Monday, November 30, 2015

Gravedigger: Hot Women, Cold Cash - Christopher Mills and Rich Burchett

GRAVEDIGGER: HOT WOMEN, COLD CASH is a trade paperback collecting a pair of hardboiled crime yarns written by Christopher Mills with art by Rick Burchett. As you can tell by that great cover, the protagonist, "Gravedigger" McCrae was inspired visually by Lee Marvin, and there's a lot of Richard Stark/Donald E. Westlake influence, too, since the character is a professional criminal. There's also a bit of Dan J. Marlowe's THE NAME OF THE GAME IS DEATH in this graphic novel's lineage. These are all good things, of course, and Mills and Burchett make excellent use of these influences.

In the first story, "The Predators", Digger, as he's usually called, is in Florida trying to relax after a job, but when he gets involved with a mob boss's daughter things quickly go to hell and he finds himself targeted for death. There are some great scenes in the Everglades involving an airboat. I've never actually been on an airboat, but I find them fascinating anyway, for some reason. And of course I'm a sucker for swamp scenes.

The second story, "The Scavengers", is a heist yarn, very Parker-like in its planning, execution, and inevitable double- and triple-crosses. This one is set in the desert Southwest, another great locale for hardboiled and noir tales.

I like Burchett's stark, black-and-white art, and Mills' scripts race right along with fine dialogue and excellent voice-over narration from Digger. I haven't read any of Mills' other work, but I enjoyed this volume enough that I'm going to seek it out. If you're a fan of Darwyn Cooke's Parker adaptations, Ed Brubaker's CRIMINAL, or any of the other hardboiled/noir graphic novels out there, you definitely should check out GRAVEDIGGER: HOT WOMEN, COLD CASH. It's good stuff.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Now Available: The Last Martian Chronicles - John Hegenberger

From the cold, rocky surface of Mars to the vast reaches of deep space, from the dusty pages of the pulps to the cutting edge medical technology of the future, the stories in John Hegenberger’s THE LAST MARTIAN CHRONICLES span the frontiers of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Unlikely friends try to survive the dangers of future war in “Keys to the Kingdom”. A bizarre fate befalls a famous author in the alternate history story “Howard’s Toe”. Sinister forces are on the prowl in “Dead Dames in Dayton”. Alien visitors come to Earth with surprising results in “Last Contact”. And two races face a poignant destiny in “The Last Martian”. These stories and others from popular author John Hegenberger are filled with imagination, ingenuity, and heart.

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Dime Detective, May 1, 1934

This DIME DETECTIVE cover has a real Weird Menace look to it. The contents appear to be pure hardboiled detective, though, with stories by Frederick Nebel (a Cardigan yarn), Erle Stanley Gardner, and Roger Torrey, along with a couple of lesser known authors, Maxwell Hawkins and Anson Hatch.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Popular Western, September 1941

A busy but effective cover on this issue of POPULAR WESTERN, and the contents look good, too, with a Sheriff Blue Steele story by Tom Gunn (Syl McDowell), a Buffalo Billy Bates story by Scott Carleton (a house-name, so I don't know who wrote this one, although for some reason I seem to recall that Walker Tompkins wrote the Buffalo Billy Bates series), and yarns by William L. Hopson, Wayne D. Overholser, Donald Bayne Hobart, and Larry A. Harris.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Forgotten Books: Terror Station - Dwight V. Swain

I guess I've been watching too many of those 1950s science fiction movies lately, because I was in the mood to read something along those lines. What better place to look for it than the pages of the SF digests from that era, especially those published by William Hamling?

Well, you could check out a publishing company called Armchair Fiction, which has reprinted a lot of short novels from those magazines. That's where I read Dwight V. Swain's TERROR STATION, which appeared originally in the September 1955 issue of IMAGINATIVE TALES, with a cover by Harold W. Macauley that matches the story quite well. I met Dwight Swain at a convention in Oklahoma City in 1991, a year before he passed away, and I'm glad I got a chance to talk to him, even briefly. I hadn't read much of his work at the time, but I've since read quite a bit and enjoyed most of it.

TERROR STATION, like a lot of those movies I was talking about, is set in the desert, although it involves a military base, not a small town. The protagonist is Carl Stone, the head of security for the base, where some top-secret research is going on. Stone is driving back to the base one night, returning from a trip to Washington, when a terrified woman runs out in front of his headlights, an opening a little reminiscent of Mickey Spillane's KISS ME, DEADLY.

The story isn't the least bit Spillane-like after that, however. The woman is being pursued by a tentacle-waving alien. Stone tries to rescue her, but she's cut down by a death ray. The alien gets away. But when Stone takes the woman's body to the base, nobody believes him about the alien, and he's accused of murdering her. Everybody on the base is on edge and paranoid and acting out of character, including the director of the research project, who's Stone's old friend, and the base psychiatrist, who happens to be Stone's former girlfriend. Could it be that the evil aliens are influencing their minds? Why has a mysterious giant tower been erected on the base while Stone was gone? What are those strange lights in the sky?

I think you can probably answer all those questions without even reading the book, but if you're looking for a groundbreaking plot, TERROR STATION isn't the place. If you're in the mood for a slam-bang, two-fisted, hardboiled SF adventure yarn with a satisfying ending, this one is just about perfect. Swain really knew how to keep a story racing along for 30,000 words with hardly a pause for breath, and old geezer that I am, I had a great time reading it. I have a big stack of these Armchair Fiction double volumes, which are made to look a lot like the old Ace Doubles, so expect more posts like this to be showing up in the near future.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to all o' yuh durn galoots. In these days of Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, and all the other social media I can't keep up with, I'm thankful for those of you who still take the time to stop by an old-fashioned blog. I plan to work a little today, take a little time off, and eat more than I should. That sounds like a good holiday to me.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Secret of Satan's Spine - Kenneth Robeson (Will Murray and Lester Dent)

All of Will Murray's Doc Savage novels have made me feel like I was back in high school, reading one of the Bantam paperbacks that I bought the first Tuesday of every month at Mott's Five-and-Ten Cent Store. (I doubt if anything in there was actually five cents or ten cents, but what the hey.) Murray's most recent Doc novel, THE SECRET OF SATAN'S SPINE, evidently based on an unused outline by series creator Lester Dent, really captured that feeling for me. I might as well have been back in that World War II-era army barracks my high school used as the study hall.

I realize I'm wallowing too much in nostalgia, but it's hard not to with these books. I mean, look at that great Bama-like cover by Joe DeVito. Kudos, too, to Matt Moring, who makes the layout of the pages look like those iconic Bantam editions.

But what about the story, you ask? Well, it's classic Doc Savage, as you'd expect from Will Murray. Monk Mayfair falls for a beautiful blonde who winds up being kidnapped. It's all a ruse to keep him from sailing to England to do some important war work for the Allies (this one is set in 1943). Doc, Monk, and Ham Brooks wind up on the ship that Monk planned to take anyway, but there are a bunch of villains on board, as well as some unexpected friends from one of the original novels by Lester Dent. There's a mysterious, sinister island in the Caribbean called Satan's Cay, and of course that's where you'd expect to find Satan's Spine, the secret of which is creepy, awe-inspiring, and also connected to some of the previous adventures of Doc and his crew. On top of all that, our heroes have to deal with a monster of a hurricane that's looming through most of the book before it finally strikes.

Add all that up and you've got pure pulp adventure of the sort that I love. As I've probably said before, when I bought the paperback of METEOR MENACE (my first Doc Savage novel), I never dreamed I'd still be reading new stories about him more than fifty years later. But I'm very glad that I am, and THE SECRET OF SATAN'S SPINE is great reading for any Doc fan.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Tuesday's Overlooked Movies: The Deadly Mantis

I thought I'd seen nearly all of these movies, but Svengoolie keeps coming up with ones that I hadn't, or at least don't remember. Obviously, my cultural education was severely lacking in some respects. THE DEADLY MANTIS is from 1957, and as giant bug movies go, it's not bad.

It starts from a pretty ridiculous premise, though. A volcano erupts in Antarctica, and somehow that thaws out a giant prehistoric praying mantis frozen in the Arctic. Okay, we'll go with that, I guess. The mantis destroys an isolated radar station manned by the Air Force, which brings it to the attention of our stalwart hero, a colonel played by Craig Stevens. Yep, Peter Gunn his own self. But that not all. The scientist called in by the Air Force to help figure everything out is played by none other than William Hopper, best known as Paul Drake on PERRY MASON. So we have two iconic private eyes fighting a giant praying mantis. Yeah, I'll watch that. There's also a spunky gal reporter involved, but I thought she was kind of annoying.

The movie takes a documentary-like approach to a lot of the scenes, and that works pretty well. The mantis itself doesn't appear on-screen until well into the film, which is probably good. In some shots it appears fairly scary (well, it would have scared me when I was ten years old, which is how I try to approach movies like this), but in others it just looks fake and silly.

The odd thing is, as the movie goes on, I started to feel sorry for the mantis. I don't know if this was intentional or not, but the final scenes kind of tug at the ol' heartstrings, and I found myself not liking the human characters as much. I don't really think the filmmakers were trying to make any sort of statement, but looking at it from that angle, it's kind of a powerful ending.

Anyway, I'm glad I finally saw THE DEADLY MANTIS. It's not a great film, by any means, but I enjoyed it.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Now Available: Tales From the Otherverse

Other times, other places, other stories than the ones we know...These are the Tales From the Otherverse, where anything is possible and things never work out quite the way you'd expect. Some of today's top talents in popular fiction turn their hands to tales of alternate history. Featuring new stories by bestselling, award-winning authors Bill Crider, Lou Antonelli, Scott A. Cupp, Robert E. Vardeman, James Reasoner, and more. Explore the Otherverse and see what might have been! (Amazon links are below. Also available from Smashwords for all platforms.)

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Speed Adventure Stories, January 1946

By this time in SPEED ADVENTURE's run, the publisher was calling itself Arrow Publications, but it still looks to me like good old Trojan Publications. The authors are still the usual suspects, that's for sure. I'm pretty sure I have a reprint of E. Hoffmann Price's "Guns for Sumatra" in some anthology or collection. I don't know anything about Felix Flammonde (sounds like a pseudonym to me), Randolph Barr is a house-name, and Clive Trent, Hugh Speer, and Lew Merrill were all Victor Rousseau (although Trent and Speer were used occasionally as house-names as well, so we can't be 100% sure). The stories may have been formulaic as all get-out, but I've still enjoyed everything I've read from the various Spicy/Speed pulps.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Ace-High Western Stories, November 1946

An old codger with a bullet hole in his hat and his hands full of dynamite . . . he told those darn kids to stay off his lawn and away from his gold mine! I like this cover, probably because a lot of the time I feel about like this guy looks. But inside this issue of ACE-HIGH WESTERN STORIES are yarns by Ed Earl Repp, Barry Cord, Ray Gaulden, and some lesser-known names and house-names, so I'm sure if I sat down and read it, my mood would improve.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Now Available for Pre-Order: The Last Martian Chronicles - John Hegenberger

From the cold, rocky surface of Mars to the vast reaches of deep space, from the dusty pages of the pulps to the cutting edge medical technology of the future, the stories in John Hegenberger’s THE LAST MARTIAN CHRONICLES span the frontiers of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Unlikely friends try to survive the dangers of future war in “Keys to the Kingdom”. A bizarre fate befalls a famous author in the alternate history story “Howard’s Toe”. Sinister forces are on the prowl in “Dead Dames in Dayton”. Alien visitors come to Earth with surprising results in “Last Contact”. And two races face a poignant destiny in “The Last Martian”. These stories and others from popular author John Hegenberger are filled with imagination, ingenuity, and heart.

Forgotten Books: The Pusher - Ed McBain (Evan Hunter) (A Winter Holiday FFB)

I almost reread this one for Ed McBain Week a while back but finally decided to go with a book I'd never read instead. Still, I had very good memories of THE PUSHER from the last time I read it, more than 40 years ago when I was in high school, and I recalled that it takes place around Christmas, so when it came time to do a Forgotten Books post featuring a winter holiday, it jumped to the top of my list.

This was not the first 87th Precinct novel I read, but it was among the first half-dozen or so. It's also the third novel in the series, so while some of the characters are very familiar—Steve Carella, Bert Kling, Meyer Meyer, Lt. Byrnes, Hal Willis—many of the characters who would become prominent in later entries haven't come along yet. That's all right. I have a real fondness for the early books where the 87th Precinct "mythology" wasn't quite so sprawling.

This one opens with the discovery of a young man's body in what appears to be a suicide by hanging. The cops discover pretty quickly that he was already dead when the rope was put around his neck. But there's an empty syringe beside him, and when it's confirmed that he died from an overdose of heroin, the focus shifts to either suicide by overdose or an accidental death. Nope. It's murder, and there'll be several more before the detectives from the 87th figure out what's going on and close in on the killer.

As usual with this series, THE PUSHER is a very readable blend of terse, no-nonsense police procedure reminiscent of DRAGNET with more introspective, even literary passages of characterization and setting. I'm not sure anybody's ever done this better than Evan Hunter. Not many have come close. He does a fine job of capturing the feeling of Christmas time in a big city. The actual plot, the revelation of the killer and the motive, is functional but nothing more, but what sets this novel apart is the way that plot involves two of the main characters on a very personal level. There are probably a few of you who haven't read the book (the ones who have likely know what I'm talking about), so I won't go any deeper into that for fear of spoilers. But there's some gut-wrenching stuff here, and I remember sitting in study hall barely able to breathe as I read the last five or six pages, they were so suspenseful. And that was having already read later books in the series, so I already knew how this one was going to end! Hunter/McBain was just that good.

However, for the record, his agent and editor were right when they talked him into changing the original ending of the manuscript, at least as far as I'm concerned.

I've long said that THE PUSHER is my favorite of the 87th Precinct series, and after rereading it I think it still is, although all of the first eight or ten books are at a very high level. If you haven't read it, it gets a big recommendation from me. If you have, it's worth rereading, like visiting an old friend. (That's the original Pocket Books edition above, the later Dell edition--the one I read in high school--below.)

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Tuesday's Overlooked Movies: The Bold Caballero

I've been a Zorro fan almost as far back as I can remember, starting with the Guy Williams TV version, but I'd never seen this 1936 feature film until now. It stars Robert Livingston, probably best known for playing Stony Brooke in a bunch of Three Mesquiteer movies, as Don Diego Vega, who in this version is a poor but charming adventurer rather than a Spanish aristocrat. And of course he's also the masked rogue/hero Zorro.

The film opens with Zorro about to be hanged by the brutal Spanish commandant, played by Sig Ruman in an odd performance in which the character comes across as part bumbling comedy relief, part ruthless psychopath. Strange it may be, but it's effective. Anyway, Zorro escapes the gallows, of course, and then a new Spanish governor shows up in California, accompanied by his daughter (Heather Angel, British accent and all, even though she's supposed to be a Spanish noblewoman). The governor is murdered in short order, Zorro is framed for the killing, and the beautiful orphaned daughter takes over as the new governor and vows to hunt him down.

The script by Wells Root (who also directed) is fairly complex and has some nice lines. The photography is pretty good, although I watched the black-and-white version, rather than the "thrilling natural color' version mentioned on the poster above. The acting is adequate at best. I've never been much of a Robert Livingston fan. The movie also gets a little bogged down in the middle with too much silliness. But overall things move along nicely and there's some excellent stunt work here and there, leading up to a big battle at the end that finds Zorro fighting off a bunch of Spanish soldiers by using a couple of flaming arrows as if they were swords. That's a really nice scene.

So in the end I found THE BOLD CABALLERO to be worth watching, especially if you're a Zorro fan. And it put me in the mood to read some more of Johnston McCulley's Zorro stories, as well. Will I find the time? We'll see.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Mammoth Detective, September 1942

I'm sure there are people who collect mummy covers. This is a pretty good one. And with stories by William P. McGivern, Howard Browne, Dwight V. Swain, Robert Leslie Bellem, G.T. Fleming-Roberts, George Armin Shaftel, the ubiquitous Alexander Blade, and more, this issue of MAMMOTH DETECTIVE is probably pretty good reading, too.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Western Adventures, October 1941

WESTERN ADVENTURES may have been Street & Smith's third-string Western pulp (behind WESTERN STORY and WILD WEST WEEKLY), but it had some excellent authors in its pages. This issue featured stories by Walker A. Tompkins, Norman A. Fox, Jim Kjelgaard, Eli Colter, Ney N. Geer, and M. Howard Lane.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Forgotten Books: Night Calls the Green Falcon - Robert McCammon

I'm fudging a little this week since "Night Calls the Green Falcon" is a novella, not a novel, but it's been my favorite of Robert McCammon's work since I first read it 25 years ago, it's available by itself as an e-book, and when I reread it recently, it held up very well. So I thought I might as well say a few words about it and maybe inspire some of you to read it.

"Night Calls the Green Falcon" was first published in 1988 in the anthology SILVER SCREAM, edited by David J. Schow. I had a copy of that book but never got around to reading it. I did, however, read this story when it came out a couple of years later in McCammon's collection BLUE WORLD. That's a great collection, but "Night Calls the Green Falcon" is the real stand-out as far as I'm concerned.

Creighton Flint (real name Creighton Boomershine) is a washed-up actor, a former champion athlete from the Midwest who went to Hollywood in the early Fifties and starred in four movie serials during the fading days of that film genre, until a tragedy cut short his career. He played the masked crimefighter known as the Green Falcon and still has the costume from those serials, even though it's not in very good shape. Neither is Flint, who now lives in a rundown apartment house in a bad neighborhood in Hollywood.

A serial murderer known in the papers as the Flip-Top Killer has been preying on street people in the neighborhood, and when a friend of Flint becomes one of the victims, he sets out to track down the murderer. But he puts on the uniform of the Green Falcon to do so, which attracts unwanted attention and complicates Flint's quest for justice—which is also a quest to reclaim his lost celluloid heroism.

Things play out about like you'd expect in this novella, and McCammon opens it with a dream scene, a technique I don't like, but other than that it's very well written and the pace is absolutely relentless. More than that, and most of all, it's an unabashed love letter to serials, comic books, pulps, and all the other things that helped make so many of us what we are today, and I don't mind admitting I was a little misty-eyed when I got to the end. To quote a wise man from Alvin, Texas, I miss the old days, and I sort of miss 'em even more after reading "Night Calls the Green Falcon". McCammon's a fine writer and I still have several of his books that I haven't read yet, but I doubt if any of them will top this one for me.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Tuesday's Overlooked Movie: Tarantula

Here's another one from Svengoolie that I missed somehow growing up. TARANTULA is a pretty good entry from the giant creature genre. Nuclear biologist Leo G. Carroll (best known as either Cosmo Topper or Alexander Waverly, depending on your age, I guess; I remember him as both of them) is working on a formula that will solve the world's hunger problem. Unfortunately it has a couple of side effects: it makes animals grow incredibly big, and it turns human subjects into acromegalic freaks. Naturally, one of the test subjects is a tarantula that gets loose, grows to 100 times its normal size, and terrorizes the nearby desert community. John Agar is the local doctor (when I was a kid I had a good friend who was a huge John Agar fan), Mara Corday is a gorgeous graduate student, Raymond Bailey (Milburn Drysdale from THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES) is another scientist, and a very young Clint Eastwood is a fighter pilot who has three or four lines and is on-screen maybe 30 seconds. Despite the occasional lapse of logic in the screenplay, TARANTULA is a well-made film directed by Jack Arnold and watching it was a considerable amount of fun.

One thing struck me, though, during the opening scene where one of the human victims of the formula dies in the desert (a pretty effective opening, by the way): a lot of these movies were shot in the same locations where many Western movies were made. Then later, during the town scenes where there are lots of guys in cowboy hats walking around, the thought crystalized. They should have made one of these giant creature movies with Roy Rogers. Just imagine Roy, backed up by Andy Devine, Foy Willing, and the Riders of the Purple Sage (since it's the Fifties and Gabby Hayes and the Sons of the Pioneers have moved on by then) fighting some giant grasshopper or such, in a movie directed by William Witney and written by Sloan Nibley. I'd watch that!

Monday, November 09, 2015

Lie Catchers - Paul Bishop

Paul Bishop has been one of my favorite writers for a long time, but he may have set a new standard for himself with his latest novel, LIE CATCHERS. This is the first book in a new series featuring LAPD detectives Ray Pagan and "Calamity" Jane Randall, who is also the narrator. Both of them have special abilities that make them better at what they do—interrogating prisoners—than anybody else.

As LIE CATCHERS opens, Randall is recuperating from a gunshot wound suffered in the line of duty, during an incident that's one of several which have given her the nickname "Calamity". She wants to get back to work but is uncertain about being teamed with the eccentric Pagan, who doesn't really dress, talk, or act like any of the other cops she has known or worked with. It doesn't take her long to figure that he's a genius at interrogation, though, and he thinks she can be, too.

After working together on a gang shooting case, the new team launches into the investigation that will keep them busy for the rest of the book: the kidnapping of the six-year-old daughter of a rap music mogul. Before long there's the seemingly unrelated kidnapping of another child and a couple of murders to complicate things, but Pagan and Randall sort through everything with a mixture of dogged police work and brilliant questioning of suspects.

The police procedural element is fascinating, as is the developing relationship between the two protagonists. Bishop's prose races right along, never losing control of the complex plot. LIE CATCHERS is easily one of the best novels I've read this year. Also included in this book are two autobiographical essays by Bishop about his first interrogation and his last arrest before retiring from the LAPD, and they're worth the price of the book by themselves. You won't go wrong with this one. It gets my highest recommendation.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Detective Tales, August 1940

I think this may be the first trapeze shootout I've ever seen on a pulp cover. Seems pretty dramatic. Inside this issue of DETECTIVE TALES you've got a Satan Hall story by Carroll John Daly, plus yarns by Arthur Leo Zagat, Philip Ketchum, Dale Clark, and more.

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Coming Soon: Tales From the Otherverse

Other times, other places, other stories than the ones we know...These are the Tales From the Otherverse, where anything is possible and things never work out quite the way you'd expect. Some of today's top talents in popular fiction turn their hands to tales of alternate history. Featuring new stories by bestselling, award-winning authors Bill Crider, Lou Antonelli, Scott A. Cupp, Robert E. Vardeman, James Reasoner, and more. Explore the Otherverse and see what might have been!

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: 10 Story Western, July 1945

Now that's a cover! Two tough hombres riding the cowcatcher of a locomotive barreling down the tracks! From the looks of it, they're having a shootout with the bad guys, too. I've got to write a scene with a setup like this in it. What's inside this issue of 10 STORY WESTERN looks good, too, with stories by William Heuman, Frank Bonham, Tom W. Blackburn, Gunnison Steele, Giff Cheshire, Philip Ketchum, and Barry Gardner (actually Bennie Gardner, who was also Gunnison Steele).

Friday, November 06, 2015

Now Available: The Big Shutdown - John M. Whalen


The Big Shutdown

Flying W Press announces the return of a space western classic. ‘’THE BIG SHUTDOWN.” First published as a series in the famed Ray Gun Revival e-zine in 2006-2007, and in 2010 as a paperback and e-book novel under the title “Jack Brand,” this space western saga is back in a revised edition, under a new title – “THE BIG SHUTDOWN.” 

An entire planet is about to be shutdown. Once exploited by Earth’s conglomerates for its rich oil resources, the planet Tulon has become obsolete due to the rise of alternative fuel technologies. The powers that be are ready to pull the plug. Chaos rules as Nomad gangs terrorize what’s left of Tulon’s cities. Jack Brand, ex-Army Ranger, semi-retired Tulon Security Officer, searches for his missing sister, Terry. His journey takes him from desert wasteland, to a domed city, through savage jungles, and down into a kingdom below the sea. Along the way he meets the unforgettable Christy Jones, but love will have to wait until Brand finds his sister, and soon the last ship will leave for Earth.

The new edition includes an introduction by Ray Gun Revival Overlord, Johne Cook, and a bonus story from Whalen’s This Ray Gun for Hire series.

Don’t miss this exciting space western adventure, which some have said combines the Space Opera thrills of Flash Gordon and the gritty feeling of a Sam Peckinpah western. Available now on in paperback or Kindle.

Forgotten Books: Marilyn K. - Lionel White

As far as I recall, I've read only two books by Lionel White before now. Liked one quite a bit, didn't care for the other one. But MARILYN K., originally published by Monarch Books in 1960, is a good yarn, no doubt about that.

The set-up is pure noir. Narrator/protagonist Sam Russell, ex-Marine, ex-casino croupier who lost his job in Havana when Castro took over, is driving from Florida to New York when he comes across a beautiful girl stranded on an isolated stretch of road in Maryland. She needs help, and she's attractive enough that Sam wants to help her.

The fact that she has a suitcase full of money with her is an added inducement. But the situation is complicated by a wrecked car nearby with a dead mobster in it, and once Sam finds out what's going on, he's is smart enough to know that what he ought to do is just keep driving.

But of course, he doesn't. He tries to help the girl and finds himself up to his neck in a mess involving mob money, murder, brutal cops, ambitious politicians, and more than one beautiful young woman who may or may not be trustworthy.

White handles all this in highly entertaining fashion, juggling the elements of his plot so that the reader really doesn't know what to expect next. It helps that much of the action takes place around a couple of motels (that staple of noir fiction), one a ritzy motor lodge, the other a set of rundown tourist cabins. It all leads to a satisfying, if somewhat predictable, climax.

MARILYN K. generates a considerable amount of suspense and hardboiled thrills, and it's good enough to make me want to read more by Lionel White. Luckily, it's being reprinted this month by Stark House in a double volume with THE HOUSE NEXT DOOR, and it's available for pre-order. Well worth reading is my verdict.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Now Available: The Candy Cane Cupcake Killer - Livia J. Washburn

In the latest from the national bestselling author of Trick or Deadly Treat, Phyllis Newsom returns with a festive Christmas recipe that’s to die for…

‘Tis the season in Weatherford, Texas, and everyone in town is gearing up for the annual holiday parade and tree-lighting ceremony in the town square, where Phyllis Newsom will be serving her much-anticipated candy cane cupcakes. Local rancher Barney McCrory manages to charm one away from her before the ceremony begins. But unfortunately, when the minty confection is finished, so is he.

This isn’t the first time someone has dropped dead after eating one of Phyllis’s treats. But when the paramedics determine the rancher was shot, suspicion swiftly falls on McCrory’s daughter and her husband—who both stand to reap some sweet rewards from his death. Though Phyllis doesn’t want to get mixed up in another murder investigation, something about this case doesn’t sit right with her. With a little help from a tabloid TV news crew, Phyllis must unwrap the truth and restore good cheer to Weatherford before it’s too late…

Includes recipes!

(And on a personal note, while I'm hardly unbiased, I think this is one of the best in the series, with some great characters and really funny dialogue, not to mention a fine mystery.) 

Tuesday's Overlooked Movies: Jupiter Ascending

JUPITER ASCENDING is another movie that got mostly bad reviews, and if you're a regular reader of this blog, you know that means there's a pretty good chance I liked it. And so I did.

Mila Kunis is Jupiter Jones, a Russian immigrant working as a maid in Chicago. Channing Tatum is Caine, an intergalactic bounty hunter. It shouldn't come as any surprise that the two wind up being connected, as a three-pronged war that involves two brothers and a sister who control one of the universe's biggest business dynasties comes to Earth. (Earth, of course, despite being just a backwater planet, is key to every intergalactic war. Just ask the Kree and the Skrulls, or Apokalips and New Genesis.)

So, lots of stuff blows up real good. Tatum zips around like the Silver Surfer, only instead of a cosmic surfboard he has flying boots. Kunis dresses up like a space empress. The great Sean Bean is Tatum's tough, grizzled old mentor. The villains are thoroughly despicable. Spaceships dart around through wormholes. Planets explode (speaking of stuff blowing up real good). What's not to like? This ain't cinema, folks. It's a flashy, over-the-top space opera, and I had a grand time watching it. It was made by the Wachowski siblings, and honestly, I liked it considerably better than either of the Matrix sequels. As always with movies like this, I expect to be in the minority, but I think JUPITER ASCENDING is pretty darned good.

Monday, November 02, 2015

Now Available: Blaze! Ride Hard, Shoot Fast - Wayne D. Dundee

It was the biggest endurance race the West had ever seen—hundreds of miles across grueling territory, with a fortune riding on the outcome. Kate and J.D. Blaze, the West's only team of husband-and-wife gunfighters, are hired to make sure no one cheats and that riders and horses are safe, but before the race even begins, trouble crops up. Greed, old hatreds, and sudden death are riding in this race, and Kate and J.D. will need all their cunning and gun skill to keep murder from winning!

Best-selling, award-winning Western author Wayne D. Dundee returns to the BLAZE! series with another fast-paced entry full of hardboiled action, compelling characters, and plot twists. Read RIDE HARD, SHOOT FAST and find out why BLAZE! is today's top Adult Western series!

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: All Aces Magazine, May/June 1936

A short-lived pulp from Popular Publications, ALL ACES certainly had some good authors writing for it in this issue: Talbot Mundy, Murray Leinster, James B. Hendryx, and Dale Clark, along with a few others not familiar to me. That's not a particularly attractive cover, but I'll bet the stories are entertaining.