Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Music I Like: Good Night - The Beatles

This series comes to an end, at least for now, with a pretty song that I've always liked ever since I first heard it in college. The radio station I listened to played it every night when they signed off the air.

I never really intended for this series of music posts to continue for this long. I started it to have something to do when I was up in the middle of the night with our old dog who's in poor health. The old boy's still hanging in there, still as contrary as ever, but I've decided that it's time to wind this up for a while. It's been fun, and it's confirmed something I already suspected, that my musical tastes are really wide-ranging. I hope some of you have been entertained by it as well. I'm sure I'll still post some music from time to time, just not on an every night basis. Now, as Ringo says in the song, good night . . . 

Paperback Confidential - Brian Ritt

I was fortunate enough to read an advance copy of this book and thought it was wonderful, but now I've been going through the actual book and I have to say, it's even better. For one thing, there are photos of most of the authors covered in the incisive profiles by Brian Ritt, and while some of them are pictures that you've probably seen before, many of them aren't. Do you know what Edward S. Aarons looked like? I didn't, but I do now. And fittingly enough, he bears a resemblance to how I've always pictured Sam Durell. Others were more surprising, as some of the authors of really tough fiction don't look anything at all like the two-fisted brawlers that their characters are.

But the best parts of this book are still the perceptive comments of Brian Ritt and the excellent lists of books and pseudonyms. As others have said, I would have loved to have a copy of PAPERBACK CONFIDENTIAL on hand as I browsed through all the used bookstores I used to haunt in the Seventies and Eighties. This is the best book of its sort since the classic HARDBOILED AMERICA. I think I've read the whole thing a couple of times already just from picking it up to browse through it for a few minutes and then reading or rereading big chunks of it.

If you have any interest at all in vintage paperbacks or hardboiled crime fiction, you really can't afford to be without this book. It's funny, it's poignant, it's informative, and it's hugely entertaining. Brian Ritt's PAPERBACK CONFIDENTIAL gets the highest possible recommendation from me, and I'm sure it'll be on my top ten list at the end of the year.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Music I Like: What a Wonderful World - Louis Armstrong

This was one of my father's favorite songs. My dad's been gone for quite a few years now, but I miss him every day and think of him whenever I hear this one. It's a classic for plenty of other reasons, too. 

Tuesday's Overlooked TV: Shaky Ground

This sitcom lasted only one season back in the early Nineties and I haven't seen it since then, but I remember it being pretty good. Matt Frewer, still probably best known as the star of the oddball virtual reality series MAX HEADROOM, played a nice guy who worked in the aerospace industry and had the usual sitcom trials and tribulations at home with his wife and three kids. With such a stereotypical set-up, for a show to be good it has to have a distinct voice, and SHAKY GROUND did. Certainly not a great series, but I remember some of the dialogue and scenes after twenty years, so it had to have something going for it. The cast included a young Jennifer Love Hewitt as Frewer's teenage daughter, which seems to be the only reason a number of episodes are available on YouTube.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Music I Like: Carry On - Pat Green

"Everybody's gotta get away sometime" . . . I like the sentiment expressed in that lyric. This is a nice, bouncy song that I always turned up when it came on the radio in the car.

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: The Green Ghost Detective, Spring 1941

I've read several of the mystery novels featuring magician/detective George Chance that were published in this pulp, and they're pretty good, as you'd expect from author G.T. Fleming-Roberts, who contributed some excellent Secret Agent X novels earlier in his career. This issue also features stories by Hugh B. Cave and Ray Cummings, so it must have been a pretty good one.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Music I Like: Nick of Time - Bonnie Raitt

Always liked it when this one came on the radio.

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: 5 Western Novels, February 1951

This entry from the Thrilling Group was primarily a reprint magazine. In this issue, only the story by prolific pulpster Larry A. Harris is new. But Lee Bond and L.P. Holmes were consistently entertaining authors, and the story by Bradford Scott is a reprint of a Walt Slade yarn from THRILLING WESTERN. Sure, the Walt Slade stories are formulaic, and so are the paperbacks that came later, but I've always enjoyed them anyway.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Music I Like: Gives You Hell - The All-American Rejects

I just like the way this one sounds.

Forgotten Books: Heat, Volumes 0 and 1 - Russell Davis, ed.

About a dozen years ago, a new publishing company appeared called Foggy Windows Books. The plan was to offer novels in several different genres: mystery, action/adventure, Western, science fiction, fantasy, and war. These books would feature fairly explicit sex scenes in the style of the Adult Westerns. Nothing that unusual there, but the Foggy Windows books had something that made them different: all the wild, mind-blowing sex that was going on would involve married couples.

So as some of us who wrote for the line joked at the time, "Ah, you mean they're all fantasies."

To launch the imprint, Foggy Windows published two anthologies, HEAT VOLUME 0 and HEAT VOLUME 1, both edited by Russell Davis, a fine writer himself and an all-around good guy. Many of the stories in these anthologies featured characters who would go on to star in full-length novels for Foggy Windows, while some were stand-alones. The publisher paid good advances and paid promptly, too, so it's not surprising that the line attracted some top-notch pros to write for it. Some of them used pseudonyms, but others wrote stories under their own names. Volume 0 features Wendi Lee, Stephen Mertz, Billie Sue Mosiman, Tim Waggoner, David Bischoff, and Gary Braunbeck. In Volume 1 you'll find Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Billie Sue Mosiman again, Christine Matthews, Dean Wesley Smith, K.W. Jeter, and yours truly. You'd recognize the names of everybody who wrote under pseudonyms, too. And the stories are all good. They have the sexy married couple element in common, but other than that the styles and subject matter are wide-ranging and consistently entertaining.

Foggy Windows looked like it was off to an excellent start, but after publishing these two anthologies and six novels, it all went belly-up. Maybe the readers considered the premise too gimmicky and never gave the books a fair chance. Maybe it just wasn't the right time. Whatever the cause, it's a shame, because the writers were doing some good work.

I wrote two war stories for the line, one published in HEAT VOLUME 1 called "The Iron Triangle", my only Korean War story. The other one, scheduled for a later anthology that was never published, was a World War II yarn set in the Philippines called "Under the Waterfall", if I remember correctly. Livia wrote a cop thriller set in San Antonio, but I don't recall the title of it. It went unpublished, too, and both stories appear to be long gone. But writing for Foggy Windows was fun while it lasted, and copies of both anthologies can still be found pretty inexpensively on-line, if you'd like to check out this interesting experiment.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Music I Like: The Shadow of Your Smile - Tony Bennett

It doesn't get much better than Tony Bennett, and this is a beautiful song. I've never seen the movie that it's from, THE SANDPIPER, but I sure like the song.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Music I Like: Summer Breeze - Seals and Crofts

This song is another one that really takes me back to some good times. I wish I could remember 'em a little better . . .

Diamond in the Rough - Wayne D. Dundee

Wayne D. Dundee's new Western novel DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH is the third book to feature bounty hunter Bodie Kendrick, and as always Dundee spins a gritty, action-packed yarn reminiscent of those great hardboiled Westerns published by Gold Medal in the Fifties. Kendrick runs into trouble accidentally in this one as he happens upon a stagecoach that's been attacked by gunmen. Coming to the rescue, he kills two of the bushwhackers and discovers that the stage is carrying two beautiful women, one an ambitious young journalist, the other a sultry and mysterious Egyptian.

If the mention of Egypt doesn't give it away, the plot of DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH involves not only one of the camels that were brought to the United States by the army before the Civil War but also a fabulous diamond rumored to have been presented to Cleopatra by Julius Caesar. This plot elements gives the book a bit of an Indiana Jones feel, but it's definitely a Western, complete with an old desert rat prospector, hired gunslingers, an Apache attack, double crosses, shootouts, and plenty of other excitement.

In a relatively short period of time, Wayne D. Dundee has become one of the best Western writers in the business. DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH is an excellent example of why. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Music I Like: You're the Reason God Made Oklahoma - David Frizzell and Shelly West

Another good old country song.

Now Available: War Games (A Markham PI Novella) - James Reasoner

Here's another of my Markham stories from the early days of writing for MSMM. At more than 15,000 words, "War Games" is the longest of the Markham stories and is now available for the Kindle. The other e-formats will be coming along shortly. I'm glad to get these stories back out there, and readers seem to be responding positively to them. They're historical pieces now, but still pretty entertaining, I think. (It's odd to think that a story like this is just as old now as those pulp stories I read in Goulart's THE HARDBOILED DICKS were in 1967.)

Tuesday's Overlooked TV Movies: Class of '61

This Civil War drama was a failed series pilot, so it's not surprising that not everything in the plot is wrapped up neatly. Hey, the war's just starting when it's over. The soap opera-ish plot follows several cadets at West Point, some of whom go to fight for the Union, some for the Confederacy. It's fairly well done despite being predictable, and has a good cast that includes Andre Braugher and early roles for Clive Owen and Laura Linney. Worth watching, although on a pretty small scale when it comes to Civil War movies.

There don't seem to be any clips from it available on YouTube, but you can buy a Region 2 DVD or a VHS tape of the movie on Amazon, both of which are pretty pricey.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Music I Like: To Glory - Two Steps From Hell

Need some background music for that big battle scene you're writing? This ought to do it.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Music I Like: Ohio (Come Back to Texas) - Bowling for Soup

My favorite song by the great Bowling for Soup, the pride of Denton, Texas.

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Action Stories, February 1924

ACTION STORIES became primarily a Western pulp later on, but in its early years it ran a variety of stories in different genres. This issue features a complete novel (more than likely a novella) by Carroll John Daly, arguably the biggest name in detective pulps during that era. Other well-known names in this issue include Anthony M. Rud, Cherry Wilson, James Dwyer, and Harry Sinclair Drago. I would have read it, that's for sure.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Music I Like: Misirlou - Dick Dale and the Del Tones

Some more great instrumental music from the Sixties. As somebody commented on YouTube, listening to Dick Dale always makes me want to go to the beach.

Saturday Morning Western Pulp Revisited: Mammoth Western, January 1951

I posted the cover of this pulp earlier in this series, but I had the issue off the shelf recently to get some information from it for a friend of mine, so I thought I might as well go ahead and read it. As far as I recall, this is the first issue of MAMMOTH WESTERN I've read. It may be the only one I own; I'm not sure about that.

I like the cover by Robert Gibson Jones, who provided many fine covers for an assortment of pulps published by Ziff-Davis. Howard Browne, who was also a great author himself, was the editor. The assistant editor was William Hamling, who would soon be the editor and publisher of the iconic science fiction and fantasy digest IMAGINATION and later a companion magazine, IMAGINATIVE TALES.

The lead story and the one featured on the cover is "Wanted – Dead or Alive!", a 20,000 word novella by prolific pulp writer and editor Paul W. Fairman. Fairman is best known for his science fiction, but he wrote just about everything for the pulps before going on to a career as a paperbacker and occasional hardcover novelist. This is the first of his Westerns that I recall reading, and it's a pretty good one. The plot is the old bit about a lawman masquerading as an outlaw. Johnny Adams is a dead ringer for imprisoned badman Johnny Easter, so, working with a U.S. marshal who arranges a fake jailbreak, Adams impersonates Easter and infiltrates his gang in order to lead them into a trap. This is a very common Western plot – I've used variations on it several times myself – but Fairman prose is competent and he includes some nice plot twists and an ending I didn't see coming at all. There's also an unusually high level of sexual tension for a Western pulp. It all makes for an entertaining yarn.

As a sidelight on Fairman's career, his final two novels were historical romances written under the rather transparent pseudonym Paula Fairman during the first historical romance boom in the late Seventies. They were quite successful, so when Fairman died after starting a third book, the publisher recruited a good friend of mine to finish it and continue writing books as Paula Fairman. He went on to do about twenty more under that name.

Fred D. Bear sounds like a pseudonym to me, too, but who knows. His story "Killer's Fangs" is another of those wildlife tales that don't really appeal to me. This time it's a buck deer trying to escape from a coyote. It has what I think the author intended to be a happy ending, but it's really not.

"The Coward" is by Mallory Storm, a known house-name, so it's impossible to know who really wrote it. It's a "save the homesteaders from the evil cattle baron" yarn, notable for the fact that the protagonist is psychologically crippled by paralyzing fear whenever he's confronted with violence, something you don't see every day in a Western pulp. Oh, and he likes to be whipped, too. There's a twist tied in with that kinkiness that's fairly easy to figure out. This is an oddball story, to be sure, but pretty enjoyable anyway.

Harry Whittington made several sales to the Western pulps early in his career, before he went on to become one of the most prolific and best paperback authors of the Fifties and Sixties. His novelette "Last Wagon for Hell" is about the survivors of an Indian attack on a wagon train and their efforts to reach the nearest settlement. Unfortunately this is a pretty weak effort, especially for Whittington. The writing has some nice noirish touches in it, but the plot is driven too much by coincidence, and the ending, which appears intended to be inspirational, is just limp and unsatisfying, the sort that makes a reader ask, "Is that it?" But Whittington will always be one of my favorite authors anyway.

Frances M. Deegan is also a Ziff-Davis house-name. Whoever wrote "The Taste of Wrath" turned out a decent feud story, including the traditional Romeo and Juliet plot. In this case, the Romeo is ex-convict Dan Strawn, who returns to his home town to find his family's ranch swallowed up by a rival rancher. This yarn is pretty well written, but like the Whittington story above, it suffers from a rushed and anti-climactic ending.

"Ransom for a Redhead" by Louis Ludwig (possibly the author's real name), despite having a title that sounds like a hardboiled paperback, is a comedy Western about a couple of drifters who try to strike it rich by staging a phony kidnapping. Everything in this one is really predictable, but the writing is okay. A very forgettable story overall, though.

"Beware the Fleur-de-Mustard!" by W. Edmunds Claussen (an author I'd never read before) is the real surprise of the issue. The goofy title had me expecting another comedy, but instead this is a grim, actionful story about an Arizona range war and the hired gun who's supposed to be on one side but winds up supporting the other. It's also built around stock elements including the Romeo and Juliet plot again, but Claussen's brisk, slightly offbeat style keeps things moving along nicely. Nothing groundbreaking here, just a classic plot done pretty well. I'll be on the lookout for more of Claussen's work.

As usual in Ziff-Davis pulps, there are also a number of short articles and "features", which are really short-short stories, all published under house-names and none very good, with the exception of "Editor's Holiday", which features a couple of short Western mystery stories (written by Howard Browne?) of the five-minute-mystery type, where the reader is supposed to figure out how the protagonist solved the mystery and turn to a page later in the issue to see if he or she deduced correctly. The little stories are okay, but I found them interesting because I'd never run across this sort of thing in a Western pulp until now.

So the verdict is mixed on this issue of MAMMOTH WESTERN. Two good stories, the Fairman and the Claussen, a couple that are entertaining, one big disappointment (the Whittington), and the rest highly forgettable. I'm glad I read it, though, and would try another issue of MAMMOTH WESTERN if I ran across it.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Music I Like: Neon Moon - Brooks and Dunn

I like just about all of Brooks and Dunn's songs, but this is probably my favorite.

Naomi Washburn Teaching Scholarship

As some of you know, Livia's mom passed away earlier this week. She was a first grade teacher for many years, and the family has decided to establish a scholarship in her memory, to be given to a student from our local high school who's planning to major in education. If any of you would like to donate, any amount would be greatly appreciated. All the details can be found on Livia's blog, and you can donate via Paypal there or on the scholarship's website.

Forgotten Books: Ride a Crooked Trail - Lewis B. Patten

I was in the mood for a Lewis B. Patten novel, not having read one for a while, and picked up a large print edition of this one at the library. It's not one of Patten's claustrophobic, town-set Western noirs, like so many of his books, but rather more of a sprawling, outdoor epic. Set in the days just after the Civil War, the story finds young Jason Willard setting off on the trail of the three discharged Union soldiers who murder his parents and leave him for dead on the family's Illinois farm.

The quest for vengeance is a classic Western plot, and Patten does a good job of it. This is also a rite of passage novel, as Jason, who narrates the story, falls in with a mysterious stranger, meets a pretty girl, learns how to use a gun, and just generally grows up in a hurry. It's also a bit of a kitchen-sink book, since we have outlaws, gunfighters, a trail drive, a buffalo stampede, and several battles with Indians.

The first-person narration and the episodic structure of RIDE A CROOKED TRAIL remind me quite a bit of Louis L'Amour's TO TAME A LAND, probably my favorite among L'Amour's novels. By this late stage of Patten's career his work could be pretty inconsistent, but this is an excellent book and doesn't have any of the continuity gaffes and plot holes that mar some of his other late novels. I really enjoyed it and think most readers of traditional Westerns would as well. (The scan is from the original Signet edition, not the large print hardback I read.)

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Music I Like: Viva la Vida - Coldplay

The person who posted this clip on YouTube says that "Viva la Vida" is their favorite Coldplay song. Well, I have to agree with that . . . because it's the only Coldplay song I know. I may have heard others, but I didn't know it was them. But I like the way this one sounds and the lyrics have a certain epic feel to them.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Music I Like: In a Big Country - Big Country

This is the only song I know by this Scottish band from the Eighties, but I like it a lot and always have.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Music I Like: Killin' Time - Clint Black

Excellent country song by Clint Black, who I always thought bears a certain resemblance to Roy Rogers. I was a big country music fan in the Eighties and Nineties and always liked Clint Black.

Tuesday's Overlooked TV: The Young Riders

This series ran for several years (1989 - 92) during a time when Westerns were almost non-existent on broadcast television. It also preceded the slight resurgence of Westerns on cable such as DEADWOOD and HELL ON WHEELS. So I watched it every week. It was a Western, after all, if not a perfectly executed one.

Inspired by the success of the movie YOUNG GUNS, THE YOUNG RIDERS features a lot of handsome young actors galloping around (not particularly well, in most cases), shooting guns, and getting into fistfights and occasional romances. The concept takes a couple of historical characters, William F. Cody and James Butler Hickok, who actually did work for the Pony Express at one point, although probably not together, and teams them with a politically correct group of fictional characters, all of whom are Pony Express riders,too. Throw in a crusty old codger to serve as their mentor and a woman to run the Pony Express station, and you've got THE YOUNG RIDERS.

They tried, I'll give them credit for that. The credit sequence has a fine theme song and looks good except for a few shots of the actors bouncing wildly in their saddles as they try to stay mounted. Most of the acting was good, especially Anthony Zerbe, known for playing villains, who was the above-mentioned old codger, Teaspoon Hunter; Josh Brolin in an early role as "Jimmy" Hickok; and Stephen Baldwin (yes, Stephen Baldwin) as Buffalo Bill Cody. The stories, like the casting, suffered at times from excessive political correctness, but now and then they got it right, and when they did THE YOUNG RIDERS was a good Western. One episode focused almost entirely on Cody and a grizzly bear and was excellent, featuring what may well be the best work of Stephen Baldwin's career. The two-part series finale featured an attack on a bandit stronghold that was the high point of the entire series, a story packed with action and good dialogue.

I always got the impression that the hearts of the people making THE YOUNG RIDERS were in the right place. I said to Livia more than once, "They really want to make a good Western. They just don't quite know how." I haven't seen any of the episodes since they were new, so I don't know how well the series holds up, but at the time I never missed it and enjoyed it very much despite its obvious flaws. Hey, it's a Western. What else am I gonna do?

Monday, July 15, 2013

Music I Like: Someday - Sugar Ray

When my kids hit middle school in the Nineties, we started hearing a lot more pop music in the car on the way to school, Girl Scouts, dance class, etc. Some of it I liked and some of it I didn't. This is one I always liked.

New PWA Website

For all you readers and writers of private eye fiction, check out the new website of the Private Eye Writers of America.

Guest Post: Confessions of an Indie, or: It's Like Making Sausages -- Brian Drake

Before we start, I must once again thank James for allowing me to hijack this space.

It’s not easy to write a book. It’s even harder to self-publish it, even with Amazon KDP. If you’re thinking about doing it yourself, or you’re following the “indie scene”, let me describe my experience so you can avoid my mistakes.

When I started self-publishing in 2010, there was always a nagging doubt about my work in the back of my mind. Reviews were kind, sales were okay, but I couldn’t help but notice that repeat business was slow. I released four books between 2010 and 2012. With each book, I sold less and less. A smart businessman looks at this situation and says, “What’s wrong with my product? Where is it lacking?”

I yanked those four books and set them aside. For all I know they’re perfectly fine but I still have those nagging doubts that somewhere in the manuscript, there’s a problem that kept readers from coming back for more. Perhaps I’ll release them again later; maybe I won’t.

I yanked the books instead of improving them because I had a hot new idea for a series and I wanted this to be where my attention went. I wrote The Rogue Gentleman and set aside $1000 for production costs. I spent a total of $800 on two editors, one for content and the other for copy, and a cover artist. I released the new book, and…nothing.

Hmmmm. Well, I’m stubborn. Books 2 and 3 in the series are in progress and I have just released the first book in the series as a trade paperback. To coincide with the paperback release, the ebook version of The Rogue Gentleman is free starting Tuesday the 16th and ending Friday the 19th.

There is no nagging doubt about this new book in my head because it has been edited, re-edited, and edited again by myself and the professionals I hired. The cover is top-notch. If you're going to go the KDP route to release your material, spend the time and money to do it right. With those first four books, I was a do-it-yourselfer. I'm that way by nature. I work on my own cars, the house, etc., but this is one area where DIY need not apply. There's too much for one person to handle.

Here’s the story's description:

"International adventurer Steve Dane never should have set foot in Italy. Witnessing a young woman’s kidnapping, he is drawn into the decades-old vendetta behind the crime.

Hired by the girl's father, racing against time as her life hangs in the balance, Dane battles the mafia who want him dead and the police and international agents who want him out of the way. With the help of his lover, Nina Talikova, Dane plunges along a path that leads him past a mere kidnapping and into an ever-more complex world of high stakes, ruled by a powerful and mysterious woman known only as The Duchess.

Life, it seems, is getting cheaper than Dane could ever imagine and The Duchess has put a price on the ultimate weapon that will make it worthless. Only he and Nina have the power to stop a clock that is ticking away the life of both the girl and the world."

If you download the free copy, all I ask is that you leave a review on Amazon, even a bad review, if you dislike the story. I don’t think you will, though, unless action/adventure isn’t your thing. It’s action mixed with comedy and reviews have been very good so I think you’ll enjoy it indeed.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Music I Like: Elusive Butterfly - Bob Lind

Yeah, the song's kind of sappy, and Bob Lind's not very good at lip-synching in this clip, but I've always liked this one anyway. Say, isn't that the Righteous Brothers doing the intro?

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Short Stories, February 10. 1939

Now there's a manly cover for you. I don't know why the guy has a pipe wrench, but I'll bet somebody's gonna be sorry that he does. Behind that cover is a solid line-up of authors, not surprising since SHORT STORIES was one of the top general fiction pulps and could always be counted on for fine entertainment. This particular issue features stories by H. Bedford-Jones and Frank Richardson Pierce, an installment of a Red Clark Western serial by Gordon Young, a Halfaday Creek story by James B. Hendryx, another Western by Caddo Cameron, and the cover story by Robert H. Leitfred, which I'll bet has something to do with trucks and smugglers.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Music I Like: Cry Me a River - Julie London

When I was younger I had a friend who was madly in love with Julie London. It's easy to see why, although I never quite felt that way myself. I like her music, though.

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Roaring Western Stories, May 1953

This is the only issue of this pulp known to exist, although there may be more. It's got an action-packed cover by Milton Luros, and the authors include Will C. Brown (really C.S. Boyles, the other famous author from Cross Plains, Texas), Bryce Walton, and several more, none of whom I've ever heard of. This was the era during which pulps were dying right and left, so the idea of starting a new one seems pretty risky, a risk that evidently didn't pay off. But considering that Westerns hung on longer than any other pulp genre, maybe it was worth taking. The issue looks like a decent one, anyway.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Music I Like: September in the Rain - Jo Stafford

Beautiful voice, beautiful woman, beautiful song.

Forgotten Books: The Naked Liar - Harold Adams

This post originally appeared in slightly different form on August 5, 2007.

Some years ago I read one of the books in Harold Adams’s series about Carl Wilcox, a ne’er-do-well ex-con sign painter and part-time private eye who lives in a small town in Depression-era South Dakota. At this late date I couldn’t even tell you which book it was, but I recall that I didn’t like it very much.

I generally like Depression-era novels, though, so I thought it was time to try this series again. THE NAKED LIAR is the fourth appearance of Carl Wilcox and finds him living in the run-down hotel owned by his parents in Corden, South Dakota. One of his poker buddies in a neighboring town turns up murdered, smothered to death while tied naked to a bed after what was apparently some sort of kinky sexual encounter. The man’s wife is in jail, charged with the crime, and her sister hires Carl to prove that someone else is the actual killer.

This leads to a nice twisty investigation involving the other poker players in Carl’s circle, assorted attractive women, a variety of out-of-town gangsters, and a judge who may or may not be corrupt. It’s all narrated by Carl in an appealing style full of dry humor and occasional bursts of violence.

There are plenty of good lines and well-drawn characters in this novel, and Adams manages to capture the feeling of the times without going overboard on period details, which I really like. The plot meanders along for quite a while without much happening, which I don’t like. Overall, though, I enjoyed this book enough so that there’s no doubt in my mind I’ll read more in the series.

UPDATE: And so I did read two or three more in the series, but then, as usual, I got distracted. (I have the attention span of a puppy.) I keep thinking that I ought to get back to it and read the others, and one of these days I will.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Music I Like: Yours and Mine - Fountains of Wayne

Short but sweet. This is the last song on WELCOME INTERSTATE MANAGERS, a great CD that I played a lot during a pretty bittersweet time, and it makes for a powerful, effective finale.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Music I Like: If I Could - Jack Johnson

A sad song, but I love it anyway. I played the CD it comes from quite a bit during a bad time in my life.

Now Available: Shooter York - Colby Jackson (Mel Odom)

Young mountain man Shooter York had been trapping with his cousin George Monk and returned to find his beloved Tennessee home in turmoil as the US Army enforced the Indian Removal Act in 1833.

Shooter hadn't agreed with the proposed action, but it hit even closer to home than he realized when a friend of his got caught up in the middle of it. Moon Bear was accused of killing an Army transport crew and of taking rifles.

After helping the Army find Moon Bear, Shooter learned that his friend was looking for his son, who was following Calling Owl, a renegade leader conducting raids on helpless settlers. Shooter and George had no choice but to free Moon Bear and take up the hunt. But with the US Army on their heels and riding into the teeth of dangerous renegades, Tennessee seemed more crowded than ever.

(As you can tell from the cover, this book is connected to the Rancho Diablo series, but since it's a prequel, you don't have to have read any of the others before this one.)

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Music I Like: Glad You Came - The Wanted

This one's a couple of years old, but I've heard it on the radio some and think it has a pretty catchy sound to it. Not a classic, but pleasant enough.

Tuesday's Overlooked Movies: The Baytown Outlaws

I'd never heard of this movie until Livia rented it while we were at the coast. But if you like oddball, over-the-top crime movies with a distinctive voice, you need to check this one out.

The plot involves three eccentric redneck brothers from Mobile, Alabama (played by actors I'd never heard of) who work as vigilantes for the local sheriff (Andre Braugher), who uses extra-legal means to keep the crime rate down in his county. He does this by sending these crazy brothers after even worse guys. But they freelance, too, and they're hired by Eva Longoria to rescue her handicapped godson from her crazed, criminal ex-husband, played by Billy Bob Thornton. (Of course he is. Who else would you cast in that part?) Assorted gangs of killers try to stop our redneck heroes from retrieving the kids. What kind of killers, you ask? Well, there are hookers/martial artists/assassins led by legendary stuntwoman Zoe Bell. There are black guys driving a truck turned into a tank like something Mr. T would design in THE A-TEAM. There's a group of Native American mercenaries. If you haven't figured it out by now, politically correct this movie ain't.

But it's so goofy it's a blast to watch. Somehow the filmmakers manage to make the viewer really care about these lunatic brothers, and it all leads up to a very satisfying ending. This may well be one of those love it or hate it movies, but I really enjoyed it.

Monday, July 08, 2013

Music I Like: Keep on Dancing - The Gentrys

A lot of times I look at the world today and I think I'll just spend the rest of my life pretending it's 1965. Music like this just makes me feel even more that way. (Not that I intend to give up computers and the Internet, mind you. There's no point in being fanatical about this nostalgia stuff.)

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Music I Like: So Far Away - Carole King

I still remember walking past the women's dorms at good old SWTSU in the spring of 1972 and hearing music from Carole King's album TAPESTRY coming through what seemed like every open window. Somebody, my roommate, maybe, joked that there must be a law saying that every college girl had to own a copy of that album. I thought most of the songs on it were okay. This is probably the one I like the best.

Two New Titles from the Western Fictioneers Library

Two new titles are now available from the Western Fictioneers Library. A DISGRACE TO THE BADGE AND OTHER WESTERN STORIES is the second collection of short Western fiction from Ed Gorman. You all know how good Ed's stories are. STAMPEDE AT RATTLESNAKE PASS is another exciting Jake Scudder adventure from Clay More (Keith Souter). Keith always packs these yarns not only with action but also intriguing plot twists and colorful characters. This one also features a great scene with a rattlesnake that I don't think I've ever encountered in another Western novel. Both of these books get high recommendations from me (and not just because I helped edit 'em).

Peacemaker Awards Now Open for Submissions

The 4th annual Peacemaker Awards from Western Fictioneers are now open for submissions. There are several changes in the rules this year. We've added a new category, Best Independently Published Western Novel, expanded the wordage in the short story category and renamed it Best Western Short Fiction, and opened it as well as Best Western First Novel to self-published work. The goal of these changes is to increase the inclusiveness of the competition. If it's a Western, there's a place for it in the Peacemaker Awards. All the rules and entry forms are available on the WF website. I'm the Awards Chair this year, so if anybody has any questions, don't hesitate to shoot me an e-mail.

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Love and War Stories, January 1930

The first and only issue of an obscure pulp edited and published by Harold Hersey. From the story titles it appears to be, just as you'd suppose from the title, love stories set in wartime. Interesting idea. I don't recognize the names of any of the authors. I'm guessing this was just too much of a niche title to be successful.

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Music I Like: King of the Road - Roger Miller

Always liked Roger Miller, and this was probably his biggest hit.

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Speed Western, March 1943

An early issue of the slightly toned-down and tamer successor to SPICY WESTERN, this one features the evocatively titled "3 Gals Make a Murder" by Laurence Donovan. Donovan may well have contributed even more, since every other author's by-line in this issue is a house name and he was one of Trojan's most prolific writers. I've read a few issues of SPEED WESTERN (not this one), and while they're not great stuff, I've found them to be pretty entertaining.

Friday, July 05, 2013

Music I Like: Rumble and Sway - Jamie N Commons

Now here's a fairly new song that I like a lot. Great sound to it, I think. I need to check out some more by the guy who does it.

Forgotten Books: Skyrocket Steele - Ron Goulart

I've been reading and enjoying Ron Goulart's novels for decades. He's best known for his science fiction, I suppose, but he's also written quite a few mysteries (including a good four-book series about a California private eye named John Easy), various novelizations and tie-in novels, and a few Westerns. He also edited the iconic anthology THE HARDBOILED DICKS, which introduced a lot of readers of my generation to the great hardboiled detective authors from the pulps, and wrote several volumes of pulp and comic book history.

SKYROCKET STEELE is one of his science fiction novels I'd never read until now, and it's great fun. Although it's definitely SF, except for a few hints here and there that element doesn't really come into play until late in the book. Most of the way it's a funny, well-written account of making a science fiction movie serial called "Skyrocket Steele" in 1940. The protagonist is a young writer named Pete Tinsley who's been selling stories to the pulps for several years (he seems to have contributed mostly to the "Stimulating" line – STIMULATING WESTERN, STIMULATING SKY STORIES, STIMULATING ADVENTURE, etc. – a nice homage to the "Spicies"). Hired to help an experienced scripter come up with the screenplay for "Skyrocket Steele", Pete makes a very likable hero as he discovers some odd things going on around the production.

Throw in some Hollywood gangsters, a beautiful dancer named Boots McKay (great name), an equally beautiful redhead named Tracy Flinn who may or may not have some abilities that aren't quite normal, and some Nazi saboteurs, and you've got an excellent screwball adventure yarn that winds up with a burst of nice pyrotechnics.

This book came out in paperback from Pocket Books in 1980 with a cover by Carl Lundgren and has probably been out of print ever since, but it's well worth seeking out. I had a fine time reading it, and I suspect a lot of you would, too.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Music I Like: Stars and Stripes Forever - Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops Orchestra

I hope all of you in the U.S. had a great Fourth of July and that it was a good day for those of you elsewhere in the world.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Music I Like: Apache - Jorgen Ingmann

As suggested by Jeff Meyerson. I'd heard this song, of course, but I'm not sure I ever knew what it was called or who played it. Now I do. It's a good one. Some of the images in the clip aren't exactly what you'd call politically correct, however, so fair warning on that score.

Now Available: Death and the Dancing Shadows - James Reasoner

Retired cowboy movie star Eliot "Lucky" Tremaine has a problem: he's being blackmailed. Markham seems to be the only one who can help him, but when blackmail explodes into murder, it's Markham's life on the line!

"Death and the Dancing Shadows" is another classic tale of California private eye Markham from the pages of MIKE SHAYNE MYSTERY MAGAZINE and the imagination of bestselling author James Reasoner. This 9,000 word novella was originally published in the March 1980 issue of MSMM and later reprinted in THE BLACK LIZARD ANTHOLOGY OF CRIME FICTION.

I've always been fond of this one. I think it's particularly well-plotted, if I do say so myself. The Amazon link is below, and it's also available on Smashwords and for the Nook. Like all the Markham stories, it's a stand-alone, so if you haven't read the others you can start here with no problem. The excellent cover is by Livia, as always.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Music I Like: Stranger on the Shore - Acker Bilk

I admit, I have a real fondness for easy listening music and always have, even when I was a kid and wasn't supposed to be interested in anything but rock 'n' roll. My parents never knew what to make of my music listening habits.

Tuesday's Overlooked Radio Comedy: Nobody's Business - Hudson and Landry

Bob Hudson and Ron Landry were morning show DJs in Los Angeles who starting recording their comedy routines and became quite successful at it for a few years. They recorded four albums, all of which sold very well. I became acquainted with their work when one of the stations I listened to in college did a comedy spot every hour before the news (good timing, if you ask me) and bits by Hudson and Landry were featured frequently. This is one I've never forgotten in the forty years since then. It'll become obvious very quickly that it's based on an even more famous comedy bit by an even more famous team, but it's still very funny in its own right. The video clip is extremely annoying, though, so my advice would be just to listen and not watch.