Friday, January 25, 2019


Book Two in the Utgarda Trilogy
By Joab Stieglitz
Available at Amazon
177 pgs

A while back we reviewed the first entry in this trilogy, “The Old Man’s Request” and we told you how much we enjoyed it.  An old college professor had dappled in arcane arts and somehow made a connection with another dimension in which resided fiends of all kinds. When one such beast, Utgarda, attempted to cross over into our realm, the old teacher sought the aid of three associates; Doctor Harold Lamd, Prof. Anna Kykov and Catholic priest, Father Sean O’Malley. 

By the end of that first book, the trio successfully thwarted the foul beast and thus granted the dying man’s final request. But at the same time Father O’Malley believed there was still more for them to do. One such unfinished agenda was to locate a well known medium, Brian Teplow, who had gone missing to learn his connection with this alternate world. As book two opens, Father O’Malley is in Rome reporting the past events and his role in them, while Harold and Anna venture into New York City to begin their hunt for Teplow.

Instead of finding Teplow, Anna and Harold find a vagrant claiming to know them from their adventures in that “other” world. He tells them he is a warrior/scout and together they fought the demonic creatures in that strange dimension. Our protagonists are not all that trusting of these claims until, while searching the missing medium’s room, they discover a drawing of the three of them, along with others, dressed in Dungeons & Dragons type clothing and supposedly posing in that weird world. The biggest shock of all comes when Teplow’s mother tells them the picture is ten years old.

At the same time Anna and Harold, now accompanied by Ganon, are chasing down these clues, Father O’Malley has returned stateside only to battle a demon in the apartment of Teplow’s booking agent. Then Anna finds herself in a crossfire between two criminal gangs and is kidnapped by one of them. As in his previous novel, Stieglitz never once lets up on the action. “The Missing Medium” is really a fun read and totally sustains the suspense and mystery set forth in the first chapter.  Stay tuned, loyal readers, the final book is now on my To-Read Stack and a review will soon be coming your way.  In the meatime go find these first two, you’ll be happy you did.

Sunday, January 20, 2019


The Art of Samson Pollen
Edited by Robert Deis & Wyatt Doyle
# New Texture books
134 pgs

Most pulp historians believe that of the hundreds of thousands of covers and illustrations produced for the pulp magazines of the 30s and 40s, only ten percent or less survived. At the time they were done, no one realized their cultural significance to the history of American art and all these amazing drawings and painters for trashed after publication. Today that small percentatge that miraculously avoided the dumpsters remains in the hands of private collectors. It is a shame there was no Robert Deis or Wyatt Doyle around in those days.

With the advent of World War II the original pulps were severely curtailed by paper shortages and by the war’s end many of them had vanished. It looked like the age of populist literature was coming to an end. Happily that was not the case as several enterprising publishers brought about a new pulp evolution by creating magazines geared primarily towards the millions of returning veterans. Thus the small pulps of old morphed into the Men’s Adventure Magazines (MAMs) of the late 40s, 50s and 60s. 

Of course many of the old pulp creators hopped aboard this new literary format, but for the most part MAMs saw the infusion of many new writers and artists. These talented people were only too happy to continue the tradition of fast paced action-adventure storytelling. And just like the old pulps, they were lavished with beautiful and exciting artwork geared to get the reader’s blood pumping. Here were two-fisted men daring any challenge as they traveled the globe seeking adventure.  Of course along the way they always encountered buxom, leggy women in torn garments emperiled by various nasty villains all too eager to ravish and destroy them. This being post-war, those monsters were often Japanese or German torturers.

The covers were garish, outlandish and beautiful. While the interior illustrations just as exciting and skillfully laid out. Samson Pollen was one of the premier artists of the MAMs and his work graced most of the more popular titles over several decades. Which is where Robert Deis and Wyatt Doyle enter the story. Both recognized the importance of the MAMs years ago and thus dedicated themselves to preserve as much of it as was humanly possible. They launched the Men's Adventure Library to release these marvelous collections.

Through a series of beautifully designed books, Deis and Doyle have collected both the stories and the art of the MAM era. Last year they released their first volume dedicated to Samson Pollen; “Pollen’s Women,” and focused on the artist’s work in capturing the female form in all kinds of dire straits. Now we have this sequel book wherein the spotlight is on verve and energy Pollen gave his action drawings. Each is a master’s study in how to capture motion full tilt. Here is tense drama, nail biting suspence and over-the-top violence captured in a single breathless image for all time. The book is a veritable treasure to any young art student or fan of the pulps. We cannot recommend loudly enough and are damn happy to have it added to our own library.

Saturday, January 19, 2019


By Kim Newman
Titan Books
411 pages

Every now and then, we read a book and find ourselves cruelly aware of the fact that we simply cannot read everything out there. We do enjoy other life sustaining habits such as eating, sleeping, spending time with friends and occasionally watching a TV show or going to the movies. And yet that in no way stymies our frustration when realizing we’ve just picked up a book that is in fact the latest of a series that, up until now, we knew nothing about.  Often times, if there is no appeal attached to the subject matter, we’ll put the title aside and simply move on to the next book. Whereas we have always been fascinated with the fictional character of Dracula and several colleagues recommended these books in the past, we opted to simply jump in and see what’s what.

The basic foundation for the series is that Dracula actually existed and Bram Stoker wrote a highly fictionalized book about him. In the end, the Master of the Undead became a political force and brought about an acceptance of vampires to the living people of the world. This particular entry gets rolling in the mid 1950s where movie making genius Francis Coppolla is in Romania to film his own “Dracula” starring Marlo Brando. Cameos by well known personages abound in this tale and one soon begins to understand just how interwoven modern culture is to Newman’s saga. He totally skewers many of our superficial mores with deadly accuracy. One of Coppolla’s technical staff is Katherine Reed, a vampire elder, who is a philosophical obersever of all things living and dead. During the course of the shoot, she encounters and befriends an orphan vampire lad unaware that he carries within him the true essence of Dracula. Through her intervention, the boy is hired as one of the director’s assistant and ultimately returns to American with the film crew when their work is completed.

Once in the states, the boy continues to mature and assumes the persona of one Johnny Pop, a hip-cat socialite who befriends the then King of New York, Andy Warhol. Pop’s ultimate scheme is to create a powerful new addictive drug made from vampire blood and through his new connections among the city’s elite, spread it to millions. He does so with the skill of a surgeon and then moves on to Hollywood where his true goal is revealed. Via the movie industry, he iniates a global rock concert to be held in Transylvania where he will at long last allow the Dracula part of his being to be revealed on the world stage and inuagarate the beginning of a new age of Vampirsm.

Along the way, the Prince of Cats, encounters old foes. Chief among these are Katherine Reed, Genevieve Dieudorme and Penelope Churhward. If one if familiar with Stoker’s original novel, they easily come across as Dracula’s Brides. He also makes some truly bizarre and horrific allies. The novel, happily for its size, moves along at a good pace and has it share of powerful action sequences. In the end, we found the book exceptional and may just have to start digging up some of those earlier chapters. “Anno Dracula – Johnny Alucard” is really a whole lot of blood-curdling fun.

Monday, January 07, 2019


Written by Audrey Vernick
Illustrated by Steven Salerno
Clarion Books
40 pgs

Every now and then we’ll stretch the “fiction” umbrella of this column to include a true story. And we also love baseball and children’s books. So you can then imagine our delight in finding this particular title while surfing the internet one night.

During the days of the Great Depression, the Acerra family of New Jersey had 16 children, 12 boys and 4 girls. The boys, including their father, all loved baseball and played it all the time. Eventually they formed their own team and entered various local and county leagues. Imagine having enough boys to not only field a 9 man roster, but still have another 4 players on the bench. The Acerras were good and soon their reputation spread throughout the North East region.

When World War II came along, six of the brothers enlistd and went off to fight for their country. By God’s graces, and no doubt a mother’s constant prayers, all six came home. With peace time they soon returned to the sport they all loved. In the history of baseball there have only been 29 all brother teams.  The Acerras hold the record for having played the longest.

Writer Audrey Vernick does a superb job in not only capturing the historical facts of this amazing story, but she also imbues it with heart. While artist Steven Salerno is wonderful in his brash, cartoon styling that perfectly captures an era so vividly. If you like baseball, or simply a great human story, “Brothers at Bat” deserves your enthusiastic support.