Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Paperbacks at War - Justin Marriott, ed.


World War Two has long been a recurring theme in popular culture.

Its grand scale, themes, and emotions offered rich inspiration for authors, who readily provided the public with tales of fearless heroes, diabolical enemies, and enduring love.

This book reviews 170+ of books, comics and pulp magazines that used the setting of war, providing information and opinion on their entertainment value and historical importance.

From pioneering pulp heroes such as The Operator and Lone Eagle, to comic icons such as Sgt. Rock and The Unknown Soldier, to the cynical and ultra-violent paperbacks of the 1970s from Sven Hassel and Leo Kessler.

Fully illustrated with 200+ reproductions of paperbacks and comics.

(Following up on several superb volumes of reviews concentrating on particular genres of adventure fiction, editor Justin Marriott strikes again with PAPERBACKS AT WAR, a wonderful collection of reviews by knowledgeable fans about scores of war-themed novels, mostly paperback originals, with many series entries and also plenty of stand-alones. This is the sort of book you can dip into now and then, if that's what you want, but I found myself compulsively reading it . . . and then heading to Amazon to compulsively buy the books that appealed to me the most. I've read a considerable amount of war fiction, but PAPERBACKS AT WAR contains reviews of plenty of books that are new to me, too. I had a great time reading it, and I'm pretty sure I'll have a great time reading the books it prompted me to buy. Highly recommended.)

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Tarzan: Untamed Frontiers - Gary A. Buckingham

Tarzan wasn't my introduction to the work of Edgar Rice Burroughs, at least not if you're talking about the novels and not the movies based on them. That was the novel A FIGHTING MAN OF MARS, which I've written about here before. But very early on, I bought a copy of the Whitman edition of TARZAN OF THE APES (the one with the Official Ape-English Dictionary; I'd bet a hat some of you have a copy of that very edition still on your shelves) and was hooked on the series. I think I've read all the Tarzan novels, some more than once, and also read Fritz Leiber's TARZAN AND THE VALLEY OF GOLD and Will Murray's two Wild Adventures of Tarzan novels. The character is one of my all-time favorites. I even wrote a Tarzan fanfiction novel when I was in junior high. I'm talking probably 30,000 to 40,000 words. The handwritten manuscript is long gone, of course.

So when I heard about a volume called TARZAN: UNTAMED FRONTIERS, collecting a novella and a novelette about Tarzan by Burroughs scholar Gary A. Buckingham, I had to have a copy. I'm glad I was able to get my hands on one, because these two yarns are thoroughly entertaining. The title novella is a prequel to one of the best novels in the series, TARZAN THE UNTAMED, and concerns the Waziri tribe's move across Africa to make their home in the area where Tarzan establishes his own headquarters. There are some excellent action scenes in this one. The novelette, "Tarzan and the Secret of Katanga" (first published in the hardback edition of Will Murray's novel TARZAN: RETURN TO PAL-UL-DON) is even better. This is a sequel to TARZAN THE UNTAMED and is set in the days leading up to World War II. The story finds Tarzan battling Nazi agents trying to take over a uranium mine, which is good enough by itself, but that mine holds a dangerous secret that makes the story even better. Great battles against man and beast abound.

Probably the best thing about these stories is that Buckingham really captures Tarzan's personality, both as the King of the Jungle and as John Clayton, Lord Greystoke. There's more Tarzan by Buckingham in the pipeline, and I'm looking forward to it.

The present volume is a limited edition and is available direct from the author. You can find information on how to get a copy here. I should also mention that it has a spectacular wraparound cover by Dan Parsons, as well as interior illustrations by Parsons, Neal Adams, Joe DeVito, Chris Adams, and Peggy Adler. Beautiful work, all the way around.

Monday, June 21, 2021

West of Whitechapel: Jack the Ripper in the Wild West - Wayne D. Dundee


In the late 1880s, a series of grisly murders swept through the Whitechapel slums of London. The victims were all prostitutes, each found with her throat cut and her stomach sliced open. Sensationalized newspaper accounts of the killings spread throughout England and beyond to a horrified yet fascinated reading public. Heightening interest all the more were the taunting letters sent by the killer to Scotland Yard – boldly signed “Jack the Ripper”.

But then, abruptly, the killings stopped. The Ripper was never identified or captured, but the terror seemed over.

A few months later, however, on the American frontier in the raucous, rowdy mining camps that sprang up out of a silver boom in the Colorado Rockies, some eerily similar murders began to occur among the flocks of “soiled doves” who gathered to serve the men in those remote camps. With no law to speak of in such places and sudden death being all too common, no one seemed to take much notice.

Not until a sharp-eyed female journalist spotted the possible connection and became determined to find out the truth. Aided by a guilt-ridden though equally dogged frontier detective, the pair follow a bloody trail through the rugged mountains and boisterous mining camps to try and prove if Jack the Ripper truly ceased his killing ways … or did he merely move them out here – west of Whitechapel?

(Wayne D. Dundee is one of the most consistently entertaining Western writers in the business, so it's no surprise that his new novel from Wolfpack Publishing is excellent. The pace races along, he does a great job with the historical elements in the plot, and there are some twists I didn't see coming, which is always nice. Plus Lew Torrent, an operative for the Omaha & Points West Detective Agency, is a really likable narrator/protagonist and works well with the female journalist who draws him into the case. I really hope we see these two again, maybe tackling another historical mystery. In the meantime, WEST OF WHITECHAPEL gets a very high recommendation from me.)

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Strange Detective Stories, January 1934

Clifford Benton's cover for this issue of STRANGE DETECTIVE STORIES is pretty exciting. I don't think I'd heard of Benton before. Looks like he did only a few pulp covers, all of them either for this magazine or its predecessor, NICKEL DETECTIVE. There's a strong group of writers in this issue, too: Norvell W. Page, E. Hoffmann Price, Arthur J. Burks, Frederick C. Painton, Ralph Perry, Harold Ward, Samuel Taylor, and a couple less familiar to me, Jack Smalley and Les Tillray. This is Tillray's only entry in the FMI. Might have been a pseudonym, might've just been his only sale. I don't know much about STRANGE DETECTIVE STORIES, but based on this issue, it appears to have been a pulp worth reading.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Spicy Western Stories, June 1942

Good old SPICY WESTERN STORIES. Covers don't get much more garish than this one by Allen Anderson. It's sure eye-catching, too. Most of this issue's contents are reprints from four or five years earlier with the titles and house-names changed. Laurence Donovan has one of the two original stories, and one of the reprints appears to be by him, as well, since it was published originally under the name Larry Dunn, which as far as I know was a personal pseudonym for Donovan. The other original story is by Edwin Truett Long writing as Wallace Kayton. The rest of the TOC is a hodge-podge of house-names.

Friday, June 18, 2021

Now Available: Never Trifle With Murder - Livia J. Washburn

It’s early summer in Weatherford, Texas, and retired teacher/amateur sleuth Phyllis Newsom and fellow retiree Carolyn Wilbarger are taking British cooking classes at the local senior center in this suspenseful Fresh-Baked mystery.

In the latest from Livia J. Washburn, the nationally bestselling author of the Fresh Baked Mystery Series, Phyllis Newsom learns to make a trifle that’s to die for…

While Sam Fletcher is playing dominoes with the guys, Eve Turner is busy flirting with the English chef since she has a fascination for English accents and handsome men who can cook. This puts her in competition with a couple of other ladies from the senior center, who also have their caps set for Chef Alfred Dorrington.

The third and final class features desserts, and more than the stove heats up when the trifle is poisoned! Once again Phyllis finds herself involved in a murder case filled with hidden motives and colorful characters.

Includes recipes!

(I love these books because I always get to read them before anybody else. And, of course, because they're funny and well-plotted and full of great characters, surprises, and poignant moments. I get to sample the recipes, too! The trade paperback of this one also includes the Fresh Baked Mystery short story "The Coconut Bunny Butt Caper", which was only available digitally until now. NEVER TRIFLE WITH MURDER is also available at Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.)

Forgotten Books: The Law of the Jungle - Louis Masterson (Kjell Hallbing)

(This post originally appeared in somewhat different form on May 19,2006.)

I've always liked Westerns that take place in non-traditional settings. This novel certainly fits that description. U.S. Marshal Morgan Kane is sent to the wilds of the Yucatan Peninsula to rescue a group of American scientists who have been trapped there by an uprising among the local Indians. Naturally Kane runs into a lot of trouble along the way, including some colorful pirates.

This is another entry in the long-running series by Norwegian author Kjell Hallbing, writing under the pseudonym Louis Masterson. More than eighty Morgan Kane novels were originally published in Norway, and a couple dozen of them were reprinted in England by Corgi Books. I've picked up a few over the years. Hallbing had a very distinctive style, and according to everything I've read, translator Phil Newth captures it accurately. The action scenes are very well done, and Morgan Kane has to be the most angst-ridden Western hero I've ever encountered, enduring all sorts of physical and psychological torment in the course of the books. They're off-beat enough that it took me a while to get used to them, but now I've become quite a fan and am looking forward to reading the others I have on hand.

(UPDATE: All those other Morgan Kane paperbacks I had were lost in the fire of '08 before I got around to reading any of them. I have one or two in e-book editions but haven't read them, either. I need to do that.)

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Classic Adventure Pulp: The Resurrection of Jimber Jaw - Edgar Rice Burroughs

Edgar Rice Burroughs was one of my favorite authors when I was a kid, but there was plenty of his work I never got around to, and I've read him only sporadically since then. I want to go back and catch up on some of that unread stuff, and I've started with "The Resurrection of Jimber Jaw" (great title!), a novelette that was published originally in the February 20, 1937 issue of ARGOSY, the lead story with a good cover by Emmett Watson.

This story involves a couple of American scientists who are flying over the wastes of Siberia for reasons that are convoluted and, frankly, not all that convincing. When they're forced to land by an engine malfunction, they find a prehistoric man frozen in a chunk of ice. Since one of the scientists just happens to specialize in freezing living things and bringing them back to life, they decide to thaw out the guy they find, who they nickname Jimber Jaw because he resembles a grizzly bear of that name one of the fellows once saw.

Now, there are usually only two ways a set-up like this can go: comedy or bloody horror. Burroughs opts for comedy, and there's plenty of the dry wit that crops up so often in his later work. It's pretty funny, too, and the story is well-written overall.

The problem with "The Resurrection of Jimber Jaw" is that the plot is rather thin, and Burroughs merely summarizes much of the action, so that some of it reads more like an outline than a story. This is a yarn that's really crying out for more length and a better developed plot.

As it is, the humor and the fast pace kept me reading effortlessly, and overall, I enjoyed it. I can't help but feel, though, that it could have been much better. That won't stop me from reading more of those Burroughs stories I haven't gotten to yet.

Monday, June 14, 2021

Chronos Commandos: Dawn Patrol - Stuart Jennett

A friend of mine mentioned this the other day and compared it to the old DC Comics series The War That Time Forgot, so I had to check it out. I'm definitely the target audience when it comes to anything about World War II G.I.s fighting dinosaurs.

I was pleased to find that this five-issue comic book series is pretty good. It's been reprinted in trade paperback and as an e-book and is worth reading. The concept is that a combined scientific and military force called The Watchmakers, led by Albert Einstein, is tasked with traveling through time to foil the plots of Nazi time travelers. The leader of one of the field teams is a tough non-com called only The Sarge, who, along with his men, is in prehistoric times with his men as this yarn opens.

Through some bad luck, The Sarge and one other soldier are the only ones who make it back to the present (well, the middle of World War II, which is the present as far as this series is concerned) only to find that things are in even worse shape there. Nazi agents have infiltrated the Watchmakers, wrecked their headquarters, and stolen a vital component of their time traveling equipment, escaping into prehistoric times with it. The Sarge and a new squad are sent to recover it and prevent the Nazis from changing the course of history.

All of that is set up in the first issue, and the rest of the series is nearly non-stop action. If you enjoy G.I. vs. dinosaur battles, Albert Einstein with a tommy gun fighting Nazi agents, and mind-bending time travel paradoxes, CHRONOS COMMANDOS is for you. Stuart Jennett's script is excellent. I'm not as big a fan of his art, but he's a decent storyteller and the art, by today's standards, is not bad at all. Taken together, Jennett delivers a very enjoyable yarn that I enjoyed quite a bit. Recommended.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Detective Fiction Weekly, October 30, 1937

There's a nice sinister cover on this issue of DETECTIVE FICTION WEEKLY. I don't want anything to do with that operating room, thank you. Leading off this issue is a novella by T.T. Flynn, one of my favorite Western writers, featuring his series characters Mike Harris and Trixie Meehan. I've never read any of this series, but I expect I'd enjoy it. Other well-known pulpsters on hand are Richard Sale, Dale Clark, Cyril Plunkett, and George Armin Shaftel. Other authors are prolific but little known (to me, anyway) H. Randolph Peacock, Thomas W. Duncan, Donald S. Aitken, and Milo Ray Phelps. I don't think DETECTIVE FICTION WEEKLY is considered one of the top pulps these days, but there was plenty of good reading in its pages, and a great deal of it has never been reprinted.