Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Christmas Book Roundup

Now that Thanksgiving is over, I thought this would be a good time to mention the various Christmas books and stories Livia and I have written over the years, plus some others that we've published. If any of you would like to consider this a handy gift-buying guide for friends or family who read mysteries, romances, or Westerns . . . well, that would certainly be in the spirit of the season, wouldn't it?

Husband-and-wife gunfighters J.D. and Kate Blaze are just about the unlikeliest Santa Claus and Santa’s helper that the Old West has ever seen. But when a bank is robbed in Arizona Territory and a frantic mother has to embark on a desperate journey to save her son’s life, it’s Kate and J.D. who ride along to make sure everybody gets what’s coming to them for Christmas, whether it’s a hangman’s noose or hot lead! By horseback, stagecoach, and train, it’s up to the Blazes to deliver presents for one and all, and there’ll be outlaws and Apaches stirring before Christmas morning dawns.

BLAZE! THE CHRISTMAS JOURNEY is a Special Holiday Edition from series creator Stephen Mertz, full of action, humor, and heartwarming plot twists. It’s Christmas in the Old West with the deadliest pair of gunfighters to ever hit the trail!

Phyllis Newsom stands a good chance in the Christmas cookie contest with her snowflake-shaped lime sugar cookies. But Mrs. Simmons' gingerdoodles might give her a run for her money, until she's found strangled in a pile of cookies. With many on Santa's naughty suspect list, this case is a cookie Phyllis means to crumble!

A Christmas killer has been icing Phylis Newsom's friends in the sixth Fresh-Baked mystery. Not only will Phyllis Newsom's house be featured in the annual Christmas Jingle Bell Tour of Homes, she also has a Christmas Eve bridal shower and a New Year's Eve wedding to bake goodies for. But like her tasty treats, she rises to the occasion.

Before the tour gets under way, Phyllis makes a gruesome discovery on her porch: someone has tried to kill her friend. As Santa's naughty list gets longer, Phyllis tries to catch a half-baked killer.

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! 

Two wild and woolly Christmas stories by legendary Western author James Reasoner.

’Tis The Season For Justice
It's a life or death Christmas Eve for the man accused of murdering the son of the richest man in the territory. Former shotgun guard Judge Earl Stark knows how to stomp his own snakes, and he makes sure 'TIS THE SEASON FOR JUSTICE.

Presents for One and All

Texas Ranger Cobb is supposed to pick up a prisoner wanted in Parker County and take him back down to Weatherford. Instead he finds himself battling a gang of outlaws and tangling with an old coot driving a wagon full of Christmas gifts, and it's up to him to make sure there are PRESENTS FOR ONE AND ALL.

Two action packed holiday Western stories by award winning author Livia J. Washburn.

Blue Norther
Hired gun Lucas Hallam has been outnumbered plenty of times, but when he comes upon a necktie party for a young boy accused of cattle rustling, he has to step into danger once more—even with the odds stacked against him. No one should hang on Christmas Eve. 

When the nearby cattle stampede, it looks like things can’t get any worse. But the weather is turning deadly, and if they don’t get the cattle to shelter—as well as themselves—everything will be lost. Can Hallam protect them from the coming BLUE NORTHER? 

A Creature Was Stirring
Mistaken for a “skookum”, Buffalo Newcomb is shot by a young boy, Tom Villard, as he stops by a creek to fish. When he comes to in a small cabin, Buffalo is grateful to realize that the boy’s mother, Ella, has removed the bullet and he has a safe place to recover.

It’s Christmas Eve, and A CREATURE WAS STIRRING—Buffalo can only hope he’s strong enough to keep it from destroying the woman who has shown him only kindness.

NAUGHTY OR MICE - Livia J. Washburn
Dan Callahan's daughter was supposed to take care of her fourth grade class's pet mice over the Christmas vacation—or so she claimed. Melissa Logan, the little girl's teacher, wondered why she had gotten close with the handsome single dad, only to have him back off unexpectedly. But when the mice went missing, the truth about everything came out, and the search for the elusive creatures led not only to unexpected secrets from the past but also to the answers that two lonely people had been seeking without even knowing it.

NAUGHTY OR MICE is a heartwarming Christmas novelette from award-winning author Livia J. Washburn. Funny, poignant, and romantic, it's a charming "tail" you won't soon forget.

Cowboys, kisses and love in the holiday air make for a special recipe in each of these wonderful new stories. Christmas miracles can happen when you're WISHING FOR A COWBOY! 

*A Christmas Miracle* by Phyliss Miranda
Acceptance comes not through frosty eyes, but from the warmth of loving hearts.

*Outlaw's Kiss* by Cheryl Pierson
A long-ago schooldays crush is rekindled by an Outlaw*s Kiss that sparks true love, and a new future for Jake Morgan and Talia Delano.

*A Husband for Christmas* by Sarah J. McNeal
A haunting night of horror and a wish for a new life.

*Peaches* by Kathleen Rice Adams
When a strong-willed schoolteacher invades an irascible rancher*s Texas range, not even the spirit of Christmas may be able to prevent all-out war.

*A Gift for Rhoda* by Jacquie Rogers
A mail-order bride disaster!

*Her Christmas Wish* by Tracy Garrett
Her only wish for Christmas was the man who left her behind.

*Covenant* by Tanya Hanson
Can a Christmas blizzard ignite love gone cold?

*Charlie's Pie* by Livia J. Washburn

A wounded man, a desperate woman, a gang of ruthless outlaws...and the best pecan pie in Parker County! (Winner of the Peacemaker Award for Best Short Fiction)


Christmas is on the way and our western heroines are in search of the perfect PRESENT FOR A COWBOY!

Livia J. Washburn’s TINSELTOWN kicks off this exciting holiday collection. Set in the “Roaring ’20’s” in Hollywood, western movie actor Pecos must rescue a young woman in danger—and finds love in the bargain. The rescue of a young, abused boy in Gail L. Jenner’s JUST IN TIME FOR CHRISTMAS opens the door to love for a young woman and a loner who has sworn off relationships. Linda Carroll-Bradd’s CLARI’S HERO features a man who views himself as anything but a hero—and a woman who shows him otherwise, and Lorrie Farrelly’s CHRISTMAS TREASURE is an unexpected gift that can’t be measured in gold. In Sarah J. McNeal’s story, a lonely widow’s perceived indiscretion may cost her and her cowboy their happiness WHEN LOVE COMES KNOCKING.

This sweet/sensual collection of wonderful Christmas stories has something for everyone!

Is Christmas wilder in Texas? It just might be! These cowboys and their ladies sure have their hands full—and Christmas brings them together to sort it all out! Cheryl Pierson’s LUCK OF THE DRAW is the story of a handsome gambler and a beautiful witch. With their own particular talents, they discover life is one big poker table—and love can be had if they are willing to risk it all! Can a lumber baron and a railroad heiress save a small Texas town? Kathleen Rice Adams pens some holiday magic in THE LAST THREE MILES. When dreams turn to vengeance for a young gun-handy woman, it takes the love of a marshal to convince THE KID IN BLACK that Christmas really is a time of miracles, in this tale by C. Marie Bowen. In HOW THE TEXAN STOLE CHRISTMAS by Jacquie Rogers, a Texas cowhand is snowed in for Christmas in Idaho. When he becomes part of the town’s “Secret Christmas Angel” game, will he be able to part with his heart? A lady gambler and a con man find themselves in an unlikely situation that could save both of their hearts if they’re willing to trust one another in Kaye Spencer’s A GIFT OF CHRISTMAS HOPE. This sensual/spicy collection of holiday tales is sure to warm your heart and bring smiles as big as Texas!

Western Short Collection 
A four-story Western collection from award winning author, Cheryl Pierson 

A Night for Miracles 
Widow Angela Bentley takes in three children and a wounded gunman one snowy Christmas Eve. Angela determines to keep her distance—until the children drag in a scraggly Christmas tree. Will she find love on this, A NIGHT FOR MIRACLES?

A holiday skirmish sends Union officer, Jack Durham, on an unlikely mission for a dying Confederate enemy. Will a miracle be able to heal his heart and reunite him with his beloved? 

Meant to Be 
Robin Mallory is shocked when she is tackled by a man in a Confederate uniform. A flat tire and a coming snowstorm have stranded her in the middle of a re-enactment – or is it? 

The Gunfighter's Girl

Persuaded by a vendor, Miguel Rivera ~ El Diablo ~ makes a foolish purchase—scarlet ribbons. Will they, and a mysterious meeting, set him on a new path? Can he find his way back to the love he left years before?

Come join us around the Yuletide fire in a comfortable chair with a flagon of ale as we celebrate the upcoming holiday season with ONE CHRISTMAS KNIGHT! This wonderful collection of Christmas stories from the medieval time period will take hold of your imagination and won’t let go until long after you’ve turned the very last page.

You’ll be entranced with these seven tales of knights and their ladies from some of today’s top medieval authors, as well as some rising stars in this up-and-coming genre. 

Deborah Macgillivray, Lindsay Townsend, Keena Kincaid, Livia J. Washburn, Tanya Hanson, Angela Raines, and C. Marie Bowen offer you some of the best medieval Christmas stories written, filled with romance and intrigue, laced with holiday traditions and celebrations of this rich era.

Prairie Rose Publications is proud to introduce yet another wonderful collection of Christmas tales for your reading pleasure. ONE CHRISTMAS KNIGHT is sure to bring you hours of enjoyment as you read on to find out how these knights and ladies will find their very own "happily-ever-after" endings at this very best time of year—Christmas!

What could be better this holiday season than a warm fire, a cozy chair and a heartwarming collection of mail-order bride Christmas stories? A MAIL-ORDER CHRISTMAS BRIDE includes eight wonderful reads by some of your favorite authors. 

Livia J Washburn kicks off the anthology with her story, KISSING UNTIL CHRISTMAS, about a mail-order bride who isn’t exactly what she seems—but her unwilling groom hides a dangerous secret of his own.

It’s A LONG WAY FROM ST. LOUIS in Kathleen Rice Adams' story, but can a handsome Irish alley-brawler and a former debutante rekindle their romance from a decade earlier, now that circumstances have changed?

Ella’s cryptic letter brings her husband’s brother, Caleb, home for Christmas in STORE-BOUGHT ORNAMENTS by Patti Sherry-Crews. Can they finally claim the love they’ve been denied for so long?

Secrets and surprises are in store when families meddle with a beautiful single mother and an outlaw-turned-respectable in Tanya Hanson’s story. Phoebe Pierce may have too many secrets of her own to keep HER HOLIDAY HUSBAND…

An earthquake lands a young woman backward in time in her great-great aunt’s southwestern home. Jesse J Elliot’s story of a TIMELESS love that will prevail, no matter what century, is one you won’t forget! 

In this tale by Meg Mims, will it be true love or a HOLIDAY HOAX for these mail-order brides who are traveling together? When they “switch” grooms in Holliday, Nebraska, will things work out for the best, or will they end up ruining their futures?

Hec Murdock orders up two brides for himself and his brother, Zeke. But somehow, he neglects to let Zeke know what he’s done. I HEARD THE BRIDES ON CHRISTMAS DAY is classic Jacquie Rogers-style fun with a humorous, heartwarming ending!

Can a jaded lawman from Indian Territory and a debutante on the run manage to find their own “happily-ever-after” in A MARRIAGE OF CONVENIENCE? Cheryl Pierson’s tale pits a young woman against a monster, with only one man to protect her—a U.S. Deputy Marshal—who stands to lose his heart—or his life.

Prairie Rose Publications is proud to bring you another wonderful collection of Christmas tales for your reading pleasure! A MAIL-ORDER CHRISTMAS BRIDE is sure to bring you hours of enjoyment.

Hear ye, hear ye! Looking for medieval romance? Tales of knights and their ladies abound in ONE WINTER KNIGHT, a wonderful collection of medieval holiday novellas for your reading pleasure! You’ll be held spellbound by this boxed set of captivating stories from some of today’s top medieval authors, as well as some rising stars in this up-and-coming genre. Lindsay Townsend, Deborah Macgillivray, Cynthia Breeding, Keena Kincaid, Cheryl Pierson, Beverly Wells, Patti Sherry-Crews, and Linda Carroll-Bradd have woven eight excellent Yuletide tales of love lost and found that are sure to keep you reading far into the night. Laced with holiday traditions and the excitement of a bold, dangerous era, Prairie Rose Publications is proud to offer yet another wonderful boxed set of medieval Christmas tales for your reading pleasure. This collection of novellas makes a wonderful holiday gift for hours of entertaining reading—for others, or for yourself! These stories are certain to keep you enthralled as you read on to find out how these knights and ladies find their very own “happily-ever-after” endings ONE WINTER KNIGHT…

Are you ready to settle down in front of the fire for some excellent holiday reading entertainment? A COWBOY UNDER THE MISTLETOE is a wonderful boxed set of six Christmas novellas about two of our favorite subjects—cowboys of the old west and Christmas!

Stacey Coverstone, Livia J. Washburn, Donna Alice Patton, Kaye Spencer, Gail L. Jenner, and Tanya Hanson come together to bring you six heart-wrenching, sigh-worthy tales of love at Christmas, under the mistletoe. How will these western men and their ladies find happiness? It’s guaranteed at Christmas—the most special time of year!

With poignant stories of rediscovered feelings, and unexpected new love during the holidays, Prairie Rose Publications is proud to bring you another wonderful boxed set of seasonal tales that will have you reading far into the night! A COWBOY UNDER THE MISTLETOE is sure to bring a smile to your lips and hours of reading pleasure!

What is Christmas all about? Wonderful memories! This collection of stories celebrates the very best and most poignant memories of the past, and is sure to have you laughing and crying right along with the authors who shared their stories in MEMORIES FROM MAPLE STREET, U.S.A.—THE BEST CHRISTMAS EVER! Who can forget those special Santa gifts that brought such joy to us in our childhood? Those toys we fervently hoped ol’ Santa would bring for us if we were good? Livia J. Washburn, Cheryl Pierson, and Tanya Hanson write about some of those hopes and dreams for that certain gift with a special, personal twist to each story. But Christmas memories also sometimes hold a special place in our hearts because of a person that was somehow important in our lives. Authors Sharon Cunningham, Beverly Wells, Carol Huff and Gigi Meyer weave that aspect of Christmas into their beautiful holiday tales, with remembrances of some very special people in their lives—and why Christmas means so much because of them. Kathleen Rice Adams pens a sentimental story of a wonderful gift to her mother from her father. And Charlie Steel’s story of hunting for the perfect Christmas tree with his father is sure to make you smile. Jim Landwehr, Tina Holt, and Randy Lee Eickhoff all give us a backward glance at the love and traditions from the past that make Christmas what it is, while Christine Waldman tells a poignant tale of Santa looking for his lost reindeer in the snow. This is one wonderful collection of heartfelt stories that you will not want to pass up—and it also makes a great gift for all ages—if you still believe in Santa!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Tuesday's Overlooked Movie: Chato's Land

This is one of the few Charles Bronson movies I'd never seen. CHATO'S LAND is about as simply plotted a film as you'll ever find. Bronson plays a half-breed Apache who guns down a lawman who's about to kill him for no good reason. A posse of townspeople led by former Confederate officer Jack Palance chases him into the Arizona badlands. The posse members start fighting among themselves after they find Bronson's homestead, rape his wife, and kill his brother. Then the hunters become the hunted as Chato starts picking them off one by one, and the only question is who's going to survive. That's it.

With a plot like that, the appeal of the movie is going to depend on how well it's done. In that respect, CHATO'S LAND is a mixed bag for me. Bronson gives a good performance as the tight-lipped, vengeance-seeking protagonist. And I do mean tight-lipped. He has maybe a dozen words of dialogue in English and not much more than that in Apache, but he manages to be a formidable screen presence, anyway. At times I felt like this was more Jack Palance's movie than Bronson's. He's excellent as the former soldier who misses the war and sees this pursuit as a chance to recapture some of the excitement of those days. The rest of the posse is filled out by some fairly big names, such as James Whitmore, Simon Oakland, Richard Basehart, Richard Jordan, and Ralph Waite, but for the most part they come across as mostly interested in a paycheck and a trip to Europe, where the movie was filmed. The production values seemed more like TV rather than feature film level, but on the other hand, I was watching a mediocre print recorded from TV, so it's hard to say about that.

Overall, I'd say CHATO'S LAND isn't anywhere near the top rank of Bronson's Westerns. It's worth watching for his performance and Palance's, but it's so overwhelmingly bleak it would be hard for me to call it entertaining. I'm still glad I watched it. One more off the list.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Argosy, December 4, 1937

What a great era for ARGOSY this was. A Thibaut Corday yarn by Theodore Roscoe, serial installments by Lester Dent, Borden Chase, and Allan Vaughan Elston, plus stories by William Chamberlain and Richard Wormser. The readers back then definitely got their dime's worth of great adventure fiction.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Lariat Story, January 1950

I probably post too many covers from LARIAT STORY, but dang, I like the covers by Allen Anderson, including this one with another of his odd-looking horses, and the story titles. I really want to read "Blood-Guns of the Crazy Moon!", especially since it's by Les Savage Jr., one of the better pulp Western authors. Heck, I wouldn't mind writing a story called "Blood-Guns of the Crazy Moon!" Savage and Richard Wormser (a reprint under the John Starr house-name) are the only recognizable authors in this issue.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Forgotten Books: The Bloodrock Valley War - Ray Hogan

Ray Hogan wrote for most of the paperback publishers at one time or another, but early in his career his main market was Ace Books, which published many of his novels in the Ace Doubles line, including THE BLOODROCK VALLEY WAR. The hero of this one is Ben Keenlyn, the owner of a small ranch in Bloodrock Valley, New Mexico Territory. When an Eastern syndicate wants to buy all the ranches in the valley and consolidate them, Keenlyn is the lone hold-out who refuses to sell. This puts him in bitter opposition to the other ranchers, who want to take the money and run. The most powerful of them, Pete Amber, decides to force Keenlyn out of Bloodrock Valley, no matter what it takes.

That's pretty much the whole plot. The set-up and the resulting range war fill up this short novel, which probably isn't much over 35,000 words. There's very little characterization. The book is almost all action and tough, clipped dialogue. Even the few female characters are laconic, biting off their sentences like talking hurts their mouths. But for what it is, I found the book very enjoyable. It reads fast, and a couple of minor but well-handled twists insure that not everything is quite as black and white as it seems at first. Hogan was a very traditional Western writer, but he always delivered a satisfying story.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Detective Tales, February 1938

This almost looks like a Weird Menace cover, and sure enough, there are stories by Weird Menace stalwarts Hugh B. Cave and Wyatt Blassingame in this issue. There are also stories by prolific, reliable pulpsters Paul Ernst, Emile C. Tepperman, and Ray Cummings (twice, once under his own name and once as Gabriel Wilson). That's plenty to make me think this was probably a pretty good issue.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Dime Western, February 1933

Another great-looking issue of DIME WESTERN with stories by Walt Coburn, T.T. Flynn, and Harry F. Olmsted, three of my favorites, plus Cliff Farrell and Murray Leinster among others. And a Walter Baumhofer cover, to boot.

A Middle of the Night Music Post: Mas Que Nada - Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66

I always liked Sergio Mendes and Brasil '66. One of the YouTube commenters said he wanted to live the rest of his life in 1967. I wouldn't go nearly that far, but I do enjoy revisiting that era.

Friday, November 18, 2016

A Million Words and Counting

I reached the million word mark today for the 12th straight year. The first time I hit that level, back in 2005, I had no idea I'd still be writing that much a dozen years later. In the past I've talked about when I'm going to slow down, but I've come to realize I have no idea what's going to happen from year to year. I have enough work lined up for 2017 that I ought to be around a million words again. We'll have to wait and see whether that comes about. Most importantly to me, I'm still having fun, at least most of the time.

Forgotten Books: Ki-Gor--and the Giant Gorilla Men - John Peter Drummond

Okay, I'll admit that the author of this third entry in the Ki-Gor series had me at "Giant Gorilla-Men". From the Fall 1939 issue of JUNGLE STORIES, this yarn finds Ki-Gor and the beautiful redheaded aviatrix Helene Vaughn making their way across Africa toward the east coast, where Helene hopes to find an outpost of civilization so she can return to America and Ki-Gor can be restored to his rightful family in England. Of course, Ki-Gor isn't sure if he really wants to go. I mean, he is the Lord of the Jungle, after all. He's really just going along to humor Helene, who he rescued after her plane crashed.

Their journey is interrupted by a clash with some gorillas who are far from their usual hunting grounds and who seem more man-like than regular gorillas. One of them carries off Helene, and Ki-Gor sets out to rescue her yet again. Then he encounters a native tribe led by a former American sailor from Chicago named George Spelvin. I don't think this is the same character who's later known as Tembu George, but he's an excellent sidekick for Ki-Gor and not as stereotypical as you might expect. The gorillas have been plaguing George's tribe, too, so he and Ki-Gor team up and invade a lost valley known as the Land of the Living Dead, where the gorillas have been coming from.

Yep, it's another lost civilization of sorts, with an evil ruler, some pseudo-science, and plenty of danger for Ki-Gor, Helene, and George. It's all pretty silly, but I was raised on this sort of stuff and still love it. I don't know who wrote this one. It's similar but a little different from the second novel in the series, just as that one was similar but a little different from the first. I really don't feel like this is the work of John Murray Reynolds, who wrote the first novel, but at this late date it's hard to say for sure. Helene is less competent in this one and doesn't have much to do. George is a great character, though, and I hope he hangs around for a while in the series. The gorilla men turn out to be a little disappointing, but overall this is still a pretty entertaining yarn for an old pulp fan like me. If you fit that description, you might enjoy it, too.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Target - Brad Taylor

I'm glad that authors of some popular series have started writing stand-alone e-book novellas set in those series. I'm usually not in the mood to tackle some 400 page thriller, but I'm certainly willing to try a 20,000 word novella with the same characters.

I have some of Brad Taylor's novels about the Taskforce, an anti-terrorist group led by Pike Logan (a manly name if I've ever heard one), but I've never read any of them. I picked up a novella by him called THE TARGET, which serves as a prequel to the Taskforce series and provides some back-story on a trio of supporting characters. They're Mossad agents, two men and one woman, all of them with considerable emotional and professional baggage. Thankfully, that doesn't get in the way of the story, which moves right along at a nice clip. They're sent to Argentina to assassinate a former Nazi who was a guard and executioner at Auschwitz (this story is set in 1998), but in the process of setting that up they uncover a dangerous plot that requires them to go rogue and abandon their original mission.

There's a touch of the paranormal in this one that you usually don't find in these contemporary thrillers, but I thought it worked really well. I liked the characters, too, and unlike the bloated and overwritten doorstops you often find in this genre, Taylor's prose is pretty lean. The book could have used another copyediting pass to take care of some typos and a few sentences that don't quite make sense, but the formatting is very good, something that all too often you don't find in e-books coming from the big publishers in New York.

I don't know if I'll ever get around to reading any of Taylor's full-length novels, but there are several more of these Taskforce novellas and I plan to read them, since I definitely enjoyed THE TARGET. Good action scenes, good characters, and short enough that my ever-dwindling attention span didn't kick in . . . These days, that's plenty for me.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Tuesday's Overlooked Movies: Dawn on the Great Divide

(This post appeared in somewhat different form on November 1, 2009.)

DAWN ON THE GREAT DIVIDE is a particularly poignant Buck Jones movie to watch, because it was the last one he made before he was killed in the famous Cocoanut Grove fire in Boston. In fact, this film hadn’t been released yet when Buck died.

Although it wasn’t promoted as such when it came out, DAWN ON THE GREAT DIVIDE is actually part of the Rough Riders series, a series of B-Westerns Buck made for Monogram Pictures co-starring Colonel Tim McCoy and Raymond Hatton. McCoy isn’t in this one, having gone back on active duty in the military during the buildup to World War II. (The rank of colonel wasn’t honorary; McCoy was the genuine article and is worthy of a few blog posts devoted to him one of these days.) Jones and Hatton are on hand, though, playing their usual roles of Buck Roberts and Sandy Hopkins. McCoy’s place was taken by a mostly forgotten Western star named Rex Bell.

In the other Rough Riders movies, the trio are U.S. Marshals, but in DAWN ON THE GREAT DIVIDE they’re wagon train scouts, with no mention being made of any law enforcement connections. The plot is nothing special. It’s the old “white outlaws masquerading as Indians to raid the wagon trains” bit. (I once wrote a book using Livia’s suggestion that I have a group of Indians masquerading as white outlaws. It made a pretty good twist.) Several things make DAWN ON THE GREAT DIVIDE worth watching. The production values are good, with a lot of location shooting and not much stock footage. The script is unexpectedly rich in characterization when it comes to some of the people traveling on the wagon train, giving them more depth than you usually find in a B-Western. A lot of familiar faces populate the supporting cast: Tristam Coffin as a shady character trying to reform, Harry Woods as the main villain, the great Roy Barcroft as Woods’ main henchman and the one who engages in the final shootout with Buck, and Bud Osborne as another henchman. These are like old friends to B-Western fans.

Then there’s Buck himself, who by this stage of his career was an elder statesman of the genre and invests his role as Buck Roberts with the appropriate gravitas and dignity. He was never the most polished actor, but he had a great screen presence. I have several more of his movies on hand and look forward to watching them soon. In the meantime, if you’re looking for a good solid B-Western, DAWN ON THE GREAT DIVIDE is a fine example.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Catching Up

So, I had to take a week off from social media. There were a variety of reasons for this, some medical (nothing to worry about at this point, more of an annoyance than anything else), some work-related. I hated breaking my streaks on the Forgotten Books and weekend pulp posts. I'd already missed a few Overlooked Movies/TV/etc. posts in recent weeks and those may continue to be sporadic for a while, as will posts in general. But I'm back on the blog and Facebook and plan to be around on both for the foreseeable future.

Monday, November 07, 2016

In Sunlight or In Shadow: Stories Inspired by the Paintings of Edward Hopper - Lawrence Block, ed.

I have to admit that before I read this anthology edited by Lawrence Block, I wasn’t that familiar with the work of Edward Hopper, other than the painting “Nighthawks”. I came away quite impressed with Hopper’s work showcased here, as well as many of the stories inspired by those paintings.

Seventeen authors contributed stories for this volume. As they’re listed on the cover: Stephen King, Joyce Carol Oates, Robert Olen Butler, Michael Connelly, Megan Abbott, Craig Ferguson, Nicholas Christopher, Jill D. Block, Joe R. Lansdale, Justin Scott, Kris Nelscott, Warren Moore, Jonathan Santlofer, Jeffery Deaver, Lee Child, Gail Levin, and Lawrence Block. Naturally, I enjoyed some stories more than others. My favorites are Megan Abbott’s period yarn “Girlie Show”, Michael Connelly’s “Nighthawks” (a Harry Bosch story), Craig Ferguson’s oddball “Taking Care of Business” (inspired by the painting “South Truro Church”), Jonathan Santlofer’s tricky “Night Windows”, Lawrence Block’s “Autumn at the Automat”, which reminded me of some of his early crime digest stories, and my pick for the best story in the book, Joe R. Lansdale’s “The Projectionist” (inspired by the painting “New York Movie”).

A few words about those last two: I’m old enough to remember automats, although there weren’t many still around by the time I was a kid. I recall buying sandwiches and pieces of pie in them, however, so I felt a personal connection with Block’s story. There’s even more of a personal connection with Lansdale’s story, because I spent a great deal of time between 1970 and 1975 in the Worth, Palace, and Hollywood Theaters in downtown Fort Worth, and by then they were the sort of shabby movie palaces in which Joe’s yarn is set. This one really kicked up a lot of nostalgia in my mind.

All in all, IN SUNLIGHT OR IN SHADOW is an excellent anthology whether you’re familiar with Edward Hopper’s work or not. If you are, you’ll probably find it a veritable feast. If you aren’t (like me), it’s a very entertaining education. Either way, it gets a high recommendation from me.

Sunday, November 06, 2016

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Crack Detective Stories, September 1943

This cover made me laugh, which seems a good enough reason to feature it. There's a pretty decent bunch of writers in this issue of CRACK DETECTIVE STORIES, too: Russell Gray (really Bruno Fischer), G.T. Fleming-Roberts, T.W. Ford, Ray Cummings, and the house-name Cliff Campbell. I've read stories by all of those authors and enjoyed them.

Saturday, November 05, 2016

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Western Aces, November 1944

As I was saying a couple of weeks ago, stagecoach travel in the Old West must have been really dangerous, considering how many running gunfights they get into on the covers of Western pulps. Here's another example, this one painted by Ernest Chiriaka for WESTERN ACES. This issue has two stories by one of my favorite authors, J. Edward Leithead, one under his real name and one as by Wilson L. Covert, the pseudonym he used most often. Also in this issue are stories by veteran pulpsters Joseph Chadwick, Stephen Payne, Joe Archibald, David X. Manners, and Dupree Poe (writing as Roger Rhodes). I like the Ace Western pulps and always find them enjoyable.

Friday, November 04, 2016

Forgotten Books: The Proud Gun - Gordon D. Shirreffs

Les Gunnell was once the town-taming marshal of the lawless settlement known as Sundown in New Mexico Territory. He left the marshal's badge to his friend Will Ripley, who also married the woman Gunnell loved, then rode away and took up ranching. Now Ripley is dead, murdered by a shotgun blast, his stepson is wounded, and the buzzards are gathering again around Sundown, in the persons of the vicious outlaw gang the Chacon Boys and ruthless cattle baron Matt Horan. Gunnell doesn't want to go back and take on these killers again, but he feels he has no choice, even though it will almost certainly mean disaster and death.

That's the set-up of THE PROUD GUN, a 1961 Western novel by Gordon D. Shirreffs published by Avon Books. Shirreffs was one of the best authors of hardboiled Westerns from his era, and this is a good novel with a large cast of characters and a fairly complex plot, especially considering that he packs it all into about 40,000 words, I'd estimate. It's a book without many sympathetic characters. Les Gunnell is the protagonist, but he's not a particularly likable guy. Other characters you might expect to survive don't, and it all builds to a pretty bleak climax that, frankly, left me wanting a little bit more. That's my only complaint about THE PROUD GUN, though. As always, Shirreffs vividly renders the southwestern landscape and provides plenty of tough, gritty action. Even second-tier Shirreffs is better than a lot of Westerns. I don't think this novel belongs in the top rank of his books, but it's certainly worth reading.

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Six Scarlet Scorpions - Kenneth Robeson (Will Murray and Lester Dent)

As I've mentioned before, nothing makes me feel more like I'm back in junior high or high school than reading one of Will Murray's new Doc Savage novels. They perfectly recreate the experience of whipping through one of those Bantam paperbacks, right down to the way publisher and designer Matt Moring of Altus Press makes the pages look. SIX SCARLET SCORPIONS is not a Doc Savage novel, but it features Doc's beautiful cousin Pat Savage, along with able assistance from Monk Mayfair and cameo appearances by Monk's long-time friend and adversary Ham Brooks and Monk's pet pig Habeas Corpus. I've liked Pat ever since her introduction in the novel BRAND OF THE WEREWOLF, so it's no surprise that I found this to be an excellent book.

As it opens, Pat and Monk are in Oklahoma, looking to make some quick money by trading in oil leases. As you might expect, they run into trouble right away and then get even deeper into a mess involving a young man almost completely drained of blood who's barely alive, a mysterious Indian tribe that shouldn't exist, a sinister murder method that makes a red mark in the shape of a scorpion appear on its victims' faces, a newspaper publisher who may or may not be mixed up with a criminal gang, the publisher's beautiful blond fiancee, and a robed and hooded mastermind who calls himself Chief Standing Scorpion, war chief of the Vinegarroon tribe. All this leads to a series of deadly traps and hair's-breadth escapes (as they used to say on the back covers of the Bantam paperbacks), including a great scene on some abandoned oil derricks in the Arkansas River and a thrilling climax in a castle carved into a cliff in the Ozark Mountains.

For a long-time fan of the Doc Savage series (I read my first one, METEOR MENACE, more than 50 years ago), this is a wonderful throwback to a better time. Murray captures Lester Dent's style perfectly in both the prose and the plotting. I raced through this novel and had a great time doing so. Murray's a busy writer, but I hope he's able to give us more fine yarns starring Pat Savage. In the meantime, SIX SCARLET SCORPIONS gets a very high recommendation from me.

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Ed Gorman Day: Night Caller - Daniel Ransom

While looking through my shelves for something to read for Ed Gorman Day, I came across this book, one of the horror novels that Ed wrote for Zebra under the name Daniel Ransom. Published in 1987, NIGHT CALLER is one of Ed's earliest novels, his third or fourth, I believe. Best of all, it's one that I somehow overlooked all those years ago, so I'd never read it until now. That meant I was in for a treat.

NIGHT CALLER begins with a time-honored horror novel scenario: car trouble. Even all the way back in the Weird Menace pulps, if a car broke down, it was bound to be near some sinister old house or inn. However, in an almost immediate plot twist, in this case the car taking widow Sally Baines and her 13-year-old daughter Jamie to a new life breaks down near the idyllic Midwestern town of Haversham, which seems to be a throwback to the 1950s. Sally and Jamie have to get a room in the local hotel while they wait for the garage to get a part for their car, and they quickly learn of the place's gruesome history. Some years earlier, the owner's young daughter went insane and killed four people with an ax. And wouldn't you know it, Jamie Baines happens to be a dead ringer for that girl . . .

Complicating things even more are mysterious noises coming from the hotel's attic, a disconnected, old-fashioned telephone that rings on its own and provides a conduit for ghostly voices, a down-on-his-luck tabloid reporter, a conniving prostitute, a derelict with a dangerous secret, the tragedy-haunted owner of the hotel, and various other small town characters.

This may be an early effort by Ed Gorman, but all the hallmarks of his work are already there: the fast pace, the twisty plot, the vividly rendered small town setting, the flawed but likable characters, the melancholy tone punctuated by bits of dark humor, the multiple layers of secrets from the past that cast inexorable shadows over the present. NIGHT CALLER is a top-notch horror/suspense yarn that races along to a bloody and effective climax. I really enjoyed it and give it a high recommendation.