Monday, June 28, 2021

Exotic Adventures of Robert Silverberg - Robert Silverberg

Travel to faraway lands of mystery, danger, and erotic intrigue in stories from a time when the world still held secrets to be uncovered. From safari to bordello, from smugglers' cove to opium den, Robert Silverberg's lost pulp exotica returns to print for the first time since its original 1950s publication, in bold new oversized facsimile re-creations. Available in softcover and deluxe expanded hardcover editions that look fresh off the newsstand, circa 1958. Go EXOTIC...or go home.

One of the greatest names in science fiction, Robert Silverberg's work is beloved by millions of readers worldwide. He has been awarded virtually all of the top honors in the realm of speculative fiction, including multiple Hugo Awards and Nebula Awards, and induction into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame.

But his long career as a writer includes many lesser known detours outside SF. One of those detours led to this intriguing set of stories, written and published in 1958 and 1959 for EXOTIC ADVENTURES, a short-lived men's adventure magazine (or MAM) that emphasized tales set in foreign locales then considered mysterious and intriguing. Silverberg proved so adept a storyteller in this mode, he was soon composing nearly the entire magazine under a variety of pseudonyms.

Now, with Silverberg's full cooperation, The Men's Adventure Library presents these long-lost tales of exotic adventure, most never before reprinted, in a unique facsimile presentation that mimics their original publication in the 1950s.

EXOTIC ADVENTURES OF ROBERT SILVERBERG invites you to take a walk on the wild side. Experience life as a smuggler in Tangier...witness the secret sex rites of Uganda...visit a nudist paradise on the French Riviera...take a bride for the night in Kashmir...lose yourself in the opium dens of Vietnam...and much, much more in globe-trotting adventures spun entirely from the vivid imagination of one of speculative fiction's most honored voices.

EXOTIC ADVENTURES OF ROBERT SILVERBERG is available as a 118-page softcover, and as a deluxe 142-page hardcover with additional stories.

(These stories are just really entertaining, and the book is beautifully put together by editors Robert Deis and Wyatt Doyle. Several of them, with the addition of a little more plot, easily could have been expanded into lurid but also really entertaining novels, had Silverberg chosen to do so. My favorites were "Safari of Death", "Bride of the Jaguar God", and "Island of Exiled Women". Those titles ought to give you a pretty good idea whether or not this is a book for you. I loved it. And yes, that's Silverberg himself on the cover, in a reworked version of a cover by Rafael DeSoto that first appeared on the April 1957 issue of FOR MEN ONLY. If you're like me and enjoy revisiting that era from time to time, I highly recommend EXOTIC ADVENTURES OF ROBERT SILVERBERG.)

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Fantastic Story Quarterly, Winter 1951

Hey, watch those hands, you guys! I thought at first this cover was by Earle Bergey, but it's not attributed to him anywhere that I can find. So maybe it is, maybe it isn't, but it's certainly suggestive and eye-catching no matter who painted it. This issue of FANTASTIC STORY QUARTERLY is mostly reprint, with only two new stories by Frank Belknap Long and Milton Lesser, best remembered as Stephen Marlowe. The reprints, from various issues of WONDER STORIES and WONDER STORIES QUARTERLY in the Thirties, are by Eric Frank Russell, Clark Ashton Smith, Eando Binder (Earl and Otto Binder), and a couple of authors I'm not familiar with, Alan Connell and Siegfried Wagener (his only credit in the FMI).

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Pioneer Western, December 1950

This is the first and apparently only issue of this Western pulp published by Avon and edited by Donald A. Wollheim. There was an earlier PIONEER WESTERN, a few issues of which were published by Popular Publications in the Thirties, but the two magazines aren't connected other than by title. I don't know why this version of PIONEER WESTERN lasted only one issue, but it couldn't have been because of the authors: William Hopson, Dean Owen, Will C. Brown (C.S. Boyles, the other author from Cross Plains, Texas), Roe Richmond, C. William Harrison, Walt Sheldon, and Robert Moore Williams. That's a really solid line-up of pulpsters. I like the cover, too. I thought at first the art might be by Norman Saunders, but this issue isn't listed on his website. Whoever painted it, I like it. There's also a comic strip story inside with art by the great Joe Maneely.

Friday, June 25, 2021

Forgotten Books: Roy Rogers and Dale Evans in River of Peril - Cole Fannin (Frank Castle)

When I was a kid, I read a lot of the juvenile novels published by Whitman, many of them based on TV shows or movie stars I liked. I was a big Roy Rogers fan, so I would have read this one if I’d ever seen it. Clearly, I just never came across a copy. Until now. (That’s an Internet scan of the cover, by the way. My copy is beat up and has loose covers.)

ROY ROGERS AND DALE EVANS IN RIVER OF PERIL is a clumsy title for a pretty good book. Unlike many of Roy’s movies and his TV show, which were contemporary Westerns including modern technology and even Cold War espionage, this novel is in a more traditional Western vein with nothing more advanced than railroads and the telegraph. As the book opens, Roy is on a secret mission for an unnamed U.S. president who’s pretty clearly Theodore Roosevelt, which places the time period as very early 20th Century.

Roy’s job is to find out who’s trying to keep settlers out of the Bitter River country in Idaho, which the president wants to open for settlement by homesteaders. He’s assisted in this effort by a talkative old-timer named Kammas Tibbs, who bears more than a passing resemblance to Gabby Hayes. Dale shows up, even though Roy tried to keep her from taking part in what might be a dangerous job. There’s a gang of bad guys ramrodded by a head henchman who would be played by Roy Barcroft is this was a movie, and a mysterious mastermind behind all the villainy. Since this is a novel aimed at young readers, nobody gets killed, but there’s plenty of gunplay and a few brutal fistfights, plus some good scenes involving the rapids in Bitter River. This is almost a plot that could have worked as one of Roy’s late features directed by William Witney and written by Sloan Nibley.

Speaking of writers, the author of this novel is by-lined Cole Fannin, but that was actually veteran pulpster and paperbacker Frank Castle. Castle wrote a bunch of hardboiled Westerns and crime novels, but he was a thorough pro and could turn out juveniles like this, too, and in fact wrote quite a few of them. He had a very distinctive style in some of his paperbacks, but either he kept it under control on this assignment or some of his more oddball sentence structures were edited out. What’s important to me is that I enjoyed this fast-paced yarn and thought Castle did a good job of capturing Roy and Dale’s personalities. If you’re a fan of their movies, I think this book is well worth reading if you can find a copy.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Paperbacks at War - Justin Marriott, ed.


World War Two has long been a recurring theme in popular culture.

Its grand scale, themes, and emotions offered rich inspiration for authors, who readily provided the public with tales of fearless heroes, diabolical enemies, and enduring love.

This book reviews 170+ of books, comics and pulp magazines that used the setting of war, providing information and opinion on their entertainment value and historical importance.

From pioneering pulp heroes such as The Operator and Lone Eagle, to comic icons such as Sgt. Rock and The Unknown Soldier, to the cynical and ultra-violent paperbacks of the 1970s from Sven Hassel and Leo Kessler.

Fully illustrated with 200+ reproductions of paperbacks and comics.

(Following up on several superb volumes of reviews concentrating on particular genres of adventure fiction, editor Justin Marriott strikes again with PAPERBACKS AT WAR, a wonderful collection of reviews by knowledgeable fans about scores of war-themed novels, mostly paperback originals, with many series entries and also plenty of stand-alones. This is the sort of book you can dip into now and then, if that's what you want, but I found myself compulsively reading it . . . and then heading to Amazon to compulsively buy the books that appealed to me the most. I've read a considerable amount of war fiction, but PAPERBACKS AT WAR contains reviews of plenty of books that are new to me, too. I had a great time reading it, and I'm pretty sure I'll have a great time reading the books it prompted me to buy. Highly recommended.)

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Tarzan: Untamed Frontiers - Gary A. Buckingham

Tarzan wasn't my introduction to the work of Edgar Rice Burroughs, at least not if you're talking about the novels and not the movies based on them. That was the novel A FIGHTING MAN OF MARS, which I've written about here before. But very early on, I bought a copy of the Whitman edition of TARZAN OF THE APES (the one with the Official Ape-English Dictionary; I'd bet a hat some of you have a copy of that very edition still on your shelves) and was hooked on the series. I think I've read all the Tarzan novels, some more than once, and also read Fritz Leiber's TARZAN AND THE VALLEY OF GOLD and Will Murray's two Wild Adventures of Tarzan novels. The character is one of my all-time favorites. I even wrote a Tarzan fanfiction novel when I was in junior high. I'm talking probably 30,000 to 40,000 words. The handwritten manuscript is long gone, of course.

So when I heard about a volume called TARZAN: UNTAMED FRONTIERS, collecting a novella and a novelette about Tarzan by Burroughs scholar Gary A. Buckingham, I had to have a copy. I'm glad I was able to get my hands on one, because these two yarns are thoroughly entertaining. The title novella is a prequel to one of the best novels in the series, TARZAN THE UNTAMED, and concerns the Waziri tribe's move across Africa to make their home in the area where Tarzan establishes his own headquarters. There are some excellent action scenes in this one. The novelette, "Tarzan and the Secret of Katanga" (first published in the hardback edition of Will Murray's novel TARZAN: RETURN TO PAL-UL-DON) is even better. This is a sequel to TARZAN THE UNTAMED and is set in the days leading up to World War II. The story finds Tarzan battling Nazi agents trying to take over a uranium mine, which is good enough by itself, but that mine holds a dangerous secret that makes the story even better. Great battles against man and beast abound.

Probably the best thing about these stories is that Buckingham really captures Tarzan's personality, both as the King of the Jungle and as John Clayton, Lord Greystoke. There's more Tarzan by Buckingham in the pipeline, and I'm looking forward to it.

The present volume is a limited edition and is available direct from the author. You can find information on how to get a copy here. I should also mention that it has a spectacular wraparound cover by Dan Parsons, as well as interior illustrations by Parsons, Neal Adams, Joe DeVito, Chris Adams, and Peggy Adler. Beautiful work, all the way around.

Monday, June 21, 2021

West of Whitechapel: Jack the Ripper in the Wild West - Wayne D. Dundee


In the late 1880s, a series of grisly murders swept through the Whitechapel slums of London. The victims were all prostitutes, each found with her throat cut and her stomach sliced open. Sensationalized newspaper accounts of the killings spread throughout England and beyond to a horrified yet fascinated reading public. Heightening interest all the more were the taunting letters sent by the killer to Scotland Yard – boldly signed “Jack the Ripper”.

But then, abruptly, the killings stopped. The Ripper was never identified or captured, but the terror seemed over.

A few months later, however, on the American frontier in the raucous, rowdy mining camps that sprang up out of a silver boom in the Colorado Rockies, some eerily similar murders began to occur among the flocks of “soiled doves” who gathered to serve the men in those remote camps. With no law to speak of in such places and sudden death being all too common, no one seemed to take much notice.

Not until a sharp-eyed female journalist spotted the possible connection and became determined to find out the truth. Aided by a guilt-ridden though equally dogged frontier detective, the pair follow a bloody trail through the rugged mountains and boisterous mining camps to try and prove if Jack the Ripper truly ceased his killing ways … or did he merely move them out here – west of Whitechapel?

(Wayne D. Dundee is one of the most consistently entertaining Western writers in the business, so it's no surprise that his new novel from Wolfpack Publishing is excellent. The pace races along, he does a great job with the historical elements in the plot, and there are some twists I didn't see coming, which is always nice. Plus Lew Torrent, an operative for the Omaha & Points West Detective Agency, is a really likable narrator/protagonist and works well with the female journalist who draws him into the case. I really hope we see these two again, maybe tackling another historical mystery. In the meantime, WEST OF WHITECHAPEL gets a very high recommendation from me.)

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Strange Detective Stories, January 1934

Clifford Benton's cover for this issue of STRANGE DETECTIVE STORIES is pretty exciting. I don't think I'd heard of Benton before. Looks like he did only a few pulp covers, all of them either for this magazine or its predecessor, NICKEL DETECTIVE. There's a strong group of writers in this issue, too: Norvell W. Page, E. Hoffmann Price, Arthur J. Burks, Frederick C. Painton, Ralph Perry, Harold Ward, Samuel Taylor, and a couple less familiar to me, Jack Smalley and Les Tillray. This is Tillray's only entry in the FMI. Might have been a pseudonym, might've just been his only sale. I don't know much about STRANGE DETECTIVE STORIES, but based on this issue, it appears to have been a pulp worth reading.

UPDATE: I've learned from Lynn Munroe that the Les Tillray story in this issue, "Terror Trail", was actually written by none other than Erle Stanley Gardner, and that its original title was "Death Trail". Many thanks to Lynn for this great bit of literary detective work!

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Spicy Western Stories, June 1942

Good old SPICY WESTERN STORIES. Covers don't get much more garish than this one by Allen Anderson. It's sure eye-catching, too. Most of this issue's contents are reprints from four or five years earlier with the titles and house-names changed. Laurence Donovan has one of the two original stories, and one of the reprints appears to be by him, as well, since it was published originally under the name Larry Dunn, which as far as I know was a personal pseudonym for Donovan. The other original story is by Edwin Truett Long writing as Wallace Kayton. The rest of the TOC is a hodge-podge of house-names.

Friday, June 18, 2021

Now Available: Never Trifle With Murder - Livia J. Washburn

It’s early summer in Weatherford, Texas, and retired teacher/amateur sleuth Phyllis Newsom and fellow retiree Carolyn Wilbarger are taking British cooking classes at the local senior center in this suspenseful Fresh-Baked mystery.

In the latest from Livia J. Washburn, the nationally bestselling author of the Fresh Baked Mystery Series, Phyllis Newsom learns to make a trifle that’s to die for…

While Sam Fletcher is playing dominoes with the guys, Eve Turner is busy flirting with the English chef since she has a fascination for English accents and handsome men who can cook. This puts her in competition with a couple of other ladies from the senior center, who also have their caps set for Chef Alfred Dorrington.

The third and final class features desserts, and more than the stove heats up when the trifle is poisoned! Once again Phyllis finds herself involved in a murder case filled with hidden motives and colorful characters.

Includes recipes!

(I love these books because I always get to read them before anybody else. And, of course, because they're funny and well-plotted and full of great characters, surprises, and poignant moments. I get to sample the recipes, too! The trade paperback of this one also includes the Fresh Baked Mystery short story "The Coconut Bunny Butt Caper", which was only available digitally until now. NEVER TRIFLE WITH MURDER is also available at Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.)

Forgotten Books: The Law of the Jungle - Louis Masterson (Kjell Hallbing)

(This post originally appeared in somewhat different form on May 19,2006.)

I've always liked Westerns that take place in non-traditional settings. This novel certainly fits that description. U.S. Marshal Morgan Kane is sent to the wilds of the Yucatan Peninsula to rescue a group of American scientists who have been trapped there by an uprising among the local Indians. Naturally Kane runs into a lot of trouble along the way, including some colorful pirates.

This is another entry in the long-running series by Norwegian author Kjell Hallbing, writing under the pseudonym Louis Masterson. More than eighty Morgan Kane novels were originally published in Norway, and a couple dozen of them were reprinted in England by Corgi Books. I've picked up a few over the years. Hallbing had a very distinctive style, and according to everything I've read, translator Phil Newth captures it accurately. The action scenes are very well done, and Morgan Kane has to be the most angst-ridden Western hero I've ever encountered, enduring all sorts of physical and psychological torment in the course of the books. They're off-beat enough that it took me a while to get used to them, but now I've become quite a fan and am looking forward to reading the others I have on hand.

(UPDATE: All those other Morgan Kane paperbacks I had were lost in the fire of '08 before I got around to reading any of them. I have one or two in e-book editions but haven't read them, either. I need to do that.)

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Classic Adventure Pulp: The Resurrection of Jimber Jaw - Edgar Rice Burroughs

Edgar Rice Burroughs was one of my favorite authors when I was a kid, but there was plenty of his work I never got around to, and I've read him only sporadically since then. I want to go back and catch up on some of that unread stuff, and I've started with "The Resurrection of Jimber Jaw" (great title!), a novelette that was published originally in the February 20, 1937 issue of ARGOSY, the lead story with a good cover by Emmett Watson.

This story involves a couple of American scientists who are flying over the wastes of Siberia for reasons that are convoluted and, frankly, not all that convincing. When they're forced to land by an engine malfunction, they find a prehistoric man frozen in a chunk of ice. Since one of the scientists just happens to specialize in freezing living things and bringing them back to life, they decide to thaw out the guy they find, who they nickname Jimber Jaw because he resembles a grizzly bear of that name one of the fellows once saw.

Now, there are usually only two ways a set-up like this can go: comedy or bloody horror. Burroughs opts for comedy, and there's plenty of the dry wit that crops up so often in his later work. It's pretty funny, too, and the story is well-written overall.

The problem with "The Resurrection of Jimber Jaw" is that the plot is rather thin, and Burroughs merely summarizes much of the action, so that some of it reads more like an outline than a story. This is a yarn that's really crying out for more length and a better developed plot.

As it is, the humor and the fast pace kept me reading effortlessly, and overall, I enjoyed it. I can't help but feel, though, that it could have been much better. That won't stop me from reading more of those Burroughs stories I haven't gotten to yet.

Monday, June 14, 2021

Chronos Commandos: Dawn Patrol - Stuart Jennett

A friend of mine mentioned this the other day and compared it to the old DC Comics series The War That Time Forgot, so I had to check it out. I'm definitely the target audience when it comes to anything about World War II G.I.s fighting dinosaurs.

I was pleased to find that this five-issue comic book series is pretty good. It's been reprinted in trade paperback and as an e-book and is worth reading. The concept is that a combined scientific and military force called The Watchmakers, led by Albert Einstein, is tasked with traveling through time to foil the plots of Nazi time travelers. The leader of one of the field teams is a tough non-com called only The Sarge, who, along with his men, is in prehistoric times with his men as this yarn opens.

Through some bad luck, The Sarge and one other soldier are the only ones who make it back to the present (well, the middle of World War II, which is the present as far as this series is concerned) only to find that things are in even worse shape there. Nazi agents have infiltrated the Watchmakers, wrecked their headquarters, and stolen a vital component of their time traveling equipment, escaping into prehistoric times with it. The Sarge and a new squad are sent to recover it and prevent the Nazis from changing the course of history.

All of that is set up in the first issue, and the rest of the series is nearly non-stop action. If you enjoy G.I. vs. dinosaur battles, Albert Einstein with a tommy gun fighting Nazi agents, and mind-bending time travel paradoxes, CHRONOS COMMANDOS is for you. Stuart Jennett's script is excellent. I'm not as big a fan of his art, but he's a decent storyteller and the art, by today's standards, is not bad at all. Taken together, Jennett delivers a very enjoyable yarn that I enjoyed quite a bit. Recommended.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Detective Fiction Weekly, October 30, 1937

There's a nice sinister cover on this issue of DETECTIVE FICTION WEEKLY. I don't want anything to do with that operating room, thank you. Leading off this issue is a novella by T.T. Flynn, one of my favorite Western writers, featuring his series characters Mike Harris and Trixie Meehan. I've never read any of this series, but I expect I'd enjoy it. Other well-known pulpsters on hand are Richard Sale, Dale Clark, Cyril Plunkett, and George Armin Shaftel. Other authors are prolific but little known (to me, anyway) H. Randolph Peacock, Thomas W. Duncan, Donald S. Aitken, and Milo Ray Phelps. I don't think DETECTIVE FICTION WEEKLY is considered one of the top pulps these days, but there was plenty of good reading in its pages, and a great deal of it has never been reprinted.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: West, June 1946

An ominous cover by Sam Cherry graces this issue of WEST, which includes a Zorro story by Johnston McCulley and a novella by Paul Evan Lehman. Other authors on hand are Dupree Poe (writing as Roger Rhodes), Larry Harris, and Hal White, a prolific but little remembered author whose career lasted from the mid-Twenties to the early Fifties and included Westerns, detective stories, and dozens of aviation yarns.

Friday, June 11, 2021

Forgotten Books: Rimrock Town - William Heuman

The mining novel is a popular sub-genre of the Western. Sometimes it’s mixed with another sub-genre, such as the ranch novel, and in a book like that you’re nearly always going to have a big brawl between cowboys and miners somewhere along the way. William Heuman’s RIMROCK TOWN, published by Hillman in 1957, is a mining novel without a cowboy in sight, or a cow, for that matter. It’s set in Rimrock, Montana, a thinly disguised version of Butte, and centers around the bitter rivalry between two mining tycoons, Boyd Garrison and William Andrews.

Winding up in the middle of this brewing war is newcomer Harlan Craig, who owned a stage line in California that went out of business following the arrival of the railroad. Now at loose ends, Craig has drifted to Rimrock to see if he can make his fortune some other way. When he saves Boyd Garrison from an ambush, the mining magnate hires him as a bodyguard, which puts Craig in the thick of trouble, because Andrews has started importing gunmen to destroy Garrison’s operation.

Oh, and there are two beautiful women in the mix, as well, the daughter of the local judge (who is in Garrison’s pocket) and another newcomer to Rimrock, an ambitious redhead who opens a dress shop. There’s a nicely done romantic rectangle involving those two ladies, Craig, and Garrison, but Heuman doesn’t spent nearly as much time on that as he does on gunfights, ambushes, brutal fistfights, sabotage, explosions, and a harrowing battle deep underground.

Heuman is one of my favorite hardboiled Western writers, and he’s in excellent form in this novel, which I raced through and thoroughly enjoyed. If you like traditional Westerns and come across a copy, RIMROCK TOWN is well worth reading.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Men's Adventure Quarterly #2: The "Eyes Only" Espionage Issue -- Robert Deis, Bill Cunningham, Tom Simon, eds.

There’s no sophomore jinx for the second issue of MEN’S ADVENTURE QUARTERLY. It remains one of the most impressive, beautifully designed publications available today. The theme this time around for this oversized trade paperback is Espionage. It features a lot of vividly reproduced artwork, including both covers and interior illustrations, from a variety of the Men’s Adventure Magazines published in the Fifties, Sixties, and Seventies, along with seven stories (mostly fiction, even the supposedly true ones) from those magazines.

My favorites were “The Deadly Spy Mystery of the Formosa Joy Girls” by Brand Hollister, an acknowledged pseudonym, real author unknown (MAN’S ACTION, March 1963); “Operation Maneater” by Donald Honig (FOR MEN ONLY, February 1969); and “She Knew Too Much to Live” by H. Horace, another pseudonym, I’m thinking (MAN’S LIFE, October 1973). These are all action-packed yarns, and “Operation Maneater”, which is about an American agent’s efforts to bring down a counterfeiter headquartered in a compound on the Amazon in South America, is especially good and would have made a fine novel if it had been expanded. You can’t go wrong with a bad guy who has a pool full of piranha. Of course, a pool full of sharks or alligators would have been pretty good, too.

In addition to the stories and great artwork, there are also informative, entertaining essays from editors Robert Deis and Bill Cunningham and guest editor Tom Simon. MEN’S ADVENTURE QUARTERLY #2: THE “EYES ONLY” ESPIONAGE ISSUE is just great fun and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Highly recommended. (It's also available directly from the publisher.)

Wednesday, June 09, 2021

Terminal Memory - Brian Drake

Brian Drake has been making a name for himself as an author of action/adventure novels for the past few years. TERMINAL MEMORY is the first book in his latest series and features Sam Raven, a former CIA agent who has left the Company and become a sort-of-freelance vigilante for hire, due to some mysterious tragedy in his life.

After a short section that introduces Raven and has him rescuing a kidnap victim, the main storyline of this book involves a more personal mission. Several years before this book opens, while Raven was still working for the CIA, he and four fellow agents were involved in a mission in Afghanistan that saw them captured and tortured by terrorists. Now three of those former agents are dead, leaving just Raven and his traumatized former lover Mara Cole. It’s up to Raven to find Mara, keep both of them from getting killed, discover who’s behind this apparent vendetta and why, and deliver some swift and deadly justice to them.

I really enjoyed this book. Too many contemporary thrillers suffer from a bad case of bloat and are at least twice as long as their plots justify. Not so TERMINAL MEMORY. Drake doesn’t waste a word and keeps things moving at a very fast pace most of the time. When the characters do slow down to take a breath, those scenes are well-written, too. There are two more Sam Raven novels out already, and I look forward to reading them. If you’re an action/adventure fan, TERMINAL MEMORY gets a high recommendation from me.

Tuesday, June 08, 2021

The Comanche Kid - James Robert Daniels

THE COMANCHE KID is playwright/actor James Robert Daniels’ first novel, but you’d never know that by reading this magnificent, bigger-than-life tale.

Sixteen-year-old Jane lives on the Texas frontier with her twin brother Jamie, her parents, and her three-year-old sister Sally. Their hardscrabble but peaceful existence comes to an end when a Comanche war party raids their homestead. Jane and Sally are the only survivors of the bloody attack. Jane avoids capture, but the Indians carry off Sally, leaving Jane determined to rescue her sister and avenge the deaths of her other loved ones . . . even if she has to pretend to be a boy to do it.

Making use of traditional Western elements—the vengeance quest, the coming-of-age story, the trail drive yarn, the epic clash of cavalry and Indians—Daniels’ evocative prose lifts the odyssey of sixteen-year-old Jane into something special as she searches for her younger sister and encounters a host of colorful characters along the way. With echoes of TRUE GRIT, THE COWBOY AND THE COSSACK, and LONESOME DOVE, this is a big, thrilling, tragic, and ultimately uplifting portrait of the American West. THE COMANCHE KID is one of the best novels I’ve read this year and gets a strong recommendation from me.

Monday, June 07, 2021

Robert E. Howard Changed My Life - Jason M. Waltz, ed.

I suppose it might be possible for somebody to read Robert E. Howard’s work and not have it change their life. I know logically that a person might like the stories, like them enough to read all of them, even, and then move on and never think about them again. I get that, because I’ve been that way with plenty of authors.

But man, as for me and all the Howard fans I know, once you’ve read those yarns, you’re never really the same again. I’ve written before about how discovering Howard’s work in the Lancer edition of CONAN THE USURPER (the one with the great giant snake cover by Frazetta) had a huge impact on me not only as a reader but also as a writer. Of course the stories were wonderful and immediately captured my imagination, but reading the introduction and finding out that Howard was from a small town in Texas (like me) and was able, against the odds, to become a successful professional author was more inspiration than I had ever gotten before in my budding desire to be a writer myself.

ROBERT E. HOWARD CHANGED MY LIFE, edited by Jason M. Waltz and published by the Rogue Blades Foundation, is a great new collection of essays from a number of fans and professional writers, artists, editors, and academics, about that same subject. The book leads off with “How Robert E. Howard Saved My Life” by Bill Cavalier, a fantastic memoir that I’ve been privileged to hear Indy (as Howard fans know “Indiana Bill” Cavalier) deliver in person. He’s a monumental figure in Howard fandom, and so is Rusty Burke, who is also present in this collection along with Howard scholars Karen Joan Kohoutek, Todd Vick, Bobby Derie, Fred Blosser, Patrice Louinet, Dierk Gunther, Jeffrey Shanks, Deuce Richardson, and Chris Gruber. Professional authors Michael Moorcock, Joe R. Lansdale, Roy Thomas, David C. Smith, Scott Oden, C.L. Werner, Charles Saunders, Howard Andrew Jones, Keith Taylor, Cecilia Holland, David Hardy, Mark Finn, Nancy A. Collins, Steven Erikson, and Adrian Cole are all on hand with essays that range from poignant to informative to humorous. I should point out that all of these people are Howard fans, many of the ones I refer to as scholars have written professionally, and many of the ones who make their living primarily from their fiction have also contributed greatly to the study of Howard’s life and work.

I consider many of them good friends from Howard Days, the annual get-together in Cross Plains, Texas, to celebrate everything REH. Many of the others I know at least through the Internet. It’s an absolute pleasure to read their comments about the effect Robert E. Howard has had on their lives. For those of you who have been to Howard Days, reading this book is like sitting in the pavilion next to the Howard House and listening to the smartest, wittiest bunch of people in the world having a great time talking about a writer they all love.

Simply put, ROBERT E. HOWARD CHANGED MY LIFE is the best book I’ve read so far this year, and I give it my highest recommendation. If you’re a Howard fan, you can’t afford to miss it. 

Sunday, June 06, 2021

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Thrilling Adventures, January 1936

Seems like a lot of guys picked up tripod-mounted machine guns and waved them around on pulp covers. I know I've seen that sort of cover more than once, probably on another issue of THRILLING ADVENTURES. This issue has a fine group of writers inside, including Hugh B. Cave, G.F. Eliot (billed as Major George F. Eliot in this issue), Leslie T. White, Oscar Schisgall, Jackson Cole (who could well have been Schisgall, since that started out as a personal pseudonym for him, before it became a house-name), and Gunnison Steele (who was always Bennie Gardner). Eliot's not the only one to use his rank, either. There's also a novelette by Lieutenant Seymour Pond.

UPDATE: Annnnd the reason that cover looks familiar to me is that I've posted it before, about four years ago. So this is an accidental rerun. I've been doing this long enough that I need to start checking on that before I schedule the posts.

Saturday, June 05, 2021

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Western Story, July 15, 1933

Looks like trouble's a-brewin' on the cover of this issue of WESTERN STORY. I don't know if that hombre is a good guy fortin' up against the bad guys, or if he's a dirty, lowdown bushwhacker, but either way, there's gonna be powder burnin' pretty quick-like. To pass the time until all hell breaks loose, though, that fella could read stories by Frederick Faust (a serial installment under the name George Owen Baxter), Kenneth Gilbert, Lloyd Eric Reeve, George Cory Franklin, Guthrie Brown, and Adolph Bennauer. Those last two names aren't familiar to me, but they must have been all right to sell to WESTERN STORY. This is a nice, evocative cover. I don't know the artist.  

Friday, June 04, 2021

Forgotten Books: South of the Law Line - Walt Coburn

I’m glad that over the past couple of decades, quite a few of Walt Coburn’s pulp stories have become available again. Inconsistent he might be, but at his best, he’s one of my all-time favorite Western writers. SOUTH OF THE LAW LINE, published by Five Star in 2006, is a collection of three Coburn novellas from the great Fiction House pulps LARIAT STORY MAGAZINE and ACTION STORIES, all of them published while he was still being billed as Walter J. Coburn.

“Riders of the Purple” appeared in the very first issue of LARIAT STORY MAGAZINE, published in August 1925. It’s about a couple of old ranchers in Montana, long-time friends who have a bitter falling-out over a trivial argument. One of the smaller ranchers in the area tries to take advantage of that and drive an even bigger wedge between the old pards, hoping to goad them into wiping each other out so that he can take over. That’s a pretty basic plot, and Coburn doesn’t bring to it any of his usual hidden identities, complicated back-stories, and out-of-left-field plot twists. Don’t get me wrong. I love that stuff. It just doesn’t come up in this story.

Instead we get a yarn that fairly reeks of authenticity, as well as powdersmoke and horse sweat. Coburn’s boyhood spent growing up on the Circle C ranch in Montana gives his stories a feeling that isn’t present in every Western pulpster’s work. Sure, the plots may not be all that realistic, but when you’re reading one of Coburn’s better stories, you can’t help but feel that, yep, this is the way it really was, and if it isn’t the way things really happened, well, it should have been. “Riders of the Purple” is a prime example of that.

Coburn wrote a number of what were, for him, contemporary Westerns, often featuring veterans of the First World War, as Coburn himself was. One such is the title story of this volume, “South of the Law Line”, which originally appeared in the August 1924 issue of ACTION STORIES. It features Texas Ranger Bill Douglas and roguish bandit Eduardo Martinez Chávez, who were comrades-in-arms in a machine gun company that fought in France during the war. They’re reunited because of Douglas’s efforts to break up a drug smuggling ring operating along the Mexican border. A quack doctor, a young man who believes he’s dying, and the man’s beautiful fiancée also figure in the plot, which moves along with plenty of action and a really nice pace. This one is a little more pulpish and melodramatic than “Riders of the Purple”, but it sure is a lot of fun.

Bill Douglas and Eduardo Martinez Chávez return in “High Jack and Low”, from the March 1925 issue of ACTION STORIES. The Texas Ranger is trying to nab the mastermind of yet another drug smuggling ring, and Chávez has gotten himself involved with a group of Mexican revolutionaries and has risen to the leadership of them, which makes him a man who the Rurales would very much like to stand in front of a wall and introduce him to a firing squad. Not surprisingly, Bill’s and Chávez’s troubles wind up intersecting, and once again Coburn provides a breakneck yarn with plenty of gunplay and suspense. The highlight is a harrowing journey along a narrow mountain trail that follows a ledge hundreds of feet in the air, with the added danger of a condor that attacks anyone who travels along that perilous path.

Coburn’s Golden Age as a writer runs from the mid-Twenties up until about 1945, so he was just entering his prime when he wrote these three novellas. They’re all very good, and I really enjoyed them. They don’t have the complex plots and emotional depth of some of his later stories, but they’re still great entertainment. SOUTH OF THE LAW LINE gets a solid recommendation from me.

Wednesday, June 02, 2021

The Ranger: Concho - A.W. Hart (Charles Gramlich)

Concho Ten-Wolves is half black, half Kickapoo, a former Army Ranger, and currently a Texas Ranger working out of Eagle Pass, Texas, in this thriller that launches a new action/adventure series from Wolfpack Publishing. Charles Gramlich is the top-notch author behind the A.W. Hart house-name on THE RANGER: CONCHO, which was just released today.

The opening section of this novel, in which Concho takes on a gang of neo-Nazis who have taken over a shopping mall in Eagle Pass and are holding hostages, is spectacular, with plenty of great action and several stand-up-and-cheer moments. What follows is even better, with Concho getting involved in a double murder case that takes on some personal ramifications before it’s done, along with some political maneuvering centered around the Kickapoo Tribal Police and Concho’s own superiors in the Rangers. It’s a twisty, satisfying plot that never skimps on the action.

Gramlich has gotten this series off to a great start. THE RANGER: CONCHO is intelligently written, packs plenty of punch, and has one of the most compelling and likable protagonists I’ve encountered in a while. The next book will out later this summer, and I’m already looking forward to it. Highly recommended.