Wednesday, July 30, 2014

New From Rough Edges Press: A Skinning War - David Hardy

In the days following the Civil War, Clint Gordon returns to his home in a devastated Texas to find himself facing another war, this time against rustlers, renegades, and hired guns. Clint isn't going to give up, though, even if his fight leads him to a deadly showdown on a mountain of bones! 

A SKINNING WAR is a brand-new 5000 word Western short story from acclaimed Texas author David Hardy. This edition also includes a preview of his best-selling historical novel PALMETTO EMPIRE.

(This is Dave's first traditional Western for REP but hopefully not his last. It's a really fine yarn, and if you're a Western fan you should check it out! You can even read it for free if you're signed up with Amazon Prime or Kindle Unlimited.)

Zombies From the Pulps!: Corpses on Parade - Edith and Ejler Jacobson

I'm aware of Edith and Ejler Jacobson mostly as editors (they edited several different science fiction digests at one time or another), but they also wrote stories for the pulps, including "Corpses on Parade", which appeared in the April 1938 issue of DIME MYSTERY. When I started reading this one, I thought it was going to be a more sane and sedate tale than Arthur Leo Zagat's "Revels of the Lusting Dead", the previous story in ZOMBIES FROM THE PULPS! Well, turns out it is, but only by a little bit. The Jacobsons knew how to go over the top as well.

The first person narrator is a wealthy young man in high society in New York, and as the story opens he's attending the funeral of a friend who died of a mysterious illness. This opening reads more like a mystery story than a Weird Menace tale, but then other members of society begin committing suicide or dying in mysterious fashion, and it's discovered that they're all victims of a disease that starts to rot the flesh from bones even before death. Before you know it we're up to our necks in a wild yarn involving kidnapping, a battle in a cemetery, prisoners locked in a dungeon, and a hooded mastermind.

This story is really interesting to me because if the plot had been handled differently it would have worked just as well for a novel featuring The Phantom Detective, The Black Bat, or any number of other pulp crimefighters. At heart it really is a crime yarn, but the Jacobsons make it plenty gruesome enough to fit in the pages of DIME MYSTERY in its Weird Menace phase. It's also a fast-paced, well-written story and makes me think I should read more by this husband-and-wife team. As far as I can recall, it's the only thing I've read by them, and it's another strong entry in this collection.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Monday, July 28, 2014

ReadWest Foundation/Will Rogers Medallion Awards

I am happy to announce this year's ReadWest Awards for Literary Excellence. Each year, the ReadWest Foundation, Inc., chooses three award recipients for "Excellence in Western Literature," and a Presidents Award for a "Significant Career Contribution to Western Literature." In the past ReadWest has honored best-selling authors such as Stephen Harrigan, Thomas Cobb, Kat Martin, and Craig Johnson. The awards will be presented at the Will Rogers Medallion Award Ceremony in Fort Worth, Texas, on October 25, 2014.

This year's recipients are:

President's Award

Robert M. Utley

Robert M. Utley is an American author and historian who has written sixteen books on the history of the American West. He is a former chief historian for the National Park Service. The Western History Association annually gives out the Robert M. Utley Book Award for the best book published on the military history of the frontier and western North America (including Mexico and Canada) from prehistory through the 20th century.

Literary Excellence Awards

S. C. Gwynne (nonfiction)

S. C. Gwynne is a senior editor for Texas Monthly and the author for the Pulitzer Prize nominated book Empire of the Summer Moon. His next book, Rebel Yell: The Violence, Passion, and Redemption of Stonewall Jackson, is due out in September.

James Reasoner (fiction)

Besides writing under his own name, James Reasoner has written under 40 pseudonyms, including Dana Fuller Ross and the acclaimed Wagons West series. Regarded as one of the Western genre's hardest working authors, Reasoner recently finished his 310th novel.

Doug J. Swanson (nonfiction)

Besides writing a biography on the infamous Texas gangster Benny Binion, Doug J. Swanson is an investigative reporter for The Dallas Morning News, and a novelist. His novel Big Town was a finalist for the Edgar Award and won the John Creasey Award from the British Crime Writers Association. He has been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in feature writing, and has twice been named the top newspaper reporter in Texas. Swanson is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, and was a John S. Knight Fellow in Journalism at Stanford University. He is recognized this year for his biography: Blood Aces: The Wild Ride of Benny Binion, the Texas Gangster Who Created Vegas Poker.

On behalf of the ReadWest Foundation, I want to congratulate this year's award winners, and thank them for their contribution to American's greatest genre: the Western.

For more information on attending the award ceremony, please go to

Steven Anderson (Steven Law)
President, ReadWest Foundation, Inc

Lights in the Deep - Brad R. Torgersen

I've been vaguely aware of Brad R. Torgersen's name for several years now and knew he's a science fiction writer, but I'd never read any of his work because I just don't read much modern SF. I'm trying to change that, so I picked up LIGHTS IN THE DEEP, the first collection of Torgerson's stories, including two that are nominated for the Hugo Award this year and one that was nominated for the Hugo and the Nebula Awards a few years ago.

Torgersen writes what I'd consider classic-style science fiction, stuff that has both big ideas and the more personal stories resulting from those ideas, and this collection includes stories with a wide variety of settings and themes. "Outbound", his first professionally published story, is a generation ship yarn about the survivors of a war that destroys the solar system trying to catch up to ships that set out earlier to establish interstellar colonies. "Gemini 17" is an alternate history story about the U.S. space program after the failed assassination attempt on John F. Kennedy. "The Bullfrog Radio Astronomy Project" ventures into "Men in Black" style comedy about an unusual effort to search for extraterrestrial intelligence. "Exiles in Eden" finds sentient spaceships programmed with human intelligences fighting a desperate battle to save the last survivors of humanity from an alien race that has wiped out everybody else. "Footprints", which appeared in a college literary magazine and was Torgersen's first fiction to see print, is a poignant story about a little girl who wants to grow up to become an astronaut.

The highlights of this collection are his Hugo-nominated stories. "The Exchange Officers", which is nominated for Best Novelette, is a fine piece of near-future military SF about an American/Chinese clash over an orbital docking platform. "The Chaplain's Assistant" and "The Chaplain's Legacy" (nominated for Best Novella) manage the difficult task of being large-scale space operas about interstellar war between humanity and a race of insect-like aliens, while at the same time being very effective small-scale personal stories about religion and human/alien interaction. They form the first part of a full-length novel coming out this fall, THE CHAPLAIN'S WAR. I have an ARC of that and plan to read it soon.

The rest of the book is rounded out by "Exanastasis", a far-future tale about the survivors of humanity returning to an Earth where computer intelligences are all that still exist, and "Ray of Light", which was nominated for both the Hugo and the Nebula Awards as Best Novelette in 2011. It deals with the aftermath of an alien-orchestrated natural disaster that forces the few survivors of humanity to live in habitats at the bottom of the ocean. This may well be my favorite story in the whole book. It's certainly the most inspirational.

Torgersen also intersperses a number of essays about his writing career among the stories, and that's the sort of thing I always enjoy. I think this is a really fine collection and some of the best science fiction I've read in recent years. This one is going to be a strong contender for my Top Ten at the end of the year. Highly recommended. 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Adventure, October 1, 1932

Boy, that cover by Hubert Rogers really sums up the appeal of ADVENTURE, doesn't it? I love the general fiction pulps with their variety of genres. And what a line-up of authors in this issue: Bedford-Jones, Tuttle, Chidsey, and Raine, among others, all for one thin dime. The readers really got their money's worth with this one. 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: New Western, November 1942

A nice action-oriented cover and a good bunch of authors in this Western pulp from the always dependable Popular Publications: Ed Earl Repp (sure, a lot of his stories were ghosted, but I don't care), veteran pulpsters Frank C. Robertson, Lee E. Wells, Ralph Berard (who was really Victor White), and Bruce Douglas, an author whose work I need to read more of.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Now Available: Charlie's Pie - Livia J. Washburn

Lauralee Brannam just wants to bake her son's favorite pie for his birthday, which happens to fall on Christmas Eve. But then a wounded stranger shows up on her Texas ranch, and his fateful visit leads to violence, tragedy, and redemption in this stirring Western tale.

Livia's 12,000 word novella "Charlie's Pie", which won the Peacemaker Award for Best Short Fiction from the Western Fictioneers this year, is now available individually at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords, as are the other stories from the Prairie Rose Publications anthology WISHING FOR A COWBOY. I'm biased, of course, but I really like "Charlie's Pie" and when I read it my first thought was that it would have been right at home in a 1950s issue of RANCH ROMANCES, when the magazine had gotten considerably more hardboiled than it was in its early days. Check it out! (Yeah, there's a half-naked cowboy on the cover, but it's one tough yarn, let me tell you.)

Forgotten Books: Move Along, Stranger - Frank Castle

Frank Castle is an almost completely forgotten author these days, despite the fact that he wrote quite a few hardboiled Westerns and crime novels for Gold Medal during the Fifties and Sixties. He also ghosted a few of the Lassiter novels under the house-name Jack Slade, as Lynn Munroe has established in an excellent overview of the series on his website.

The only book I'd read by Castle before now was one of those Lassiter novels, but I was in the mood for a vintage Western and Castle's MOVE ALONG, STRANGER was handy. It was a good choice, as this is an entertaining yarn. Scott Corbin is a former outlaw who has spend the past eight years in the Texas penitentiary at Huntsville. When he gets out he travels to a silver mining town in Arizona Territory where he plans to go into partnership with an old friend who owns a general store.

When he gets there, though, he finds plenty of sinister stuff going on. Outlaws have been holding up the silver shipments. A ruthless competitor is trying to run his friend out of business. Strange riders are moving around in the night. The mine superintendent has been murdered recently, shot in the back. The town marshal is an old enemy of Corbin's who would like nothing better than to see him dead. Oh, and Corbin's former lover is there, too, now married to his younger brother who it appears has fallen in with the gang responsible for the silver robberies.

With all that going on, it seems like Corbin would have plenty on his plate without falling in love with the daughter of the local judge and trying to root out the criminal mastermind who's pulling everyone's strings behind the scenes, but Castle doesn't believe in making it easy on his protagonist. Corbin takes quite a beating before everything is in place for the final showdown, which is both lengthy and effective, with some really well-done shootouts.

Castle's prose is nothing fancy. The appeal of this book is the fast pace and the way he juggles the various plot elements and even springs a few welcome surprises. The noir element is strong, as much of the action takes place at night and no one can really be trusted. Based on this one book, I wouldn't place Castle in the top rank of hardboiled Western authors such as T.T. Flynn, Luke Short, Lewis B. Patten, Dean Owen, Gordon Shirreffs, and a number of others, but I enjoyed MOVE ALONG, STRANGER quite a bit and found Castle to be a solidly entertaining storyteller. I have a few more of his books and certainly plan to read them.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Tuesday's Overlooked Commercials: Herding Cats

This is still one of my all-time favorite commercials. I believe it debuted during the Super Bowl one year (back when Super Bowl commercials were usually pretty good).