Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Tuesday's Overlooked Movies: Nevada Smith

If you’ve read Harold Robbins’ novel THE CARPETBAGGERS (which I have) or seen the movie version (done that, too), you know there’s a supporting character called Nevada Smith who’s an actor in early Western movies. From the little bit of back-story Robbins provided for that character, scripter John Michael Hayes and director Henry Hathaway came up with NEVADA SMITH, a film that fleshes out all that background.

Steve McQueen plays Max Sand, a young man whose parents are murdered viciously by three outlaws (Karl Malden, Arthur Kennedy, and Martin Landau). He sets out to track them down and get revenge, and along the way he falls in with a gunsmith (Brian Keith) who becomes his surrogate father. Revenge Westerns are usually pretty straightforward, and that’s the case here. NEVADA SMITH works for a variety of reasons, though, chief among them McQueen in the title role. (His character adopts the name Nevada Smith as an alias fairly late in the film, if you were wondering.) The rest of the cast is first-rate, though, including those already mentioned as well as Suzanne Pleshette, Janet Margolin, Pat Hingle, Paul Fix, John Doucette, Sandy Kenyon, and Stanley Adams. Henry Hathaway was a good solid director who knew his way around a Western, the photography by Lucien Ballard is spectacular, and the score by Alfred Newman is excellent. NEVADA SMITH is also a good example of how movies were getting grittier in the mid-Sixties. There’s a considerable amount of sex and some graphic violence. Put everything together and you’ve got a big, entertaining Western that strives for epic status and doesn’t quite make it, but not for lack of trying.

Monday, July 30, 2012

New This Week

I have one new e-book book to mention this week. BRUCE MINNEY: THE MAN WHO PAINTED EVERYTHING by Thomas Ziegler is a biography of artist Bruce Minney, who was a prolific contributor to a number of pop culture venues, including covers and interior illustrations for men's adventure magazines as well as paperback covers. I'll have a review of this book coming up later in the week.

I picked up two new print books, SUSANNA'S CHOICE and CLAIMING THE HEART, a couple of Western historical romances by "Sara Luck", who is really a husband-and-wife writing team I know, and some of you do, too. (Don't misunderstand me, I'm not hinting that these are by me and Livia. They're not. Trust me, if they were, you'd know about it.) I don't read a lot of romances, but I expect these to be top-notch.

Speaking of romances, in the used book arena I came across a copy of a romantic suspense novel with a boxing background, KNOCKOUT by Erica Orloff. This is part of the old Silhouette Bombshell line, which published quite a few excellent books, and I couldn't pass this one up. I also got a copy of a Sidney Sheldon novel I haven't read, THE SANDS OF TIME, because, well, sometimes I'm in the mood for a Sidney Sheldon novel.

The rest of the used books this week are all Westerns, starting with two more books in the alternate history series about Wild Bill Hickok, YUMA BUSTOUT and BLACK HILLS HELLHOLE by Judd Cole, who is probably John Edward Ames. Then we have some more Buckskin books, the double edition RETURN FIRE/RIMFIRE REVENGE, both by Chet Cunningham writing as Kit Dalton, and a couple by Roy LeBeau, RECOIL and HANGFIRE HILL. I've been told that the author of these is actually Mitchell Smith, but I don't know if that's true. I've read a couple of the Roy LeBeau entries, and whoever wrote them, they were very good.

Moving on to a short-lived series I've never read, LOBO by Dennis Crafton, who was evidently really Dennis Crafton, judging by the copyright in the one I picked up, #2 COMANCHE DUEL. I don't know anything about this author or series and bought the book because the cover is by Bruce Minney, but I intend to read it.

THE DEVIL'S DOLLAR SIGN by Joe Millard is one of his original novels based on Clint Eastwood's Man With No Name character. Millard wrote a number of these after doing the novelizations of FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE and THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY. I read FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE when it was new and remember liking it a lot, but I've never read any of the original tie-in novels.

CUTLER: TIGER'S CHANCE by H.V. Elkin is another entry in the continuation of a series begun by Ben Haas under the John Benteen name, although again there's no mention of that in this book. It's listed on the cover and title page as #6 in the series. I didn't know there were that many, or if I did, I've forgotten it.

I also found a copy of ZORRO: THE COMPLETE CLASSIC ADVENTURES BY ALEX TOTH, which reprints comic book stories written and drawn by Toth in the Fifties, based on the Zorro TV show. This collection was published by Eclipse Comics in 1988. I like Toth's work a lot, and I like Zorro, and although this copy is a little beat up, it was on sale for a dollar, so there was no way I was leaving it in the store.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Detective Fiction Weekly, September 2, 1939

The first pulp I ever owned was an issue of DETECTIVE FICTION WEEKLY (not this one), so I have a soft spot for that magazine. It published a lot of good fiction in its pages, too. I really liked Judson Philips' series about the Park Avenue Hunt Club. There's a novella featuring the characters in this issue, plus short stories by Hugh B. Cave, Philip Ketchum, William Brandon, and Kendall Foster Crossen. That's an issue well worth reading, I imagine.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Big News from Livia

Not only has the second book in Livia's Tongue-Tied Witch series, A PECK OF PICKLED WARLOCKS, just been published for both the Kindle and the Nook (with a trade paperback edition on the way), but the first book in the series, WITCH GOT YOUR TONGUE, is now on sale for only 99 cents. I really like these books. They're pretty funny and have a lot of action, and I hope she continues writing them.


Fort Worth Nights Now Available in Trade Paperback

The trade paperback edition of FORT WORTH NIGHTS is now available at CreateSpace. It should be showing up at Amazon sometime in the near future, too.

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Western Tales, February 1942

This is certainly an action-packed cover, and behind it is a particularly strong group of authors, starting off with John K. Butler, who wrote some great hardboiled mystery yarns for the pulps as well as scripting some of the better Roy Rogers movies. Also on hand are pulp stalwarts Peter Dawson, Ray Nafziger, Philip Ketchum, Tom W. Blackburn, William R. Cox, and Rolland Lynch. There's also a story by Wilfred McCormick, who went on to become a popular author of boy's sports novels, and one by David Crewe, a house-name used sometimes by David Goodis, although this story probably isn't by Goodis. This was the final issue of this magazine under this title. With the next issue it became 15 WESTERN TALES.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Now Available: Omega Blue - Mel Odom

This is a good day for new books. Mel Odom's new novel OMEGA BLUE is out, and he has some e-book review copies available. You can get all the details here. I'm actually reading another book by Mel at the moment and will have more to say about that in a few days. His work is always top-notch.

Now Available: Fort Worth Nights - James Reasoner

Cody is back. FORT WORTH NIGHTS, now available on Amazon, collects the five stories I wrote in the Eighties about Fort Worth private eye Cody, the protagonist of my first novel TEXAS WIND. But that's not all. I figured there was a good chance I'd never write another Cody story, but publishing this collection seemed like a perfect opportunity to do just that. So . . . FORT WORTH NIGHTS also includes the first new Cody story in almost 25 years, a 10,000 word novelette called "Assisted Dying". It's not a flashback or anything like that. Cody's older and so am I, but we're both still plugging away at it. What's more, I had great fun writing this story and, uh, Cody might be back again one of these days. Sooner than 25 more years, I hope. I also hope some of you will check out FORT WORTH NIGHTS and that you enjoy these stories. (Livia designed a great cover for the book, too.)

UPDATE: The book is now available for the Nook, too. You can find it here.

Forgotten Books: Ramrod - Walt Coburn

Originally published in 1960, this is one of Coburn's later novels. It's the story of Johnny Lee and Ed Mullins, the only survivors from a violent feud between two Texas families. Lawman Joe Parbury, who knew both families, turns in his badge, takes the boys to raise, and moves to Arizona to start a ranch. As Johnny and Ed grow up, the hatred between them (which Coburn implies is inherited) grows stronger despite Parbury's efforts to raise them as brothers. The young men conceal that hatred from the outside world, though, and appear tobe the best of friends. Until both of them fall for the same girl.

The plot twists and turns with the usual Coburn revelations from the characters' past. The theme that runs through most of Coburn's work is that dark secrets from the past never stay hidden forever but inevitably work their way to the surface and cause trouble for characters in the present. No other writer I've read is so obsessed with this idea, with the possible exception of Ross Macdonald. Sometimes Coburn's plots get so convoluted that they border on the ridiculous; in other books, such as this one, everything comes together and works very well, producing an ending that's quite satisfying, if a little maudlin.

Another appealing thing about this book is that it's a modern Western (relatively speaking) set in the 1920s or '30s, and much of it has to do with the world of professional rodeo, with which Coburn was obviously very familiar. He doesn't dwell on this background, but there's enough of it to give the book an added dimension from the usual Western novel. This is a good solid yarn, and very entertaining.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Available Soon: Roscoes in the Night

Here's the cover for my e-book ROSCOES IN THE NIGHT, part of the Latchkeys young adult fantasy series, that should be available in the next week or so. Those of you familiar with a certain private eye writer of the past with a highly distinctive style will know immediately where my inspiration for that title came from. If you're going to read this, first you should read the entry just before it, BOOTLEG WAR by Paul Kupperberg and Kris Katzen, since mine is Part 2 of a two-parter. Although in true pulp fashion, it does include a "What Has Gone Before" prologue. In the meantime, you can read a couple of recent blog posts about the series here and here. This series is a lot of fun for readers of all ages, I think. Check it out.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Old Gun Wolf - Frank Leslie (Peter Brandvold)

There are a couple of wolves in this story, a real one and Wilbur Calhoun,  former outlaw and gunman who just wants to live out his life in peace on his isolated ranch. But one winter day a rider shows up bringing trouble – and some secrets from the past – with him.

Frank Leslie is really Peter Brandvold, of course, so that means this short story is fast, brutal, and very well-written. Definitely a one-sitting read. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and if you want to read a fine Western yarn, I highly recommend "Old Gun Wolf".

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Tuesday's Overlooked Movies: Big Bad Mama

I first saw BIG BAD MAMA at what we used to call an “inside theater”, but it’s still one of the classic 1970s drive-in movies. Produced by Roger Corman, it’s got Angie Dickinson totin’ a tommy gun and robbing Depression-era banks with her two hot teenage daughters. It’s got William Shatner chewing the scenery as a smooth-talkin’ con man. It’s got great character actors like Noble Willingham, Dick Miller, and Royal Dano. And in true 70s fashion, it’s got a little bit of social conscience and lots of gratuitous nudity, including Ms. Dickinson her ownself, easily outpacing all the younger actresses when it comes to sheer sexiness. It’s directed by Steve Carver, who had a pretty good career making glorified B-movies that turned out considerably better than they had any right to (DRUM, AN EYE FOR AN EYE, LONE WOLF McQUADE). BIG BAD MAMA may not be a great movie, but it sure is a lot of fun.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Now Available: The Peacemakers: Award Winning Stories from The Traditional West

Four award winning stories from The Traditional West, the biggest original Western anthology ever published! Winner of the Western Fictioneers' Peacemaker Award “The Sin of Eli” by Troy D. Smith, Winner of the Western Writers of America Spur for Short Fiction Award and nominated for the Peacemaker “The Death of Delgado” by Rod Miller, and nominated for the Peacemaker, “The Way of the West” by Larry Jay Martin, and “Panhandle Freight” by L. J. Washburn. The best in Western fiction!

New This Week

The lone new print book this week is TOUGH AS NAILS, the huge, beautiful collection of all of Frederick Nebel's Donahue stories from BLACK MASK. This is the usual top-notch job from Altus Press. Nebel was one of the best hardboiled writers in the pulps, and the current revival of interest in his work, and the reprinting of much of it, is a very welcome development.

I've picked up a few used books as well. MY FRIEND MR. CAMPION AND OTHER MYSTERIES by Margery Allingham is a collection of an essay, four short stories, and a novella, all featuring Allingham's long-running amateur sleuth Albert Campion. When I was reading a lot of British mysteries during junior high and high school, I read several of Allingham's novels and recall liking them, but I haven't gone back to her work since then.

THIS SIDE OF LOVE and EDGE OF TWILIGHT by Paula Christian are a couple of lesbian novels originally published by Avon and Crest, respectively, but reprinted in a double volume by Belmont, the edition I bought. I don't have any real interest in lesbian novels except as a sub-genre of late 50s erotica, but this one was cheap, only a couple of bucks.

Then we have another double edition from a descendant of the same publisher, only a Western this time, a couple of books from the Buckskin series, BLAZING SIX-GUNS and SIX-GUN KILL. The first is by Chet Cunningham writing under the Kit Dalton house-name. I don't know who wrote SIX-GUN KILL, but just looking at it, it doesn't seem to be Cunningham's work. I picked up three Buckskin Giant editions as well, GUNSLINGER'S SCALP and BOUNTY HUNTER'S MOON (both by Cunningham) and THE BUCKSKIN BREED (by Dean McElwain).

Finally, six books in the Shelter series by Paul Ledd (the consistently good author Paul Joseph Lederer): #1 PRISONER OF REVENGE (which I've read before), #3 CHAIN GANG KILL, #4 CHINA DOLL, #5 THE LAZARUS GUNS (I like that title), and #6 CIRCUS OF DEATH (ditto). These were packaged together and the completist in me wishes #2 had been with them, but I've read it, too. Haven't read any of the others, though. The only other Shelter books I've read are the last few in the series, which were written by Bob Randisi.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Blue Book, August 1935

BLUE BOOK during the 1930s was without a doubt one of the best pulps ever. This issue from August 1935 sports a great Vikings vs. Indians cover by Herbert Morton Stoops, who did nearly all the covers for the magazine during this era. I read this issue several years ago, and it has a really solid line-up of authors with an Arms and Men story by H. Bedford-Jones, a mystery by William J. Makin and another by Robert R. Mill featuring his State Policeman character Tiny David, adventure yarns by Leland Jamieson and George F. Worts, and a serial installment from one of William L. Chester's Kioga of the Wilderness novels. Every issue of BLUE BOOK I've read from this time period has at least three outstanding stories in it, often more.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Western Trails, November 1946

WESTERN TRAILS was the companion magazine to WESTERN ACES, published by A.A. Wyn, who went on to found Ace Books. This issue has a pretty colorful cover, and there's a good line-up of authors inside: J. Edward Leithead (one of my favorite Western pulp authors), Wilson L. Covert (who was also J. Edward Leithead), Gunnison Steele (Bennie Gardner), Barry Cord (Peter Germano), and D.B. Newton (who was really D.B. Newton, although he also wrote under the name Dwight Bennett, did a few Jim Hatfield novels in TEXAS RANGERS as Jackson Cole [as did J. Edward Leithead, Bennie Gardner, and Peter Germano], and wrote several of the novels in the Stagecoach Station paperback series published by Bantam under the name Hank Mitchum, as well as creating that series for Lyle Kenyon Engel's Book Creations Inc). So this is almost an all-TEXAS RANGERS-alumni issue. Although at this point Germano can't be considered an alumnus because he hadn't written any Hatfield novels yet. The things that take up space in my brain.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Forgotten Books: Red Lights - Georges Simenon

I recall reading and enjoying some of the Inspector Maigret short stories in ELLERY QUEEN'S MYSTERY MAGAZINE back in the Sixties, when I was reading EQMM regularly. But those were the only things by Georges Simenon that I'd read. So when it was decided to have a Simenon week in the Forgotten Books series, I dug out a couple of Maigret novels I had on hand and figured I'd read one of them.

Well, funny thing. I started both books and didn't like either of them. Maybe it had something to do with the translation, always a concern when reading a book written in another language, but I found both of them bland and uninteresting. So I was about ready to give up on having a Simenon post this week, when I remembered that I also had a copy of a stand-alone novel by him called RED LIGHTS. I gave it a try, and this turned out to be a different story indeed.

At the beginning of RED LIGHTS, Simenon seems to be channeling Cornell Woolrich. The protagonist, Steve Hogan, works in an office in Manhattan, as does his wife. They live on Long Island with their two children, who are away at summer camp. As Labor Day weekend starts, Steve and his wife start to drive to New Hampshire to retrieve the kids. But along the way they get into an argument because Steve drinks a little too much and feels trapped by his life, and after he stops at a bar along the way for a quick drink, when he comes back out to the car his wife is gone. And oh, what was that news flash on the radio about an escaped convict in the area . . .?

You may think you know where this is all going, but after that Woolrichian opening Simenon veers off into mostly different territory. Some things turn out about like you'd expect, and others don't. The book is well-written, and Steve is a compelling, if not very likable, protagonist. The pace is a little leisurely at times, but I still got through the novel quickly. It's fairly short, as most of Simenon's books appear to be. I remember reading that he wrote most of his books in about a week's time. That sounds about right. There are eight chapters in RED LIGHTS, and I can easily imagine him writing a chapter a day until he was done.

This is a pretty good book, although it's not going to make me rush out and read more Simenon. It bothers me that I didn't like those Maigret novels, since I had good memories of the stories I read. I may try them again one of these days.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Torso - Brian Michael Bendis and Marc Andreyko

TORSO collects a true-crime comic book mini-series written by Brian Michael Bendis and Marc Andreyko, with art by Bendis. It's the story of Eliot Ness's search for the Torso Killer, a serial murderer who started carrying out a number of gruesome killings about the same time that Ness was hired as Cleveland's public safety director. This was after the days of Al Capone's conviction and the days of The Untouchables in Chicago, when Ness was a national figure.

I'm far from an expert on true crime, so as Bendis and Andreyko follow the police investigation into the killings, I don't know which parts, if any, are fiction (although the inclusion of several photographs and documents in the back of the book indicate that they stick pretty close to the facts of the case). It's all pretty interesting and makes me want to learn more about what really happened.

Now, as for the script and art . . . comics curmudgeon that I am, I tend to value clarity and storytelling ability pretty highly, and there are a number of pages in this book where I had quite a bit of trouble following what was going on. That goes for words and pictures both. A lot of the dialogue is good, though, and I liked the way Bendis mixed actual photographs with the art in places, so the verdict from me is mostly positive.

Overall I enjoyed TORSO, and if you're a true-crime fan or interested in Eliot Ness, you might want to check it out. Max Allan Collins wrote a novel based on this case as well, and after reading TORSO, I want to read it, too.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Tuesday's Overlooked Movies: Beach Party

The older I get, the less sure I am that I believe in the concept of a guilty pleasure. If I like something, I don't really see the need to feel guilty about it. That said, if there's anything that comes close to fitting the description for me, it's beach movies. I know they're shallow and downright silly, but I can't help it. I love 'em.

I recently watched BEACH PARTY again for the first time in a number of years. This is the movie that invented the genre, and I'm glad to say that it holds up pretty well for me. Some funny bits, excellent music (with the exception of Annette's ballad) that's stuck in my head for almost fifty years now, the timing of an old pro like Bob Cummings, the beautiful Dorothy Malone, Harvey Lembeck chewing the scenery as Erich Von Zipper, Jody McCrea as Deadhead (he always cracks me up), the great Candy Johnson in a shimmy dress, and lots of girls in bikinis. What's not to like?

Well, to put it bluntly, Annette. What did Frankie ever see in Dee-Dee, anyway? Yeah, he's kind of a jerk at times, but she's awful. (I should make it clear that I'm talking about the character, not Annette Funicello herself, who I liked when she was a Mousketeer.)

Other than that, I had a great time watching BEACH PARTY. I'm sure my opinion is colored by the nostalgia value of having seen this and most of the other beach movies at the Eagle Drive-in Theater when I was a kid, but I don't care. And I should warn you: Livia gave me a boxed set of them on DVD for my birthday, including a few I actually haven't seen before, so you may be reading more of these posts before the summer is over.

And now, because you can never have too much Candy Johnson:

Monday, July 16, 2012

Bookstore Nostalgia

I was running errands in Fort Worth today and drove along a two-block stretch of Camp Bowie Boulevard where four bookstores used to be located (not all at the same time, although there was some overlap): Fantastic Worlds, which I've written about before on this blog, where I bought a lot of books and comics and made a couple of friends I still have more than 30 years later; Books Etc., the first store to sell copies of my first novel TEXAS WIND (I traded some copies to the owner for some pulps, if I recall correctly); MegaBooks, one of those madhouses of a store where there was practically no organization but where you never knew what you might find if you were willing dig around; and Bricktop Books, which I visited only once but was run by a guy I knew from other used bookstores. Further up Camp Bowie one way was Century Bookstore, where I stopped a few times. Going the other way, out of town, there was a newsstand that was in business for years, where I bought comics and magazines and the occasional paperback, and two more used bookstores that I visited only once or twice, the names of which are gone from my memory. Today you can drive the entire length of Camp Bowie Boulevard, from near downtown to where it turns into Camp Bowie West and peters out between Fort Worth and Weatherford, and I'll bet you can guess how many bookstores you'll find.

That's right. Zero. Time marches on, I guess.

New This Week

Only one print book to report this week, but it looks like a good one. MISSION TO BERLIN by my friend Robert F. Dorr is the story of one bombing mission by a flight of B-17 Fighting Fortresses in February 1945. I'm currently reading Dorr's HELL  HAWKS!, the story of the P-47 squadrons who provided air cover for the D-Day invasion and fought on through France. Great stuff for those interested in military aviation non-fiction. And if you follow this link to order it, you can get a signed copy for an exceptional price, like I did.

As for e-books, I bought the following pulp reprints from Radio Archives: a couple of Spiders by Norvell Page, #7 THE SERPENT OF DESTRUCTION and #8 THE MAD HORDE, Operator 5 #10 THE RED INVADER by Frederick C. Davis, and THE MYSTERIOUS WU FANG #1: THE CASE OF THE SIX COFFINS by Robert J. Hogan.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: North-West Romances, Winter 1950

Since it's the middle of summer, I thought a nice snowy winter scene might be refreshing. This cover for NORTH-WEST ROMANCES is by the prolific pulp artist Allen Anderson. With novellas by Dan Cushman and C. Hall Thompson inside, along with a reprint of a Robert W. Service poem, the issue is probably worth reading, too.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Bullet for a Virgin! - Peter Brandvold

Bestselling Western author Peter Brandvold has written his first original e-book, BULLET FOR A VIRGIN!, which is also the first in a series of novellas about the Rio Concho Kid. As this one opens the Kid, a drifting, half-Apache gunfighter wanted by the law in the States, is sitting in a cantina south of the border on a rainy night, hoping  to pass a few peaceful hours getting drunk. Instead, a beautiful redhead with three gunmen on her trail gallops up to the place, and against his better judgment, the Kid steps in to help her escape her pursuers.

From there the action hardly ever lets up. The redhead, Tomasina de la Cruz, is on the run from a vicious Mexican general who forced her to marry him, although the union has yet to be consummated (hence the title). Tomasina is trying to reach the man she really loves, and the Kid agrees to go with her on the journey and keep her safe. Complicating matters is El Leproso, the Leper, a deadly bounty hunter the general sends after them.

From its opening in the cantina to the final shootout in a graveyard with a nice twist ending, BULLET FOR A VIRGIN! is part pulp (you can tell Brandvold has read his share of stories from SPICY WESTERN), part Spaghetti Western, and pure entertainment. It's also very well-written. I've been saying for years that Brandvold is an absolute master at choosing just the right details to make a scene come alive, and he certainly does so in this book. I had a great time reading it, and if you enjoy action-packed Westerns, you need to check it out. By the way, the book is dedicated to me and Livia, but you can trust me on this: BULLET FOR A VIRGIN! is really good.

The Prodigal Gun Now Available for the Nook

The Nook edition of THE PRODIGAL GUN by Ed Gorman and James Reasoner is now available. You can check it out here.

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Western Aces, February 1935

WESTERN ACES and its companion title from Ace Publishing, WESTERN TRAILS, were considered lower-tier markets, but I've got to tell you, I've enjoyed every issue I've read of those titles. I haven't read this one, nor do I own a copy, but it looks like a good one. A Preacher Devlin story by L.L. Foreman, stories by prolific pulpsters Joe Archibald and John Colohan, and a Kid Calvert novel by Phil Richards. (I'll admit, I'm not familiar with either Kid Calvert or his chronicler, Phil Richards.) And yes, that's a bondage cover, and I'm could probably increase the blog's traffic by noting that in the post title, but I'm not going to.)

Friday, July 13, 2012

Forgotten Books: The Golden Hooligan - Thomas B. Dewey

(This post appeared in somewhat different form on March 2, 2006.)

Thomas B. Dewey was one of my favorites when I first started reading PI fiction back in the Sixties, but I doubt if very many people today are familiar with his work.

Dewey was best known for a long series of novels about a private eye called Mac. The reader never learned the character's full name. But he also wrote another series about PI Pete Schofield, who was different from most fictional private eyes in the fact that he was married, to a gorgeous redhead named Jeannie who usually managed to get involved in helping Schofield solve his cases. (Shades of Mike Shayne and Phyllis! Those are wonderful books. But that's a different post . . .)

The fact that Schofield was married doesn't seem to have had much effect on how many beautiful women throw themselves at him in each book. It still happens with considerable regularity. He just turns them down and remains faithful to Jeannie, even when he winds up in bed with some nude lovely, as he does in this book. The plot involves a dead bullfighter and a drug-smuggling ring operating across the California/Mexico border, not that it matters a whole lot. The fun in this book -- and it's a lot of fun -- comes from Dewey's breezy style and the headlong pace of the story.

To a lot of modern readers of PI fiction, a book like this (from 1961) must seem almost as much of a relic as an Old Sleuth dime novel. THE GOLDEN HOOLIGAN certainly has its faults: the plot is maybe a little too simple, Schofield probably gets hit on the head and knocked out one too many times, and the frequency with which the female characters get naked seems pretty contrived at times. But I don't care. I grew up on this stuff, and I still love it.

One last note on Dewey: I've been told that he spent the last years of his life in Mason, Texas, and continued to write books even though the market had changed and he could no longer sell them. Maybe they just weren't any good. But the thought of unpublished Dewey novels that are probably lost forever . . . well, it makes me shake my head in regret, that's for sure. But at least there are several of his published novels that I haven't gotten around to reading yet.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Brand #1: Gun for Hire - Neil Hunter (Michael Linaker)

My friend Michael Linaker has been a busy author the past forty years or so, writing a couple of classic traditional Westerns under the name Richard Wyler, creating and writing a pair of successful Western series, Bodie the Stalker and Brand, under the name Neil Hunter, and continuing the Frank Angel series as Frederick H. Christian. In addition, he's written a number of Mack Bolan novels for Gold Eagle, as well as contributing entries to some of the Bolan spin-off series, and authored the science fiction/police procedural series Cade.

Piccadilly Publishing is doing e-book reprint editions of some of these books, and I recently read the first book in the Brand series, GUN FOR HIRE. These books were originally published in Norway in the late 1970s, when the Norwegians provided a huge market for Western fiction. They were reprinted in England during the Nineties, but the Piccadilly Publishing editions are the first time they've been readily available worldwide, as far as I know.

GUN FOR HIRE quickly establishes the series premise: former army scout and deputy U.S. marshal Jason Brand has lost his job as a lawman because of what his superiors consider excessive brutality, although Brand sees it as just doing his job. With his talents and background, about all he's suited to do is becoming a hired gun, so that's what he does. In this novel he's hired by a wealthy rancher in New Mexico Territory to rescue the man's daughter, who has been kidnapped by persons unknown. Brand sets out on the trail, which leads him south of the border into Mexico and ultimately into a Rurale prison known as "El Casa Muerte" – the House of Death.

Linaker spins a fine yarn here. Not everything in the plot is as it first appears to be, which is always a plus where I'm concerned. Brand is a good, well-developed character, too, not wholly sympathetic but enough so that the reader has no trouble rooting for him. The prose is suitably gritty, dusty, and hardboiled, and the action scenes, of which there are plenty, are excellent, tough and graphic without rising to the bloody levels of, say, the Edge books by George G. Gilman, aka Terry Harknett. (Which is not to criticize the Edge books. I like them, too.)

I really enjoyed GUN FOR HIRE. It's a fast, very entertaining Western novel. I'm glad to see it available again, along with all the other books from Piccadilly Publishing.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Now Available: The Prodigal Gun - Ed Gorman and James Reasoner

Young Richard Gideon was acquitted of bank robbery but run out of town anyway. Seven years later, sporting a custom-tailored suit and plenty of cash, Gideon is back with a plan that should bag the real thief. And if the sheriff turns a deaf ear to justice this time, Gideon's cut-down carbine should capture his attention. The Prodigal Gun was previously published as Ramrod Revenge, by Jake Foster, but now it's available for the first time with the authors’ real names and its original title.

This is the second of the two Westerns novels I wrote based on outlines by Ed Gorman. It's now available on Amazon for the Kindle, and the Nook edition is in the works at Barnes & Noble. This new edition features an introduction by Bill Crider. I'm very fond of this book and hope some of you will give it a try and enjoy it.

Donald Westlake Tribute Video

Tomorrow would have been Donald Westlake's 79th birthday. He's certainly missed. This video features Otto Penzler, Lawrence Block, Brian Garfield, and William Link talking about Westlake and his work.

Prologue Books Western Authors

This morning on the Prologue Books website, I take a look at the Western authors they're publishing. Check it out.

After Hours: Conversations with Lawrence Block - Lawrence Block and Ernie Bulow

Lawrence Block had a sale on this book through his eBay store a while back, so I picked up a copy. I'd read AFTERTHOUGHTS, the collection of his afterwords from the e-book editions of many of his novels, which serves as a literary autobiography of sorts, and to a lesser extent, a personal autobiography as well. It's a fascinating collection. I thought it might be interesting to contrast it with this book, which for the most part is made up of a series of long interviews with Block conducted by Ernie Bulow more than 15 years ago. I wanted to see what had changed since then.

The answer is: some, but not a lot. (Which, I suppose, probably would be the same answer for most of us if we were in the same situation.) Many of the stories are the same. The difference is that Block is more forthcoming about certain things now, more willing to name names (although not all the time, which is probably admirable) and flesh out the stories with more details. There's a great bit in which he says: "Memoirs are interesting things. They should be written when you're still young enough to remember but old enough not to give a fuck. I'm still the first but not quite the second." I think by now he still gives a fuck, but not as much of one. (By the way, he said parenthetically, I'm starting to understand that sentiment myself.) These days, Block is much more likely to talk about the books he wrote under various pseudonyms and has even allowed a number of them to be reprinted, with more on the way. This is a very welcome thing, as a lot of those books are pretty darned good, and I enjoy reading them and enjoy reading his comments about the circumstances under which they were written.

AFTER HOURS also includes a reprint of Block's first published story, "You Can't Lose", as well as several short essays. I found it very entertaining. I always think it's fascinating when writers talk about what they've written, how they go about it, and how it connects to their personal life. Lawrence Block does this just about as well as anybody out there. AFTER HOURS is like sitting down to shoot the breeze with him for a few hours, and it gets a high recommendation from me.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Tuesday's Overlooked Movies: China Seas

This romantic adventure yarn from 1935 is another old movie I missed somehow along the way. It doesn't usually show up on lists of Clark Gable's best films, either. But I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Gable plays Alan Gaskell, the captain of a steamship sailing from Hong Kong to Singapore. He has plenty of problems on board: his former girlfriend, a sultry nightclub singer played by Jean Harlow; an old acquaintance who's usually on the wrong side of the law, played by burly Wallace Beery; an English socialite (Rosalind Russell) Gaskell was once in love with while she was married to somebody else; a third officer who used to be a ship's captain until an act of cowardice ruined his career (Lewis Stone, kindly Judge Hardy in the Andy Hardy movies); and a drunken novelist played by humorist Robert Benchley. Throw in a typhoon . . . and oh, did I mention the secret shipment of a quarter of a million pounds in gold and a bunch of bloodthirsty Malay pirates?

As you can tell, this is sort of a kitchen-sink movie, and the fact that director Tay Garnett is able to pack all that into an 87-minute movie means that the pace never slows down for long. The script by Jules Furthman (a fine screenwriter) and James Kevin McGuinness is pretty good, full of wisecracks, poignant moments, and dramatic action. The acting is okay all around (I nearly always like Gable) and there's some decent miniature work (although the Lydecker brothers over at Republic did more and better with lower budgets).

This movie is pure Golden Age Hollywood, and I had a great time watching it. It's a prime example of the sort of movie they just don't make anymore, and if you have a soft spot for those, as I do, you should check it out.

Monday, July 09, 2012

New This Week

I always forget to mention the e-books I buy or have sent to me, but I'm going to try to remember in the future. As it happens, this week e-books are all I have to report. I've been buying a lot of the pulp reprint e-books that Radio Archives are doing as a series called Will Murray's Pulp Classics. This past week I picked up a couple of Spider novels by Norvell Page, THE MAYOR OF HELL and SLAVES OF THE MURDER SYNDICATE, and an Operator 5 novel, LEGIONS OF STARVATION. (I read LEGIONS OF STARVATION years ago and loved it. I want to read it again, unusual for me as I don't reread many books.) I got Gil Brewer's THE BRAT from Prologue Books. Also review copies of Heath Lowrance's new Weird Western featuring Hawthorne, THE LONG BLACK TRAIN (my review ran yesterday) and the new Rogue Angel novel by "Alex Archer" (in this case Mel Odom), MAGIC LANTERN. And an ARC of Heath's new novel CITY OF HERETICS. That's a damned good line-up of books, I think. You can find links below for the ones available from Amazon.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Hawthorne: The Long Black Train - Heath Lowrance

One of the most entertaining things I read last year was THAT DAMNED COYOTE HILL, Heath Lowrance's first supernatural Western story featuring the mysterious scarred gunfighter known as Hawthorne. Now Hawthorne is back in THE LONG BLACK TRAIN, the second story in the series, which I hope has settled down for a long run in David Cranmer's Beat to a Pulp publishing empire.

Hawthorne is a bounty hunter – sort of – and this story finds him on the trail of a man who murdered his sister-in-law when she tried to shield his runaway wife. That trail leads Hawthorne to a train making a nighttime run from Denver to Santa Fe, but as Hawthorne soon discovers, something even worse than his quarry is on that train. Much worse.

THE LONG BLACK TRAIN is gruesome, occasionally funny in a bizarre way, packed with action, and very well-written. In the space of a year or so, Heath Lowrance has become one of my favorite authors. If you enjoy Westerns with a supernatural touch, you definitely need to check out the Hawthorne series. I'm already eager to read the next one.

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Short Stories, March 25, 1945

This is a great issue of a consistently fine pulp magazine. I read it several years ago. Start off with that striking cover by Lee Brown Coye. Even though it's lacking the usual SHORT STORIES red sun, I really like it. Inside, the lead story is a World War II yarn with a supernatural angle by H. Bedford-Jones, one of my favorites. You also get a sea adventure by Richard Howells Watkins, a mystery novelette by Day Keene, stories by Manly Wade Wellman and Giff Cheshire, part of a serial by William MacLeod Raine, and even a poem by S. Omar Barker. That's just a stellar line-up all the way around.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Spur Western Novels, February/April 1955

This is a stretch, since it's one of Dell's digest magazines from the Fifties, but that's such a good group of authors I decided to use it. The three novellas featured on the cover are the entire contents of this issue. I've talked about Les Savage Jr. and Dan Cushman on this blog before. Will C. Brown was the pseudonym of Clarence S. Boyles, Jr., who grew up in Cross Plains, Texas, about the same time as Robert E. Howard. He was a popular Western author for a number of years and was probably the most successful author from Cross Plains at one time in his life, before the REH boom of the Sixties and Seventies. This looks like a fine issue indeed, and I wouldn't hesitate to read it if I came across a copy.

Les Savage Jr. expanded his story from this magazine into the full-length novel RETURN TO WARBOW, shown below.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Rogue Angel: Magic Lantern Review Copies Available

My buddy Mel Odom has some review copies available of his new Rogue Angel novel MAGIC LANTERN, written under the house-name Alex Archer. If any of you are interested, shoot me an email (the address is in my profile) and I'll put you in touch with him. Copies are limited, so if you'd like one, let me know.

Forgotten Books: The Buzzard's Nest - Tom West (Fred East)

Since I had this Ace Double out a while back to look up some biographical info about Tom West (who was really an Englishman named Fred East), I went ahead and read his novel, the first thing I've read by him. The other side of the book is SIEGE AT HIGH MEADOW by Louis Trimble, which I read several years ago and is pretty good, IIRC.

Hardcase Bill Jordan finds himself mixed up in a scrape in a border town on the wrong side of the Rio Grande. When he helps a man escape from some vaqueros who want to knife him, Jordan winds up in possession of the deed to a quarter-section of land in Arizona. It's not just any small spread, however; the previous owner was a train robber who cached a quarter of a million dollars in stolen loot somewhere on it. After the robber's enemies catch up to him again and kill him, Jordan heads for Arizona to claim the land and locate the loot.

When he gets there, he finds that he's not the only one after the money, of course. There's an assortment of colorful, dangerous characters who want to get their meathooks on it, too. West packs a lot of action into a fairly short novel as Jordan and his new enemies--and some allies who may or not be trustworthy--vie for the treasure.

There are some nice characters in this book, though most of them don't have much depth. West has a nice touch when setting a scene, too. His descriptions are vivid without being overdone. His brisk, punchy writing style works well in the action scenes, but less so in dialogue, which is loaded down with more exclamation points than I've seen in a while. The twist ending is pretty predictable, but still reasonably entertaining.

I wouldn't run right out looking for more Tom West books, but I liked this one enough that I'll read more of his work, just probably not right away.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Now Available: Swamp Fetish - Dan Cushman

The second volume of Armless O'Neil stories by Dan Cushman is now available from Altus Press. This finishes reprinting the entire original series featuring the hardboiled, one-armed adventurer from Chicago. Reading these stories really turned me into a Dan Cushman fan. I have most of his adventure novels now and just need to find the time to read them.

SWAMP FETISH also features an introduction by yours truly, and I appreciate Matt Moring giving me the chance to write it. If you enjoy African adventure yarns, you really need to make the acquaintance of Armless O'Neil in this book and the previous volume, SEEKERS OF THE GLITTERING FETISH.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Happy Fourth of July

Happy Fourth of July to those who celebrate it. I'm commemorating the occasion by taking the day off from the current book. I'm writing promotional copy, an outline for an upcoming book, and a short story instead. And we'll probably go out on the front porch and watch some fireworks tonight (we can see quite a few of them from where we live) if it's not too hot and the mosquitoes aren't too bad.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Tuesday's Overlooked Movies: Guadalcanal Diary

Guadalcanal is another campaign that I researched for my World War II series, and one way I did that was by reading GUADALCANAL DIARY, the bestselling book by Richard Tregaskis, a war correspondent who was there with the Marines for the battle. As successful as the book was, it's not surprising that it was made into a movie of the same name, which came out in 1943.

As was the fashion at the time, the film's screenplay comes up with some fictional characters to plug into the history, including a taxi driver from Brooklyn (William Bendix), who roots for "dem bums", meaning the Brooklyn Dodgers, of course. He's part of a squad that includes a veteran sergeant, well-played by Lloyd Nolan, a green kid (Richard Jaeckal), and a Hispanic Marine played by a young Anthony Quinn. (The same sort of character shows up in BATTLEGROUND, played by Ricardo Montalban.) Preston Foster plays the chaplain who serves as the emotional center of the film, which starts on the troop carrier bringing the soldiers to the battle, follows on through the landing on Guadalcanal, and stays with the action until the Marines are relieved after securing the island several months later.

The movie glosses over somewhat the intensity of the fighting, although it does a good job of representing the danger from Japanese snipers, which was one of the main threats the Marines faced. There are several good battle scenes, though, and it does a fine job of portraying the heat and boredom, interspersed with desperate peril, of jungle fighting. Since the movie was made in 1943, when the outcome of the war was still in doubt, there's a little more patriotic drum-beating than you might find in films that came later, but I certainly don't mind that. It fits the era.

I thought this was an excellent film, and it brings to an end my string of World War II movie posts. I'm sure I'll be watching more of them in the future, but probably not for a while.

Monday, July 02, 2012

New This Week

I picked up some old Westerns the other day, after a couple of weeks of nothing new to report.

DEAD END TRAIL by Norman A. Fox appears to be the first book featuring range detectives Rowdy Dow and Stumpy Grampis. Any resemblance to Roy Rogers and Gabby Hayes is strictly coincidental, I'm sure. I haven't read a lot of Fox's books, but I like his work fairly well.

NIGHT RIDERS by Giff Cheshire is a Leisure Books reprint of two stories from the pulps, "Blood Oath", a novella from .44 WESTERN and the title story, a full-length serial from RANCH ROMANCES.  Cheshire's work is usually pretty good.

SHANNAHAN'S FEUD is by Archie Joscelyn writing under his most common pseudonym, Al Cody. Although his later books are pretty bad, I've liked everything I've read by Joscelyn that's from the Forties and Fifties, and this one was originally published in 1950.

THE COUGAR OF CANYON CABALLO/DEVIL'S DOORSTEP is a double volume of two early Paul Evan Lehman novels. Lehman is always readable and occasionally very good.

SHOOTIN' MELODY is by E.B. Mann, an author I've never read but have meant to get around to for quite a while now. I have one or two other books by him. This one was originally published in 1938.

THE TUCSON TEMPTRESS by Chet Cunningham is #3 in the Agent Brad Spear adult Western series, from 1981.  Thirty years ago? Not possible!

Finally, a handful of Signet double novel reprints of Lewis B. Patten books, all originally published in the Seventies by Doubleday: AMBUSH AT SODA CREEK/MAN OUTGUNNED, A KILLING IN KIOWA/THE FEUD AT CHIMNEY ROCK, DEATH STALKS YELLOWHORSE/THE ORPHANS OF COYOTE CREEK, and HUNT THE MAN DOWN/CHEYENNE CAPTIVES. By this stage of his career, Patten's work was pretty inconsistent. I'll bet there's some good ones among these, though.