Friday, May 10, 2024




A Vigilante Justice Thriller # 11

By Chuck Dixon

Rough Edge Press

183 pgs


Chuck Dixon’s eleventh Levon Cade book picks up a few months after the climax of his last. Cade has moved his family to Idaho and bought himself a mid-size ranch where he hopes to raise horses with his daughters, Uncle Fern and tag-along vet pal, Wes. All seems to be going fine, their Holman alias working well enough until one morning when they awaken to discover their five horses have been stolen.

With the aid of a recently hired cowboy named Ray, Cade goes into the surrounding high country in the search of the thieves. What he is unaware of is an old nemesis is hot on his trail, working for a vicious cartel with a score to settle. Once again, Chuck Dixon amps up the thrills with his lean economic narrative, propelling the action like classic pulp pacing. The hallmark of his Cade series, action galore from start to finish.

Friday, May 03, 2024




By Sandy Nicolson

Available @ Amazon

294 pgs


It’s the mid-1970s and on the outskirts of Salinas, California, sets an old gas station that long ago ran out of gas. Owned and operated by a South Korean immigrant known as Bonsai, the place remains open due Bonsai’s skills as a mechanic. He can pretty much fix any broken down engine built before the 90s and not attached to some kind of computer. The station also runs a small convenience store with the usual assortment of dry goods and soda for the luckless driver who wanders off the interstate in the middle of the night.

The mystery attached to the place is Bonsai’s daughter, Lily who’s origin is unknown by any of the locals.  

One day Bonsai ran the garage with his uncle, the previous owner. Then his uncled died and for a while it was only Bonsai. And then there was Bonsai and a precious, beautiful baby girl he said was his daughter, Lily. End of story, or as much as he would ever reveal to anyone. Even Lily.

The fact that he loved her more than anything in the world and did his best to provide for her, to keep her safe and happy, could not diminish her need to know about her mother. Still, Bonsai was as stubborn as his daughter. Finally, Lily left for college, became a lawyer and went to work for a prestige firm in San Francisco. Thus establishing her own life, she had nothing further to do with the stoic, impenetrable wall that was her father.

For a first novel, writer Sandy Nicolson displays and uncanny gift for memorable characters and unusual circumstances. Though none of the players in the story of Bonsai and Lily is what one would call exceptional, they remain absolutely fascinating. The riddle that has haunted them for thirty years slowly begins to unravel as the book moves to its climax and the answers to mystery are both beautiful and tragic. People, even imperfect people, can sometimes find love. If they are wise, they will hold on and never let go. Bravo, Sandy Nicolson, “Bonsai” as a truly wonderful surprise.

Thursday, April 25, 2024




By Cornell Woolrich & Lawrence Block

Hard Case Crime

240 pgs.


Madeline is an introspective young woman caught in the depths of depression. Toying with a loaded revolver, she contemplates taking her life. Then, when setting the gun down on a desk causes it to fire accidentally, the bullet goes out the window and hits an innocent bystander. In shock, Madeline rushes to the fallen body of the young woman she has shot and cradles her tenderly as she dies.  

Fleeing the scene before the police arrive, Madeline then becomes obsessed with learning more about dead woman name Starr. With facts gathered surreptitiously from Starr’s mother, she discovers that Starr had once been happily. Then she’d suffered a broken heart due to some unspeakable act of her husband. Finding notes left behind by the deceased, Madeline comes to the conclusion that Starr had wanted to murder the man and decides in her twisted sense of obligation to fulfill Starr’s wish. But first she has to return to the city and find her target. 

Thus begins a grim, suspenseful odyssey original conceived by writer Cornell Woolrich, a master of the genre. When he died before the story could be completed, the manuscript collected dust for several decades until crime writer Lawrence Block agreed to take on the task of finishing it. That he does so brilliantly is evidence in the grim, noire styling that is uniform throughout the prose. The myriad characters Madeline encounters along her path to murder are all dour, soulless people caught up in a rat race they have personally chosen for themselves. The world “Into the Night” inhibits is one of hopelessness and ruin with death the only decent escape. It is a place both Cornell and Block are all too familiar with.

Wednesday, April 17, 2024




A Red Jackal Mystery

By Jonathan W. Sweet

A Brick Pickle Pulp

152 pgs


Of all the New Pulp avengers now battling from various publishers, one of our personal favorites is Jonathan W. Sweet’s Red Jackal. It is as if Sweet mixed up old classic pulp heroes with comic characters. Where as the Jackal is a whole lot like both Bruce Wayne, aka, Batman and Britt Reid, aka the Green Hornet. He’s actually Blake Randolph, a big city publisher and handsome man-about-town. Whereas his crime fighting methods are based on ancient Egyptian skills he learned while traveling abroad.

In this adventure, Red Jackal takes on several Minnesota based criminal gangs who are trying to fix college football games. As ever aided by his brother, Daniel, his chauffeur Geoffrey and police Lt. MacDaniels, Randolph has his hands full in this face paced actioner. Kudos to writer Sweet, who, although his main characters are fictitious, sets them against real Minnesota history, to include famous criminal personas.

In all a really fun read that is packaged along with a bonus short story at the back, “The Hell Bus.” We also what to give a worth shout out to the folks responsible for this entry interior illustrations. They were quite effective in adding to the drama.

Tuesday, April 09, 2024




Levon Cade Book # 10

By Chuck Dixon

Rough Edge Press

164 pgs


This being the tenth of twelve books, we can with a sigh announce that we are finally getting caught up with Chuck Dixon’s fantastic series. In “Levon’s Prey,” he learns almost too late that his destroying a child sex slave ring has somehow been connected to him by a corrupt politician. A seedy lowlife investigator hunts down Cade’s family and threatens their lives. Having no other recourse, Levon, after saving a friend caught in the crossfire of his personal battles, goes hunting after the hunters. It’s a typical Dixon twist and the book, like all other Levon Cade thrillers, is packed with action.

Only two more for this happy reviewer to get to. And of course we’re all keeping tabs on the new Levon Cade movie that just went into actual production. Oh yeah, for Levon and his legion of fans, things are really, really good.

Monday, April 01, 2024




By Charles Ardai

Hard Case Crime

399 pgs


What we have here is a collection of crime short stories by writer/editor Charles Ardai. Twenty in all and each is a gem. Though somewhat depressing in large part, there is no denying Ardai’s writing chops. He knows how to spin a tale. How to hook the reader and pull along all the way to the place where the trapdoor opens up beneath him. And there are a good deal of these O’Henry type moment in this grand collection. 

There is plenty of suspense, pathos, humor and tragedy all woven together in this cornucopia of what we call life. Ironically our two favorite tales are the end pieces. “The Home Front” is a story about life in the US during World War Two and the last yarn “The Investigation of Things” is a dandy little murder mystery that takes place in a Chinese monastery. All in all, “Death Comes Too Late” is a really nice package you’ll want to unwrap again and again.

Friday, March 22, 2024




By Patrick Cirillo

A Story Killer Publication

298 pgs


There’s a story around Hollywood that one day a reporter asked actor John Wayne about how he learned his “hero” way of walking that was distinctive in all his western movies. The Duke supposed replied, “I learned it from Wyatt Earp.” It is with such oft told vignettes that Hollywood veteran Patrick Cirillo weaves this particular story.


The facts are these. Marion Morrison, a former football star, dropped out of college and went to work as a stunt man for Republic Pictures. It is said he was hired by the first big cowboy start of the Silver Screen, Tom Mix and then subsequently met the legendary lawman Wyatt Earp. Earp at the time was well into his 70s and occasionally asked to consult on western themed pictures. As whether Duke, Morrison’s nickname, and Earp became more then just acquaintances is the stuff from which grandiose “what if” yarns are woven.

In Carillo’s scenario, Duke is recruited by a popular Hollywood director to start in a bio-pic of Wyatt Earp. Earp is then hired to tutor the naïve, greenhorn actor on how to portray him in the film. At first their relationship is anything but affable. The senior Earp sees the college dropout as a wet-behind-the-ears wannabe whose only assets are his rugged good looks and ready fists when it comes to fight. While Duke, constantly berated by Earp, begins to see his hero as nothing but a cantankerous old man devoid any genuine kindness.

When a beautiful Hollywood actress with whom Duke is romantically involved, dies of a drug overdose, he suspects foul play. Soon, with Earp’s help, they discover the supplier was a former lover scorned the lady’s rejection. They also learn he’s one of several brothers all working under the guidance of their criminal father. To take on this crooked, brutal clan, the two will have to put aside their differences and learn to work as a team…or die trying.

“Wyatt & The Duke” is one of the books that comes along all too rarely and is a pure delight. So much so, this reader found himself wondering how such a real adventure might have gone.

Wednesday, March 06, 2024




By Dale Cozort

Chisel & Stone Publishing

198 pgs


Science fiction writer Dale Cozort has a flair for writing alternate time-line adventures and cross-dimensional platforms. In this novel, he offers up a world where very rich men discovered strange gates that lead to an alternate Earth still existing in prehistoric times. They call it the Wild and it is populated by sabertooth tigers, giant bears, things called dire wolves and of course massive furry mastodons. Oh, and early humans barely above ape evolution called Magi inhabit this savage world.  

Now armed with both the knowledge and whereabouts of these “gates” these wealthy men form a Council of the richest families. Each family lays claim to a gate and proceeds to establish a compound on the other world in the Wild. Among these families is the Thornburgs led by patriarch Robert Thornburg who, in a reckless moment of fancy, fathers a daughter with a Magi servant girl. The resulting half-breed child is a girl he names Robinette. Then, despite the hue and cry of other members of the Council and his own children, twins Tom and Leah, Thornburg decided to keep Robinette and raise her here in our world. He soon learns she is not only massively strong, she also possesses a geniur I.Q. and quickly earns a college degree in physics. All the while Tom and Leah  would love nothing better than to have her disappear. 

Ultimately Robinette is drugged, kidnapped and dropped tied and bound in the Wild where she is expected to die. She does not. Rather she manages to survive and sneak back into our world via a gate and is discovered by former Private Investigator, Eric Carter, now employed by father in a security role. Carter has affections for Robinette and upon learning of what happened to her, puts his neck on the line by hiding her from the Council, and her own family. Their job, to solve the mystery of who is trying to sabotage the Thornburgs and steal their power position.

Cozort’s book is a fun read with lots of fascinating characters. None more so than Robinette and the world of the Gates. What lies through them is something to ponder. He almost makes it look attractive. If you like way-out sci-fi, look no further than “Through The Wild Gate.” It’s a hell of a ride.

Monday, February 26, 2024



(Levon Cade Book Seven)

By Chuck Dixon

Rough Edge Press

227 pgs


Happily, this reviewer, with this book, has filled in the gaps and will now be able to catch up with the series as they move forward. With “Levon’s Time,” we pick up Cade after his rescue mission back in Iraq and finds him slowly attempting to slip out of the region among refugees and get back to the states. Unfortunately his noble intervention in saving a young teenage girl from being raped by a Turkish government agent lands him in a hellish Turkish prison. Posing as a Canadian national, Cade does his best to stay alive while methodically assessing his next move to escape.

Meanwhile back in Alabama, his daughter Merry has run into her own threatening situation when she, and a friend, rescue a young Colombian girl being held prisoner by thugs belong to a Mexican drug cartel. Dixon’s ploy in weaving us back and forth between Cade’s violent struggles and his daughter’s cunning confrontation with sex traffickers is masterful in keeping the suspense and pacing of the book at high speed.  

We absolutely love this series and recommend it highly. In a world too often dark and depressing, where good is bad and vice versa, having heroes like Cades is medicine for the soul.


Tuesday, February 20, 2024




By Jack Clark

Hard Case Crime

218 pgs


Eddie Miles is a world weary Chicago taxi-cab driver. He’s divorced; his ex-wife packed her bag and moved away taking his daughter with her. He has no clue where she went. Whatever dreams Eddie had have long ago evaporated and his life is driving through the great Windy City in an endless circle all night long ferrying other lost souls.


When one of Eddie’s oldest friends, a veteran cabbie, is shot and killed, he can’t help but take it personally. Though unaware of his own lack of police skills, Eddie starts becoming super attuned to not only his passengers, but the would-be fares throughout the next few nights. All the while wondering if one of them could be the killer. Because of this heighten awareness, he ends up saving the life a badly cut up teenage prostitute who then calls him her angel. 

Clark’s depiction of Chicago today is one of stark, merciless brutality and the world Eddie and his fellow hacks inhabit is reminiscent on Milton’s nine levels hell. This is a non-forgiving book about people who have given up struggling to hold on what little humanity is left to them. A remarkable achievement in noir fiction.

Saturday, February 17, 2024




The Vanishing Man

By Philip Purser-Hallard

Titan Books

279 pg


We love Sherlock Holmes mysteries and were recently made aware that Titan Books has been publishing a new series of Holmes novels by various authors. If all of them are anywhere as good as “The Vanishing Man” by Philip Purser-Hallard, then Holmes fans should be delighted, as the set up is traditional Doyle all the way.

Holmes is approached by a group of noted Londoners who have formed a scientific society to explore the possibilities of actual psychic phenomenon ala telekinesis and telepathy. In the course of one of their experiments, a fellow claiming to have been raised on the planet Venus, disappears while locked in a room with only one door and one window. At the time of his disappearance, he was being observed by two men of the society around the clock. And still he vanished before their eyes.

Never once believing the incident is anything but a clever hoax, Holmes is still intrigued enough to pursue the matter. Within a few days of his investigations one of the members of the group, an artist, is brutally murdered and his studio trashed. Thus what began as a curious exercise to the Great Detective takes on a more gruesome note. Now solving the initial puzzle may also reveal a cold blooded murderer.

“The Vanishing Man” is wonderfully written and we especially loved a small exchange between Holmes and Watson towards the conclusion wherein Watson actually corrects Holmes on hurried deduction. It is priceless. If you are a bonafide Holmes addict, you might want to check this one out.

Friday, February 09, 2024




By Max Allan Collins

Thomas & Mercer

245 pgs

This is one of writer Max Collins’ murder mysteries centered on outstanding historical events. Other books in the series involved the sinking of the Titanic and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. In this tale, he sets his sights on the dramatic end of the magnificent German airship Hindenburg.

The Hindenburg Disaster, as it became known, occurred on May 6, 1937.  The LZ 129 Hindenburg was a German commercial passenger-carrying rigid airship. The largest such flying machine designed and built by the Zeppelin Company. Filled with hydrogen, it caught fire and was destroyed during its attempt to dock with its mooring mast at the Naval Air Station in Lakehurst New Jersey. Of the 97 people on board, 35 died along with a one ground fatality. The disaster was captured on newsreels and radio eyewitness reports.

In plotting his tale of murder and sabotage, Collins’ muse was aided by the fact that sailing on the airship’s last trip was none other than the popular mystery writer and creator of the Saint, Leslie Charteris. The debonair Charteris is on his way back to America to finalize his divorce from his second wife. Upon getting settled into the spacious, beautifully furnished interior, he soon is made aware that the turbulent politics of the time have also come aboard. Hitler and his Nazi party are changing the climate of the country and not all Germans are thrilled with the fervor of this new nationalism. Attacks on Jewish citizens are rampant and an underground resistance movement fueled by communist agitators is rumored to be active.

Although neutral in his own opinions, the writer soon suspects that the fellow sharing his cabin is an agent of the secret police. When the man disappears soon after the ship’s departure, the only logical explanation points to murder. Someone, fearing exposure by the agent, managed to throw him overboard during the night. The veteran captain of the Hindenburg, being one of Charteris’ old acquaintances, seeks his aid in ferreting out the killer before the mighty airship reaches its final destination. Added to this challenge is the possibility that the killer is also a saboteur and may have planted a bomb somewhere on the giant craft.

As always, Collins research is meticulous and within the first few pages, we readers are taken on a detailed tour of the Hindenburg’s wonders from its stately dining rooms to its four gondolas containing its powerful Daimler engines. As the journey progresses, Charteris does his best to surreptitiously interview the most likely suspects, from a slapstick vaudeville entertaining to even a young member of the ship’s crew. As the hours tick away, the ship moves closer and closer to its destiny.

The final chapters detailing the horrendous explosion and burning of the Hindenburg are gut wrenching. Charteris was one of the survivors and in the end, he walks away with what his believes to be the actual cause of the tragedy. Over the years, a variety of theories have been put forth for both the cause of ignition and the initial fuel for the ensuing fire. The publicity shattered public confidence in the giant, passenger-carrying rigid airship and sounded the death knell of the airship era. For many aviation buffs, this reviewer included, it remains an everlasting loss.

Saturday, January 20, 2024



By Donald Wandrei

Edited by Stephen Haffner

Haffner Press

698 pgs


We always attempt to make our reviews personal and not cookie-cutter dissertations that simply say yea or nea. That has never been more vital than with this review of a really unique pulp character which we not only love but have actually written. So let’s start by getting the cold facts out of the way. Donald A. Wandrei (20 April 1908 to 15 Oct 1987) was a writer of science fiction, fantasy and and weird fiction. He was also an editor and co-founder, with fellow writer August Derleth, of the popular publishing firm, Arkham House.  Ask most pulp fans and this is the data they will recall.

Whereas only a select few know that Wandrei also wrote mysteries and ultimately created one of the most colorful detectives ever to grace the pages of Clues magazine.

Professor I.V. Frost was Wandrei’s take on Sherlock Holmes. He was an eccentric genius who gave up teaching because it bored him and turned to solving bizarre, intricate mysteries that baffled the police. In his first published tale, he hired a beautiful blonde named Jean Moray to be his assistant, ala a girl-Friday. Try imagining Basil Rathbone (Wandrei envisioned Frost as tall, skinny, gaunt fellow ala a living scarecrow) having as as his partner the sexy blond-bombshell, Jean Harlow.  That’s Frost and Moray. Though Jean is more than cupid lips, gray-green eyes and an hour glass figure; she’s also a graduate of Berkeley with a Masters Degree in Physics. And those are the qualifictions that land her job; not her looks. Though in his own clever way, Frost often takes advantage of them when distracting others who are attempting to stymie his investigations.

Wandrei wrote a total of eighteen I.V. Frost mysteries for Clues. In 2000, D.H. Olson, who penned the excellent introduction here, edited a volume published by Fedogan and Bremer collecting the first eight of Frost's adventures. Which is where we were first introduced to these characters. A second volume of the remaining ten tales was promised but much to our dismay never materialized. Now, thanks to Haffner Press that has been corrected with this truly wonderful, complete collection which arrived in 2020. For the past four years it has sat on our bookshelf.

During the intervening years, we were approached by Moonstone Books publisher and managing editor, Joe Gentile, asking if would be like to write new I.V. Frost adventures. We were thrilled at the prospect and quickly wrote not only a new prose tale, but three short comic strips. Redbud Studio published two of those strips in the first ever I.V. Frost comic book, while Moonstone eventually published the third as a bonus feature in a Black Bat special. Then three years ago Joe called again wanting another prose yarn and we happily obliged him. It appeared in a book series called Double-Shot. When Joe reached out again to us last year, we not only agreed to once again join Frost and Ms. Moray on a case, but realized it was high time we sat down and read through the entire Haffner edition, finally familiarizing ourselves with the entire cannon.

It is truly a remarkable series and Wandrei was a deft writer comfortable with both frivolous banter ala the sexual tension between Frost and Jean, and inventing some of the most bizarre, truly grotesque scenarios into which to set them. Together the brainy professor and his cocky, reckless protégé tackled twisted, complex crimes and battled the most ruthless villains ever to appear in print. Happily, the volume is still available from Haffner and if you are a true fan of the pulps, you need to have this book in your library. Meanwhile, keep an out for “Recipe For Murder,” by this reviewer, coming soon from Moonstone Books in another volume of Double-Shot. Somehow we have a feeling; we aren’t done with Frost and Ms. Moray just yet.

Monday, January 15, 2024




(Levon Cade # 6)

By Chuck Dixon

Rough Edges Press

267 pgs


As we continue to fill in the holes in our Levon Cade collection, we come to volume six which is by far one of the most dramatic, action packed installments. Cade returns to Iraq to honor a promise his made to a Kurdish soldier while stationed there. At the same, Federal Agent Nancy Valdez finds his Uncle Fern and takes charge of his daughter, Merry, putting her in an uncaring Foster Care system in hopes of scaring her into betraying her father.  

Dixon skillfully weaves history between the horror of war, which remains part of the lives of all people in the Middle East, to the cruel underbelly of our own child protective services and Merry’s ordeal. Note, she proves to be as tough and resilient as her father. “Levon’s War” is brutal and savage. Not for the faint of heart. You’ve been warned. And now on to # 7.

Thursday, January 04, 2024





By Brian K. Morris

Rising Tide Pub.

245 pgs


Any comic fan upon seeing the gorgeous Jeffrey Hayes cover to this book would have done a double-take. Here is a black man wearing the all too familiar costume of The Black Terror. The Black Terror appeared in Exciting Comics # 9. He was pharmacist Bob Benton, who had formulated a chemical he called formic ethers, which gave him superpowers. He used these to fight crime with his sidekick, a young Tim Rowland, and together they were known as the “Terror Twins.” Many of those early stories were penned by Patricia Highsmith before she became a bestselling crime novelist.

But here’s the rub. Neither Bob or Tim was black. This race switch becomes the lynch pin of writer Brian K. Morris’ unique reinterpretation of these heroes. Keeping the original World War II setting, he’s able to incorporate a social underpinning to his drama while at the same time tipping his cap to those golden age characters. And it works without ever becoming preachy. He deftly defines his cast, the racism of the times and the drama all of them are caught up in, both personally and publicly.

As if that wasn’t enough to sink your teeth into, he then has the guts to bring as yet another old timer into the fray. Any true comic fan, upon being introduced to the Cobalt Scarab, a redheaded mystery man who Benson encounters, will immediately recognize the long-lived hero with the BB initials. His name and origin here also connect with the original. Of course, Morris also throws in some new and nasty villains ala the beautiful Sylvia Devereux. One of the most cold-hearted women this side of Delilah.

“The Terror” is a clever, thrill ride with an honest appreciation of what was good and bad about the past. Here’s hoping there’s a sequel in the works.