Thursday, May 31, 2012

Writing Update

Well, where writing is concerned today was a mediocre end to a lousy month. I added 1880 words to that short story I'm working on. Should be able to finish it tomorrow morning. I think it's a decent story, although I still haven't figured out a title for it and I suspect it's going to take more editing and rewriting than I normally have to do. Have to wait and see. For the month I wrote 330 pages, which is my least productive month since at least 2008.

But June will be better.

Reckoning at Rainrock - Wayne D. Dundee

Lone McGantry, the hero of Wayne D. Dundee's fine debut Western novel DISMAL RIVER (currently nominated for a Peacemaker Award for Best First Novel) returns in RECKONING AT RAINROCK. This time former scout and all-around tough hombre McGantry is hired by an attractive lady lawyer to accompany a fugitive who is being returned to justice. The twist is that the fugitive is a beautiful young woman who was unjustly convicted of murder, and she wants to return for a retrial so that her name will be cleared.

Getting Roxanne Bigbee back to the town of Rainrock, where the murder and the previous trial took place, isn't that easy to start with, but even after he accomplishes that, McGantry's troubles are just starting. The forces that conspired to railroad Roxanne the first time are still there, and they have an even greater stake now in making sure she doesn't stand trial again and expose what they did before.

As usual, Dundee spins this yarn in fast-paced, hardboiled prose, while at the same time creating characters that grip the reader's interest. The noirish atmosphere and the menacing small-town setting are reminiscent of the novels of Lewis B. Patten, and the gritty action scenes are very effective. There are echoes of the Gold Medal Westerns by authors such as Patten, Dudley Dean, Gordon D. Shirreffs, and William Heuman, but Dundee has his own distinctive voice touched with both melancholy and hope. On top of that, Lone McGantry is a great character and a very likable hero, and I hope he returns many times in the future.

I'm reluctant to start talking about "the New Western" as if it's a separate movement, but there are several newer writers, including Dundee, Heath Lowrance, Edward A. Grainger, Troy Smith, Matthew P. Mayo, and others, putting their stamp on a classic genre and generating an appreciation for Westerns among readers who might not have tried them before. That, along with continued excellent work from a number of seasoned veterans in the field, makes this an exciting time to be both a Western writer and a Western reader. RECKONING AT RAINROCK is a fine example of the great Westerns being published today, and if you haven't tried one before, you won't go wrong by starting with it.

And if you're already a fan of tough, hardboiled Western novels, don't miss this one. Highly recommended. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Writing Update

I spent the morning editing the final part of the book I just finished, then in the afternoon I worked on a short story I started a while back and put aside. I don't have a title yet, but this is a story for the Western Fictioneers Christmas anthology and features my Texas Ranger character Cobb. I set it aside before because I couldn't quite figure out what I wanted to do with it, and also I needed to get on to the next novel. Well, today I added 1442 words to it, but more importantly I have a pretty idea where it's going now. We'll see.

I knocked off work a little early today because my eyes ached. Too much writing time for too many days in a row gives me a little eyestrain. So I went out and mowed the front yard to make up for being a slacker.

Now Available: The Golden Triangle - C.R. Fausset

It wasn’t turning out to be a good, day for rookie police officer Clifford Drouin. First his truck gets repossessed, and then Patrick, his friend from the police academy, is murdered.

Everyone is quick to say Patrick was killed by a vindictive drug dealer, except Cliff. But as Cliff digs into the case, he learns things aren’t what they seem and Patrick may have gotten in over his head. Soon Cliff is warned off the case, beaten down by drug dealers and left for dead. Everything points to police corruption but Cliff better discover the truth before he finds himself the killer’s next victim.

C.R. Fausset is a friend of mine from Denton, where his debut novel is set. I read it a while back in manuscript and thought it was a top-notch crime novel with a very appealing protagonist. And he does a great job with the setting, as those of you who have spent any time in Denton will discover if you read it. I believe a sequel is on the way, and I'm anxious to read it. In the meantime, check this one out.

News From Hard Case Crime

New Stephen King Novel Coming

from Hard Case Crime

JOYLAND to be published in June 2013

New York, NY; London, UK (May 30, 2012) – Hard Case Crime, the award-winning line of pulp-styled crime novels published by Titan Books, today announced it will publish JOYLAND, a new novel by Stephen King, in June 2013.  Set in a small-town North Carolina amusement park in 1973, JOYLAND tells the story of the summer in which college student Devin Jones comes to work as a carny and confronts the legacy of a vicious murder, the fate of a dying child, and the ways both will change his life forever.  JOYLAND is a brand-new book and has never previously been published.  One of the most beloved storytellers of all time, Stephen King is the world’s best-selling novelist, with more than 300 million books in print.

Called “the best new American publisher to appear in the last decade” by Neal Pollack in The Stranger, Hard Case Crime revives the storytelling and visual style of the pulp paperbacks of the 1940s, 50s, and 60s.  The line features an exciting mix of lost pulp masterpieces from some of the most acclaimed crime writers of all time and gripping new novels from the next generation of great hardboiled authors, all with new painted covers in the grand pulp style.  Authors range from modern-day bestsellers such as Pete Hamill, Donald E. Westlake, Lawrence Block and Ed McBain to Golden Age stars like Mickey Spillane (creator of “Mike Hammer”), Erle Stanley Gardner (creator of “Perry Mason”), Wade Miller (author of Touch of Evil), and Cornell Woolrich (author of Rear Window). 

Stephen King commented, “I love crime, I love mysteries, and I love ghosts. That combo made Hard Case Crime the perfect venue for this book, which is one of my favorites. I also loved the paperbacks I grew up with as a kid, and for that reason, we’re going to hold off on e-publishing this one for the time being. Joyland will be coming out in paperback, and folks who want to read it will have to buy the actual book.” 

King’s previous Hard Case Crime novel, The Colorado Kid, became a national bestseller and inspired the television series “Haven,” now going into its third season on SyFy.

Joyland is a breathtaking, beautiful, heartbreaking book,” said Charles Ardai, Edgar- and Shamus Award-winning editor of Hard Case Crime.  “It’s a whodunit, it’s a carny novel, it’s a story about growing up and growing old, and about those who don’t get to do either because death comes for them before their time.  Even the most hardboiled readers will find themselves moved. When I finished it, I sent a note saying, ‘Goddamn it, Steve, you made me cry.’ ”

Nick Landau, Titan Publisher, added: “Stephen King is one of the fiction greats, and I am tremendously proud and excited to be publishing a brand-new book of his under the Hard Case Crime imprint.”

JOYLAND will feature new painted cover art by the legendary Robert McGinnis, the artist behind the posters for the original Sean Connery James Bond movies and “Breakfast At Tiffany’s,” and by Glen Orbik, the painter of more than a dozen of Hard Case Crime’s most popular covers, including the cover for The Colorado Kid.

Since its debut in 2004, Hard Case Crime has been the subject of enthusiastic coverage by a wide range of publications including The New York Times, USA Today, Time, Playboy, U.S. News & World Report, BusinessWeek, The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Houston Chronicle, New York magazine, the New York Post and Daily News, Salon, Reader’s Digest, Parade and USA Weekend, as well as numerous other magazines, newspapers, and online media outlets.  The Chicago Sun-Times wrote, “Hard Case Crime is doing a wonderful job publishing both classic and contemporary ‘pulp’ novels in a crisp new format with beautiful, period-style covers.  These modern ‘penny dreadfuls’ are worth every dime.”  Playboy praised Hard Case Crime’s “lost masterpieces,” writing “They put to shame the work of modern mystery writers whose plots rely on cell phones and terrorists.”  And the Philadelphia City Paper wrote, “Tired of overblown, doorstop-sized thrillers…?  You’ve come to the right place.  Hard Case novels are as spare and as honest as a sock in the jaw.”

Other upcoming Hard Case Crime titles include The Cocktail Waitress, a never-before-published novel by James M. Cain, author of The Postman Always Rings Twice, Mildred Pierce, and Double Indemnity, and an epic first novel called The Twenty-Year Death by Ariel S. Winter that has won advance raves from authors such as Peter Straub, James Frey, Alice Sebold, John Banville, David Morrell and Stephen King.

For information about these and other forthcoming titles, visit

About Hard Case Crime

Founded in 2004 by award-winning novelists Charles Ardai and Max Phillips, Hard Case Crime has been nominated for or won numerous honors since its inception including the Edgar, the Shamus, the Anthony, the Barry, and the Spinetingler Award.  The series’ books have been adapted for television and film, with two features currently in development at Universal Pictures and the TV series “Haven” going into its third season this fall on SyFy.  Hard Case Crime is published through a collaboration between Winterfall LLC and Titan Publishing Group.

About Titan Publishing Group

Titan Publishing Group is an independently owned publishing company, established in 1981, comprising three divisions: Titan Books, Titan Magazines/Comics and Titan Merchandise.  Titan Books, recently nominated as Independent Publisher of the Year 2011, has a rapidly growing fiction list encompassing original fiction and reissues, primarily in the areas of science fiction, fantasy, horror, steampunk and crime. Recent crime and thriller acquisitions include Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins’ all-new Mike Hammer novels, the Matt Helm series by Donald Hamilton and the entire backlist of the Queen of Spy Writers, Helen MacInnes.  Titan Books also has an extensive line of media and pop culture-related non-fiction, graphic novels, art and music books. The company is based at offices in London, but operates worldwide, with sales and distribution in the US and Canada being handled by Random House.

Fight Card: King of the Outback - Jack Tunney (David James Foster)

The great Fight Card series goes international with KING OF THE OUTBACK, which is set in Australia. Another difference is that for the first time the narrator isn't a boxer but rather the trainer for a traveling tent show of fighters. Yack, as he's known, is an American who stayed in Australia after recovering there from wounds he received fighting in the South Pacific during World War II. The star of the traveling troupe is an aborigine named Tommy King, the so-called King of the Ring.

Not surprisingly, there's a dangerous rivalry between the show Yack works for and another troupe of boxers that's backed by the local crime syndicate. That rivalry escalates into open warfare. Throw in a boxing kangaroo, a whole tribe of aborigines, arson, a crooked referee, and it all builds to a very satisfying climax that has a nice epic feel to it.

The author behind the Jack Tunney house-name this time around is David James Foster, and while I'm not familiar with his work, he does a fine job of mixing local color, good characters, humor, and plenty of pugilistic action.  Fight Card is one of the most consistently entertaining e-book series out there, and KING OF THE OUTBACK is a worthy entry indeed.  Recommended.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Writing Update

I forgot to post an update yesterday -- I'm not in the habit of it yet -- so this is a two-for-one post. Yesterday morning I struggled to get started but kept slugging away at it, and by afternoon the work was going better. I wound up doing 4268 words. Today was a rerun in some ways, as I got off to a slow start in the morning, but today it was due to other things going on rather than just a sluggish brain like I had yesterday. But again persistence paid off and I got rolling in the afternoon. The final total wound up being 4112 words, and the most important thing is that I finished the current book with those pages. I need to do some editing on it tomorrow, and then it goes to Livia for her editing job, then back to me for revisions (if there are any), and then finally, like it had wings, off it goes to New York. Always a good feeling.

Tuesday's Overlooked Movies: Hell is for Heroes

Sometime during the summer of 1962, I saw the previews for this movie at the Eagle Drive-in Theater. Being nine years old and a fan of the DC war comics, I thought it looked great and really wanted to see it. But what with one thing and another, I never did. Until now, almost fifty years later. So the question is, did HELL IS FOR HEROES live up to the expectations of that nine-year-old Sgt. Rock fan?

In a word, yes.

This is a really fine war film with an excellent ensemble cast.  The story is simple: a small squad of American GIs are left on their own to hold a section of the front lines against a possible German advance. This effort becomes a taut, suspenseful cat-and-mouse game as the soldiers try to convince the Germans that their force is much larger than it really is.

Steve McQueen is perfect as the anti-social new replacement in the squad who proves to be the best soldier in the bunch despite being unlikable. Fess Parker, Davy Crockett his ownself, is the decent, competent sergeant in charge of the operation. Bobby Darin is the outfit's scrounger, and Nick Adams, in an odd but effective bit of casting, is a Polish refugee who becomes the unit's mascot. Harry Guardino, Mike Kellin, and the great James Coburn, cool as ever, are also on hand. The most blatant bit of stunt casting is Bob Newhart, fresh off his hugely successful comedy record album (which is even mentioned in the trailer), playing a clerk/typist who blunders into the battle while looking for division HQ. Wouldn't you know it, the script comes up with a reason for him to talk on the telephone (a field telephone, but still), and that bit might come across as too cute except for the fact that it actually makes sense in the plot and Newhart is extremely funny, as you might expect. That's the only bit of humor in an otherwise grim and gritty film that's made even more so by the stark black-and-white photography.

Some people think HELL IS FOR HEROES is a pilot of sorts for the TV series COMBAT! (one of my all-time favorites). I don't know about that, but there are certainly similarities, starting with the screenwriter Robert Pirosh, who wrote many COMBAT! episodes. The look of the film is virtually identical (it was filmed on the same sets and locations as the TV series), and the dynamics of the small squad of soldiers is very familiar. Considering the way I feel about COMBAT!, it's no surprise that I really enjoyed HELL IS FOR HEROES, too.

If you're a fan of war movies and haven't seen this one, I definitely give it a high recommendation. I'm glad I finally watched it, even if it was fifty years late and not at the drive-in.

Monday, May 28, 2012

New This Week

I was running some errands in Fort Worth last week and managed to make a quick stop at the Half Price Books near Ridgmar Mall. This is what I came away with.

BLACK ACES – Stephen Payne. A Leisure paperback reprint of a Western novel from 1936. Payne was a prolific contributor to the Western pulps, so this novel may well have been serialized in one of them before appearing as a book.

LAW FOR TOMBSTONE – Charles M. Martin. Another Leisure reprint. Martin, who also used the by-line Chuck Martin, was an even more prolific pulpster than Payne. This novel from 1937 probably came from the pulps as well and features Martin's series character Alamo Bowie, a troubleshooter for Wells, Fargo. Buck Jones played Alamo Bowie in a movie based on this novel. (LAW FOR TOMBSTONE also appeared as an early Ace Double, along with ONE AGAINST A BULLET HORDE by Walker Tompkins. I think I have a copy of that edition, too, or at least I did at one time.)

SHARP THE BUGLE CALLS – Steve Frazee. This is a Lion Books paperback original from 1953 by a well-respected hardboiled Western author. It's not in great shape, but I've enjoyed the novels by Frazee that I've read, so I didn't hesitate to pick it up.

DIE OF GOLD – Chet Cunningham. I used to have all the books in the Jim Steel series by veteran paperbacker Cunningham. Never read any of them. But now I have this one to try if the mood strikes me.

JOHNNY CONCHO – Noel Loomis. Novelization of the Frank Sinatra movie, with Ol' Blue Eyes on the front and back covers and a blurb from him (which he probably wrote about as much as John Wayne did the blurb that ran on Louis L'Amour's HONDO for years and years).

THE KING KILLERS – Thomas B. Dewey. A private eye novel from fairly late in Dewey's career featuring Mac, his best-known creation. This is one of the few books in the Mac series that I haven't read.

I also got e-book review copies of several novels by friends of mine, and those reviews will be showing up fairly soon, I hope. I really should start listing them, too, I suppose, but I have trouble keeping up with what I got when. I think my brain is too full. Surely I could free up some space by forgetting things like who played "Lumpy" on LEAVE IT TO BEAVER. (Frank Bank, to save you a trip to IMDB. And that fact is related to a joke on the sitcom TAXI, which has been taking up still more space in my brain since the late Seventies . . .)

More covers below.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Writing Update

I scaled back today to a still productive but more reasonable 3724 words. Anywhere between 3500 and 4000 words is a good pace for me and one that I can maintain pretty consistently. More battles today, and to quote the Simpsons episode with Lady Gaga from a couple of weeks ago, "There is no over-the-top. There is no over-the-top."

King City - Lee Goldberg

Tom Wade, the hero of Lee Goldberg's new novel KING CITY, is an honest cop, and that's what causes him huge problems and may cost him his life. It's already cost him his marriage and caused him to be transferred to an isolated substation in the very worst part of King City, the fictional town in Washington that's the setting of this book. You see, Wade testified against the other members of the Major Crimes Unit, all of whom are crooked and corrupt, and now the rest of the department, from the chief on down, hates him and wants to see him dead. Putting him in charge of the Darwin Gardens substation and giving him just two rookie cops to help him is the department's way of accomplishing that end.

Wade has other ideas, though, which include standing up to the thugs and the drug kingpin who rule the neighborhood and winning over the honest citizens of the neighborhood. And if he solves several murders and uncovers a serial killer along the way, so much the better.

As usual, Goldberg gives the reader a fast-moving story, some fine characters, great action scenes, and nice touches of humor, all conveyed in some of the smoothest prose you're going to encounter. The setting is very well realized, and I love the fact that Goldberg named several of the neighborhoods in King City after various TV writers, most of whom are probably pretty obscure by now.

KING CITY is the first book in an ongoing series, and I'm glad. I'm ready to read the next one right now. This one gets a high recommendation. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Writing Update

The work went much better today. Real life cooperated, and the idea I had yesterday worked out well. I left myself a note at the end of yesterday's pages, as I often do so I don't forget what I had in mind when I sit down at the computer the next morning. In this case it was pretty simple: JOHN AND MARY ARGUE. (Note: not the actual names of the characters!) I wound up getting twelve pages out of that. It was a pretty important argument. Plus there was a battle to write, too, and those usually go fast for me. Wordage for the day: 4724.

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Lariat Story, November 1943

LARIAT STORY usually had good covers, and this one is no exception. I think it's a little unusual with that dark blue color scheme, and only a little red and yellow visible. As for the authors inside, Les Savage Jr. and William R. Cox, both excellent writers, are there, along with prolific pulpsters Lee E. Wells and John Jo Carpenter. Also present is Wilfred McCormick, probably better remembered for a lengthy series of young adult sports novels featuring stalwart high school athlete Bronc Burnett. I read a bunch of those when I was a kid. None of them had girls in them like the one on this cover, as I recall.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Writing Update

Those of you who are my Facebook friends may recall that when I'm struggling with my writing I'll sometimes post my page count there as a motivational tactic. Several people have told me that I ought to post more here about my writing, so I'm going to migrate that little ploy over here, with some slight variations. I'm going to try to do actual word counts, and I'll usually have a few comments about the work in question, too, although I can't go into specifics because so much of what I do is bound by confidentiality agreements.

I've picked an inauspicious day to start this, however, since real life was not cooperative today and my writing time was somewhat limited. I managed to do 1176 words. I have about 15,000 words to go in the book I'm working on, and I'd really like to wrap it up by the end of the month. Problem is, while I know almost everything that's going to happen in the final 10,000 words, getting the characters in position for that last 10K is kicking my butt. I've always said that I think I'm pretty good at beginnings and endings, but it's all that crap in the middle that's the problem. I think that today I got a glimmering of how to get this one where it needs to be, though, so I guess in that sense it was a productive day.

This is novel #283 for me . . . I think. The number's written down but not handy at the moment. As soon as I finish it, I need to write a couple of short stories I've promised for anthologies, and then it'll be right into the next novel.

You may want to skip some of these posts. They won't all be this thrilling. But the whole point is to goad me into getting more work done, so it if accomplishes that, I'll be happy.

Forgotten Books: Riders of the Shadowlands - H.A. DeRosso

This collection of H.A. DeRosso's stories includes the following:

"Killer", GUNSMOKE, August 1953
"The Ways of Vengeance", TEXAS RANGERS, June 1950
"Fear in the Saddle", ZANE GREY'S WESTERN MAGAZINE, Sept. 1952
"The Return of the Arapaho Kid", ARGOSY, Sept. 1958
"Witch", RANCH ROMANCES, February 1962
"Dark Purpose", under the title "Kill the Killer" in MIKE SHAYNE MYSTERY MAGAZINE, April 1958
"The Happy Death", under the title "Sweet, Sweet Murder" as by John Cortez, ALFRED HITCHCOCK'S MYSTERY MAGAZINE, December, 1960
"Bad Blood", WESTERN SHORT STORIES, September 1955
"Endless Trail", under the title "It's Your Town--Tame It!", .44 WESTERN, July 1948
"Riders of the Shadowlands", under the title "I Trust My Trigger", COMPLETE WESTERN BOOK MAGAZINE, December 1950

Like the previous DeRosso collection, UNDER THE BURNING SUN, this was put together by Bill Pronzini, who also did some minor editing on the stories. According to Pronzini's introduction, he deleted some of what he considered DeRosso's overwriting, but in comparing the text in this edition of "The Return of the Arapaho Kid" to the story in its original appearance in ARGOSY, which I also have, I didn't find any changes.

This is a good strong collection, with the title novella being probably the best story. DeRosso is known for the noir elements in his Westerns, and while these stories are certainly grim in places, they don't feel as bleak as some of his other work. Some of the endings are almost happy, in fact. I thought the two stories written for mystery magazines, "Dark Purpose" and "The Happy Death", were the weakest of the bunch. One thing that struck me is that on the stories that had title changes, DeRosso's original titles were better than the ones the magazine editors stuck on them. "Riders of the Shadowlands" is an especially good title, I thought, much more evocative than "I Trust My Trigger".

RIDERS OF THE SHADOWLANDS is well worth seeking out. DeRosso remains one of my favorite Western authors.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Medical Update

Joanna and I went to Dallas today for her first doctor's appointment since her surgery. It's been a long two weeks (longer for her than any of the rest of us, I'm sure), but the doctor and his assistant both thought she's doing very well now. She's made excellent progress since all the medicine snafus got cleared up. I'm very encouraged and have no doubt she'll be back teaching in the fall.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Tuesday's Overlooked TV: Legend

Probably not many people remember this short-lived series that ran in the spring and summer of 1995, but I watched every episode and thought it was excellent. LEGEND, like THE ADVENTURES OF BRISCO COUNTY, JR. (another favorite of mine) was a very appealing blend of Western action, science fiction, and humor. Novelist Ernest Pratt, played by Richard Dean Anderson (MacGYVER), was the author of a long series of dime novels featuring the gallant hero Nicodemus Legend. Suffering from writer's block, he teamed up with eccentric scientist Janos Bartok, played by John deLancie ("Q" from STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION) to have actual adventures in the Old West that might serve as the basis for future dime novels and get Pratt's New York publisher off his back.

As a set-up, it's maybe a little too busy and complicated, but it worked really well. Anderson and deLancie played off each other splendidly, the plots were imaginative, and the whole series had an added layer of humor about the writing business, with wisecracks about editors and the creative accounting of publishers that most viewers probably didn't fully appreciate. Most viewers probably didn't appreciate the series, period, because it only lasted for 12 episodes. But it was mighty good while it lasted, in my opinion.

LEGEND isn't available on DVD, as far as I know, but some of the episodes can be found on YouTube. On a side note, the series was co-created and several episodes were written by Bill Dial, a veteran TV writer who also worked on WKRP IN CINCINNATI. Dial played station engineer Bucky Dornster in a couple of episodes of that show and did a great job. I always like it when a writer gets to appear on-screen.

Monday, May 21, 2012

New This Week

While Joanna was in the hospital in Dallas, I had a chance one day to pay a quick visit to the big Half Price Books on Northwest Highway, only the second time I've ever been there. Bill Crider and I went there one time during Cluefest, the fondly-remembered mystery convention that used to be held in Dallas. Here's what I picked up on this trip.

OPERATION CHECKMATE and OPERATION WHIPLASH – Dan J. Marlowe. These are from later in the series, after it was retooled into an espionage series and Earl Drake became a secret agent instead of a thief. These books don't have a great reputation, but I've never read any of them, so I was curious.

THE OTHER BODY IN GRANT'S TOMB – Richard Starnes. A hardboiled mystery by an author I hadn't heard of, featuring two-fisted journalist Barney Forge as the detective.

GIFT OF DEATH – Edward S. Aarons. An early (1948) mystery novel by the author of the great Sam Durell series, originally published under the pseudonym Edward Ronns. This 1967 reprint is from Macfadden Books, which would eventually be bought out by my first publisher, Manor Books.

KRAKATOA, EAST OF JAVA – Michael Avallone. An Avallone novel I've never read, based on a movie I've never seen. Of course I wasn't going to leave it there.

SLEEP WITH THE DEVIL – Day Keene. Another Macfadden reprint of a mystery novel originally published by Lion Books in 1954. You can't go wrong with Day Keene. At least I never have.

THEY WALKED LIKE MEN – Clifford D. Simak. Another hardboiled reporter protagonist, but this time in a science fiction novel about alien invaders who try to take over Earth by, uh, buying up real estate. Well, I suppose it could work, and I'm sure there's more to it than that. Simak never disappoints, either.

RUSSIAN AMERIKA and ALASKA REPUBLIK – Stoney Compton. A couple of alternate history SF novels by an author I'm not familiar with. I'm not as big a fan of alternate history as you might think I would be, although I've read quite a bit of it and even written a few stories that fall into that category. But when it's done well, I do like it. We'll see.

GUNHAND'S PAY (apa THE SUNDOWNERS) – Archie Joscelyn. Western novel from the prolific Joscelyn. Some of his later books are pretty bad, but everything I've read of his from the Fifties (this one was published in 1956) was excellent.

QUICK ON THE SHOOT – George C. Appell. I've seen George C. Appell's name in various pulps, but I don't recall ever reading anything by him. The multiple copyright dates on this one – 1950, '51, '52, '53, and '55 – as well as what appears to be an episodic structure are tip-offs that it's actually a collection of stories reprinted from ZANE GREY'S WESTERN MAGAZINE rather than the novel it's made out to be. The protagonist is a drifting gunfighter in the 1890s named Ross Ringler.

JEMEZ BRAND, L.L. Foreman/RANSOME'S MOVE, Kyle Hollingsworth. An Ace Double Western from 1971. I'm not familiar with Hollingsworth's work, but his novel here seems to be part of a series featuring a gambler named Santee Ransome. I bought the book, though, for the L.L. Foreman half because it's actually a pair of pulp novellas from 1941 and 1942 starring his series character Preacher Devlin. I've been wanting to try these.

SADDLE AND RIDE – Ernest Haycox. A novel originally serialized in COLLIER'S from December 1939 through February 1940.

HELLER FROM TEXAS – William Heuman. Great cover on a novel from one of the best authors who did hardboiled Westerns for Gold Medal. I expect to like this one a lot.

ABOVE THE PALO DURO – Noel Loomis. Another hardboiled Gold Medal Western from an author with a fine reputation. (The cover's not as good as the one on the Heuman novel, though.)

THE HELL-FIRE KID – Steve Shannon. Not a Gold Medal, but rather a Crest Original. I don't know why they did that with some books. I have a nagging feeling that Steve Shannon is a pseudonym, but I don't know that for sure and haven't been able to find out. If anybody knows, I'd appreciate the information.

RED RANGE – Eugene Cunningham. I've read enough of Cunningham's pulp work that I pick up every novel of his I come across, even though I haven't gotten around to reading any of them yet. My friend Don Herron is a fan of Cunningham's work.

SUNDANCE: TEXAS EMPIRE – Peter McCurtin. The final book in the long-running series created by Ben Haas under the John Benteen name. There really was an author named Peter McCurtin (I have an editor friend who knew him), but the name was also used as a house-name, so I don't know who actually wrote this one. But it's the final book in the series so it's a curiosity if nothing else.

CHANCE McGRAW – Mary Louise Manning. This looks sort of like a Western and sort of like a historical romance, and it must have sold a ton of copies because I remember seeing it everywhere in the used bookstores in the Eighties. (It was published in 1980.) I tend to like novels with female gunslingers, but the real reason I bought this one is because I'm reasonably sure "Mary Louise Manning" was really Lou Cameron.

As usual, there's no telling when I'll get around to reading all these books. But I fully intend to read each and every one of them. That's my story, and, well, you know the rest. (More scans below.)

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Doc Savage: The Desert Demons - Will Murray

I've been a Doc Savage fan ever since I picked up a copy of METEOR MENACE from the paperback spinner rack in Tompkins' Drugstore in 1964, when it, along with THE MAN OF BRONZE and THE THOUSAND-HEADED MAN, was published to launch Bantam's long-running reprint series. (Long-running is an understatement. Bantam reprinted all 181 novels from the original pulps, plus a lost novel, plus several original novels by author and Doc Savage expert Will Murray, based on fragments and outlines by Lester Dent, the co-creator and main author of the pulp series.)

After a hiatus of several years, Murray is now writing new Doc Savage novels again, the first of which is THE DESERT DEMONS. I just read it, and as a Doc fan of nearly 50 years, I can safely say that it's great stuff. California is being terrorized by mysterious red clouds that descend from the heavens to destroy anything they touch. Oilfield wildcatters and colorful Hollywood moguls are running around in a panic. Doc's aides show up to investigate and are attacked by a crazed meteorologist. Pat Savage, Doc's beautiful cousin, is missing.

And that's just in the first few chapters.

The pace never lets up for long, with Murray skillfully breaking up the multitude of breath-taking action scenes with the sort of comedy that fans of the series have come to expect, mostly involving Doc's aides Monk and Ham. (To be fair, some people don't care for this aspect of the series, but I grew up reading the books and it's just part of the Doc Savage universe as far as I'm concerned.) Before the book is over, we get a great scene of a dirigible being attacked by the demonic clouds, as well as a chapter entitled "Gator Hell". How can you not love that? Murray tops it all off with an intriguing explanation for the phenomenon of the Desert Demons and a satisfying ending.

As most of you know, the past week or so has been pretty stressful for me, without much time to read. But when I did get a chance to sit down and read a few chapters of this book, it never failed to entertain me. THE DESERT DEMONS is well-written, with Murray proving once again to be a master of recapturing Dent's style, and for Doc Savage fans it should be pure fun. For this Doc Savage fan it was a great escape. Thanks, Will.

(THE DESERT DEMONS is available in both trade paperback and e-book editions. Murray has two more original Doc Savage novels out now, HORROR IN GOLD and the just-released THE INFERNAL BUDDHA. And both of them are already on my Kindle, waiting to be read soon.)

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Fighting Western, May 1945

I'm not particularly fond of this cover, but this issue is of some interest anyway (at least to me) because of the featured story by E. Hoffmann Price, "Grubstake", which he expanded into a novel of the same name and sold to Zebra Books in 1979. This book marked Price's return to publishing after being out of it since the early Fifties. He went on to sell a couple of fantasy novels and four science-fiction novels to Del Rey in the Eighties. I haven't read any of them. The other authors in this issue of FIGHTING WESTERN include a couple I've heard of (and even read) Giff Cheshire and Lee E. Wells, and a couple I haven't, Charles Handley and Warren Bean.


Friday, May 18, 2012

Now Available: Crime Square, edited by Robert J. Randisi

Check out this fine new anthology edited by Robert J. Randisi. Bob's put together a great line-up of authors including Reed Farrell Coleman, Max Allan Collins, Parnell Hall, John Lutz, Warren Murphy, Mel Odom, Gary Phillips, and Wallace Stroby. Looks like a winner to me!

Free E-Book Friday from Black Dog Books

Due to a technical glitch at Amazon our free eBook offering last week of Horse Money was only made available to Kindle Prime users instead of the general public.

We are offering Horse Money again today as a free eBook download through Amazon. Be sure to take advantage of this opportunity and get this great collection of  four hard-boiled novellas of crime and intrigue around the Sport of Kings.

Horse MoneyThe Cases of Chief Van Eyck, Race Track Detective. With an introduction by Robert J. Randisi.
Known from Saratoga to Belmont and throughout the racing circuit, Chief Van Eyck keeps the bookies and fix games in check—whether using a little strong-arm, or the nickel-platted death securely tucked in his shoulder holster.
And Van Eyck is never above picking up a few greenbacks on the side himself, thanks to an inside tip or two from the jockey club.
Grab a stool, order a strong one and slid to the edge of your seat as the ponies and Van Eyck both give a thrill ride from wire to wire!

Forgotten Books: The Three Planeteers - Edmond Hamilton

I grew up reading science fiction from the so-called Golden Age, a time when rocket ships had fins, were armed with atom-guns, and were navigated with the help of electronic brains powered by vacuum tubes. I still have a great fondness for that era and revisit it from time to time. Edmond Hamilton's THE THREE PLANETEERS is a prime example of good swashbuckling adventure SF.

Originally published as a full-length novel in the January 1940 issue of the pulp STARTLING STORIES, other than the name this novel doesn't seem to be inspired by or bear any resemblance to Dumas's THE THREE MUSKETEERS. Instead, it's the story of three space outlaws who are notorious throughout the solar system, Earthman John Thorn, Venusian Sual Av, and Mercurian Gunner Welk. All of the planets in the system except Pluto have been colonized by Earthmen, but over the centuries the inhabitants of each planet have developed their own characteristics due to variations in the atmosphere on the different planets.

As the story opens, civil war is looming between the four inner worlds of the Alliance and the four outer planets, now known as the League of Cold Worlds. The Three Planeteers are caught in the middle of it because (minor SPOILER just ahead, but it's revealed almost right away and it's nothing you won't have guessed anyway) they're not really outlaws, they're actually secret agents working for the good guy Alliance. But their reputation as brigands allows them to infiltrate the Zone, the area of Saturn's rings where a society of pirates has grown up. You see, the leader of the pirates is a beautiful young woman whose late father possessed the secret of the tenth planet Erebus, where an element that can be used as the power source for a mysterious weapon that can save the Alliance is located. The Planeteers' job is to get the secret of Erebus from the girl, travel there and bring back the power source, and prevent the League of Cold Worlds from taking over the solar system.

And this is all in the first couple of chapters.

If you've read this far, you probably know whether this is the sort of over-the-top yarn that appeals to you. I loved it. Hamilton really piles on the death traps and ray-gun battles and wide-scale outer space adventures involving vast armadas of spaceships. He was mighty good at that sort of stuff, too. Everything is big in an Edmond Hamilton story, at least from this stage of his career. He wasn't known as the World-Wrecker for nothing.

But there's some decent scientific speculation in here, too, especially after our heroes reach Erebus and find something they're not expecting at all. Sure, the science is dated and wildly inaccurate, but Hamilton was trying with what he knew at the time, and that's all you can ask of an SF writer.

I don't think this novel was ever reprinted, but there's a new e-book edition of it available now, and you can get it here for a very reasonable price. I enjoyed THE THREE PLANETEERS, and if you have a taste for Golden Age science fiction, you might, too. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Lone Ranger Chronicles

The past few days have been so busy that a box from Moonstone Books has been sitting on the table in our living room unopened for a while. Until this morning, when I opened it and found my author copies of the new anthology THE LONE RANGER CHRONICLES. (To be honest, I was pretty sure that was what was in the box.) This is a great collection, with stories by Paul Kupperberg, Matthew Baugh, Johnny D. Boggs, Kent Conwell, Denny O'Neil, Chuck Dixon, Tim Lasiuta, Richard Dean Starr and E.R. Bower, Troy D. Smith, Bill Crider, Joe Gentile, David McDonald, Howard Hopkins, Mel Odom, Thom Brannon, and yours truly. It's available in both trade paperback and a limited edition hardcover, and while they're both fine-looking books, I'm especially impressed by the hardcover. You can't go wrong either way with that line-up of authors and two of the most iconic characters in Western fiction in the Lone Ranger and Tonto. I haven't read all the stories yet, but the ones I have read are excellent. As a fan of the Lone Ranger for as far back as I can remember, it was a great honor and pleasure to contribute a story, and this book gets the highest recommendation from me. By the way, my entry is called "Hell on the Border" and features Judge Isaac Parker, the famous real-life Hanging Judge, with the Lone Ranger using his legal training to take part in a high-stakes murder trial. It was really fun to write, too.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Medical Update

We were able to bring Joanna home from the hospital to her house last night. Hard to believe it's only been a week since her surgery. Seems more like a month, anyway. She had a terrible time with the pain medications they were giving her. They finally found something that helps the pain without making her really sick. The physical therapist has already been to her house today and worked with her. She has a lot of recovering to do, but we're confident she'll do fine. I've never known anyone with as much spirit and fight as that kid has. (And I can call her that, because she's my kid and always will be.)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Red River Desperadoes is Now Available

The third book that I wrote in the Powell's Army series is now available as an e-book for the Kindle. The Nook edition is in the works and should be available soon. I really enjoyed writing these books back in the Eighties and am very pleased that they're out there again finding new readers.

Tuesday's Overlooked Movies: King Solomon's Mines (2004)

(This post originally appeared in somewhat different form on June 19, 2007.)

I believe this movie originated as a two-part cable TV miniseries, which you can kind of tell from the way it’s structured. I read H. Rider Haggard’s novel KING SOLOMON’S MINES ’way back when I was in high school (the only Haggard I’ve ever read, as far as I can recall). I don’t remember all the details from the novel, but I suspect the screenwriters went fairly far afield in creating this movie, which comes across as a combination of Indiana Jones, Tarzan, and a B-Western. I like all three of those things, so I enjoyed the film quite a bit.

Patrick Swayze is Allan Quatermain, and probably wisely, he plays him as an American rather than attempting an English accent. Not surprisingly, Swayze makes a fine, steely-eyed, two-fisted action hero. He’s surrounded by a good cast, including a big galoot sidekick, a couple of old-timers, a beautiful blonde, and some dastardly villains. The first half of the film is really structured like a Western and has that feel, with our group of intrepid heroes being trailed by a gang of owlhoots who are also after the same treasure, with everybody riding horseback and carrying six-guns and Winchesters. There’s even the scene where Swayze straps on his gunbelt, loops a bandolier of ammunition across his chest, and then puts on his hat, all the time looking grim and determined. Hell, they might as well be going into Mexico for lost Aztec treasure or some such.

The second half of the movie is that Indiana Jones/Tarzan hybrid I mentioned, with warring native tribes, witch doctors, fights to the death to determine who’s going to be the king, underground passages full of death traps, an idol with a gem called the Stone of the Ancestors mounted on it . . . good Saturday matinee/Republic serial stuff, in other words. The script lapses into cliches a little too often, especially toward the end, and there are some gaps in the logic, mostly of the “Okay, why don’t they just go ahead and kill ’em instead of giving them the chance to get away?” variety. In a movie like this, though, that’s pretty much forgivable as far as I’m concerned. Overall, I found this version of KING SOLOMON’S MINES to be a lot of fun.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Texas Rangers Review and New Interview

Ron Scheer reviews my collection TEXAS RANGERS on his Buddies in the Saddle blog today, and there's a new interview with me accompanying the review. Thanks, Ron!

New This Week

This week was much more normal when it comes to book-buying, with only a single e-book to show for it.

ACTION: PULSE-POUNDING TALES – Matt Hilton, editor. Lengthy anthology of 37 original action stories in a variety of genres, edited by British thriller writer Hilton. This blog's old friend and fellow Owlhoot buckaroo Evan Lewis is one of the authors included, along with my friend and occasional collaborator Steven Savile, Paul D. Brazill, Zoe Sharp, and many others.