Any time I watch a silent movie, it takes me a little while to adjust to it, but once I do, I nearly always enjoy it. TUMBLEWEEDS, from 1925, is William S. Hart's magnum opus, a big sprawling epic of the Oklahoma Land Rush in 1889. There's some great stunt work in it, and it's worth watching for that alone. The whole movie is available on YouTube. When TUMBLEWEEDS was reissued in 1939, it included an eight-minute sound prologue of Hart talking about the making of the film and then bidding farewell to his viewers. Is it hokey and melodramatic, as you might expect from a silent film star? Absolutely. Does it work? Well, when Hart is almost overcome by emotion near the end, I get a little misty-eyed myself, and I've seen it many times. Such sincerity is a nice respite from modern-day irony and cynicism.
Pretty good cover on this first issue of DETECTIVE ACTION STORIES, but the real appeal is inside, with novelettes by Erle Stanley Gardner, J. Allan Dunn, and F.V.W. Mason (billed as Frank V.W. Mason, something I haven't seen too often). Probably a solidly entertaining pulp, with that lineup.
My favorite version of this song is still the one by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, but this one by Martin Denny is pretty good. We had several Martin Denny albums when I was a kid because my dad liked his music. Don't remember if this song was on any of them.
Young Andy Malloy is surrounded by tragedy and trouble. His
stepmother is dead. His father, accused of her murder, is on the run from a
posse led by a brutal sheriff with demons of his own. Andy’s investigation into
the crime is about to put him in deadly danger. And the truth, not to mention
Andy’s own life, may rest in the hands of a pathetic town drunk and a
freckle-faced redhead . . .
BRANDED is a classic novel by the master of Western noir, Ed Gorman. Filled
with compelling characters, breathtaking suspense, and stunning plot twists,
it’s a yarn guaranteed to please Western and mystery readers and a novel not
soon to be forgotten.
(This is one of Ed's best books. If you haven't read it, do yourself a favor and grab it.)
This is a pretty eye-catching cover, even for SPICY WESTERN STORIES, and the lineup of authors inside is a good one: E. Hoffmann Price, James P. Olsen writing as James A. Lawson, Laurence Donovan writing as Larry Dunn, and two stories each by Edwin Truett Long (as by Luke Terry and Wallace Kayton) and John A. Saxon (as King Saxon and Rex Norman). Prolific and entertaining pulpsters, each and every one.
The second novel in the upcoming Stark House volume of reprints from Lion Books is THE MAN I KILLED by Shel Walker, who was really Walt Sheldon. This fast-paced crime novel is the only time Sheldon used that pseudonym. The narrator has a pseudonym, too. He calls himself Lew Ross but makes it clear that’s not his real name. The alias is because ten years earlier he killed a man in a bar fight and went on the run. The law has never caught up to him in his adventurous life since then, but as this novel opens he’s come back to the unnamed city in the American Southwest where his crime took place. The scene of that crime is now a much fancier nightclub and gambling joint run by mobster Marty Evans. Lew meets a girl there and falls for her, but he has a tendency of getting in trouble and before you know it he’s up to his neck in a murder frame, complete with beatings from the cops and the gangsters alike. Anybody who’s read many hardboiled crime novels from the Fifties will have a pretty good idea what’s going to happen in this book, but the real pleasure in reading THE MAN I KILLED is Sheldon’s crisp, literate prose. The story moves along very fast, Lew and both of the beautiful girls he encounters are likable characters, and the antagonists on both sides of the law are suitably detestable, although a couple of them (a police detective and a former college football star who now works as muscle for the mob) have more depth to them than you might expect. This is actually the first novel by Sheldon that I’ve read, although I’ve seen his books around for many years and have a few of them on my shelves. I enjoyed it very much and will be checking out more of his work.
This one is kind of a mixed bag, but it's a Western I'd somehow never seen before, so I'm glad we watched it. Fort Bravo is a Union post in Arizona where Confederate prisoners are kept during the Civil War. William Holden is a hard-nosed Yankee officer, John Forsythe is the leader of the Confederates (an odd bit of casting), William Demarest is the comedy relief (not used much in what's basically a pretty grim movie), and Eleanor Parker is the beautiful woman who shows up and complicates things. ESCAPE FROM FORT BRAVO was directed by John Sturges, so you know the film is going to look good and the action scenes will be well-staged. That part works just fine, and the actors are all okay, despite the fact that I'm not a big fan of any of them except maybe William Holden, who's been in a lot of movies I've liked. However, the script is full of lapses in logic. For example, in order to romance Parker, Holden takes her--alone--to the exact same spot where an entire cavalry patrol got attacked by Apaches a day or two earlier. That sort of thing happens all too often. But the last thirty minutes has a lot of nice action in it, which makes ESCAPE FROM FORT BRAVO worth watching. I'll probably never watch it again, though.
"World's End", the serial by Victor Rousseau that starts in this issue of ARGOSY, sounds pretty apocalyptic. The cover by Paul Stahr makes the situation look pretty dire, too. Maybe somebody who's read this one can tell us what it's about. Elsewhere in this issue are stories by Charles Alden Seltzer, Robert Carse, and George Worts writing as Loring Brent with an installment of a Peter the Brazen serial.
I'm sure there's a name for this sort of endlessly repeating cover, but I don't know enough about art to know what it is. Frank Richardson Pierce and Peter Henry Morland are the biggest names among the authors, "Morland" really being Frederick Faust. This issue contains the conclusion of the serial "Beyond the Outposts", which was later reprinted under Faust's more famous pseudonym Max Brand. I've heard great things about this novel and have a copy of it, but I haven't read it yet.
When I was in junior high and
working at the local public library, somebody donated a book club edition of
CRIME AND MR. CAMPION, an omnibus edition of three novels by Margery Allingham
featuring her semi-amateur sleuth Albert Campion. Since I handled all the
donations, I took this one home with me and read it before it ever went on the
shelves, since I read quite a few British mysteries in those days. I remember
enjoying the novels quite a bit, but that’s all I could tell you about them. I
never read anything else by Margery Allingham . . . until now.
LOOK TO THE LADY, originally published in 1931, is the third book in the
Campion series and the second in which he plays a major part. (He’s only a
supporting player in the first one, THE CRIME AT BLACK DUDLEY.) In this one,
Campion, who seems to be nothing more than a harmless aristocrat (he’s rumored
to be a member of the royal family operating under a pseudonym because of his
love for adventure), runs up against an international gang of thieves who
specialize in stealing rare art treasures, the sort of thing that can’t be
fenced but can be sold to unscrupulous private collectors. To start with,
Campion foils the kidnapping of young Val Gyrth, whose family is charged with
the safekeeping of the Gyrth Chalice, an early British relic more than a
thousand years old.
Knowing that the chalice is still in danger of being stolen, Campion and Val,
accompanied by Campion’s servant Lugg (a reformed criminal who functions as
both muscle and comedy relief), hie themselves off to the Gyrth country estate,
where Val’s rather unpleasant aunt is promptly murdered. You’ve got sinister
Gypsies lurking about, a visiting American professor and his beautiful
daughter, an ancient tower with a hidden room in it, apparitions that apparently
drive people mad, assorted crooks, and a race horse with a reputation as a
Even though there’s a murder that Campion solves (of course), and even though
it’s set mostly on an English country estate, LOOK TO THE LADY is hardly the
cozy mystery I was expecting. It’s a thriller more along the lines of Sax
Rohmer or Edgar Wallace, with plenty of action, some supernatural overtones,
and a surprising amount of screwball comedy. The dialogue between Campion and
Lugg is often hilarious, and overall the book is fast-paced and lighthearted,
although there are definitely some darker moments. The ending is particularly
I read this in an e-book edition, and I have a number of others, bought when
they were on sale. I expect I’ll be reading another one before too much longer,
because I really enjoyed LOOK TO THE LADY.
Acclaimed author David Hardy spins four compelling yarns of frontier justice full of action and the smell of gunsmoke and trail dust! A Skinning War — In the days following the Civil War, Clint Gordon returns to his home in a devastated Texas to find himself facing another war, this time against rustlers, renegades, and hired guns. Clint isn't going to give up, though, even if his fight leads him to a deadly showdown on a mountain of bones! Hangman's Black Pact — It’s hangrope vigilantes versus ruthless outlaws as bloody war erupts along the Texas border. With the authorities useless, the ranchers along the Rio Grande take the law into their own hands to hunt down rustlers and raiders from south of the border, but are their lynchings justice . . . or murder? Ranger Law, Bandit Blood — The Texas Rangers had their hands full cleaning up the border country. Bandits raided across the Rio Grande with impunity, rustling cattle, killing settlers, and terrorizing the countryside. But a handful of men armed with Colts, .50 caliber Sharps rifles, and pure guts would ride in and restore law and order to the border—or die trying! In the Court of the Duke — Duke Kingsford had spread his reign of lawlessness and terror all over the South Texas brush country and teamed up with ruthless bandidos to defy the authorities in both Texas and Mexico. It was up to Captain Stuart and his small group of Rangers to stop the boss outlaw before he cut a swath of blood and death across the range!
Shunt is a thief, Park a tavern dancer and part-time whore. Neither of them is the least bit better than they have to be, because that’s the only way to survive in the squalid, perilous city of Under-Ulm. But when Shunt comes into possession of a pen apparently filled with sorcerous power, he and Park are drawn into a web of deceit, political intrigue, and murder that reaches all the way to the court of the Empress of Ulm! Award-winning, New York Times best-selling author James Reasoner spins a compelling tale of fantasy and danger in this short story originally published in the anthology DREAMS IN THE FIRE and now available for the first time as an e-book.
(This post originally appeared on December 7, 2009.) I don’t recall hearing much about this near-future thriller when it came out, so when we sat down to watch the DVD, I commented that I didn’t know if the movie would be any good or not. Shayna said, “It’s a Vin Diesel movie. He probably kills people.” To which Livia added, “And things blow up.” Yep. That’s a pretty good description of BABYLON A.D. Diesel (who is about halfway between Bald Vin and Hairy Vin in this one) plays a mercenary with the unwieldy name of Toorop (which everybody in the movie seems to pronounce slightly differently). He’s hired to transport a young woman from a mysterious convent in Central Asia to New York. (Transport? Did somebody say transport? Where’s Jason Statham, speaking of bald guys?) The young woman is accompanied by an ass-kickin’, philosophy-spoutin’ warrior nun. Who else would you get to play that part except Michelle Yeoh? Various bad guys (or are they?) try to kidnap the girl along the way, and/or kill Diesel and Yeoh. Potential double-crosses loom. Things get metaphysical. Finally you get to an ending that makes the viewer go “Huh?” At least I did. All that said, I thought BABYLON A.D. was a pretty entertaining movie. There are a lot of striking images and plenty of action, some of which could have been better-edited, as far as I’m concerned. Yes, it’s that old complaint again, but this movie isn’t too bad an offender in that respect. Diesel is Diesel, and I suspect most viewers either like him or don’t. I do. I like Michelle Yeoh, too, but she isn’t given much to do here. I asked at one point, “Is this movie based on a video game?” Turns out it’s not; it’s based on a novel I’d never heard of instead. But it plays a lot like a video game movie, which is not necessarily a bad thing. This one’s worth watching, although I wouldn’t rush right out to grab a copy of it if I were you.
A superb collection of stories in which ancient Egyptian mysticism, mummies, and other supernatural occurrences play a significant role, including tales by Edgar Allan Poe, Louisa May Alcott, Arthur Conan Doyle, Tennessee Williams, H. Rider Haggard, Algernon Blackwood, Sax Rohmer and more. July 2016 (This looks like an excellent collection. You don't get much creepier than ancient Egyptian stuff, and those are some great authors. Sight unseen so far, but still highly recommended. It can be pre-ordered from Amazon or directly from Stark House.)
That's an intriguing cover on this issue of ADVENTURE, and inside are stories by H. Bedford-Jones, W.C. Tuttle, Georges Surdez, Luke Short, Frank Gruber, and J.J. des Ormeaux. Looks like a mighty fine issue to me.
A great Norman Saunders cover and stories by H.A. DeRosso, Giles A. Lutz, Frank Castle, and Roe Richmond. It may have been late in the pulp era, and WESTERN NOVELS AND SHORT STORIES may have been considered a salvage market, but this looks like a knockout issue anyway.
This summer Stark
House is going to be reprinting three noir novels originally published in the
early Fifties by Lion Books. HERO’S LUST is the first book in that volume, and
it’s well worth being in print again after more than sixty years.
The protagonist is reporter Red Norton, who works the City Hall beat for the Courier in Crescent City. As Gary Lovisi
points out in his introduction, the book’s title is something of a misnomer,
because Red’s really a far cry from a hero. He’s actually on the Mayor’s
payroll and is as crooked as the Mayor and everybody else in the city
administration. Red knows this, but he goes along with what’s expected of him
anyway. Because of that, he agrees to write a series of stories for the
newspaper about a patient in the city’s new hospital, which is the Mayor’s pet
project. The patient they pick to feature in the stories is Ann Porter, a young
woman who has tuberculosis. What nobody is planning on is that Red will fall in
love with her, and that leads to dangerous complications for everyone involved.
HERO’S LUST is actually a pretty simple book at its heart, which is the
struggle between Red’s greed and the few decent impulses he has left, which
grow stronger as his relationship with Ann develops. What really carries it
along is the powerful writing of its author, Kermit Jaediker, who wrote only one
other novel. Jaediker was a newspaperman himself, and you can really tell it in
this book. The feeling of authenticity is undeniable, as is the passion for
reform that runs through the book. It’s a little hard to believe that Jaediker
didn’t write more fiction, because he was very good at it. I can give this one
a high recommendation, and I think most of you will understand why when I say
HERO’S LUST is really a punch in the gut! I’m looking forward to reading the
other two novels in the Stark House volume.
had spread his reign of lawlessness and terror all over the South Texas brush
country and teamed up with ruthless bandidos to defy the authorities in both
Texas and Mexico. It was up to Captain Stuart and his small group of Rangers to
stop the boss outlaw before he cut a swath of blood and death across the range!
Acclaimed author David Hardy spins another compelling yarn of frontier justice
based on historical events, full of action and the smell of gunsmoke and trail
I’m not sure how we missed this made-for-TV Western from 1999, since we try to watch all of them we can, but somehow it slipped past us until now. It’s about a gang of outlaws led by Eric Roberts (an actor I’ve never really warmed up to) who are chased by a posse after robbing a bank. The pursuit takes them through a mysterious dust storm, and then they wind up in an isolated settlement called Refuge, where things start taking an odd turn. The title of this movie practically hits the viewer over the head with its big plot twist, so the key to its success is how well it’s done otherwise. The photography is very good and the action scenes are well-staged, although there aren’t very many of them. Sam Shepard and Donnie Wahlberg, of all people, are just fine as the town’s lawmen. (I like Donnie Wahlberg just fine as a New York City cop on BLUE BLOODS, but I wouldn’t have thought of him as a deputy sheriff in a Western.) As I mentioned above, I’m not that fond of Eric Roberts, but he does a good job as a despicable villain. PURGATORY was written by Gordon Dawson, a veteran TV scripter who was also the show-runner on WALKER, TEXAS RANGER, which meant that I worked with him when I was writing the novels based on that series. It was a good experience. He provided lots of help and advice. For a while there was talk about adapting one of my books into a two-parter for the TV show, but eventually that idea was nixed because it would have required too many expensive special effects. I still enjoyed talking to Dawson on the phone and trading emails with him. So I suppose that’s another reason I liked PURGATORY. It’s not a classic Western, but it is an entertaining film and worth watching.
This cover is by Earle Bergey, although you might not guess that to look at it. Not a space babe in sight. But plenty of good authors, including Robert Bloch, Henry Kuttner, E. Hoffmann Price, Carl Jacobi, August Derleth, and Norman Daniels.
This is a decent cover with a more subdued color scheme than you find on some pulps, and inside is a top-notch lineup of authors: Walker A. Tompkins (twice, once under his own name and once as Hal Dunning, continuing the White Wolf series after the real Dunning's death), Ed Earl Repp writing as Brad Buckner, Allan R. Bosworth, J. Allan Dunn, and Laurence Donovan. Lots of good reading there.
Okay, so I lied. One more song from the Seventies. I had the album NOW AND THEN by The Carpenters and nearly played the grooves off it. No one ever had a better voice than Karen Carpenter, and this is a great version of a fine song.
Sometimes a book takes you completely by surprise. That’s
the case with NIGHTRIDER DEPUTY. Ralph R. Perry was a fairly successful pulp
author for three decades, from the mid-Twenties to the mid-Fifties, turning out
scores of Western, mystery, aviation, and sea stories. As far as I know,
NIGHTRIDER DEPUTY is his only novel. It was published in 1954 as half of Ace
Double D-72 along with Norman A. Fox’s THE DEVIL’S SADDLE and has never been
reprinted. If I’ve ever read any of Perry’s pulp stories, they didn’t impress
me enough for me to remember them, so when I started this book I was hoping for
nothing more than a competently written Western.
Turns out it’s a lot more than that.
Oh, the plot is traditional enough. Young Mat Karney returns to the Toltec
Valley, where he’s inherited his father’s ranch. He finds that homesteaders are
moving in, along with small ranchers who threaten the big spreads belonging to
Mat and his chief competitor, Big Tom Parks. There’s some rustling going on,
too, and Mat suspects Parks may be behind it. What really sets everything in
motion, though, is when the train Mat is taking back to the valley is stopped
and robbed, and a homesteader on the train is killed during the holdup.
“The man was already dead, yet the girl pressed the compress on the wound as
though by sheer will she could push life back into the body.”
I read that and thought, “That’s a pretty good line.” Not Hemingway, maybe, but
not bad. It’s on the third page of the book, and as I continued reading I
enjoyed Perry’s distinctive, hardboiled style. Then the plot twists kicked in.
Yeah, this is a range war book, but instead of the usual two factions, there
are half a dozen, and the alliances between them are constantly shifting until
you can’t be sure who’s really on whose side. Several overlapping romantic
triangles complicate things even more, and this is one case where I wasn’t sure
which girl the hero was going to wind up with, or even which one he should wind up with. Characters you
don’t expect to die don’t make it to the end of the book. There are some really
suspenseful scenes and some epic shootouts, climaxing with a very satisfying
The title NIGHTRIDER DEPUTY doesn’t really fit the book, which makes me suspect
some editor slapped it on the manuscript. The generic title and the rather
bland cover (the scan is from the copy I read, as usual, beat up though it may
be) lead the reader to expect a very run-of-the-mill Western. Instead, while it
doesn’t quite rise to classic level, NIGHTRIDER DEPUTY is a really fine Western
novel. It’s also the best book I’ve read so far this year, and I’ll definitely
be looking to read more of Ralph R. Perry’s work. (Note: Since this is Perry's only novel that I know of, I suppose technically it's his first novel, too, which fits today's Forgotten Books theme, but I wasn't thinking of that when I wrote and scheduled this post.)
Oh, yeah, definitely stuck in the Seventies. One of my favorites from that era, and like so many songs from back then, I can't hear it without thinking about driving around at night with various folks, many of them gone now but some, thankfully, still with us.
(This trio of novels originally published by the legendary Lion Books will be out this summer, and it looks great. You can pre-order it from Amazon or directly from Stark House.) HERO'S LUST Everyone in Crescent City knows that Mayor Gowan controls the town, most of all Red Norton. Red's an ace reporter, sure, but he's living in the mayor's side pocket. What the Mayor wants, he gets. And right now he wants Red to write up his new Medical Center. The Mayor needs a pitch, and finds it in tubercular Ann Porter, who is scheduled for an upcoming operation. Her story sells a lot of papers, and puts a face to the Mayor's pet project. Red didn't figure on falling in love with the kid, but now he's involved. And with the Mayor making some new demands, Red is about to find out just how rotten the town really is the hard way. THE MAN I KILLED When Lew Ross was young, he got into a fight and killed a man, then fled the scene. Haunted by this event throughout his life, he finds himself back in that same town again, at the same club where it all happened. Except that now the place is a nightclub. And this is where he meets Kitty, one of the hostesses, and her slick boss, Marty Evans, who has a proposition for Ross pick up a delivery from a local rival, and join his crew. Evans even loans him a gun for protection. Trouble is, the pick up is a set up, and Ross is the fall guy. Now he's in a squeeze play between a scheming D.A., an honest cop, and Evans' thugs. And then there's Kitty... HOUSE OF EVIL Nina Valjean needs a fix or she wouldn't have agreed to see Smith again. Smith is one of the sick ones, but sometimes a girl can't afford to be picky. Still, she's got a bad feeling about this time. The next day, Roman Laird lets himself into his out-of-town fiancée's apartment, and finds Valjean's nude, strangled body. Things haven't been good between he and Joyce for a while, but finding a body in her place is just crazy. Trying to protect her, Laird tracks the dead woman to a seedy bar called The Red Parrot, which is how he meets an exotic dancer named Cecille Merrill. But all this time, Smith is out there, watching him, ready to kill again.
This is, of course, the theme from TAXI, which Livia and I watched every week the first year we were married. But it's a fine song on its own, and I had the album it's from (on vinyl, of course) and played it quite a bit. Am I stuck in the Seventies on these nights when I can't sleep? Why, yes, maybe I am.
I’ve mentioned before that I don’t really believe in the
concept of guilty pleasures. I like what I like. And I like Vin Diesel movies.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen one that I didn’t find at least entertaining, and
that’s the case with THE LAST WITCH HUNTER.
Diesel plays a medieval Viking who kills a witch queen and is cursed with
immortal life for doing so. Fast forward to the present time and he’s still
running around the world fighting supernatural evil, aided by an old priest
played by Michael Caine, the latest in a long line of such priests who are part
of a secret society founded to aid Diesel in his quest to battle evil.
Naturally, things go south. Seems there’s a plot afoot to resurrect the witch
queen Diesel killed 800 years earlier. He finds himself fighting a dangerous
conspiracy with only a new, young priest and a beautiful witch as allies. Lots
of killing and special effects ensue. I sat there and had a fine time watching.
Two things about this movie struck me. It really plays like the pilot for a
cable TV series. And when it was over, Livia and I both said, “Was The Rock out
of town when this movie was made?” Diesel’s part really seems like one that
Dwayne Johnson would have played. On the other hand, it’s a Universal Truth
that any movie series can be improved by the addition of The Rock, so if they
make THE LAST WITCH HUNTER 2, maybe he can show up then. On yet other hand,
this one came and went so fast, I think there’s a good chance there won’t be a
sequel. But you never know in the movie business.
Chuck Mangione is more famous for the song "Feels So Good", which I also like, but this is the first thing by him that I ever heard and it's probably my favorite. There are longer versions, but this is the one I used to hear on the radio back in the Seventies.
Husband-and-wife gunfighters J.D. and Kate Blaze never cared that much about politics, but after a shootout in Denver they find themselves riding the campaign train with President Ulysses S. Grant, protecting the nation’s leader and legendary general as he seeks re-election with a swing through the West. But danger is lurking in the mountains of Utah, and it’ll take a pair of fast guns to save the President from a deadly conspiracy! Award-winning Western author Michael Newton spins another action-packed yarn in BLAZE!: BADLANDS, the latest installment in today’s bestselling, all new Adult Western series!
I heard this song on the radio recently and really, really liked it. Roger Creager is from Corpus Christi, and I've spent enough time down in that area in the past eight or nine years that I understand what he means about "Gulf Coast time". And he mentions Copano Bay, which I've driven over on the causeway more times than I can count. Just a really nice song.
A deadly showdown on frozen Ganymede . . . an experiment in time travel that has unexpected results . . . the dead being brought back to life—to sell insurance . . . a legendary villain seeking to summon a strange visitor from another planet . . . These are only some of the ventures into the fantastic and bizarre to be found in ICESLINGER, the latest collection from acclaimed author John Hegenberger. These classic tales of science fiction and fantasy are filled with action, big ideas, humor, and drama. Step into the many worlds of John Hegenberger and prepare to be entertained!
Remember Ronald Flagg, Clint Douglas, and Paul Adams from yesterday's post? Well, they all turn up in this issue of another pulp published by Ace, along with half a dozen other house names. But at least this issue of 12 ADVENTURE STORIES has an action-packed Norman Saunders cover and a story by the prolific and dependable Norman A. Daniels. The author of the lead novel, Alexis Rossoff, appears to have been a real person, too, but I don't know anything about him.