Sunday, May 23, 2021




By Len Levinson

Rough Edge Press

287 pgs

When he was a young boy, Sam Wishnefsky saw an old 1944 movie called “Cobra Movie” starring exotic beauty Maria Montez. In it the South Seas temptress dances the alluring snake dance and is forever imprinted on Sam’s psyche. Years later, at 26, he’s living in New York City working as copy-writer for a direct-mail outfit called Vortex. It is the late 80s and personal computers are still years in the future. Sam is relatively happy with his life until one night, while attending party of hip, chic, know-it-all bohemians; he encounters a stunningly beautiful Maria Montez look-alike.

Gabriella is a Cuban refugee from Miami. U.S. What Sam isn’t told is that she was once wed to a New York mobster and has two little girls. Oh no, all poor Sam can see is the reality of his lifelong sexual fantasy brought to life right before his eyes. He waste no time in courting the Latin spit-fire whose command of English echoes band-leader Ricky Ricardo of the famous “I Love Lucy” television series. Even though these two star-crossed lovers have absolutely nothing in common, he’s a good Jewish boy while she’s a hoodoo lapsed Catholic, they discover that when in the sack they are pure dynamite. The sex is fiery and all consuming. No surprise, they marry.

Then Sam discovers he has two stepdaughters and a mother-in-law moving in with them over night. The poor sap has tied himself to a temperamental she-devil and before he cut himself lose, she’s pregnant with his child. What is even funnier is that Sam finds release from his daily suffering by using his experiences to write new self-help brochures that are bogus scams meant to solicit money from the consumer for non-existing books. He’s not only good at it, but since his hellish marriage, he unwittingly becomes the Messiah of the Downtrodden and increases Vortex’ profits tenfold. Naturally they don’t tell him any of this, as it is against their policy to reward achieving employees fearing it will simply want to quite to seek employment elsewhere. There C.E.O. is Mr. Saito, a business Samurai who sees honor only in sacrifice.

“Cobra Woman” is one of the most hilarious satires on our times we’ve ever read and Levinson’s insights into the machinations of our material world are sharp and scathing. There is nothing off bounds to his magnifying lens as it scrutinizes our mores and empty lifestyles. The story of Sam Wishnesky still mirrors that of many men and woman today, looking for success by chasing fantasies. And that never ends well.


Saturday, May 15, 2021




By Max Allan Collins with Matthew V. Clemens

A John Sand Thriller

Wolfpack Publishing

263 pgs

The 60s spy-vibes continue in this second John Sand adventures that proved to be so much fun in the first. For those who came in late, John Sand is the actual British agent who inspired the highly popular 007 character that so enamored President John Kennedy, launched a multi-billion dollar movie franchise and tons of literary imitators. Whereas that very notoriety forced the agent into retirement; a not unpleasant affair as it was helped along by his marriage to the beautiful and rich Texas oil heiress Stacey Boldt.

In the prelude to this new chapter, Collins and Clemens go back in time a few years and not only show us their first meeting but also the brutal murder of Stacey’s father, Dutch Boldt, at the hands of his business Jonathan Lonestarr; a death swiftly avenged by the former British spy. Now into their second year as happily married couple, John learns that Lonestarr may still be alive. If true he poses a real threat to both of them. But as a civilian, his access to information sources is severely limited and before he can either confirm or discredit the rumor, Stacey goes missing while on a business trip to Brownsville. Sand immediately goes off in search of her. Thus begins a violent odyssey that will take him from Mexico, to Los Vegas, Acapulco and end on the lush Caribbean island of Curacaos.

Along the way he will survive a deadly street ambush orchestrated by an American mob boss, be recruited into a new top secret spy network, and reconnect with an old flame amidst a brutal betrayal that results in the kidnapping of his former Boss from M16. As ever Collins and Clemens keep the pace moving rapidly while at the same time offering more twists and turns than a dirt road through the backwoods northern Maine. Oh, and did we mention among Sand’s helpful contacts is former colleague who wrote the bestselling thrillers and a certain well known American cowboy movie star? No worries, we won’t spoil the reveals.

While reading “Live Fast, Spy Hard,” we had the feeling that with this second entry, the authors had not only given us a half dozen scenes that purposely echo specific movies moments we’re all familiar with, but Sand’s own personality began to take on a very distinct Sean Connery voice and by the climatic ending, we could easily envision his cool, cruel smirk playing across his lips at what is to come. Another winner from a team that never misses a beat.

Monday, May 10, 2021




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




A Gray Man Novel

By Mark Greaney


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.