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.