Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Tuesday's Overlooked Movies: Kronos

Here’s another entry in a sub-genre that could be called Movies That Scared the Crap Out of Me When I Was a Kid. Of course, it’s another Fifties alien invasion movie like last week’s INVADERS FROM MARS. In this one, an alien spaceship lands not in a sand pit but rather in the ocean, and instead of the evil aliens taking over humans, they have a big-ass robot that sets out to wreak havoc.

And here comes the part that makes the movie, well, somewhat less scary. The robot looks kind of like . . . a giant water tank.

That’s right, the elevated water tanks you can find on the edge of every small town in America. Doesn’t exactly strike fear in your heart, does it? In fact, I remember watching this for the umpteenth time one summer morning on the Dialing for Dollars Movie when a member of my family who shall remain nameless walked by, glanced at the screen, and said, “Is this that stupid giant water tank movie again?”

Some people just don’t get it. KRONOS was still pretty scary when I was eight or nine years old. I found it quite entertaining, too. It might not be now – I haven’t seen it in many years – but back then it was one of my favorites. Maybe yours, too. Or maybe not.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

A Deal You Absolutely Cannot Beat

From Lee Goldberg:

It was two years ago today that, at Joe Konrath's urging, I began my "Kindle Experiment" by making my out-of-print book THE WALK available as an ebook. I've sold close to 20,000 copies of THE WALK since then...and to celebrate, and in a blatant to attempt to propel THE WALK into the top 100 on Amazon for the first time, I am selling the book for just 99 cents for the next week.

But to make the offer even sweeter, and to promote my original ebook series THE DEAD MAN, anyone who emails me proof of purchase (at lee@leegoldberg.com) will get a free copy of FACE OF EVIL. That's two books for just 99 cents.

And those are two mighty fine books, too.  THE WALK is my favorite novel of Lee's and one of the best books I've read in recent years, and of course I think FACE OF EVIL is a hugely entertaining yarn.  If you haven't started the Dead Man series yet, this is the perfect chance.  And if you haven't read THE WALK, don't wait.  Get these books now.

Dawn - C.R. Fausset

My friend C.R. Fausset has just has his first story published over on Pulp Metal Magazine.  "Dawn" is about a rookie police officer in Denton, Texas (a town near and dear to my own heart) and is the first in what I hope will be a long-running series.  Check it out.

Painted Post Gunplay Cover

This is the cover on the Sheriff Blue Steele novel Rich Prosch asks about in the comments on yesterday's Western pulps post.  It looks pretty good, but I haven't read it yet.  I will . . . eventually.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Nooked Again!

This week we've gotten three more of our books posted on Barnes & Noble for their Nook.  I meant to have more than that done but have been too busy with other stuff.  More books should go up next week, but right now those of you with Nooks can get COSSACK THREE PONIES, ALURA'S WISH, and YESTERDAY'S FLAME.

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Popular Western, March 1937

This is a pretty typical Western pulp cover from the Thirties. Lots of poker tables were overturned on pulp covers in those days. I've read very little, if anything, by two of the featured authors, Eli Colter and Forbes Parkhill. Eli Colter was actually a woman, Elizabeth Colter, who began writing action-packed stories for the Western pulps in 1925, when she was still a teenager, and kept it up until the early Fifties. Forbes Parkhill had a similar career, writing for a variety of pulps from the early Twenties to the late Forties. Tom Gunn, also featured on the cover, may have been a house-name, but the long series of stories published under that name about Sheriff Blue Steele of the town of Painted Post are generally considered to be the work of Syl McDowell, another prolific pulpster with a career ranging from the Twenties to the Fifties. I have one of the Blue Steele novels reprinted in paperback by Pocket Books but haven't read it yet. McDowell, under his own name, contributed another long series of stories to THRILLING WESTERN about a pair of incompetent cowboys called Swap and Whopper. The Swap and Whopper stories are comedic yarns and always struck me as an attempt to transplant Abbott and Costello to the Old West. I'll be honest with you: I don't like Swap and Whopper and after failing to finish many of the stories featuring them, I finally just stopped trying to get through them whenever I was reading an issue of THRILLING WESTERN. I've read some of McDowell's other stories that I thought were pretty good, though, so I still have hope for Sheriff Blue Steele.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Juri Nummelin's Post About Diamondback

If you haven't read Juri Nummelin's post about his involvement with DIAMONDBACK, you should do so. Literally is an overused word, but this book literally would not exist today without Juri. And he's posted Duane Spurlock's excellent cover for the edition that never came about.  Check it out.

Forgotten Books: Negative of a Nude - Charles E. Fritch

(This post originally ran in slightly different form on July 2, 2005.)

Charles E. Fritch was my editor at MIKE SHAYNE MYSTERY MAGAZINE for several years and was the one who asked me to take over writing all the Mike Shayne novellas. This was the first regular writing job I ever had, and I've always been grateful to Chuck for the opportunity.

NEGATIVE OF A NUDE is half of an Ace Double (TILL DEATH DO US PART by Louis Trimble is on the other side) and as far as I know the only book Chuck did for Ace. It features private eye Mark Wonder, who is hired to recover some blackmail photos and along the way finds himself trying to solve the murder of an old enemy of his so that the killing won't be pinned on him.

At first the story is told in a light, breezy style reminiscent of Richard S. Prather, and Fritch does light and breezy just fine. But then he springs some surprises that put a much darker face on things and elevate this book from a romp to something richer and deeper. The plot also becomes surprisingly complex for a book that probably clocks in at 40,000 words or less. All in all, an excellent hardboiled private eye yarn.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Dead Man #5: The Blood Mesa

Lee Goldberg just sent me the final version of the cover for my Dead Man story, THE BLOOD MESA, which will be out early in July.  I think this is a spectacular cover, and I couldn't be more pleased with it.  I hope the book lives up to it.

Every Shallow Cut - Tom Piccirilli

The plot of Tom Piccirilli’s short novel EVERY SHALLOW CUT is fairly simple: A failed writer, with his marriage broken up and his house lost to foreclosure, sets out to drive across country with his few possessions and his English bulldog Churchill to visit his brother, his agent, and an old friend.

Oh, and he has a gun, too, to go along with his despair.

If you’re a writer, this is one of the truest books you’ll ever read. I’ve been in many of the same places where Piccirilli’s unnamed narrator finds himself, and I’ve thought many of the same thoughts that go through his head. I’ve been luckier in many respects than this poor guy, but a lot of the feelings are the same and I suspect that’s true of most writers. EVERY SHALLOW CUT is one of those rare books that’s so good it hurts.

And that’s all I have to say about it except that you should read it, whether you’re a writer or not. But if you’re a writer, you really should.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The End of Brooklyn - Robert J. Randisi

Years ago I read the first two novels featuring Bob Randisi’s Brooklyn private eye Nick Delvecchio, NO EXIT FROM BROOKLYN and THE DEAD OF BROOKLYN. Now from the fine small press publisher Perfect Crime Books comes the third and possibly final Delvecchio novel, THE END OF BROOKLYN.

Appropriately enough considering the book’s title, THE END OF BROOKLYN opens in the present day, far from that New York City borough, with an older Nick living somewhere in the Midwest. When some mysterious, sinister strangers show up, it quickly becomes obvious that Nick has been hiding out for some reason, and that’s the cue for a flashback to Brooklyn in 1995 that makes up most of the book.

Nick is still working as a PI then, but when he attends his high school reunion, he gets pulled into a case that’s personal rather than business, as he sets out to discover if an old classmate of his committed suicide (the official verdict) or was really murdered.

Before Nick can untangle that mystery, another one crops up that’s even more personal. His retired dockworker father is having lunch with an old friend, a retired Mafia don, when both men are gunned down. The don survives, but Nick’s father dies. The cops don’t want Nick getting involved in the case, but you know he has to try to find out who ordered the hit that resulted in his father’s death.

There are more murders and things get more complicated along the way, and the case takes some surprising and tragic turns for Nick before it’s all over. And even when it’s over it’s not over, if you get my drift. (Remember, all this is a flashback.) Randisi brings it all to a very satisfying conclusion, though.

As usual in one of Bob’s books, THE END OF BROOKLYN is a very fast-paced, dialogue-driven story that pauses every so often for moments of humor and poignant humanity. It’s an excellent novel that I really enjoyed. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Tuesday's Overlooked Movies: Invaders from Mars

When I was a kid, my mother didn’t want me to watch horror or science-fiction movies because, in her words, “They’re too scary. They’ll give you nightmares.”

Well, it’s true that I was prone to nightmares (I still am, although they haven’t bothered me much recently), but I managed to see quite a few scary movies anyway. And let me tell you, INVADERS FROM MARS is right up there when it comes to movies that’ll scare the crap out of a little kid.

Start with the fact that it’s told from the point of view of a kid, a boy who sees a spaceship land in a nearby sand pit. His parents don’t believe him, of course, but to humor him, the kid’s dad goes to check it out anyway and comes back . . . changed.

That’s just the start of an almost surreal movie that’s filled with Fifties paranoia. The young protagonist comes to realize that nobody can be trusted, not even his parents or the cops, and sometimes even the most bizarre, otherworldly threat can be real.

This movie has a solid cast of B-list actors and great direction and sets by William Cameron Menzies. As some of the people who have left comments on IMDB point out, it helps to see it for the first time when you’re nine years old. I watched it again as an adult and while it’s still great to look at and has a lot of nostalgic appeal to it, it’s impossible to recapture the excitement and nightmarish thrills it gave me when I was watching on the old black-and-white set in my parents’ living room. Still, if you’ve never seen it, it’s well worth taking a look at. There’s a remake from 1986, but I’ve never bothered with it.

Monday, May 23, 2011

One More Reason I Love the Internet: Tony Calvano Edition (Possibly NSFW)

So, Friday I publish a Forgotten Books post about the Anthony Calvano novel SIN CAMP, and by Sunday I'm exchanging emails with Mr. Calvano his own self, who, as mentioned in the post, is actually an extremely pleasant gentleman named Tom Ramirez.  There's a lengthy and excellent memoir by Ramirez in Earl Kemp's indispensible fanzine eI, which can be found here, and when you've read it, scroll on down for Earl's informative follow-up.  It was Earl who put me in touch with Tom, and I appreciate it.  I've ordered several more of Tom's books, including the two pictured here, and I'll be reporting my reactions to them in due time.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Another Spur Finalist Now Available for the Kindle

My historical novel COSSACK THREE PONIES, which was a finalist for the Spur Award the year before UNDER OUTLAW FLAGS was also a finalist, is now available on Amazon for the Kindle.  Like DUST DEVILS, this story started its life as a screenplay.  I wrote the whole thing on spec, my then-agent circulated it in Hollywood for a while, but nothing came of it so I novelized the script and was able to sell it as a book.  As a result, the story is pretty cinematic, I think, with lots of action and some sweeping battle scenes.  The plot finds a Russian cossack who is accompanying a party of nobles on a hunting expedition in the American West falling in with a tribe of Blackfoot Indians and having various adventures with them.  Lots of actual historical stuff in this one, as there is in UNDER OUTLAW FLAGS.  (Note the term "actual historical stuff".  I ain't nothin' if not an intellectual.)  I think the story is a lot of fun, and those of you who take a chance on it, I hope you enjoy it.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Under Outlaw Flags Review From Mel Odom

Mel Odom has some very nice things to say about my novel UNDER OUTLAW FLAGS. Now, Mel is a friend and colleague, but you know he wouldn't lie to you. Among other things, he says:

I expected a good story when I sat down with this one. What I didn’t expect was the old school storytelling that Reasoner immediately launches into. He uses a first person narrative that draws a reader in effortlessly. From the first page I felt like I knew Drew Matthews and his cohorts in the Tacker Gang, one of the last cowboy bank robbing gangs in the twentieth century.

You can read the rest of Mel's comments here. And if you look over to the left at the Amazon link, you can see the book's new cover.

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Hopalong Cassidy's Western Magazine, Winter 1951

We now know, of course, that the four Hopalong Cassidy novels published in this short-lived pulp under the pseudonym "Tex Burns" were actually the work of Louis L'Amour, which isn't surprising considering that during the late Forties and early Fifties L'Amour was a prolific contributor to all the Western pulps in the Thrilling Group and was a favorite of editorial director Leo Margulies. I'm not the biggest L'Amour fan in the world (although there was a time when I was), but I've read his Hopalong novels and they're pretty good balancing acts between Clarence E. Mulford's original character (which was the way L'Amour wanted to write them) and the movie version of Hoppy popularized by William Boyd (which was what Margulies wanted). And this is a nice cover featuring Boyd-as-Hoppy by George Rozen.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Forgotten Books: Sin Camp - Anthony Calvano (Thomas P. Ramirez)

According to Earl Kemp, Anthony/Tony Calvano was the pseudonym of Thomas P. Ramirez, who also wrote a few soft-core erotic paperbacks for Monarch Books as Tom Phillips but was most prolific under the Calvano name. There was also a Thomas P. Ramirez who wrote several of the Phoenix Force books (a spin-off from the Executioner series); I assume he was the same author.

Anyway, SIN CAMP is the first thing I've read by Calvano/Ramirez. It's an Army novel, set on and around the fictional Camp Coulter in Texas. The narrator, GI Tom Staton, falls in love with a young Mexican prostitute who works in a brothel in nearby Harden City. He discovers that she's being forced to stay there and decides to rescue her. Naturally, things do not work out well, as Staton also hooks up with a rich nymphomaniac (lots of those around in Fifties and Sixties erotica). There's another main storyline in SIN CAMP that involves the conflict between the enlisted men in Staton's company and the brutal non-coms in charge of them, and these sections read more like a mainstream novel.

There's a lot of raw vitality and fast-paced storytelling in this book to keep the reader turning the pages. The Calvano novels have a reputation for a certain amount of violence and sadism, and although it takes its time getting around to it, SIN CAMP has its share. There's also one plot development late in the book that comes out of left field. Despite its flaws, I enjoyed this one quite a bit and intend to continue sampling the various Nightstand Books that I have on my shelves.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Dreams in the Fire is Now Available

A unique collection of voices, an amazing range of fiction and verse, all inspired by the great fantasy and adventure writer, Robert E. Howard (1906-1936), and written by the members of the Robert E. Howard United Press Association! Featuring stories and poems by Charles Gramlich, James Reasoner, Rob Roehm, Barbara Barrett, Robert Weinberg, Christopher Fulbright, Frank Coffman, Jimmy Cheung, Patrick R. Berger, Danny Street, Angeline Hawkes, Amy Kerr, Mark Finn, David A. Hardy, Chris Gruber, Gary Romeo, Morgan Holmes, and Don Herron, with an introduction by Rusty Burke. It's a veritable Who's Who of Howard Heads! Dreams in the Fire: Stories and Poems Inspired by Robert E. Howard is a benefit book created by members past and present of the Robert E. Howard United Press Association (REHupa). Proceeds from the sale of this book go to Project Pride for their continued upkeep and promotion of the Robert E. Howard House.

You can order the book here, or if you're planning to go to Cross Plains for Howard Days, copies should be available there, too.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Adventures of Dodge Dalton at the Outpost of Fate - Sean Ellis

Last year’s THE ADVENTURES OF DODGE DALTON IN THE SHADOW OF FALCON’S WINGS was one of the best entries in the pulp-inspired adventure novel genre in recent years. Now Sean Ellis has brought back author-turned-hero Dodge Dalton and his sidekicks Brian “Hurricane” Hurley, Father Nathan Hobbs (aka The Padre), and beautiful Molly Rose Shannon for another thrill-ride of a novel.

The story in this one ties into the repository of ancient and otherworldly technology that the characters discovered in the previous novel, a hidden stronghold they’ve dubbed the Outpost of Fate. Naturally, when there’s something that powerful, assorted villains will be after it. Ellis throws a lot into this globe-trotting adventure: cultists, Nazis, zombies, the Bermuda Triangle, a beautiful blond thief, some Lovecraftian horrors, and, oh, yeah, the possible end of the world.

It’s every bit as much fun as it sounds. Ellis’s heroes are flawed but admirable, his bad guys are suitably despicable, the settings are exotic, and he never lets the pace slow down for very long. There’s the same sort of Doc Savage influence here that you can find in the work of James Rollins, and if you read authors such as Rollins and Clive Cussler and haven’t read anything by Sean Ellis yet, you should give his books a try. They’re very entertaining.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Tuesday's Overlooked TV: The Macahans/How the West was Won

THE MACAHANS is a TV miniseries from 1976, the heyday of that format. It’s a big, sprawling Western about Timothy Macahan (Richard Kiley) who is moving his family, including wife Eva Marie Saint and their three children, to a new home in the West as the Civil War is about to break out in the East. This move is aided by John’s mountain man brother Zeb (James Arness). It’s a good yarn, full of colorful characters and action and dominated by Arness’s gritty portrayal of Zeb Macahan, who’s a lot rougher and every bit as dangerous as Matt Dillon.

The ratings for THE MACAHANS must have been pretty good, because the mini-series became a regular series the next year, retitled HOW THE WEST WAS WON (no relation to the 1962 epic movie of the same name, except in subject matter). Richard Kiley’s character had died in the war, leaving his plucky widow and three children (one of whom, Luke, was played by Bruce Boxleitner in his first major role) to survive on the frontier, still with the occasional helping hand from the old-timer Zeb. The series was launched with a 3-hour TV movie with a slew of guest stars and a vast tale of the Indian Wars.

What really sets HOW THE WEST WAS WON apart, other than the high production values and the greatness of Arness, is the fact that during its first and second seasons it was the only Western nighttime soap opera in history. Storylines continued from week to week, and episodes often ended on cliffhangers. Livia and I watched this regularly during the early days of our marriage, and we were riveted. This was great stuff.

When the series returned for a third season, someone at the network must have monkeyed with it, because the soap opera format was gone for the most part. Nearly all the stories were stand-alones, and while they were still very good, the series had lost something, in my opinion. Many of the viewers must have shared that opinion, because ratings declined and the series came to an end. It was a great run, though, especially during the first two regular seasons.

Now, here’s something you don’t know. Livia and I were both James Arness fans from his long run on GUNSMOKE, and we were really taken with his portrayal of Zeb Macahan. So one day a few years later, Livia called me at the bookstore where I was working and said she wanted to write about a character who was an old cowboy who worked as a private eye in 1920s Hollywood. Great concept, and what sealed the deal for me was when she said, “And he looks like James Arness in HOW THE WEST WAS WON.”

The character was Lucas Hallam, of course, and if you think about how he’s described in the books (all of which are available on Amazon for the Kindle, he said in a not-so-subtle plug) and watch the YouTube clip, you can see the resemblance. When Hallam’s working on Western movies, he always looks like Zeb Macahan. Of course, when he’s sleuthing, he usually doesn’t wear the buckskins . . . in which case he still looks like James Arness. That’s something that’s never been revealed before now, as far as I remember.

Which doesn’t have all that much to do with THE MACAHANS/HOW THE WEST WAS WON. The series isn’t available on DVD, but hopefully it will be someday. If you’re a Western fan and ever get a chance to see it, I highly recommend it. It’s one of my favorite Western TV series ever.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Jury Series #1: Judgment - Lee Goldberg

Back in the mid-Eighties, I was working in a used bookstore, and I used to see copies of a book called .357 VIGILANTE, by an author I’d never heard of named Ian Ludlow. I could tell it was a men’s adventure novel, a genre that wasn’t nearly as robust then as it had been ten years earlier. I read a lot of those books, but for some reason I don’t think I ever even picked up a copy of .357 VIGILANTE and flipped through it, let alone read it.

This is a classic case of not knowing what I was missing.

Now, of course, we know that “Ian Ludlow” was actually a college student named Lee Goldberg, who went on to become a top-notch novelist, screenwriter, and producer. He’s also a friend of mine and co-creator of THE DEAD MAN e-book series, for which I’ve written one of the books. So this isn’t exactly an unbiased review, but you know I don’t tell you something is good unless I really think it is.

The .357 VIGILANTE series ran for three books, all published by Pinnacle (in its original incarnation, not the Pinnacle line that’s now published by Kensington). There was a fourth book in the series that was never published at the time. However, Lee has brought back all four novels as e-books, which can be fought separately or all together under the title THE JURY SERIES. I just read the first one, now titled JUDGMENT, and it’s a fine novel.

You know right away that this is a little different from the usual men’s adventure novel because of the protagonist, Brett Macklin. Most of the men’s adventure heroes had military or law enforcement backgrounds. Brett is an aeronautical engineer who has become a pilot and owns a flying service that does a lot of work with movie companies, providing helicopters for aerial filming. Brett’s father is a beat cop in Los Angeles, though, and it’s his brutal murder in an apparently senseless thrill killing that starts Brett on the road to becoming a vigilante. The killers, members of a gang called the Bounty Hunters, escape justice in the courts, so Brett sets out to deliver some justice of his own, calling himself Mr. Jury.

Again, though, Brett is no superhuman men’s adventure hero. He screws up, he gets hurt, he’s lucky not to get killed several times, but eventually he uncovers an even bigger plot that puts a lot of people in danger.

This is a really entertaining thrill ride of a story with plenty of sex, violence, humor, social commentary, and great action scenes. When I think about what I was writing when I was in college . . . well, there’s really no comparison. JUDGMENT is the work of someone who was a solid pro, right from the first page.

I have the other three books in the series and will be getting to them soon. If you’ve been reading and enjoying the DEAD MAN books or Lee’s other novels and haven’t tried THE JURY SERIES yet, you owe it to yourself to do so. Highly recommended.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Under Outlaw Flags E-Book Now Available

Most writers have favorites among their work.  UNDER OUTLAW FLAGS is one of mine.  It's one of the few books I ever sold on the phone, just by telling the editor about the concept:  the last gang of Old West outlaws gets arrested after robbing a bank, and they have to choose between going to prison or enlisting in the army to go to France and fight the Boche.  Naturally, they choose to fight.  But outlaws tend to have their own way of doing things . . . When the editor heard this, he said, "I'll get the paperwork started.  Oh, and by the way, make sure lots of things blow up real good."

Another reason I like it is because I put myself in it as a character (you'll spot me if you read the prologue).  And it was a finalist for the Spur Award given by the Western Writers of America.  I think I did a pretty good job on the research, too.  Mostly, though, I think that in this book I did about as good a job as I've ever done of capturing the voice I wanted to capture and hitting the notes I wanted to hit.  In going over the Kindle edition, I found myself getting misty-eyed over some of the scenes . . . and I wrote the blasted thing!

UNDER OUTLAW FLAGS is now available on Amazon for the Kindle. I've often described it to people as "just your basic Western/World War I novel where lots of stuff blows up real good".  If that sounds like the kind of yarn that might appeal to you, check it out.

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Western Story, June 24, 1922

I like stampede covers, and this is a pretty good one.  That cowboy had better hope his horse doesn't trip.  They'll both be in trouble if it does.  As for the contents, there are two Frederick Faust stories in this issue, one under the John Frederick pseudonym, the other as by George Owen Baxter.  Did the readers of the time really believe all those Faust pseudonyms were different writers?  All the stories read like the work of the same author to me, which, of course, they were.  The only other author in this issue whose name I recognize is F.R. Buckley, who I haven't read, but several people on the WesternPulps list have had good things to say about his stories.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Forgotten Books: Your Turn to Curtsy My Turn to Bow - William Goldman

William Goldman is best known for his screenplays, like BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID, and his thrillers like MARATHON MAN and MAGIC, many of which were made into movies for which Goldman wrote the scripts.

But he started his career with mainstream novels like this one, along with BOYS AND GIRLS TOGETHER, THE TEMPLE OF GOLD, and SOLDIER IN THE RAIN, which were very popular in the late Fifties and early Sixties but have sort of faded from view over the years.

YOUR TURN TO CURTSY MY TURN TO BOW is a summer camp novel, which almost automatically means that it’s a coming of age novel as well. Peter Bell, who is sort of the narrator (Goldman switches back and forth between first person and third person), has just graduated from high school and goes to Camp Blackpine to be a counselor for the summer. The camp is owned by acquaintances of Peter’s father, so he knows the young man in charge of the counselors, Granville “Granny” Kemper. Also working at the camp is Chad Kimberly, golden boy football hero on the surface but a troubled young man underneath. Then there’s Tillie Keck, the beautiful, redheaded, teenage niece of the camp’s secretary, who is also living there. See where this is going?

Goldman’s prose is a little self-consciously literary, but at heart this short novel is a soap opera complete with insanity, mutilation, angst, and a touch of sex. The cover copy makes it sound like the book is all about sex, but it really isn’t. It’s a pretty good story, although I think my favorite summer camp novel is still Herman Wouk’s THE CITY BOY. I’ve got to reread that one and post about it one of these days.

In the meantime, YOUR TURN TO CURTSY MY TURN TO BOW probably has to be considered one of Goldman’s minor works, but I enjoyed it anyway. The used bookstores used to be full of this and his other early novels, but I imagine they’re more difficult to find now. If you run across a copy, it’s worth reading.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

A Cover of Interest

Yes, I have a story in this one.  More information about how to get your hands on a copy will be forthcoming later.  The art is by Jim and Ruth Keegan.

The Trial of Captain America - Ed Brubaker

Ever since writer Ed Brubaker brought back Bucky Barnes from his apparent death in the closing days of World War II (and dang it, I still have to read that storyline, I’ve got the reprint collection sitting right here), the crimes he committed as the Soviet super-assassin The Winter Soldier have hung over his head. It was inevitable that somebody would want him to answer for them, and in THE TRIAL OF CAPTAIN AMERICA, it’s the U.S. government that comes after him. Although oddly enough, it’s New York City D.A. Blake Tower who’s in charge of the prosecution, not some federal attorney.

Anyway, as if being on trial for things that he did while he was under Soviet mind-control isn’t enough of a problem for Bucky, the new Red Skull (who is the old Red Skull’s daughter, previously and sometimes still known as Sin) is out to make his life miserable, too.

This story arc is a little slow-moving but still entertaining as it leads up to a final showdown at the Statue of Liberty (always a good spot for superhero fights), followed by a twist ending. Brubaker’s writing is good as always, and so is Butch Guice’s art (with the exception of D.A. Tower’s age and physical appearance being portrayed incorrectly, as Troy Smith pointed out in a comment on a previous post).

Under Brubaker’s guidance, CAPTAIN AMERICA continues to be one of the best comics out there today. While I didn’t enjoy this arc as much as some of the others, it left me eager to find out what’s going to happen next. That’s the true test of any form of serialized storytelling, I think.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Heretic - Joseph Nassise

The men’s adventure genre, combined with horror and the supernatural, continues to make a strong comeback in the form of e-books, what with the success of THE DEAD MAN and now this book, the first in the Templar Chronicles series. Not surprisingly, Joseph Nassise is one of the authors who will be writing a Dead Man book, and after reading THE HERETIC, I’m really looking forward to it.

But to get to the book at hand, THE HERETIC is former cop Cade Williams, who is now a Knight Commander in the Knights Templar, which, unknown to the public at large, has evolved over the centuries into a large, well-armed, and well-organized paramilitary force that battles supernatural threats all over the world. As the book opens, various Templar strongholds are under attack by a group of evil sorcerers known at the Council of Nine, who are trying to steal powerful religious relics in the custody of the Templars, including the Spear of Destiny.

These are pretty familiar elements, but what makes the book work splendidly is Nassise’s strong sense of pace and storytelling, along with an interesting and very likable protagonist in Cade, who possesses the ability to move between this world and the next, the realm between life and death. Cade’s tragic past – he lost his wife to supernatural evil, along with one of his eyes – haunts him and makes him a figure feared even by his allies at times. The closest of those allies, the three top men in Echo Team, the combat squad Cade commands, are also well-developed characters, especially Sean Duncan, who has secrets of his own.

Nassise keeps the reader turning the pages (or the e-book equivalent) all the way to a spectacular final confrontation in the Louisiana swamps. I don’t know about you, but commandos armed with machine guns and swords fighting a pitched battle against demons and revenants with the fate of the world possibly at stake is my kind of showdown.

Oddly enough, THE HERETIC reminded me a little of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., with two secret organizations battling each other, and the Templar strongholds, with their underground tunnels and sliding doors, really seem like something you’d find behind Del Floria’s Tailor Shop. And you know I was and still am a huge fan of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., so I was bound to like this book. I’ve already bought the next two books in the series. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Longarm and the Bloody Relic Review

Steve Myall has nice things to say about LONGARM AND THE BLOODY RELIC over on the excellent Western Fiction Review:

"Right from the opening chapter this book piles action upon action. There’s gunfights, chases, and a little bed-room fun, and mystery, as Longarm attempts to find the Star of Father Cristobal and discover why it was taken, and by whom. If that’s not enough then there’s the kidnapping to add further intrigue. And then there’s Longarm’s desire for revenge – his need to kill a couple of bad-guys for murdering an innocent girl."

The rest of the review is here.  Thanks, Steve!

Tuesday's Overlooked Movies: Hell to Pay

The new movie HELL TO PAY is only a little more than an hour long, but since it’s modeled, at least to a certain extent, after the film noir B-movies of the Forties, that’s a good length for it. This is no period piece, though. Written, produced, and directed by Jay Jennings, HELL TO PAY is set in present-day Los Angeles. It’s the story of Teddy Greene, a low-level hoodlum and collector for a loan shark. As played by Charles Santore in an excellent performance, Teddy is something of a shark himself, always moving, always dangerous, ready to explode into violence at any second as he confronts people who owe money to his boss.

This isn’t what you’d call a feel-good movie. Almost everybody in it is foul-mouthed and unsympathetic, including Teddy. There are a few cracks in his tough exterior, though. He can be loyal to an old friend. He can take pity on somebody who has it even worse than he does (although not on any of the deadbeats he’s trying to collect from). Along the way we meet his father as well, and it’s no surprise that Teddy turned out the way he did.

The cast turns in uniformly good performances, and Jennings’ gritty, documentary-style, black-and-white photography is exceptional. Unfortunately, all you can see at the moment is the movie’s trailer, which is available at the film’s website. It’s about to hit the film festival circuit in an attempt to secure some distribution. There’s also a Facebook page for it. Remember that title, HELL TO PAY, and the writer/director’s name, Jay Jennings. Maybe there’ll be a DVD release sometime in the future, and if there is, fans of bleak, tough crime films definitely need to check this one out.

Monday, May 09, 2011

The Dead Man Links

There are blog posts and reviews of the new Dead Man series all over the Internet.  Here are a few notable pages:

A review of the first Dead Man book, FACE OF EVIL, on Daily Cheap Reads.

The Dead Man Facebook page.

The Dead Man Blog.

My entry in this series, THE BLOODY MESA, should be out in July.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

The Tourist

I didn’t pay much attention to the reviews for this movie when it came out, but I’m under the impression that they weren’t very good. Not surprisingly, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Johnny Depp, in a very restrained performance for him, plays an American tourist, a college math teacher from Wisconsin, who meets a beautiful, mysterious, and probably dangerous woman (Angelina Jolie) on the train from Paris to Venice. Before you know it, he’s involved in all kinds of trouble, because various groups are trying to capture and/or kill the woman, and they’ve mistaken him for a former associate of her who has stolen more than two billion dollars from a brutal, ruthless gangster.

This movie strikes me as a deliberate throwback to the sort of glossy, glamorous, lightweight suspense movies that were popular in the Sixties, like CHARADE, with a little Hitchcock influence thrown in since Depp’s character is the innocent man caught up in dangerous circumstances through no fault of his own. It reminded me somewhat of a Helen MacInnes novel, too, for the three or four of you who actually remember Helen MacInnes. (Got to do a Forgotten Books post on one of her novels one of these days.)

Anyway, I like that sort of movie, so I liked THE TOURIST a lot. Depp is very effective in his role, and Jolie looks magnificent walking around the picturesque Venice scenery in fancy evening gowns. That’s about all she has to do in this movie, but she does it well. There are rooftop chases, boat chases through the canals, a suitably dastardly villain, and a plot twist or two (predictable but still fun). The whole thing is so airy it threatens to float away at times, but sometimes that’s exactly what you’re in the mood for. If you are, I highly recommend THE TOURIST.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Say Hey (I Love You)

I'd never heard this song until they played it at the end of the Craig Ferguson show at Bass Hall last Sunday.  But I've had it stuck in my head ever since, so I thought I'd get rid of it by getting it stuck in your head.  Anyway, it's a pretty good song for a Saturday night, I think.

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: New Western, March 1941

This is another "cowboy, old-timer, and gun-totin' girl" cover with a nice sense of action to it.  The lead novel is by L.P. Holmes, a well-regarded Western author whose work I haven't read yet.  One of too many I just haven't gotten around to.  Other authors in the issue include the always-reliable Norman A. Fox and Jim Kjelgaard, whose juvenile novels about dogs were a staple of my reading when I was a kid.  His story in this issue has a great title:  "Bear Tracks to Hell!"  Now, who wouldn't want to read that?  I certainly would.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Forgotten Books: Shadow at Noon - Harry White (Harry Whittington)

After he's forced to kill the son of a wealthy rancher in self-defense, drifter Jeff Clane is wrongly convicted of murder because of the rancher's influence. After escaping from jail before he can be hanged, Clane is pursued by a bounty hunter who wounds him with a long-range rifle shot. However, Clane is taken in and nursed back to health by a family of farmers. Clane's saviors and their homesteader neighbors are being crowded out of their valley by a range-hogging cattle baron who wants the valley for himself and will stop at nothing to get it. Once Clane recovers, he is inevitably drawn into this fight, as well as having to deal with the dangers dogging his own trail.

What a joy this book is to read! Yes, the plot is pure formula, although Whittington does go to the trouble of blending two standard plots into one. What makes it so entertaining is the rapid-fire, stripped-down prose and the noir-ish tone of the book. Whittington puts his characters through both emotional torment and physical torture. Clane doesn't heal overnight from his wound but is bothered by it throughout the entire book. Nor is he immune from the psychological effects of not only the violence he endures but also that he's forced to dish out. Like an earlier version of Ed Gorman, Whittington's Westerns are often crime stories populated by more realistic, fallible characters than are sometimes found in Westerns. SHADOW AT NOON is probably too formulaic to be considered one of Whittington's best books, but I had a wonderful time reading it anyway.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Follow-up to Last Week's Forgotten Books Post: Jill, by Sid Kane

In my Forgotten Books post last week, I mentioned that Sid Kane’s prose in his novel JILL reminded me a little of James Ellroy’s work. Juri Nummelin suggested that I post a few quotes as examples, which is a good idea. So here they are:

Four o’clock.
Sun still high. Blast furnace hot.
Jill wanted a drink.
Her bra was hot and sweaty. Her feet hurt.
Hell of a way to have to start the school year.

Ten o’clock.
The Moon. Far out. Way out.
The edge of the city.
The edge of reality, on a good night, when the lights were dark, the police vice squad stayed away, and the flask was full and warm.

Midnight. And the music was midnight. And Jehova played it. He played it slow and low, deep, from way down. And at times, from far out.
On the floor, shoes off, shirts loose. On the bed, cross-legged. The room a smoke house, wine bottle on the floor, all silent as Jehova sang the songs of peace and war, hate and love.

Not exactly Ellroy-esque, but the rhythm reminded me of stories I’ve read by him. (I still haven’t read any of his novels, but I intend to.) Does this read like Ellroy to anybody else, or am I crazy? (That’s always a possibility.)

A Good Deal

That's what I call more than 17,000 words of Lucas Hallam stories for less than a buck. Especially when one of them is "Hollywood Flesh", with the great opening line:

"What the hell is a zombie?" asked Lucas Hallam.

I reread this story before Livia posted it and liked it more than ever.  It's one of my favorites of the whole series.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Yesterday's Flame Now Available for Kindle

Livia's historical novel YESTERDAY'S FLAME is now available on Amazon for the Kindle. This is one of several paranormal romance novels she wrote about ten years ago, and it's probably my favorite of the bunch. It has a nice time travel paradox, a very appealing heroine, plenty of action, and since it's mostly set in San Francisco in 1906, a kick-ass earthquake. Great stuff. The Kindle version is also a special expanded edition, with some material that wasn't in the original edition. You know my opinion is totally unbiased, so check it out.

Sons and Princes - James LePore

It’s been a while since I’ve read a Mafia novel. That’s not one of my favorite sub-genres. However, the other books I’ve read by James LePore have been very good, so I gave his new one, SONS AND PRINCES, a try.

It’s the story of Chris Massi, the son of legendary Mafia hitman Joe Black Massi, who as the novel opens has recently been murdered. Chris has more troubles than that, however. He has steered clear of involvement with organized crime despite his family heritage and the fact that for a time he was married to the daughter of Anthony “Junior Boy” DiGiglio, the last of the real Mafia dons. A U.S. attorney, a former childhood friend of Chris’s, has a grudge against him and has succeeded in getting him disbarred on some trumped-up charges. When his ex-father-in-law offers Chris the chance to take revenge on the man who ordered his father killed, Chris is very tempted to turn his back on his law-abiding existence and live up to his legacy.

That’s just the start of Chris’s problems. He becomes an unofficial private eye when he agrees to try to locate a missing woman as a favor for an old friend, and that leads him into a case involving drugs, snuff films, and associates of his ex-father-in-law Junior Boy. The plot gets extremely complex before everything is sorted out, with plenty of murders, double-crosses, surprising revelations, and suspenseful shoot-outs.

There’s nothing fancy about LePore’s prose, but he’s an exceptional storyteller, with that indefinable ability to keep the reader flipping the pages. He also creates believable, well-rounded characters and makes the reader care about them. A lot of books I read, I have a pretty good idea what’s going to happen in them. SONS AND PRINCES took me by surprise several times, and I always like that. If you enjoy organized crime yarns, I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Diamondback: New Cover and New Low Price!

My novel Diamondback now has a new cover, and I've lowered the price to 99 cents for a limited time. What's it about, you ask? Well . . .

"A disgraced cop who's quick to kill. A truckload of bodies (literally). An army of violent radicals. A beautiful woman who can't be trusted. And, oh, yeah . . . snakes."

Now, who wouldn't want to read that? In addition, for the low, low price of 99 cents, you get an introduction by Bill Crider and an afterword by yours truly about how the book came to be written and why it hasn't been available until now. What a deal!

Tuesday's Overlooked Movies: Zorro's Fighting Legion

This serial comes highly recommended by Bill Crider, but despite that, I had a few doubts as I started watching it. The cast is lacking most of the familiar Republic Pictures stalwarts (No Roy Barcroft? How can you have a gang of evil-doers without Roy Barcroft?) and the villain, at first glance, is more laughable than menacing. Don Del Oro, supposedly the reincarnation of a Yaqui god, wears a suit of golden armor and a golden mask so huge and top-heavy it's all he can do to shuffle around without falling flat on his face. Despite the fact that the story is set in Mexico in the 1820s, not long after Mexico gained its independence from Spain, the members of Don Del Oro's gang are played by the same stuntmen and riding extras who played outlaws and sheriff's posses and ranch hands in Republic's other Western serials, so they all sound like cowboys. Of course, it might have been even more ludicrous if they had tried to adopt phony Mexican accents. Charles King, who played the villain in many a B-Western, is one of the henchmen and looks out of place in his vaquero outfit.

Despite these drawbacks, though, ZORRO'S FIGHTING LEGION won me over completely. Bill's right: this is one of Republic's best serials. The plot concerns a sinister group of politicians and military men who want to overthrow Mexico's newly-established government and replace it with a dictatorship of their own. To achieve this end, they resurrect the story of the legendary Don Del Oro, and one of them pretends to be the Yaqui god in order to get the Indians to fight for them. Luckily, a visitor arrives from California just in time to oppose this scheme: Don Diego, who just happens to also be Zorro. He recruits a group of assistants to help him fight Don Del Oro, and these men are known as Zorro's Fighting Legion, hence the title of the serial. Most of the episodes are spent foiling Don Del Oro's plans to take over the gold mines in the region and steal guns and ammunition so that he arm his Yaquis. There are also efforts on Zorro's part to uncover Don Del Oro's true identity, and it all comes to a head in the cave that serves as Don Del Oro's secret hideout.

I don't know that I've ever seen Reed Hadley in anything else, but he does a fine job as Zorro/Diego. William Corson is a surprisingly competent sidekick who provides real assistance to Zorro instead of comic relief. Sheila Darcy is given almost nothing to do but looks okay in her few scenes as Diego's token romantic interest. The real stars, though, are the stuntmen, the photographers, and directors William Witney and John English. Action abounds, with the usual mix of cliffhangers, and the stunt work by Dale Van Sickel and Yakima Canutt is top-notch throughout, with Yak doing one of his trademark leaps from a stagecoach onto its racing team, where he then falls off between the horses, lets the stagecoach pass over him, grabs onto it, and climbs up the back. Great stuff for a stunt aficionado. The photography is very crisp and makes good use of location shooting, in territory that will be very familiar to fans of Republic's Westerns. There's a little bit of stock footage, but not much. Even the theme song and musical score by William Lava work very well.

My only other quibble is that the members of Zorro's Legion are all pretty much nameless and completely lacking in personality. With a running time of several hours, it seems like the viewer could have gotten to know at least a few of them.

All in all, this is now one of my favorite serials, and I recommend it to anyone who's a fan of that genre.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Texas Writers Month

My friend Stephanie Barko, an Austin-based literary publicist, is doing a month-long series of interviews with Texas writers on her blog.  You can find the line-up here, and there are a lot of interesting folks on that list.  Check it out.

Longarm and the Bloody Relic

This book should be available now in all the usual places.  I was very pleased with the way it turned out.  In fact, it's one of my top two or three favorites of all the Longarm novels I've written.  It has plenty of action, some exotic settings, and one of the most obscure pulp references you're liable to find anywhere.  Sad to say, it's also my final Longarm novel, at least for the foreseeable future.  With all my other commitments, I've just run out of time for them.  I'll certainly miss ol' Custis.  I've been writing about him since 1992, almost twenty years, and have written more words of Longarm yarns than any other series in my career, nearly three million.  But if this does turn out to be the last one I ever write, I can't think of a better tale to go out with.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Craig Ferguson at Bass Hall, Fort Worth

Shayna's a big fan of Craig Ferguson, so we went into Fort Worth tonight to see him perform at Bass Hall.  This was the first live performance I've been to in many years, and the first time I've ever gone to see a comedian.  It was a lot of fun.  Ferguson came out and went full-blast for nearly 90 minutes.  He must have been exhausted.  I was tired after just watching him.  But most of it was really funny.

This was my second time at Bass Hall.  The first time was for the launch of NOAH'S RIDE, the collaborative novel that a dozen Texas writers did a few years ago.  Needless to say the crowd was much bigger tonight.  I enjoyed it enough that if I might go back, if someone I want to see is performing there.  Although this fancy nightlife is hard on us old folks.

The Dead Man: Hell in Heaven - Lee Goldberg and William Rabkin

In a few short days, you'll be able to pick up this new e-book at Amazon, and if you have a Nook, you can already get it at Barnes & Noble.  I've already read it, and it's as creepy, funny, fast-moving, and exciting as the first two books in the series.  Don't miss it!