Saturday, May 28, 2016

Now Available: Branded - Ed Gorman

Young Andy Malloy is surrounded by tragedy and trouble. His stepmother is dead. His father, accused of her murder, is on the run from a posse led by a brutal sheriff with demons of his own. Andy’s investigation into the crime is about to put him in deadly danger. And the truth, not to mention Andy’s own life, may rest in the hands of a pathetic town drunk and a freckle-faced redhead . . .

BRANDED is a classic novel by the master of Western noir, Ed Gorman. Filled with compelling characters, breathtaking suspense, and stunning plot twists, it’s a yarn guaranteed to please Western and mystery readers and a novel not soon to be forgotten.

(This is one of Ed's best books. If you haven't read it, do yourself a favor and grab it.)

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Spicy Western Stories, August 1938

This is a pretty eye-catching cover, even for SPICY WESTERN STORIES, and the lineup of authors inside is a good one: E. Hoffmann Price, James P. Olsen writing as James A. Lawson, Laurence Donovan writing as Larry Dunn, and two stories each by Edwin Truett Long (as by Luke Terry and Wallace Kayton) and John A. Saxon (as King Saxon and Rex Norman). Prolific and entertaining pulpsters, each and every one. 

Friday, May 27, 2016

Forgotten Books: The Man I Killed - Shel Walker (Walt Sheldon)

The second novel in the upcoming Stark House volume of reprints from Lion Books is THE MAN I KILLED by Shel Walker, who was really Walt Sheldon. This fast-paced crime novel is the only time Sheldon used that pseudonym. The narrator has a pseudonym, too. He calls himself Lew Ross but makes it clear that’s not his real name. The alias is because ten years earlier he killed a man in a bar fight and went on the run.

The law has never caught up to him in his adventurous life since then, but as this novel opens he’s come back to the unnamed city in the American Southwest where his crime took place. The scene of that crime is now a much fancier nightclub and gambling joint run by mobster Marty Evans. Lew meets a girl there and falls for her, but he has a tendency of getting in trouble and before you know it he’s up to his neck in a murder frame, complete with beatings from the cops and the gangsters alike.

Anybody who’s read many hardboiled crime novels from the Fifties will have a pretty good idea what’s going to happen in this book, but the real pleasure in reading THE MAN I KILLED is Sheldon’s crisp, literate prose. The story moves along very fast, Lew and both of the beautiful girls he encounters are likable characters, and the antagonists on both sides of the law are suitably detestable, although a couple of them (a police detective and a former college football star who now works as muscle for the mob) have more depth to them than you might expect. This is actually the first novel by Sheldon that I’ve read, although I’ve seen his books around for many years and have a few of them on my shelves. I enjoyed it very much and will be checking out more of his work.

A Middle of the Night Music Post: Garden in the Rain - Diana Krall

This seems like an appropriate song, since I'm sitting up with dogs freaking out from thunderstorms.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Tuesday's Overlooked Movies: Escape From Fort Bravo

This one is kind of a mixed bag, but it's a Western I'd somehow never seen before, so I'm glad we watched it. Fort Bravo is a Union post in Arizona where Confederate prisoners are kept during the Civil War. William Holden is a hard-nosed Yankee officer, John Forsythe is the leader of the Confederates (an odd bit of casting), William Demarest is the comedy relief (not used much in what's basically a pretty grim movie), and Eleanor Parker is the beautiful woman who shows up and complicates things.

ESCAPE FROM FORT BRAVO was directed by John Sturges, so you know the film is going to look good and the action scenes will be well-staged. That part works just fine, and the actors are all okay, despite the fact that I'm not a big fan of any of them except maybe William Holden, who's been in a lot of movies I've liked. However, the script is full of lapses in logic. For example, in order to romance Parker, Holden takes her--alone--to the exact same spot where an entire cavalry patrol got attacked by Apaches a day or two earlier. That sort of thing happens all too often.

But the last thirty minutes has a lot of nice action in it, which makes ESCAPE FROM FORT BRAVO worth watching. I'll probably never watch it again, though.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Argosy, July 8, 1933

"World's End", the serial by Victor Rousseau that starts in this issue of ARGOSY, sounds pretty apocalyptic. The cover by Paul Stahr makes the situation look pretty dire, too. Maybe somebody who's read this one can tell us what it's about. Elsewhere in this issue are stories by Charles Alden Seltzer, Robert Carse, and George Worts writing as Loring Brent with an installment of a Peter the Brazen serial.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Western Story, February 28, 1925

I'm sure there's a name for this sort of endlessly repeating cover, but I don't know enough about art to know what it is. Frank Richardson Pierce and Peter Henry Morland are the biggest names among the authors, "Morland" really being Frederick Faust. This issue contains the conclusion of the serial "Beyond the Outposts", which was later reprinted under Faust's more famous pseudonym Max Brand. I've heard great things about this novel and have a copy of it, but I haven't read it yet.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Forgotten Books: Look to the Lady - Margery Allingham

When I was in junior high and working at the local public library, somebody donated a book club edition of CRIME AND MR. CAMPION, an omnibus edition of three novels by Margery Allingham featuring her semi-amateur sleuth Albert Campion. Since I handled all the donations, I took this one home with me and read it before it ever went on the shelves, since I read quite a few British mysteries in those days. I remember enjoying the novels quite a bit, but that’s all I could tell you about them. I never read anything else by Margery Allingham . . . until now.

LOOK TO THE LADY, originally published in 1931, is the third book in the Campion series and the second in which he plays a major part. (He’s only a supporting player in the first one, THE CRIME AT BLACK DUDLEY.) In this one, Campion, who seems to be nothing more than a harmless aristocrat (he’s rumored to be a member of the royal family operating under a pseudonym because of his love for adventure), runs up against an international gang of thieves who specialize in stealing rare art treasures, the sort of thing that can’t be fenced but can be sold to unscrupulous private collectors. To start with, Campion foils the kidnapping of young Val Gyrth, whose family is charged with the safekeeping of the Gyrth Chalice, an early British relic more than a thousand years old.

Knowing that the chalice is still in danger of being stolen, Campion and Val, accompanied by Campion’s servant Lugg (a reformed criminal who functions as both muscle and comedy relief), hie themselves off to the Gyrth country estate, where Val’s rather unpleasant aunt is promptly murdered. You’ve got sinister Gypsies lurking about, a visiting American professor and his beautiful daughter, an ancient tower with a hidden room in it, apparitions that apparently drive people mad, assorted crooks, and a race horse with a reputation as a killer.

Even though there’s a murder that Campion solves (of course), and even though it’s set mostly on an English country estate, LOOK TO THE LADY is hardly the cozy mystery I was expecting. It’s a thriller more along the lines of Sax Rohmer or Edgar Wallace, with plenty of action, some supernatural overtones, and a surprising amount of screwball comedy. The dialogue between Campion and Lugg is often hilarious, and overall the book is fast-paced and lighthearted, although there are definitely some darker moments. The ending is particularly satisfying.

I read this in an e-book edition, and I have a number of others, bought when they were on sale. I expect I’ll be reading another one before too much longer, because I really enjoyed LOOK TO THE LADY. 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Now Available: Blood on the Border - David Hardy

Acclaimed author David Hardy spins four compelling yarns of frontier justice full of action and the smell of gunsmoke and trail dust! 

A Skinning War — 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! 

Hangman's Black Pact — It’s hangrope vigilantes versus ruthless outlaws as bloody war erupts along the Texas border. With the authorities useless, the ranchers along the Rio Grande take the law into their own hands to hunt down rustlers and raiders from south of the border, but are their lynchings justice . . . or murder? 

Ranger Law, Bandit Blood — The Texas Rangers had their hands full cleaning up the border country. Bandits raided across the Rio Grande with impunity, rustling cattle, killing settlers, and terrorizing the countryside. But a handful of men armed with Colts, .50 caliber Sharps rifles, and pure guts would ride in and restore law and order to the border—or die trying! 

In the Court of the Duke — Duke Kingsford had spread his reign of lawlessness and terror all over the South Texas brush country and teamed up with ruthless bandidos to defy the authorities in both Texas and Mexico. It was up to Captain Stuart and his small group of Rangers to stop the boss outlaw before he cut a swath of blood and death across the range!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Now Available: The Rhymester of Ulm - James Reasoner

Shunt is a thief, Park a tavern dancer and part-time whore. Neither of them is the least bit better than they have to be, because that’s the only way to survive in the squalid, perilous city of Under-Ulm. But when Shunt comes into possession of a pen apparently filled with sorcerous power, he and Park are drawn into a web of deceit, political intrigue, and murder that reaches all the way to the court of the Empress of Ulm! 

Award-winning, New York Times best-selling author James Reasoner spins a compelling tale of fantasy and danger in this short story originally published in the anthology DREAMS IN THE FIRE and now available for the first time as an e-book.