Friday, March 06, 2015

Forgotten Books: The Traditional West - Western Fictioneers

I don't know if this massive anthology is actually forgotten, but it's been out for almost four years now and I haven't mentioned it lately. Not only that, but it's on sale for a limited time for only 99 cents, and you can't beat that price. At approximately 120,000 words, I'm pretty sure THE TRADITIONAL WEST is the biggest anthology of original Western fiction ever published. Several stories in it either won or were nominated for Peacemaker and Spur Awards, including Livia's "Panhandle Freight", an excellent Western mystery featuring Lucas Hallam. My story is a short, odd piece called "Rattler". The other authors in the book are Steven Clark, Phil Dunlap, Edward A. Grainger, James J. Griffin, Jerry Guin, C. Courtney Joyner, Jackson Lowry, Larry Jay Martin, Matthew P. Mayo, Rod Miller, Clay More, Ross Morton, Kerry Newcomb, Scott D. Parker, Pete Peterson, Cheryl Pierson, Kit Prate, Robert J. Randisi, Dusty Richards, Troy D. Smith, Larry D. Sweazy, and Chuck Tyrell. That's quite a line-up. Check it out!

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Now Available: Holt County Justice - Richard Prosch

Lines are being drawn in the unorganized territory west of Holt County, but deputy sheriff Whit Branham is still the law, still the man they called to clean up after a killing. But are the remains hanging from a tree in the middle of the Niobrara River the result of vigilante justice –or murder? And who, in the remote village of Slocum is a friend and who’s a deadly enemy? In order to uncover the secrets of the dead, Branham might just have to join them!

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Now Available: Blaze! #4: Six-Gun Wedding - Jackson Lowry

The only thing J.D. and Kate Blaze planned to do in the settlement of Wilderness, Wyoming, was attend the wedding of one of Kate's friends. Instead outlaws launch a bloody raid on the church in the middle of the ceremony and kidnap the groom. It's up to J.D. and Kate, the wild West's only husband-and-wife gunfighters, to track down the gang, rescue the groom, and find out the reason behind the shocking violence. 

Acclaimed Western author Jackson Lowry (THE SONORA NOOSE and WEST OF THE BIG RIVER: THE ARTIST) spins a colorful, action-packed yarn in SIX-GUN WEDDING, the fourth book in the bestselling Adult Western series BLAZE!

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Now Available: Wading Into War - Scott Dennis Parker

Houston, 1940 

Benjamin Wade is a laid back private investigator whose jobs are so mundane that he doesn't even carry a gun. He thought his latest job was going to be easy. 

He thought wrong. 

Hired by beguiling Lillian Saxton to find a missing reporter with knowledge of her brother’s whereabouts in war-torn Europe, Wade follows a lead and knocks on a door. He gets two answers: bullets and a corpse. 

Now Wade must unravel the truth about the reporter’s death, Lillian’s brother, and the whereabouts of a cache of documents that reveal a shocking story from Nazi-controlled Europe and an even more sinister secret here at home.

(I was fortunate enough to read an advance copy of this book, and it's an excellent period private eye yarn with a great pace. Scott nails the setting and the time period as well. Highly recommended. It's available on the various platforms and I believe a print edition is in the works as well.) 

Tuesday's Overlooked Movies: Australia

(This post originally appeared on March 14, 2009)

This movie is a good example of how out of sync I am with the critical establishment (and most of the viewing public, too, for that matter). It was roundly panned, and I enjoyed the hell out of it. Yes, it’s hokey. Yes, it’s extremely predictable. I don’t care. It worked for me. That’s probably because it’s the sort of big, historical soap opera that I used to write for various book packagers.

Nicole Kidman is Lady Sarah Ashley, an English noblewoman who arrives in Australia in 1939 to visit her husband’s cattle station, only to find that her husband has been murdered and the local cattle baron had his greedy eye on the station. Her only ally is the mysterious Drover (Hugh Jackman), who helps her save the ranch . . . I mean the cattle station. Nah, hell, I mean the ranch, because the first half of this movie is pure Western. It’s the John Wayne/Maureen O’Hara movie that the Duke and Maureen never made. I’m sure James Edward Grant could have come up with some reason for an American cowboy to be in Australia. I knew everything that was going to happen, right down to the way many of the scenes were staged. The only real difference is that there’s a little Aboriginal mysticism thrown in.

The second half of the movie turns into a World War II epic, as the Japanese attack northern Australia, but that’s all right with me because I like World War II movies, too. It’s slightly less predictable than the Western half, but only slightly. Stuff blows up. Heartstrings are tugged. Bad guys get their comeuppance. What’s not to like?

Some critics even blasted the look of the film. The colors are too bright, they said. Well, why wouldn’t they be bright? This is a Fifties Technicolor movie, a big, sweeping, melodramatic potboiler. Why criticize a movie for being exactly what it sets out to be? I’m not saying that AUSTRALIA is a great film, but it’s nearly three hours long and I was wide awake the whole time. Take that for what it’s worth. AUSTRALIA is as old-fashioned as a movie can get, and sometimes that’s just what I want.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Beating the Bushes - Christine Matthews

Vincent Lloyd and Baylor Kracher have something in common nobody would want: each of them has had a child disappear. In Lloyd's case, it happened several years earlier when his six-year-old daughter was abducted, raped, and murdered. The killer was never found, and a cloud of suspicion has hovered over Lloyd ever since. With Kracher, it's his fifteen-year-old son who vanishes without a trace. Haunted by his own tragedy, Lloyd volunteers to help in the search for Stevie Kracher, and a friendship forms between the two men that lasts for years, beyond the death of one of them, leading to a search that won't end until the survivor finally uncovers the truth about Stevie's disappearance.

BEATING THE BUSHES is an excellent suspense novel from Christine Matthews, dark and twisty, written in a number of different but equally powerful voices. The two protagonists are compelling characters with plenty of flaws and virtues, and throughout their search, Matthews does a great job peeling back the layers of the plot, which is a lot more complex than it might seem at first. BEATING THE BUSHES is a grim book, no doubt about that, but it's also uplifting in its own way and demonstrates the power of hope and persistence in even the worse circumstances. If you like top-notch psychological thrillers, this one gets a high recommendation from me.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: All Detective Magazine, February 1934

An early Norman Saunders cover that's certainly striking, plus stories by Lester Dent (a Foster Fade yarn), Erle Stanley Gardner, Hugh B. Cave, and Norman A. Daniels. That strikes me as a pretty darned good detective pulp.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

(Guest Post) Our Man Clint: The Gunsmith Continues - Robert J. Randisi

The Gunsmith Continues
By Robert J. Randisi, aka J.R. Roberts

It was a bloodbath, probably fitting, given how long adult westerns and mens adventure paperbacks have been spilling blood within their pages.  But in one fell swoop publishers, with seeming disregard for the readers—or the readers that were left, anyway—cancelled all the Adult Western series—notably the long running Longarm and Gunsmith series—and mens adventure series—most notably, the Mack Bolan series.  This move, as of April of 2015, will not only rob loyal readers of the adventures of Custis Longarm and Mack Bolan, but will also put entire stables of writers out of work. Both series, along with many others, were written by multiple writers, having supplied work for many working writers for a good 40 years.  In fact, the Adult Western genre not only invigorated the western genre and kept it alive,but provided income for dozens of writers over the years. And now it’s the end of an era for all of them . . .

. . . except The Gunsmith.


Very simple answer. For the most part, the Gunsmith was created and written by one man. When Charter Books contacted me in 1981 and asked me if I could create an Adult Western series for them, I jumped at the chance.  I created a bible and, when it was approved, signed a two book contract.  Then a contract for a third.  And then they called me and said they wanted to go into the genre whole-heartedly, and could I write a book a month.  I was 30 years old, had no idea if I could write a book a month, but I said “Yes!”

I started writing under the pseudonym J.R. Roberts.  When I attended my first Western convention I discovered what anomaly the Gunsmith and I were. There were several other monthly adult westerns running at the time, and they were being written by three or four writers under a single house name. A “house name” is a name used by many authors on one series.  My “J.R. Roberts” nom de-plume was a pseudonym used by one person, not a house name. (It was only after Berkley Books purchased Charter Books and wanted to keep the Gunsmith going that they asked if they could hire two more writers, just to build up an inventory. The writers were to be approved by me, and I was to own even those books which I did not write, and receive a royalty. It made me even more of an anomaly in the genre. Once we had built up a one year inventory, I went back to writing all the books.)

And I have done so since then, for over 32 years.  Gunsmith #1: Macklin’s Women came out in January of 1982, and there has been a Gunsmith every month since then.  Berkley Books decided to end the run in April of 2015 with #399, and I was given enough warning so that I was able to place the series elsewhere and assure that Gunsmith #400 would appear in May of 2015, with no break in the action.  They will appear with a new cover design in ebook for from Piccadilly Publishing, and in paperback from Western Trailblazers.  And Our Man Clint will go on appearing in a book a month for as long as my flying fingers can flex.

So to those loyal Gunsmith readers who pick up up each and every month, you may continue to do so, with heartfelt thanks from me, and from Our Man Clint Adams.

I should also thank Charter Books, where it all started, and then Berkley Books, which has kept the series going all these years, as we all move on to the next bend in the road. 

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Wild West Weekly, May 7, 1938

At first glance, this issue of WILD WEST WEEKLY has a pretty run-of-the-mill cover by A. Leslie Ross, illustrating one of Walker Tompkins' Tommy Rockford stories. Then you see what Tommy's carrying, and the cover suddenly becomes more creepy and effective. That's the way it struck me, anyway. I've read only a few of the Tommy Rockford stories but liked them all quite a bit. Maybe someday somebody will do a collection of them. Also in this issue is a Silver Kid story by T.W. Ford (another series that could use collecting), along with stories by Charles M. (Chuck) Martin, Lee Bond, J. Allan Dunn, and Philip F. Deere, a house-name that was usually either Lee Bond or Walker Tompkins, although other writers used it, too. To me, WILD WEST WEEKLY is one of the most consistently entertaining Western pulps.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Forgotten Books: Rocket Robinson and the Pharaoh's Fortune - Sean O'Neill

This graphic novel came out in 2013, but I'd never heard of it until I came across a copy at Half Price Books and was intrigued by the look of it. It reminded me a lot of some of the adventure novels I read as a kid, books that were called juveniles then. I don't know what they're called now. Judging by the acknowledgments, it was a Kickstarter project. It certainly reads like a labor of love by the author/artist Sean O'Neill.

ROCKET ROBINSON AND THE PHARAOH'S FORTUNE is set in Cairo in 1933. The protagonist is Ronald "Rocket" Robinson, the son of an American diplomat who's been posted to Egypt. Nothing is ever mentioned about Rocket's mother, but it's pretty obvious that his dad is a single parent. Rocket has a pet monkey named Screech and a habit of getting into trouble because of his curiosity. When he has an unpleasant encounter on a train with a bald, eyepatch-wearing German named Count Otto von Sturm, you know it's not going to turn out well, especially when Rocket finds a mysterious note that von Sturm drops. It's written in what appear to be Egyptian hieroglyphics, but when Rocket gets to Cairo he finds that nobody can translate it. Even worse, when von Sturm discovers that the note is missing, he figures out that Rocket may have it and sends a couple of goons after him. (Of course he has goons working for him.) Rocket gets away from them with the help of a Gypsy girl named Nuri, and the fact that von Sturm wants the note so badly just makes our intrepid young hero even more determined to find out what it means.

This barely scratches the surface of a long, dangerous adventure that takes Rocket, Nuri, and Screech all over Cairo, into a set of sinister catacombs under the city, and out to Giza for more danger involving the Sphinx and the Great Pyramid of Khufu. There's a lot of stuff about code-breaking and Egyptian history worked into the story, but O'Neill handles it very well without really slowing down the pace.

If I'd read this as a novel when I was twelve years old, like Rocket, I would have thought it was one of the greatest books ever. As a cantankerous old geezer, I thought it was still pretty entertaining as a graphic novel. It seems obvious that O'Neill was trying for sort of a Young Indiana Jones/Rick Brant/Jonny Quest feeling in his story and art, and for the most part he succeeds. There were a few anachronisms that bothered me (comic books as we know them now didn't exist in 1933, and I don't think anybody would have used the phrase "good cop/bad cop routine" back then, either), but those are minor quibbles by, as I said, a cantankerous old geezer. With its kid protagonists, there's really not a lot of violence despite the perilous situations in which Rocket and Nuri find themselves, so it's pretty much safe for all ages.

I really enjoyed this one, and I think anyone who grew up on a steady diet of such adventurous, exotic yarns as I did probably would, too.