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.

Monday, June 20, 2022

BLOODLESS

 

BLOODLESS

A Pendergast Novel

By Preston & Child

Grand Central Publishing

385 pgs

 

As we said dozens of times before, our favorite new pulp series today is the Pendergast novels by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. “Bloodless” is the twentieth in the adventures of Special FBI Agent Aloysius Pendergast and probably one of the most blatantly outrageous yet. Which is saying something as this series kicked off with Pendergast dealing with a mutated jungle monster loose in the Museum of Natural History to be followed by his encounter with a mysterious young lady well over a hundred years old but still retaining her physical youth. As we said, outrageous, and yet Preston and Child have so much fun telling these stories, the reader is instantly swept along for the ride and leaves all rationality behind.

In “Bloodless” the story begins with a retelling of the FBI’s most famous and still unsolved cases; the plane highjacking by the man known as D.B. Cooper who, after being paid his ransom, parachuted out of a plane over the Northwest and was never seen again. From this prequel, the book then springs to Savannah, Georgia today and the body of a murdered man washed up along the banks of the river…without a drop of blood in it. Pendergast, his ward Constance Greene and partner Agent Armstrong Coldmoon are assigned the case. Before too long, a second bloodless corpse literarily falls out of the sky one night nearly crushing a tourist couple out for a stroll. As events continue, the case simply becomes more and more macabre until our heroes are faced with the possibility that the killer may not be of this world.  

Like all such long running series, the Pendergast adventures have had their ups and downs. Some tales were a bit awkward and clumsy while others were spot on thrillers with panache. “Bloodless” may possibly the finest since our personal favorite, “The Cabinet of Curiosities,” book # 3.  Not to be missed, pulp fans because this is really what great pulp writing is all about.

Thursday, June 09, 2022

THE EYE OF VENGEANCE

 

THE EYE OF VENGEANCE

A Red Jackal Adventure

By Jonathan W. Sweet

Brick Pickle Media, L.L.C.

149 Pgs

 

The Twin-Cities rouge colored adventurer returns in a full length adventure that pits him against a mysterious criminal mastermind known by various names. For whatever nefarious reasons, publisher Blake Randolph’s secret crime-fighting persona has become the target of the sadistic villain who begins his campaign by systematically murdering the Jackal’s agents. Then the devious crook sets up an elaborate weekend getaway for half a dozen of the city’s elite personalities to a luxurious woodsy island retreat. There, one of fiend’s twisted killers, dressed as the Red Jackal, brutally murders several of the guests so as to put the blame on the battling avenger.

Never have the stakes been higher. As he attempts to uncover the identity of his obsessed foe, the Red Jackal begins to worry that his closest confidants, to include his brother David, police Lt. McDaniels and the lovely reporter Jennifer Jones, may become the madman’s newest targets. Once again, writer Sweet spins a fast paced tale set against authentic backgrounds and history to deliver a truly rewarding tale. This being the character’s third outing, we’re totally bonafide and hope there’s a fourth soon on the way. The Red Jackal is what good New Pulp is all about.

Monday, June 06, 2022

THE SHRINKING ISLAND

 

THE SHRINKING ISLAND

Three Novels

By Mickey Spillane

Rough Edges Press

316 pgs

 

Vincent Demar and his son Larry move to the Caribbean Island of Peolle to start a new life. Upon arriving they make friends with islander Tim Toomey and his son Josh. Soon the two teenage boys are inseparable and ready for whatever adventures may come their way. Enjoying what are primarily three Young Adult novels produced by a world famous tough-guy private-eye writer is just more proof on how versatile and talented Spillane truly was. Whereas since his passing in 2006, literary history has relegated him to the narrow confines of mystery and crime thrillers choosing to ignore the incredible amount of work he created in all kinds of genres from westerns to horror and yes, even Young Adult. 

This book collects “The Day the Sea Rolled Back” and “The Ship That Never Was,” the two previously published Larry and Josh stories along with “The Shrinking Island.” Published here for the first time. Reading these, we immediately see the formula the author established. Much like all traditional young adult stories, Larry and Josh become new versions of the Hardy Boys only with an exotic Caribbean background. As each tale opens, they come across some bizarre mystery, set out to explore it on their own, then become the targets of unscrupulous men seeking a long lost treasure and put the boys in jeopardy.  

In “The Day the Sea Rolled Back” the boys deal with a natural phenomenon wherein the sea actually rolls back exposing several miles of sea bottom around the tiny islands; never before seen real estate with several sunken ships now visible to all. With “The Ship That Never Was,” Larry and Josh discover an old sailor adrift in a hundred year old British longboat that could only have come off a classic British frigate. All of which leads to the strange history of what was considered a jinxed boat. And finally, with “The Shrinking Island,” our impetuous duo encounters a supernatural force straight out of an issue of Weird Tales.  

This is a fun package and having enjoyed them, we can only bemoan the fact that Spillane never wrote any others. Larry and Josh are terrific characters and it would have been fun to see where the series might have gone. That we’ll never know, but at least we now have this volume. A tip of the pulp fedora to Rough Edge Press and writer Max Allan Collins who offers up a terrific introduction.  

Friday, May 20, 2022

CAPTAIN MOXLEY and the Embers of Empire

 

CAPTAIN MOXLEY and the Embers of the Empire

By Dan Hanks

Angry Robot

375 pgs

 

One look at artist Daniel Strange’s collage cover and you would expect to read a rollicking, over the top action packed pulp adventure. Sadly, often times as the old saw tells us, you can’t judge a book by its cover. In this rare and wonderful instance, you most bloody well can. “Captain Moxley and the Embers of Empire” is pretty much everything a good solid new pulp tale should be. It has a great protagonist, wonderful supporting cast and some truly weird and deadly villains. And it all takes place on an alternate earth not our own. 

Wow, that’s a lot of good stuff. Indeed it is, and Hanks pulls it off beautifully. In this “other” earth, World War II has ended and former British fighter pilot, Samantha (Sam to family and friends) is in New York City to find her sister Jess who she believes has been kidnapped by a secret cabal known as the Nine. She was once one of their agents, but soon realized they were corrupt and left their ranks. Something they frown upon very badly.

As it turns out, Sam finds her sister busy at work on a new exhibition at the Natural Museum of Science in Manhattan. Jess is an archeologist, and along with her colleague and boyfriend, Will, is about to put on display and ancient artifact the Nine want. Sam arrives in the nick of time, fouls the attempted kidnapping/robbery and then is off to Paris, along with Jess and Will, to contact Professor Edward “Teddy” Ascher, a former flying pal of French/Arab descent and leading expert on the Hall of Records, a supposed lost despository of the world’s accumulated knowledge hidden beneath the sands of Egypt. 

It is Sam’s belief that the Nine’s primary goal is to find the hidden library because among its many wonders is a power source of unbelievable strength which would allow them to become masters of the world. Teddy proceeds to tell her aside from the amulet Jess has in her possession, there remains one other artifact, a key, supposedly hidden in the catacombs beneath Paris. Without it, the amulet is useless. Needless to say, Sam and her team of three soon find themselves racing against their enemies under the city streets to find that lost key.

If all this echoes the Indiana Jones movies, it is because Dan Hanks blatantly list those films and many others, including pulps and comics, as his inspirations for writing this bold, in your face adventure. It is a fast paced page turner with so much action as to leave the reader for breath by its climatic finale. Oh, and as if that wasn’t enough to satiate your need for pulp thrills, the ending fades out with the obvious intent of a sequel. One we cannot wait to get our hands on. “Captain Moxley and the Embers of Empire” is a hoot, pulp fans. We found it at Amazon. You should pick it up now. Don’t wait another minute.

 

 

Thursday, April 28, 2022

THE MENACE

 

 

 

THE MENACE

By Mickey Spillane & Max Allan Collins

Rough Edge Press

189 pgs

 

This book is a gem in that it actually contains three different works by the indisputable master of private-eye fiction, Mickey Spillane. The first is a novella based on a television script and adapted by Collins. The second is a long lost short story and the last a non-fiction true crime essay based on an actual murder case. All three are memorable in their own way and combined, offer up a small glimpse of the unbounded talent and imagination Spillane possessed.

“The Menace” itself is a thriller regarding a grotesque serial killer targeting doctors in small southern county. Sheriff Cutter, a veteran of the NYPD, puts the pieces together and discovers the killer’s next victim is a likeable pediatrician and his young son. Yet despite surrounding the doctor and his family with a cadre of officers, Cutter soon learns his monstrous foe is not going to let anything deter him from his savage goal.

“The Duke Alexander” is a hilarious tale of mistaken identity. A garage owner is on vacation when he is crosses paths with an exact look-alike who happens to be a foreign gigolo in this country to marry a wealthy debutante. Honestly, Spillane’s comedy is worthy of a Marx Brothers feature. It is that funny.

Finally, Collins wraps it all up republishing a short true-crime essay wherein a young woman’s body, left at the bottom of freezing cold lake, eventually rises to the surface and kicks off an investigation, which via the science of the day, eventually tracks down the killer.  

Three for the price of one sums up “The Menace.” A satisfying fun read you don’t want to miss.

 

Friday, April 22, 2022

CAULDRON OF THE HOLLYWOOD HEADHUNTERS

 

 

 

CAULDRON OF THE HOLLYWOOD HEAD HUNTERS

Man of the Mist # 3

By Darryle Purcell

Digital Parchment Press

165 pgs

 

Darryle Purcell returns with a third Man in the Mist adventure which is his homage series to the classic pulp avengers. Industrialist Ralph Thorne learned mystic abilities while on his trips to the world’s exotic locales. Now, using his power to cloud men’s minds, he battles an assortment of bizarre master villains. Reading these fun adventures, one is immediately reminded of classic heroes ala the Shadow and the Spider.

In this particular adventure, Thorne, and his lovely blonde assistant, Moxie Malone, take on a secret facist cabal insinuating itself into the Hollywood entertainment community. From the movies to music, led by the mysterious Phoenix, the group threatens their way to power in order to subvert the public. From sadistic torturers, zombies and a crazed werewolf, the cult becomes one of the greatest challenges ever faced by the steely avenger. “Cauldron of the Hollywood Head Hunters” is a page turning hoot. If you love old pulps, this one was made for you.

 

Tuesday, April 05, 2022

POLLEN IN PRINT 1955-1959

 

POLLEN IN PRINT 1955-1959

Edited by Robert Deis & Wyatt Doyle

Men’s Adventure Library

# new texture

159 pgs

 

With this book, Men’s Adventure Magazines historians Robert Deis and Wyatt Doyle once again shine a light on the amazing, and prolific work of artist Samson Pollen. In the two previous volumes, “Pollen’s Action” and “Pollen’s Women,” the authors focused on those particular themes that were the hallmark of the artist’ majority of published work. In this, their third collection, they turn their critical eyes to Pollen’s smaller black and white illustrations that appeared in those periodicals.

This is no easy task, as many of the wonderful illustrations they reproduced were from tiny originals no more then three or four inches in length and width. What generally happens when attempting to reproduce such small pieces is the disintegration of the line work when enlarged. Yet, somehow, they have deftly manipulated the digital scanning progress to prevent such from happening and the end result is clear, beautiful copies detailing the mastery of Pollen’s composition and shading skills.  

Another noteworthy element in this volume is that unlike all their previous titles, this one was crowd-funded on-line. I.e. it was produced by the generous donations of art and MAMS lovers around the world. This in itself is a testimony to both Pollen’s work and the legion of fans the authors have increased by their tireless efforts in preserving these artistic treasures for future generations. We heartily applaud them both and encourage all of you to pick up this gorgeous book.

Saturday, March 12, 2022

THE COWBOY AND THE CONQUEROR

 

THE COWBOY AND THE CONQUEROR

A Bob Howard Adventure

By Teel James Glenn

Pro Se Press

180 pgs

 

In 2020, writer Teel James Glenn wrote “A Cowboy in Carpathia” and in 2021 it won the Pulp Factory Award for Best Novel. The conceit of the story was that pulp writer Robert E. Howard, the creator of Conan, and other great characters, did not commit suicide and in this alternate world went on to have real adventures. In one such he took and defeated the Vampire King, Dracula. Talk about a great pulp concept. It was no surprise to this reviewer that it went on to win the Best Novel title. 

And so here we go again, back to this “what if” world and this time the battler from Cross Plains teams up with another pulp writer. This one is German and his name is Adolf Hister. Whoa. Up reading the opening chapter, this reviewer sat back and wondered if our eyes had deceived us. Was the first person narrator of this sequel actually an alternate world version of Adolf Hitler? Answer, yes, he was. Only this little fellow with the Charlie Chaplain mustache is married and has two sons. His life has been blessed and he is a successful spinner of tall tales. Wow. You have to give Glenn kudos for have the courage to pull this switch. 

Howard and Hister meet on a boat in Egypt traveling the Nile. Their ship is boarded by Arab revolutionists who kidnap a British headmistress and her girls on a field trip. Our two pulp scribes give chase, assuming the girls are going to be held for ransom by the bandits. Little do they know that behind the raid, is a mysterious cult known as the White Hand and their objection is a great deal more sinister. When this comes to light, the Cowboy and German wordsmith return to London where they will uncover the White Hand’s master plot, the true leader.

In Glenn’s topsy-turvy upside world, our good guys are villains and vice versa. As if that wasn’t enough plot for this non-stop action adventure romp, he even gives us a very unhealthy dose of H.P. Lovecraft’s Cluthu mythos. Oh, yeah.

“The Cowboy and the Conqueror” may be Glenn’s most accomplished work to date. He cleverly sets the table with all kinds of familiar pulp tropes and then peels back a philosophical layer that at the core of all stories. The myths behind life and death and the choices we make. What else can we say but…bravo!!!  Clean a space off your trophy self, Mr. Glenn.

Wednesday, March 09, 2022

BLOOD ON THE TRAIL

 

OD ON THE TRAIL

A Jeremiah Halstead Western

By Terrence McCauley

Pinnacle Books

315 pgs

 

Mystery writer Terrence McCauley burst on the western scene several years ago with his first Sheriff Aaron Mackey novel, “Where the Bullets Fly.” At the end of that four book series, Mackey was sworn in as Montana’s U.S Marshal and residing in Helena, the state capital. We cannot say enough good things about that series and happily reviewed each and every one of them. Though we were led to believe that after the fourth book that would be the last we’d see of Mackey and his likeable cast of characters.

Happily we’ve been proven wrong as McCauley has now returned to Montana and begun a second series this time featuring one of Mackey’s Deputy Marshals, Jeremiah Halstead, who had first appeared in the previous books as a supporting character. Young Halstead was the son of one of Mackey’s closest friends from the war. In this first story, Deputy Halstead is sent down to the small town of Rock Creek to locate the whereabouts of the murderous Hudson Gang. That he manages to do easily enough. It is only after he captures the gang’s leader, John Hudson, that his trouble begins. Fleeing Rock Creek with the rest of the killers chasing him, Halstead manages to escape but not before killing two of them; one being Hudson’ younger brother.

Desperate to get back to Helena with his prisoner, the Deputy Marshal stops in the town of Silver Cloud, a half-way point on his trip. But when goes to the local jail to lock up his prisoner, he’s confronted by the mean-spirited Sheriff Boddington and his two dimwit deputies. Halstead has no patience for men like these and quickly puts all three out of commission with the use of his rifle butt; an action guaranteed not to endear him with the good people of Silver Cloud. Then he gets a telegram from Marshal Mackey telling not to return immediately, but to remain in the burgeoning mining campe, Halstead’s situation becomes less than enviable.  

Then within twenty-hours of his arrival, a popular prostitute is murdered, her body discovered in the alley behind the saloon. Thus our hero is forced to stay in a town where he has already antognized the sheriff, is embroiled in a murder investigation and very much aware that the remainder of the Hudson gang is most likely to attempt to free their boss at any time. Suspense builds upon suspense as McCauley skillfully weaves his narrative at a remarkably well established pace. There is plenty of action throughout the tale skillfully interwoven with genuine characterizations of believeable people. As a series debut, “Blood On The Trail,” is a magnificent launching which only has us hoping the sequel isn’t too far off. This is what good westerns are all about.

Saturday, March 05, 2022

VERMIN CALLING

 

VERMIN CALLING

By Darryle Purcell

Offbeat Reads

198 pgs   

Young Vernon Jiles was bullied as a child. His worst tormentor, his older brother. To survive these daily beating, Vernon lost himself in his comics and soon developed a true love of graphic storytelling. Enough so that he began drawing his own comics and grew up to become a professional illustrator.  But there was more to Vernon’s story for he possessed a very unique imagination, one his mind learned to harness is a most spectacular way. Vernon discovered early in his comic creating career that he, by the power of his mind, could bring his cartoon characters to life.  

Soon, his colorful friends, led by the fighting DuckTard, were parading around his studio and adding to the fun and mayhem of his daily life. Ultimately, realizing he had the ability to do good and protect people, Vernon assumed a secret identity and the Vermin, scourge of the underworld, was born. Again, all because of his amazing imagination.

When the beautiful Tenacity Mills answered an ad to be his assistant, she was instantly brought into his top secret crusade. At first the poor girl thought she was losing her mind, but gradually Vernon’s na├»ve sincerity won her over. Soon Tenacity was fighting crooks and communist agitators alongside Vermin and his cartoon posse.  

Darryle Purcell is a gifted storyteller unafraid of exploring the wild and bizarre and he has no problems making the impossible seem totally believable. Never more so than in this crazy romp with two of his most likeable characters ever. In fact when you consider the plot, this reviewer doesn’t wonder if some of these exploits weren’t based on his own life. Now that would be crazy! And fun!

Friday, February 25, 2022

MOONLIGHT SERENADE

 

MOONLIGHT SERENADE

Book Three of the Vim Hood Chronicles

By Terry Mark

285 pgs  

With this volume, writer Terry Mark continues his thrilling alternate history series featuring some very famous personalies. He picks up the narrative in Europe shortly after the Normandy invasion by allied troops. We find General Patton leading his armored command across France at such speed as if to threaten his own gas supply lines. Meanwhile in the South Pacific, Amelia Earhart, is alive and operating as an island spotter for the U.S. Navy observing the movements of Japanese warships. When that mission is completed, she recruits a young Navy flier named Paul Newman to accompany her to Europe and a rendezvous with Patton.  

Meanwhile a frightened young teenage Anne Frank has escaped her family’s hiding place and while on the run encounters a trio of savage Nazis werewolves. All of which has to do with Hitler’s attempt to find the source of the mysterious Vim gems that grant people arcane powers and the ability to make super weapons of mass destruction.

Once again, Mark weaves real history with his daring alternate world supernatural storyline to achieve the maximum in spills and thrills. Oh, and did we mention a certain trumpet player named Glenn Miller also has a part to play in the adventure. Just like his first two books in the series, “Moonlight Serenade” is pure pulp from start to finish. We urge you not only to pick it up but do yourselves a favor and also latch on to those first two books, “Kill the Night” and “And the Sun Goeth Down.” Really, you’ll be glad you did.

Thursday, February 17, 2022

QUARRY'S BLOOD

 

QUARRY’S BLOOD

By Max Allan Collins

Hard Case Crime

205 pgs  

Max Allan Collins has been writing stories about his Vietnam veteran hitman since 1976. It was obvious from the start that the author and his creation were the same age making it easy enough for him to place the stories in time. Collins did a few Quarry books and then walked away from them. When Hard Case Crime came along, publisher Charles Ardai, a fan of the character, urged Collins to bring Quarry back.” Collins, obviously older, as was his hero, realized he had a golden opportunity to write a finale.  

What his crystal ball couldn’t predict was how successful “The Last Quarry” would become among his ever growing audience. And there was Ardai wanting more. Collins pulled a very neat hat-trick and went backwards with “The First Quarry.” Which of course meant dusting off his own memories of those long ago times and their social environs. All of which he did making it seem effortless.  

Having thus given us the alpha and omega, it seemed we mystery/crime fans had seen the last of Quarry. Again we’ve been proven wrong in this new “Quarry’s Blood.” It’s pretty much a gripping fast paced epilogue and so much fun. We catch up with an aging Quarry, almost about to reach seventy and widowed for the second time. He’s content with living a quiet, if lonely life, until a very savvy female writer named Susan shows up on his doorstep. As it turns out she’s the author of a bestselling true crime novel that was clearly inspired by Quarry’s lethal career and she’s convinced he is the real hitman she researched in her book. 

Unnerved by all this, he maintains his false innocence and sends her packing. The following day, while taking a pre-dawn swim at a nearby indoor pool, he’s nearly killed by two professional assassins. No way is it a coincendence and Quarry finds himself once again being pulled into his old world of hunter/prey, kill or be killed. But what’s the connection to Susan? And who, after so many long years, wants him dead and why?  

This is one of the best Quarry books ever. Maybe we think that because we’re seventy-five, a Vietnam veteran and often times think about all our brothers who never made it home to their families and loved ones. Who never got to drink another cold beer or read a damn good book like this one. Thanks, Max, for all of them.