Friday, July 23, 2021

HOUR OF THE ROBOT

 

HOUR OF THE ROBOT

By Paul R. McNamee

Mystique Press

185 pgs

This sci-fi actioner begins when an advance scout ship from an alien empire arrives in orbit around the Earth with the intent gathering data for an invasion. As it turns out, one of the three members of the crew rebels at the idea of conquest and sabotages the mission at the same time stranding himself here. Seven years later, this castaway has become a superhero to the people of the great city Palas simply referred to as the Alien. His secret lair is managed by an intelligent robot of his own design called Robot.

Writer McNamee clearly spins his tale from the iconic comic book mythos of the twentieth century. Whereas the Alien is another version of Superman, in the nearby dark brooding metropolis of Crowsport (re-Gotham) a masked crimefigther named the Protector has taken to cleaning up the street aided by his firecracker of a lovely sidekick, a young lady called Understudy.

But what are heroes without villains? And in this case, we immediately learn of brilliant genius called Mr. Medina and a cruel, thuggish mob boss called Dufresne. Together they are forever hatching various get rich schemes to acquire wealth and power. It appears the forces are good and evil are equally balance until the Alien uncovers clues of a mysterious third party’s involvement. This unknown element could prove the most dangerous threat the planet has ever encountered unless Alien and the Protector then discover its identity and goals.

“Hour of the Robot” is a terrific first novel and a fun read.  McNamee’s prose is succinct in its brevity detailing the action clearly throughout without wasting so much as a single word. He tells you his story without fancy trappings while at the same time drawing forth really wonderful personalities from his cast of characters. Though based on all too familiar themes, “Hour of the Robot” is really something fresh and exciting and a bravo first novel of a very skillful storyteller.  Honestly, we want more. Lots more.

 

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

FIVE DECEMBERS

 

FIVE DECEMBERS

By James Kestrel

Hard Case Crime

427 pgs

“Five Decembers” is one of the greatest books we have ever read. It is destined to be a classic of American fiction for so, so many reasons.

It is late Nov. in Honolulu, 1941. Tensions between the U.S. and Japan are reaching a crescendo and the ghosts of war are once again manifesting themselves. World War I veteran, Detective Joe McGrady is called to investigate the brutal murder of a young couple; their bodies having been discovered in a rickety shack up in the hills of a dairy farm. The boy was American, the girl Japanese and their remains the grisly signature of a sadistic monster. No sooner than McGrady begin his investigation when he learns the male victim was the nephew of an Admiral in command of the island’s pacific fleet. Via this connection, the evidence suggests the killer was in fact a trained spy and since fled Hawaii for Hong Kong.

At the Admiral’s request, McGrady agrees to take up the chase and is soon packed and saying farewell to Molly, a young college student he’d recently become involved with. His hope is to catch the killer, turn him over to the British authorities and then be home in only a few weeks. What McGrady fails to anticipate is the attack on Pearl Harbor, the following week, Dec.7th that finds him wrongly incarcerated in a Hong Kong jail cell. Unable to convince the Brits of his identity and purpose, he helplessly witnesses the Japanese invasion of Hong Kong and is subsequently captured as a prisoner of war and brought to Japan.

What happens next to McGrady is truly mesmerizing, as Kestrel paints a setting few Americans have ever seen, let alone imagined; Japan during the war years. He masterfully depicts characters from all walks of life attempting to cope with the living nightmare that had seemingly swallowed all reality. The author captures people insightfully, his characters brokenly human regardless of race and all of them somehow significant to the entire story of McGrady’s personal odyssey. That he survives to return back to Honolulu is a heart-wrenching narrative and only the precursor for the book’s final third in which McGrady, like a dog with a bone, picks up his old case and once again begins his hunt for killer who had eluded all those years earlier.

“Five Decembers” is a gripping, taught, magnificent saga unlike anything we’ve ever read in our life. No understatement there. It is a work of power, brilliant plotting, heart and grace showing all the nobility of mankind as well as the depths of evil into which it can sink. Loves won and lost, enemies and allies encountered and a finale that will have you transfixed by its sheer, overwhelming beauty. What else can I say except, thank you, James Kestrel, for writing this book.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

EXOTIC ADVENTURES OF ROBERT SILVERBERG

EXOTIC ADVENTURES OF ROBERT SILVERBERG

Edited by Robert Deis & Wyatt Doyle

# New Texture Press

139 pgs

Robert Silverberg is one of the best known science fiction writers in the world. He is a multiple winner of both Hugo and Nebula Awards, a member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame and a Grand Master of SF. A voracious reader since childhood, he began submitting stories to science fiction magazines during his early teenage years. He received a BA in English Literature from Columbia University in 19567. While at Columbia, he wrote the juvenile novel “Revolt on Alpha” (1955) and won his first Hugo in 1956 as the "best new writer".

In 1959, the bottom fell out of the science fiction market and Silverberg turned his talent to write copiously to other fields, from historical non-fiction to softcore porn. At this time he was writing a quarter of a million words a month under dozens of pseudonyms. As Don Elliott he produced nearly 200 erotic novels. Silverberg also contributed to many of the MAMS of the late 50s to include “Exotic Adventures” a late 1957 arrival that only lasted six issues.

Now MAMS (Mens Adventure Magazines) historians Bob Deis and Wyatt Doyle have collected 20 of those stories and articles in their latest release from their terrific Men’s Adventure Library series. They are eye-opening to say the least. Read in the context of the times, the stories, most of which are purely fiction, range from outlandish sexual encounters ala an island of sex-starved women, to supposedly investigative reports on the brothels of Juarez, Mexico. There’s an article on buying liquor in Europe alongside an expose of the Arab slave trade. Most are written in first person to add to the believability of each tale. Like his pulp heroes of the past, Silverberg wasn’t trying to produce great literature here, he was trying to earn a buck and he was damn good at that.

Some of the elements to take note of are the geographical settings detailed in those stories taking place in far off exotic locales. All of which added to the overall atmosphere of the stories themselves. Then Deis and Doyle have too much fun filling pages with old 50s ads from the “Invigorator Pill” to Joe Weider “Muscle Builder” programs. “Exotic Adventures of Robert Silverberg” is clearly a one of kind reading experience and an amusing look back on a time readers looked for the unexpected and weren’t so easily offended as today’s overly demure generation is. Thumbs up pulp aficionados, this is the good stuff.

 


 

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

THE DARK SUNRISE

 

THE DARK SUNRISE

A Sheriff Aaron Mackey Western

By Terrence McCauley

Pinnacle Western

319 pgs

With this fourth volume, the saga of former Army cavalry officer turned U.S. Marshal; Aaron Mackey comes to a gun-blasting finale. As in most such series, one hopes the final chapter will prove worthy of the preceding volumes and this one delivers on that in spectacular fashion.

After months of battling with the malicious con-man James Grant, Mackey and his deputy, Billy Sunday, believe they’ve gathered enough evidence to have him either hung on incarcerated by federal judge in Helena, Montana. Much to their frustration, Grant hired a savvy attorney who underscored that most of the evidence is circumstantial and simply is not enough to convict Grant. In the end, Mackey has no choice but watch his nemesis escape justice and return to his hometown of Dover Station while he remains in Helena to take up his duties as territorial marshal. His only hope is that Grant’s influence, along with his ill-gotten gains have been diminished to the point where he is no longer a threat to decent people.

Unfortunately Mackey is proven wrong and Grant waste no time in hiring Nathan Rigg, a former Army officer who once tried to have Mackey court-martialed. Rigg is as cruel and sadistic as his employer and together they plan the total destruction of Dover Station.

“The Dark Sunrise” is a moving, powerful story that rewards readers of the previous three volumes. It is fast paced and packed with gun-blazing action from start to finish. All the while delving into the Mackey’s character in such a profoundly intimate fashion and to make him one of the greatest western characters to ever grace such a series. Terrence McCauley is a writer to reckon with and we really cannot wait to see what he’s got for us next up. Meantime, get these Aaron Mackey books and saddle up for a classic western adventure.

 

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

MEN'S ADVENTURE QUARTERLY # 2

 

MEN’S ADVENTURE QUARTERLY

Vol 1 No 2

Edited by Robert Deis & Bill Cunningham

Pulp 2.0

153 pgs

So here’s our question. When is the second issue of a magazine not only equal in quality to the first issue, but even better? Well, for the answer to that you’ll have to query editors Robert Deis and Bill Cunningham. You see, that is exactly what these two imaginatively creative fellows have gone and done with the second issue of their “Men’s Adventure Quarterly.”

Once again they have jampacked seven stories, three introductions, a MAM’s cover gallery and a pictorial look at the sexiest femme spy gals ever to grace the silver screen neatly between two covers. Oh, and as westerns were theme of issue # 1, this one aims the spotlight at the Cold War spy tales inspired by the literary and cinema exploits of the one and only OO7, James Bond. There’s even an article detailing the adventures of the Scotland Yard detective rumored to have been the “real life” British super spy. Honestly, this package is so much fun. The stories are all classic examples of the best such yarns featured in the now defunct Men’s Adventure Magazines of the 50s to 70s that spilled over drugstore shelf racks across the country.

Not only has Deis cherry picked the finest art illustrations to grace this volume and given us wonderful biographical insights into the talented artists who produced them, but Design Maestro Cunningham skillfully lays out every single page to evoke the maximum pleasure and impact, i.e. each is a work of design delight.

We read through the entire package in just two days and the second we finished we found ourselves hungry for more. Bravo gentlemen, you’re on a streak to the benefit of all pulp fans, old and new. Thank you so very, very much.

 

Friday, June 11, 2021

THE FATEFUL EIGHT

 

THE FATEFUL EIGHT

By Mark Allen Vann

Xepico Press

293 pgs

Last year writer Mark Allen Vann impressed us with the debut of his first collection of new pulp tales, “Eight Against the Darkness.” In it, Vann introduced eight distinct heroes all molded on established pulp genres and each was a gem. Enough so that we were only too happy to nominated that book for the Pulp Factory Awards. That it didn’t win doesn’t seem to have fazed this talented scribe as now we have a sequel and once more eight brand new stories featuring his wonderful characters.

“Written in Stone,” features the stone-skinned private eye Thomas Greyscale as he hunts a frustrated pulp writer who is using a magic book to murder the editors who rejected his fiction. Maybe a bit of wish-fulfillment for some colleagues here.

“The Toll of the Demon Bell” has Puritan adventure Alistair Synne come upon a town haunted by a supernatural horror only he and his magic flintlocks can battle. This is a great character, though we found the ending a wee bit rushed.

“The Dagger’s Curse” has Corr, the Barbarian Prince, continuing his assignment for his mother, the Witch Queen Azura to retrieve a magical dagger little realizing its properties to change men into monsters.

“Whence Darkness Comes,” features a mixed up Mary Minerva out of the asylum and living as a stage magician. Whereas as a mentalist, she is capable of great power against the forces of darkness an somehow able to discern between dimensions; including viewing other heroes found in this collection. Now that’s a neat little twist.

“Sky Shadows” sees the return of Redd Havik, captain of the air-pirate ship as she hunts down her uncle, the cruel One-Eyed Jack employed by the empire to hunt down Redd and the crew of the Scarlett Mistress. One of our favorites from volume one and pleasure to see her in action again.

“Home In Time For Dinner.” Nathan Porter, aka the Revenant not only has to battle Big Tony’s mob of goons, but a shambling zombie killer that is targeting someone he loves. Fast paces, well delivered tale.

“Eye of the Tigermen,” finds Red Bannon and his pal Tolliver off to India to find a stolen gem supposedly containing unimaginable power. Move over Doc Savage, this one is major fun.

“Nightmares of Steam and Steel.” The longest tale in the book, it stars the King’s Agent Blake Spector as he teams up with Wizard Karkas Blackwell and inventor Dr. Archie Livingston to thwart a monstrous attack on the empire.

Finally Vann wraps it all up with the two page finale, “A Simple Game” in which he underlines the fact that all these different stories and heroes are actually a part of grant mosaic he’s brilliantly created. Overall, this second tome in his “Eight” saga is superior to the first and now happily indicated a third volume is in the works. All we can say is bring it on. Van writes as if he were actually eight writers in one. Amazing!

Thursday, June 03, 2021

MOONSTONE DOUBLE SHOT

Edited by Joe Gentile

Moonstone Books

(http://moonstonebooks.com/shop/item.aspx?itemid=1240)

94 pgs

Guest Reviewer – Michael Housel

Moonstone Books presents a new Double Shot release headlining those dynamic crime-figthers, the Green Hornet, Kato, I.V. Frost and Jean Moray in two sensational stories.

The Hornet novella springs from Mel Odom, and the Frost short story from Ron Fortier. The tales complement each other well, making this Moonstone submission a literary winner on both counts, abetted by a crackerjack cover from Malcolm McClinton and striking interiror illustrations from Segio Ibanez.

For Odom’s adventure, “The Hornet’s Big Score,” Britt Reid and Hayashi Kato face a killing spree frm the crafter crime lord Kavieff and race forth to snuff the carnage. The Detroit esacpage proves touchy but our resilient duo fights on to right a great wrong in this sizzling exploit. Kato is an admirable stand-out in this yarn, with plenty of Bruce Lee panache to spare, but Odom nails it a hundredfold with the Hornet, capturing the particular essence that Van Williams brought to the suave Britt Reid. On this basis, fans of the classic television series will be more than pleased. But anyone who’s encountered the Hornet & Kato’s adventures, no matter their incarnations or contexts, are certain to give “Big Score” a big thumbs-up.

In Fortier’s Frost caper, “The Vanishing Train,” our cool criminologist and his scrupulous, Harlow-ish confidant, Miss Jean Moray, investigate a missing locomotive. How could an object so massisve just disappear? That’s the clever angle of this crispy written mystery, which will leave readers conjecturing to the hilt. Beyond its nifty slant, the characterizations fuel this entry. Fortier gives a noble job of giving Frost his frosty demeanor, but Moray is the story’s beacon; a woman who’s smart, pretty and tenacious in the best, cool-headed way. Thanks to Fortier’s interpretation, she’s more than a sidekick, but one who possesses forefront, Emma Peel appeal.

Don’t miss out on this momentous debut of new Double Shot series from Moonstone Books.

 


 

SHERLOCK HOLMES VS DRACULA

 

SHERLOCK HOLMES VS DRACULA

By Loren D. Estleman

Titan Books

196 pgs

There have been numerous Holmes pastiches that pit him against the King of Vampires. Some have been decent, others abysmal and a very few extremely well done. This tome falls totally in the latter category and is a great deal of fun. Estleman’s plot is cleverly woven around Bram Stoker’s famous story so that those familiar with it will easily recognize those scenes when intruded upon by Holmes and Dr. Watson.

Which is his main approach sticking to Conan Doyle’s own styling in which the good doctor is our narrator. Holmes is brought into the matter when asked to visit the seacoast town of Whitby shortly after a ship from Transylvania has crashed upon its shores due to a horrendous sea storm. The ship is discovered abandoned except for the dead captain tied to the wheel. Witness also report having seen a massive dog leaping from the craft onto the beach and disappearing into the night.

A few weeks later the famed detective learns of a series of child kidnapping plaguing the neighboring communities reported to be the work of a female like wraith in white. Quick to take up the hunt, Holmes and Watson arrive in time to witness the destruction of the vampire by Doctor Abraham Van Helsing and his allies. And just like that Conan Doyle’s hero collides with Stoker’s masterpiece of horror.

The book is so much fun but its strongest element is how wonderfully Estleman portrays the relationship between Holmes and Watson. Over the years, hundreds of writers have taken on this duo and their amazing friendship. Estleman underscores the loyalty to the max and then gives us insight into how much the Great Detective actually appreciated his true brother in spirit. “Sherlock Holmes VS Dracula” is well worth your time. It satisfies from first page to last.