Saturday, November 26, 2022

THE SHADOWED CIRCLE # 4

 

THE SHADOWED CIRCLE # 4

Editor/Publisher Steve Donoso

A Renaissance Arts Press Publication

66 pages

 

What a delight to get this new issue in the mail recently. As ever the articles are so much fun and all of them contributed by true Shadow fans. Both Will Murray and Tim King hunt for whatever origins may have led Walter Gibson to come up with the name B. Jonas as the “drop box” for his New York City agents. It’s fascinating to see how each writer approaches this mystery from different points.   

This was followed by several articles in regards to the Shadow in comic books. Although we didn’t completely agree with Todd D. Severin’s conceit in regards to the character’s overall importance to the four-color media’s history, we found his facts both fascinating and informative. Whereas Daryl Morrissey piece on the comic book team up of the Shadow and Doc Savage was a wonderful trip down memory lane as we proudly own all the issues referred to in the article.  

The second of half Michael Uslan’s interview was very comprehensive dealing with the various aspects of his involvement with classic pulp and radio heroes. Then we have the finale of the issue which was a hoot. John Olsen, working from the actual radio script, narrates the final Shadow episode which aired on December 26, 1954. He does so with such panache, it was easy to imagine the actual show itself, with the actors playing their part against the haunting mood music background and nerve shattering sound effects.

Finally a tip of our pulp fedora to the artists who graced this issue. From the cover to the interior illustrations, each delivered amazing drawings. 

“The Shadowed Circle” has proven to be the finest fan publication on the Shadow ever produced. ‘Nuff said?

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

A CHRISTMAS CAROL MURDER

 

 

 

A CHRISTMAS CAROL MURDER

By Heather Redmond

Kensington Publishing

303 pgs

 

This is the third book in the unique Charles Dickens mysteries devised by writer Heather Redmond. In the books, which began with “A Tale of Two Murders” and was followed by “Grave Expectations,” the author has a grand time having a young Charles Dickens become involved with murders and then attempt to solve them with the help of his fiancée, one Kate Hogarth. The added twist is obvious from the titles in that they revolved around one of the famous writer’s novels.

“A Christmas Carol Murder,” was our introduction to the series because although fans of Mr. Dickens, we’ve always had a particular fondness for arguably his most famous story. In this tale, Charles and Kate are celebrating the Christmas season by joining several of their friends in caroling through various London neighborhoods. When they arrive at the home of one Ebenezer Screws, they have barely begun to sing a few songs when the body of an elderly gentlemen falls dead at the feet out of a second story window. He is Mr. Bob Harley, Screws business partner in their countinghouse. Oh, and wrapped around the dead man’s throat is a sturdy iron chain. Did he fall out of the window by accident or was he pushed?

Upon meeting Screws, Dickens is put off by the man. Whereas it is Kate who feels pity for him and urges Charles to investigate. As he reluctantly does so, other familiar characters from the classic appear adding extra fun to the narrative. There’s also an endearing sub-plot wherein Dickens takes in an orphaned baby boy named Timothy whose mother died in a house fire where she worked as a maid. Allegations arise that the baby might be the journalist bastard child. Although false, Dickens is worried such charges will jeopardize his engagement with Kate, never mind bring about the wrath of her father, his boss at The Chronicle. 

All in all, “A Christmas Carol Murder” is brilliantly delivered and the author’s research into London and its social mores at the time are spot on.  What Christmas just around the corner, we can’t think of a more appropriate book for our readers pick up and relish. It truly is a wonderful surprise.

 

Tuesday, November 01, 2022

GOLGOTHA - CITY OF SKULLS

 

GOLGOTHA

City of Skulls

By Jaime Ramos

Lucky Comics LLC

20 pgs

 

“Golgotha – City of Skulls” is an odd little book labeling itself a novelette. Considering its brevity, it is obviously not a novella. Whereas it seems to fall in that gray zone of what would be called a “long” short story. We know, that’s an oxymoron, but novelette seems to fit here quite nicely.

 

The story itself concerns a psychic investigator named Johnny Normandy who is called upon by the police of Golgotha, a dark and grim city on the lake shores of Wisconsin. The mayor’s young daughter, Betsy, has been kidnapped and Normandy is apparently the only person with a chance of saving here. Once into the story itself, it soon becomes evident there’s more to the tale. Our hero has an antagonistic relation to his honor the mayor. One that may yield a dramatic surprise before the case is finished.  

One should also note, Ramos conceived the setting of Golgotha to be a shared backdrop wherein other writers will be invited to create their own tales that take place within its environs. This is nothing new in pulps, as we seem to recall publisher Tommy Hancock doing a similar shared world called Sovereign City years ago. That project featured writers like Barry Reese and the late Derrick Ferguson. It’s always a fun idea and we’ll be intrigued to see how this one develops.  

Till then, “City of Skulls” is a damn good beginning. Go find a copy and see for yourself.

Saturday, October 29, 2022

KILL ME IF YOU CAN

 

KILL ME IF YOU CAN

By Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins

Titan Books

273 pgs

 

Once again writer Max Allan Collins has completed a Mike Hammer story left unfinished by the late Mickey Spillane. If you’re a Spillane fan, this is always a cause for celebration. Note, this volume is divided into two sections. The first being the actual novella length, “Kill Me If You Can,” and the second is a bonus collection of several Spillane short stories.

 

Whereas the novella itself is a fun read, it is very formulaic and contains most of the iconic tropes most Hammer tales are known for. The murder victim is an old Hammer acquaintance. The list of suspects includes the usual group of mean, sadistic gangsters and lastly there’s the drop-dead gorgeous femme fatale. A seductress who is both good and bad tempting our tough guy hero to ignore his instincts and just put out the lights. Now formulas are not inherently a bad thing. Every mystery series since Sherlock Holmes came on the scene has use them; from Nero Wolfe to James Bond. Formulas are those comfortable pieces we’ve come not only recognize, but also appreciate when delving into the series’ latest entry. If you’re a bonafide fan, you’ll see the climax coming a mile away.  

The enjoyable surprises arrive in the book’s second half and those short story gems. There are five total; several adapted from radio plays and two featuring Hammer. Of the five, the standouts are “The Punk,” a grim, honest look at dope addiction and “Tonight My Love,” delivering P.I. Hammer as the knight in tarnished armor destined to rescue a certain damsel in distress. The last line will put a smile on your face.  

“Kill Me If You Can” is another great addition to the completist wish list. For Spillane fans, it’s Christmas come early this year.

 

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

THEY STABBED MY BOOK!

 

THEY STABBED MY BOOK

File this episode under Weird. As most of you know, we’ve been writing our review blog, Pulp Fiction Reviews for over twenty years. In that time we’ve received books from both writers and publishers that have arrived in every shape possible. From pristine copies to those so ripped or bent one wonders what game the postal carriers were playing with the package before eventually delivering it into our hands. We thought we’d pretty much seen it all.  Ha. Never say never. 

A few weeks ago, much to our delight, Titan Books sent us package. Inside was the newest Mike Hammer thriller “Kill Me if You Can,” written by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan. Folks who read the blog know we are big fans of both the late author and his super talented protégé. So, again, we are very happy and began flipping through to the pages. Which was when we realized several pages had a torn hole in the middle of them. Upon closer examination, we realized something had penetrated the book from the front as if stabbing through the hard cover and penetrating all way through to page 138! We have no idea what was used in the stabbing, but it would appear to have been some kind of very tough nail to have cut that deep into the volume. 

Of course the damage is minimal in we are still able to read the book, which we are currently doing. Still, it is strange. And perhaps a case for a tough guy P.I. like Hammer to solve were he able. Our introduction would have been, “Mike, somebody stabbed our book!”

Next up - the actual review. Take care.

Sunday, October 23, 2022

LAWLESS and the FLOWERS of SIN

LAWLESS and the Flowers of Sin

By William Sutton

Titan Books

359 pgs

 

London in the mid 1860s. Vice Detective Sgt. Campbell Lawless given the unsavory assignment of numbering how many young ladies are employed in local brothels from the most tawdry to the elegant catering to the city’s elite gentry. In a nutshell, he’s tasked with tallying how many prostitutes ply their trade in the capital city. It is a ridiculous job devised to produce a fictional number by which a commission can then be inaugurated to look into dealing with the societal plight of these poor ladies. It is all a sham to make the local politicians look.      

Unfortunately, Lawless, a conscientious fellow, soon comes to realize the extent of trade is far greater than he had ever envisioned. In one form or another, prostitution pervades the entire metropolis and the number he is seeking soul shaking. At the same time, he and two of his squad colleagues begin to suspect a secret network of opportunists have devised a hellish system by keeping the trade bustling. Under the organization of a mysterious mastermind, a school for courtesans had been established in the rougher river front area where stolen little girls are brought and educated in roles of sex partners. Everything from proper diction, to etiquette and manners are part of curriculum along with the more basic erotic physicality. Once of age and sufficiently schooled, they are then sold to wealthy men throughout the city. They are referred to as the Flowers of Sin.  

As Lawless tells the readers at the start, this tale is not so much about the mystery as it is about the exploitation of women throughout the ages, from pre-cultural ages to the dawn of so-called civilization. So many men of power have constantly abused that power to treat womankind as mere objects to satiate their depravities and then cast them aside. Author Sutton’s depiction of these women is profoundly disturbing as it should be. What is sad is our modern world hasn’t changed all that much in regards to that sin.  

“Lawless and the Flowers of Sin,” is not for the faint of heart. But it is worth your attention.

 


 

Saturday, October 15, 2022

BENEDICT AND BRAZOS # 18 : Bo Rangle's Boothill

 

BENEDICT AND BRAZOS

# 18 : Bo Rangle’s Boothill

By E. Jefferson Clay

Bold Venture Press

116 pgs

 

So we’re heading out the door about to go on a ten day vacation in New England to view the magnificent Fall foliage. Hastily we scan the books on our shelf and grab two to stuff in our suitcase. One of these was “Benedict and Brazos # 18 : Bo Rangle’s Boothill. For those of you who came in late, this is one of the better western paperback series ever produced. Duke Benedict is a former Union officer while Hank Brazos an ex-Confederate sergeant. Through a bloody encounter towards the end of the Civil War, the two become partners to hunt down a killer named Bo Rangle and his gang. Rangle stole a shipment of army gold and each new book is the series is part of this extended chase saga.

Which as it turns out terminates in this particular volume.  I.e. our two gritty heroes manage to finally catch up with their prey in a gun blasting finale. But not before lots of other folks, both good and bad become collateral damage. Watching the friendship develop between the main characters is one of the real pleasures of these action packed books. And as luck would have, the kind folks at Bold Venture actually quoted one of our earlier reviews right there on the cover. This in no way prejudiced this review. “Bo Rangle’s Boothill” is a classic western from the first page to last. Now we’re curious what will come next for these two rough and tumble saddle pals.

 

Sunday, October 02, 2022

ERIN - Speaker of the Mihn'D

 

ERIN – Speaker of the Mihn’D

By Wayne Carey

Bold Venture Press

299 pgs

 

Writer Wayne Carey has an uncanny affinity for old fashion sci-fi tales reminiscent of all those great paperbacks of the 60s and 70s. In his latest, “ERIN-Speaker of the Mihn’D” he creates an amazing off world adventure featuring a sarcastic, self-centered teenage girl as his protagonist. In this future, the world has encountered alien races and established political relationships with the Yyrrlaar who inhabit the planet Ryllin. When Erin’s estranged father dies on Ryllin, the American Diplomatic Corp request Erin travel to the alien world to represent her family at his funeral.     

Once on Ryllin, Erin discovers there are two other sentient life forms living there. The Drac of massive lizard like beings with engineering talents and the Mihn’D, a race of round goo-like creatures considered nothing more than simple animals who take care of the planet’s natural environment with their farming skills. At first all seems straight forward and Erin hopes once she completed her task of attending her father’s alien funeral, she can return to Earth and become celebrity as the first ever human teenager to visit an alien planet.  

Things go awry when she is kidnapped by a group of Dracs and renegade humans who claim they were abducted from Earth hundreds of years earlier by the Yyrrlar who are not as peace loving as they claim. Then she learns from her Drac kidnappers that they were the first inhabitants of Ryllin and are being Ryllin and are being subjugated by their Yyrrlar overlords. And if that wasn’t enough to confound any young woman, Erin is approached by strange Mihn’D and is touched by one of its malleable tentacle after which she discovers she has been physically altered by the contact. The alien being has infected her bloodstreams with millions of micro-creatures giving her both telepathic abilities and extraordinary physical stamina.  

When the Dracs begin a war with the Yyrrlar, Erin finds herself caught it the middle. Possessing the information that will forever alter the situation, she also becomes a target of those factions who would prefer to maintain the status quo. And thus Carey spins a fantastic tale of unbelievable imagination that is almost impossible to put down. His sci-fi storytelling reminds of such classic writers as E.C. Tubb, Ed Hamilton and Robert Heinlein. To that end, “ERIN – Speaker of the Mihn-D” is a book you do not want to miss.

Sunday, September 11, 2022

THE BIG BUNDLE

 

THE BIG BUNDLE

By Max Allan Collins

Hard Case Crimes

Arriving Dec 6th 2022

295 pgs

 

This is the 20th in the Nate Heller historical crime series by Collins. If you are unfamiliar with them, the conceit is simple enough. Collins, either working alone, or with other collaborators, researches an actual American crime and then drops his fictional private eye into the tale as either an investigator or actual participant in the events.  In this case, he becomes both. The story revolves around the 1953 kidnapping of young Bobby Greenlease of Kansas City. The six year old was the son of Robert Cosgrove Greenlease Sr, a multi-millionaire auto dealer. His kidnappers were paid a ransom of $60,000, the largest ever paid out in American history at that time.

Collins splits the book in two parts. The first has Heller hired by Greenlease Sr. to help find the kidnappers and rescue his son. We’ve always admired Collin’s ability to empathize with his characters and that is never more evidenced than here. Believing the boy is already dead, after finding Hall, Heller’s emotional restraint is nothing short of painful as his desire to blow away the scumbag killer is kept in check with having to learn the truth. His portrayal of Carl Hall is both deft and creepy at the same time.  

At the time of the couples’ eventual arrest, only half the money was recovered.  Five years later the mystery remains as to where it went and who ended up with it. Reporters and police investigators suggested the funds had been laundered through organized crime and ended up in Jimmy Hoffa’s Teamsters Union Fund. Thus Greenlease Sr. once again hires Heller; this time to find out where it went. Not because he needs the money, but is sickened by the thought that unknown lowlifes profited from his son’s abduction. Like his previous Heller books, Collins skillfully weaves his protagonist through the documented historical facts having him cross paths with such players Hoffa and Bobby Kennedy.

“The Big Bundle” is classic Max Collins, that alone should have you pre-ordering it. Of all his Heller novels to date, this one will leave you feeling as if you’d been sucker punched. Since the Garden of Eden, evil has existed in our world. In 1953, it reared its head tragically.  

A final note. We rarely mention of the covers of books we review. Hard Case Crime is one of the few publishers out there that always delivers stunning paintings reminiscent of the early 50s paperbacks. Paul Mann does the honors on this title offering up a Nate Heller who looks a whole lot like the late actor Robert Lansing. What we’d call brilliant casting, Mr. Mann.

 

Monday, September 05, 2022

OLD BONES

 

OLD BONES

By Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child

Grand Central Publishing

369 pgs

 

As most readers of this blog are aware, our favorite current thriller series is the adventures of Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast written by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. One of the hallmarks of great continuing series is the establishment of colorful supporting characters as the stories progress. With the Pendergast book that was clearly evident from the first title which, aside from our stalwart hero, introduced archeologist Nora Kelly. Kelly would go on to appear in several subsequent adventures and even appear in a book sans Pendergast. Later, Preston and Child had Pendergast meet a wild, rebellious into-goth teenage girl named Corrie Swanson. Soon she too reappeared and ultimately became his ward. Pendergast saw to her college education and then was delighted when she chose to join the FBI following in his footsteps.  

Now comes “Old Bones” and Preston and Child pulled the best hat trick of them all. They team up Kelly and Swanson in an intriguing tale of historical horror, murder and international conspiracy. You see, although both ladies had appeared in several Pendergast cases, none at the same time and thus when they cross paths in this story, it is a total strangers. And that, dear reader is the cause of much delight to this reviewer. 

An historian named Clive Benton seeks out Kelly to help him uncover a lost campsite from the infamous Donner Party; the pioneer wagon train that became trapped in the Sierra Nevada mountain range during a brutal winter and ultimately turned to cannibalism to stay alive. Benton claims to be a descendant of one of the survivors and explains how previous archeological digs had only ever uncovered and documented two Donner camps. It is his believe, backed a long-lost diary that a third camp existed and had never been located. It is way too much of a temptation to Kelly and he manages to convince her superiors at the Sante Fe Archeological Institute to fund a new expedition to be led by herself and Benton. 

Meanwhile, rookie FBI agent is investigating a murder centered around several incidents of grave robbing. Parts of deceased bodies, all belong to a family called Parkins have been stolen, include some from France. During her research, she learns the first Parkins was both a member and a victim of the Donner tragedy. When she discovers there is currently an archeological dig presently underway, it is too much of a coincidence and she convinces her boss to let her find Kelly’s team and question them. No sooner than she arrives at the site then one of the cowboy wranglers dies from a fall off a cliff. Was it an accident or was he shoved to his death?  

Preston and Child had to have been smiling from ear to ear as they penned the scenes when to of their most likeable creations come face to face for the very first time. And of course, that meeting is anything but cordial. Kelly is leery of the inexperienced Swanson and convinced her interference will ruin her dig site. While the ambitious agent sees the veteran scientist as a stodgy impediment to her first ever investigation. It’s water and oil and we readers are the recipients of these delicious encounters. “Old Bones” we are happy to announce is only the first of this new spin-off series, teaming these likeable characters. After readying this opening debut, we are certainly pick up the others. You should too.

 

Thursday, August 25, 2022

BENEDICT AND BRAZOS

# 17 : The Buzzard Breed

By E. Jefferson Clay

Bold Venture Press

111 pgs.

 

Bold Venture Press continues reprinting one of the finest western series ever produced, the Benedict and Brazos stories. Duke Benedict is a veteran Union officer while Hank Brazos a former Confederate sergeant. Through a strange bizarre incident at the end of the Civil War, the two end up as partners obsessed with hunting down a vicious outlaw name Bo Rangle and his gang. Rangle stole a shipment of army gold and in the process murdered men who had served with Benedict and Brazos. Each new book is the series is part of this longer chase saga.   

In # 17, “The Buzzard Breed,” the two contentious saddle partners arrive in the town of Galloway. Only Brazos is brought there in chains, having been picked up on the trail by the sheriff for cattle rustling. Now it is up to Benedict to find and capture the real rustlers and free the rowdy Texan. Along the way, the suave Yankee discovers a conspiracy to steal a nearby cattle ranch from a young woman. It involves not only the cattle thieves but a local saloon owner. A conspiracy responsible for the murder of the rancher’s father.  

Once again, E. Jefferson Clay offers up a fast paced, often times humorous, but never dull, cowboy yarn in the grand classic tradition of the early Max Brand and Zane Gray tales. In the end, there’s just no stopping Benedict and Brazos. These books are addictive.


 

Saturday, August 20, 2022

VALIDUS-V

 

 

VALIDUS-V

By Van Allen Plexico

White Rocket Books

253 pgs

 

Giant robots battling each other and horrific giant monsters. Ah the stuff of Japanese movies and American comics. And now a wonderful, action packed novel by veteran sci-fi and pulp writer, Van Allen Plexico. This one truly has it all and this reviewer was entertained from the very first page to the last. Having followed Plexico’s writing career over the years, we weren’t the slightest bit surprised at the theme of this new book. If nothing else, Plexico has shown he will not be pigeon holed in any one genre.  

We’ve applauded his superhero series, and gone ballistic over his crime thrillers. So again, no surprise when he takes us back to 1978 and a top secret base in the Pacific Ocean where giant robots manufactured by an alien race are discovered. A scientist named Garen pieces together an incredible history of two powerful intergalactic empires, the good Ahlwhen and the power mad Xovaren. Using super science to battle each other across the galaxies, the Ahlwhen built the giant robots while the more barbaric Xovaren created massive organic monsters. One of the hundreds of planets they fought across centuries earlier was earth and upon their departure, they left behind remnants of both these incredibly powerful entities.  

David Okada is a high school student in Hawaii living with his maiden aunt, while his older brother John is a navy pilot whom he hasn’t seen in several years. Both were orphaned when their parents passed away. Our tale begins one day when out of the sky, a giant robot lands near David’s school and out of the control “head” room appears John desperately seeking help. Something has infected his units other three robots leaving John the sole “free” agent to battle them. When David comes aboard the robot machine, called Validus-V, he somehow links with it empathically and when John is several wounded in battle with his former allies, it is David who takes command of three foot tall battling machine. Only he remains to somehow save his brother, defeat the other three giant robots and solve the mystery behind their bizarre brainwashing.  

This is Van Plexico at his best and the action is non-stop. Not cliché, but here a fact. Combining all out sci-fi thrills with likeable characters, he puts forth elements that in the end come together to produce one of the finest books of the year. If you like top-notch writing, do not pass up “Validus-V.” As for this reviewer, we are so begging for a sequel Mr. Plexico. In the words of Jean Luc Picard, make it so.

 

Saturday, August 13, 2022

THE HAM REPORTER

 

 

THE HAM REPORTER

By Robert J. Randisi

Double Day Western

370 pgs

 

When picking up this volume, we noted the sub-titles being “A Novel of Bat Masterson in Twentieth-Century New York.” Randisi sets his creative imagination post Wild West life and career of the legendary lawman who at one time fought alongside other larger then life figures such as Wyatt Earp and Wild Bill Hickock. Seeing the frontier succumbing to civilization, Masterson and his wife Emma migrated to the booming metropolis on the Hudson, New York City. There the one time law-dog became a popular sports writer and eventual publisher.  

As the tale opens, one of Masterson’s colleagues and fellow drinking mates, Inkspot Jones, a sports writer, suddenly goes missing. Attempts to involve his police detective friend, Charles Becker, prove fruitless. It is assumed the writer is simply on some kind of drinking jaunt from which he’ll eventually resurface. Tragically it is the fellow’s corpse that floats to surface thus morphing the missing person case is one of cold blooded murder. Having no faith in police’s ability to solve the crime, Masterson takes it upon himself to find the killer and provide Jones’ widow with some kind of justice.  

Aiding him in the hunt is popular paper columnist, Damon Runyon. As the duo of amateur detectives begin to gather information on Jones’ last days, it soon becomes evident that the dead man had crossed paths with one of the Big Apple’s several crime lords. And in doing has suffered the consequences. Soon Masterson discovers the back alleys of the big city are just as dangerous as the streets of Doge City and Tombstone.  

“The Ham Reporter” is a brilliant work of historical fiction wonderfully put forth by a craftsman. Randisi’s prose is fun and he spins his tall tale with vigor and affection guiding the reader to a fitting, gun blasting climax. Our copy was picked up at a used book store. Here’s hoping you can find your own. It is truly worth looking for.

 

 

Saturday, July 30, 2022

GRIP OF DEATH

 

GRIP OF DEATH

By Len Levinson

Rough Edge Press

242 pages

 

Set in New York City in the turbulent year after the start of the Civil War, Levinson’s story revolves around a group of Southeners known as the Chivalry who hatch a plot to cripple the North’s economic strength. Their goal, to murder the wealthiest New York financiers and frighten off others from supporting Lincoln’s campaign.

 

Fate intervenes when Deputy Chief of Detectives, Timothy Flanagan, hires two new detectives on the same day. The first of these is Derek Lancaster, an intelligent, well-to-do blue blood whose patriotic duty resulted in his being wounded at the Battle of Bull Run. Now discharged, he wants to join the Secret Service and continue his fight to abolish slavery. Sadly he’s rejected for lack of investigative experience and thus turns to the City Detective Department. Flanagan’s second recruit is a lovely young lady named Catherine Satterfield, formerly of South Carolina. Rebelling against her stubborn father, Catherine had been sent to a girls’ school in London just prior to the war. There she falls in love with the theater and acting. Upon her return to the states, she hopes to find work as an actor but instead, crosses path with the veteran copper. 

Seeing the potential in both Lancaster and Satterfield, Flanagan has them team up and begin the investigation of the murdered business man, Amos Symington. From that point on, Levinson’s story takes on a life of its own. Brilliant at capturing both he wonder and squalor of New York at the time, his setting is historically authentic and it breathes added weight to the challenges Lancaster and Satterfield must overcome to solve the mystery. Levinson skillfully weaves his fictional players with historical characters such as Horace Greely, John Wilkes Booth and a hack driver named Bonney, whose son will one day become a legend out west. 

Like most veteran pulp scribes, Levinson economy of words is so efficient. He paints pictures fast as easy, as the drama unfolds. From the sweet prostitute caught up in conspiracy beyond her comprehension to the runaway slave trying to find his own place in a frightening new America. They crisscross the stage propelling the plot ever forward to a truly satisfying, marvelous finale. “Grip of Death” is both a thriller and history lesson in one, with Levinson’s cold hard prose. One should never attempt to change history as it is a folly reserved only fools and politicians. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

LEVON'S TIME

LEVON’S TIME

A Levon Cade Thriller

By Chuck Dixon

Rough Edge Press

228 pgs

 

In the tradition of the great Lee Falk, creator of the Phantom cartoon strip, “for those of us who came in late.” Chuck Dixon, one of the top comic book scripters in the country, started writing a series of vigilante thrillers featuring an ex-marine named Levon Cade. We were only vaguely aware of the paperbacks but hadn’t had to the opportunity to check them out until several years ago when the author surprised us with a copy of book # 8, “Levon’s Home.” We devoured it. Reviewed it and then when # 9, “Levon’s Hunt” came out we picked it up fast.  

So let’s backtrack a little here from what we’ve picked up so far. Cade, after his time with the Marines, was recruited by a secret government organization, given more intense training; both mental and physical and became an assassin for Uncle Sam. Somewhere in all this, he’d married and had a daughter named Merry. When his wife died, Cade and Merry went to live in the Alabama countryside with his Uncle Fern. Then things with his job went south and for a while he was himself hunted by the government. Dealing with information he’d accumulated during past missions, Cade made peace with his former employees and now does his best to live a peaceful life in those Alabama hills.  

Of course our reader’s curiosity wanted to play catch up and tried picking up book # 1 from Amazon only to learn it is only available on Kindle. (Sorry, we don’t do digital. Reading is a pleasure best enjoyed with a real book in one’s hands while reclining in a comfy chair and enjoying either coffee or beer.) Whereas the oldest volume still in print form was # 7, “Levon’s Time.” Which brings us to this review. It begins with our hero in Turkey where, because of a noble unselfish act, he finds himself locked up in a hellish Turkish prison (thus the title) located on the coast of the Black Sea. Cut off from any official contacts or help, Cade’s options are limited as to his continued survival. 

Meanwhile back home, a twelve year old Merry gets into her own kind of mischief when she and a friend rescue a young Guatemalan girl from two cruel and sadistic sex traffickers. When they bring the girl back to Uncle Fern’s farm, they set of a chain of events that puts all of them in danger.

Dixon’s fast easy prose switches back and forth from both plots smoothly and it is this quick pacing that drives us towards not one, but two action crammed climaxes. Not bad for one little slim paperback. With now having read three of the Levon Cade books, we’re hooked. In Cade, Dixon has created the ultimate American hero, a loyal, dedicated patriot whose love of God, country and family is unquestionable. Move over Rambo, there’s a new kid in the club.


 

Thursday, July 14, 2022

THE MASKED AVENGER

 

A few months ago, Canadian editor/publisher Alex Michaud sent us copies of his new quarterly magazine, “The Masked Avenger.” Each of these little books (5 ½ by 8 ½ inches) is crammed packed with both prose stories and comic strips. The strips primarily feature the hero himself, an international wrestler turned crime fighter. The strips are a great deal of fun and reproduce well enough. Unfortunately the prose isn’t to lucky in that many of the articles and reviews are of such small size, our old eyes simply couldn’t finish any of them. It is mags only really flaw. It needs to be bigger. And I recently attempted to check out their web page only to learn discover it wasn’t available at the link listed in the book.  So we hopped over to Amazon and found a couple of the Masked Avenger books there. See link below. 

I really like what Michaud and his team of put together here and their enthusiasm for pulp action and adventure is so obvious. Here’s hoping they’ll rethink the mags format in the future. My old eyes would be most appreciated.

https://www.amazon.com/Masked-Avenger-Dragons-Grave/dp/099174926X/ref=sr_1_1?crid=2GKCPTZBEQ5RO&keywords=The+Masked+Avenger&qid=1657807637&s=books&sprefix=the+masked+avenger%2Cstripbooks%2C148&sr=1-1

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

DISTURBING THE PEACE

 

 

DISTURBING THE PEACE

A Jeremiah Halstead Western

By Terrence McCauley

Pinacle Western

325 pgs

Available 26th July.

 

Coming on the heels of the first Jeremiah Halstead western, “Blood on Trail,” this new book has the young U.S. Deputy Marshal traveling into northern Montana on the trail of the outlaw Ed Zimmerman. After Hastead had wiped out his gang and stronghold, Zimmerman managed to escape to hills and mining camps where he hopes to ally himself with another vicious killer, one Rob Brunet. Zimmerman has come up with an elaborate scheme that goes beyond simple robbery. He plans on using the stolen loot he, Brunet and the gang of outlaws they recruit, to buy a small town.. Hard Scarbble is on its last leg economically and as the story opens, the majority of its citizens have moved to the newly established township of Battle Brook. 

Of course Halstead and his fellow deputy, young Jerry Sandborne, have no inclination of the outlaw’s grand scheme. Their simple directive from Marshal Aaron Mackey is to find and apprehend Zimmerman and Brunet and bring them to justice; dear or alive. Once again, McCauley establishes his plot fast and keeps the action moving smoothly. Along the journey, Halstead makes friend with Battle Brooks veteran lawman, Marshal McBride, who quickly becomes a valuable source of information. He also crosses path with Abigail Newman, a new arrived school teacher and almost instantly the sparks fly between them as both become enamored of each other. All of which is both an exciting and frightenting experience for Halstead. Exciting in that this beautiful, intelligent young woman has taken a genuine fancy to him; frightened because as she becomes someone dear to him she also becomes a vulnerability. Were Zimmerman to learn of his affection for her, he would have no remorse in using her as a pawn in his game of destroying the deadly Halstead.

“Distrubing the Peace” once again adds validity to the fact that Terrence McCauley is one of the finest new western writers on the paperback scene today. First we had his wonderful Aaron McCkey trilogy and now he’s back with this spin-off series proving to be just as much fun as the first. Honestly, saddle pards, waiting for the next Halstead tale is going to be damn tough.

 

 

Tuesday, July 05, 2022

THE TROUBLE WITH TRIBBLES

THE TROUBLE WITH TRIBBLES

The Story Behind The Popular Star Trek Episode

By David Gerrold

Available at Amazon

208 pgs

 

The Star Trek episode, “The Trouble With Tribbles” aired in Dec of 1967. We were in Vietnam at the time and so obviously didn’t see it. Most likely our first viewing had to have been as a rerun sometime in 1968 after we’d come home and been discharged back into civilian. Our initial reaction; what a fun story. We’d always been sci-fi fans since our high school years. Our heroes were Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, A.E. Van Vogt…and too many others to mention.

Thus it was only a matter of time before we learned who this David Gerrold guy was and via several interviews in various magazines ala “Starlog” we recognized him as the writer of our second favorite Star Trek episode. So we picked up a few of his books and were never disappointed.

Jump ahead lots of year (in between which we became a writer) and who should pop up at our local comic shop one Wednesday afternoon but Mr. David Gerrold, who was making a pit stop in our town of Fort Collins, Colorado, his trip back to California. Meeting him was a pleasure and with other friends, we shared a few hours of lively conversation. Among the books Gerrold had available to purchase and autograph was his behind the scenes book regarding the making of “The Trouble With Tribbles.” We scoffed it up immediately.

Lest you think we only enjoy sci-fi and fantasy, our reading taste has always covered a wide spectrum of genres, as the title of the blog will attest. One of the most cherished being books about writing by writers we enjoy. In reading through Gerrold’s memoirs of his experiences was eye opening to say the least. His story of what it took to bring his initial idea to actual production is as harrowing an adventure as Ulysses’ own Odyssey. That the thing was produced is in itself almost a miracle. His recollections of working with producer Gene Coon is fun and his tales about being on the Desilu set during film endearing. For all he endured, in the end it is his self-effacing humor that makes this memoir worth your time. Especially if you’ve ever entertained the idea of writing for television. 

On that idea we’ll take a pass. Finally two things. One, his last chapter is precious. If you think little acts of kindness have no lasting affect on the world, think again. Secondly, you can find this wonderful book at Amazon in paperback, hardback and on Kindle. Sadly the only thing you won’t get there is the beautiful wrap-around cover by Ty Templeton that is on our edition. That you’ll have to get from the man himself. Do yourself a favor, it’s more than worth it. As is this truly wonderful book. 

 

Friday, July 01, 2022

MEN"S ADVENTURE QUARTERLY Vol 5

 

MEN’S ADVENTURE QUARTERLY

Issue # 5

Edited by Robert Deis & Bill Cunningham

Pulp 2.0

166 pgs

 

Issue 5 of this terrific magazine arrived like a 4th of July rocket-blaster. Jammed packed with the usual assortment of informative articles and awesome illustrations, we didn’t waste a second digging into it. The visual prize this time was the Eva Lynd pictorials, both actual photographs of this one time model/actress and the MAMS’ drawings they inspired by the leading artists in the field. Photo after photo followed by dozens of bright cover reproductions were wonderfully compiled. It was also nice to see modern day pin-up model, Mala Mastroberte’s own redone pulp covers wherein she inserted herself in the images via photo-shop magic. 

This issues’ fiction theme was “Dirty Missions” suggesting that movies like “The Dirty Dozen” had a big impact on MAMS. It was clear they inspired many exaggerated tales of daring, secret missions mixing fact and fiction all adhering to the MAMS’ formula of tough-as-nail action heroes battling alongside enticing, bodacious female freedom fighters. There’s a great article on British war comics by Justin Marriott and a second introduction piece by Joe Kenney relating how he discovered both golden age comics and MAMS in his father’s barber shop at a young age. That struck a chord, as this reviewer grew up in the 50s and our neighborhood barber also owned a huge collection of Golden Age comics. We discovered so many incredible heroes on those worn comics from Plastic Man to Captain Marvel.  As for the MAMS, we never really paid them any attention until getting out of the army in 1968. 

There are nine “dirty missions” reprinted in this volume and each delivers what MAM readers expected; wild, incredible stories featuring go-for-broke Yanks taking on sadistic Nazi butchers.  MAMS were literary junk food for World War II vets and its see easy to see with this new edition of Men’s Adventure Quarterly the why of that. Hats off to editors Bob Deis and Bill Cunningham for hitting another one out of the park. Keep’em coming, gents. This is the good stuff.

Saturday, June 25, 2022

A STUDY IN CRIMSON -Sherlock Holmes 1942

 

 

 

A STUDY IN CRIMSON

Sherlock Holmes 1942

By Robert J. Harris

Pegasus Crime

303 pgs

 

Like author Robert J. Harris, our first introduction to the Great Detective, Sherlock Holmes, was from the Universal movies featuring Basil Rathbone as Holmes and Nigel Bruce as Dr. Watson. Having been born after World War II, one of millions of Baby Boomers, we would discover these black and white films on televisions years after they had been produced and shown in theaters around the globe. We were instantly taken with Holmes cool and calculating powers of observations and Watson’s courageous loyalty, despite his often depredations as to the perils they were led into. In those days, this young boy had no clue as to who Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was. That would come later in our high school classes dealing with the history of English Literature.  

What we would only marvel at many years later was how successful the script writers at Universal had been in transferring Holmes and Watson to the 20th Century. It was a smooth and flawless transition and though some Doyle purists may have had their issues, most Holmes enthusiast relished these entries.

Now along comes writer Robert J. Harris, another fan of those films, with the marvelous idea of writing brand new mysteries set in those familiar years. With “A Study in Crimson,” we are once again in war torn London, as England bravely fends off the German Blitz fervently hoping that the United States will eventually enter the conflict. When the bodies of two murdered young women are discovered, each having been physically mutilated, Inspector Lestrade calls on Holmes for assistance. At the site of each murder, the words Crimson Jack are found painted in black clearly referring to the most brutal serious killer of all time, Jack the Ripper. Whereas it is unlikely Jack has returned from the grave, what the murders suggest is that a new fiend has arrived on the scene and is mimicking the original monster.

From the opening chapter, Harris brilliantly lays out his tale and it was impossible for this reviewer not to see Rathbone and Bruce, along with Dennis Hoey, Lestrade, in our imagination. This considerably heightened our enjoyment of the book. Bravo to Harris for recapturing that cinema magic while at the same time giving us a gem of a mystery. He plays fair, the clues are all there for the most diligent reader to discern and maybe, just maybe, solve the case before the Great Detective. All in all, a truly marvelous experience and we hope there are more of these 1942 mysteries in the works.

 

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

THE SHADOWED CIRCLE # 3

 

THE SHADOWED CIRCLE # 3

Editor/Publisher Steve Donoso

A Renaissance Arts Press Publication

66 pages

 

Once again, Editor Steve Donoso and his crew of enthusiastic Shadow devotees have put together another stellar issue cram-packed with informative and fun articles. All behind a terrific cover by Steve Rude.

 

Albert J. Emery’s query as to could the Shadow have ended World War II by taking out Hitler is thought provoking. Todd Severin and Keith Holt’s second part of the character’s history was professionally put forth. Will Murray always entertains, whether when writing his own exciting pulp tales or in this case, recounting his personal experiences covering the 1994 Shadow movie starring Alec Baldwin. His peek behind the glamour and glitter is fascinating. 

Our favorite article was easily the story behind “The Shadow’s Guy in the Chair.” As writer Tim King points out, in most series where the hero leads a team, there is always someone at the center of the web cleverly doing the boss’ bidding. With the Shadow it was the loyal and mysterious Burbank. A fun piece exploring the possible origins of the character as created by Walter Gibson. 

Part one of the Michael Uslan interview, “The Boy Who Loved The Shadow” by Darby Kern was enjoyable and we’re eager for the second half coming next issue. Likewise Steve Novak’s piece on the Shadow’s New York was a nice follow up from the period photo-essay on display in Issue # 2. 

Finally, “The Puzzling Adventures of The Shadow Magazine in Canada was really strange to say the least. Kudos to Tim Hewitt for his research and exploration of a little facet of publishing history before and during the years of World War II. Very little is ever written about Canadian pulps and this feature was most welcome.

Once again, “The Shadowed Circle” offers up a truly complete package with entertaining articles all beautifully laid out with clever compositions throughout. No Shadow fan should be without this wonderful mag.