Monday, May 10, 2021

GET OUT OF TOWN

 

GET OUT OF TOWN

An Aaron Mackey Western

By Terrence McCauley

Pinncacle Western

341 pgs

This is book three in Terrence McCauley’s series featuring ex-Cavalry Captain Aaron Mackey and is black former Sergeant, Billy Sunday. If you haven’t read the first two entries, we’d advise you to put this volume back on your bookshelf and go do that right now. We can wait.

Okay, we’ll assume books one and two have now been devoured and you are all wondering what comes next. At the end of book two “Dark Territory” the corrupt politician James Grant had been elected the mayor of Dover Station Montana; a fast growing community thanks in large part to the arrival of the railroad. Annoyed that Mackey and Sunday are on to his illegal activities, Grant attempts to have them dealt with by doing away with the sheriff office in favor of a formal police department to be headed up by a former Texas Ranger named Underhill. Whereas Mackey, having been informed of Grant’s ploy ahead of time, sought the aide of a rich railroad financier named Rice, who in turn had a federal judge swear in Mackey as a U.S. Marshal, thus trumping any mayoral decrees from Grant.

Book three opens with Marshal Mackey chasing after the viscious Hancock gang run by Henry Hancock whose base of operation is a nearboring township named after his family, Hancock. As most of the citizens are in one way or another related to the clan headed by the cruel and brutal Mad Nellie Hancock, Mackey is well aware he’s riding into a rattler’s den in which he’ll receive no assistant from any of the residents. But his luck holds true and he manages to locate the gang before reaching the hamlet. What follows is a bloody shoot-out. McCauley is adept at these and there are never any shortages of such scenes in his books.

While Mackey is dealing with the Hancocks, Deputy Sunday finds himself caught up in a brutal and mysterious affair. The bodies of three Chinese prostitutes were discovered in a newly constructed building among the once raucous tent city inhabited by cattlemen and minors flocking to Dover Station to enjoy its many gambling house and bordellos. All three victims had their throats slit. Mayor Grant wants Sunday and Underhill to make the killings known immediately to stir up publicity and give himself a platform from which to rouse his constituency. Billy Sunday is no one’s fool and suspecting a deep ulterior motive behind the Mayor’s request, opts to forestall any such announcement until he has had time to further investigate the murders. All of which leads him to a deadly confrontation with the mad killer and his blood stained blade.

Like the previous two books, “Get Out Of Town” is a wonderfully plotted story with enough twists and turns to keep readers guessing. McCauley’s characters are rich and extremely well defined. They all invoke a strong, frontier flavor giving us a glimpse at just how difficult life was in the years after the Civil War and the toll it exacted on the men and woman who went west in order to tame a country and start new lives. Westerns don’t get any better than this series. As ever, the climax is fitting but McCauley’s holding back an ace for that final volume and we can’t wait to see how he’ll play it.

 

Sunday, May 02, 2021

RELENTLESS

 

RELENTLESS

A Gray Man Novel

By Mark Greaney

Berkley

512 pgs

Imagine the cloak and dagger finesse of Ian Fleming’s James Bond spy novels blended with Tom Clancy military techno-thrillers and you get the Gray Man. Author Mark Greaney, according to the publisher’s promotional write-ups, traveled the world to research the locations of his books at the same time studying military strategies and weapons and battlefield medicine with specialist in those respective fields. All to bring a clear authentic background to his wonderfully outrageous pulp hero, the Gray Man.

The Gray Man is the codename of Courtland Gentry, one of three unique and deadly spies known as the Poisoned Apples. They often operate independently of any official government agency, though their Spy Master is the Deputy Director of Operations for the CIA, Matthew Hanley. Gentry’s colleagues are Zach Hightower, codname Romantic and former Russian agent Zoya Zakharova, codename Anthem. Each is a professional provocateur resigned to the life they have chosen for themselves. Each possesses a high moral center, but is not averse to killing those they believe pose a threat not only to America, but the entire world.

In this, the tenth book in the Gray Man series, a cunning Arab Prince has crafted an ingenious plot to manipulate the U.S. into going to war with Iran. His goal is to totally destroy the Shia caliphate. Thus he assumes convinces the current Washington Administration that he is their ally and threw a series of deft clandestine operations prepares to launch his final gambit.

Thick books today tend to put off casual readers. Be aware at 501 pgs, this is not an overnight read, unless of course you are into speed-read. Otherwise prepare to enjoy a full course meal, as Greaney throws in not only his main plot but several juicy subplots each intriguing and complete realized. In all his narrative is a complex quilt filled with tons of exactly written action sequences comparable to any ever done on the silver screen. This is action-adventure with capital As. We thoroughly enjoyed meeting the Gray Man and we think you will too.

Monday, April 19, 2021

SHOOT-OUT AT SUGAR CREEK


 SHOOT-OUT AT SUGAR CREEK

A Caleb York Western

By Mickey Spillane & Max Allan Collins

Kensington Books

Available April 27 - 2021

222 pages

 The sixth chapter in the Caleb York series picks up where the fifth ended, with the people of Trinidad New Mexico dealing with the aftermath of the worst winter recorded in the west. Many of the local ranchers, having lost most of their stock, have packed up and left the territory, while Willa Cullen, owner of the big Bar-O, is struggling with a decimated herd and a lack of clean running water to support them. The only unfouled source is Sugar Creek which sits on neighboring Circle G land.

As the story opens, the once abandoned ranch is bought by a beautiful widow named Victoria Hammond, who entertains grandiose plans to become the richest, most powerful figure in the county. Events get off on less than desirable footing when Sheriff Caleb York is forced to shoot and kill Victoria’s youngest of three sons for raping and savagely beating a local working girl. Upon meeting the woman to respectfully report the circumstances of the shooting, York discovers that she has no intentions of allowing any other ranchers access to Sugar Creek. She is also planning on buying out Willa for pennies on the dollar. No stranger to past range wars, York finds himself in the precarious role of peace-keeper, between the woman he loves and the ambitious widow Hammond. 

Along about this time, we found ourselves musing over Collins’ ingenuous plot with its echoes of a several classic television settings. Thus far the adventures of Caleb York and Trinidad have seemed much like Matt Dillon in the popular Gunsmoke series. Whereas with this book, he offers up a dark-mirror image of another well known oater, The Big Valley; what with Victoria Barclay (note the same first name) and her three boys. That the two, York and Victoria Hammond are on a collision course is obvious from their first scene together. Then, in his usual masterful touch, Collins ups the ante and violence erupts quickly towards the tale’s second half leaving blisters on our fingers. We simply could not put it down. The end was so Mickey Spillane, it was eerie.

We’ve enjoyed all the Caleb York books but this one clearly stands out as a high mark. Nobody spins a yarn like Max Collins. Nobody.

 

Monday, March 29, 2021

BENEDICT & BRAZOS #2 - A Badge For Brazos

 

BENEDICT & BRAZOS

# 2  Badge For Brazos

By E. Jefferson Clay

Bold Venture Press

Yank Duke Benedict and Reb Hank Brazos need a stake to continue their hunt for outlaw Bo Rangle who knows the whereabouts of $200,000 dollars stolen at the end of the Civil War. To that end they come to the small town of Harmony run by a loud-mouthed, over-sized Madam named Dutch Amy. She and her partners have discovered that the silver mine in the nearby hills actually has new, richer veins of the ore as yet untapped. Whereas the local mining camp of Whipple Creek believes the mine to have been played.

Fearing the miners will learn of the undug riches, she and her men begin a campaign of terror in hopes of forcing them to abandon the territory. This in turn creates several gun battles between the cowboys and miners that threaten the entire township. Upon seeing Brazos fighting skills, Dutch Amy appoints him Sheriff thinking him a stupid yokel she can easily manipulate. Alas, much to her chagrin, Brazos takes the job seriously and soon, along with Benedict’s assistance, he begins to investigate the recent rash of killings.

All of which leads to a violent gun-blasting confrontation between the two saddle partners versus Dutch Amy’s small army of hired gun. Once again Jefferson Clay demonstrates his flair for writing fast paced, colorful western action that moves across the pages like a runaway stampede of Texas Longhorns. This is Wild West at its Wildest!! Not to be missed.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

EVOLUTION MAN

 

EVOLUTION MAN

By Charles E. Millhouse

Stormgate Press

265 pgs

Young Caidin Wells is thrill seeker. Anything from fast cars to skydiving, he willing signs regardless of the risk. Only in his twenties, he thinks himself invulnerable. Then one day his hand slips off a mountain face and Caidin plunges hundreds of feet to the earth. He awakens in a hospital miraculously alive thanks to his mother, Carol Wells, a microbiologist working on human nananites. Nananites are tiny little robots capable of traveling through a person’s blood and repairing any bodily harm done no matter how severe the injury. Although not given the green light by her employer for human testing, Carol realizes the only chance her son has to survive is by injecting him with the nanobots. He does survive and soon discovers his body is a whole lot more than just healthy, it’s on the cusp of being supercharged.

Now if this sounds all familiar, author Millhouse never hides the fact that his hero is in fact his version of the sixties television series “Six Million Dollar Man.” In fact his use of the Christian name Caidin is a respectful tip of the pulp fedora to writer Martin Caidin, the writer who created Steve Austin, the test pilot virtually rebuilt by science.

Millhouse’s use of nanonites is not at all that far-fetched as modern science and medicine are actually testing these microscopic agents today in research labs around the country. Once having accepted this familiar tale, we’re left with two primary plot objectives. The first is how will our young hero adapt to his brand new body? That’s a foray into the character’s personality, his strengths and his vulnerabilities and is extremely well handled throughout. The dynamics between Caidin and his mother, plus other supporting figures is believable on so many levels.

Whereas this is a pulp adventure, we have a second plot; that of the billionaire villain, Armand Devereux, Carol’s employer. He wants to control her discoveries and ultimately build a private army of nano-charged super mercenaries. Devereux, like all good villains, yearns not for cash, but for power. All the power in the world. 

In the end, we thoroughly enjoyed this novel and recommend it highly. Millhouse is a more than capable writer and his actions sequences precisely laid out. But there remains an unsatisfying finale. Sure we knew going in this would be the first of a series, but of the two objectives we mentioned earlier, the only one comprehensively dealt with in this opening chapter was that of Caidin’s adjustment; which will obviously continue in subsequent volumes. Whereas the second is left way too much unresolved. Really?

Friday, March 19, 2021

BARSTORMERS Book Two

 

BARNSTORMERS  Book Two

By Matthew Bieniek

Available at Amazon

207 pgs

College grads Kristina “Kiki” Hansen and Bridget Doyle continue their adventures as high flying barnstormers while continuing their undercover work as agents for the international police agency known as ICPO. In this volume the girls find themselves in gangster-ridden Chicago still chasing after the mysterious villain known as the Belgian. Frustrated with their constant interference in his schemes, he wants nothing more than to see the girls eliminated permanently.

Along the way Kiki finds romance in a handsome young man and ends up crossing paths with Al Capone’s chief assassin, Frank Nitti. Managing to survive their stay in the Windy City the girls then travel to St. Louis to find work with another Flying Circus and this time encounter an aviator named Charles Lindbergh.

Once again Matthew Bieniek offers up a wonderful look back into America’s past when daring young men and women saw aviation as the nation’s future with boundless economic potential. They were the pioneers of the clouds and living large was their way of life. None more exciting and colorful than Kiki and Bridget.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

THE BLOODY SPUR - A Caleb York Western

 

THE BLOODY SPUR

A Caleb York Western

By Mickey Spillane & Max Allan Collins

Pinnacle Books

270 pgs

This is the third of Max Collins’ five Caleb York adventures. York was a western character created by the late Mickey Spillane in a movie script possibly intended for his pal John Wayne. Collins adapted that script into “The Legend of Caleb York” and had it published. Happily the editors were taken with the book’s reception and asked him to do more featuring this new cowboy hero. Collins obliged by writing another four books. Obviously we’d have preferred to read them in the order in which they appeared but that not being possible, we were still determined to obtain all five books; read and review them.

Having settled comfortably in Trinidad, New Mexico, Sheriff Caleb York senses trouble brewing when an odd series of events transpire with days of each other. The first being the arrival into town of Alver Hollis, a notorious gunfighter named the Preacherman and his two saddle pals. Familiar with the man’s deadly history, York believes him to be a paid assassin who disguises his killings under the label of “self-defense.” The question plaguing York is exactly who is the Preacherman’s target in Trinidad. The second affair is the public hue and cry in regards to the Sante Fe Railroad proposing to build a spur line from Los Vegas to Trinidad. Whereas most of the towns leading merchants see the spur as an economic boon to the community, blind rancher George Cullen disagrees. This poses a serious hindrance as Cullen’s spread is the largest in the territory on which the railroad needs to cross to build their new spur. Naturally Cullen makes it known he is not about to grant them that right-of-way. It also doesn’t help that the stubborn old man is the father of Willa Cullen, the young woman York is smitten with.

 

Things begin to heat up and before Willa can convince her father to change his mind, the old man is found dead with evidence indicating he was murdered. What we truly loved about this particular entry in the series is how Collins skillfully shaped it into a western detective story and York proves to be as capable an investigator as he is a peace keeper. The clues are there, as Collins always plays fair, and we happily admit by the book’s finale, he’d smoothly misdirected us. That doesn’t happen often. Thus “The Bloody Spur” is another winner in this series. So, what do you say, Max Collins, got a sixth brewing in that wonderful imagination of yours? We really hope so.

Saturday, March 13, 2021

DIAMONDBACK - It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time

 

DIAMONDBACK

It Seemed Like a Good Idea At The Time

By Derrick Ferguson

Pro Se Press

165 pgs

There is absolutely nothing subtle about this book. It is a powerful, gang-blasting, take-no-prisoners crime thriller from start to finish. The setting is the fictional city of Denbrook, a modern day Sodom and Gomorrah filled to top of its highest skyscrapers with sin and depravity run by gang bosses that would have made ancient samurai warlords look like Boy Scouts. Into this hellhole of concrete and steel comes a notorious gangster named Diamondback Vogel who comes across like a mythological John Henry badass.

Of course the various bosses are immediately aware of his presence and all of them curious as to his agenda. There questions are quickly answered when, after only a few hours of his arrival, Diamondback is involved in a bloody shoot-out in one of the swankiest night clubs in the city. Later that same day he takes a meeting with as yet a second crime boss, this one known as the Magician because of his interest in arcane mysticism. A caravan of four 18 wheelers filled with illegal weapons is on its way to Denbrook. The Magician wants Diamondback to destroy three of the trucks and their cargo and bring him the fourth. Diamondback accepts the assignment well aware every other criminal organization in Denbrook will be at the designated locale with similar intentions.

Hours later, at one of the many abandoned warehouses in the area known as the Barrens, Diamondback single-handedly wages combat with all these other factions and by the time he escapes with the only remaining truck, several acres of real estate have been blown to smithereens. The political powers that be, local and federal police agencies are enraged and quickly began their own machinations to find and eliminate Diamondback use whatever means possible. Thus within a twenty-hour period he becomes the most wanted man in Denbrook.

To say we liked this book would be an understatement. One should note, Ferguson is a movie buff and the subtitle to this first Diamondback tale is taken from the classic western film, The Magnificent Seven. Whereas it was a particular Clint Eastwood oater that kept surfacing in our thoughts as we read the book. That one about the Nameless gunfighter who rides into the sleepy border town and soon begins playing one outlaw gang against the other for his own gains. Finally, a needed word of caution here. Like the abundance of graphic violence throughout this book, there are also a few scenes of adult sex that leave very little to the imagination…or rather implicitly fire the imagination. If readers find that objectionable, don’t say we didn’t warn you. Remember the first line of this review. Nuff said.

Tuesday, March 09, 2021

BENEDICT & BRAZOS # 1 Aces Wild

 

BENEDICT & BRAZOS

# 1 Aces Wild

By E. Jefferson Clay

Bold Venture Press

Writer Paul Wheelahan was born in 1930 in Bombala, New South Wales Australia the son of a mounted policeman. He grew up in the Great Depression and in 1947 moved Sydney, to work for his idol, comic creator Stan Pitt. At first Pitt employed him as an inker and eventually Wheelahan moved to doing covers. Ultimately he would write and produce short fillers for American outfits such as Sheena, Queen of the Jungle and his own creations like the sci-fi hero Space Hawk.

When original Australian comics work dried out in 1963, Wheelahan turned to writing western novels writing more than 500 novels under various pseudonyms to include the Benedict & Brazos series as E. Jefferson Clay. These fast paced, action heavy books follow the adventures of two colorful Civil War veterans.

Nearing the end of the war, Confederate Sgt. Hank Brazos and his unit are ordered to guard a shipment of gold valued at over $200,000 dollars and transport it to New Mexico and Gen. Nathan Bedford Forest so that he may use it to fund a second Confederacy. As luck would have it, Brazos’ company encounters a Yankee patrol led by Captain Duke Benedict and a bloody battle ensues in which most of the combatants are slain. At which point a third force arrives on the scene led by mercenary outlaw raider, Bo Rangle. Forced to join forces, Benedict and Brazos, put up a valiant effort but in the end Rangle and his men succeed and ride off with the loot. Benedict and Brazos shake hands and go their separate ways believing they will never see each other again.

Less than a year after Appomattox, the two cross paths in the sleepy little Kansas town of Daybreak. Things are hopping in Daybreak, what with a new two story brick bordello going up much to the chagrin of the local Christian Ladies Auxiliary and a trio of outlaws has begun operating in the nearby valley. Before long, and after a few knuckle busting dust-ups and shoot-outs, Brazos begins to suspect Benedict has stumbled on to a clue as to the whereabouts of Bo Rangle and the missing gold shipment. To that end, he makes it a point of becoming the Yank’s shadow, having his own personal interest in recovering the lost treasure.

Like most non-American writers of pulp westerns, Wheelahan’s prose is purple as a summer twilight, rife with twangy cowboy slang, larger than life characters bordering on the cartoonish and yet still managing to deliver solid adult action. The pacing is as fast as a longhorn stampede from first page to last. Now this rip-roaring series is available to American pulp fans via Piccadilly Publishing’s association with Bold Venture, for which we can only say, “Thanks, Pilgrim.”  

Monday, March 08, 2021

ARCHIE GOES HOME

 

ARCHIE GOES HOME

A Nero Wolfe Adventure

By Robert Goldsborough

MysteriousPress.com

233 pgs

As we’ve said in previous reviews, series such as this one appeal to readers not so much for the actual mysteries, though it is fun to try and outguess the detectives before the finale, but rather for the characters themselves. Aside from the team of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, no other pair of fictional sleuths has ever captured the imagination of readers in such an overwhelming way as that of Nero World and his legman, Archie Goodwin. During the course of his chronicling their adventures, creator/writer Rex Stout doled out very few facts regarding Archie’s background. Now, much to our delight, Robert Goldsborough, having picked up the series with the blessings of Stout’s daughter, has set about filling in that history.

He began that task with two previous books, “Archie Meets Nero Wolfe – A Prequel” and “Archie in the Crosshairs.” Both excellent and recommended. He completes that trilogy with “Archie Goes Home” and does so with humor and panache.

The tale begins when Archie receives a call from his Aunt Edna, a local busy-body who collects gossip like a bibliophile collects first editions. It seems a local banker has committed suicide after the death of his wife. But a young female reporter believes the man was murdered by one of half-a-dozen people the man cruelly dealth with in the past. Obviously Aunt Edna is hoping Archie will come home and look into the matter. As it turns out, things are slow in New York and Wolfe agrees it would be an advantageous time for Archie to take a vacation and visit his mother.

Once back in the sleepy little Ohio burg, Archie soon finds himself corralled by both Aunt Edna and Katie Paget, the lovely and ambitious newshound. Between them, they provide him with a list of the most likely people harboring animus towards the late Mr. Mulgrew; the dead banker. And so begins another formulaic tale with Archie methodically interviewing all these suspects while at the same time irritating the local sheriff. The joy of the tale is Archie’s Mom, Marjorie Goodwin, a truly wonderful character with plenty of wit, charm and homegrown intelligence. The moments with mother and son are warm and loving and offer up a great deal of insight as to the Archie’s own nature; his loyalty and compassion for others.

As I said at the start, these books aren’t so much about the mysteries as the people. And still, Goldsborough use of Archie’s truly unique talent in solving the crime is totally apprapos. “Archie Goes Home” is a delight. Do we really need to say any more?

 

Sunday, February 28, 2021

A COWBOY IN CARPATHIA

 

A COWBOY IN CARPATHIA

By Teel James Glenn

Pro Se Press

184 pgs

Every so often a book comes along that is so pulp, it reverberates this fact gloriously on every single page. From inception to excecution and finally in print, it proudly tells the reader this is what true pulp fiction is all about. “A Cowboy in Carpathia” is such a book.

It is a what-if scenario in which writer Teel James Glenn imagines what might have happened if the legendary pulp writer Robert E. Howard had not taken his own life at the age of 30, but rather had gone on to leave his small hometown of Cross Plains Texas to explore the world at large and in so doing actually lived adventures much like those he only fantasized about in his many stories. Ah, the stuff that dreams are made of.

Thus the tale kicks off and soon protagonist Bob Howard is in New York on his way to visit England and then Europe and the world beyond, little realizing his journey will eventually lead him to combat one of the greatest dark forces of them all, Dracula, King of the Vampires. Along the way he will also find the love of his life in a beautiful and brave young lady named Gwendolyn Harker.

What mesmerized us from the beginning was how flawlessly Glenn envisions Howard and the world he never lived. It is there before us, as the rough-hewn writer of pulps, drinks in the world with an insatiable appetite for new adventures while retaining his stunning perceptions of ancient places, battles and heroes. It is a heady blend and Glenn weaves it perfectly in nearly flawless prose. This is one of those rare books where one simply cannot turn the pages fast enough. It may well be the writer’s magnus opus, only time will tell. But until then, we New Pulp fans can only say, thank you.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

REINCARNAL

 

REINCARNAL & Other Tales

By Max Allan Collins

Wolf Pack Publishing

326 pgs 

This book collects eleven horror tales by Collins, several in radio script form, that were written over the years for different anthologies. Note, the Table of Contents only list ten. But hey, quality control ain’t what it used to be. Finding that eleventh was a nice little surprise. Now the tales assembled in this one book and they run the gambit from twisted horror to genuine black comedy.

“Reincarnal” – Via dreams, a young woman relives her past life in which she met her death at the hands of demented slasher. Well set it up with a wonderful climax. 

“The Night of Their Lives” – A police detective goes undercover as a hobo to catch a seductive serial killer preying on the homeless in the city’s shanty town.

“A Good Head On His Shoulders” – Lou Carboni was a self-made man who controlled an empire. His undoing was allowing others to take care of the dead bodies he left in his wake.

“Wolf” Jack Wolff like nothing better than seducing nubile young women. They were meat to his lustful diet until he encountered one with a different kind of appetite.

“Not A Creature Was Stirring” – A veteran detective hunts a demented child killer on the week before Christmas.

“Open House” – A reporter specializing in the supernatural agrees to spend a night in an old farmhouse supposedly haunted by a madman who murdered his entire family.

“Traces of Red” – A lonely female vampire longs for love and companionship from a young entertainer.

“Rock ‘N’ Roll, Will Never Die” – Peter Lee wants to stay young forever and a beautiful young groupie may give him what he wants. But always for a price. This story has the best pun-tag line we’ve ever read. Wickedly funny.

“Interstate 666” – The longest story in this collection is our favorite centering on an urban legend that won’t die and the trapped souls seeking revenge on an endless road of horror.

“House of Blood” – A radio play about a quartet of ghost hunters who get more than they bargained for. With al the appropriate sound effects. 

“Mercy” – Another radio play. This one about a beautiful high school girl who through tragedy, learns her true holy mission in life is bringing people to the Lord. She does so with great enthusiasm.

In the end, “Reincarnal” is fun romp through the delightfully twisted imagination of Mr. Collins. It’s a ride we won’t soon forget.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

LATER

 

LATER

By Stephen King

Hard Case Crime

250 pgs

Coming March 2021

“I see dead people.” That classic movie line jumps at us fast upon delving into Master of the Bizarre’s latest story. Only this time, it is the child with the unenviable talent narrating the tale. Jamie Conklin lives with his single mother, Tia, in New York City. She owns and manages a Literary Agency (people who sell writers’ books to publishers) while overseeing the care of her older brother Harry. He’s committed to a sanitarium suffering from Alzheimer.

When Tia eventually learns what her son can do, she forbids him to tell anyone. Jamie not only sees the recently deceased, but before they fade away entirely into oblivion, he can speak with them. Thus allowing him to question them on topics such as who they were in life, or where did they keep their wills? Is there any message they’d care to relate to loved ones? You get the idea. Jamie eventually accepts his ability as just another normal aspect of their lives. All of that changes when Tia becomes romantically with a police detective named Elizabeth Dutton. Because of their intimate relationship, Liz learns of Jamie’s abilities much their ultimate regret.

Liz finds a way to exploit Jamie’s connection to the dead for her own shady purposes. All which leads to the boy’s confrontation with a dead mad-bomber who doesn’t fade away like all the previous souls. Rather this entity is able to follow Jamie and thus haunt him in a truly frightening demonic way.

As always, King spins his yarn fast and easy, with his uncanny ability to use words in painting both scenes and feelings. It’s a magic trick because while reading along, we began to ask the one question he cleverly attempts to avoid throughout the story. That is until it becomes his final surprise. The elephant in the thriller room. “Later” is seasoned King while reminding us a great deal of his earlier books when he was still new at the game.

Friday, February 19, 2021

JACK LONDON IN PARADISE

 

JACK LONDON IN PARADISE

By Paul Malmont

Simon & Schuster Paperbacks

383 pgs

In this book, Paul Malmont imagines London’s last trip to Hawaii which lasted from Dec of 1915 through July of 1916. At which time he and his second wife Charmian returned to their Sonoma ranch in California where he would die four months later, Nov. 22nd.  The tale is a mixture of recorded facts with fictional encounters created by Malmont to weave the tale of a great man’s final days in the place he came to love as a Paradise on earth.

The story begins with silent screen actor turned director and producer, Hobart Bosworth. Having made several movies based on London’s work, Bosworth has fallen on hard times and his small studio is about to be gobbled up by Paramount unless he can produce another winner and alleviate his debt. His idea; have London write an original screenplay that has never been published in print. Bosworth flies to London’s beauty ranch only to learn the adventure writer is gone. Wolf House, the $80,000 stone mansion meant to be the gem of the estate had burned down two weeks before the Londons were to move in. Bosworth discovers his friend is in Hawaii and immediately books passage on a tramp steamer for the islands.

It is clear from the offset; Bosworth is as much a protagonist as is London though little known by today’s audiences. Once the desperate “Dean of Hollywood”, as he was called, finds the world weary and ailing writer, the story becomes about two old friends doing their best to stave off aging and remain the rough and tumble adventurers of their youths. It is about loves, won and lost and the dreams realized and those lost. The characters are all in one way or another broken souls seeking salvation. And what better setting such a tale then the majestic islands which prove to be the ideal background, an earthly paradise in which these lost souls come together one last time before the curtain falls.

We will not soon forget, “Jack London in Paradise.”

 

Tuesday, February 09, 2021

MEN'S ADVENTURE Quarterly Vol One No. 1

 

MEN’S ADVENTURE Quarterly Vol 1 No 1

Edited by Robert Deis & Bill Cunningham

Subtropic Productions, LLC.

156 pgs

Team-ups; there’s nothing better. Being an avid comic fan we early on learned how amazing things can happen when two creators join forces. The prime example being writer Stan Lee’s partnership with artist Jack Kirby. Alone, each was a master of his craft; together they were unbelievable. Arguably there would have been no Marvel without either one.  

Pulp editors were all too familiar with this concept as they constantly strove to pair their stories with the right cover painters the goal of making their monthlies stand out. Some succeeded admirably while others failed miserably. The paperback publishers of the 60s and 70s also understood the value of such pairings. Sticking the Robert E. Howard Conan stories behind a Frank Frezetta painting was genius and introduced an entire new generation to Howard’s fiction. The same can be said for James Bama interpretation of the Man of Bronze on the Bantam Doc Savage paperback reprints. Art and literature merging into one seamless product to capture the imagination of the readers. 

Which brings us to the grand team-up responsible for “Men Adventure Quarterly.” Bill Cunningham, with his background in comics and science fiction, is a brilliant book designer. His sense of composition and use of reproduced art is masterful as is evident on every single page of this colorful periodical. Then we have Robert Deis providing him with the content he is an expert of; the art and stories of the MAMS (Men’s Adventure Magazines). In the past few years, Deis, with the aid of publisher Wyatt Doyle, has re-energized the scholarly interest in those garish “sweat” mags and in doing so proven their legitimate claim as the heirs to the classic pulps of the 30s and 40s.  

With this beautiful 156 pg treasure, Deis and Cunningham have given us a magnificent sampling of what MAMS were about. From the reproductions of glorious covers and interior illustrations to the reprinting of both factual articles and action packed fiction, this collection is rollicking trip back in time. We could rant all day about the nine gun-blazing stories included here. But it was the article on actor James Arness and his role as Matt Dillon in the TV series “Gunsmoke” that was an amusing surprise. Written when the show was only a few years old, the big guy has no clue whether his show was going to be a success or not. He talks about what he will do when it is taken off the air. He had no inkling of the ground breaking longevity this cowboy series would ultimately achieve.  

Then we have a pin-up feature with the beautiful model Juli Redig and a gallery of artist Robert Emil Schulz MAMS western covers. The concept is every single issue will focus on a specific genre and western’s was a good choice to kick things off. We’re told the next issue will deal with spies. If it and subsequent volumes maintain the level of quality achieved with this premier issue, we pulp/MAMS fans are in for some really great reading. Thanks Mr. Cunningham and Mr. Deis, we owe you both big time.

Sunday, February 07, 2021

SHILLS CAN'T CASH CHIPS

 

SHILLS CAN’T CASH CHIPS

A Cool & Lam mystery.

By Erle Stanley Gardner writing as A.A. Fair

Hard Case Crime

219 pgs

Best known for his Perry Mason mysteries, Erle Stanley Gardner seems to have had a great deal of fun creating and writing the exploits  Bertha Cool and Donald Lam. Cool, a heavy set woman, opened her agency after the death of her husband, Henry, in 1936. Shortly thereafter she hired Donald Lam, a former lawyer who lost his license to practice.

The two are as unlikely a pair of heroes as one is likely to find anywhere in mystery fiction. Described as having white hair, with “greedy piggish eyes” and weighing anywhere from 165 to 220 pounds, Mrs. Cool wasn’t about to win any beauty contests. Still her grit and determination to make a go of the agency is what makes her amusingly endearing. That her loyalty to the mousey Lam. He is anything but the iconic tough guy private eye, weighing in at a diminutive 130 lbs, and standing all of 5’6” tall. A fast-talking, ex-shyster who is constantly being trashed by bigger men and yet is somehow endearing to the fairer sex.

“Shills Can’t Cash Chips” is the 22nd of 30 Cool and Lam mysteries and its typical of most of them. Looking to find what she considers an easy case, Bertha is delighted to take on an insurance adjustment claim regarding a simple fender-bender. A successful real estate developer driving a big Buick rear-ends a small sports car driven by a young lady. She has filed a claim and the insurance company wants to settle post-haste.

Cool’s instructions to Lam, question the participants, write a detailed report for their client and collect their paycheck. Alas, as ever, Lam finds himself caught up with weird acting characters to include a burly tough guy wanting to hire him to be a bogus witness to the accident. As if that wasn’t weird enough, someone has put an ad in the local papers saying they will pay $200 to any legitimate witness who will come forth. It gets curiouser and curiouser until the developer is found dead in the trunk of Lam’s car. And just like that the jittery little detective becomes the police’s main suspect.

“Shills Can’t Cash Chips” is Gardner at his hilarious best, obviously relishing ever twist and turn and poking fun at the whole ambulance chaser cartel. We swear, Lam must repeat his account of the accident at least a dozen times before the finale. Enough so to having laughing aloud and yelling, “Please, stop!” If you’ve never read a Cool & Lam story, do yourselves a favor and pick this up. Everyone needs a good laugh now and then.

Thursday, February 04, 2021

ENTER THE JACKAL

 

ENTER THE JACKAL

By Jonathan W. Sweet

Brick Pickle Media,LLC

201 pgs.

Clad in a blood red costume and wearing the a cowl shaped like a jackal’s head, the Red Jackal metes out justice to all evil-doers residing in America’s Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St.Paul. In reality he is communication mogul, Randolph Blake. A masked vigilante by night, owner of a big city daily and radio station by day. Then of course there is the usual assortment of loyal allies, chief of which is his younger brother Daniel Blake, followed chauffeur Geoffrey and one Detective Lt. McDaniels of the police department. All of them privy to the Red Jackal’s secret identity and crime fighting crusade.

This is New Pulp scribe Jonathan Sweet’s plunge into the wonderful world of masked avengers and with this first volume he lands a perfect ten. Not only is the Red Jackal done in the classic hero style, Sweet’s stories move at the appropriate speed keeping the action moving super fast from page to page.

The book contains four Red Jackal adventures. In the first he rescues a kidnapped heiress. In the second he goes after a serial killer who murders his victims using methods first presented on a weekly radio melodrama. Next the Red Jackal investigates why homeless men are disappearing from the seedy ghettos of his city which leads him to confront a diabolical madman. Finally, Sweet leaves the hero’s actual origin for last. It is a post-World War One adventure wherein Blake finds himself in Egypt on a unique archaeological dig; one that ends in murder and his being recruited by an ancient Egyptian God to become an avatar for the forces of justice in the modern world.

Honestly, we’ve seen quite a few new pulp heroes spring forth like publishing weeds in the past ten years since the establishment of the New Pulp field. Most have been okay successors to those classic characters from the 30s and 40s. A handful have been more than that. They are the worthy heirs to that heritage. You can consider the Red Jackal one of these without reservation. We eagerly await a second volume of his adventures.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

BARNSTORMERS  Book One

The Adventures of Kiki and Bridget

By Matthew Bieniek

Available at Amazon

262 pages

We are always delighted with New Pulp writers like Matthew Bieniek self-publish. The opportunities available to creators today are wonderful. This new series follows the flying adventures of two college chums, Kristina “Kiki” Hansen and Bridget Doyle who, shortly after World War One, are recruited by a group known as the International Criminal Police Organization. Think of it as precursor to Interpol.

What with their flying skills, the ICPO has the duo hunting a foreign agent known only as The Belgian. Apparently this criminal mastermind’s goal is to subvert any and all new flying advancements for his own purposes. What with air travel gradually becoming economically lucrative, it is clear The Belgian hopes to establish his own corporate flying enterprise and he will do anything to achieve his goal.

Thus Kiki and Bridget find themselves going from one aircraft manufacture to the next in their constant attempts to both uncover and foil their nemesis’ plans at the risk of their own lives. The girls are two of the most likeable pulp heroes ever devised and Bienek puts them through their aviation paces. In fact as a tribute to the old movie serials, many of the chapters in this first book close on a cliffhanger wherein one or both of the ladies is within minutes of doom. Honestly, we loved every single one of these melodramatic moments to the max.

“Barnstormers – Book One – The Adventures of Kiki and Bridget” is available at Amazon in paperback and on Kindle. If you like spills and thrills, and spunky dames who know how to fight, you do not want to miss this one.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

AVENGING ANGELS - SOLOMON'S MINE

 

AVENGING ANGELS – Solomon’s Mine

By Chuck Dixon writing as A. W. Hart

Wolfpack Publishing

340 pgs

For those who came in late, Wolfpack is a pulp-paperback outfit publishing some of the finest western books on the market today. Much like the old pulp mags of the past, the editors at Wolfpack whip up a series concept, create the characters that will be featured and then assign it a house pen-name. In this case, A.W. Hart’s Avenging Angel is a series of adventures featuring brother and sister Reno and Sarah Bass. After their entire family was gunned down by outlaws, the siblings hunted them down and claimed their vengeance. That mission completed, both realized that had developed a rather grisly talent for hunting and killing and so logically accepted their new careers as bounty hunters.

In “Solomon’s Mine,” the pair head for the Nevada and a town called Mollie Wells where they hope to collect the thousand dollar reward for one Butcher Holt. As they travel, they gather information on their target and learn Holt is recruiting a small army of gunfighters, Indians and half-breed killers in order to steal a hidden silver mine being operated by a group of freed slaves. At the end of the civil war, a Jewish landowner named Solomon had migrated west with his former slaves whom he had given their freedom. When they discovered the silver vein deep in the rocky hills, Solomon cautioned his people that its location must be kept hidden. After his death, the small community of blacks continued to maintain their seclusion only sending out a single rider once a month to purchase supplies.

After several years of failed attempts to find the mine, Holt’s patience expired and Reno and Sarah arrive in town within days of Holt’s departure with is gang of cutthroats. He is determined find the enclave and claim the riches for himself, even if it means killing every man, woman and child who get in his way. All of which makes Reno and Sarah’s job a whole lot harder.

A gifted writer with a background in comics, Dixon’s writing is always cinematic. He paints both people and settings with sharp, clear phrases and his plot never lets up for a second. Westerns should always be about good versus evil, hard men and women and tons of gunplay. In “Solomon’s Mine” Dixon delivers on all count. This is a whopping fun read. Saddle up, partners and don’t miss it.

Monday, January 18, 2021

THE AVENGER - THE SUN KING

 

THE AVENGER – The Sun King

By Matthew Baugh

Moonstone Books

156 pgs

Pulps were by no means a strictly American experience. All one has to do read is the stories of the French Arsen Lupin or England’s Bulldog Drummond to realize action adventure novels proliferated across the glove from their inception. Whereas one of the most notable such heroes, dare we say notorious, was Germany’s own Sun Koh; who was their version of a Doc Savage styled science-genius adventurer. Later much was made of his being the poster child for the Nazis’ blonde-haired, blue-eyed Aryan superman.

That Sun Koh continues to fascinate readers is evident by how many of the best New Pulp writers have brought him into their tales. Joshua Reynolds, Derrick Ferguson, Art Sippo, Frank Schildiner, Barry Reese and Win Scott Eckert have all taken their turns in interpreting this unique fictional character. Most opted to paint him clearly as a villain except for Sippo, who offered us a more complex figure echoing back his early heroic roots.

In “The Avenger – The Sun King,” Matthew Baugh clearly gives us another bad-guy Sun Koh, though in doing so he purposely explores the deep-rooted, seductive allure of bigotry. That it is impossible for Sun Koh to conceive of true equality among the races is the tragic flaw of his supposed brilliant intellect. It is this weakness that Richard Benson, the Avenger, understands and ultimately exploits in his campaign to stop the Atlantean from causing a catastrophic global disaster.

Baugh knows pulps and his story is beautiful fast-paced and filled with action. He portrays the Avenger’s team wonderfully. Nellie, Smitty, Mac, Josh and Rosabel are all here. Then he sets his adventure right in the middle of the magazine run between issue # 12 and #13 which formally introduced Cole Wilson to the cast. This is a first rate Avenger yarn and we’re thrilled to have finally gotten around to enjoying it. So, what are you waiting for?

Friday, January 15, 2021

POE MUST DIE

 

POE MUST DIE

By Marc Olden

A MysteriousPress.com Book

349 pgs

In the dark corners of the occult world, a powerful European psychic named Jonathan seeks the mystical Throne of Solomon; a magical seat of power that will grant him dominion over the entire world including the realms of Hell. But to find the Throne, he must travel to New York and resurrect the dead body of Justin Coltman, another practitioner of the dark arts recently deceased.

At the same time Jonathan is being hunted by a relentless British bare-knuckle fighter named Pierce James Figg, whose wife the magician had slain. For all his abilities, Jonathan fears the boxer on a primal level even he cannot comprehend. When Figg learns the killer has fled to America, he solicits the aid of his friend, writer Charles Dickens. The accomplished author provides Figg with a letter of introduction to the one man who might be able to help him find and defeat the Satanist, Edgar Allan Poe.

Unbeknown to Jonathan, grave-robbers have stolen Coltman’s body and his widow, Rachel, has asked Poe to help retrieve it. Whereas Poe is already enamored with the grieving beauty and battling his own alcoholic demons agrees to act as her representative. Determined to find and claim Coltman’s corpse, Jonathan sets about destroying all who stand in his way. Whereas Figg soon realizes, he has no chance of finding and defeating the monster without the help of the dark-eyed, haunted writer.

Olden is a master storyteller and with “Poe Must Die,” he sets about unveiling a mesmerizing, fast paced drama filled with action, horror and pathos. His depiction of Poe is sympathetic and all too realistic. He offers the readers the portrait of a literary genius whose life was filled with pain and loneliness, all which he captured in his tales and poems that continue speak to us through the ages. This is a truly exceptional novel you don’t want to miss.