Get ready for Lord Peter Flint like he's never been seen before -- with a beard! German Navy zealots are hell-bent on building a 'Fuhrer' class warship, the biggest warship of all time, and only Britain's top secret agent, Codename Warlord, can stop them! (I find it kind of, um, odd that the sales copy for this issue of COMMANDO chooses to emphasize the fact that Lord Peter Flint disguises himself with a fake beard. It's really not a huge part of the plot. The story is very enjoyable overall, though, a good espionage yarn set in the very early days of the war. Iain McLaughlin's stories are almost non-stop action and quite entertaining. I don't talk much about the art in these, but that job is handled this time by Manuel Benet, and I like his work quite a bit. At times it reminds me of Joe Kubert, and at others of John Severin. When you're talking about war comics, you can't do much better than those two!)
I’d never heard of this 2018 action movie starring Jason
Momoa, but I’ve found him to be a likable lug of a protagonist so I figured it
might be worth watching. He plays the title character, Joe Braven, a logger and
sawmill owner in Alaska (or maybe Canada, I’m not sure that’s ever made clear),
who, through a set of unfortunate coincidences, winds up with a load of drugs
belonging to some bad guys stashed in his hunting cabin in the remote woods.
Braven is there with his father (played by Stephen Lang) who is suffering from
dementia, and his adorably cute young daughter shows up as well. Then the bad
guys (including the great character actor Zahn McLarnon) arrive on the scene to
reclaim their drugs and kill everybody. Many action scenes ensue.
If this movie had been made ten years earlier, it probably would have starred
Dwayne Johnson. Thirty years ago, Arnold Schwarzenegger. That right there ought
to tell you what you’re getting in BRAVEN. However, Momoa is as likable as
ever, and he’s not a superhuman hero, either. He takes a lot of punishment in
this movie, although he deals out plenty, too. Lang is nearly always
interesting, Momoa’s wife is played by Jill Wagner, who is pretty badass
herself, and there’s a nice twist in the final showdown between Momoa and the
head bad guy that I didn’t see coming, which is always a plus. Watching BRAVEN
was a pretty enjoyable hour-and-a-half for me. If you’re an action movie fan,
it might well be for you, too.
It’s been a while since I read a post-apocalyptic yarn. A
while back, I bought the e-book edition of a novel called BATTLE FOR THE
WASTELANDS by Matthew W. Quinn, mostly because of the great cover since I
wasn’t familiar with the author. I hadn’t gotten around to reading it yet,
though, so when Quinn recently published SON OF GRENDEL, a novella-length
prequel to the novel, I decided to start with it instead.
Quinn doesn’t spend a lot of time on world-building. Instead, in an opening
reminiscent of Ernest Hemingway’s FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS, he drops the reader
down in the middle of the action as a group of resistance fighters in some
future America ambushes a column of soldiers from the army of a tyrant known as
Grendel, who evidently has conquered most of North America.
Then Quinn cleverly switches the focus to the title character, a young army
officer who’s the son of that tyrant, and how he handles the campaign of
reprisal against those resistance fighters. There are also some unexpected
elements to the story, such as a mention of pterodactyls, that lead me to
believe this is either an alternate universe from ours, or else something really weird happened in that
I suspect I’ll find out in BATTLE FOR THE WASTELANDS, which I intend to read
soon because Quinn is an excellent writer with a fine sense of pacing and some
top-notch action scenes. I really want to discover more about the world he’s
created in this series. I’ll add, too, that SON OF GRENDEL is very well edited
and formatted, something you don’t always get in books these days, even from
the big New York publishers. Overall, if you’re a fan of post-apocalyptic
adventure tales, I think this one is well worth reading.
An excellent cover by George Rozen graces this issue of PLANET STORIES, and there's a really fine group of writers behind it: Leigh Brackett, Clifford D. Simak, Nelson S. Bond, Carl Jacobi, Wilbur S. Peacock, Charles R. Tanner, and Henry Hasse. I haven't read it, but you can read or download the entire issue here.
I'm not sure that shade of red hair appears in nature, but it appears on several different DIME WESTERN covers in 1933 and it's certainly eye-catching. Equally eye-catching is the group of authors in this issue: Max Brand (Frederick Faust), T.T. Flynn, Harry F. Olmsted (twice, as himself and a Tensleep Maxon story as by Bart Cassidy), Stephen Payne, J.E. Grinstead, and John Colohan. That's a potent pack of pulpsters. While I don't own a copy of this issue, I have read the Max Brand novella, "Guardian Guns". It was reprinted under the title "The Stage to Yellow Creek" in THE LOST VALLEY, one of the Max Brand collections published by Five Star and Leisure. It's an excellent, action-packed yarn about a stagecoach journey, a bag full of money, a gang of outlaws, and one of Faust's typical good badmen as the protagonist. I enjoyed it a lot. It's almost long enough to be considered a novel.
With a Barye Phillips cover and a title like BARGE GIRL,
from a publisher like Gold Medal, I expected a noirish crime novel with a
regular guy protagonist falling for some beautiful but scheming dame who has an
older husband who just needs to be gotten rid of so that she and the
protagonist can live happily ever after. And as I started this 1953 novel by
Calvin Clements, it looked like that was what I was going to get, as our
narrator, tugboat captain Joe Baski, mets and falls for gorgeous young Stella
Murk, whose much older, barge captain husband takes her for granted and makes
her live in near-squalor on the barge.
The thing is, for the longest time Clements dances right up to the edge of
giving us that plot but then pulls back, and as a result, the first
three-fourths of BARGE GIRL never amounts to more than a well-written but slow-paced
domestic drama that will tell you more about barges and tugboats operating on
the Hudson River between New York City and New Jersey than you ever wanted to
Maybe Clements was trying to subvert his readers’ expectations, or maybe
he just wasn’t comfortable spinning a truly noir crime yarn. I don’t know. But
BARGE GIRL was a considerable disappointment to me up until a late twist that
almost salvages the book. The last few chapters pack a lot more punch and are
more fun to read, although even then he seems to be setting up a twist that
never comes to fruition. That makes the pretty good climax not as effective as
it could have been.
Calvin Clements wrote a few novels but is best remembered for his long career
as a screenwriter for movies and TV. He wrote excellent episodes of a number of
different Western series. Based on BARGE GIRL, the only one of his books I’ve
read, he wasn’t as skillful a novelist. Overall, though, the final fourth of
this one impressed me enough that I can say I’m glad I read it. Don’t rush
right out to look for a copy, but if you ever run across one, you might want to
learn more about tugboats and barges than I did.
Some of the first Marvel comics I ever read, before I discovered their superheros on Christmas Day, 1963, were early issues of KID COLT, OUTLAW that had found their way to our house some way. Because of that, I've always had a soft spot for the character, even though now I realize he's a pretty generic "good guy outlaw framed for a crime he didn't commit". I didn't realize Marvel had brought him back briefly in 2009 in a three-part story written by Tom DeFalco and drawn by Rick Burchett. "Kill the Kid!" is an origin story (comics, like movies, love origin stories) that goes in for a little bit of retconning. Kid Colt's real name is Blaine Cole, instead of Blaine Colt as in the original, and I think the details of the crime that leaves him an outlaw are a little different, but I didn't do any research to confirm that. Either way, this reads and looks like a genuine Kid Colt, Outlaw yarn, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. If you're an old fan of the character, like me, you might enjoy it, too, and the digital version is really inexpensive, if you read comics that way. I've come to prefer that method, which surprises me a little.
It's been a while since I posted a Mountie cover, and this is a good one (not surprising since it's on an issue of ARGOSY) by Rudolph Belarski. There's an excellent group of authors inside this issue as well, including E. Hoffmann Price, Harry Sinclair Drago, Eustace L. Adams, Bennett Foster, William Gray Beyer, and Bruce Douglas. ARGOSY was always good, often great.
Another excellent and effective cover by H.W. Scott on this issue of WESTERN STORY, and another prime example of why I never liked to go to the barber shop: yuh never know when some ranny's liable to bust in and commence to slingin' lead. There's an all-star line-up of authors in this issue, too: Walt Coburn, Peter Dawson, Norman A. Fox, Harry F. Olmsted, Frank Richardson Pierce, and Glenn H. Wichman. Looks like a great issue to me.
Of the many, many series written for the pulps by H.
Bedford-Jones, his longest-running featured a fat little Cockney named John
Solomon, which ran from 1914 to 1936 and encompassed more than twenty novels
and novellas. John Solomon may not seem very impressive at first glance, but he
actually runs a far-flung intelligence network and makes a specialty of
thwarting all sorts of criminal and espionage schemes around the world. I’ve
been aware of this series for years but hadn’t read any of them until recently,
when I started at the most logical place, the novel THE GATE OF FAREWELL, which
was published originally as a serial in ARGOSY in 1914 and is Solomon’s first
appearance. (It was later published as a novel under the pseudonym Allan
Solomon is a supporting character in this book and doesn’t play much of a part
in the action until the late stages. The protagonist is an American businessman
named Allen Tredgar, who is searching for his older brother who vanished in
Arabia five years earlier. He hires a captain and a ship, gets a tip on where
to look for his brother from John Solomon, goes through the Suez Canal, and
then heads down the Red Sea to the area where his brother disappeared.
Unfortunately, there’s a sinister American working against Tredgar’s interests,
and things are complicated even more when Tredgar and his companions rescue a
beautiful young woman blown out to sea in a small boat during a storm.
Ultimately, everybody winds up in a fortress on the coast of Arabia built by
what today we would call an Islamic terrorist group. Torture, slavery, and epic
battles ensue, along with a hunt for ancient relics that will give whoever
possesses them great power in the Middle East.
For a novel written and published more than a hundred years ago, THE GATE OF
FAREWELL is surprisingly modern. I can see this same basic plot being used by a
number of today’s thriller writers (although the resulting book would be three
or four times as long). This early in his career, Bedford-Jones’ prose is still
a bit stodgy and old-fashioned and not as crisp and stream-lined as it would be
later. Also, the plot is rather slow to develop, leading to the first half of
the book just sort of meandering along.
The second half, though, has a lot of punch, building up a considerable amount
of suspense that delivers an action-packed climax. The characters are
interesting, including a suitably despicable villain. Bedford-Jones lays the
groundwork for more adventures of John Solomon, which I’m sure I’ll be reading.
THE GATE OF FAREWELL isn’t in the top rank of H. Bedford-Jones’ novels, as far
as I’m concerned, but it’s an entertaining adventure yarn in the classic style
and well worth reading, especially as an introduction to his longest-running