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.