Monday, September 15, 2014

Clifton Adams Article

There's an excellent article by Bud Elder on the life and career of Clifton Adams to be found here. My fondness for Adams' work continues to grow with everything that I read by him. Many thanks to Lawrence Block for the link.

The Prisoner of Gun Hill - Owen G. Irons (Paul Lederer)

The plot where the protagonist is captured by bad guys and forced to work in their gold/silver mine is a common one in Western novels. I've used it myself. Paul Lederer, a prolific and top-notch author of Westerns, takes a crack at it in THE PRISONER OF GUN HILL, and it makes for a fine yarn with some unexpected twists in the plot.

Luke Walsh is on the run through the Arizona desert after unintentionally shooting a lawman in Tucson (he was tricked into it by a femme fatale). On the verge of death from thirst and heat, he's "rescued" by a couple of men on their way to a gold mine at Gun Hill. They take Luke with them, and as soon as he recovers a little from his ordeal he's forced to go to work digging a mine shaft in the side of the hill. As if that's not bad enough, it turns out that Gun Hill is where a vicious outlaw gang is getting back together to pull a new job. This threatens not only Luke but also a young woman who's being held captive at the mine. Then the soiled dove who got him in this mess in the first place shows up, along with her murderous outlaw lover.

None of that is particularly surprising, but from there things don't turn out exactly as you'd expect. Lederer has a sure hand with his plot and characters, and his action scenes are well-done, too. He was all over the publishing world in the Seventies and Eighties, writing dozens of house-name Westerns as well as series he created (he wrote most of the Shelter books as Paul Ledd and all of the great Spectros series as Logan Winters), as well as several historical novels under his own name. Then he was out of the business for a while but in recent years has made a strong comeback with stand-alone traditional Western novels, many of them under the pseudonym Owen G. Irons. THE PRISONER OF GUN HILL was published last year under that name by Robert Hale as part of the Black Horse Western series, but an e-book edition under Lederer's own name is available from Open Road Media. It's a very entertaining book, and if you're a Western fan you should check it out, along with Lederer's other novels.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Check It Out!: Wayne D. Overholser Website

There's a new website devoted to Western author Wayne D. Overholser's life and work, which you can find here. Overholser has never been one of my favorite Western authors simply because I haven't read enough of his work yet, but I've enjoyed everything I've read by him and intend to read more. This excellent website has really whetted my appetite to do so. Check it out! (That's a 1957 Dell edition of Overholser's first novel, originally published in hardcover in 1947. The cover art on this edition is by Robert Stanley.)

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Crime Busters, February 1938

I'm not used to seeing photo covers on pulps, but that's what we've got here. And what a line-up of authors: Lester Dent, Theodore Tinsley, Steve Fisher, Norvell Page, Frank Gruber, Laurence Donovan, and a story under the Maxwell Grant house-name that could well have been by one of those guys. Plenty of good reading in this issue, I'm sure.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Now Available: Klaw #3 The Rattler Gang - W.L. Fieldhouse

When the one-handed gunfighter known as Klaw encounters the notorious Rattler Gang, he loses two things precious to him: $10,000 in gold—and the deadly steel hook that replaced his right hand. The vicious, hooded owlhoots have been terrorizing Arizona, but now they have Klaw on their trail, along with a beautiful, vengeance-obsessed blonde. No matter who gets in his way—Apaches, desperadoes, or lawmen—Klaw will go through any or all of them to deliver hot lead justice to the Rattlers! 

But unknown to Klaw, the hunter is also the hunted, as two hired killers working for old enemies have set out to track him down, and fate will bring them all together for an epic showdown in the badlands! 

THE RATTLER GANG is another bloody, action-packed Western adventure from legendary author W.L. Fieldhouse and Rough Edges Press, available as an e-book from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords, and as a trade paperback from Amazon.

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Exciting Western, January 1953

Eye-catching cover by Mel Crair on this issue of EXCITING WESTERN from late in that pulp's run. There are some good authors inside, too: Tom Roan, Frank Richardson Pierce, Hascal Giles, William Hopson, and T.C. McClary. The lead story is by Lee Floren, not one of my favorites, but his Buck McKee and Tortilla Joe stories from this era are usually pretty good.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Forgotten Books: Black Horizon - Robert Masello

I don't remember seeing this horror novel when it came out from Jove in 1989, and Robert Masello's name is only vaguely familiar to me. But BLACK HORIZON turns out to be a pretty entertaining psychological horror yarn.

Jack Logan is a musician who plays in the orchestra for a newly opened Broadway show. It's opening night, in fact, when Jack saves the life of an old man who's been hit by a cab outside the theater. The old man actually dies, but when Jack touches him, he's able to go across to the Other Side and pull him back. This isn't the first time such a thing has happened—Jack saved the life of a friend of his the same way when both of them were kids—and this mysterious ability is probably connected to the fact that while Jack's mother was pregnant with him, she was terribly injured in a car crash and was kept alive by artificial means until he was born.

The incident on opening night brings Jack to the attention of a scientist who's investigating what happens when people die. It won't come as a surprise to anybody who's ever read a horror novel that the scientist turns out to be more than a little crazy. He's able to convince Jack to make more trips to the other side of death and back, which is okay until on one of those trips, something comes back with him...

Two things that work against BLACK HORIZON are its predictability and its slow pace. But Masello writes well enough to keep the reader interested, and Jack is a likable protagonist and you can't help but want to find out what's going to happen to him. And when Masello does finally crank up the action, it's pretty darned good. Everything comes to a satisfying conclusion, and I have to say I enjoyed BLACK HORIZON. The original edition is long out of print, but there's an e-book edition that's available. If you're a fan of psychological horror, it's worth reading.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Zombies From the Pulps!: The Forbidden Trail - Jane Rice

ZOMBIES FROM THE PULPS! comes to a close with "The Forbidden Trail" by Jane Rice, which appeared originally in the April 1941 issue of the legendary pulp UNKNOWN. I'm not sure I've read anything else by Jane Rice, but this is an excellent story and one of my favorites in the anthology.

Unlike any of the other stories that came before it, this tale of an explorer and his wife in Africa is told in a light, breezy, bantering style that seems more appropriate for one of the slicks, rather than a pulp. But then, when they're asked to look into the disappearance of a minor government official on an isolated rubber plantation, things wind up taking a turn that, if anything, is more creepy and gruesome than most of the other stories. Yet despite all the grotesque goings-on and the violent death, Rice still manages to spin her yarn in the same lightweight tone and somehow makes it work beautifully. I've got to seek out more stories by Jane Rice, who also wrote under the name Mary Austin.

This wraps up my survey of ZOMBIES FROM THE PULPS! I've really enjoyed reading a story from it every week or so and might just tackle another anthology in the same manner. Jeffrey Shanks did a great job of editing this one. There's not a bad story in the bunch. All of them are entertaining and some are outstanding. I think this volume is sure to appear on my Top Ten list at the end of the year, and if you haven't picked it up yet, I give it my highest recommendation. I can't help but hope that sooner or later we'll see MORE ZOMBIES FROM THE PULPS!

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Tuesday's Overlooked Movie: Need For Speed

I barely heard anything about this one when it came out, so I guess that qualifies it as an overlooked movie, overlooked at least by me. It's appropriate that an early scene is set at a drive-in movie theater, because despite being set in the present and based on a video game, in its heart and soul NEED FOR SPEED is a 1950s hot rod movie. You've got a tough but good-hearted protagonist, his colorful crew of sidekicks, a sleazy villain, a bitchin' babe, and a bunch of bitchin' cars, most of which get wrecked before the movie is over. There's an illegal road race the hero has to win to settle a score, but before he can even take part in that, he's got to break his parole (he just got out of prison for a crime he didn't commit, you see) and drive from New York to California in less than 48 hours, while the bad guys try to stop him along the way. Will he make it? What do you think?

Despite its complete predictability, NEED FOR SPEED is great fun. I grinned all the way through it. Watching it made me feel like I was back at the Eagle Drive-In again. If you share similar memories, you'll probably enjoy this one.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Monday Morning Digest Magazine: Far West, March 1978

FAR WEST was another late Seventies digest magazine that had me thinking, "All right! Another market!" And like the other new digests from that era I've written about in this space, I never sold a thing to FAR WEST, despite submitting a number of stories. But I bought and read every issue I came across, including this one. You certainly can't argue with the bold claim on the cover: "America's Leading Western Fiction Monthly". Of course, it was also America's Only Western Fiction Monthly at that time, but that doesn't sound as impressive.

Louis L'Amour is the only author in the first issue that readers are likely to recognize, but as time went on FAR WEST featured stories from some other well-known Western writers, such as Matt Braun, R.C. House, Wayne Barton, John D. Nesbitt, Bill Gulick, W.L. Fieldhouse, Michele McQuaid, Kit Prate, Earl Murray, and Mel Marshall. There were reprints from S. Omar Barker and James Warner Bellah. It was a good magazine during the three years or so that it lasted. I would have liked to contribute to it, but that wasn't to be.