Sunday, October 02, 2022

ERIN - Speaker of the Mihn'D

 

ERIN – Speaker of the Mihn’D

By Wayne Carey

Bold Venture Press

299 pgs

 

Writer Wayne Carey has an uncanny affinity for old fashion sci-fi tales reminiscent of all those great paperbacks of the 60s and 70s. In his latest, “ERIN-Speaker of the Mihn’D” he creates an amazing off world adventure featuring a sarcastic, self-centered teenage girl as his protagonist. In this future, the world has encountered alien races and established political relationships with the Yyrrlaar who inhabit the planet Ryllin. When Erin’s estranged father dies on Ryllin, the American Diplomatic Corp request Erin travel to the alien world to represent her family at his funeral.     

Once on Ryllin, Erin discovers there are two other sentient life forms living there. The Drac of massive lizard like beings with engineering talents and the Mihn’D, a race of round goo-like creatures considered nothing more than simple animals who take care of the planet’s natural environment with their farming skills. At first all seems straight forward and Erin hopes once she completed her task of attending her father’s alien funeral, she can return to Earth and become celebrity as the first ever human teenager to visit an alien planet.  

Things go awry when she is kidnapped by a group of Dracs and renegade humans who claim they were abducted from Earth hundreds of years earlier by the Yyrrlar who are not as peace loving as they claim. Then she learns from her Drac kidnappers that they were the first inhabitants of Ryllin and are being Ryllin and are being subjugated by their Yyrrlar overlords. And if that wasn’t enough to confound any young woman, Erin is approached by strange Mihn’D and is touched by one of its malleable tentacle after which she discovers she has been physically altered by the contact. The alien being has infected her bloodstreams with millions of micro-creatures giving her both telepathic abilities and extraordinary physical stamina.  

When the Dracs begin a war with the Yyrrlar, Erin finds herself caught it the middle. Possessing the information that will forever alter the situation, she also becomes a target of those factions who would prefer to maintain the status quo. And thus Carey spins a fantastic tale of unbelievable imagination that is almost impossible to put down. His sci-fi storytelling reminds of such classic writers as E.C. Tubb, Ed Hamilton and Robert Heinlein. To that end, “ERIN – Speaker of the Mihn-D” is a book you do not want to miss.

Sunday, September 11, 2022

THE BIG BUNDLE

 

THE BIG BUNDLE

By Max Allan Collins

Hard Case Crimes

Arriving Dec 6th 2022

295 pgs

 

This is the 20th in the Nate Heller historical crime series by Collins. If you are unfamiliar with them, the conceit is simple enough. Collins, either working alone, or with other collaborators, researches an actual American crime and then drops his fictional private eye into the tale as either an investigator or actual participant in the events.  In this case, he becomes both. The story revolves around the 1953 kidnapping of young Bobby Greenlease of Kansas City. The six year old was the son of Robert Cosgrove Greenlease Sr, a multi-millionaire auto dealer. His kidnappers were paid a ransom of $60,000, the largest ever paid out in American history at that time.

Collins splits the book in two parts. The first has Heller hired by Greenlease Sr. to help find the kidnappers and rescue his son. We’ve always admired Collin’s ability to empathize with his characters and that is never more evidenced than here. Believing the boy is already dead, after finding Hall, Heller’s emotional restraint is nothing short of painful as his desire to blow away the scumbag killer is kept in check with having to learn the truth. His portrayal of Carl Hall is both deft and creepy at the same time.  

At the time of the couples’ eventual arrest, only half the money was recovered.  Five years later the mystery remains as to where it went and who ended up with it. Reporters and police investigators suggested the funds had been laundered through organized crime and ended up in Jimmy Hoffa’s Teamsters Union Fund. Thus Greenlease Sr. once again hires Heller; this time to find out where it went. Not because he needs the money, but is sickened by the thought that unknown lowlifes profited from his son’s abduction. Like his previous Heller books, Collins skillfully weaves his protagonist through the documented historical facts having him cross paths with such players Hoffa and Bobby Kennedy.

“The Big Bundle” is classic Max Collins, that alone should have you pre-ordering it. Of all his Heller novels to date, this one will leave you feeling as if you’d been sucker punched. Since the Garden of Eden, evil has existed in our world. In 1953, it reared its head tragically.  

A final note. We rarely mention of the covers of books we review. Hard Case Crime is one of the few publishers out there that always delivers stunning paintings reminiscent of the early 50s paperbacks. Paul Mann does the honors on this title offering up a Nate Heller who looks a whole lot like the late actor Robert Lansing. What we’d call brilliant casting, Mr. Mann.

 

Monday, September 05, 2022

OLD BONES

 

OLD BONES

By Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child

Grand Central Publishing

369 pgs

 

As most readers of this blog are aware, our favorite current thriller series is the adventures of Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast written by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. One of the hallmarks of great continuing series is the establishment of colorful supporting characters as the stories progress. With the Pendergast book that was clearly evident from the first title which, aside from our stalwart hero, introduced archeologist Nora Kelly. Kelly would go on to appear in several subsequent adventures and even appear in a book sans Pendergast. Later, Preston and Child had Pendergast meet a wild, rebellious into-goth teenage girl named Corrie Swanson. Soon she too reappeared and ultimately became his ward. Pendergast saw to her college education and then was delighted when she chose to join the FBI following in his footsteps.  

Now comes “Old Bones” and Preston and Child pulled the best hat trick of them all. They team up Kelly and Swanson in an intriguing tale of historical horror, murder and international conspiracy. You see, although both ladies had appeared in several Pendergast cases, none at the same time and thus when they cross paths in this story, it is a total strangers. And that, dear reader is the cause of much delight to this reviewer. 

An historian named Clive Benton seeks out Kelly to help him uncover a lost campsite from the infamous Donner Party; the pioneer wagon train that became trapped in the Sierra Nevada mountain range during a brutal winter and ultimately turned to cannibalism to stay alive. Benton claims to be a descendant of one of the survivors and explains how previous archeological digs had only ever uncovered and documented two Donner camps. It is his believe, backed a long-lost diary that a third camp existed and had never been located. It is way too much of a temptation to Kelly and he manages to convince her superiors at the Sante Fe Archeological Institute to fund a new expedition to be led by herself and Benton. 

Meanwhile, rookie FBI agent is investigating a murder centered around several incidents of grave robbing. Parts of deceased bodies, all belong to a family called Parkins have been stolen, include some from France. During her research, she learns the first Parkins was both a member and a victim of the Donner tragedy. When she discovers there is currently an archeological dig presently underway, it is too much of a coincidence and she convinces her boss to let her find Kelly’s team and question them. No sooner than she arrives at the site then one of the cowboy wranglers dies from a fall off a cliff. Was it an accident or was he shoved to his death?  

Preston and Child had to have been smiling from ear to ear as they penned the scenes when to of their most likeable creations come face to face for the very first time. And of course, that meeting is anything but cordial. Kelly is leery of the inexperienced Swanson and convinced her interference will ruin her dig site. While the ambitious agent sees the veteran scientist as a stodgy impediment to her first ever investigation. It’s water and oil and we readers are the recipients of these delicious encounters. “Old Bones” we are happy to announce is only the first of this new spin-off series, teaming these likeable characters. After readying this opening debut, we are certainly pick up the others. You should too.

 

Thursday, August 25, 2022

BENEDICT AND BRAZOS

# 17 : The Buzzard Breed

By E. Jefferson Clay

Bold Venture Press

111 pgs.

 

Bold Venture Press continues reprinting one of the finest western series ever produced, the Benedict and Brazos stories. Duke Benedict is a veteran Union officer while Hank Brazos a former Confederate sergeant. Through a strange bizarre incident at the end of the Civil War, the two end up as partners obsessed with hunting down a vicious outlaw name Bo Rangle and his gang. Rangle stole a shipment of army gold and in the process murdered men who had served with Benedict and Brazos. Each new book is the series is part of this longer chase saga.   

In # 17, “The Buzzard Breed,” the two contentious saddle partners arrive in the town of Galloway. Only Brazos is brought there in chains, having been picked up on the trail by the sheriff for cattle rustling. Now it is up to Benedict to find and capture the real rustlers and free the rowdy Texan. Along the way, the suave Yankee discovers a conspiracy to steal a nearby cattle ranch from a young woman. It involves not only the cattle thieves but a local saloon owner. A conspiracy responsible for the murder of the rancher’s father.  

Once again, E. Jefferson Clay offers up a fast paced, often times humorous, but never dull, cowboy yarn in the grand classic tradition of the early Max Brand and Zane Gray tales. In the end, there’s just no stopping Benedict and Brazos. These books are addictive.


 

Saturday, August 20, 2022

VALIDUS-V

 

 

VALIDUS-V

By Van Allen Plexico

White Rocket Books

253 pgs

 

Giant robots battling each other and horrific giant monsters. Ah the stuff of Japanese movies and American comics. And now a wonderful, action packed novel by veteran sci-fi and pulp writer, Van Allen Plexico. This one truly has it all and this reviewer was entertained from the very first page to the last. Having followed Plexico’s writing career over the years, we weren’t the slightest bit surprised at the theme of this new book. If nothing else, Plexico has shown he will not be pigeon holed in any one genre.  

We’ve applauded his superhero series, and gone ballistic over his crime thrillers. So again, no surprise when he takes us back to 1978 and a top secret base in the Pacific Ocean where giant robots manufactured by an alien race are discovered. A scientist named Garen pieces together an incredible history of two powerful intergalactic empires, the good Ahlwhen and the power mad Xovaren. Using super science to battle each other across the galaxies, the Ahlwhen built the giant robots while the more barbaric Xovaren created massive organic monsters. One of the hundreds of planets they fought across centuries earlier was earth and upon their departure, they left behind remnants of both these incredibly powerful entities.  

David Okada is a high school student in Hawaii living with his maiden aunt, while his older brother John is a navy pilot whom he hasn’t seen in several years. Both were orphaned when their parents passed away. Our tale begins one day when out of the sky, a giant robot lands near David’s school and out of the control “head” room appears John desperately seeking help. Something has infected his units other three robots leaving John the sole “free” agent to battle them. When David comes aboard the robot machine, called Validus-V, he somehow links with it empathically and when John is several wounded in battle with his former allies, it is David who takes command of three foot tall battling machine. Only he remains to somehow save his brother, defeat the other three giant robots and solve the mystery behind their bizarre brainwashing.  

This is Van Plexico at his best and the action is non-stop. Not cliché, but here a fact. Combining all out sci-fi thrills with likeable characters, he puts forth elements that in the end come together to produce one of the finest books of the year. If you like top-notch writing, do not pass up “Validus-V.” As for this reviewer, we are so begging for a sequel Mr. Plexico. In the words of Jean Luc Picard, make it so.

 

Saturday, August 13, 2022

THE HAM REPORTER

 

 

THE HAM REPORTER

By Robert J. Randisi

Double Day Western

370 pgs

 

When picking up this volume, we noted the sub-titles being “A Novel of Bat Masterson in Twentieth-Century New York.” Randisi sets his creative imagination post Wild West life and career of the legendary lawman who at one time fought alongside other larger then life figures such as Wyatt Earp and Wild Bill Hickock. Seeing the frontier succumbing to civilization, Masterson and his wife Emma migrated to the booming metropolis on the Hudson, New York City. There the one time law-dog became a popular sports writer and eventual publisher.  

As the tale opens, one of Masterson’s colleagues and fellow drinking mates, Inkspot Jones, a sports writer, suddenly goes missing. Attempts to involve his police detective friend, Charles Becker, prove fruitless. It is assumed the writer is simply on some kind of drinking jaunt from which he’ll eventually resurface. Tragically it is the fellow’s corpse that floats to surface thus morphing the missing person case is one of cold blooded murder. Having no faith in police’s ability to solve the crime, Masterson takes it upon himself to find the killer and provide Jones’ widow with some kind of justice.  

Aiding him in the hunt is popular paper columnist, Damon Runyon. As the duo of amateur detectives begin to gather information on Jones’ last days, it soon becomes evident that the dead man had crossed paths with one of the Big Apple’s several crime lords. And in doing has suffered the consequences. Soon Masterson discovers the back alleys of the big city are just as dangerous as the streets of Doge City and Tombstone.  

“The Ham Reporter” is a brilliant work of historical fiction wonderfully put forth by a craftsman. Randisi’s prose is fun and he spins his tall tale with vigor and affection guiding the reader to a fitting, gun blasting climax. Our copy was picked up at a used book store. Here’s hoping you can find your own. It is truly worth looking for.

 

 

Saturday, July 30, 2022

GRIP OF DEATH

 

GRIP OF DEATH

By Len Levinson

Rough Edge Press

242 pages

 

Set in New York City in the turbulent year after the start of the Civil War, Levinson’s story revolves around a group of Southeners known as the Chivalry who hatch a plot to cripple the North’s economic strength. Their goal, to murder the wealthiest New York financiers and frighten off others from supporting Lincoln’s campaign.

 

Fate intervenes when Deputy Chief of Detectives, Timothy Flanagan, hires two new detectives on the same day. The first of these is Derek Lancaster, an intelligent, well-to-do blue blood whose patriotic duty resulted in his being wounded at the Battle of Bull Run. Now discharged, he wants to join the Secret Service and continue his fight to abolish slavery. Sadly he’s rejected for lack of investigative experience and thus turns to the City Detective Department. Flanagan’s second recruit is a lovely young lady named Catherine Satterfield, formerly of South Carolina. Rebelling against her stubborn father, Catherine had been sent to a girls’ school in London just prior to the war. There she falls in love with the theater and acting. Upon her return to the states, she hopes to find work as an actor but instead, crosses path with the veteran copper. 

Seeing the potential in both Lancaster and Satterfield, Flanagan has them team up and begin the investigation of the murdered business man, Amos Symington. From that point on, Levinson’s story takes on a life of its own. Brilliant at capturing both he wonder and squalor of New York at the time, his setting is historically authentic and it breathes added weight to the challenges Lancaster and Satterfield must overcome to solve the mystery. Levinson skillfully weaves his fictional players with historical characters such as Horace Greely, John Wilkes Booth and a hack driver named Bonney, whose son will one day become a legend out west. 

Like most veteran pulp scribes, Levinson economy of words is so efficient. He paints pictures fast as easy, as the drama unfolds. From the sweet prostitute caught up in conspiracy beyond her comprehension to the runaway slave trying to find his own place in a frightening new America. They crisscross the stage propelling the plot ever forward to a truly satisfying, marvelous finale. “Grip of Death” is both a thriller and history lesson in one, with Levinson’s cold hard prose. One should never attempt to change history as it is a folly reserved only fools and politicians.