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.