Tuesday, December 29, 2020




By Max Allan Collins

Hard Case Crime

222 pgs

The best is left for last. Or so the old adage goes. From our perspective, never having read any of the previous books in this series, we are grateful to have read this supposed last entry. After reading “Skim Deep,” we truly regretted not having found and read the earlier Nolan titles. Nolan is a professional thief with a checkered past. As this tale unfolds, he’s now in his mid-fifties, living with a beautiful young lady half his age and, together, they operate a fancy dinner restaurant. Nolan has retired from his criminal ways, and with the apparent blessings of the Chicago Mob, is very content to be on the straight and narrow path. There’s little else he wants.

Which is what prompts him to propose to Sherry, his young lover and companion. He’s ready for a commitment even to the point of discussing the possibility of their having children together. Though somewhat shocked by his unexpected offer, Sherry waste no time in accepting and in no time flat, they are flying off to Los Vegas where they will get hitched at one of those kitschy chapels.

All the while this main plot is moving along, we are given a second and nastier narrative. During past capers, Nolan had killed two redneck brothers who had set out to double-cross him. What he was unaware of is that their mother, a widowed old witch living on an isolated country farm in Missouri, has a third son. Having discovered Nolan was responsible for the death of her older boys, Ma Comfort, manipulates Daniel, the youngest, to hunt down Nolan and get revenge for her.

The two plots fail to collide as Daniel shows up at Nolan and Sherry’s home only a few days after their departure to Los Vegas. Frustrated at first, the would-be killer then decides to stay in the area and use the time to carefully plan out his deadly welcome home for the newlyweds.

Collin flawlessly weaves both plots back and forth as if he’s braiding a storyline, making it only more suspenseful with every new twist and turn. Once in Vegas, Nolan connects with a few old friends unaware that his presence has made it possible for one of them put into motion a convoluted casino theft.

As always, Collins writing is cinematic and each scene is so wonderfully visualized, this reviewer couldn’t help but wish some Hollywood producer would option this for the big screen. Unlike a few of his other series wherein Collins purposely doesn’t delineate the actual look of his protagonist, with Nolan, we are told up front that he’s the spitting image of western movie actor Lee Van Cleef. You would think that in all of movieland, there would be several decent Van Cleef look-alikes. “Skim Deep,” is a delicious read with terrific characters and as always, so damn readable. Collins makes you feel as if you were sitting at a bar with him, as he spins his yarn. It’s that personal.

Finally, a tip of the pulp fedora to the folks at Hard Case Crime, for releasing three other early Nolan books in brand new editions, all sporting really beautiful covers by artist by Mark Eastbrook. Each of these is a gem.

Thursday, December 24, 2020



Edited by Adam Messer

Valhalla Books

229 pgs

Valhalla Books is a relatively new name in the pulp field and they are off to a great start with this premier anthology, “The Devil’s due.” Presented for your enjoyment are fourteen stories in which the main characters, much to their later regret, make packs with the Devil. It’s a classic theme, as Editor Messer points out in his introduction, and every one these fourteen scribes has a great deal of fun with that. So, we’re going to rank them here by our favorite on down.

“The Devil You Know,” by Shane Nelson is a poignant inspection of selfishness and its true cost to the human soul.

“Here Comes Mr. Herribone,” by Tim Jeffreys. A down and out comedy duo discovers the secret to fame in fortune in a bizarre costume head with disastrous results. Wonderfully creepy.

“Identity Theft,” by Rachel A. Brune. The Devil’s own private eye investigates what could be the first ever bogus contract given the Prince of Hell.  An original tale with different kind of world weary hero.

“Mary’s Secret,” by Winfield Strock III. Marty Todd Lincoln’s letter to a friend reveals the awful sacrifice made by her husband to end the Civil War which might contemn him to eternal damnation. Solid and intriguing.

“Genevieve and the Owl,” by Mark Allan Gunnells about a poor, village girl with a sorry lot in life until a magical owl offers several wishes. She manipulates him with a cunning he cannot predict. Fun story with nice surprise wrap up.

“Dante’s Tenth,” by Bobby Nash. The dessert town of Dante is quickly being settled by folks from strange places as a love sick newspaper reporter soon learns. Wonderful set up for a really well done weird western tale.

“The Black Rock,” by Alledria Hurt is a twisty little tale of a young woman desperate to become a bestselling author and the strange black rock with power to make her dreams come true. If she dares.

“Face It,” by Carol Gyzander. How important were his looks and standing in the community? Enough to kill his wife? But is it too late to make restitution. It all depends on the Judge. A creepy little thriller with an unexpected ending.

“The Plan,” by Josh Vasquez. Dillion grew up planning revenge against the minister who abused him as a child. What he didn’t count on was the demon in the cast. Rough, brutal tale not for the squeamish.

“The Resurrection and the Life,” by Jude Reid. A young medical school nearing the completion of his studies accidentally kills a man while drunk. To save himself he’s forced to deal with an unscrupulous whorehouse madam.

“The Known and True History of the Djin,” by Adam Messer. Wherein the book’s editor dons his writing cap and offers up the story of yet another writer willing to bargain away his life for fame. Though well written, the story’s rambling second half leads nowhere unexpected, as it should have.

“Sadie’s Choices,” by Ravyn Crescent. A girl kills her sister and makes a deal with the devil. Then at the end she tries to break the contract only to fall in love with Satan’s son. A complicated piece that left this reader both confused and unsatisfied.

“Good Samuel Ritton,” by Samuel R. Grosse. A father will do anything to protect his daughters from the world’s evils. Too predictable to be effective.

In all “The Devil’s Due” thirteen cautionary tales are fun, with a few being especially memorable. With it, Valhalla Books is off to an auspicious start. Bravo.


Friday, December 18, 2020




A Sheriff Aaron Mackey Western

By Terrence McCauley

Pinnacle Western

320 pgs


Series books are done in two ways. The first being each installment, though it might reference previous books, can stand on its own merits providing the reader with a beginning, middle and end. The second version is books are left with dangling plots forcing readers to pick up the next volume to see how things turn out.

In the first book of this series, writer Terrence McCauley gave is a tale that solidly adhered to option one; it stood complete by the finale. If we never bothered to pick up another Sheriff Aaron Mackey book, we would be okay with that. Whereas good writers generally do convince us to buy their future output. Which was why we went out and purchased the next three books in this series immediately, not wanting to miss any of them. We enjoy McCauley’s work that much.

Still, half-way through “Dark Territory,” we started getting that annoyed feeling that this one wasn’t going to wrap up by the last page. And we were correct in that assumption. It’s a cliffhanger that requires the reader to pick up the third book. Happy about that? Not really. But hey, let’s get to the actual plot.

Having saved the town of Dover Station Montana, Sheriff Aaron Mackey and his deputy, Billy Sunday, are concerned with how quickly the place is growing. This all due to investments by a rich New York financier named Rice. With the increased commerce brought by the railroad line, Rice sees economic potential and leaves his partner, Van Horn in charge of steering the town to its next level; one with lots of banks, hotels, restaurants etc. etc. In other words create a real boomtown. It is at this juncture that we are introduced to the story’s villain, an enterprising con artist named James Grant. Grant has a complex past having acquired multiple skills that allow him not only to manipulate others to do his bidding; he’s also ambitious and dreams of fame and fortune. All of which he’s going to obtain by becoming Dover Station’s Mayor and in so doing replace Rice’s vision with his own.

To accomplish this, Grant orchestrates Marxist inspired trouble among the construction workers and then hires men to rob the railroad to cause further unrest among the populace. His goal is to have Sheriff Mackey and Deputy Sunday thrown out of office and replaced with his own municipal police force. But Aaron Mackey’s no fool and he ultimately uncovers Grant’s grandiose scheme. Unfortunately he doesn’t have the evidence to stop what Grant has set in motion. Thus the book ends with no closure at all, leaving both antagonists aware of the threat the other poses but with no resolution.

So to sum up. If you picked up book one of this series, you’ll likely get “Dark Territory” and enjoy it. We did. But honestly, we hate having to wait for that final big battle that’s brewing in Dover Station.


Saturday, December 12, 2020




A Pendergast Novel

By Preston & Child

Grand Central Publishing

400 pgs

When authors make the bestseller lists as Preston and Child have done with their Special Agent Pendergast series, publishers love nothing better than filling two or three pages in each new book with review blurbs shouting the praises of the previous titles. Which is all well and good; however we’ve noticed a trend in several reviewers to compare this unique character with Arthur Conan Doyle’s legendary detective Sherlock Holmes. Of course there are similarities in that both men are brilliant and have uncanny skills in solving bizarre crimes. But we’d like to suggest the one classic fiction hero Agent Pendergast more clearly resembles is Walter Gibson’s pulp icon the Shadow.

How so?

The answer is in the formula of each series. Whereas Holmes took on his cases with a singular assistant, Dr. Watson, the Shadow was noted for orchestrating his investigation via a group of highly skilled operatives. From Margo Lane, to Harry Vincent, Shrevy and many, many others, the mysterious crime fighter oftentimes didn’t appear in the adventure until the climax; his agents having assembled the clues he required. Writers Preston and Child have, over a series of 18 Pendergast mysteries, done the same thing as this latest case so clearly demonstrates.

When over a hundred severed feet still encased in canvas shoes wash up on the beach of Captiva, Florida, a small, exclusive tourist town, FBI Special Agent Pendergast is assigned the baffling case. Whereas when operating from his homebase in New York City, the silver-haired Pendergast is often is assisted by Lt. Vincent D’Agosta, archeologist Nora Kelly or butler/chauffeur Proctor and others; all of them capable of standing toe to toe with any of the Shadow’s group.

Now, away from home, Pendergast employs another group of skilled individuals to assist him starting with his own ward, the mysterious Constance Greene, a young lady a whole lot older than normal science dictates. FBI Agent Coldmoon, half-Italian, half Lakota Sioux with a pension for burnt coffee and Sheriff P.B. Perelman, an intellectual turned peace officer. Over the course of their investigation, Pendergast’s team will cover the globe from manufacturing provinces in China to a small jungle village in Guatemala collecting the various strings that ultimately lead back to a twisted cabal that will stop at nothing to achieve their horrendous goals.

We’ve been a fan of the Pendergast series from the first entry and continue to relish each new book. “Crooked River” is one of the best thus far. If you love modern pulp fiction done with flair and panache, this one will keep you up all night.

Sunday, December 06, 2020




By Max Allan Collins with Matthew V. Clemens

Wolfpack Publishing

238 pgs

Max Collins is one of those writers who is constantly surprising us. After decades of offering up great mystery and crime tales, he then had us cheering wildly for his western actioners courtesy of the late Mickey Spillane’s cowboy hero, Caleb York. Now comes super-spy James Bond’s clone, John Sand.

The setting is the early 60s and a British novelist has become famous by fictionalizing the exploits of M1-6’s operative, John Sand. Obviously with such notoriety, Sand’s effectiveness as an agent is compromised and as the story opens, he has retired and married the beautiful Stacey Boldt, the beautiful heiress to a Texas oil tycoon. If that sounds familiar, think George Lazenby and Diana Riggs, we certainly did. It is wish fulfillment ala what might have happened had she survived. This book takes us there and it’s a wonderful ride.

Sand is sincere in his desire to leave his dangerous career behind and pursue his new role as an executive in his wife’s business empire. This all goes awry when, while on a trip to Carribean, he becomes entangled in a political assassination. Within days he’s summoned by President John F. Kennedy to a clandestine meeting in the desert of Utah where a Frank Sinatra western is being filmed. Kennedy suspects rogue agents of the C.I.A. are planning on assassinating Fidel Castro. After the disastrous failure of the Bay of Pigs, the last thing he wants is another embarrassing incident pointing back to the U.S. Reluctantly Sand agrees to go to Cuba and see if there is any validity to the President’s claims.

As always, Collins’ use of the time and culture are spot on and add so much to the rich texture of his narrative. Ultimately Sand uncovers an even greater threat and upon reporting to Kennedy, is once again manipulated into being the President’s personal secret agent. If that wasn’t enough of a headache, Stacey demands to tag along. If her husband is going to continue leading a double-life, then he is going to do it with her or else he can pack his bags and kiss their marriage sayonara.

If like us, you grew up reading Ian Fleming’s James Bond adventures, “Come Spy With Me” will feel like old home week. Not a bad way to kick off a new series, Mr. Collins & Clemens. Not bad at all.

Thursday, December 03, 2020




By Gary Phillips

Agora Books

232 pgs

In contemplating this particular review, we were reminded of the old McDonald’s campaign ad in which people were encouraged to increase their initial order from a simple burger and fries to Super-Size. Not that that was good for anyone’s overall health, but the idea of exaggerating something seems an appropriate theme here. You see,Matthew Alexander Henson (August 8, 1866 – March 9, 1955) was a real person. He was an explorer who joined Robert Peary on many Artic voyages over a period of twenty-three years. Best known for his part in the 1908-1909 expedition wherein Henson claimed to have been the first human to reach the geographic North Pole on April 6, 1909.

All of which describes a truly heroic character in the flesh. Now writer Gary Phillips has turned Henson into a bonafide pulp action hero; in other words, he Super-Sized him. And he did it with his usual writing flair and panache. The history setting is accurate throughout the book and it is obvious Phillips is having so much fun having Henson interact with such notable figures as crime boss Dutch Schultz and inventor Nikola Tesla. Focused on Harlem, characters like Langston Hughes and Bessie Coleman also appear and Phillips enjoys sharing little known facts about that part of the Big Apple during the post-World War One era. When reading historical pulp, and that’s what this is, we really appreciate these true facts.

The plot itself is a basic one. While on his last venture to the frozen North, Henson and a close Eskimo friend discovered a meteorite containing unbelievable energy. He is unclear as to what to do with the fragment he brought back with him. When he discovers certain unscrupulous men with money want to use it to power weapons of mass destruction, the world weary explorer is determined to thwart their plans. Thus begins a deadly hide and seek contest that leaves several people dead and threatens a horrific attack on a large public gathering where a noted black leader is speaking. Henson must convince his friends of the danger and recruit them to his cause in the hope they have time to avert calamity and save the day.

“Matthew Henson and the Ice Temple of Harlem” is a pulp romp, with a wonderful storyline filled with amazing characters, both real and fictional. Phillips, like the best musicians, never misses a beat between the drama and bullets flying. It’s a page turner from start to finish and we loved every bit of it.  

Sunday, November 29, 2020



Edited by Charles Millhouse

Stormgate Press

154 pgs

Kudos to writer/editor Charles F. Millhouse for creating as yet another pseudo/magazine devoted to New Pulp fiction. Note, PULP REALITY isn’t the first such as over the past decade or so various other outfits have tried their hands at bringing back that old style of storytelling. As with all such endeavors, this volume has its ups and downs, hits and misses. Let’s look at the good stuff first. This premier issue features seven fun stories, the majority of them well written. In fact a few are outright pulp gems.

“Showdown on Scavenger Quay” by Bobby Nash.  Lance Star and Captain Hawklin to team up to battle on foes. We’ve always enjoyed stories bringing together heroes and Bobby Nash is one of the most well established, capable writers in New Pulp today as this tale clearly demonstrates.

“Reel One for the B-Man” by Clyde Hall.  An old movie house is haunted by all but forgotten matinee cliffhanger heroes. The mere concept here is wonderful and any lover of classic cinema will be smiling broadly as the young hero finds himself morphing into well known heroes to bamboozle a group of biker thug thieves.

“Captain Hawklin and the Clockwork Buccaneer” by Brian K. Morris. A German operative steals American freighters enroute to England during Lend Lease. Though a decent story, we had the feeling the writer simply overcooked his stew with too many elements and it might have benefited with a touch more cutting.

“Testament of a Forgotten God” by Charles F. Millhouse. Captain Zane Carrington transports an aged professor to the middle of the Pacific Ocean for an appointment with Poseidon. Easily the best yarn in the book and masterfully told. Though the ending was no surprise, it was the one we hoped for. We really need to read more of his work. Going to recommend this one for the Pulp Factory Awards.

“Ace Anderson and the Curse of Doctor Atomika Part One” by Kellie Lynn Austin. Undersea adventure Ace Anderson and Huck Finn battle German agents attempting to gain the secret weapons of Atlantis. Fast paced and often times confusing, we could barely follow along as the narrative was so intent on action it left little room for characterization. Pulp is action and adventure, but we also need to believe the characters are real.

“Prepare to be Mr. Fye” by Pete Lutz. Detective Jinx Duncan has a special occult power bestowed upon him; that that might come in handy when going after criminals in the big city. This is another of those gems we mentioned earlier and as an original tale, it is delivered smoothly making us want to see what comes next.

“Mercury Rises” by Rick Bradley. Clock repairman and part time P.I. Jack Mercury is kidnapped into outer space and becomes the hero of his own fantastic adventure. Finally the entire collection ends on a grand note that clearly demands lots more. Bradley knows how to write and this one was fun. To repeat, a terrific way to lower the curtain on a spectacular first issue.

Okay, so now a personal critique. Whatever the publisher’s intent, the oversized format really doesn’t work. It is an awkward shape difficult to hold, even when reclining in one’s comfortable recliner. The average reader would appreciate its size made to conform to the actual classic pulp mags.

There you have it.  PULP REALITY is fresh and exciting and off to a grand start. Here’s hoping it is around for a long time to come.

Friday, November 27, 2020




A Celluloid Terrors Title

By P.J. Thorndyke

Available from Amazon

332 pgs

Scientist Claire Weldon and her family move to the small rural town of Ralston, California in the summer of 1957.  Daughter Judy and son Tommy soon find themselves embroiled with typical high school drama while stay-at-home-dad Ray Weldon is responsible for baby rose.  Everything seems to be going smoothly until a meteorite falls out of the sky one night and lands next to a series of water canals use to irrigate the local farms in the area.

What no one knows is the meteorite contained eggs for an alien life form that, after centuries of traveling through the cosmos, comes to life in the water. One ugly, octopus like creature that can sting humans with a mind-altering chemical that makes them its slaves. By the time Claire and Ray begin to suspect this fantastic threat, lots of the village’s most influential citizens have become the alien monster’s puppets.

If all this reminds you of the 50s and early 60s schlock sci-fi movie matinees, then you’ve just hit the bull’s-eye as that is exactly the tone writer P.J. Thorndyke is after and he achieves it beautifully. In the end, “Invasion of the Brain Tentacles” becomes a clever mash-up of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” with “Happy Days.” Need we say more? Go find this pulpy horror romp. It’s just too much fun.

Monday, November 16, 2020




By I.A. Watson

A Chillwater Publication

337 pgs

Okay, so let’s be extremely clear here, New Pulp scribe I.A. Watson is a genius. Period. In the time we’ve come to know him as a friend, collaborator and fan, he has constantly amazed us with his knowledge about….well, everything. Not only has he contributed to practically ever major New Pulp publisher out there, his new Sherlock Holmes adventures are marvelous and his recently completed retelling of the classic Robin Hood series for Airship 27 Production was incredible in both richness of storytelling and authentic historical background.

So what would you expect when Watson turns his amazing mental library on Greek Mythology? What you get is a truly bizarre mash up of myth and Gothic Romances. We won’t elaborate as the author himself pens an essay at the book’s end detailing the conception of this particular tale.

Kore Deione, the Maiden Goddess of Spring Harvest and the daughter of Zeus, is kidnapped by Hades, the King of the Dead. He has fallen madly in love with her and envisions her bringing to the Underworld a true completion it has never known. He sees what others can, but the task at had is to convince she, who he now calls the Lady Persephone, of his genuine love for her and the realization of what it can bring forth. And like any iconic Gothic Romance, Hades has a dark secret which the maid is obsessed to uncover, even if it means her own ruination.

With “The Death of Persephone” Watson has infused pagan myths with a decidedly salvation perspective that puts an exciting philosophical twists on the most important trinity of them all; life, love and death. It is an original, fresh tale and yet as old as time. We loved every single page.


Tuesday, November 10, 2020




By Thomas Mann

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Publishing

22 pgs


So we are on Amazon buying books recently when we see the cover to “A Christmas Carol at 221 B.” What? A Sherlock Holmes Christmas story. Okay, we need to read this one. We put in our order and the book arrives three days later. To our amused surprised, it is a very, very, VERY small book totally a grand 22 pages. All of which tell a truly amazing, wonderful story perfect for the holiday season.

It is Christmas Eve and Holmes and Watson, both in their later years, are warm and safe in their 221 B digs enjoying a glass of wine and smoke while outside a wintry storm blows. Holmes finds himself melancholy, the rarest of all rarities for this man and Watson immediately inquires as to why. Holmes replies that the answer lies in a long ago event in his youth past when, at the age of 24, he met a 95 year old Ebeneezer Scrooge.

Holmes tells Watson Dickens’ tale is all true and his experience provided the good doctor, and we readers, with a truly wonderful little sequel to what happened to all those marvelous people after Scrooge’s change of heart. There’s also a crime being hatched which young Holmes must grapple with to save the day.

In all, “A Christmas CAROL at 221 B” is a gem. Thank you Mr. Mann and Merry Christmas to us all.

Wednesday, November 04, 2020

THE BATTERED BADGE - A Nero Wolfe Mystery



A Nero Wolfe Mystery

By Robert Goldsborough

Mysterious Press

234 pgs

What we love about Robert Goldsborough new Nero Wolfe stories is his willingness to break the mold established by Wolfe’s creator, the late Rex Stout. Such a statement will certainly anger the purist out there, but we stand by it completely. No writer ever wants to bore his readers and a repetitive plot structure will guarantee that malaise eventually. Meaning quite simply, had Stout lived longer and continued to write new stories about his rotund sleuth, we can easily imagine him developing many of the same new elements Goldsborough has delighted us with over the past few years.

With “The Battered Badge,” Goldsborough centers his plot around one of the series most amiable supporting figures in Inspector Lionel Cramer, Wolfe’s opposite number on the NYPD. So many times Wolfe has frustrated the veteran copper in his pursuit of his duty, only in the end to hand him the killers and let the police take all the credit. It was easy for any astute reader to see both men respected each other but neither would ever admit it.

When a popular anti-crime personality is gun downed gangland style, criticism is directed at the police immediately and the new commissioner, bowing to political pressure, has Cramer relieved of his duties. The Homicide Division replacing him is an egotistical incompetent. This is extremely bothersome to both Wolfe and Archie and invariably they are caught up in the case even before they have an actual client. Goldsborough is clever enough to make us wait for the eventual meeting between Cramer and Wolfe. The last thing in the world Wolfe wants is for Cramer to know he is manipulating events to have the dedicated lawman reinstated.

Meanwhile Archie and fellow P.I. Saul Panzer continue to interview likely suspects all of which leads to a climatic gathering in police headquarters. Not the brownstone. And that is all we’ll reveal here, daring not to spoil what was one of the most enjoyable finales this series has ever delivered. Thank you, Mr. Goldsborough, for keeping these great characters fresh and exciting. Mr. Stout would have approved.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

THE BIG SHOWDOWN - A Caleb York Western



A Caleb York Western

By Mickey Spillane & Max Allan Collins

Pinnacle Western

283 pgs

Several years ago we reviewed “The Legend of Caleb York.” It was an adaptation by Max Allan Collins of a movie screenplay by the late Mickey Spillane. We liked it a great deal and believe it was a one-shot at that time. Later we learned Collins had been persuaded to write four additional books featuring the gun fighting sheriff of Trinidad, New Mexico. Earlier in the year we received the fourth (The Last Stage to Hell Junction) and the fifth (Hot Lead, Cold Justice). Both were excellent and we said so in our respective reviews of each title.

Of course having now enjoyed three Caleb York oaters, there was no way we were going leave out the second and third entries. Our apologies for reviewing them out of chronicle order. Actually, Collins is so good at filling-in his readers with the start of each novel, readers needn’t worry. Each title stands on its own quite well. With “The Big Showdown,” we find ourselves arriving in the growing little town six months after the events of the first tale in which legendary gunfighter Caleb York rescued the community from the corrupt tyrannical sheriff Gauge and his band of killers. Having done so, he reluctantly accepted the sheriff’s badge until the citizen’s committee could appoint a qualified replacement.

It is York who recommends his old friend, Ben Wade for the job. Wade is an aging lawman looking for a peaceful town in which to settle and at the offset it seems like he and Trinidad were made for each other. That having been established, York is set to continue his journey to San Diego where he had hoped to sign on with the Pinkerton Detective Agency. Fate intervenes at the last minute when three masked men are caught in the act of robbing the local bank. In the ensuing gun battle, York manages to shoot of the robbers but the third, while making his speedy getaway, manages to shoot and kill Wade. Seeing his friend lying dead on the street, Caleb York vows to find the third crook and bring him to justice; be that a bullet or the hangman’s noose. At the same time retrieve the stolen money which was most of the town’s economic base.

Of course like any Max Collins tale, there is always a mystery to be dealt with. York becomes suspicious that the three men who committed the crime might have had help from an unknown source. No sooner begins his investigation when a new figure appears on the scene. He’s Zachary Gauge, a New York businessman and the last living heir to the former sheriff. It seems this Gauge has inherited his dead cousin’s estate. This includes several ranches and interests in many local enterprises. Then the new Gauge declares he will cover the bank’s losses with his own money, which quickly makes him very popular with towns folk; especially Willa Cullen, the daughter of a rancher with whom York is smitten.

As always, Collins moves his story along at a good clip and it’s obvious he’s enjoying himself bringing these iconic western characters to life. Each and everyone one of them is a familiar player to those of us who love westerns and he does them perfectly. The dialog is both amusing and lively and the shoot-outs brutally vivid. “The Big Showdown” deserves its title and then some. So saddle up, readers. This one is another keeper.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020



By Clive Cussler & Jack Du Brul

Putnam Paperback

466 pgs

In 1973, Clive Cussler, the master of modern pulp fiction, wrote “Raise the Titanic” as part of his popular Dirk Pitt underwater adventures series. It was a huge hit and would become the first of only two Dirk Pitt books to ever be made into a movie. The other was “Sahara” many years later. But we digress. In “Raise the Titanic” Pitt is charged with not only finding the famous ocean liner’s resting place, but bringing it up all to retrieve thousands of pounds of a rare metal lying in the ship’s vaults. Metal that had been mined by nine Coloradans working for the French government believing its radioactive properties would be extremely valuable. Of course Pitt succeeds and the old ship manages to conclude its voyage, arriving in New York where American agents are waiting to take possession of the ore. End of story. Or so we all thought.

Jump ahead a few decades and the ever creative Cussler invents a new hero in detective Isaac Bell, who lived and worked during the turn of the century. After his debut in the novel “The Chase,” Cussler then handed over the reins of the Bell adventures to the very capable Justin Scott. Scott would do nine Isaac Bell books before Cussler’s passing last year. Considering the Isaac Bell series was only one of several such spin-off series being produced, fans and reviewers alike had to wonder if any of them would continue now that Cussler was gone. Before his death, he had brought his own son, Dirk Cussler, on board to cowrite the Dirk Pitt books and we assume the younger Cussler will keep that flagship series alive. But what about the others?

Well “The Titanic Secret” is a partial answer, though it does raise a few other questions. Not only is it a new Bell story, but it is one that actually ties in with unanswered plot holes from the classic “Raise the Titanic.” It goes much further into the background of who those nine Colorado miners were, how they came to be involved with the project and Isaac Bell’s part in rescuing them from the frigid coast of Siberia and the action packed odyssey they undertake to reach England to see the ore loaded on that ill-fated trip. The other intriguing issue is it the fact that the book is authored not by Scott, but by another Cussler long-time collaborator, Jack Du Brul. Readers of the Oregon Files series will be familiar with Du Brul’s name; he’s penned six of those.

This was our first introduction to his fiction and we came away truly impressed. “The Titanic Secret” moves at breakneck speed from the Rocky Mountains, to the Paris, then the fjords of Norway to the coast of Siberia, the Scottish countryside and finally the docks of England without let up. Granted, Du Brul’s take on the character of Bell is not exactly as we’ve become familiar with via Justin Scott’s interpretation. There’s less finesse and unlike his own series, he pretty much goes it solo in this book. Still, it works and we applaud it as a great new addition to the series as a whole. That Cussler would have planned this strange interaction between his two most amazing heroes, Dirk Pitt and Isaac Bell, though they lived in different times, is truly wonderful and in the end a treat for all lovers of great adventure fiction. Cussler fans will revel in delight. We sure as hell did.


Monday, October 26, 2020

The Eldritch New Adventures of BECKY SHARP



New Expanded Edition

By Micah S. Harris

Minor Proft Press

181 pgs

What follows is our review of the first edition released in 2008. All we’d add to it is the expanded edition has more wonderful artwork and a cleaner overall design. Still a great book.

 One of the true rewards of this job is being able to share with all of you amazing books that, for one reason or another, simply do not get the exposure and acolytes they deserve. This is such a case. It overflows with so much old fashion adventure, I’m hard pressed to describe the fun I had reading it. Be aware, it is not a graphic novel, despite both its gorgeous cover, by artist Loston Wallace, and its comic dimensions. It is a prose novel, but packaged differently with a nice overall design. It’s both very easy to handle and read. For those of you not versed in classic English literature, Becky Sharp is the heroine of William Makepeace Thackeray’s 1947 novel, VANTIY FAIR; a book that satirized the mores of 19th century English society. Harris actually teaches English Lit, thus his familiarity and obvious fascination for the character. But it is what he does with her in this madcap tale that is pure pulp genius. Since the lovely lass came to a rather tragic ending in the Thackeray version, Harris’s offers us a duplicate Becky Sharpe from an alternate world. In this reality, Becky is recruited by a sect of Lovecraftian aliens posing as human to help them defeat a rival monster known as Tulu. But to do so, Becky will first have to be granted immortality and then sent on a globe-spanning quest to obtain the required talismans needed to defeat Tulu. Once her journey begins, through both geography and time, Becky manages to meet Asheya, known as She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed, encounters the giant gorilla Kong of Skull Island, enters into a passionate romance with the Scarecrow of Romney Marsh, travels with Nemo and battles a super strong Egyptian Mummy alongside the Ape Man of the African Jungle. And these are only a few of her amazing exploits. The delight of this book is not only its marvelous conceit, but Harris’ talent as a gifted writer. His use of language is deft and exact, with a very beautiful command of style. The narrative has such grace as to carry to reader along effortlessly, all the while painting unbelievable scenes of action and daring-do with panache. This is easily one of the best books I’ve read all year. Last word, if you enjoy reading fresh and original fiction, then consider picking up THE ELDRICTH NEW ADVENTURES OF BECKY SHARP as a Christmas gift to yourself. You can order it at Amazon or go directly to the publisher on-line at (www.booksofmicah.com). Tell them I sent you.


Friday, October 16, 2020



Edmond Hamilton’s Captain Future


By Allen Steele

Experimenter Publishing

195 pgs


We first discovered sci-fi writer Edmond Hamilton while in high school and immediately became a fan of his unique action/adventure stories. Unlike the hard science fiction of writers like Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke, Hamilton gave us Flash Gordon – Buck Rogers style tales we later learned to identify as “space operas.” As time went on we read more and more of Hamilton’s work but these were the 60s and we simply were unfamiliar at that time with his sci-fi pulp hero, Captain Future. The closest we came to that part of his legacy was when he created the Star Wolf series for a paperback outfit. We find it odd that in his bio at the back of this volume, that particular series is totally forgotten.

But we digress. Fact is during the heyday of the pulps Hamilton created Curt Newton, a tough as nails science hero and his team; a robot, a cyborg and an encased human brain. They were known as the Futuremen and over time their adventures brought about a truly loyal fanbase. One of these was writer Allen Steele who dreamed of one day writing new Captain Future novels. This book is part of that dream fulfillment. Although we should mention it is not first Captain Future book he wrote. That was published by another publisher and if you’re lucky, you might find copies at second-hand retailers via Amazon. For now, our focus is on this now on-going series established by the folks operating under the famous Amazing Stories banner.

In “The Guns of Pluto,” one of Newton’s old foes, the Black Pirate, attacks an interplanetary prison on the frozen planet. He then sends a message back to our hero claiming to hold two important hostages who will be executed unless Captain Future arrives on the site within the next twenty-four hours. Naturally Newton and his allies know the Black Pirate has an ulterior motive, other than simply besting his nemesis. What that is can only be uncovered if Captain Future acquiesces to his demands and thus begins the adventure.

Sure enough, once on Pluto, there are betrayals and surprises in store for our hero and his Futuremen. Eventually they learn the Black Pirate’s plan; a daring space voyage that if it succeeds will have severe consequences for the entire galaxy. Like all the classic pulps of old, “The Guns of Pluto” is a fast paced, rollicking adventure and Steele’s re-imagining of the Futermen is terrific. His writing has a sophisticated edge we truly believe Hamilton would have happily approved of. Just one note of caution, loyal readers. The book does not have an ending but climaxes with a cliffhanger to be resolved in the next volume. This may turn some of you away, but for this reviewer, it was a marvelous tease that worked. We cannot wait for the next installment.

Monday, October 12, 2020

BLACK STILETTO - Endings & Beginnings


THE BLACK STILETTO – Endings & Beginnings

By Raymond Benson

Oceanview Publishing

324 pgs

Sometimes a series is so damn good, we wish it would never end. Whereas going into Raymond Benson’s homage to old fashion comicbook superheroes, we knew that it would be told in five installments. From our initial delight at the first volume, each new chapter not only thrilled and entertained us, but at the same time saddened us as we could see the finale approaching.

Without repeating my reviews for the previous volumes, let’s get into how magnificent that ending is. The story picks up exactly where book four, “Secrets and Lies” left off. Judy Copper, aka as the masked vigilante Black Stiletto is in Los Angeles in 1962 involved with a handsome criminal named Leo Kelly. Kelly has aspirations to rise in the hierarchy of the Vegas mob run by brutal Italian family. But his beautiful, but psycho sister, Christina, isn’t willing to wait and disguised as the Black Stiletto, she murders the Boss’s daughter and later one of his top lieutenants.

Judy is trying to clear her name when she discovers she’s pregnant with Leo’s baby. That pretty much turns her world upside down. All this is told via Judy’s diaries now in the possession of her adult son, Martin Talbot. In present time, an aged Judy is confined to a senior facility suffering advanced Alzheimer’s and nearing her last days. When two criminal hitmen from Texas show up and nearly kill Martin, he realizes his mother’s past exploits are about to catch up with them. Meanwhile is own daughter, Gina, has become an expert in martial arts and reminds him all too much of his mother. When he finally reveals Judy’s secret to Gina, she volunteers to travel to Odessa and uncover exactly what happened there decades earlier.

Though most of the interweaving threads are predictable, that doesn’t in any way diminish their impact as Benson has created truly likeable characters that the reader comes to know and love. The last few chapters pack an emotional wallop that had us brushing back tears. This has been an exceptional series brilliantly told with heart and understanding. And there’s even an opportunity for a “new” Black Stiletto, one we truly hope Mr. Benson will explore some day.


Sunday, October 04, 2020




A Hollywood Cowboy Detectives Adventure

By Darryle Purcell

A Buckskins Edition

144 pgs.

Okay, so right up front, we love this series by Arizona writer Darryle Purcell. The concept is a fun one and the action revolves around Republic Studios in the early 1940s. At that time they were pumping out B westerns super fast. Folks like Tom Mix, Gene Autry, and Tim McCoy were the childhood heroes of boys and girls across the country. Curly Woods is the studio’s flack, i.e. marketing rep with the task of promoting these horse operas and their stars via newsprint, radio and the popular newsreels. Curly’s boss is Rick Danby, an Executive Producer at the studio while his brother, Nick Danby, works as a chauffeur for the company. Curly and Nick are beer drinking buddies who regular chum around with silent film cowboy Hoot Gibson. The three of them are the principal protagonists in the series of which “The Mystery of the Cowboy Summit” is the tenth.

In each new book, Purcell often features cameos by other popular stars of the time. In this story, Federal Agents working for President Franklin Roosevelt have come to recruit the trio to be his “goodwill” ambassadors at a South American political summit to be held in Brazil. The affair will be attended by dozens of foreign business men from the surrounding countries and Roosevelt hopes to assure their allegiance should the war in Europe ultimately reach our shores. Knowing these cowboy personalities are recognized and admired throughout South America, Roosevelt believes they are the perfect envoys to win over these powerful financiers.

Tagging along this time is Buck Jones and Crash Corrigan. Of course like all previous capers, once in the Amazon jungles of Brazil, en-route to the fancy hacienda where the summit will be held, our guys soon learn there are other aspects of their mission the G-Men failed to mention. They find a field of giant corn inhabited by giant bugs, scorpions, worms and spiders. They are told this is all due to a super growth chemical invented by one Dr. Anita Lafond, a guest on the ranch. The idea is to supposedly perfect this potion and sell it to American farmers; the giant insects are a by-product not yet resolved. This is all well and good until they discover the ranch’s owners, Dom Sebastian and his sister Maria, may be German agents in cahoots with opium growing Arabs also in bed with Third Reich.

As ever it doesn’t take long for the action to ramp up and pretty soon our Cowboy envoys are in the battle of their lives attempting to stop thwart an insidious Nazis’ plan while at the same time having to rescue the innocent diplomats caught in the crossfire. Purcell, as in all his previous books, knows his history and depicts the characters with as much authenticity as his wild tale will allow. Himself an Army veteran of Vietnam, he’s familiar with weaponry and combat. He’s also proud patriot unashamed to cheer the old red, white and blue.

The Hollywood Cowboy Detectives series is one of the finest in New Pulp today. “The Mystery of the Cowboy Summit” is an excellent addition to it and now we can’t wait for the next one.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020




By B.C. James

Available at Amazon

96 pgs.

Having read some of our reviews, writer B.C. James send along his self-published “Cursed Sands” asking if we’d read and review it. Coming in at only 96 pgs, this volume is a novella which gives proof to the old adage, “Big things come in small packages.” In those 96 pages, James packs enough action and adventure to equal any of the currently bloated bestselling paperbacks on the market today.

The setting is Iraq today and four members of an American military squad are traveling through the desert when they are attacked by terrorists. After firing several shots, the black-clad enemy runs away and Corporal Kace McCrae suspects the soft-contact was simply a ploy to lead them into an ambush. The shooters have fled into the ruins of the ancient city of Babylon. Being a one time seminary student, Kace is aware of the city’s history and curse. Still, his men support his decision to pursue the enemy. Leaving their armored vehicle behind, they enter the ruins.

Immediately upon doing so, they find themselves caught in an alternate reality as other buildings and edifices suddenly materialize all around them. With them come living nightmares actually culled from their own imaginations. When one of them is brutally murdered, the three remaining soldiers realize they are now battling the supernatural. Their new battleground is home to weird, twisted demons who take pleasure in torturing their victims.

Throughout the tale, James never lets the pacing lag, propelling his narrative along while at the same time expertly defining his characters so that in a relatively short time, we found ourselves rooting for them. There is also a healthy does of humor that is very indicative of men in combat, a dark gravesite jesting that adds another layer to an already terrific read.  Will Cpl. McCrae and his men survive? And if so, how? “Cursed Sands” is pure pulp, loyal readers and we enjoyed every single page of it. You will too.

Saturday, September 26, 2020




By J.P. Linde

El Dorado Publishing

310 pages


What happens when a comedian takes it upon himself to write a pulp adventure? What you get, if you’re lucky, is a wacky, fast-paced and totally outrageous tale called “Son of Ravage.” Now attempting to satirize something that is already satirical could give one headaches. Pulps were never meant to be taken seriously and by their very nature they were exaggerated stories filled with larger than life characters. Whereas Linde opts to up the ante and make his own characters ever more audacious.

Can you image Doc Savage having a son? One who is unaware of his heritage, is brought up by adoptive parents and at the age of thirty is a shiftless slacker with absolutely no ambition at all. That’s Barry Levitt and unbeknown to poor Barry, his real father was none other than the 40s world trotting adventurer, Rock Ravage. Whereas by some quirk of cosmic destiny, Barry, like his famous sire, has accumulated four colorful pals who are extremely loyal to him. They include Doc, portly chemist, Brain, an intellectual genius, Face, a self-centered thespian and Beast, a rough and tumble redneck with an addiction to action. Thus, when a mercenary named Tanktop (he wears a mini-tank turret on his head that actually has a firing canon) attempts to kill Barry, his friends come to his aid and thus begins their quest to learn who is real father was and why people are tying their best to end his life.

Sound wild and madcap? It is. Honestly, from killer robots guarding an underground marijuana field to space aliens hiding in the ocean, a family of Bigfoots on the loose in the Northwest and a mechanical dinosaur on a lost tropical island. These are just some of the dangers the five will encounter as they race to find the actual mastermind; the villain who actually murdered Barry’s dad.

“Son of Ravage” is hilarious and a really fun read. Enough so that we’ll forgive Linde for constantly misspelling HANGAR; you know, those big structures on airfields that house aircraft. Hangers with an E are for hanging up clothes. And will hardly mention that pathetic excuse for a pulp cover. Really? A book filled with so many wonderful, zany characters and this was the best you could put together to sell it? Shame, shame.

That all being said, we loved this book. All too often pulp scribes forget the element of humor and offer up intense stories with so much angst, one wonders what actual enjoyment can be had from these offerings. Whereas “Son of Ravage” is pure entertainment from start to finish. And we’ll swear to that on a stack of classic pulps any day of the year.

Saturday, September 19, 2020




By Chuck Dixon

Wolfpack Publishing

241 pgs

We’ve been wanting to read a Chuck Dixon Levon Cade book from some time now. As always, time seemed to get away from us. According to Amazon, there are seven of these with this one being the latest. Before anything else, let us state the book was a gift from the writer, who is a friend. But that has never stopped us from posting an honest review.

From what is only hinted at in “Levon’s Home,” our protagonist is a military veteran of recent Middle Eastern conflicts and known in his Alabama hometown as some kind of war hero. There are also brief mentions of post-service duty with secret government agencies. Again, we really need to pick up those first six books. Whereas this one is fairly easily laid out. Cade is a widower living with his Uncle Fern and daughters Merry and Hope in the country. When an ex-con cousin named Teddy comes to see him, it is with an unusual plea. Teddy’s ten years old son Jason, who lived with his ex-wife, has disappeared and Teddy wants Levon to help find him.

At Uncle Fern’s urging, Levon reluctantly agrees and begins his own investigation by questioning the mother and confiscating the boy’s laptop. At the same time the local sheriff is dealing with other cases of missing boys and it soon becomes obvious that Jason’s disappearance isn’t an isolated event. Someone with deep pockets is kidnapping these boys and holding them as sex slaves for powerful men with perverted souls.

By the time Levon begins to put the pieces together, he’s ready to mete out his own brand of “southern” justice and the bodies start to pile up. Dixon isn’t one to shy away from the horrors that infest the human spirit and the required merciless retribution required to combat it. Something Levon Cade has no trouble dispensing. “Levon’s Home” is an old fashion pot-boiler that our fingers turning pages as fast as a casino blackjack dealer flipping cards. Action junkies, this is the good stuff. Don’t miss it.