As those on the Cover-Ups and Pulp Mags Yahoo groups already know, Steve Ericson of Books From the Crypt posts a new pulp cover scan every day. This is an excellent site, with great scans and a table of contents listing for each pulp. Highly recommended.
The unexpected deal that I mentioned yesterday isn't going to come about after all, which is okay because I'm really pretty busy right now anyway. And there may be some even better news on the horizon, although I can't get into specifics right now. That's one thing about the life of a freelance writer: when you get up in the morning, you can never really be sure what the day's going to bring.
I emailed one of my regular editors today about a book I wrote for him, and he emailed back to ask me to write a book in a series I've never worked on before. Fitting it into the schedule required shuffling some things around, but I figured out that I ought to be able to do it. Luckily, I'm not unfamiliar with the series in question. I've read quite a few of the earlier books, so getting up to speed on it won't be a big problem. Working on something new is always great fun for me, so I'm looking forward to this. I read THE SCOUT OF TERROR TRAIL by Walker A. Tompkins and TRAIL BOSS FROM TEXAS by Barry Cord (Peter B. Germano), a couple of those library books I checked out last week. More comments on them later, maybe, once I've written up something for one of my apazines or the WesternPulps list. I'm currently reading "Ranger Wings", an air-war novel from the AMERICAN EAGLES pulp, just because I wanted something completely different from what I've been reading.
I got around to reading this Ace Double by Martin L. Weiss that I bought a few weeks ago. (You can see the cover here.) It's the story of Al Hopkins, an undercover narcotics agent on his way to a new assignment when he unwisely picks up a couple of hitchhikers. They turn out to be psychopathic killers who force him to accompany them on a deadly cross-country joy ride. Or are they more than that . . .? There are some genuinely creepy moments in this book and a plot twist or two that I didn't see coming, but ultimately it's undone by the fact that the protagonist continually does dumb things just to keep the plot going. I lost track of how many times I wanted to yell at him. Weiss's writing is functional at best and downright awkward in many places. For a while I toyed with the idea that Weiss might be a previously unknown pseudonym for Lionel White -- the style and the plot reminded me a little of White's work -- but in the end I decided that it was unlikely. White was a better plotter than this. So what we have here is a pretty good cover but a mediocre novel, and not a very good example of the Ace Double mystery line at its best.
I saw in the paper today that novelist and journalist Leonard Sanders has passed away. Among other books he wrote a best-selling espionage novel called THE HAMLET WARNING and a well-received historical novel about Fort Worth entitled, well, FORT WORTH. But I knew him best as the book review editor of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram during the Sixties and Seventies. Unlike some book review editors, Leonard never looked down his nose at popular fiction, and his weekly column often touched on some aspect of it. It was through reading Leonard's columns that I learned Robert E. Howard was born in Peaster, Texas, about twenty miles as the crow flies from where I lived. The Lancer paperback editions of Howard's Conan stories had started to come out, and at that time L. Sprague de Camp's intros still said that Howard was born in Cross Plains, which was, of course, incorrect. After reading that column, I had to pay a visit to Peaster myself, so that I could say I had been to the town where Robert E. Howard was born. (There's not much else to say about Peaster, even now. It's your typical wide-place-in-the-road Texas town.) Through reading Leonard Sanders' columns, I also learned that bestselling historical romance novelist Jennifer Wilde was really Fort Worth writer Tom Huff, and that hardboiled spy novelist Philip Atlee was really another Fort Worth boy, James Atlee Philips. When you're a young aspiring writer like I was at the time, it's a real boost to know that writers just down the road from where you live have been successful. It gives you hope, and that's always something young writers need plenty of. In later years, after I was a published author myself and after Leonard had retired from the newspaper to concentrate on his fiction, we crossed paths several times at book signings and got along well. We weren't close friends, but we were certainly friendly acquaintances. And it was nice to be able to tell him how much I had enjoyed his columns and how one of them had caused me to visit Peaster just to see where REH was born. He seemed to get a kick out of that. I'm glad to have known him.
There's been some discussion the past few days on the WesternPulps list about German Westerns. By that I mean American-style Westerns, only written and published in Germany. Evidently the Western novel is still pretty popular in Germany, and the leading publisher of them is a company called Bastei. Their website features cover scans from the long-running Jack Slade series, most of which include more graphic nudity than you'll find on American paperback covers. I'll post a few if I can find some that are clean enough to keep this blog relatively family-friendly. There is also a website run by WesternPulps member Jurgen that is devoted to various German Westerns. It's in German, of course, which I don't read that well, but there's still some interesting information to be gleaned from it.
My friend Jim Griffin's first novel, TROUBLE RIDES THE TEXAS PACIFIC, is now available from iUniverse and will be showing up soon at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I've read some of Jim's earlier stories about Texas Ranger Jim Blawcyzk, and I'm confident this will be a good story with plenty of colorful action. Jim and I are both big fans of the old TEXAS RANGERS pulp magazine. Before I ever knew him, I was well aware of his eBay identity, because we were always bidding against each other!
Some of you may remember when I mentioned the two dangerously-leaning stacks of books behind the chair in my studio, and how I was going to whittle them down by reading them and then putting them away on the shelves. Well, so far I haven't read a one of 'em, because I had some library books checked out that I thought I ought to read, and I've also been doing some research reading. Yesterday I went to the library intending to be strong and just turn the books in, then leave without checking out anything else. Well, good intentions, road to hell, you know how that bit goes . . . Right there in the new books display that I had to walk past were a slew of large print reprints of old pulp Westerns. I tried to be strong and pass them by, but then I noticed a copy of THE SQUARE SHOOTER by Walt Coburn. Although he was very inconsistent as a writer, I find Coburn's work to be entertaining even when it's not very good, and it just so happens that THE SQUARE SHOOTER is a book of his that I don't own. So I had to get it, of course. And if I was checking out one book, surely it wouldn't hurt to get another. When I saw THE SCOUT OF TERROR TRAIL by Walker A. Tompkins, another favorite, I couldn't resist it, either. And then I noticed TRAIL BOSS FROM TEXAS by Barry Cord (Peter Germano), another writer I really like. I checked out all three of those books, naturally, but I was strong enough to leave behind a couple by William Colt MacDonald and a few others whose authors I don't recall at the moment. I'm reading the Tompkins book tonight. I can still read regular print books without any trouble, but the older I get, the more I like large print editions. And I will get to those stacks behind my chair. Before they fall on me again, I hope.
Some interesting comments on the previous post, so I thought I'd address them here. Bill, thanks for the kind words regarding the World War II books. I just wish I'd gotten to write more of them. Aaron, I have those other two Don Pendleton science fiction novels you mention but have never read them. I remember reading the first dozen or so Executioner novels while I was in college and getting completely caught up in them. I still remember staying up all night reading MIAMI MASSACRE, which I think is the fourth in the series. I eventually read all the ones that Pendleton wrote. Later I read and enjoyed very much several of his novels about private eye Joe Copp. He wrote another mystery series about a detective named Ashton Ford, but I never read any of those. Seems like they had some sort of paranormal angle to them, if I'm remembering correctly. Juri, thanks for the info on John D. Newsom. I didn't know anything about him other than seeing his name on pulp covers. Frank, glad you mentioned P.C. Wren, the best-known Foreign Legion author of all. About 25 years ago, I ripped through BEAU GESTE, BEAU SABREUR, and BEAU IDEAL one after the other and had a great time reading them. I liked even better one of his non-series novels called THE SNAKE AND THE SWORD, which I believe was set in India. As good as the movie of BEAU GESTE is, the books are even better. I need to read more of Wren's work. I don't think Robert Carse wrote any Foreign Legion novels, but Georges Surdez did, as well as many pulp stories on the subject. In the Eighties, Starmont House published TOUGHEST IN THE LEGION, a good collection of Theodore Roscoe's Thibault Corday stories from ARGOSY. You can still find copies for sale on-line, but they're pricey. Speaking of Robert Carse, he wrote the novelization of MORGAN THE PIRATE, the early Sixties Italian pirate movie starring Steve Reeves, and it's a pretty good swashbuckler, as both book and movie.
I stopped in at Half Price Books today, and for a change I found a few nice items. I've had trouble finding books I wanted to buy lately. But today there was a copy of ANNO DRACULA by Kim Newman in the horror section, and I've been looking for that one for a while. I have the sequel, THE BLOODY RED BARON, but I didn't want to read it until I'd read the first one. Then, moseying over to the nostalgia and collectible section, I found the following: CATACLYSM: THE DAY THE WORLD ENDED, by Don Pendleton, creator of the Executioner series, a very early Pinnacle Book published in 1969, back when the copyright page still admitted that Pinnacle was an imprint of Bee-Line Books, the porn publisher. The back cover copy makes this sound very much like last year's movie THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW, with a series of weather-related natural disasters sweeping the country. QUEEN OF THE FLAT-TOPS, by Stanley Johnston, a non-fiction book about the Battle of the Coral Sea and the role played in it by the aircraft carrier USS Lexington. Johnston was a war correspondent and was on the Lex during the battle, and this account of it was originally published in 1942, only a few months later. The edition I bought is a 1967 Ballantine paperback. I wrote a lot about the Lexington and the Battle of the Coral Sea in my novel TRIAL BY FIRE (which is my favorite of the three World War II novels I've written), and I wish I'd had this book before I wrote mine. I couldn't resist picking it up now. World War II aviation has become a fascination of mine. (The USS Lexington now permanently moored at Corpus Christi, Texas, and used as a museum is not the original, which was sunk during the Battle of the Coral Sea. The second Lex was put into service a year or so after that. It also stood in for the USS Hornet in the filming of the movie PEARL HARBOR.) WIPED OUT: STORIES OF THE FOREIGN LEGION, by John D. Newsom, a Dell mapback from 1947. This was the real find of the day and reprints five novelettes originally published in the late Twenties in a pulp called THE FRONTIER, which eventually changed to FRONTIER STORIES and became primarily a Western pulp. French Foreign Legion stories are a dead genre today, but they were popular during the pulp era and were a staple in magazines like ARGOSY and ADVENTURE. I've become a fan of them over the years and have read quite a few by authors such as Georges Surdez, Robert Carse, and Theodore Roscoe (author of the great Thibault Corday stories). I haven't read any by Newsom, though, who was still writing them for ARGOSY in the Thirties. A few years ago I tried to interest some of my editors in a Foreign Legion novel, but no luck. That's all I bought, but it was a pretty good haul compared to what I've been finding there.
It occurs to me that I've said almost nothing lately about my own writing. Well, as you may have guessed, I'm still at it. I work nearly every day (I've taken one day off so far this month, and that day I read some work-related stuff), and most days I'm producing between 4000 and 5000 words. If I keep this up I should hit a million words this year. I honestly don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing. A wise man once told me, "The bad thing about writing is that it cuts into your reading time." That is all too true. I'd read a book a day if I had the time. Recently, though, I've been doing good to read a short story. But I've been through these slumps before and know that if I just wait it out, I'll find the time to read more.
As a bookseller, that is. I assume he intends to keep writing. Even though it won't take place until the end of the year, Larry McMurtry has announced that his massive used bookstore complex in Archer City, Texas, known as Booked Up will close for an indefinite period of time. Here's the story from the Dallas Morning News (and thanks to Jeff for the link). My own experience with McMurtry's bookstore dates back more than fifteen years. I made one trip up to Archer City (about a two hour drive from where I live) to visit it soon after it opened, when it was still called the Blue Pig Bookshop and occupied only one building, a former car dealership showroom. A friend of mine who knew that I collected TEXAS RANGERS pulps had been in there and seen a stack of them. So naturally I had to go check it out. I made arrangements to meet my friend there and we spent a fine afternoon browsing through the place. I bought some Western history books for research purposes, and I picked up that stack of pulps, too. (I had worried that somebody would beat me to them. Not likely that anybody would just wander in there and want them, but you know how collectors can obsess about such things.) I probably spent too much money, but I still have the books and the pulps and very good memories of the day. Now that the store is much larger and will be closing down, I'll have to see if I can find the time to pay it a visit again before it's too late.
No, I'm not talking about Click Rush. (But if that's the first thing you thought of when you read the title of this post, you really know your pulp characters.) I'm referring to myself, because I went out today and bought one of those little jump drives that attaches to your key ring. It holds 512 megs, which is, of course, much larger than the hard drive on the first computer we bought, lo those many years ago. I've always been paranoid about losing stuff that I've written due to computer problems, so I have back-up disks of back-up disks and always carry several around with me when I leave the house, so that I have copies of all my current and recent projects that I know will be at least as safe as I am. Now all that and more is stored on the little jump drive. The only drawback is that Livia suggested I get rid of some of the multitude of keys that I've been carrying around for years. After she asked, "What does that key go to?" and I had to answer "I dunno", like Rudy on the original "Survivor", for about the sixth time, I had to admit she was right and it was time to put some of the keys in the drawer so that forty years from now one of our daughters -- or one of their kids -- can look in there and say, "I wonder what all those keys go to." Anyway, I'm proud of my new toy. I showed it to the cat earlier, but he didn't seem impressed.
I picked the winner but was wrong on the score, although for a while there in the fourth quarter when it was 24-14 it looked like I was going to be pretty close. Didn't think either team played particularly well except in spurts. McCartney's halftime show was okay, but the line-up of new commercials didn't impress me. All in all, one of the more lackluster Super Bowls, although the folks in Boston are surely happy. First the World Series, then the Super Bowl again. I don't expect that the Celtics will win the NBA championship, though. The other big news of the day is that the Edgar nominations were announced. Most of the blogs I read have a rundown of the nominations and some discussion of them. I don't really feel qualified to talk about them, as I've read only one book that was nominated for anything, Dominic Stansberry's THE CONFESSION. But I thought it was an excellent book, for whatever that's worth. I have LITTLE GIRL LOST but haven't read it yet. I thought FADE TO BLONDE should have been nominated, too, so it would have made it a hat trick for Hard Case Crime. (Dang. Another sports reference.)
I might as well go ahead and make a prediction on the game tomorrow: Patriots 27, Eagles 14. I don't really have a dog in this fight. If the match-up is between a team that's won before and one that never has, I usually root for the team that's never won. Not in this case, however, since I don't care for the Eagles and really don't like Terrell Owens. (Apologies to any Eagles/T.O. fans out there.) I started out thinking that the spread would be even greater, but New England has a habit of playing close games in Super Bowls. I think they're enough better than the Eagles that they won't have much trouble this time, though. Of course, I could be completely wrong.
I've noticed lately that the two huge stacks of paperbacks and digest magazines right behind my chair at the computer desk in my studio have started to lean rather precariously. Some of them have even slid off the tops of the stacks and fallen on me while I was working, which can be pretty startling. ("It's raining old paperbacks!") So I've decided that the only thing to do is read the blasted things, which will allow me to gradually move them to the shelves in the other room. I have a few library books checked out which I need to read first (such as a large print edition of THE MAN FROM NOWHERE, a Western novel by the great T.T. Flynn, one of my favorite authors), but once those are cleared away, I'm going to start on the project of whittling down those stacks. Just don't ask me about the numerous other piles of books sitting elsewhere in the room. I'll get to 'em all eventually, honest I will . . . if I live long enough . . .
The new issue of THE CIMMERIAN, Leo Grin's excellent magazine about the life and works of Robert E. Howard, is now available. If you're a Howard fan and haven't been reading THE CIMMERIAN, you need to check it out.
Courtesy of the current issue of The Rap Sheet, here's a link to an article about Mike Shayne that appeared a couple of days ago in the Miami Herald: Seedy Town's Seedy PI You have to register to read it, but it's fairly interesting despite some factual errors and a vaguely snobbish attitude. Here's a brief quote: "More than three decades before Carl Hiaasen, Edna Buchanan, Les Standiford, James Hall and the rest of South Florida's current pack of crime novelists began sending their squirming menageries of creeps, psychos and off-kilter heroes into our grimy landscapes and glitzy tourist deadfalls, Miami, sultry and dangerous as the dame on the cover of a 35-cent Dell paperback, was Michael Shayne's town." I have a soft spot for Mike Shayne, of course, and always will. Just as I'll always think that Davis Dresser, when he was at the top of his game, was a very underrated writer. Even his lesser efforts are reliably fast-moving and entertaining. For a much more extensive look at Mike Shayne in all his various incarnations, check out Flagler Street, the only site I know of devoted entirely to the big redhead.