An excellent cover by George Rozen graces this issue of PLANET STORIES, and there's a really fine group of writers behind it: Leigh Brackett, Clifford D. Simak, Nelson S. Bond, Carl Jacobi, Wilbur S. Peacock, Charles R. Tanner, and Henry Hasse. I haven't read it, but you can read or download the entire issue here.
I'm not sure that shade of red hair appears in nature, but it appears on several different DIME WESTERN covers in 1933 and it's certainly eye-catching. Equally eye-catching is the group of authors in this issue: Max Brand (Frederick Faust), T.T. Flynn, Harry F. Olmsted (twice, as himself and a Tensleep Maxon story as by Bart Cassidy), Stephen Payne, J.E. Grinstead, and John Colohan. That's a potent pack of pulpsters. While I don't own a copy of this issue, I have read the Max Brand novella, "Guardian Guns". It was reprinted under the title "The Stage to Yellow Creek" in THE LOST VALLEY, one of the Max Brand collections published by Five Star and Leisure. It's an excellent, action-packed yarn about a stagecoach journey, a bag full of money, a gang of outlaws, and one of Faust's typical good badmen as the protagonist. I enjoyed it a lot. It's almost long enough to be considered a novel.
With a Barye Phillips cover and a title like BARGE GIRL,
from a publisher like Gold Medal, I expected a noirish crime novel with a
regular guy protagonist falling for some beautiful but scheming dame who has an
older husband who just needs to be gotten rid of so that she and the
protagonist can live happily ever after. And as I started this 1953 novel by
Calvin Clements, it looked like that was what I was going to get, as our
narrator, tugboat captain Joe Baski, mets and falls for gorgeous young Stella
Murk, whose much older, barge captain husband takes her for granted and makes
her live in near-squalor on the barge.
The thing is, for the longest time Clements dances right up to the edge of
giving us that plot but then pulls back, and as a result, the first
three-fourths of BARGE GIRL never amounts to more than a well-written but slow-paced
domestic drama that will tell you more about barges and tugboats operating on
the Hudson River between New York City and New Jersey than you ever wanted to
Maybe Clements was trying to subvert his readers’ expectations, or maybe
he just wasn’t comfortable spinning a truly noir crime yarn. I don’t know. But
BARGE GIRL was a considerable disappointment to me up until a late twist that
almost salvages the book. The last few chapters pack a lot more punch and are
more fun to read, although even then he seems to be setting up a twist that
never comes to fruition. That makes the pretty good climax not as effective as
it could have been.
Calvin Clements wrote a few novels but is best remembered for his long career
as a screenwriter for movies and TV. He wrote excellent episodes of a number of
different Western series. Based on BARGE GIRL, the only one of his books I’ve
read, he wasn’t as skillful a novelist. Overall, though, the final fourth of
this one impressed me enough that I can say I’m glad I read it. Don’t rush
right out to look for a copy, but if you ever run across one, you might want to
learn more about tugboats and barges than I did.
Some of the first Marvel comics I ever read, before I discovered their superheros on Christmas Day, 1963, were early issues of KID COLT, OUTLAW that had found their way to our house some way. Because of that, I've always had a soft spot for the character, even though now I realize he's a pretty generic "good guy outlaw framed for a crime he didn't commit". I didn't realize Marvel had brought him back briefly in 2009 in a three-part story written by Tom DeFalco and drawn by Rick Burchett. "Kill the Kid!" is an origin story (comics, like movies, love origin stories) that goes in for a little bit of retconning. Kid Colt's real name is Blaine Cole, instead of Blaine Colt as in the original, and I think the details of the crime that leaves him an outlaw are a little different, but I didn't do any research to confirm that. Either way, this reads and looks like a genuine Kid Colt, Outlaw yarn, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. If you're an old fan of the character, like me, you might enjoy it, too, and the digital version is really inexpensive, if you read comics that way. I've come to prefer that method, which surprises me a little.
It's been a while since I posted a Mountie cover, and this is a good one (not surprising since it's on an issue of ARGOSY) by Rudolph Belarski. There's an excellent group of authors inside this issue as well, including E. Hoffmann Price, Harry Sinclair Drago, Eustace L. Adams, Bennett Foster, William Gray Beyer, and Bruce Douglas. ARGOSY was always good, often great.
Another excellent and effective cover by H.W. Scott on this issue of WESTERN STORY, and another prime example of why I never liked to go to the barber shop: yuh never know when some ranny's liable to bust in and commence to slingin' lead. There's an all-star line-up of authors in this issue, too: Walt Coburn, Peter Dawson, Norman A. Fox, Harry F. Olmsted, Frank Richardson Pierce, and Glenn H. Wichman. Looks like a great issue to me.
Of the many, many series written for the pulps by H.
Bedford-Jones, his longest-running featured a fat little Cockney named John
Solomon, which ran from 1914 to 1936 and encompassed more than twenty novels
and novellas. John Solomon may not seem very impressive at first glance, but he
actually runs a far-flung intelligence network and makes a specialty of
thwarting all sorts of criminal and espionage schemes around the world. I’ve
been aware of this series for years but hadn’t read any of them until recently,
when I started at the most logical place, the novel THE GATE OF FAREWELL, which
was published originally as a serial in ARGOSY in 1914 and is Solomon’s first
appearance. (It was later published as a novel under the pseudonym Allan
Solomon is a supporting character in this book and doesn’t play much of a part
in the action until the late stages. The protagonist is an American businessman
named Allen Tredgar, who is searching for his older brother who vanished in
Arabia five years earlier. He hires a captain and a ship, gets a tip on where
to look for his brother from John Solomon, goes through the Suez Canal, and
then heads down the Red Sea to the area where his brother disappeared.
Unfortunately, there’s a sinister American working against Tredgar’s interests,
and things are complicated even more when Tredgar and his companions rescue a
beautiful young woman blown out to sea in a small boat during a storm.
Ultimately, everybody winds up in a fortress on the coast of Arabia built by
what today we would call an Islamic terrorist group. Torture, slavery, and epic
battles ensue, along with a hunt for ancient relics that will give whoever
possesses them great power in the Middle East.
For a novel written and published more than a hundred years ago, THE GATE OF
FAREWELL is surprisingly modern. I can see this same basic plot being used by a
number of today’s thriller writers (although the resulting book would be three
or four times as long). This early in his career, Bedford-Jones’ prose is still
a bit stodgy and old-fashioned and not as crisp and stream-lined as it would be
later. Also, the plot is rather slow to develop, leading to the first half of
the book just sort of meandering along.
The second half, though, has a lot of punch, building up a considerable amount
of suspense that delivers an action-packed climax. The characters are
interesting, including a suitably despicable villain. Bedford-Jones lays the
groundwork for more adventures of John Solomon, which I’m sure I’ll be reading.
THE GATE OF FAREWELL isn’t in the top rank of H. Bedford-Jones’ novels, as far
as I’m concerned, but it’s an entertaining adventure yarn in the classic style
and well worth reading, especially as an introduction to his longest-running
When Hector Salway and a bunch of mates decided to go halfway around the world to repay a debt, they knew it wouldn't be an easy task -- their destination was Siberia, with the Cold War between the West and East at its height. What they didn't know was that a vicious killer who had tried to murder them once before would already be there -- and was now even more dangerous. (As always with Alan Hebden's COMMANDO stories, this is a well-written yarn with a bit more of an epic scope than usual, going from Italy in the final months of World War II to a Siberian prison camp in the post-war years. This is a reprint of a story originally published in 1994, and I'm glad COMMANDO brought it back because I really enjoyed it.)
I wouldn’t go so far as to say
that I have a love/hate relationship with the work of Dean Koontz, but my
reading of his books has certainly gone back and forth over the years. Early on
in his career, I read a few of his science fiction novels and remember liking
them okay, but when he became a bestseller in the Eighties with a number of doorstop-sized
horror/suspense novels, I tried a couple of them and didn’t like them.
(WATCHERS was one; I don’t remember the other.) So for quite a while, I didn’t
read anything by Dean Koontz.
Then, for some reason I no longer recall, I picked up a copy of his novel
LIGHTNING, read it, and loved it. It’s probably still my favorite of his books
that I’ve read. After that I went back and read a lot of his earlier books,
some published originally under his name, some under pseudonyms that were, by
that time, being reissued as Dean Koontz books. I read the new ones as they
came out, including DARK RIVERS OF THE HEART, a great book that’s my second
favorite of his.
Then, sometime after ODD THOMAS, I picked up a new one, started to read it,
said to myself, “Nah,” and that was the end of it. I didn’t read Koontz again
Which is my long-winded way of saying that recently I decided to try something
by him again. I picked NAMELESS, a series of novellas published as single
e-books on Amazon. These tell the story of an amnesiac avenger with no name who
travels around the country, backed by a shadowy, seemingly all-powerful
organization, righting wrongs and delivering truth (not justice, which he makes
clear) to those who have committed evils. The titles of the individual novellas
are IN THE HEART OF THE FIRE, PHOTOGRAPHING THE DEAD, THE PRAYING MANTIS BRIDE,
RED RAIN, THE MERCY OF SNAKES, and MEMORIES OF TOMORROW.
I raced through these and enjoyed them, even the ones about serial killers, a
genre I don’t particularly like. They’re well-written, fast-paced tales with
thoroughly despicable villains and an interesting, likable protagonist. The
final volume, MEMORIES OF TOMORROW, solves some of the mysteries that run
throughout the series and provides a satisfying ending, although leaving the
door open enough that Nameless could return. The whole thing reminded me of a
slickly done cable or streaming TV series.
I liked NAMELESS well enough that I’m tempted to read more by Koontz, but
honestly, the novella length was a big part of the appeal to me. I already have
several of his recent novels on my Kindle that I picked up when they were on
sale, so we’ll see.
I tell you, this is the way I feel a lot of the time these days: ready to snarl and start bashing things with a shovel. By 1947, ADVENTURE may have been long past its glory days as the top pulp in the business, but it still had some great covers, such as this one by Peter Stevens, and some top-notch authors, represented in this issue by E. Hoffmann Price, Jim Kjelgaard, F.R. Buckley, Robert E. Pinkerton, S. Omar Barker, and Franklin Gregory.
This is a pulp
that I own and read recently. That's my copy in the scan. ALL WESTERN MAGAZINE, and for that matter, the
other pulps published by Dell, are little remembered these days, but I’ve read
several issues of ALL WESTERN and found them to be very solid. The cover on
this issue was painted by Arthur Mitchell, who did most of the covers for this
The issue leads off with a novella by Tom Roan, “The Two-Gun Sheriff of Painted
Rock”. Roan was most prolific in the Western pulps from Popular Publications,
but he appeared in others as well. This yarn begins with a couple of owlhoots
bushwhacking a rider who they believe to be the new sheriff on his way to tame
the wild town of Painted Rock. Their unfortunate mistake sets in motion a chain
of violent events as the new sheriff clashes with the crooked saloon owner who
runs the town. It’s a stereotypical plot, but Roan keeps things moving very
fast and has a good touch with an action scene. He’s never been one of my
favorite Western pulpsters, but he’s dependably entertaining, and so is this
Miles Overholt sounds like a pseudonym, but evidently that was his real name.
He had a long, prolific career as a pulpster stretching from 1909 to the early
Fifties, writing a variety of genres early on and then concentrating on Westerns.
His story in this issue, “Gunsmoke Money”, is the first thing I recall reading
by him. The protagonist is a young, drifting cowboy who’s forced to kill an
hombre trying to steal his horse. The dying man asks him to deliver some money
that’s in his saddlebags, and the cowboy’s promise to do so lands him in the
middle of a range hog’s attempt to take over a beautiful young woman’s ranch.
Nothing new there, but Overholt spins his yarn in such a breezy, fast-moving
fashion, and his protagonist is so likable, that I really enjoyed this story
and will be keeping my eyes open for more of his work. As far as I can tell, he
never wrote any novels, just short fiction.
I’ve read a number of stories by Hapsburg Liebe over the years. His
contribution to this issue is the short story “The Britches Kid”, which finds a
prodigal son returning home to help save his father’s ranch from yet another
range hog. It’s very different from the Miles Overholt story with a similar
plot, and not as well written as Overholt’s story, to be honest, but several
interesting, offbeat characters make this one worthwhile.
Charles M. Martin, who also frequently wrote as Chuck Martin, was a very prolific
Western pulpster who worked as a real cowboy in his younger years. His work is
heavy on pseudo-Western dialect and standard plots, but he wrote good action
scenes and kept his yarns moving right along. His story in this issue, “Casa Grande
Bullets”, find two Arizona Rangers trying to arrest a couple of bank robbers,
and the ensuing shootout results in a vengeance quest that leads across the
border into Mexico. It was entertaining enough to keep me reading but pretty
forgettable at the same time.
The novelette “Lightning in Levis” is by Harry F. Olmsted, one of my favorite
Western pulp authors. Some have claimed that Olmsted farmed out all of his work
and never wrote anything on his own, but I don’t believe that. I don’t doubt
that he might have gotten some help from other authors from time to time. That’s
common among high-producing writers, and although I haven’t counted them, I
read somewhere that Olmsted is credited with more than 1200 stories. The voice
in the ones I’ve read is pretty consistent. That said, the tone in “Lightning
in Levis”, which features a number of colorfully named characters and a
convoluted plot, seems a little goofier than the usual Olmsted yarn. So I guess
it’s possible somebody else contributed to this one, or maybe Harry was just
feeling a little more whimsical than usual when he wrote it. At any rate, it’s
an entertaining tale that finds the Wild Bunch (Butch, Sundance, and the rest
of the boys) clearing their names after being framed for some robberies and
killings they didn’t commit.
Arthur H. Carhart (sometimes billed as Arthur Hawthorne Carhart) is a name I’ve
seen on a lot of Western pulps, but I don’t recall ever reading by him until
now. “A Streak of Powder” is the story of two rival ranchers trying to capture
the same outlaw so they can use the bounty on him against each other. It’s not
a bad plot, but the writing is very bland and never hooked me. I finished this
one, but it took some effort to do so.
Carson Mowre is another author I haven’t read before. His story “Timber Foot”
is about a ferry operated by an ex-outlaw who helps other owlhoots escape from
the law, all while waiting to take vengeance on an old enemy. It’s an
intriguing idea, and Mowre does a fairly good job with it. The twist ending is
pretty predictable but the story overall is enjoyable.
I like S. Omar Barker’s Western poetry and non-fiction, but his humorous short
stories don’t appeal to me. “Two Tough Tails”, in this issue, is part of his
Boosty Peckleberry series, which involves cowboys with colorful names sitting around
the bunkhouse telling shaggy dog stories. I didn’t care for it.
There are some good stories here from Roan, Olmsted, Overholt, and Mowre, but
taken as a whole, this is probably the weakest issue of ALL WESTERN I’ve read
so far. Still, I’m glad I read it, of course. I’ve never read a Western pulp
that didn’t provide some entertaining yarns.
When I was in
high school, I read and enjoyed all of Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu novels, but I’ve
dipped into the rest of his work only occasionally since then. In the mood to
read something by him, I picked up BROOD OF THE WITCH-QUEEN, a stand-alone
novel originally published as a nine-part serial in PREMIER MAGAZINE (a publication
I’m not familiar with) in 1914 and ’15 before being published in novel form in
1918. So it was written pretty early in Rohmer’s career.
Although he’s best known for Fu Manchu, of course, Rohmer also used a lot of
Egyptian themes in his work, including this novel. As the novel opens,
co-protagonist Robert Cairn is still in college at Oxford, where he suspects
fellow student Antony Ferrara of being up to no good. Ferrara is the adopted
son of Dr. Michael Ferrara, who happens to be the best friend of Cairn’s
father, noted Egyptologist Dr. Bruce Cairn, who is pretty much the
co-protagonist of this book. The elder Ferrara and Cairn explored many Egyptian
mysteries of an occult nature before Ferrara’s death. Oh, and in addition to
the adopted son, Ferrara also has a beautiful young ward, Myra Duquesne. Robert
Cairn is in love with Myra and is jealous of Antony, who has his eye on her as
well. Antony’s motives are much more sinister, though, Robert believes.
Well, spooky stuff ensues. Disembodied hands choke folks to death. Venomous
spiders scuttle around. People crawl through tunnels and explore hidden
chambers inside pyramids. The word “sarcophagus” is used frequently. And of
course there’s a final showdown between the forces of good and evil.
BROOD OF THE WITCH-QUEEN’s origins as a magazine serial make for a very
episodic novel, but luckily, it’s a fast-moving, entertaining one. Yes, the
writing is lurid, even melodramatic at times, but that’s never bothered me. I’ll
read a good shudder tale any time. The novel’s biggest drawback for me is the
villain. While Antony Ferrara is pretty despicable, he never really dominates
the action the way I expected him to. But then, Robert Cairn, whose nerves are
shakier than anybody this side of an H.P. Lovecraft protagonist, isn’t a
dominating hero, either. What we’re left with is a book with a lot of very
well-done creepy scenes that never quite comes together as an adventure yarn. I’m
glad I read it, and it’s left me in the mood to read more of Rohmer’s work in the
fairly near future, but based on those long-ago memories of the Fu Manchu
novels, it’s probably the weakest thing I’ve read by him so far.
Courage in the face of disaster -- a famous trait of the RAF throughout World War Two. But not in the case of Johnny Bagshott. After condemning his team to a POW camp, can the flighty young navigator work with the devious Hauptmann Hasse to regain standing with his friends... or will he betray them all and help destroy a top British base the country would never recover from?! (Like the other issue of COMMANDO written by James Swallow that I read, this is an excellent, well-written yarn. It combines both an aviation story and a POW story, two sub-genres of war fiction that I enjoy, and has a suitably despicable villain, as depicted on that great cover by Ian Kennedy. Swallow has written at least one other issue, and I'm sure I'll get to it soon.)
Lawrence Block has been writing
and selling novels since 1958, and he’s still at it. I can’t think of any
living author who’s been producing at such a high level for so long. His latest
novel is DEAD GIRL BLUES, which is something of a departure for him but also
shares some of the strengths that have run through his entire career.
It starts out as the story of a young man calling himself Buddy (because that’s
the name stitched onto the work shirt he was given when he took his current
job), who, on a whim, commits a terrible crime, including murder, and gets away
with it. Buddy feels the need to repeat the experience, so what it looks like
we’re going to get is a deep dive into the mind of a sociopathic serial killer,
since Buddy is also the narrator of this tale.
But then, with no warning, DEAD GIRL BLUES turns out to be something completely
different. It’s still a deep dive, because this is novel driven almost solely
by characterization rather than plot, but it’s not what I was expecting. And I
certainly didn’t expect to feel about the characters like I did by the time I
finished the book. Everything is just off-kilter enough that by the later
stages of the book, I didn’t know what
to expect. That’s not bad, because usually, even in the best books, I have some
idea what’s going to happen.
I believe it was Ed Gorman who said that Block writes the best sentences in the
business. That’s still true. His style isn’t flashy, but it sure makes you want
to keep reading. That’s certainly true of DEAD GIRL BLUES. This is a book that
may not be for everybody, since it’s a little squirm-inducing in places, but
it’s also heartwarming at times, in its own oddball way. I really liked it, and
if you’re a Lawrence Block fan, you’ll want to read it.
That looks like a Tom Lovell cover to me, although I could certainly be wrong about that. I'm sure there are some good authors inside, including Norbert Davis, Paul Ernst, and Dale Clark. Also on hard are authors I'm less familiar with: John Hawkins, Walter C. Brown, John Kobler, Charles Boswell, Robert W. Thompson, Thomas A. Hoge, and H.T. Sperry. If they sold to Popular Publications, I'll bet they're pretty good, too.
This issue of THRILLING WESTERN has a nice dramatic cover, probably by Richard Lyon. I'm not sure about that, but it looks like his work to me. Inside are stories by some prolific pulpsters, including Thrilling Group stalwarts Lee Bond, Syl MacDowell (with a second story under the pseudonym Tom Gunn), Donald Bayne Hobart, and "Jackson Cole" (probably either Bond or Hobart, I'd guess, since they each have a story in this issue). Plus the well-regarded Stephen Payne and a couple of authors I'm not familiar with, James W. Egan and Victor Kaufman. Looks like an entertaining issue.
I admit, I bought this book for that great cover (that’s
my copy in the scan), having never heard of it or the author. But sometimes a
gamble like that pays off, and such is the case with WILD BLOOD, a 1951 Gold
Medal Western by A.C. Abbott.
The plot of this novel is very traditional. After several years away from home,
Jim Dixon returns to the ranch in Arizona where he grew up in response to a
plea for help from his father. Jim had left home because was forced to kill one
of the sons of a neighboring rancher in a gunfight. Complicating the matter is
the fact that Jim was in love with the other rancher’s daughter, the sister of
the man he gunned down. Since then, that rancher has passed away and his surviving
son has taken over running things. And he’s spoiling for a range war with Jim’s
Throw in the local storekeeper’s beautiful daughter, who’s in love with Jim, a
gunfighting friend who may or may not be trustworthy, two young cowboys
suspected of being rustlers and stagecoach robbers, some old geezers, and all
the standard elements are there. The situation ratchets up with bushwhackings,
brutal fistfights, barns burned down, and a lynching. Our hero Jim takes an
incredible amount of punishment in this book, having to recuperate from several
serious injuries, and keeps coming back for more until everything builds to a very
The author’s ability to create complex and interesting characters and spin this
yarn in tough, very fast-paced prose lifts WILD BLOOD from a run-of-the-mill
traditional Western to an excellent novel. It has its pulpish touches, but they
don’t detract from the story and characters.
Naturally, having never heard of A.C. Abbott, I had to do some investigating.
As it turns out, Abbott was a fairly prolific contributor to a variety of
Western pulps, publishing approximately 70 stories in an eight-year career from
the late Forties to the mid-Fifties. Many of those stories appeared in the
Western romance pulps such as RANCH ROMANCES and RANGELAND LOVE STORIES. Early
on in reading WILD BLOOD, I had a hunch the author might have been female.
There’s a little more emphasis on what the characters are feeling than you
usually find in Fifties Westerns written by men, as well as one of the more
believable romantic rectangles I’ve encountered in a Western. Sure enough,
after a tip from my friend Tom Simon indicated that “A.C. Abbott” was a pseudonym
for someone name H.A. Meinzer, born in 1918, I was able to track down a
gravesite for Helen Abbott Meinzer, born in Idaho in 1918, died in Arizona in
1963. Although that’s not definitive proof, I’m confident that Helen Meinzer
was the actual author of WILD BLOOD, as well as those pulp stories and one other
novel, BRANDED, published by Signet in 1954. (I have a copy of that one, as
Don’t mistake WILD BLOOD for a romance, though. Sure, it has a certain amount
of “woman interest” (as the pulp editors called it) in it, but it also has
plenty of action, and honestly, some of those scenes are as bloody and brutal
as anything written by most male Western authors in that era. It was a time of
hardboiled Westerns, and this book certainly fits that description. I found it
really entertaining and compulsive reading, and I’m glad the cover prompted me
to buy it. I don’t know who painted the cover, but he (or she) did the job
In the Sixties, I read all of Ian Fleming’s James Bond
novels and stories while I was in junior high and high school, plus COLONEL
SUN, the Bond novel by Kingsley Amis writing as Robert Markham. In the Eighties
and Nineties, I read most of the Bond novels written by John Gardner (whose
Boysie Oakes novels I’d also read back in the Sixties). When the series
continued on into this century under the authorship of Raymond Benson, I read
nearly all of those books, as well. But I’d never read any of the more recent
Bond novels by various hands, until recently until I was really in the mood for
one and decided to give FOREVER AND A DAY by Anthony Horowitz a try.
I’d never read any of Horowitz’s other novels, but I’ve seen and enjoyed some
of the TV series he’s written. I read enough about FOREVER AND A DAY to know
that it’s set in 1950 and is a prequel to CASINO ROYALE, Fleming’s first novel.
Setting a Bond novel in the right time-frame was enough to predispose me to
like this book. I generally don’t care for updatings and reboots.
The opening is promising, too, with 007 being murdered in Marseille. Not Bond,
of course. The agent who had the 007 designation before him. Horowitz then
covers Bond’s promotion of the Double-0 section, after which M gives him the
assignment of finding out what happened to his predecessor. Bond doesn’t have
much to go on: he knows the murdered man was investigating a French drug
kingpin named Scipio, and there’s also a connection to a beautiful former
British operative known as Madame 16 who has gone rogue and formed her own
intelligence network. (Shades of Modesty Blaise!)
Bond’s investigation is very Flemingesque, if that’s a word. Bond gambles at
Monte Carlo, meets the lovely Sixtine, has a run-in with the sinister Scipio
and is threatened with torture (don’t worry, there’s plenty of actual torture,
another Fleming hallmark, later on), and uncovers a connection with an American
millionaire who may be an innocent dupe, or not.
There are some very nice scenes and some great Easter eggs about the
character’s history (including a chapter based on an outline Fleming wrote),
but really, the first two-thirds or so of this book are leisurely paced, more
of a slow burn than a thriller. Horowitz really has Fleming’s style down, and
it’s a pleasure to read. Eventually things kick into a higher gear, though, and
FOREVER AND A DAY really takes off. When it does, it turns into pure greatness.
The last 50 or 60 pages are just exhilarating, and I couldn’t turn those pages
fast enough. I was back in the Sixties, sitting on my parents’ front porch on a
warm summer day, totally caught up in what I was reading, and I can’t give a
book a higher compliment or a better recommendation than that.
FOREVER AND A DAY (great title, by the way, also very reminiscent of Fleming)
is the best book I’ve read so far this year. Horowitz has written another Bond
novel, TRIGGER MORTIS, and I have a copy of it as well, so I look forward to
reading it, too. In the meantime, if you’re a James Bond fan and haven’t read
this book, don’t miss it.
Deep in the Vietnamese jungle, pilot Jake Clancy is lost and running for his life -- but Australian SAS Sergeant Jack Walker and his team are moving in, ready to pluck him from the jaws of the Viet Cong. The Australians' prowess earned them the nickname the "Ghosts of the Jungle," and it was a good thing too, as when an American General gets taken captive Jack's team must go... ACROSS THE FENCE! (This is the first issue of COMMANDO I've read that takes place in the Vietnam War, and since it's written by Brent Towns, you know it's good. This yarn flows very nicely from one action sequence to another and has excellent characters. Recommended.)
I just got an email from one of the grandchildren of Western pulp author Harry F. Olmsted, one of my favorite Western pulpsters. The person who got in touch with me had read something I wrote about Olmsted. I tried to respond with some restraint and decorum, but you know me . . . I probably came across as a complete fanboy. I'd love to see more of an interest in Olmsted's work. I think he was a top-notch writer.
Robert Gibson Jones did a lot of great covers for various Ziff-Davis pulps. I like this one on the November 1942 issue of AMAZING STORIES. Inside are stories by Eando Binder (actually Earl and Otto Binder, but you knew that, of course), Robert Bloch, Raymond Z. Gallun, Emil Petaja, David Wright O'Brien writing as Duncan Farnsworth, and John Russell Fearn writing as Thornton Ayre. I've read all those authors except Fearn, and I'm thinking I'll read something by him soon.
I like the cover on this issue of WESTERN SHORT STORIES, but what's really amazing is the group of authors inside: Walker A. Tompkins, Giles A. Lutz, D.B. Newton, Roe Richmond, Stephen Payne, Joseph Wayne (either Wayne D. Overholser or Overholser in collaboration with Lewis B. Patten), Joseph Payne Brennan, Frank P. Castle, John Callahan, John H. Latham, Clark Gray, house-name Ken Jason, and somebody named Costa Carousso, the only author in the bunch I haven't heard of. There are several of my favorites in there, and several more who were consistently good Western pulpsters.
was one of the top crime/suspense paperbackers during the Fifties and Sixties,
wrote many TV tie-in novels and novelizations under his own name and as Max Franklin
(probably the first books I read by him were tie-in novels based on the series
THE MOD SQUAD), and contributed frequently to the mystery and detective digest
magazines and the pulps before that. His best known original series featured private
detective Manville Moon, who appeared in quite a few stories and novels.
The Moon series begins with “The Juarez Knife”, a novella published in the
January 1948 issue of POPULAR DETECTIVE. Like a lot of other late Forties PIs,
Moon is a veteran of World War II. He lost his right leg in the fighting in
Europe, having it amputated just below the knee because of wounds he suffered.
He wears a prosthetic leg that slows him down some, but in this story, at
least, he seems to have adjusted pretty well.
As this yarn opens, Moon gets a phone call from a lawyer who wants to hire him
for what may be a dangerous job. We all know how those turn out. But this one
goes south even faster than usual, because right after Moon arrives at the lawyer’s
office to discuss the case, the guy is murdered before Moon even gets to talk
to him, with the knife of the title, a souvenir of Juarez, buried in his chest.
The only possible suspect is a beautiful young woman, but Moon believes she’s
innocent, so even though he doesn’t really have a client, he sets out to find
the real killer, leading to run-ins with shady gamblers, brutal thugs, good-looking
dames, and suspicious cops. All the things we love about private eye yarns, in
To be honest, “The Juarez Knife” is a little milder than I expected and comes
down to a solution that’s more like something from an Ellery Queen or John
Dickson Carr novel (but without the complexity and skill of those authors).
Still, Deming’s writing is very slick and fast-paced, and he’s always fun to
read. Plus, Manville Moon is a very likable protagonist. I enjoyed this story,
even though I thought it would be a little more hardboiled. It’s available as an
e-book, as are most, if not all, of the other novellas and novels in the
series, and I certainly intend to read more of them.