Thursday, December 30, 2021




(An Amos Walker Mystery)

By Loren D. Estleman

A Forge Book

196 pgs

Loren D. Estleman has been writing stories about Detroit P.I. Amos Walker for a while now, as the inside list shows this new offering is nearing thirty published mysteries. Obviously we’re late to the party, but when “Cutthroat Dogs” dropped onto our review stack recently, we knew it was time to meet the guy.    

In the grand tradition of classic private eye heroes, Walker is a fast-talking wise guy who knows his city’s streets, the nice and the mean. He’s got a history with the boys in blue as well. A shooting in a local bank gains him a little press coverage which in turns attracts a young lady to seek his help. Her brother, Dan Corbeil, is serving a life sentence in prison for having murdered his college girl-friend, April Goss, twenty years earlier. Walker takes the job only to discover there are some powerful people who do not want the case reopened. First of among these is Ms. Goss’ father, Chester Goss, a TV celebrity who host a reality show entitled “Cutthroat Dogs” that uses the media to pursue lawbreakers.  

It becomes obvious to Walker that Goss’s prestige is due to the death of his only child and his public crusade inspired by it. But if Dan Corbeil is really innocent, then the real killer is still at large and despite Goss’s antagonism, Walker is chasing the truth wherever it leads him. All well and good until someone mugs him in his own office.

“Cutthroat Dogs” fires on all cylinders. It’s a fast paced mystery with a likeable, wise-cracking tough guy hero who loves his city. Classic stuff, mystery lovers and a solid read. Thumbs way up.

Friday, December 24, 2021




By Max Allan Collins

Thomas & Mercer Books

251 pgs


Born in 1875, Jacques Futrelle was a journalist turned mystery writer. He is best known for writing the short detective stories featuring Professor Augustus S.F.X . Van Dusen known at The Thinking Machine for his use of logic. While on a European tour with his wife, May, in 1912, Futrelle became melancholy missing their two teenage children. Shorty after his 37th birthday on April 9, he opted to cut the trip short and return to America. He booked passage for both of them on the newly christened cruise ship R.M.S. Titanic. Six days later, after assuring May’s safety in one of the few lifeboats, Futrelle become on hundreds of victims to drown as the unsinkable ship sank into the frigid waters of the North Atlantic; one of the most notorious tragedies in world history.   

A fan of the late writer’s works, Max Allan Collins makes him the hero “The Titanic Murders.” Once again employing meticulously researched data, Collins takes us back in time to a different age where people thought anything was possible. He details not only the magnificent ship, a true marvel of engineering, but introduces us to a small group of the some of the most famous and powerful people in America at that time. Among them is a pair of unscrupulous blackmailers who have hatched an audacious scheme to extort money from these rich celebrities.  

Meanwhile Jack, as he preferred to be called, and his beautiful May, are seduced but the opulent luxury that surrounds them and lovelingly envision the trip as a second honeymoon. We’ve been fans of Collins work for many years and have always been impressed by his ability to bring his characters to life. Whereas he has never been more sensitive and astute than in his portrayal of these two people. Their love for each other is endearing.

When one of the blackmailers is found murdered, ship owner J.Bruce Ismay and Captain Smith ask Futrelle to investigate considering his background as a journalist and mystery writer. With each passing day of the voyage, he, with May’s assistance, begins to interview his list of elite suspects. Much like his fictional character, Futrelle collects the evidence and soon closes in on the killer by staging a phony séance. All in all, the mystery is expertly laid out and its solution satisfying. 

Yet it is not what elevates the story. Rather it is the somber reality of all those lost lives. By the finale, we found ourselves moved especially at the end of Collin’s epilogue wherein he chronicles the actual last minutes of each of the characters. He ends appropriately with May and Jack’s final farewell. Crying, we put down the book.

Friday, December 17, 2021

Gary Phillips' HOLLIS P.I.



Edited by Gary Phillips & Morgan McKay

Pro Se Press

169 pgs    

From Pro Se Press comes this six story collection featuring Los Angeles private eye, Nate Hollis. Created by veteran pulp writer Gary Phillips, Hollis is a street savvy detective with the usual assortment of colorful supporting characters ala his grandfather Clutch Hollis who owns the Hideaway Bar and Irma “Deuce” Ducett, a one time female cop turned bounty hunter. All of them are terrific players and in this volume, Phillips not only pens two of the six tales, but invited four other new pulp writers to play in his sand box. The result is a treat for all lovers of hardboiled private eyes.   

Phillips kicks off the collection with “The Chuckles Job” wherein Hollis is kidnapped and severely beaten by an old foe. He manages to escape and investigate who and why he was targeted. All of which leads him to uncover a bizarre series of events that include a long forgotten heist, a young man with an eidetic memory and a single engine plane crash into an apartment house. The twist and turns are crazy in this one.  

Bobby Nash steps up to the plate next with “Naomi.” Hollis investigates the murder of a young woman caught up in the soulless porn business. It’s an emotional roller coaster for Hollis and by the tale’s finale; he’s managed to give the girl’s tortured parents some justice. Our favorite story in the book.

“Belly of the Beast” by Juliet Blackwell is the book’s third entry. In San Francisco for a few days, Hollis is contacted by an old flame. A billionaire business man into kinky sexual practices is found ritually murdered and a local Wicca practitioner arrested for the crime. Hollis’ job to prove her innocent and find the real killer. Having him operate outside of his usual L.A. haunts works extremely well in this fast paced, really well written story.  

“Twilight of El Perro” by Aaron Philip Clark has Hollis investigating the murder of one of his deceased father’s old informants named Fletch. Thing is Fletch died being ravaged by two trained pitbulls owned by El Perro, a sixtyish killer most people think is dead. Whereas this senior is anything but in a well plotted tale concerning greed and corruption.  

Number five is “Baby Daddy” by the late Derrick Ferguson. When a wealthy hustler tries to con a young actress with a phony murder scam, Hollis gets called into the matter to help unravel the real purpose behind the convoluted extortion. Another example of what the New Pulp community lost with Derrick’s passing.  

Finally Phillips wraps it all up with an Irma Deuce story, “Last Stand at Echo Villa.” She’s hired to find someone only to then discover she’s been set up. She and the prey have to fend off two hired guns in an abandoned shopping mall – apartment complex. Different kind of story that works extremely well.  

All total, “Gary Phillip’s HOLLIS P.I.” is an excellent collection of crime stories with some memorable characters. Worth your time and dime.

Monday, December 13, 2021

CAMELOT FOREVER - Lancelot's Redemption


CAMELOT FOREVER – Lancelot’s Redemption

By Robert W. Hickey & Bill Nichols

Published at Amazon

333 Pgs

Morgan LeFay is using her magic immortality to hunt down the descendants of King Arthur’s fabled knights in modern day England. Her chief killer in charge of her devil hounds is none other that her son, Mordred. Among this evil duo’s targets is a young woman named Elizabeth recently become a mother. She is also the great-great granddaughter of Sherlock Holmes. Somehow Holmes, over the years, became aware of the LeFay’s murderous quest and to thwart her began amassing magic arcane artifacts to protect his beloved Elizabeth.  

All of that is the basic plot and is dumped on the reader without much preamble. Rather  the authors throw us off into the deep end of the pool without much warning. As we read through the book, so much is related in flashbacks. We couldn’t help but think this was not the first in the saga as indicated but the second. Then to add more confusion to the tale, at the book’s end, the authors offer up what they call a “prequel-story” which actually details events we’d already been informed of in the character’s flashbacks. We really wish before publishing, Misters Hickey and Nichols had given thought to simply offering the “prequel” as the first chapters in the books. It would have certainly made their narrative so much easier to follow and thus enjoy.  

There is a good story somewhere in this book and with a more cohesive plotting, would have been doubly exciting. Sadly the execution left a lot to be desired.

Tuesday, December 07, 2021




By Chuck Dixon

Wold Pack Publishing

304 pages

 “Levon’s Hunt” is the eight entry in writer Chuck Dixon’s Levon Cade series. The stories revolve around a Marine Veteran living in rural Alabama with his daughters, one adopted. He’s a widower, having lost his wife to cancer. Like most returning combat veterans, Cade just wants to go back to living a normal life with his family and be left alone. Whereas trouble has a way of regularly intruding as it did in the previous chapter, “Levon’s Home” wherein Cade uncovered a sophisticated underground network of pedophiles. They were operating out of back woods homes where kidnapped boys and girls were kept as sex slaves.


This new book picks up with Cade using the intel he captured from the house he raided in the previous novel’s action packed finale. Now, with this new acquired data, he starts to climb up the chain of sickos. He targets molesters posing as one of them via their dark web sites. From those he ensnares, he discovers their members include high ranking officials in both local and state governments throughout the country. So powerful are these men, they include federal police officials, judges and elected congressmen and senators. It is a foul network that honest cops cannot effectively battle as their hands are tied in legal redtape allowing the guilty to skate away free and clear. 

There are several subplots within the bigger picture ala Cade finding another Afhan vet living up in the hills near his home and he befriends him. Then there’s the female U.S. Marshal investigating the dead bodies he leaves behind. She soon suspects Cade is involved, but before she can fully pursue her hunch, the FBI swoops in and takes charge of the investigation thus confirming her own suspicions in regards to corrupt bigwigs.  

Chuck Dixon cut his writing teeth on both the Batman and the Punisher, ergo he knows his way around the moral tightwire of vigilantes. What makes them tick. In Levon Cade’s case, it’s a deeply rooted love of country and family. He’s a patriot who will fight to protect the innocent and see justice done. Even if he has to do it alone. If you like action packed thrillers with believable heroes and villains, you have to meet Levon Cade. He’s a character you will not soon forget.

Friday, December 03, 2021




By Bernard Cornwell

Harper Books

320 pages

 This is the 23rd entry in the Sharpe saga; a series of historical fiction adventures by British writer Bernard Cornwell centered on the character of Richard Sharpe. The inspiration for the books came from C.S. Forester’s Horatio Hornblower novels about a Royal Navy officer’s career from midshipmen to Admiral of the Fleet during the time of the Napoleonic Wars. Because he could not find a similar series for the British Army, Cornwell decided to write it himself.

His novels and short stories chart the career of a young London orphan who enters the army rather than go to jail. It begins in “Sharpe’s Tiger” with Sharpe a private in the 33rd Regiment of Foot who is continually promoted until he finally rises to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in “Sharpe’s Waterloo.” The books were so popular as to inspire a British TV series which starred actor Sean Bean.  

We are fairly certain Cornwell’s legion of readers will need no coercion from this reviewer to pick up this new chapter in Sharpe’s fantastic life. As this is our first exposure to the character, we trust our thoughts will inspire other novices to the fold.  

“Sharpe’s Assassin” begins only a few short days after the historic battle of Waterloo and Napoleon’s defeat. The French army is in tatters and fleeing south to Paris followed by the victorious British and Prussian troops. When the Duke of Wellington learns of a conspiracy among French officers to have him assassinated in retaliation for the defeat, he assigns Sharpe to proceed to the capital and there ferret out the assassins. Sharpe and his companions, junior officers under his command, begrudgingly take on the mission though all of them sick and tired of war that seems endless in their eyes.

Once in the City of Lights, Sharpe eventually finds evidence of a French battalion under the command of a skilled officer known as the Monster. From the reports he uncovers, this fellow named Lanier may very well be his equal in military tactics and ferocity. With days of the British Army’s arrival, Sharpe foils a plot to blow up the mansion in which Wellington and his staff are residing. Ultimately he confronts Lanier face to face and confirms his opponent is a very real threat and their eventual conflict will most likely leave one of them dead.

Writer Cornwell’s genius is terrific depiction of combat scenes. His knowledge of period weaponry is perfect and his ability to pull the reader into the action itself is masterful. By the books final battle sequence, we found ourselves cheering Sharpe and his men as they rally under his banner for one final, glorious victory. “Sharpe’s Assassin” is delight to anyone who appreciated good historical adventures. It made us wish we’d met Richard Sharpe a whole lot sooner.