Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Tuesday's Overlooked TV: Combat!

(This post originally appeared in somewhat different form on December 7, 2006.)

COMBAT! was one of my favorite TV shows as a kid. I watched it nearly every week during its original run in the Sixties. Then during the Eighties I saw some of the episodes again in syndicated reruns and still enjoyed them. Now, I'm glad to report that the series still holds up pretty well. The production values are high, the black-and-white photography is really good, and the acting, writing, and direction are all top-notch. Vic Morrow, who usually played villains (and was good at it, too), is excellent here as the stalwart Sergeant Chip Saunders. Rick Jason as Lieutenant Hanley is kind of a stiff (Jason was intended to be the star of the series, but Morrow eclipsed him within a few episodes), but I don't mind him too much. The supporting cast, playing the GIs in Saunders's squad, are all great, although the best of the bunch, Jack Hogan as Kirby and Dick Peabody as Littlejohn, are barely visible in the early episodes I just watched.

In fact, that's the problem with the early episodes, many of which were directed by Robert Altman. They tend to concentrate on one or two characters, and I enjoy the later episodes more because they're more of an ensemble effort. I really like the interaction of the various squad members. But some of the early ones are still really good, like the second episode, "Any Second Now", which was directed by Altman and features Hanley trapped in a French church with an unexploded German bomb and a shaky British bomb disposal officer who's losing his nerve. This is a fine episode. I hadn't seen it since it was first broadcast in 1963, but I still remembered it after nearly 43 years.

I don't know when or if I'll get around to watching any more of these, but I'm glad to know that a show I liked a lot back then was actually pretty good. That hasn't always been the case with my old favorites.

(Update: I watched a couple of episodes a few weeks ago, and they still hold up very well. I think COMBAT! is the best fictional TV series ever about World War II.)

Monday, April 28, 2014

Renegade's Revenge - Jack Badelaire

I've enjoyed Jack Badelaire's action and war novels, so I was eager to read his first Western. RENEGADE'S REVENGE is a short novel set during the Civil War and its aftermath. Like many families, the Miller brothers are separated by the war, with Caleb fighting for the Union and his twin brother Caleb and their older brother Paul joining up with a band of Confederate guerrillas. Inevitably, in the last days of the war, they find themselves on different sides of the same battle, and the outcome is a tragic one when Caleb Miller is taken prisoner and executed by David's brutal commander.

The war is over soon after that, and David and Paul find themselves back on the family farm making an uneasy truce with each other. David regards what his captain did as murder, not an act of war, and he and Paul decide to sell the farm and track down the captain and the brutal sergeant who actually killed Caleb. They know that doing so will make them outlaws, but they don't care. They're going to avenge Caleb's death no matter what it takes.

It's a classic set-up for a Western revenge novel, and Badelaire handles it beautifully. His prose is crisp and assured and flows very well. He has a nice touch with the characters, creating a tough-minded but sympathetic protagonist in David Miller, a couple of truly despicable villains, and vivid supporting characters including a former Union officer haunted by the past. The frequent action scenes are quite effective and lead up to a satisfying showdown.

RENEGADE'S REVENGE is a top-notch traditional Western that makes me hope it won't be Badelaire's only entry in the genre. I'm looking forward to seeing what he comes up with next. If you're a Western fan, you definitely should give this one a try.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Public Enemy, December 1935

This is the first issue of a short-lived pulp series trying to cash in on the popularity of G-Men in movies and popular fiction. The hero of the lead novels in these issues is Lynn Vickers, Agent G-77 of the FBI. He's the usual clean-cut pulp G-Man, but I've read a few of the novels and remember them as being pretty entertaining. The author, Bryan James Kelley, was really George A. MacDonald, who wrote some of the Phantom Detective novels. He may well have written Dan Fowler novels for the pulp G-MEN, too. I don't recall for sure about that. But his Lynn Vickers novels, though formulaic, are not bad. I think they're scheduled to be reprinted sometime in the future.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: The Masked Rider Western Magazine, April 1934

This is the first issue of the pulp featuring The Masked Rider, a character pretty obviously inspired by The Lone Ranger. Or was he? I seem to recall reading speculation that Oscar Schisgall's novel THE BLACK CABALLERO was written as a stand-alone and quickly turned into a series after the success of the Lone Ranger radio program. I don't know, but I believe this is the only Masked Rider novel by Schisgall, which makes me think it's possible he didn't intend to write any sequels and the publisher bought the rights to the characters from him.

At any rate, the series ran for 13 issues from its original publisher, Ranger Publications (Ranger...hmmm), then went away for a few months before returning from Better Publications, one of the imprints of Ned Pines' Thrilling Group. It had a good long run there, lasting until 1953. Quite a few of the novels were reprinted in paperback by Curtis Books during the Seventies. I've read a number of them and enjoyed most of them.

The early Masked Rider stories from Ranger Publications, although featuring the same characters, Wayne Morgan (aka The Masked Rider) and his Yaqui sidekick Blue Hawk, are somewhat different in tone from the later ones, based on the one or two I've read. In those stories, The Masked Rider is more of a Shadow-like character, often manipulating the action from behind the scenes.

The first three novels in the series have been reprinted by Altus Press. I hope to have a chance to read them soon.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Forgotten Books: Dead Cat Bounce - Norman Green)

(I seem to be in a stretch of not having time to read much except the books I'm editing, so here's another rerun, this one from October 18, 2006. It's pretty appropriate, though, since I haven't heard much about Norman Green, nor read any more of his books myself, since I wrote this post seven and a half years ago.)

I didn't really intend for it to work out that way, but this is the third novel in a row I've read about professional criminals. First was the unnamed con man/narrator of David Dodge's THE LAST MATCH, then the Dolly family from Daniel Woodrell's WINTER'S BONE, and now Stoney, Fat Tommy, and Tuco, a trio of scam artists operating in New York City and New Jersey. The protagonist of this one is Stoney, a likable guy despite his profession. Estranged from his wife and two teenage children, Stoney is trying to clean up his act by quitting drinking. He has no plans to give up being a grifter, though, which is good because his special talents at crime, along with those of his two partners, come in very handy when some secrets about his family are revealed and danger threatens his loved ones.

Some books come out of nowhere and surprise you. I'd never heard of Norman Green, despite the fact that he's published four other well-received crime novels, including SHOOTING DR. JACK, which introduced Stoney, Fat Tommy, and Tuco. This is a perfectly fine urban hardboiled crime yarn with a suitably twisty plot, but what elevates it to an even higher level are Green's perceptive portraits of the characters involved in that plot. His heroes are borderline losers who are trying, sometimes with success and sometimes not, to hang on to their dignity and find something worth living for, and they come up against some suitably psychopathic villains. Green's dialogue is excellent, and he's as good as anyone I've read lately at getting to the heart of things with a few well-crafted lines. This is highly recommended and one of the best books I've read all year.

(Indeed, it made my Top Ten in 2006.)

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Zombies from the Pulps!: The Corpse Master - Seabury Quinn

Unlike H.P. Lovecraft, who authored only a few stories that I've read so far, and Henry S. Whitehead, who I hadn't read at all, I'm pretty familiar with the work of Seabury Quinn, the next author in ZOMBIES FROM THEPULPS! I've read probably two dozen of the stories in his long-running series about occult detective Jules de Grandin, maybe more. I'm pretty sure I hadn't read "The Corpse-Master", the de Grandin story in this collection, though.

This yarn, originally published in the June 1929 issue of WEIRD TALES, finds de Grandin, his friend/narrator Dr. Trowbridge, and police detective Lt. Costello investigating a series of brutal murders. The first of these is thought to be a suicide, but de Grandin disposes of that theory pretty quickly. A piece of evidence in a later killing points to a particular criminal, but there's a problem with that: said criminal was executed several weeks earlier. Then de Grandin discovers a previously undetected link between the victims, and that leads him to the killer.

The de Grandin stories are never any great shakes as mysteries, and this one is no exception. But Quinn was pretty good at pacing, and "The Corpse-Master" moves along at a nice clip. He could write atmospherically creepy scenes, too. The de Grandin/Trowbridge relationship is reminiscent of Holmes and Watson, but I've always felt that Quinn was influenced even more by Agatha Christie. Jules de Grandin reminds me very much of Hercule Poirot, and Dr. Trowbridge is a virtual clone of Dr. Hastings, the narrator of many of the Poirot novels.

"The Corpse-Master" is an entertaining tale with a very effective final line. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Tuesday's Overlooked Movie: Fired Up!

(This post originally appeared June 21, 2009.)

Crass, crude, silly, predictable teen sex comedy about a couple of football players going to cheerleader camp to chase girls. And I laughed all the way through it and thoroughly enjoyed it. (Big surprise there, eh?) Seriously, if you can say such a thing about a movie like this, the script is considerably smarter than you might expect. Worth checking out if you're in the mood for some lightweight entertainment, which I usually am.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Monday Morning Digest Magazine: Imagination, October 1950

For some reason I never saw copies, used or new, of the science fiction digest IMAGINATION or its sister magazine IMAGINATIVE TALES when I was growing up. They just weren't around my part of the country. The SF digests I saw and read were GALAXY, IF, ANALOG, every now and then an issue of THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY & SCIENCE FICTION, and then later, in the late Sixties and early Seventies, AMAZING and FANTASTIC. But about ten years ago, I went on an IMAGINATION/IMAGINATIVE TALES binge, buying copies on eBay and having a great time reading them.

This is the first issue of IMAGINATION, with a cover by Hannes Bok and stories by Chester S. Geier, Kris Neville, and Rog Phillips, among others. I owned a copy of this issue and read it, and while there were other issues I probably enjoyed more, I've never forgotten it.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: All Star Detective, December 1941

I don't really get the appeal of the so-called "hypo" covers, but they were popular at times in the pulps and also with collectors. This one has the requisite pretty girl and stalwart hero, too. I've seen stories by Westmoreland Gray, who wrote the lead novel, but I don't recall ever reading any of them. More familiar names in this issue are Ken Crossen, Wyatt Blassingame, and Dale Clark.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Rough Edges Press Website

Livia's put together a website for Rough Edges Press with information on all the books we've published so far. The last time I counted, we have at least a dozen more books under contract, including three original novels, and I plan to have all of them out by the end of the year. You can check out the website here.

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Dime Western, December 1936

Yet another appearance of the Redshirted Cowboy and the Wounded Geezer. I wonder how many Western pulp covers those two appeared on, and by how many different artists. I don't know who did this cover, but the style looks familiar. Our old friends don't have the Angry Redhead with them this time. I guess she was off somewhere else, glaring and shooting at some bad guy. The brunette is okay, but she's not the Angry Redhead.

All joking aside, this looks like another fine issue of one of the best Western pulps. T.T. Flynn, Harry F. Olmsted, Cliff Farrell, Ray Nafziger . . . those are some heavyweight authors. I would have spent a dime for this one, that's for sure.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Now Available from Rough Edges Press: Klaw - W.L. Fieldhouse

A legendary action writer returns with a novel of brutal violence and bloody revenge! John Klawson has a promising future as a gunsmith in the town of Great Ford, Colorado until he makes the mistake of challenging an insidious criminal conspiracy. Maimed, gutshot, and left for dead, Klawson survives against all the odds and becomes the infamous outlaw, gunfighter, and avenger known only as Klaw. With a deadly hook in place of his right hand, Klaw will use any weapon, go to any lengths, and trail his enemies to hell and back if he has to in order to deal out vengeance! 

W.L. Fieldhouse wrote many classic action/adventure novels in such series as The Executioner and Phoenix Force and has long been acclaimed as a master storyteller of fast-moving, exciting fiction. This classic Western novel, the first of several under his name, originally appeared in paperback more than thirty years ago and is now available again in new e-book and trade paperback editions from Rough Edges Press. Watch for more W.L. Fieldhouse novels coming soon, and get ready for action! 

"Fieldhouse writes a gritty, violent, realistic action-western for those who are tired of the sanitized yarns of Louis L'Amour and who love stories about the Davids of the world taking on Goliath. A very entertaining and satisfying read!"--Peter Brandvold, author of STILLMAN'S WAR. 

“Western fiction has seen plenty of avenging protagonists over the years, hardened by savagery and betrayal, hell-bent on a course to settle the score with human scum undeserving of taking another breath. But few have ever been more embittered or relentless than Klaw … Replacing tortured flesh and bone with cold steel and determination, he turns the bloody remains of a body left for dead into a killing machine who can't be stopped … Bill Fieldhouse has created a memorable, uncompromising character with the grit, savvy, and willingness to go up against the toughest odds. Told in a no-frills, unflinching style, KLAW is an exciting Western adventure that will leave you clamoring for more.” – Wayne Dundee 

"All hail the long overdue return of a master of the action novel...No one does it like Fieldhouse”--Stephen Mertz

KLAW e-book on Amazon

KLAW trade paperback on Amazon

KLAW e-book on Smashwords

KLAW e-book on Barnes & Noble

Forgotten Books: The Streak - Max Brand (Frederick Faust)

(This post originally appeared in somewhat different form on May 21, 2008.)

By the time Frederick Faust wrote this novel (which was originally serialized in ARGOSY), he had been turning out Westerns for almost twenty years, and it shows because this is a clever twist on just the sort of plot that he’d been using for a long time. The typical Faust hero is a larger-than-life figure, able to outshoot and outfight any enemy, and of course he can tame the magnificent killer horse that no one else can even approach, let alone ride.

To the people of Jasper Valley, that’s a good description of The Streak, who quickly becomes a legend when he first arrives in the valley, interrupting a hold-up and sending seven outlaws fleeing for their lives.

The reader knows, though, even if the citizens of Jasper Valley don’t, that The Streak is really just easy-going cowboy Blondy Torrance, and his outlaw-taming is nothing more than luck and exaggeration by those who witness it. Likewise with his taming of the wild stallion Rocket. The Streak is a typical Faust hero on the surface, but a sham underneath. The fact that Faust sets this novel in contemporary (to him) times, with automobiles, telephones, and phonographs, provides even more contrast between the mythological Old West that Faust mined for so much of his fiction and the reality of a developing West where the real estate speculator was rapidly replacing the rancher. In the end, THE STREAK is as much a hardboiled mystery as it is a Western, as two of Blondy’s cowpoke friends try to solve a murder for which The Streak is blamed.

Despite the satirical overtones, there’s plenty of action in this book. Blondy eventually does find something of a heroic nature inside him. No modern reader will be surprised by that, or by the identity of the murderer, who seems pretty obvious from the first. But this is still one of the best Faust novels I’ve read, with some keen observations on the nature of legends versus reality and some fine dialogue. Faust wrote like no one else ever did, and most of his strengths are on display here.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Zombies From the Pulps!: Jumbee - Henry S. Whitehead

The second story in ZOMBIES FROM THE PULPS!, the fine new anthology edited by Jeffrey Shanks, is Henry S. Whitehead's "Jumbee", which originally appeared in the September 1926 issue of WEIRD TALES. As Shanks points out in his introduction, it's one of the earliest zombie yarns. Following the lurid "Herbert West: Reanimator" by H.P. Lovecraft, it comes off as a little on the mild side, as the entire story consists of a conversation between an American visitor to the West Indies and a gentleman who lives there, with the host telling his guest about his encounter with an old friend who comes to see him after dying, as well as a brush with a shape-shifter.

"Jumbee" has a couple of things to recommend it, though. Whitehead's prose is very smooth and effective in creating a creepy mood, and the story does a good job of highlighting some differences in racial attitudes between the United States and the West Indies. It's a tale that lingers in the memory, and as far as I can recall, the only story by Henry S. Whitehead that I've ever read.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Tuesday's Overlooked TV: The Roy Rogers Show

This series was in Saturday morning reruns when I started watching it in the early Sixties, but I was a faithful viewer. It turned me into a Roy Rogers fan before I'd ever even seen any of Roy's movies. However, even though I've seen probably all of Roy's feature films since then, I hadn't watched any of the TV series episodes in fifty years or more.

Recently I've watched a number of them on one of those public domain Western TV compilations, and I'm happy to report that they hold up pretty well. Like the later Roy Rogers movies, they're actually hardboiled crime yarns set in the mythical Republic Pictures West that mixes modern-day elements like cars and trucks, electric lights, and telephones with plenty of Old West trappings. One of the reviewers on IMDB came up with a clever explanation for this: Mineral City, the town located near Roy's Double R Bar Ranch, is really an Old West tourist attraction, and that's why everybody rides horses and carries six-guns. I don't really buy it, because those six-guns are loaded with live ammo, as is demonstrated by the shoot-outs in every episode, but it's a nice try. I'm perfectly willing to accept the setting for what it is, though, a fantasy that I'll gladly buy into.

The plots are simpler in the TV episodes and there are no musical numbers like there are in the movies, but that's fine. Roy, who's basically playing himself as a rodeo entertainer, usually gets mixed up in some villain's scheme to take over a neighboring ranch because there's oil on it, or because outlaws buried a fortune in loot on it, or something like that. His relationship with Dale Evans, who runs the diner in town, is purely platonic. His "comical sidekick" Pat Brady works for Dale at the diner but actually spends most of his time getting in trouble.

Roy was well-liked by the stuntmen during his movie days because he was an excellent rider and didn't mind doing some of his stunts himself. That carries over into the TV show as well. The frequent scenes where Roy is chasing the bad guys on his famous horse Trigger are top-notch, and he handles himself well in the brutal fistfights, too, usually two per episode. For a kids' show, this series doesn't skimp on the violence. (We were bloodthirsty tykes back in the Fifties and Sixties.)

Another enjoyable aspect of watching this series now is being on the lookout for famous faces among the supporting cast. Denver Pyle showed up as a moonshiner in one episode I watched, and in another a prizefighter was played by a young actor billed as "Chas. Buchinski". Sixth-billed, at that. But unmistakably Charles Bronson. Another episode, this one about rustlers who use trucks to steal cattle, I actually remembered from watching it all those years ago because it had some pretty clever twists in it. The closing credits revealed that it was written by Dwight V. Babcock, an old pulp author who moved over into TV scripting as the pulp markets began to dry up. Some of Roy's movies were written by pulpster John K. Butler, so this continues an honorable tradition.

The only thing that doesn't hold up very well is the comedy. "Comical sidekick" Pat Brady just isn't funny most of the time, although I'm sure I had a different opinion when I was eight years old.

All in all I found THE ROY ROGERS SHOW to be a very pleasant surprise and well worth watching if you're a fan of his films. You can find some of the episodes on those compilation DVDs, as I did, or there are a bunch of them on YouTube, as well.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Monday Morning Digest Magazine: The Shadow, December, 1943

Like DOC SAVAGE, THE SHADOW was a digest magazine for part of the Forties. And this digest issue of THE SHADOW was the first issue of THE SHADOW, digest or pulp, that I ever owned. I'm not sure, but I believe I came across it in an antique/junk store in Fort Worth. The Shadow story in it was written by Walter B. Gibson, and I recall it as being a good one.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Fantastic Adventures, March 1942

FANTASTIC ADVENTURES had some great covers. This one is by J. Allen St. John, illustrating the Edgar Rice Burroughs story inside. Other authors of note in this issue are Henry Kuttner and Ross Rocklynne.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Saturday Morning Bonus Pulp: Western Trails, June 1937

This issue of WESTERN TRAILS has some good authors in it, like Tom Roan, Peter Dawson, and Wilfred McCormick (best known for his juvenile sports novels). What I really like, though, besides the action-packed cover, is the title of the story by Victor Kaufman: "A Fool and His .45".

Friday, April 11, 2014

Forgotten Books: Modesty Blaise Graphic Novel - Peter O'Donnell and Dick Giordano

The Modesty Blaise series started as a British comic strip written by Peter O'Donnell and drawn by Jim Holdaway. But I didn't know that when I discovered the Modesty Blaise novels, also written by O'Donnell, in the mid-Sixties. All I knew was that they were marketed as secret agent adventures (which they really aren't) and had sexy covers, which meant that whenever I came across one of them I grabbed it immediately and had a great time reading it. It's still one of my favorite series of all time.

I've read many collections of the comic strip version, too, and enjoyed them, but I hadn't run across this one before. Twenty years ago, DC Comics did a graphic novel adaptation of the first novel, MODESTY BLAISE, with script by O'Donnell and art by Dick Giordano. It's a pretty faithful adaptation, too, with retired super-criminal Modesty and her friend Willie Garvin working for British Intelligence and trying to prevent the theft of fifty million dollars worth of diamonds. That pits them against the diabolical mastermind Gabriel and his bizarre henchmen. As usual, Modesty and Willie take a beating and wind up on the brink of death several times, only to triumph in the end. It's very entertaining and really takes me back to those days when I was first reading the novels.

There's enough sex, violence, and profanity in this version that it would probably carry a Mature Audiences tag these days. The story takes its time unfolding, but that's all right because it builds up to an exciting and moving climax. I've always preferred Giordano's work as an inker (say, over Neal Adams' pencils), but his art here is quite good, showing the influence of Jim Holdaway's original versions of the characters without being a slavish imitation. Some sources on-line also credit Dan Spiegle with doing some of the art, although his name isn't on the book. While I don't know for sure if that's correct, it could be. Some of the panels do look like Spiegle's work.

I had a fine time reading this book. Used copies are still readily available on-line, and if you're a Modesty Blaise fan and haven't read it, it's worth checking out.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Tuesday's Overlooked Movie: The Return of Wild Bill

THE RETURN OF WILD BILL is another adventure for "that easy-going stick of dynamite", as one of the characters refers to Wild Bill Saunders, played by Wild Bill Elliott. No matter what the name, Elliott's characters were mostly the same, affable good guys who liked to proclaim, "I'm a peaceable man," just before beating the crap out of some bad guy. In this one, he's summoned home to discover that a gang of vigilantes led by two brothers are framing local settlers for various crimes so they can hang the victims of the scheme and then seize their land. When Wild Bill's father is killed, you know he's going to settle the score and bring the villains to justice.

On the surface, a pretty typical B-Western plot, but there are some things that set THE RETURN OF WILD BILL apart. For one, it's based on a story by Walt Coburn, one of the best Western pulp authors. His novella "The Block K Rides Tonight" was published in the July 1939 issue of STAR WESTERN and served as the basis for this Wild Bill Elliott vehicle a year later. The movie dispenses with most of the psychological complexity you always find in a Walt Coburn yarn, but there are echoes of it in the romantic triangle involving Elliott's character; Iris Meredith, playing the pretty but bland and prissy daughter of a rancher; and sultry "bad girl" Luana Walters, playing the sister of the villainous brothers. There's no doubt who I was rooting for in this competition. Walters' character is a lot deeper and more interesting.

Another reason to watch THE RETURN OF WILD BILL is that it was directed by Joseph H. Lewis, better known for the classic low-budget film noir GUN CRAZY. Lewis directed quite a few Westerns as well and has a sure hand with the action scenes, making them exciting and giving them a few dark edges as well.

Elliott is as likable and effective as always, and the limited presence of Dub "Cannonball" Taylor, one of my least favorite Western sidekicks, doesn't really prove annoying this time around. If you're a fan of Elliott, Coburn, or B-Westerns in general, THE RETURN OF WILD BILL is definitely worth watching. (A tip of the Stetson to Steve Mertz for his help with this post.)

Monday, April 07, 2014

Monday Morning Digest Magazine: Shell Scott Mystery Magazine, February 1966

No doubt hoping to duplicate the success of the long-running MIKE SHAYNE MYSTERY MAGAZINE, in 1966 Leo Margulies launched another digest magazine featuring a lead novella about a famous private eye, backed up by various mystery and crime short stories. Unfortunately it didn't work as well with SHELL SCOTT MYSTERY MAGAZINE, which lasted less than a dozen issues. But they were good issues! This is the first one, and I remember reading it sitting in a motel room in Austin, Texas around 1981 or '82. In addition to "The Da Vinci Affair" by the great Richard S. Prather, other authors in this issue are Donald E. Westlake, Talmage Powell, James Holding, Paul W. Fairman, Hal Ellson, and Hal Dresner. That's a fine line-up.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Far East Adventure Stories, November 1930

It's not billed as an all-star issue, but there are some mighty big names in this issue of FAR EAST ADVENTURE STORIES:  H. Bedford-Jones, J. Allan Dunn, Theodore Roscoe, Arthur J. Burks, Frederick Nebel, and Jack D'Arcy. Just another day at the newsstand in 1930.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Exciting Western, November 1951

EXCITING WESTERN was the home of W.C. Tuttle's long-running series about range detectives Tombstone and Speedy, but the Tuttle story in this issue appears not to be part of that series. I'm sure the cover would have mentioned it if "Derelict City" was a Tombstone and Speedy yarn. Other authors in this issue are Louis L'Amour writing as Jim Mayo, Harry Whittington, C. William Harrison, Syl MacDowell, and Ben Frank. An issue well worth reading, I'm sure.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Forgotten Books: The Lonely Gun - Gordon D. Shirreffs

Case Hardesty is in a tough spot. On the run from the law after a bank robbery, his partners double-cross him and try to kill him, but he winds up with the loot. His former partners are still after him, though, and so is a posse led by a relentless lawman. To reach safety he has to cross a stretch of brutal desert along the border between Arizona and Mexico. While trying to do that he runs into a man and a couple of beautiful women who are being pursued by a deadly gunfighter. All of them converge on an old abandoned mission that's rumored to be haunted, and if that's true there'll be more ghosts there before this showdown is over.

Is that a great set-up for a hardboiled Western novel or what? In the hands of one of the all-time masters of that genre, Gordon D. Shirreffs, THE LONELY GUN is a fast-paced, highly entertaining yarn with a lot of gritty action that leads up to a memorable and unusual climax. Originally published as a paperback original by Avon in 1959 and reprinted several times since, it's now available in an e-book version from Prologue Books. I had a fine time reading THE LONELY GUN, and if you like traditional Westerns I give it a high recommendation.

And isn't Case Hardesty a perfect name for a Western hero?

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Tuesday's Overlooked Movies: Bandidas

(This post originally appeared in slightly different form on July 7, 2007.)

BANDIDAS isn’t your typical Western, although it has some of the traditional elements of one. You’ve got financiers and railroad tycoons plotting to steal land from poor farmers. You’ve got a pair of noble outlaws who fight back by becoming bank robbers, like Frank and Jesse James. You’ve got an arch-villain (Dwight Yoakum chewing the scenery for all he’s worth) with a bunch of evil henchmen. You’ve got beautiful, sweeping landscapes and stirring music.

But instead of the American West, this movie is set in Mexico. Instead of Frank and Jesse, or even Butch and Sundance, the outlaws are women -- Salma Hayek playing the daughter of a banker double-crossed and murdered by his partners, and Penelope Cruz as the daughter of one of those poor farmers. You’ve also got frontier forensics, a tic-tac-toe-playing horse, an adorably ugly dog, an incredibly fast pace, and a lot of well-staged action, including some running around on top of a moving train, one of my favorite types of scene (as anyone who’s read very many of my books can probably guess). Oh, and cleavage. Can’t forget the cleavage. The only actual nudity involves Steve Zahn, who plays a detective (that’s where the forensic stuff comes in, too). There’s also a catfight or two, since the characters played by Hayek and Cruz don’t get along at first, before teaming up to become famous as Las Bandidas, the Robin Hood-like bank robbers.

If you’ve read this far, you should be able to tell whether or not this is your kind of movie. I loved it. It’s not a great film, but it is a heck of a lot of fun and the same sort of thing that I try to do in some of my house-name Westerns.