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.