Sunday, November 30, 2014

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Far East Adventure Stories, September 1931

Nice evocative cover on this issue of FAR EAST ADVENTURE STORIES, a pulp that's rather rare these days, I believe. Inside are stories by H. Bedford-Jones, Hugh B. Cave, Geoffrey Vace (also Hugh B. Cave), Bob du Soe, and others. This appears to be a fine issue of a short-lived but excellent adventure pulp.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Complete Western Book Magazine, March 1948

Two of my favorite things on this Western pulp cover: a stagecoach chase and a pretty girl. And it certainly doesn't hurt that behind that cover are three novellas by top-notch authors: D.B. Newton, Gunnison Steele (Bennie Gardner), and Archie Joscelyn. Good stuff all around.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Forgotten Books: Hell in the Saddle - Ed Earl Repp

HELL IN THE SADDLE is the story of Clint Buckley, who returns to his father's ranch in the Big Bend of Texas after several years away, only to find that his father has been murdered, rustlers are running rampant, and a mysterious masked vigilante known only as Don Muerto is riding around the Big Bend shooting people. It's up to Clint, of course, to smash the rustlers and avenge his father, with the help of Don Muerto.

HELL IN THE SADDLE, like the other Repp novel I've read, CYCLONE JIM, is melodramatic even by pulp standards, and Repp throws away any element of mystery by revealing Don Muerto's real identity very early in the book. (I like the name "Don Muerto", though.) The real saving grace is that Repp writes good action scenes. The book concludes with an epic battle that lasts for three or four chapters and keeps getting more operatic as it goes on. I wouldn't recommend that anybody rush out and hunt down a copy of this book, but take it for what it is and it's pretty entertaining. (Nice cover on that Hillman reprint, too. The original edition was published by Godwin in 1936.)

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Judy Crider, R.I.P.

It's hard to believe that it's been 35 years since I first met Bill and Judy, but at the same time it seems like I've known them forever. She was one of the most gracious ladies I've known. I always enjoyed spending time with them at conventions. Rest in peace, Judy, and our deepest sympathy to Bill and the rest of the family.

Now Available: Outlaw Ranger #2 Hangman's Knot - James Reasoner

(Need something to read this afternoon when you're too stuffed from Thanksgiving dinner to get out of your chair and aren't interested in what's on TV? Or this weekend when you're staying as far away from the shopping malls as you possibly can? Well, try a good old-fashioned action Western!)

Hell came to Santa Angelina on a beautiful morning, as the Texas settlement was practically wiped out by vicious outlaws led by the bloodthirsty lunatic Henry Pollard. Now Pollard is in jail in Alpine, waiting on his trial and an all but certain date with the hangman. The only real question is whether an outraged lynch mob will string him up first.

Not everyone wants to see Pollard dance at the end of a rope, however. His gang of hired killers would like to set him free, and so would his older brother, a wealthy cattleman who has always protected Pollard from the consequences of his savagery.

Riding into the middle of this three-cornered war is the Outlaw Ranger, G.W. Braddock, who may not have a right anymore to wear the bullet-holed star-in-a-circle badge pinned to his shirt, but whose devotion to the law means he'll risk his life to see that justice is done!

HANGMAN'S KNOT is another fast-action Western novel from New York Times bestselling author James Reasoner. Brand-new and never before published, it continues the violent saga of the Outlaw Ranger.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Free Story Wednesday: Endicott's Debt - David Hardy

“You lynched the wrong man, Huck!” Stenson stood behind his desk, rigidly straight and eyes glaring. He was a sandy-haired man, with squinting blue eyes. There was something of the soldier about his bearing. He wore his suit like a uniform, a means to identify his status in regards to any he might have to deal with.
“Quit your bellyaching, Stenson,” Huck growled. He was a leathery man, dressed in the garb of a cowhand. A badge pinned to his jacket indicated his position as a deputy sheriff in Tonto County, Arizona Territory. “If you didn’t have the grit to see the business through, you hadn’t oughta got into it.” Placidly, Huck cut himself a chaw of tobacco and wedged it in his mouth. “I took my posse to the dude’s cabin, found him with those rustler friends of his from the CU ranch, and strung ‘em all up. That’s four men off the Stock Association’s list.”
“For God’s sake, Huck! It’s one thing to lynch some rustling cowboys, but that dude you strung up has people back east who are going to want answers. That cock-and-bull story of yours about how you just wanted to talk to the man and then three dozen masked riders overpowered your posse and lynched the men has to be one of the stupidest fictions outside of a damn Ned Buntline dime novel!” Stenson pounded on his desk. A paper bearing the CU ranch’s brand fell to the floor.
Huck shrugged “So what. The Stock Association owns the law in this territory. And don’t lecture me about rustling. If every rustler in the territory dropped dead, wouldn’t be a stockman alive in Tonto County. That includes you, Stenson. You registered the Teacup brand a month after the CU moved in.” Huck scooped the paper from the floor. With a few strokes of a pen he transformed the CU into a teacup.
“That ain’t the same!” Stenson bristled. “Those CU bastards meant to loot me off the range. I had to steal just to get my own back. I am talking about unprovoked rustling!” Stenson ran his fingers through his hair. “I wrote a letter to the dude’s father, George Endicott Senior. He’s some investor back east[DH1] . Has investments in mining. I tried to hint that George Junior had it coming, in a polite and sorrowful way.
“Anyway, the father hasn’t replied, but I got a telegram from the dude’s brother, John Endicott. He’s coming in on the noon stage from Phoenix. He’ll be here to collect the dude’s things. I need to convince him not to make a fuss about his brother getting lynched. You just sit there and don’t say a thing until I tell you to. The story is George Endicott Junior was a cow thief and friend of cow thieves, it’s sad to relate but too late to do anything about it. Then it’s a manly shoulder for brother John to cry on and then he can pull freight for wherever.”
Stenson and Huck had only a brief wait before John Endicott arrived, travelling grip in hand. Endicott was a sturdily built man, with dark, curly hair, and a broad face where cold, gray eyes peered over a thick mustache. After greetings and expressions of sorrow, Endicott explained his errand. “I came as soon as I could. I’m an engineer in one of the mines my father has a part ownership in, and rather than subject my father to the rigors of cross-country travel, I came down from the mining country in Montana.” He spoke with a marked Yankee accent.
“I understand,” Stenson said. “Perhaps it were better for you to hear this than your father.” Stenson began pulling out bills of sale, brand registries, and livestock reports relating to George Endicott Jr.’s ranch. With artful exaggeration, deliberate misrepresentation, and considerable suppression of truth, Stenson began to impeach Endicott as a willing buyer of stolen cattle and an ally of range bandits. John Endicott sat silent through it all, saying nothing until Stenson finished
“I see,” he said at last. “What of the cattle bearing his brand?”
Stenson only shrugged. “They are scattered. You could hire no honest man to round up stock with such a dubious title.”
John Endicott nodded. “And my brother’s land?”
Stenson winced. “He didn’t actually own it. He had filed a claim, which has lapsed with his death. As it happens… I mean…”
“I filed on it,” Huck said, his voice unnaturally loud. “I own the adjoining claim. Your brother’s land is mine now.” Huck’s eyes bored into Endicott, cold as a rattlesnake’s. “I must say you don’t favor your brother George much in looks. You had best differ from him in this too. I reckon you need better sense than he did.” Huck shifted in his seat, exposing the revolver at his hip.
Endicott sighed deeply. “Of course. There is no more to be said. I have made arrangements for George’s body to be shipped east.” He reached for his grip and paused, eyes on Huck. Gingerly, Endicott opened his grip and produced a wooden case. “I suspected much about my brother’s dealings. He was indiscreet and unwilling to listen to advice.” Very gently he set the case on Stenson’s desk. “This case contains a sum of money to distribute to the victims of my brother’s avarice. It is perhaps inadequate, but the best I can do to repay those he stole from.”
Stenson reached for a tablet with receipts, but Endicott waved his hand. “No, that is unnecessary. You are a respected stockman, Mr. Stenson, and you are an officer of the law, Deputy Huck. I will leave the key with you and you can count the money and make appropriate arrangements.” Endicott rose to leave.
“I’ll see you at the stage tomorrow,” Stenson said. “Again please accept my deepest sympathy at your dreadful loss.”
“Actually I’m leaving tonight,” Endicott replied. “I’ve hired a horse. I’d like to survey the ground. Perhaps I’ll be back to stake a mining claim some day.” He placed a key on the case.
“A capital idea!” Stenson beamed. “Arizona means progress. A man like you is welcome any time.”
Endicott shook hands with Stenson and Huck and departed, grip in hand. “Come back any time,” Huck said when Endicott was gone. “I’ll be happy to plant a slug in your belly, you damn greenhorn.”
“Money, eh?” Stenson said. “Don’t think you’re gonna take it all, Huck.”
“Damned if I ain’t getting my share you ol’ cow-thief,” Huck replied. He looked down as Stenson unlocked the case. Huck had just a moment to glimpse the contents of the case. It was not money, but dynamite, packed tightly in sawdust and two-penny nails. As the spring hit the blasting cap, Huck had a fleeting thought that perhaps he had indeed lynched the wrong man. Then Huck and Stenson were blown to atoms.
Despite a diligent search, John Endicott was not located, though a man answering his description was seen boarding a train in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Even stranger to report, it came to light that George Endicott Jr. had no brother John, nor any other brother. George Endicott Sr. had but one son, he who bore his name and came to a sorry end on a cottonwood limb. George Endicott Sr. vehemently denied any connection to the imposter, and further inquiries proved fruitless.
However, a certain foreman at a mine in Montana whose work principally consisted of blasting rock with dynamite, a man with dark curly hair, a thick mustache, and a broad face, retired suddenly and moved back home to Vermont. He had won the lottery, he said. He was seen no more in the mining country, nor ever again in Arizona.
(I think Dave Hardy is one of the best young writers in the business. If you enjoyed this story of his, check out more of his work below.)

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Tuesday's Overlooked Movies: Noah

This movie was almost universally reviled when it came out earlier this year. Some hated it because it takes so many liberties with the Biblical story of the Flood. Others didn't like it because it's so aggressively dumb. And I'm not here to tell you that it's a good movie. But it's so goofy and over the top that if you can sit back and take it for what it is, it starts to have a certain oddball charm.

How goofy is it? (Possible spoilers ahead.) Well, Noah, as played by Russell Crowe, comes across as sort of a badass vegan eco-warrior, which fits right in with the parts of the movie that seem like one of those Seventies films that only worked if you watched them while you were stoned. He has giant rock monsters who are really fallen angels for sidekicks. (To quote Dave Barry, I am not making this up.) The Ark is attacked by guys with a cannon. Methusaleh is a wizard. The animals on the Ark all get along because Noah puts them in suspended animation. There's a stowaway on the Ark. It's like the guys who made it said, "Okay, we got a guy named Noah, and a big boat, and a flood...but other than that let's just make up a bunch of stuff."

But the special effects are pretty good in places, and the actors all ham it up (no pun intended) and seem to be having a good time, and hey...giant rock monsters. That's got to be worth something.

But the ultimate test...I watched the whole thing and didn't fall asleep once. These days, that's pretty good.

Monday, November 24, 2014

A Milestone of Sorts

I realized recently that the last book I finished was my 315th novel, which means I've written a hundred books since the fire in January '08. That's 100 books, plus 30 pieces of shorter fiction ranging from flash stories to 15,000 word novellas, in 82 months. No wonder I'm tired.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Black Mask, March 1935

Not a fantastic cover, but on the other side of it you've got a Donahue story by Frederick Nebel, a Flashgun Casey story by George Harmon Coxe, and novelettes by Theodore Tinsley and Jack Bertin. Pure hardboiled pulp goodness, in other words.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Western Story, January 28, 1939

You run across "wanted poster" Western pulp covers like this from time to time. I suspect this one illustrates the lead novel, "Tombstone Justice" by Tom Roan. Other authors in this issue are Stuart Hardy, Jay Lucas, C.K. Shaw, Ray Humphreys, and Kenneth L. Sinclair. Not big names, but solid Western pulp authors.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Forgotten Books: In the Hills of Monterey - Max Brand (Frederick Faust)

Originally appearing as a serial in Western Story in October and November of 1924 under the pseudonym John Frederick, this is more of a historical novel than a traditional Western. It seems to be Faust's attempt to cash in on the popularity of Johnston McCulley's character Zorro, who had been appearing in the pulps for several years previously. Set in Spanish California in 1817, the novel features several Zorro-like elements: a masked hero who has a secret identity; a villainous provincial governor; bumbling soldiers; a beautiful heroine; a magnificent horse, etc. Faust throws in some unexpected twists, though, and puts some unusual spins on the familiar in order to make this an interesting, entertaining novel.

Don Francisco Valdez is a young Spanish nobleman who has been brought to California to marry the beautiful Ortiza Tarabel, the daughter of a wealthy, powerful landholder. On the ship carrying Valdez to California is also Colonel Louis Mortier, a French soldier on a mysterious mission of his own. Valdez has a slave with him, a redheaded Englishman called El Rojo who was formerly a prisoner of Moorish pirates in the Mediterranean. (Getting complicated enough for you already? There's more.) Valdez has his horse with him, the great stallion Sanduval. After a fencing exhibition on shipboard where it becomes obvious that the slave El Rojo is really a master swordsman, Sanduval leaps overboard as the ship approaches the coast. El Rojo goes after the horse, but once they reach the shore, instead of bringing Sanduval back, El Rojo rides off into the hills on him, escaping from a life as Valdez's slave.

El Rojo becomes a hunted outlaw and gathers some allies, a band of ninja-like Navajo Indians who have a grudge of their own against the brutal governer, Jose Pyndero. Plenty of intrigue, romance, swordfights, and hair's-breadth escapes follow, along with the introduction of a mysterious English nobleman, Lord Wyncham, who shows up in Monterey and stirs the pot even more. It's all a bit silly and over the top for modern readers, but if you can put yourself in the place of a Twenties pulp reader and not let the obvious plot devices bother you, the novel is great fun as well.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Lawman and the Songbird - Chap O'Keefe (Keith Chapman)

One of my favorite characters in current Western fiction, Chap O'Keefe's freelance range detective Joshua Dillard, returns in THE LAWMAN AND THE SONGBIRD, a novel originally published by Robert Hale in 2005. It's now available in an inexpensive e-book edition and is well worth reading.

This novel delves into Joshua's past, flashing back to his days as a Pinkerton operative when he was sent to a mining boomtown in Montana to corral a gang of outlaws operating in the area. While he's tackling that job, he gets mixed up in the schemes of a beautiful saloon entertainer and is unable to prevent a deadly saloon robbery. The loot vanishes, and so does the songbird.

Years later, after personal tragedy has led him to quit the Pinkertons and embark on a hardscrabble life as a drifting troubleshooter, Joshua returns to that same Montana town, which is still plagued with lawlessness. This time he's hired as the local marshal, and a daring stagecoach robbery is the first act in a chain of events that might give Joshua a chance to redeem himself for his earlier failure—if he can survive a hail of outlaw lead.

As usual, Chap O'Keefe (who is really Keith Chapman) throws in some nice plot twists and packs the yarn he's spinning with plenty of gritty action. The pace never falters, and THE LAWMAN AND THE SONGBIRD delivers top-notch Western entertainment. Highly recommended, as are all of Keith's books.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Tuesday's Overlooked Movie: The Man With One Red Shoe

(This post originally appeared in different form on August 27, 2008.)

I had seen this early Tom Hanks movie, but so long ago that it might as well have been new because I didn’t remember any of it. Hanks plays a somewhat goofy concert violinist who, through no fault of his own, gets caught up in a dangerous war between two factions struggling for control of the CIA. At the same time, there’s a sex farce angle (this is based on a French film, after all) involving a couple of Hanks’s fellow musicians played by Carrie Fisher and Jim Belushi. Dabney Coleman is the villain. (Is Dabney Coleman still alive? It seemed like he was in every other movie during the Eighties.) Lori Singer is a CIA agent who falls for Hanks. In this movie, at least, she bears a strong resemblance to Donna Dixon, who played Hanks’s girlfriend Sunny on the TV show BOSOM BUDDIES. (“Sunny, Sunny, Sunny . . .”) Not a great film, but I laughed quite a bit and enjoyed it, even though I also spent a considerable amount of time thinking, “Boy, look how young they all are!”

Monday, November 17, 2014

Now Available from Rough Edges Press: Borderline - Bob Herzberg

Will Landry and Joachim Lang are both outsiders in the Colorado ranching country. Landry is a black federal land agent from Baltimore, Lang a German immigrant who has risen to a position of wealth and power as a ruthless cattle baron. When Lang tries to fence in millions of acres of open range, Landry is sent to stop him—and war explodes between these two stubborn, violent men! 

In BORDERLINE, Bob Herzberg spins an epic tale of the last days of the Old West, a tale of vengeance, greed, lynching, and murder, as old ways clash with new and blood is spilled on the lush prairie. Herzberg writes with vivid power and historical authenticity and creates compelling characters in this action-packed Western novel in the classic mode. 

Bob Herzberg is the author of the Western novels SIDEARM, THE McDERMOTT FIFTY, and QUANTRILL'S GOLD, as well as SHOOTING SCRIPTS: FROM PULP WESTERN TO FILM, HANG 'EM HIGH: LAW AND DISORDER IN WESTERN FILMS AND LITERATURE, and other volumes of non-fiction.


The Ice Genius - Kenneth Robeson (Will Murray and Lester Dent)

It's hard to believe that I've been reading and enjoying Doc Savage novels for more than 50 years, but it was September 1964 when Bantam published the first three volumes in the reprint series, THE MAN OF BRONZE, THE THOUSAND-HEADED MAN, and METEOR MENACE, which was the one I found first, on the spinner rack in Tompkins' Drugstore. I was hooked right away.

So I'm glad that Will Murray is writing new Doc Savage adventures all these years later and doing such a spectacularly fine job of it. His latest, THE ICE GENIUS, is one of the longest and most epic in the series, concerning as it does a worldwide war and possibly the fate of all mankind.

It opens, simply enough, with an archeological dig headed up by the eminent William Harper Littlejohn, one of Doc's associates, but as archeological digs usually do in books and movies, something goes wrong and Johnny winds up uncovering the frozen corpse of one of history's most brutal warlords and conquerors, Tamerlane. But is Tamerlane really dead, or could he be revived from his icy sleep?

I think you know the answer to that.

Naturally enough, with Tamerlane threatening to put together an army and conquer China along with who knows what else, Doc and the rest of his crew arrive on the scene. While they're trying to corral the warlord, the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor, and our heroes find themselves in the middle of a war. As usual, Doc and his friends are up to their necks in action as they attempt to set things right, but this time all they may be able to do is keep a bad situation from getting worse...

This book also features the return of a villain from previous books, a very colorful character who's one of my favorites. What happens to him turns out to be very surprising.

Will Murray continues to capture Lester Dent's style perfectly, while at the same time expanding the scope of the series. THE ICE GENIUS is one of the best books I've read this year, and if you're a Doc Savage fan (even if you haven't been reading them for 50 years or more), you definitely should check it out. Highly recommended. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Chess, Comics, Crosswords, Books, Music, Cinema: The Red Reef by James Reasoner, 2008

Chess, Comics, Crosswords, Books, Music, Cinema: The Red Reef by James Reasoner, 2008: In The Red Reef , a 23-page sea adventure, Captain Thomas Larkin is racked by guilt even though he committed no crime. The master of  ‘ ...

(One of my favorites of the stories I've done, and I appreciate the kind words from Prashant. Check out his blog post for the rest of his review.)

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Railroad Stories, May 1932

A fight on top of a moving train! If you've read much of my fiction, you know I like to write scenes like that myself, so it's no surprise I like this Emmett Watson cover on an issue of the long-running RAILROAD STORIES. I don't recognize the names of any of the authors in this issue, since I'm not that familiar with railroad fiction except as it applies to Westerns. But I'll bet there's a lot of it I would enjoy.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

New Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles

FURTHER ADVENTURES OF CASH LARAMIE AND GIDEON MILES, a new collection of stories from Edward A. Grainger (with an assist from Chuck Tyrell) is now available in both e-book and trade paperback editions. The earlier stories in this series are excellent, and I'm looking forward to reading this collection. In addition, the Cash Laramie novel THE GUNS OF VEDAUWOO by Wayne D. Dundee, previously available as an e-book, now has a trade paperback edition as well. If you haven't tried this series yet, either of these would be a fine place to start. Highly recommended.

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Western Outlaws, January 1930

Hard to go wrong with a Walter Baumhofer cover and a line-up of Western pulpsters that includes William Colt MacDonald, Lawrence A. Keating, Claude Rister, Clee Woods, and Russell Bankson. My favorite thing about this pulp, though...that line "A Magazine of Hair-Trigger Hombres". I want to be a Hair-Trigger Hombre, too!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Forgotten Books: Cyclone Jim - Ed Earl Repp

Cyclone Jim Gale is a former Texas Ranger turned rancher who has a spread in South Texas. When his teenage ward, Billy Drice, is kidnapped, Jim receives a ransom note telling him to bring $50,000 and head north along the road to Purgatory, an outlaw town in the Texas Panhandle. Jim sets off to follow the kidnappers' instructions, only to have them double-cross him and set off a shoot-out, which Jim survives, of course. He discovers that one of his old enemies from his Ranger days, Grat Kinnard, is behind Billy's kidnapping and is holding the boy prisoner in Purgatory. With the help of the beautiful Silver Lennox, who owns the neighboring ranch, and some of the cowboys who ride for her, Jim heads for Purgatory to rescue Billy and have a final showdown with Kinnard.

That's the entire plot of the book, which is mostly one melodramatic gunfight after another. Also, prac'tickly thuh hull thing is writ in thet phony Western dialect thet'll drive yuh plumb loco arter a while. And when Billy is finally rescued (and you knew he would be), he proves to be so obnoxious a character the reader has a hard time not wishing the bad guys had gone ahead and killed him.

And yet, this book does have a few things going for it. For one thing, though it's set in the Texas Panhandle, the story takes place in the winter, during a heavy snowstorm. This is a nice change of pace from the hot, dry Texas setting that most writers use most of the time. (One of my favorite Jim Hatfield stories is "Law on the Winter Range", for the same reason.)While Repp has some problems with the geography of the region, his descriptions of the landscape are actually pretty well-written, and the action scenes, though breathless and overwritten, are sort of fun. Most of the time, Jim Gale is the standard stalwart pulp Western hero, but on occasion his temper gets away from him and the reader gets the impression that he's even more bloodthirsty and ruthless than the villains. He doesn't stop at torture to get information that he wants, that's for sure. Not what you'd call a great character, but at least a little interesting in places.

UPDATE: This post is based on a review I wrote for the WesternPulps group back in March of 2002. It's hardly a glowing review, but here's the thing: more than twelve years later, I still remember CYCLONE JIM pretty well. Better than plenty of other books I read back then that I thought were better, I'm sure. Ed Earl Repp has a terrible reputation as a writer, and his shorter work is very inconsistent (probably because he farmed out a lot of it). But I enjoyed this novel enough to read several more Westerns by him, and darned if I didn't enjoy them as well. If I can dig them out of the WesternPulps archive, they'll probably show up here in the near future as well.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

New Anthology: Everybody Lies - Juri Nummelin, ed.

Finnish writer/editor/publisher/blogger Juri Nummelin has just published a new anthology of crime stories by various authors including Ed Gorman, Bill Crider, Patricia Abbott, Jason Starr, Vicki Hendricks, Duane Swiercyznski, and numerous others. (Numerous Others also writes under the name Many More. I've been both of them in my time.) The title story in this one, "Everybody Lies", is the first flash fiction story I ever wrote, and one of only two under my name, as I recall. I wrote about half a dozen more under a pseudonym. These appeared on a website that's no longer on-line, and I don't have copies of them, so I guess they could be considered lost stories. But this one's not, and I think it's a pretty good one. You can read more about the anthology on Juri's blog.

New Post on Ed Gorman's Blog

I have a new post on Ed Gorman's blog today about the writing of my first novel TEXAS WIND. But as usual when I start waxing nostalgic, I go on about some other stuff, too, including the novel I tried to write before TEXAS WIND. Check it out if you get a chance.

Coming Soon From Stark House: The Daniel Port Omnibus, Volume 1 - Peter Rabe

Peter Rabe created the archetypical gangster in Daniel Port and wrote about him in six different thrillers. These first three books introduce us to Port and his criminal world. Here is Port the mastermind, trying to get out of the racket he helped create, and Port the savior, defending an old criminal against a younger, meaner hood.

(These are excellent books from one of the best Gold Medal writers, and they're also important in the influence they had on other "man leaving the Mob" series. I haven't read all of them, so I'm grateful that Stark House is bringing back the whole series, along with great introductions by Rick Ollerman. This first volume will be out later this month, but you can pre-order it directly from Stark House.)

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Many Deaths of Joe Buckley (Benefit Anthology from Baen Books)

VETERANS DAY, NOVEMBER 11, 2014, RIVERDALE, NEW YORK—Baen Books announces a charity ebook, The Many Deaths of Joe Buckley. Joe Buckley is a character that has appeared in many books by Baen authors—a practice that has become a tongue-in-cheek tradition.

After a Veterans Day launch, half of the proceeds from the sale of this ebook will go to an organization that provides reading material and other items that our troops need and want—Operation Baen Bulk. The other half of the proceeds will go to ReadAssist, a nonprofit that helps disabled readers get access to books, and also provides free access to Baen ebooks.

"Joe Buckley is practically a tradition among Baen Books authors," says Baen Books publisher Toni Weisskopf. "The reason for this string of murders and near-murders in print for Joe Buckley is now legendary. But you may not want to stand too close to him if you happen to be another character in a story by a Baen author."

Weisskopf explains that in many Baen books, including works by Baen authors such as David Weber, John Ringo, and Sarah A. Hoyt, a character named Joe Buckley meets a very bad end. In others, such as works by Baen authors Eric Flint and Travis S. Taylor, Joe winds up only mostly dead, or living a fate worse than death.

"We've brought together the myriad Joe Buckley death and near-death scenes from the works by Baen authors and compiled them into a stunning collection of murder and mayhem," Weisskopf adds. "It's a lot of fun to read through these—and in each section you get great storytelling from top Baen authors, of course."

The Many Deaths of Joe Buckley ebook benefiting Operation Baen Bulk and ReadAssist is available here:

(This certainly sounds like a worthy cause. I picked up my copy of it this morning, and while I'll probably just skim the stories--I'm not much on reading excerpts from novels--I'll certainly read the intros and all the extra material because I'm a sucker for that sort of behind-the-scenes stuff. The book is also available from Amazon.)

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Good News for Hap and Leonard Fans


It's a great series of books. I hope the TV series does justice to them. With the people who are involved, I think there's a good chance it will.

Tuesday's Overlooked Movies: Authors Anonymous

As you might expect, I'm a sucker for movies about writers. This one is a mockumentary about a small critique group of unpublished authors and what happens among them when one of their number, a rather clueless young woman, unexpectedly hits it big, getting an agent, selling her novel, and getting a movie deal all in a short period of time. Not surprisingly, the others don't take it that well.

Other than a couple of minor soap operatic subplots, that's really all that happens in this movie, which makes for a rather slow pace. And like a lot of other indie "comedies", AUTHORS ANONYMOUS just isn't very funny most of the time. To be fair, though, there were a few laugh-out-loud moments for me, although it was painful laughter generated by things like a disastrous book signing, the sort of misery many of us can relate to. There are a few times when the film indulges in the usual Hollywood stereotypes about writers (which are almost always wrong), but for the most part it rings pretty true.

When I heard about this movie, I questioned the casting of Kaley Cuoco as a writer, but she does a good job. Her character here isn't that far from the one she plays on THE BIG BANG THEORY, earnest, pretty (and not above trading on her looks to get ahead), and smart in her own way. Chris Klein plays a jock-turned-intellectual and gets that right, too. My favorite character, though, is the late Dennis Farina's John K. Butzin, a would-be thriller writer whose hero is Tom Clancy. He's sad and funny at the same time as he falls victim to a sleazy vanity publisher. (Although e-books are mentioned, this movie seems to have been written before the e-book boom of the past few years. Everything centers around traditional publishing.)

Overall, AUTHORS ANONYMOUS is one of those movies that's enjoyable enough, despite a nagging feeling that it should have been better. If you're a writer, it's certainly worth watching, although you may wince as much as you laugh.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Winterworld - Chuck Dixon and Jorge Zaffino

I've always liked a good post-apocalyptic yarn, and Chuck Dixon and Jorge Zaffino's WINTERWORLD is a very good one indeed. Somehow I missed the original three-issue mini-series when it was published by Eclipse Comics back in 1988, but it's been reprinted in a hardback edition by IDW, which as a bonus also includes the two-part sequel "Wintersea", also by Dixon and Zaffino, which has never been published before.

We don't get any real back-story with this. Dixon and Zaffino just drop us down on a brutal future Earth where the entire planet is covered with snow and ice. Nuclear winter? Some ecological catastrophe? Who knows? Not the characters, for sure, but it doesn't matter because all they're concerned about is survival.

The protagonist is a traveling trader named Scully whose only friend is a pet badger called Rahrah, until he rescues a young teenage girl named Wynn from one of the various tribes of primitives that roam the frozen-over land once known as Texas. They're captured and enslaved by another tribe that makes its home in an artifact left over from the world before, a domed sports stadium.

That's the start of a series of dangerous adventures shared by the three companions as they try to find the possibly mythical land where Wynn came from, a land where there is warmth and science and some hope for the future. In a way Dixon's story reminds me a bit of Edgar Rice Burroughs, the way that Scully, like Tarzan or John Carter, has to deal with warring tribes and lost civilizations. He's not exactly as clean-cut and noble as those Burroughs heroes, mind you, but he has his moments.

The script is very fast-paced and hardboiled, and Zaffino's art looks to me like it was very influenced by Joe Kubert and Alex Toth, so you can't go wrong there. I'm sort of glad I missed these stories when they were first published, because I get to read and appreciate them now. WINTERWORLD is excellent and well worth reading for fans of graphic novels and post-apocalyptic SF, or anyone who just enjoys a good adventure yarn, really.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Planet Stories, May 1943

The Fiction House pulps always had great covers, and PLANET STORIES was no exception. This one is by Jerome Rozen, and it's a fine example of swashbuckling science fiction adventure. Among the authors inside are Leigh Brackett, Ross Rocklynne, Hannes Bok, and H.L. Gold. A lot of modern SF fans might turn their noses up at this stuff, but it's wonderful to me.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Blue Ribbon Western, February 1950

Oscar J. Friend is probably best remembered as an agent and editor in the science fiction field, but he wrote a number of Western novels, too, and the ones I've read have been pretty good. His novel HELL ON THE HALF-MOON is the only piece of fiction in this issue of BLUE RIBBON WESTERN, with only a couple of short features to round out the table of contents. I haven't read it and don't have this issue, but I'll bet it's an entertaining yarn.

Friday, November 07, 2014

Forgotten Books: Trail Boss From Texas - Barry Cord (Peter Germano)

(This post originally appeared in different form on April 25, 2005)

Originally published by Phoenix Press in 1948, this is Peter Germano’s first novel under the pseudonym Barry Cord, and as far as I know, his first full-length novel overall, although his shorter fiction had been appearing in the Western pulps as far back as the mid-Thirties.

Larry Brennan is the title character, who has brought a herd of cattle from Texas to Colorado to deliver them to an old friend of his boss. Unfortunately, the rancher Jeff Halliday, who was supposed to take delivery of the cattle, is murdered just before Brennan arrives, and after wiring his boss to ask him what to do next, Brennan has no choice but to wait for an answer. This delay gives him plenty of time to get mixed up in a range war that he originally wants no part of, as well as a land grab motivated by the impending arrival of the railroad.

These are classic Western story elements, of course, and Germano doesn’t really do anything new with them. This is a good solid traditional Western, though. Germano has been quoted (in TWENTIETH CENTURY WESTERN WRITERS) as saying that his writing was influenced by the work of Ernest Haycox and Luke Short (Frederick D. Glidden). That can be seen in his terse, unsentimental prose style and his hardboiled action scenes. His books often have strong mystery elements in them, as well. TRAIL BOSS FROM TEXAS suffers a little at first as Germano crowds in too many characters and plot angles in too few pages, but eventually everything gets straightened out and the story flows better. In the Fifties, when he was one of the regular writers of the Jim Hatfield novels in TEXAS RANGERS under the Jackson Cole house-name, and during the Sixties, when he was a prolific novelist for the Ace Double line, among other publishers, his storytelling abilities were more developed and he became one of the best Western writers of the period.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Now Available from Rough Edges Press: Lynched - Ed Gorman

Marshal Ben Tully arrives in Pine City to find a double tragedy waiting for him: a lynch mob has taken a suspected murderer out of Tully's jail and hanged him—and the murder victim is Tully's wife! 

Even though he's almost overwhelmed with grief, Tully's instincts as a lawman take over when he uncovers evidence that the man who was lynched may not be the one who killed his wife. It seems that nearly everyone in Pine City has secrets they don't want exposed, and the identity of Kate Tully's murderer is one of them. Ben Tully's investigation plunges him into a web of deceit, lust, and more murder as he risks his life to discover the truth about his wife's death! 

In LYNCHED, master storyteller Ed Gorman has written another compelling Western mystery full of action and suspense.

(This is one of Ed's best Westerns, and a top-notch mystery to boot. If you've never read any of his Westerns, grab this one and give it a try!)

Shattered Shields - Jennifer Brozek and Bryan Thomas Schmidt, eds.

A lot of heroic fantasy uses armies and wars as a backdrop, as the editors of this new anthology point out in their introduction, and since I like both fantasy and military fiction, SHATTERED SHIELDS has a built-in appeal for readers like me. That said, it's kind of a mixed bag, as anthologies often are. A number of the stories feel more like excerpts from novels rather than actual short stories, and some come across as introductions or prequels to larger works and seem a little incomplete. But there are some real stand-out stories, too, and my favorites include:

"Keeper of Names" by Larry Correia, which suffers a little from that "intro to a new series" feeling I mentioned above, but Correia's fast-paced writing and interesting characters 'way more than compensate for that. I'll definitely be interested in the novel that follows this story.

"Rising Above" by Sarah A. Hoyt is a great alternate World War I flying ace story that involves dragons. Some of the humor is groan-inducing in a good way, but there are also some poignant moments and some nice action. It works as a stand-alone, too, and I really enjoyed it. Probably my favorite story in the book because it's so much fun.

"A Cup of Wisdom" by Joseph Zieja is a much grittier story about the nature of war, very well written and effective. I don't know what else Zieja has written, but I'm going to have to look into that.

"Vengeance" by Robin Wayne Bailey is a straight-ahead sword and sorcery story about a warror and the demon-possessed dagger she carries. Plenty of action in this one, and a likable protagonist.

Nancy Fulda's "Deadfall" features an intriguing concept: airborne floating island kingdoms powered by wood with anti-gravity properties and filled with barbarians. This story does a good job of being self-contained, yet making me want to read more about the setting.

"Yael of the Strings" by John R. Fultz features an unusual protagonist, a minstrel whose job is to inspire the soldiers in a battle with his songs. It won't come as any surprise that before this one is over, he has to do more than sing.

Glen Cook's The Black Company is a series I've been meaning to read for years. I already own quite a few of the novels. But "Bone Candy", his Black Company story in this anthology, is actually the first one I've read. It's told in a very distinctive, hardboiled style, and I really enjoyed it despite the fact that it ended too abruptly for my taste, leaving me feeling like it was part of something intended to be bigger.

Elizabeth Moon is another author I've meant to read. "First Blood", her story that wraps up SHATTERED SHIELDS, makes me more convinced than ever that I should. Good characters, excellent action scenes, and an interesting enough setting that I want to read more.

All the other stories in SHATTERED SHIELDS are good except for a couple I didn't care for, but that's a pretty good percentage for an anthology. And it introduced me to several fine writers whose work is new to me, also a good thing. If you're a fan of heroic fantasy that's on the gritty side, this one is well worth reading.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Tuesday's Overlooked Movies: Veronica Mars

The Kickstarter campaign that raised the money for this movie broke all sorts of records at the time, and we were glad of that because all four of us were fans of the VERONICA MARS TV series. After that splash of coverage about the funding, though, the movie was made, released to theaters, and promptly vanished without a trace. That's not uncommon in this age when there don't seem to be any more modest successes, only mega-blockbusters and mega-flops. But now that VERONICA MARS is out on DVD, we watched it anyway, of course, and as a fan of the series, I thought it was excellent.

The movie takes place 10 years after the end of the series and picks up nearly all the characters. Veronica is a lawyer about to go to work for a prestigious firm in New York. Her dad Keith is still a PI back in seedy Neptune, California. And her former boyfriend Logan, the son of a movie star, has joined the Navy and become a fighter pilot. Unfortunately, while he's home on leave, Logan is arrested for the murder of his pop star girlfriend, also a former classmate of Veronica's at Neptune High. When she hears about that, what do you think she's going to do? Stay in New York and get rich as a high-powered lawyer? Or turn her back on all that and go back to Neptune to find the real killer and clear Logan's name?

I don't think it's too much of a spoiler to reveal that Veronica goes home and wades right into that murder case.

This is great stuff, pure hardboiled private eye fiction complete with smart-aleck voiceover (which Kristen Bell as Veronica could pull off even when she was supposed to be a high school kid), hostility from the corrupt cops, and a complex plot with a mixture of suspects from both high society and low. There's also a lot of humor and fine dialogue, including some in-jokes that are satisfyingly obscure. It's rare when you can get together almost the entire cast of a TV show, plus the same creative team behind the camera, and make a "reunion episode" (which is basically what VERONICA MARS is) and have it seem like they've never missed a beat and have been working together all along.

I can see how people who never watched the series, or tried and didn't like it, might not care for this movie. For me, though, it was two hours with old friends, executed with near-perfection. The ending is set up for sequels, and I'm really hoping they come about. In the meantime, if you're a fan and want to catch up with what's been going on in Neptune, you definitely need to watch this one.

Monday, November 03, 2014

The Westward Tide, Book 2: Trail Revenge - Jack Tyree (Wayne D. Dundee)

TRAIL REVENGE is the second volume in the new Western series The Westward Tide, written by Wayne D. Dundee under the pseudonym Jack Tyree. It continues the story begun in TRAIL JUSTICE of a wagon train full of immigrants headed west for new homes and new beginnings. It's a classic set-up for drama and action, and Dundee takes full advantage of the opportunity to present a wide variety of characters, some good, some bad.

One of the plotlines from the first book comes to fruition in this one, as a deadly secret shared by a couple of the pilgrims catches up to them in violent fashion. There are some nice twists to the plot, leading up to a very compelling showdown at the end.

The wagon train's two scouts, veteran mountain man Elwood Blake and flamboyant young gunfighter Basil St. Irons, have quickly become two of my favorite characters in current Western fiction. They make quite a team when they go after the villains, and I certainly wouldn't want to have them as enemies.

As usual, Dundee's writing is tough and well-paced. He's one of the best storytellers in the business. I really enjoyed TRAIL REVENGE, and if you're a Western fan, I'd strongly urge you to pick up the first two books in this series. They're top-notch entertainment.

And while you're at it, check out Dundee's new stand-alone Western FUGITIVE TRAIL and his hardboiled horror novel THE NAKED AND THE UNDEAD. You really can't go wrong with any of his work.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Argosy, June 20, 1936

ARGOSY usually had great covers, and here's another one, this time heralding the beginning of a long historical serial by George Challis, who was, of course, Frederick Faust, better known as Max Brand. Much, if not all, of Faust's Western fiction has been reprinted at one time or another, but I wish somebody would reprint more of his historical fiction. What little I've read of it was top-notch. This issue also features another of my favorites, W.C. Tuttle, and a couple of top-of-the-line pulpsters in George F. Worts and Fred MacIsaac.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Now Available from Rough Edges Press: Devil in a Cage - W.L. Fieldhouse

Multiple murder, Devil worship, and a missing fortune in mob's just another day in Las Vegas for private investigator John Weller. 

When Weller, a history buff and former homicide detective who has retired from the police force because he lost a leg to a shotgun blast in the line of duty, is hired by the public defender's office, the case he's supposed to look into seems open and shut. A bank robbery gone wrong has resulted in the deaths of two of the plotters and the arrest of the third, a scumbag associated with Lucifer's Chapel, a local group of Satanists. It doesn't take long for Weller to begin to have doubts about the case, which becomes more complicated—and more dangerous—the deeper he delves into it. He'll have to scramble to uncover the truth before it costs him his own life! 

DEVIL IN A CAGE is a classic private eye novel by legendary action/adventure author W.L. Fieldhouse. Brand-new and never before published, it features a compelling protagonist in John Weller, a complex plot, sheer storytelling energy, insightful social commentary, and a vivid portrait of Las Vegas that could only be provided by an insider like Fieldhouse. Rough Edges Press is proud to present this powerful novel of crime and detection.

(This is the first new novel by Bill Fieldhouse in a number of years, and I'm very pleased to publish it as part of the REP line as both an e-book and a trade paperback. I'm also going to be publishing the sequel sometime next year.)

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: 10 Story Western, September 1944

(This post originally appeared in different form on November 21, 2005.)

I like this one because instead of the clean-cut hero you usually find on Western pulps, this guy is one ugly, mean-looking son of a gun. A good line-up of authors, too, with Tom Roan and Cliff Farrell heading the list. The "Gipson" listed lower on the cover is Fred Gipson, author of OLD YELLER. Many of his stories appeared in the pulps. And "Emley" is Alan M. Emley, who was actually Alan LeMay, author of THE SEARCHERS.

I don't know if you can make it out in the scan or not, but just below the barrel of the gun in the character's left hand is some faint pencil scribbling that reads "BW Gardner". This pulp is from the collection of the late Barry Gardner, a good friend and an absolutely wonderful fellow who was the son of Bennie Gardner, who wrote extensively for the pulps as "Gunnison Steele". Before he passed away, Barry had collected several hundred pulps with his dad's stories in them, and I wound up with the collection. Bennie Gardner wrote some very good full-length pulp Western novels, but he was really the master of the Western short-short, packing action, a credible plot, and usually a twist ending into two or three pages. Well worth reading, if you're ever flipping through a Western pulp with a Gunnison Steele story in it. This one likely has two in it, since "Gardner" is listed on the cover and he often used Barry's name as a pseudonym as well.

This issue was lost in the fire, of course, along with the rest of Barry's pulps, but I'm glad I was able to preserve cover scans of a few of them.