Friday, March 03, 2023




By Preston & Child

Grand Central Publishing

401 pgs


This is the second thriller in the Special Agent Pendergast spin-off series starring two of his best supporting characters. The first being Archeologist Nora Kelly who was around from the first Pendergast adventure teaming up with his young protégé, newly minted FBI Agent Corrie Swanson. Though why the publisher opts to label this the “Nora Kelly” series is beyond my logic. It really should be the “Kelly – Swanson” series. Oh well, the eccentricities of publishers.  

Like the first, this one also focuses on historical mysteries with these set in the western state of New Mexico. A young, extremely likeable town Sheriff named Homer Watts encounters a would-be looter at work in a high mountain ghost town. When he confronts the fellow, the perp tries to shoot him. Much to his dismay as Watts is a fast draw crack shot and wounds the varmint. But that isn’t what sets alarms off. Rather it is the fact that the two-bit artifact thief was in process of uncovering a dead body; a dead body buried on government land. Enter the FBI and Agent Corrine Swanson.  

Realizing the excavation of a body is beyond her considerable expertise, Corrie recruits Nora Kelly to assist her and pretty soon the trained archeologist finds herself pulled into the mystery. Not only is the corpse weirdly mummified, but in his possession is an ornate, bejeweled cross that dates back to the days of the Spanish conquistadores. Could the dead man have been hunting lost Spanish gold mines rumored to be hidden in those mountains? And what connection does the dead man have to the White Plains Desert Military base; home to the first atom bomb test? 

Once again, Preston and Child weave an intricate, pretzel twisty plot that mushrooms multiple new questions whenever one is answered. Enough to keep both Nora and Corrie hopping back and forth from one end of the state to the other looking to solve not one, but several historical puzzles all seemingly intertwined. And along the way they encounter some truly colorful western characters ala Sheriff Watts and a descendant of Geronimo. In the end, “The Scorpion’s Tale” is another grand Preston & Child outing and one we heartily recommend. Kelly and Swanson may not be Pendergast, but they sure are the next best thing

Monday, February 27, 2023




By Leonard Goldberg

Minotaur Books

303 pgs


When we breeze through a book of 300 pages swiftly, it is a sign that it is not only well written, but that the story itself is totally captivating. And both those elements are clearly present in this wonderful book. Of course it helps if you’re a Sherlock Holmes fan as we are.    

The plot opens quickly in 1914. Sherlock Holmes has been dead for several years. His companion, widower Dr. John Watson, has made 221 B Baker St. his permanent resident and often enjoys the company of his son, Dr. John Watson the second. Watson senior occasionally sees people seeking assistance based on his time with the Great Detective. Such is the case when Miss Mary Harrelston arrives seeking their help in proving her older brother, Charles, did not commit suicide by hurling himself out of a two story downtown office building. The father and son amateur detectives soon learn that there were three eye witnesses to the man’s tragic demise; a gardener working across the street at the time and a young widow taking a stroll with her ten year old son. They begin their investigation by interviewing the woman, a Mrs. Joanna Blalock and her son John.  

Young Dr. Watson is taken not only with Mrs. Blalock’s beauty, but also her keen intellect. The attractive widow is immediately intrigued by their inquiries and begins to express her own misgivings as to the police’s verdict and what she actually witnessed. She volunteers to assist the two doctors in their quest for the truth and proves herself most adept in the role. Whereas Watson senior is already familiar with the woman and her lineage and when he reveals it in confidence to his son, the story’s narrative shifts into high gear.  

“The Daughter of Sherlock Holmes” is a pure delight and Joanna Blalock one of the most endearing detectives to inherit the legacy of Sherlock Holmes. Oh, that someone in Hollywood would latch on to this book. We can always dream.

Thursday, February 23, 2023




The Imperial Assassin Book 1

By Alex Gough

Canelo US

358 pgs


Silus is a half breed Roman scout comfortable in the wild northern terrain of Caledonia. One fateful mission ends with his murdering a regional chieftain. This impetuous act in turn starts a chain of events that has dire consequences for the Empire. The retaliation for his rash act results in further barbarian raids and in one attack his wife and daughter are killed. Lost in a sea of grief and despair, Silus comes to the attention of Caracalla, one of the triumvirate rulers. Seeing potential in the scout, Caracalla has him assigned to the veteran spymaster Marcus Oclatinuis; the chief of an elite spy faction known as the Arcani. They are the assassins of the empire.  

What follows is a truly memorable historical action adventure filled with colorful characters and gut-wrenching battles as two different cultures vie for supremacy. The prize of their war the island continent of what would one day be known as Great Britain. Gough’s history is impeccable and enriches his tale greatly. The characters come to life as does the savagery of the times. He brutally displays the insanity of war and the vagaries of the human experience both in its nobility and its depravity.  

This is a remarkable book and only the first in a series. One we are eager to follow.

Monday, February 20, 2023






A Maxi and Moxie Mystery

By Teel James Glenn

Bold Adventure Press

180 pgs.


When we first saw the ads for this book, we were excited at what it suggested; a new mystery series featuring a sleuthing husband and wife team. Shades of Nick & Nora Charles, or Mr. & Mrs. North, not to forget McMillan & Wife. All of which were favorites not so much for the mysteries as for the bantering relationships of the protagonists. At the back of this book, Glenn also offers up a nice little essay on reporters as detectives. But again, not what drew us to the series.

Not only are our leads married, they also live in Hollywood during its golden days of the 1930s. Moxi is a publicity writer for a studio while his lovely redheaded Maxi is an actress whose career is on the rise. Against this backdrop, we’re constantly given lots of marvelous movie trivia and none other than Dracula himself, Bela Lugosi appears as one of the supporting players. It’s all put forth by a first person narration from Moxie; a wry, sarcastic soul who is madly in love with his wife.

The central plot revolves around the savage murders of several movie related personnel and the strange disappearances of three young starlets. A former newspaper reporter, Moxie can’t help but get involved, especially when several of the victims were part of the crew working on Maxi’s new flick. His concern isn’t only to solve the murders, but to make sure nothing happens to his better half along the way.

Award winning pulp writer Glenn spins a truly colorful, exciting tale with just a touch of the supernatural to spice things up. At the same time, he introduces us to two of the most charming and likeable characters in all of New Pulp fiction today. “Callback for a Corpse” delivers everything it promised…and more. That’s says it all.


Monday, February 06, 2023






By Scott McCrea

DS Productions

130 pgs

Tom Mix (Thomas Hezikiah Mix; January 6, 1880 – October 12, 1940) was an American film actor and the star of many early Western films between 1909 and 1935. He appeared in 291 films, all but nine of which were silent films. He was Hollywood's first Western star and helped define the genre as it emerged in the early days of the cinema.

Writer Scott McCrae has created a new western adventure series starring the famous Hollywood cowboy star. In the first, “Mountain Killer,” Tom is traveling through Big Claw Oklahoma when he learns that a prominent citizen of the community has been savagely killed by a monstrous grizzly. Beast is name like the town, Big Claw. Wanting to aid the local Sheriff, Tom investigates the scene of the tragedy and immediately begins to detect elements that simply do not gel with what is being presented as the cause of death.

His misgivings fail to deter the husband of the slain woman, who offers up a huge reward for anyone who hunts down the grizzly and kills it. As the townsfolk start gathering a hunting party, Tom takes on the somber duty of welcoming home the daughter of the victim and having to inform her of her mother’s death. While proceeding to escort the young lady home, they are shot at by an unknown figure and barely escape being murdered. The shooter manages to get away, leaving the fabled marshal with a  convoluted mystery on his hands.

Was the richest woman in town actually killed by a rampaging bear and who is it that wants Tom Mix dead? Writer McCrea does a really nice job in portraying Mix and his larger than life persona. For those of us old enough know of those early cinema cowboy heroes, this series is most welcome. “Mountain Killer

Friday, February 03, 2023

JACKIE VERONA - A Murder of Gypsies



A Murder of Gypsies

By Kimberly Richardson

Pro Se Press

88 pgs.


The year is 1957 and Jackie Verona is a lovely black art student living in the progressive metropolis of Moon City. She is also very much in love with white musician and teacher, Clovis Willow. When Clovis’ younger sister Dianne is brutally murdered, most suspect it is her lover, a hippie guru named Sylvain who is the killer. Yet some internal instinct has Jackie believing otherwise. Eventually establishing a friendship with police detective Hancock, Jackie begins to her own investigation.  

She and her friend, Monica; become female versions of Holmes and Watson as they begin interviewing all the people in Sylvain’s bohemian family to include his twin sister Althea. In the end, Jackie manages to put the puzzle pieces together and comes up with a dangerous gambit to catch the killer.  

For a novella, “Jackie Verona – A Murder of Gypsies” delivers a very solid, entertaining mystery read with a charming lead. Here’s hoping we get to see more of Jackie in the future.

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

BENEDICT And BRAZOS # 19 Echoes of Shiloh



# 19 : Echoes of Shiloh

By E. Jefferson Clay

Bold Venture Press

110 pgs


The Civil War is over but the hatred it spawned remains in the survivors, both victors and losers. Saddle mates Duke Benedict and Hank Brazos find this emotional residue in ex-Confederate Colonel Stanton Claiborne. A bitter man who rebuilt his southern estate, Shiloh, in Ohio country next to the town of Resurrection; an enclave of Northern veterans. Clayborne is deeply protective of his daughter Emma and his mentally disturbed son Lonnie. Due to his success at ranching, he’s generally despised by the majority of townspeople. 

Resurrection is run by saloon owner Troy Ridge, a man of ambition who secretly aspires to destroy Claiborne and take control of Shiloh. When Missouri born Ma Halloway and her three boys arrive in the territory, things get heated up fast. During the war, Colonel Claiborne’s troop had killed her husband and a fourth son. She too is obsessed with seeking vengeance on the rich southerner. 

Benedict and Brazos have their hands full trying to aid Sheriff Chad Madison in keeping the peace. The inevitable transpires at the annual Founders Day Dance and someone is shot. The fuse had been lit and unless the two pals can find a solution, the Civil War is about to erupt all over again.

Once again Jefferson Clay offers up a fast paced western yarn only this one is more a tragedy then an action tale. Skillfully written, it focuses on the aftermath of the five year war that nearly destroyed this great country.

Saturday, January 28, 2023

SPILLANE - King of Pulp Fiction


SPILLANE – King of Pulp Fiction

A Biography

By Max Allan Collins & James L. Traylor

Mysterious Press

337 pgs.


After reading this book, our initial reaction was that we’d actually been given the history of not one person, but two. Writers Collins and Traylor deftly interweave the story of both the real Mickey Spillane with that of his most famous fictional character, Mike Hammer. With both Collins and Traylor bonafide fans of both, what results is a truly intimate reflection of two equally fascinating and complex beings.  

Now allow us to backtrack a wee bit. In the early 60s we were in high school discovering so many different writers who forever change our lives. From Edgar Rice Burroughs to Robert E. Howard, Ed McBain to Richard S. Prather and Donald Hamilton. All were found the twenty-five cents paperbacks we devoured weekly. Way more interesting fare than what was dished out in our literature classics. Somehow, among all this reading, we missed Spillane until 1961 when we read a book called “The Deep.” It was a fast paced thriller and kept our attention all the way to the socko ending that pivoted entirely on the very last word. As a budding writer, that trick mesmerized us. Who was this Spillane guy who could so control a narrative that it hinged totally on a single word. Thus over time we began learning more and more about the writer and his tough guy private eye, Mike Hammer. Keep in mind; we’d yet to read a single Hammer book. 

We have vague memories of the Miller Lite TV commercial spots with Spillane and the curvy blonde and it was obvious he was spoofing himself. He seemed like a fun, likeable guy. In 1982 we saw the second film adaptation of “I Jury” with a young, rakish Armand Assante as Hammer. A far cry from the trenchcoat and pork-pie hat Hammer splashed all over his paperback covers. Still, we really like the film for what it was. No great classic of cinema, but an enjoyable way to spend a few hours in the theater.

No, our first actual introduction to Hammer and through him Spillane, came much later when Max Allan Collins began completing manuscripts the writer had left behind at the time of his death. We’d begun this review blog by then and Collins was most generous in either sending copies of these titles or having the publishers do so. Within a few short years, we found ourselves immersed in the tough, nourish world of Mike Hammer and we loved every second of it. Collins always included post-notes detailing which parts of the each book Hammer had done and which he’d added. His obvious sincerity in the tasks he’d undertaken only made us appreciate Spillane all the more. Thus sparking a true curiosity as to who this guy really was?

All of which leads us to “Spillane – King of Pulp Fiction.” Here is a complete accounting of one of the most talented, intriguing and complicated human beings to ever walk the planet. From his days in the military during World War II, to his initial forays into writing fiction from short stories for the pulps to comic books. It’s all here. His sudden rise to success with the first six Hammer books, to his persecution at the hands of the literary elite unmerciful in their criticisms. To them he was an unsophisticated hack who got lucky. Nothing could be further from the truth. Spillane was a product of his times, from childhood through the war years and their aftermath. Like the country he loved would never be same again, neither would the writer and the fiction he created totally reflected America’s changing mores.

The chronicling of Spillane’s frustration with Hollywood, it is clear all he ever wanted was to the Hammer from his pages on that giant silver screen. That it didn’t happen early on ultimately led him to assume the role much to delight of his millions of readers. Like his stories, in “The Girl Hunters” Spillane didn’t let them down. Which speaks volumes to his character as well. From bouts with various religions to several marriages, this biography rolls long like moonshiner’s coupe over lots of back country rutted roads. It’s all here, the fun, the heartache and eventually a man content with his own life at the end. Perhaps his greatest triumph after all.

“Spillane – King of Pulp Fiction” is an insightful read celebrating one of the greatest writers of all time. A tip of the fedora to Collins & Traylor. Masterful.

Wednesday, January 18, 2023




By John M. Whalen

Flying W. Press

Available at Amazon

230 pgs


When New Mexican rancher, Don Pedro Sanchez’s only daughter is turned into one of the undead by an outlas vampire named Kord Manion, he’s forced to end her existence by driving stake through her heart. His anger unabetted, he then hires monster hunter Mordecai Slate to find Kord Manion, capture him and bring him back. Don is consumed by a twisted obsession to punish the vampire with his own two hands.

Because of the generous offer of gold, Slate reluctantly takes the job; though he’s never had to bring back one of his prey back alive. It is a cause for concern. Ultimately he finds the outlaw’s hideaway in a small Mexican village. The then manages to kidnap Kord from older brother Dax Manion, who leads a crew of seven vampire riders. Locking Kord half comatose in a chained coffin in the back of his wagon, Slate then starts his long desperate journey back to Don Pedro’s hacienda. 

Along the way he crosses paths with a lovely young woman and while helping her escape three Mexican outlaws, is wounded. Half unconscious from the loss of blood, Slate and Marie, the girl, detour to the nearly deserted town of Rio Muerto where they hope to find a doctor and refuge. Slate is all too aware his time is running out. He knows Dax Manion and his posse are hot on his trail. 

“Vampire Siege at Rio Muerto” is a fast paced, action packed weird western thriller that never lets up for a second. Whalen is deft at creating iconic western figures as if they had just stepped out of a 1950s black and white movie. By adding the horror element, he weaves a wonderfully original pulp adventure that is a joy from the first page to the last. The result is a truly great read.

Thursday, January 12, 2023




By C.J. Henderson

Tor Books 2010

335 pgs


Writer C.J. Henderson (December 26, 1951 – July 4, 2014) was an American writer of horror, hardboiled crime fiction, and comic books. His comics work includes books for Marvel Comics and Valiant Comics. His best-known work in the hardboiled genre was Jack Hagee detective series and his supernatural detective Teddy London series, as well as many other short stories and novels featuring many characters from Lovecraftian  fiction and Kolchak: The Night Stalker, as well as his own.  

He was also a friend. Thus, after all these years, we picked up his two Piers Knight books of which “Brooklyn Knight” was the first. It is a terrific pulp adventure filled with many of the tropes Henderson frequented in his fiction. Knight is the curator of a museum in Brooklyn as the tale begins and in classic form, he is getting acquainted with his new assistance, a lovely redhead from Montana named Brigit Elkins. It reminded me us of I.V. Frost’s first meeting with the sexy Jean Moray. Bridget is awed by the grandeur of New York as Knight gives her a whirlwind tour starting from the observation lounge of the Empire State Building. She little realizes she’s about to join him in a fantastic adventure that will determine the fate of all mankind. 

An ancient evil entity desires to enter our world/dimension, but to do so it must find an ancient artifact known as the Dream Stone; which of course is located in the museum. When a group of mercenaries attempt to steal the stone, they are thwarted by Knight who just happens to be an occult magician possessing his own unique and powerful talent. In the battle, Knight comes face to face with his opponent; another practioner bent upon achievement the Elder Gods wishes. 

The action is fierce and fast paced while at the same time, Henderson’s characterization of both Knight and Bridget is somehow tender. There is sensitivity to these characters we’d not seen in his earlier works and found it totally endearing. Having only completed two Piers Knight books before his passing, we will be very eager to read and review the second; hopefully before the end of the year. Meanwhile, if you’re an old C.J. Henderson and have yet to meet Piers Knight, get with it.