker and Lleweln’s lives are shattered and the two find themselves fugitives on the run. When Lleweln is soon caught and released, he realizes Barker purposely tricked him so that he would be free of the bounty on his own head.  Now, for the first time since their meeting, Llewelyn must act solo. He must employ all the skills and cunning the crafty his employer has taught him and somehow save Baker in the end.

As if that wasn’t challenge enough, the lad then meets Nightwine’s beautiful daughter and suddenly the rules of the games are altered. Is she an ally or a foe, a pawn or a cold blooded killer like her father? 

“Fatal Inquiry” is a tense, fast paced historical thriller that never lets up and is by far the best book in the series thus far. Which is saying a great deal? Here is hoping volume number seven isn’t too far off.

Sunday, July 14, 2019


By S.W. Lauden
Down & Out Books
139 pgs

Tommy Ruzzo is an ex-New York cop kicked off the force for criminal behavior. He follows his girlfriend, Shayna, back to her hometown of Seatown Florida. Shortly thereafter she dumps him and takes a powder. Ruzzo accepts a job as the Head of Security manager at a beachfront retirement facility known as Precious Acres. He spends most of his days between driving a golf cart around the grounds to getting drunk at a local watering hole named the Rusty Pelican.

One morning the custodian, Ruzzo’s drinking buddy, finds one of the residents dead on the bocce court with his throat cut. As many of the patrons are former New Yorkers, several with mob ties, Ruzzo suspects that maybe the past is catching up to them. Getting little help from the local Sheriff, he keeps poking about and then a second resident is killed. The old man is found with the local newspaper laid on his chest opened to where the cross-word puzzle is found. Another of the old snowbirds tells Ruzzo about a hitman who would post warnings in the cross-word puzzles as a way to unnerve his intended targets.

In the middle of this chaos, Shayna returns, this time with her husband in tow. He’s a small time drug dealer with a mean streak. Could he have anything to do with the murders? Does he know anything about Ruzzo’s relationship with previous Shayna? Within a week, the world-weary ex-cop is knee deep in bodies and beginning to think he may be next on the list of some deranged mob assassin.

S.W. Lauden’s writing is lean delivering only what the story requires to keep it moving along. There are no long passages of exposition or insightful reflection. His characters, especially Tommy Ruzzo, are all flawed and doing simply doing their best to get from day to day. When murder enters the stage, masks come off and a killer takes the spotlight.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019


By John Scalzi
Tor Books
394 pgs

Every time we read a John Scalzi sci-fi book, we’re amazed at how he delivers unique and original stories that somehow are reminiscent of past authors such as Robert Heinlein and Edmond Hamilton. Scalzi is comfortable detailing known science while extrapolating it, which is what all good science fiction does. At the same time, he throws in tons of old pulp space opera action. That both work in perfect harmony with each other is what has made him such a popular writer today.

With “The Android’s Dream,” he blazes a story about alien conspiracies, biological manipulations and a sentient computer. Harry Creek is a war veteran working for the State Department and has the unenviable job of giving people bad news. Need to fire someone, call Harry. Need to tell a diplomat she’s being assigned to some far off world no one has ever heard of before, call Harry. What is fun is the fact that Harry has no problems with the role. He’s a pragmatist. After all, somebody’s got to it.

When a respected member of an alien Nidu delegation is assassinated via chemically produced smells during a trade negotiation, the Department’s Administrators scramble to salvage the situation and avoid an all out war. This can be done by providing the aliens with a special breed of sheep known as the Android’s Dream. Apparently such animals were gifts to the Nidu generations earlier upon first contact. Now the ruling clan of must sacrifice such a sheep whenever a new ruler is crowned. Sounds simple enough until it is discovered somebody has systematically destroyed all the known Android’s Dream sheep on the earth. Thus Harry Creek’s assignment is to find just one sheep and then keep it alive.

To accomplish this, Harry creates a self-aware computer program based on the mind of a deceased friend name Brian. Once awakened Brian begins searching the World Wide Web and managed to find the only remaining Android’s Dream still breathing. But it’s not a sheep; it’s a young woman whose genetic code actually contains sheep genes.

And that all happens within the first half of the book. Soon Harry and the lady, one Robin Baker, are on the run being chased by both human and alien killers. The action is non-stop; the characters brilliantly conceived and climax a slam-bang finale that had us cheering aloud. All science-fiction should be as good as “The Android’s Dream.” We can’t wait to see what Scalzi cooks up next.

Monday, July 01, 2019


By Max Allan Collins
Hard Case Crime
206 pages
Pub Date – 12 Nov – 2019

When reading a Max Collins Quarry novel, readers have come to expect certain elements to grace the pages of each new title.  Primary among these are witty, often sharply sarcastic bantering between the veteran hitman and the people he encounters. Then there are the sexy femme fatales that come in all colors, ages and alluring shapes. Though Quarry would never call himself a “ladies man,” his ability to attract beautiful women certainly makes his male readers envious. Then you add in sudden, often violent action in which our protagonist has to fight tooth and nail to survive and your Quarry recipe is almost complete.  So what’s the final ingredient? The twisted, original plots that will keep you turning the pages in an attempt to unravel the mystery before he does.

Thus in this vein, “Killing Quarry” is as yet another winner fulfilling all of these expectations with a fast-pace plot that adds a terrific new perspective to the series. For the first time in his death-dealing career, Quarry has never been the intended target. He is this time and when that revelation becomes apparent, it turns his entire world upside down. No longer the hunter, Quarry doesn’t fancy the role of prey. Someone has painted a target on his back and if he makes one false move, it could be his last.

If that were not enough to occupy his attention, in the middle of the entire affair he is reunited with an old lover from his early days in the killing game. Lu, short for Lucille, also happens be in his line of work.  Though she has a logical explanation for why she has come back now, Quarry is ever skeptical. He is alive because of his trust issues. Is she there to assist him in learning who has put out on a contract on him or is she pursuing her own selfish agenda? And why, after almost a decade of operating in relative obscurity, has his identity finally been exposed?

“Killing Quarry” is a twisty thriller that skillfully moves from one scene to next with such consummate ease, most readers will reach the end sooner than desired. Then again, that’s another part of any Quarry book, we never want them to end.