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.