Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Tuesday's Overlooked Movies: The Monster and the Girl


Every so often you run across a movie with such a goofy premise that it shouldn't be anything except a silly mess, but somehow the people making it manage to elevate it into something that's much better than it has any right to be. Such is the case with THE MONSTER AND THE GIRL, a 1941 noir/horror movie that I recorded months ago from Svengoolie's show and then promptly forgot about until now.

There are some minor spoilers ahead, since it's impossible to talk about the movie's plot without them. It begins as a flashback (in fact, there are numerous flashbacks within flashbacks in this movie, an unusual structure for a film from this era), a story being told by the girl of the title, played by the fetching Ellen Drew. Her brother is on trial for murder, and we quickly find out that he was framed for the crime by the prostitution ring that forced his sister into a life of degradation (another unusual touch for the time period; the script keeps things vague, but it's obvious what's going on). This part of the movie comes across like a standard but well-done crime film . . . except that during the trial, one of the spectators is played by George Zucco, so you know there's going to some mad scientisting going on sooner or later.

Sure enough, the girl's brother is found guilty and executed, but not before he agrees to let his brain be used in a scientific experiment after he's dead. Zucco's character, assisted by Abner Biberman from GUNGA DIN, transplants the guy's brain into the body of a gorilla. The gorilla now has all the memories of the dead man, so he escapes from Zucco's laboratory to seek vengeance on the men responsible for ruining his sister and condemning him to death.

Several things make this work a lot better than it should. The script, the director (Stuart Heisler), and the actors all play it straight. It's a good cast, too, with the criminals being played by Paul Lukas, Joseph Calleia, Gerald Mohr, Marc Lawrence, and Onslow Stevens, among others. A young Rod Cameron is very good as a hard-nosed reporter. But the real star of the picture is effects man Charles Gemora, who fashioned not only a very realistic gorilla suit but gives an excellent performance while wearing it. This is some of the best gorilla suit work I've ever seen, especially in scenes with the dog who belonged to the character when he was human. The dog, whose name is Skipper, just about steals the show on several occasions.

Maybe I'm the target audience or I was just in the right mood for it, but I think THE MONSTER AND THE GIRL is an odd but borderline great film. I'm very glad I watched it.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: All Star Detective Stories, November 1930


Some pulp covers are just so goofy, you can't help but love 'em. For example, the November 1930 issue of ALL STAR DETECTIVE STORIES. And behind that cover, you've got a pretty good line-up of authors, including T.T. Flynn, Johnston McCulley, Arthur J. Burks, and Leslie McFarlane, who was also writing the Hardy Boys books at the time.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Speed Western, April 1947


Every story in this issue is by either a house-name or an author I've never heard of (and those may be house-names, too, for all I know), so there's no telling who actually wrote any of them. It's entirely possible they're all reprints that appeared originally under other titles and by-lines. But that's a pretty good George Rozen cover, so I'm posting about this issue of SPEED WESTERN anyway.

Friday, December 02, 2016

Forgotten Books: Triplanetary - Edward E. "Doc" Smith, Ph.D.


A few years ago I got an email from someone whose name I didn't recognize. Normally I'd think that was just spam, but the subject line had to do with the Lensman books, the famous science fiction series by Edward E. "Doc" Smith, so I was curious enough to open it. When I read the email, I could tell that it was part of an ongoing conversation about the series that had somehow wound up in my inbox. I had gotten the email equivalent of a wrong number. So I replied to the guy to let him know and mentioned that while I hadn't read the Lensman series myself, I'd been meaning to get around to it for a long time. I wound up trading several more emails with him, intentionally this time, talking about Doc Smith and SF. My new-found friend advised me to skip the first two books in the series and start with the third one, GALACTIC PATROL, and to read the original pulp versions if I could.

Well, there are two problems with that. First of all, my OCD makes it difficult for me to just skip books in a series like that, and second, I don't own the pulp versions of any of the Lensman books. I do, however, have the Pyramid paperback reprints from the Sixties, and so finally, at long last, being in the mood for some classic SF, I read TRIPLANETARY, which is, chronologically, at least, the first book in the series. (The scan above is the copy I read.)

Most of you probably know this, but for those who don't, some quick background: TRIPLANETARY was originally published as a stand-alone serial in the pulp AMAZING STORIES. Three years later in ASTOUNDING, Smith began the Lensman series with GALACTIC PATROL and wrote several sequels to it. In the late Forties, those novels were reprinted by a small publisher called Fantasy Press. At that time, Smith took TRIPLANETARY and wrote a new opening sequence about 30,000 words long that ret-conned it into the Lensman series. He also wrote a new novel, FIRST LENSMAN, that fits between TRIPLANETARY and GALACTIC PATROL.

Based on all that, it's easy to see why my email friend suggested that I start with GALACTIC PATROL, then go back and read the others later if I wanted to. But that's not what I did.

Actually, it's easy to separate the later additions from the original material. The new opening sequences lay the groundwork for a long war between two super-intelligent and super-powerful galactic empires, the Arisians (the good guys) and the Eddorians (the bad guys). As you'd immediately assume, a small, backwater planet called Earth is going to turn out to be vital to both sides. Throughout our history, from the fall of Atlantis to the fall of Rome to the world wars in the 20th Century, events were actually being manipulated by the Arisians and the Eddorians.

Jump ahead a few centuries, and our solar system is governed by the Triplanetary League, an alliance between Earth, Mars, and Venus. The main section of the novel involves a space pirate named Roger waging war on the solar system and the efforts by various Triplanetary agents to stop his reign of terror. Then, out of the blue, a bunch of aliens called the Nevians show up to attack the solar system and try to steal all our iron, which they use as a power source. The Nevians aren't really bad guys, though, just so far advanced they regard humanity as an annoyance to be brushed aside. They find out different, though, since our human scientists are smart enough to turn the Nevian technology against the invaders, while still battling Roger and the space pirates.

Smith did some rewriting in this section, as well, to make Roger a pawn of the Eddorians who's actually being controlled by one of them. You can tell what the book was like in its original version, though: stalwart heroes versus evil space pirates versus invaders from another galaxy. Adding the Arisia/Eddore war just widens the scope and sets up the later books.

Is TRIPLANETARY worth reading? Well . . . all the things Smith was notorious for can be found in this book: the clunky prose, the minimal characterization, the tin-eared dialogue. But the things which make him one of the most influential figures in science fiction history are here, too: the vast ideas (every "warring galactic empires with Earth caught in the middle" book and movie owes something to Smith), the super-weapons (Roger has a warship the size and shape of an asteroid, sort of like . . . oh, the Death Star, anyone?), the universe-spanning force of agents dedicated to battling evil ("In brightest day, in blackest night . . ."), armed with a super-powered lens instead of a power ring like the Green Lanterns. If you can overlook the shortcomings, and for the most part I could, TRIPLANETARY definitely has that sense of wonder I look for in science fiction. The space battles are great, and even the stodgy characters are sort of likeable. I don't know if I'll ever make it to the end of the series, but I plan to push on and read more of the Lensman saga.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Tracker - James Rollins


This is another of those short e-book originals designed mostly to promote the full-length books by various bestselling authors. I've read only one book by James Rollins (SANDSTORM), but I liked it pretty well. In TRACKER, he introduces a couple of new protagonists, a former soldier named Tucker Wayne and Tucker's German Shepherd Kane, who worked with him in Afghanistan. Tucker left the service after some unspecified tragedy and took Kane with him, and now they wander around the world and wind up in dangerous situations when Tucker tries to help people who need it.

They're in Bulgaria for this one, and when Tucker sees a beautiful blonde being tailed by three thugs, he and Kane take a hand. I don't think it's giving too much away to say that there are various factions after a fortune in gold looted by the Nazis during World War II. Yes, it's that plot again. There's some nice action, though, in and underneath a creepy old cemetery.

It would be easy to indulge in some snark and say that this is Jack-Reacher-with-a-dog, but actually, although that's an accurate description in some ways, Rollins is a good enough writer to elevate it above that. He's an admitted fan of Doc Savage (he used to be a veterinarian before he became a bestselling writer, and I believe he said he had the entire Bantam series on a shelf in his office), and a little Lester Dent may have rubbed off on him. This story moves along nicely. I really like the characters of Tucker and Kane, too. Being a dog lover, I was inclined to enjoy this one to start with. Tucker and Kane have gone on to appear in one of Rollins' Sigma Force novels (his main series) and in a collaborative novel by Rollins and Grant Blackwood, THE KILL SWITCH. I have that one and will probably give it a try at some point, although it's longer than I prefer. For now I can say that TRACKER is a very quick read and that I liked it.


Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Christmas Book Roundup

Now that Thanksgiving is over, I thought this would be a good time to mention the various Christmas books and stories Livia and I have written over the years, plus some others that we've published. If any of you would like to consider this a handy gift-buying guide for friends or family who read mysteries, romances, or Westerns . . . well, that would certainly be in the spirit of the season, wouldn't it?

BLAZE! THE CHRISTMAS JOURNEY - Stephen Mertz
Husband-and-wife gunfighters J.D. and Kate Blaze are just about the unlikeliest Santa Claus and Santa’s helper that the Old West has ever seen. But when a bank is robbed in Arizona Territory and a frantic mother has to embark on a desperate journey to save her son’s life, it’s Kate and J.D. who ride along to make sure everybody gets what’s coming to them for Christmas, whether it’s a hangman’s noose or hot lead! By horseback, stagecoach, and train, it’s up to the Blazes to deliver presents for one and all, and there’ll be outlaws and Apaches stirring before Christmas morning dawns.


BLAZE! THE CHRISTMAS JOURNEY is a Special Holiday Edition from series creator Stephen Mertz, full of action, humor, and heartwarming plot twists. It’s Christmas in the Old West with the deadliest pair of gunfighters to ever hit the trail!



THE CHRISTMAS COOKIE KILLER - Livia J. Washburn
Phyllis Newsom stands a good chance in the Christmas cookie contest with her snowflake-shaped lime sugar cookies. But Mrs. Simmons' gingerdoodles might give her a run for her money, until she's found strangled in a pile of cookies. With many on Santa's naughty suspect list, this case is a cookie Phyllis means to crumble!



THE GINGERBREAD BUMP-OFF - Livia J. Washburn
A Christmas killer has been icing Phylis Newsom's friends in the sixth Fresh-Baked mystery. Not only will Phyllis Newsom's house be featured in the annual Christmas Jingle Bell Tour of Homes, she also has a Christmas Eve bridal shower and a New Year's Eve wedding to bake goodies for. But like her tasty treats, she rises to the occasion.

Before the tour gets under way, Phyllis makes a gruesome discovery on her porch: someone has tried to kill her friend. As Santa's naughty list gets longer, Phyllis tries to catch a half-baked killer.



THE CANDY CANE CUPCAKE KILLER - Livia J. Washburn
In the latest from the national bestselling author of Trick or Deadly Treat, Phyllis Newsom returns with a festive Christmas recipe that’s to die for…

‘Tis the season in Weatherford, Texas, and everyone in town is gearing up for the annual holiday parade and tree-lighting ceremony in the town square, where Phyllis Newsom will be serving her much-anticipated candy cane cupcakes. Local rancher Barney McCrory manages to charm one away from her before the ceremony begins. But unfortunately, when the minty confection is finished, so is he.

This isn’t the first time someone has dropped dead after eating one of Phyllis’s treats. But when the paramedics determine the rancher was shot, suspicion swiftly falls on McCrory’s daughter and her husband—who both stand to reap some sweet rewards from his death. Though Phyllis doesn’t want to get mixed up in another murder investigation, something about this case doesn’t sit right with her. With a little help from a tabloid TV news crew, Phyllis must unwrap the truth and restore good cheer to Weatherford before it’s too late…

Includes recipes! 



POWDERSMOKE CHRISTMAS - James Reasoner
Two wild and woolly Christmas stories by legendary Western author James Reasoner.

’Tis The Season For Justice
It's a life or death Christmas Eve for the man accused of murdering the son of the richest man in the territory. Former shotgun guard Judge Earl Stark knows how to stomp his own snakes, and he makes sure 'TIS THE SEASON FOR JUSTICE.

Presents for One and All

Texas Ranger Cobb is supposed to pick up a prisoner wanted in Parker County and take him back down to Weatherford. Instead he finds himself battling a gang of outlaws and tangling with an old coot driving a wagon full of Christmas gifts, and it's up to him to make sure there are PRESENTS FOR ONE AND ALL.



A WILD WEST CHRISTMAS - L.J. Washburn
Two action packed holiday Western stories by award winning author Livia J. Washburn.

Blue Norther
Hired gun Lucas Hallam has been outnumbered plenty of times, but when he comes upon a necktie party for a young boy accused of cattle rustling, he has to step into danger once more—even with the odds stacked against him. No one should hang on Christmas Eve. 

When the nearby cattle stampede, it looks like things can’t get any worse. But the weather is turning deadly, and if they don’t get the cattle to shelter—as well as themselves—everything will be lost. Can Hallam protect them from the coming BLUE NORTHER? 

A Creature Was Stirring
Mistaken for a “skookum”, Buffalo Newcomb is shot by a young boy, Tom Villard, as he stops by a creek to fish. When he comes to in a small cabin, Buffalo is grateful to realize that the boy’s mother, Ella, has removed the bullet and he has a safe place to recover.

It’s Christmas Eve, and A CREATURE WAS STIRRING—Buffalo can only hope he’s strong enough to keep it from destroying the woman who has shown him only kindness.



NAUGHTY OR MICE - Livia J. Washburn
Dan Callahan's daughter was supposed to take care of her fourth grade class's pet mice over the Christmas vacation—or so she claimed. Melissa Logan, the little girl's teacher, wondered why she had gotten close with the handsome single dad, only to have him back off unexpectedly. But when the mice went missing, the truth about everything came out, and the search for the elusive creatures led not only to unexpected secrets from the past but also to the answers that two lonely people had been seeking without even knowing it.

NAUGHTY OR MICE is a heartwarming Christmas novelette from award-winning author Livia J. Washburn. Funny, poignant, and romantic, it's a charming "tail" you won't soon forget.



WISHING FOR A COWBOY
Cowboys, kisses and love in the holiday air make for a special recipe in each of these wonderful new stories. Christmas miracles can happen when you're WISHING FOR A COWBOY! 

*A Christmas Miracle* by Phyliss Miranda
Acceptance comes not through frosty eyes, but from the warmth of loving hearts.

*Outlaw's Kiss* by Cheryl Pierson
A long-ago schooldays crush is rekindled by an Outlaw*s Kiss that sparks true love, and a new future for Jake Morgan and Talia Delano.

*A Husband for Christmas* by Sarah J. McNeal
A haunting night of horror and a wish for a new life.

*Peaches* by Kathleen Rice Adams
When a strong-willed schoolteacher invades an irascible rancher*s Texas range, not even the spirit of Christmas may be able to prevent all-out war.

*A Gift for Rhoda* by Jacquie Rogers
A mail-order bride disaster!

*Her Christmas Wish* by Tracy Garrett
Her only wish for Christmas was the man who left her behind.

*Covenant* by Tanya Hanson
Can a Christmas blizzard ignite love gone cold?

*Charlie's Pie* by Livia J. Washburn

A wounded man, a desperate woman, a gang of ruthless outlaws...and the best pecan pie in Parker County! (Winner of the Peacemaker Award for Best Short Fiction)



PRESENT FOR A COWBOY

Christmas is on the way and our western heroines are in search of the perfect PRESENT FOR A COWBOY!

Livia J. Washburn’s TINSELTOWN kicks off this exciting holiday collection. Set in the “Roaring ’20’s” in Hollywood, western movie actor Pecos must rescue a young woman in danger—and finds love in the bargain. The rescue of a young, abused boy in Gail L. Jenner’s JUST IN TIME FOR CHRISTMAS opens the door to love for a young woman and a loner who has sworn off relationships. Linda Carroll-Bradd’s CLARI’S HERO features a man who views himself as anything but a hero—and a woman who shows him otherwise, and Lorrie Farrelly’s CHRISTMAS TREASURE is an unexpected gift that can’t be measured in gold. In Sarah J. McNeal’s story, a lonely widow’s perceived indiscretion may cost her and her cowboy their happiness WHEN LOVE COMES KNOCKING.

This sweet/sensual collection of wonderful Christmas stories has something for everyone!




WILD TEXAS CHRISTMAS
Is Christmas wilder in Texas? It just might be! These cowboys and their ladies sure have their hands full—and Christmas brings them together to sort it all out! Cheryl Pierson’s LUCK OF THE DRAW is the story of a handsome gambler and a beautiful witch. With their own particular talents, they discover life is one big poker table—and love can be had if they are willing to risk it all! Can a lumber baron and a railroad heiress save a small Texas town? Kathleen Rice Adams pens some holiday magic in THE LAST THREE MILES. When dreams turn to vengeance for a young gun-handy woman, it takes the love of a marshal to convince THE KID IN BLACK that Christmas really is a time of miracles, in this tale by C. Marie Bowen. In HOW THE TEXAN STOLE CHRISTMAS by Jacquie Rogers, a Texas cowhand is snowed in for Christmas in Idaho. When he becomes part of the town’s “Secret Christmas Angel” game, will he be able to part with his heart? A lady gambler and a con man find themselves in an unlikely situation that could save both of their hearts if they’re willing to trust one another in Kaye Spencer’s A GIFT OF CHRISTMAS HOPE. This sensual/spicy collection of holiday tales is sure to warm your heart and bring smiles as big as Texas!



A HERO FOR CHRISTMAS - Cheryl Pierson
Western Short Collection 
A four-story Western collection from award winning author, Cheryl Pierson 

A Night for Miracles 
Widow Angela Bentley takes in three children and a wounded gunman one snowy Christmas Eve. Angela determines to keep her distance—until the children drag in a scraggly Christmas tree. Will she find love on this, A NIGHT FOR MIRACLES?

Homecoming 
A holiday skirmish sends Union officer, Jack Durham, on an unlikely mission for a dying Confederate enemy. Will a miracle be able to heal his heart and reunite him with his beloved? 

Meant to Be 
Robin Mallory is shocked when she is tackled by a man in a Confederate uniform. A flat tire and a coming snowstorm have stranded her in the middle of a re-enactment – or is it? 

The Gunfighter's Girl

Persuaded by a vendor, Miguel Rivera ~ El Diablo ~ makes a foolish purchase—scarlet ribbons. Will they, and a mysterious meeting, set him on a new path? Can he find his way back to the love he left years before?



ONE CHRISTMAS KNIGHT
Come join us around the Yuletide fire in a comfortable chair with a flagon of ale as we celebrate the upcoming holiday season with ONE CHRISTMAS KNIGHT! This wonderful collection of Christmas stories from the medieval time period will take hold of your imagination and won’t let go until long after you’ve turned the very last page.

You’ll be entranced with these seven tales of knights and their ladies from some of today’s top medieval authors, as well as some rising stars in this up-and-coming genre. 

Deborah Macgillivray, Lindsay Townsend, Keena Kincaid, Livia J. Washburn, Tanya Hanson, Angela Raines, and C. Marie Bowen offer you some of the best medieval Christmas stories written, filled with romance and intrigue, laced with holiday traditions and celebrations of this rich era.

Prairie Rose Publications is proud to introduce yet another wonderful collection of Christmas tales for your reading pleasure. ONE CHRISTMAS KNIGHT is sure to bring you hours of enjoyment as you read on to find out how these knights and ladies will find their very own "happily-ever-after" endings at this very best time of year—Christmas!



A MAIL ORDER CHRISTMAS BRIDE
What could be better this holiday season than a warm fire, a cozy chair and a heartwarming collection of mail-order bride Christmas stories? A MAIL-ORDER CHRISTMAS BRIDE includes eight wonderful reads by some of your favorite authors. 

Livia J Washburn kicks off the anthology with her story, KISSING UNTIL CHRISTMAS, about a mail-order bride who isn’t exactly what she seems—but her unwilling groom hides a dangerous secret of his own.

It’s A LONG WAY FROM ST. LOUIS in Kathleen Rice Adams' story, but can a handsome Irish alley-brawler and a former debutante rekindle their romance from a decade earlier, now that circumstances have changed?

Ella’s cryptic letter brings her husband’s brother, Caleb, home for Christmas in STORE-BOUGHT ORNAMENTS by Patti Sherry-Crews. Can they finally claim the love they’ve been denied for so long?

Secrets and surprises are in store when families meddle with a beautiful single mother and an outlaw-turned-respectable in Tanya Hanson’s story. Phoebe Pierce may have too many secrets of her own to keep HER HOLIDAY HUSBAND…

An earthquake lands a young woman backward in time in her great-great aunt’s southwestern home. Jesse J Elliot’s story of a TIMELESS love that will prevail, no matter what century, is one you won’t forget! 

In this tale by Meg Mims, will it be true love or a HOLIDAY HOAX for these mail-order brides who are traveling together? When they “switch” grooms in Holliday, Nebraska, will things work out for the best, or will they end up ruining their futures?

Hec Murdock orders up two brides for himself and his brother, Zeke. But somehow, he neglects to let Zeke know what he’s done. I HEARD THE BRIDES ON CHRISTMAS DAY is classic Jacquie Rogers-style fun with a humorous, heartwarming ending!

Can a jaded lawman from Indian Territory and a debutante on the run manage to find their own “happily-ever-after” in A MARRIAGE OF CONVENIENCE? Cheryl Pierson’s tale pits a young woman against a monster, with only one man to protect her—a U.S. Deputy Marshal—who stands to lose his heart—or his life.

Prairie Rose Publications is proud to bring you another wonderful collection of Christmas tales for your reading pleasure! A MAIL-ORDER CHRISTMAS BRIDE is sure to bring you hours of enjoyment.



ONE WINTER KNIGHT
Hear ye, hear ye! Looking for medieval romance? Tales of knights and their ladies abound in ONE WINTER KNIGHT, a wonderful collection of medieval holiday novellas for your reading pleasure! You’ll be held spellbound by this boxed set of captivating stories from some of today’s top medieval authors, as well as some rising stars in this up-and-coming genre. Lindsay Townsend, Deborah Macgillivray, Cynthia Breeding, Keena Kincaid, Cheryl Pierson, Beverly Wells, Patti Sherry-Crews, and Linda Carroll-Bradd have woven eight excellent Yuletide tales of love lost and found that are sure to keep you reading far into the night. Laced with holiday traditions and the excitement of a bold, dangerous era, Prairie Rose Publications is proud to offer yet another wonderful boxed set of medieval Christmas tales for your reading pleasure. This collection of novellas makes a wonderful holiday gift for hours of entertaining reading—for others, or for yourself! These stories are certain to keep you enthralled as you read on to find out how these knights and ladies find their very own “happily-ever-after” endings ONE WINTER KNIGHT…



A COWBOY UNDER THE MISTLETOE
Are you ready to settle down in front of the fire for some excellent holiday reading entertainment? A COWBOY UNDER THE MISTLETOE is a wonderful boxed set of six Christmas novellas about two of our favorite subjects—cowboys of the old west and Christmas!

Stacey Coverstone, Livia J. Washburn, Donna Alice Patton, Kaye Spencer, Gail L. Jenner, and Tanya Hanson come together to bring you six heart-wrenching, sigh-worthy tales of love at Christmas, under the mistletoe. How will these western men and their ladies find happiness? It’s guaranteed at Christmas—the most special time of year!

With poignant stories of rediscovered feelings, and unexpected new love during the holidays, Prairie Rose Publications is proud to bring you another wonderful boxed set of seasonal tales that will have you reading far into the night! A COWBOY UNDER THE MISTLETOE is sure to bring a smile to your lips and hours of reading pleasure!


MEMORIES FROM MAPLE STREET, U.S.A.: THE BEST CHRISTMAS EVER
What is Christmas all about? Wonderful memories! This collection of stories celebrates the very best and most poignant memories of the past, and is sure to have you laughing and crying right along with the authors who shared their stories in MEMORIES FROM MAPLE STREET, U.S.A.—THE BEST CHRISTMAS EVER! Who can forget those special Santa gifts that brought such joy to us in our childhood? Those toys we fervently hoped ol’ Santa would bring for us if we were good? Livia J. Washburn, Cheryl Pierson, and Tanya Hanson write about some of those hopes and dreams for that certain gift with a special, personal twist to each story. But Christmas memories also sometimes hold a special place in our hearts because of a person that was somehow important in our lives. Authors Sharon Cunningham, Beverly Wells, Carol Huff and Gigi Meyer weave that aspect of Christmas into their beautiful holiday tales, with remembrances of some very special people in their lives—and why Christmas means so much because of them. Kathleen Rice Adams pens a sentimental story of a wonderful gift to her mother from her father. And Charlie Steel’s story of hunting for the perfect Christmas tree with his father is sure to make you smile. Jim Landwehr, Tina Holt, and Randy Lee Eickhoff all give us a backward glance at the love and traditions from the past that make Christmas what it is, while Christine Waldman tells a poignant tale of Santa looking for his lost reindeer in the snow. This is one wonderful collection of heartfelt stories that you will not want to pass up—and it also makes a great gift for all ages—if you still believe in Santa!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Tuesday's Overlooked Movie: Chato's Land


This is one of the few Charles Bronson movies I'd never seen. CHATO'S LAND is about as simply plotted a film as you'll ever find. Bronson plays a half-breed Apache who guns down a lawman who's about to kill him for no good reason. A posse of townspeople led by former Confederate officer Jack Palance chases him into the Arizona badlands. The posse members start fighting among themselves after they find Bronson's homestead, rape his wife, and kill his brother. Then the hunters become the hunted as Chato starts picking them off one by one, and the only question is who's going to survive. That's it.

With a plot like that, the appeal of the movie is going to depend on how well it's done. In that respect, CHATO'S LAND is a mixed bag for me. Bronson gives a good performance as the tight-lipped, vengeance-seeking protagonist. And I do mean tight-lipped. He has maybe a dozen words of dialogue in English and not much more than that in Apache, but he manages to be a formidable screen presence, anyway. At times I felt like this was more Jack Palance's movie than Bronson's. He's excellent as the former soldier who misses the war and sees this pursuit as a chance to recapture some of the excitement of those days. The rest of the posse is filled out by some fairly big names, such as James Whitmore, Simon Oakland, Richard Basehart, Richard Jordan, and Ralph Waite, but for the most part they come across as mostly interested in a paycheck and a trip to Europe, where the movie was filmed. The production values seemed more like TV rather than feature film level, but on the other hand, I was watching a mediocre print recorded from TV, so it's hard to say about that.

Overall, I'd say CHATO'S LAND isn't anywhere near the top rank of Bronson's Westerns. It's worth watching for his performance and Palance's, but it's so overwhelmingly bleak it would be hard for me to call it entertaining. I'm still glad I watched it. One more off the list.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Argosy, December 4, 1937


What a great era for ARGOSY this was. A Thibaut Corday yarn by Theodore Roscoe, serial installments by Lester Dent, Borden Chase, and Allan Vaughan Elston, plus stories by William Chamberlain and Richard Wormser. The readers back then definitely got their dime's worth of great adventure fiction.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Lariat Story, January 1950


I probably post too many covers from LARIAT STORY, but dang, I like the covers by Allen Anderson, including this one with another of his odd-looking horses, and the story titles. I really want to read "Blood-Guns of the Crazy Moon!", especially since it's by Les Savage Jr., one of the better pulp Western authors. Heck, I wouldn't mind writing a story called "Blood-Guns of the Crazy Moon!" Savage and Richard Wormser (a reprint under the John Starr house-name) are the only recognizable authors in this issue.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Forgotten Books: The Bloodrock Valley War - Ray Hogan

Ray Hogan wrote for most of the paperback publishers at one time or another, but early in his career his main market was Ace Books, which published many of his novels in the Ace Doubles line, including THE BLOODROCK VALLEY WAR. The hero of this one is Ben Keenlyn, the owner of a small ranch in Bloodrock Valley, New Mexico Territory. When an Eastern syndicate wants to buy all the ranches in the valley and consolidate them, Keenlyn is the lone hold-out who refuses to sell. This puts him in bitter opposition to the other ranchers, who want to take the money and run. The most powerful of them, Pete Amber, decides to force Keenlyn out of Bloodrock Valley, no matter what it takes.

That's pretty much the whole plot. The set-up and the resulting range war fill up this short novel, which probably isn't much over 35,000 words. There's very little characterization. The book is almost all action and tough, clipped dialogue. Even the few female characters are laconic, biting off their sentences like talking hurts their mouths. But for what it is, I found the book very enjoyable. It reads fast, and a couple of minor but well-handled twists insure that not everything is quite as black and white as it seems at first. Hogan was a very traditional Western writer, but he always delivered a satisfying story.