Monday, April 30, 2012

New This Week

I have some new books to talk about this week, not just the usual collection of old ones:

A STAB IN THE DARK, A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES, and A LONG LINE OF DEAD MEN – Lawrence Block. These are the new trade paperbacks of three Matt Scudder novels self-published by Bloc, and I gotta tell you, they look great. I never paid much attention to cover design, book layout, fonts, and things like that until Livia and I started publishing our own books. Now I really appreciate a top-notch job, and that certainly describes these books, which are in the same basic format as the Scudder collection THE NIGHT AND THE MUSIC. Maybe someday the whole series will be in a uniform set like this. That wouldn't be a bad thing to have. In the meantime, I've read one of these before (A STAB IN THE DARK) but haven't read the other two. You can bet I will before too much longer.

THE COMPLETE CASEBOOK OF CARDIGAN, VOLUME 1 and FLYERS OF FORTUNE – Frederick Nebel. The Cardigan book is the first in a series of four from Altus Press that will reprint the entire series of stories about tough private eye Jack Cardigan from the pulp DIME DETECTIVE. I've read scattered entries in the series here and there, and like everything else I've read by Nebel, they're really, really good. A lot of people rank Nebel's work just below that of Dashiell Hammett's, and I can go along with that. FLYERS OF FORTUNE, published by Pulpville Press, is a collection of Nebel's aviation adventures originally published in AIR STORIES and WINGS.

HELL HAWKS: THE UNTOLD STORY OF THE AMERICAN FLIERS WHO SAVAGED HITLER'S WEHRMACHT – Robert F. Dorr and Thomas D. Jones. More World War II non-fiction. I've been trading emails with author and military historian Bob Dorr, who got his start in the men's adventure magazines, and I wanted to try some of his work. Other than what I had to research for my World War II novels (dive bombers in the Pacific), my knowledge of aviation during that war is pretty sketchy. (Shameless plug: all three of my WWII novels are still available as both print and e-books, by the way.)

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Don't Miss This Deal

You've probably seen mention of this elsewhere, but if you haven't, more than 100 great crime novels published by Prologue Books are on sale today. Orrie Hitt, Ed Lacy, Frank Kane, Henry Kane, Wade Miller, William Campbell Gault, Richard Deming, Talmage Powell . . . man, it doesn't get much better than this. Check it out!

Fight Card #5: Hard Road - Jack Tunney (Kevin Michaels)

The latest entry in the Fight Card series continues the string of overall excellence in this on-going project masterminded by Paul Bishop and Mel Odom. HARD ROAD, which was written by Kevin Michaels under the Jack Tunney house-name, is the story of Roberto Varga, another two-fisted graduate of St. Vincent's Orphanage in Chicago. Roberto has moved to Philadelphia, where he's carved out a decent career as a boxer, although no one considers him a legitimate contender for the middleweight crown, least of all his girlfriend Ginny, who wants him to give up the ring and get a real job.

Roberto has always been haunted by an early loss to Michael Boyle, another alumnus of St. Vincent's, but one who didn't take all of Father Tim's teachings to heart the way Roberto did. When Roberto gets a chance at a rematch with Boyle that might prove to be a stepping stone to a title shot, he's eager to seize the opportunity, but life proves to be more complicated than that and leaves him facing some hard choices.

I'm not familiar with Kevin Michaels or his work, but he does a fine job in HARD ROAD, handling not only the fight scenes with polished ease but also the quieter, more emotional moments as well. He captures the 1957 setting vividly, too, and I really enjoyed his style. The Fight Card books are all stand-alones, at least so far, so you can jump in anywhere. If you haven't sampled these yet, HARD ROAD would be a fine place to start.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

New Post on the Western Fictioneers Blog

There's an excellent new post over on the Western Fictioneers blog today. It's an excerpt from the book WRITE COMPELLING FICTION by L.J. Martin and has a lot of useful advice in it for writers both old and new. (I'm old, but always learning new stuff and new ways to look at things.) Check it out!

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Star Western, April 1934

This is another one from Steve Kennedy's collection, and what a great cover by Emmett Watson! And what a group of authors: Max Brand, with a novella that was reprinted in the collection THE RETURN OF FREE RANGE LANNING, plus the great Harry F. Olmsted, dependable Foster-Harris and Robert Mahaffey, and famously obscure Forrest Rosaire, better known as J.-J. des Ormeaux. That's really an epic struggle on the cover, a clash of titans if you will, quite appropriate for an issue featuring a Max Brand story.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Forgotten Books: Marching Sands - Harold Lamb

I haven't read a lot of Harold Lamb's work. The novel DURANDEL and a few short stories, that's all I remember. But I've just read his early novel MARCHING SANDS, which was serialized in the pulp ARGOSY in October and November 1919, and enjoyed it quite a bit.

I'm a sucker for lost race and lost city stories, and MARCHING SANDS is both. Former army captain Robert Gray is hired by an American scientific society to lead an expedition into the wilds of the Gobi Desert, in the hope of finding a mysterious lost race called the Wusun, who supposedly live in a city known as Sungan, which may or may not have been swallowed up by the shifting sands of the desert. A British expedition is searching for Sungan and the Wusun at the same time, and the Americans want Gray to get there first, even though there's really nothing at stake but prestige.

The Chinese authorities have their own reasons for wanting both expeditions to fail, so Gray finds himself in all sorts of trouble once he sets out for his mysterious destination. There are lurking killers who can handle rifles but leave tracks in the sand like wild camels.  There are knife-wielding priests.  There are supposed allies who may be waiting for the right moment to betray him.

And then of course, there's a beautiful redheaded girl, the niece of the explorer leading the British expedition.

This is an old-fashioned high adventure novel, the sort of thing that H. Bedford-Jones wrote so well. Lamb's writing isn't as polished as that of HB-J, at least at this stage of his career, but MARCHING SANDS is still a very entertaining yarn. Robert Gray is a likable hero, Mary Hastings (the beautiful redhead) is a fine heroine, and the scrapes they get into are frequent and exciting. Lamb does a good job of layering in the surprises in his plot and weaves everything together into a thrilling climax.

MARCHING SANDS is a little creaky in places, no doubt about that, but what would you expect in a novel written more than 90 years ago? I had a great time reading it, and it's not completely forgotten. Tom Roberts of Black Dog Books has reprinted it in both a print edition and a new e-book edition. The Amazon link for the e-book is below, and if you'd prefer the print version the best way to get it is to order it through the Black Dog Books website. I'll definitely be reading more of Harold Lamb's work. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Dead Man #10: Freaks Must Die

The latest Dead Man book, this time by the excellent author Joel Goldman, is now available. Check it out!

Tuesday's Overlooked Movie: Good for Nothing

Sometimes a movie will come out of nowhere and surprise you with how good it is. That's the case with this one, which I'd never heard of. GOOD FOR NOTHING is a Western made in New Zealand by people I'd never heard of, either. It opens with a recently orphaned young English woman, Isabella Montgomery, traveling to her uncle's ranch in America where she's going to live.

Before she can get there, however, she's kidnapped by an outlaw who remains nameless throughout the film, an homage perhaps to Clint Eastwood's Man With No Name, since there's a lot in this movie that seems to be influenced by Sergio Leone's films.

Isabella's captor intends to rape her, but he's prevented from doing so by a plot twist I don't recall ever encountering in a Western before. Then she falls into the hands of some men who are even worse than the outlaw, and he becomes her rescuer rather than her kidnapper. Both of them are then fugitives, as they're pursued by a group of gunmen bent on revenge.

GOOD FOR NOTHING follows this classic chase scenario to its satisfying conclusion. Along the way there are plenty of well-staged action scenes, great scenery and photography, a fine musical score, and some touches of offbeat humor. Returning to the "out of nowhere" category, Inge Rademeyer, who plays Isabella, and Mike Wallis, who wrote and directed the film and produced it with Rademeyer, are partners in a digital animation company that worked on the special effects for the Lord of the Rings movies. GOOD FOR NOTHING is the feature film acting, writing, and directing debut for them. Cohen Holloway, who does a great job playing the outlaw, is a New Zealand TV actor, obscure to me (probably because I don't live in New Zealand).

But there's nothing in the background of these people to indicate that they should be able to say, "Hey, let's go make a Western", and do such a fine job of it. My hat is off to them, and I'll definitely be keeping an eye out to see what they do in the future. In the meantime, if you're a fan of gritty, hardboiled Westerns, GOOD FOR NOTHING (which is even a great title) gets a high recommendation from me.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Another Powell's Army Novel Now Available

ROCKY MOUNTAIN SHOWDOWN, the second novel I wrote in the Powell's Army series, is now available as an e-book from both Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Also, ROBBERS ROOST, the first of my novels in this series, is live on Barnes & Noble for the Nook as well.

New This Week

It looked like I wasn't going to be buying any books this week, but then I found myself in the neighborhood of a Half Price Books I don't visit very often and, well, since I was already so close . . .

PEARLS SELLS OUT – Stephan Pastis. "Pearls Before Swine" and "Get Fuzzy" are my favorite current comic strips. Even though I've probably read most of the strips in this treasury collection, they're still funny, and Pastis also provides an interesting running commentary about their creation.

HAVE SPACE SUIT – WILL TRAVEL – Robert A. Heinlein. This is an ex-lib copy of the first edition hardback, bought for nostalgic purposes and possible rereading, because it's the first Heinlein novel I ever read, back in 1964 when I was working as a volunteer in the local public library, which had just started up the year before with books donated by the people who lived in our little town. HAVE SPACE SUIT – WILL TRAVEL was one of them. I have no idea who donated that copy to the library. I never ran into any other Heinlein fans when I was growing up, with the exception of my future brother-in-law, for many years the only person I knew who even read science fiction.

THE FREEDOM LINE – Peter Eisner. World War II non-fiction about an underground resistance group that helped smuggle down Allied pilots out of Nazi-held territory.

THE DARK ARENA and THE FORTUNATE PILGRIM – Mario Puzo. The first two novels by Puzo. I've been meaning to pick these up and read them, just never got around to it. Now I own them, we'll see how long it takes me to get around to reading them. (No wagering.)

MISSING MONDAY – Matthew Costello. I read several of Costello's horror novels back in the Nineties and remember enjoying them very much. I never even heard of this one from 2004, though.

Speaking of horror . . . CARNIVAL and THE UNINVITED – William W. Johnstone. I pick up all the old Zebra horror novels I come across, especially when they're by Bill Johnstone. I'm also fond of books with a carnival setting, and one of these falls into that category. The other's a giant bug book, and who can resist those?

Old Westerns:

SLICK ON THE DRAW and DOUBLE-CROSS DINERO – Tom West. A later combined printing of two novels that were originally published as Ace Doubles in 1958 and 1960. "Tom West" was really an Englishman named Fred East who came to America as a young man. I've enjoyed what I've read by him.

EAGLE MAN – H.V. Elkin. This book doesn't make any mention of it, but it's a continuation of the Cutler series that was begun by Ben Haas under the John Benteen name. I don't know if H.V. Elkin was a real name or a pseudonym.

THE WALKING HILLS – Cliff Farrell. A nice Bantam reprint of a novel originally published by Doubleday in 1962. This one features Jeff Temple, a frontier doctor who's the hero of another Farrell novel I've read, THE DEVIL'S PLAYGROUND. I don't know if there are any other books in the series.

POSSE FROM POISON CREEK – Lewis B. Patten. As with all of Patten's work, at least the potential to be very, very good.

CANYON KILL – Jack Slade. Part of the Sundance series, another continuation of a series started by Ben Haas. The author behind the Jack Slade house-name on this one was Dudley Dean McGaughey, better known as Dean Owen. Should be good.

And three by Ernest Haycox: ON THE PROD (originally published in the pulp WEST in 1930 under the title "Fighting Man); DEAD MAN RANGE (also from WEST in 1930 under the title "Son of the West"); and RIM OF THE DESERT, which I bought a few weeks ago in a Paperback Library edition with tiny print; this is a Signet edition with a much more readable font.

Finally a couple of book previously ordered that arrived this week, both collections edited by Noah Sarlat: COMBAT! (1956) and WOMEN WITH GUNS (1962). These are supposedly true but probably fictional war stories reprinted from the men's adventure magazines MEN, MALE, STAG, and FOR MEN ONLY. Sarlat was still editing FOR MEN ONLY in the mid-Seventies when I was trying to break in, although it was more of a girlie mag by then. I recall sending him dozens of short stories, none of which he bought. I had much more success selling to DUDE, GENT, and NUGGET, all edited by John Fox. I sometimes wonder what happened to these guys. Sarlat may have passed away by now. Fox was a young guy at the time, like me, so he may still be around. None of us are young anymore, though.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Free E-Book Promotion from Black Dog Books

Tom Roberts of Black Dog Books has tipped me off to the fact that the e-book edition of the novel SECRET OPERATIVE K-13 by Joel Townsley Rogers is going to be free on Amazon tomorrow and Tuesday. If you haven't picked up any of Tom's publications yet, this is a great chance to try one of them for free.

A New Blog of Note for Pulp Fans

There's a new blog called Pulpflakes that has some excellent posts on authors Hugh Pendexter and Arthur O. Friel. I don't know who the blogger is, but he's done a fine job of researching these authors and finding rare photos of them. Check it out.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: All-Story Western, September 1949

This appears to be a Canadian reprint pulp published by Popular Publications. The lead story, "Way of the Untamed", was originally published as a serial titled "Hurricane Range" in ARGOSY in 1939. It was reprinted as a British paperback under the HURRICANE RANGE title and I'm sure appeared under another title in an American edition, but I wasn't able to figure out which one. The rest of the issue is made up of assorted features, not fiction. The cover of this issue is a pretty good one. Hard to go wrong with a powder-burnin' old geezer in a Gabby Hayes hat.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Forgotten Books: Trigger Trio - Ernest Haycox

I've never been as big a fan of Ernest Haycox's work as some people are. He's very highly regarded as a Western writer, though, to the extent that when the Western Writers of America was formed in the early 1950s, there was some discussion of naming their annual awards the Ernest Haycox Awards and giving out statuettes to be called "Ernies", the same way the Academy Awards had become Oscars. That never came about (some of us would say thankfully) and WWA's awards were dubbed the Spurs.

My complaints about Haycox's work center around two things: he sets up confrontations between the heroes and villains and then goes to great lengths to postpone those confrontations, and then when the action finally can't be put off any longer, most if not all of it takes place "off-screen". I can see stretching out the suspense by bringing the action right up to the point of gunplay and then defusing the situation temporarily, but only if eventually the reader gets a suitable pay-off for all that teasing. All too often in Haycox's fiction the only pay-off is characters standing around talking about what happened that we didn't get to see.

All that said, there are some things that Haycox does very well. His characters are well-rounded and believably human, his plots are usually interesting, and his prose is very smooth, not surprising from an author whose greatest success came in the "slicks", most notably COLLIER'S. There's enough to like in Haycox's fiction that from time to time I get the urge to read some more of it, maybe in the hope that I just haven't found the right books and stories yet, the ones that will really resonate with me.

TRIGGER TRIO is a nice little collection published by Ace in 1966 that brings together a couple of novellas and a novelette from Haycox's pulp days.  The novellas are "The Octopus of Pilgrim Valley", originally published in SHORT STORIES, January 10, 1928, and "Ride Out!", from the June 24, 1931 issue of WEST.  Rounding out the volume is the novelette "The Fighting Call", originally published in COWBOY STORIES, January 1932.

"The Octopus of Pilgrim Valley" is the longest of the three yarns, almost a full-length novel. It starts out as the story of a gallant cowboy riding into a valley and saving the smaller ranchers from an evil cattle baron. But then Haycox inserts a nice twist in the plot, as it turns out that the cattle baron may not be so evil after all and everything is not as it seems in Pilgrim Valley. And when the final showdown comes, Haycox doesn't cut away from it. The gunfight isn't a particularly good one, mind you, but at least he tries.

"Ride Out!" is even better. Once again Haycox starts out with a fairly standard plot, that of the new schoolmarm arriving in a Western town and a couple of cowboys vying for her attention. The first twist is the inclusion of political conflict between two factions in the county, and then the story becomes something else entirely. Haycox doesn't hold back on the action in this one. We get a jailbreak, several gunfights, and a long, brutal fistfight that reminded me of some of the epic slugfests in various Louis L'Amour novels. Haycox isn't as good with the action scenes as L'Amour, mind you, but it's still a good battle. This is certainly one of the best Haycox stories I've read so far.

The novelette that rounds out the book, "The Fighting Call", is also a good one, although the relative thinness of its plot – a drifting cowboy finds himself in the middle of a violent feud between two families – keeps it from being quite as good as "Ride Out!" Again, though, Haycox doesn't shy away from the action, and the final showdown is a good one, if a little rushed.

Overall, TRIGGER TRIO is the best Ernest Haycox book I've read so far, although I suspect his most ardent admirers prefer his novels and his more low-key short stories to the pulp powder-burners reprinted here. You know me, though; I'm as pulpish as they come. And I enjoyed this volume enough that I'll definitely read more of Haycox's work. Possibly even fairly soon.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Another Reasoner Western Now Available: Robbers Roost

The e-book edition of my novel ROBBERS ROOST is now available from Amazon, with a Nook version from Barnes & Noble in the works. This novel was written in 1987 and published as the fourth book in the Powell's Army series, under the pseudonym Terence Duncan. The series features a trio of investigators working for the U.S. Army in the Old West, and the books can be read in any order. My friend (and later agent) Barbara Puechner originated the series, and this edition of ROBBERS ROOST includes a new introduction about how I came to write three of the books. E-book editions of the other two novels are coming soon, as well. These books were a lot of fun to write, and I hope some of you will enjoy reading them.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Tuesday's Overlooked Movies and TV: The Sons of Hercules

Since I mentioned this last week in my post about the movie IMMORTALS, I thought it would make a good Overlooked Movies and TV post this week. I think it qualifies as both movie and TV related, since, while these were individual films, many of us first encountered them in a syndicated TV package that ran under the umbrella title THE SONS OF HERCULES.

I was a faithful viewer, that's for sure. They ran on one of the local channels every week for a long time, sometimes on Friday night but usually on Saturday or Sunday afternoon. The Wikipedia article about the series lists 14 films that were included in the package:

Ursus, Son of Hercules (Ursus) 1961, starring Ed Fury (a.k.a. Mighty Ursus in England)
Mole Men vs the Son of Hercules (Maciste, the Strongest Man in the World) 1962, starring Mark Forest
Fire Monsters Against the Son of Hercules (Maciste vs the Monsters) 1962, starring Reg Lewis
Venus Against the Son of Hercules (Mars, God Of War) 1962, starring Roger Browne
Triumph of the Son of Hercules (The Triumph of Maciste) 1962, starring Kirk Morris
Ulysses vs the Son of Hercules (Ulysses Against Hercules) 1962, starring Mike Lane
Medusa vs the Son of Hercules(Perseus The Invincible) 1962, starring Richard Harrison
Son of Hercules in the Land of Fire (Ursus In The Land Of Fire) 1963, starring Ed Fury
The Tyrant of Lydia vs the Son of Hercules (Goliath and the Rebel Slave) 1963, starring Gordon Scott
Messalina Against the Son of Hercules (The Last Gladiator) 1963, starring Richard Harrison
The Beast of Babylon vs the Son of Hercules (Hero Of Babylon) 1963, starring Gordon Scott
The Terror of Rome vs the Son of Hercules (Maciste, Gladiator of Sparta) 1964, starring Mark Forest
Son of Hercules in the Land of Darkness (Hercules The Invincible) 1964, starring Dan Vadis
The Devil of the Desert vs the Son of Hercules (Anthar the Invincible) 1964, (aka The Slave Merchants or Soraya, Queen of the Desert) starring Kirk Morris, directed by Antonio Margheriti

I would have sworn there were more than that, but I could be wrong, certainly. If the list is correct, then I must have watched those 14 movies over and over again. What can I say? I was ten years old. I didn't care. I just wanted to see swordfights, chariot battles, and babes in togas.

One thing I'm sure of: I watched the series enough that I still remembered the theme song after all these years.

Monday, April 16, 2012

New This Week

A wide variety of stuff this week, as usual:

THE DICK TRACY CASEBOOK: FAVORITE ADVENTURES 1931 – 1990, selected by Max Allan Collins and Dick Locher. Pretty self-explanatory.

AMERICAN ASSASSIN, Vince Flynn – The first of the prequels to Flynn's popular Mitch Rapp series. I've read one of the books set later and thought it was okay.

THONGOR AND THE DRAGON CITY and THONGOR FIGHTS THE PIRATES OF TARAKUS – Lin Carter. I used to like Lin Carter's books when I was a kid, but the last time I tried to read one I found it pretty tough sledding. Still, these hold some nostalgia value for me, because I remember reading some of the Thongor books when I was staying at my aunt's house. Maybe I'll enjoy them if I'm in the right frame of mind.

DAY OF THE GIANTS – Lester del Rey. This is one of those Airmont science fiction paperbacks we used to buy through the schools. I'm not a big Lester del Rey fan, but I thought I'd give it a try. It was originally published as "When the World Tottered" in the December 1950 issue of the pulp FANTASTIC ADVENTURES.

RIM OF THE DESERT – Ernest Haycox. This is an abridged paperback edition of a novel originally serialized in COLLIER'S as "The Drifters". When I got this one home and looked at it, I realized that the print is so small I may never read it. But who knows, I might. (One more reason to love e-books: adjustable print size.)

SIX WAYS OF DYING – Lewis B. Patten. Might be good, might not. You can never tell with Patten. But when he's good, he's really good. The more I think about it, the more I believe I may already have a copy of this book. But for 50 cents, I wasn't leaving it there.

THE DRY GULCHER – Wayne D. Overholser. I'm not an Overholser fan, but I'll give almost any Western novel a try and I'm pretty easily won over. This is a book from fairly late in Overholser's career, a paperback original from 1977.

THE MONTANANS – Bill Pronzini and Martin H. Greenberg, eds. Part of the Best of the West series of anthologies put together by Pronzini and Greenberg. These are consistently very good and always contain a nice mixture of old and new stories. Authors in this volume include Norman A. Fox, Dan Cushman, W.C. Tuttle (good ol' Tutt!), T.V. Olsen, Les Savage Jr., and Ed Gorman.

RIDE THE WILD TRAIL – Cliff Farrell. Farrell wrote Westerns for 50 years. Some I've liked, some I haven't, but generally he's a pretty good author. This one's from 1959, a little past midway in his career. I think maybe I read it back in the Sixties, but if I did I don't recall a thing about it other than the title. And I could easily be wrong about that.

GUNSLINGER'S SCALP – Kit Dalton (Chet Cunningham). A "Giant Special Edition" in the long-running Adult Western series. From what I've read of them, the early books in this series, actually written by Mitchell Smith under the name Roy LeBeau, are much better than the later ones under the Kit Dalton name. Not only does the author and pseudonym change, but so does the main character, from Buckskin Frank Leslie to his illegitimate son Lee Morgan. The later books are okay, just not up to the same level as the early ones. (And as a side note, "Lee Morgan" is not only the main character in this series, it's also the house-name on the McMasters series published by Berkley at roughly the same time Leisure was publishing Buckskin. I was "Lee Morgan" on the second book in that series, SILVER CREEK SHOWDOWN, one of my goofier efforts.)

SIX GRAVES TO MUNICH – Mario Puzo. Originally published by Banner Books under the name Mario Cleri in 1967, pre-GODFATHER, this is an espionage novel about a former GI trying to hunt down the Nazis who tortured him in a POW camp. Cleri was the name Puzo used on the many stories he wrote for men's adventure magazines such as MALE and STAG. That fact, along with the presence of Nazi torturers in this book, makes me suspect that it's an expansion of a story Puzo wrote for one of those magazines, but I have no real evidence that's true. Copies of the original edition are pretty expensive these days. What I have is a 2010 trade paperback reprint.

WITH THE OLD BREED – E.B. Sledge. I'm putting together a nice little collection of World War II memoirs. This one about Marines fighting in the Pacific has a good reputation and was one of the books on which the mini-series THE PACIFIC was based. (I have the DVDs of the mini-series, by the way, and hope to watch it soon.)

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Northlanders, Book Two: The Cross and the Hammer - Brian Wood

THE CROSS AND THE HAMMER collects the second storyline from the Northlanders series and if anything is even more grim and bloody than the first volume, SVEN, THE RETURNED. It's set in Ireland in the year 1014, a land occupied by Vikings who set out to crush any resistance. A Cistercian priest named Magnus is part of that resistance. In fact, he's practically a one-man resistance by himself as he wages a guerrilla war against the Vikings, slaughtering dozens of them, with only the help of his adolescent daughter Brigid. So the king of the Vikings sends in a legendary manhunter known as Ragnar to track down Magnus and destroy him.

This is a fine piece of gritty historical fiction. The only real fantasy element is that Brian Wood's scripts again include some deliberately anachronistic language, but if you're willing to accept that going in, it's not really a distraction. I'm a stickler for such things only if an author sets himself or herself up as a paragon of historical accuracy and then doesn't live up to it. If you're not playing by those rules from the get-go, I'm fine with it and will approach a story just as a story. And Wood tells a good story, with a wicked twist in the end.

The artwork in this volume is by Ryan Kelly. I'm not familiar with his work, but I like what he's done here. As in the previous volume, some of the landscape pages are very effective, and his battle scenes are pretty good, too.

I liked the first volume in this series, and THE CROSS AND THE HAMMER is even better. I have the others on hand and will be getting to them fairly soon, I expect.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Black Dog Books Update and New Releases

Greetings to everyone from Black Dog Books!
After a long and productive winter, BDB has set the lineup for its new releases.

2012 is shaping up to be our most exciting and abundant year to date, with a variety of new titles across several genres. We hope you’ll find something to your liking.

Our first batch of Spring 2012 offerings, as listed below, are now available for purchase.

Take note: Copies of actual books are not yet in hand, but will be shipping to customers by May 1st.
Please check our website,, often. Several major announcements, both in terms of new properties and other affairs, will be made in the coming weeks that will alter the entire BDB line of publications.

BDB goes digital!
Black Dog Books has begun issuing its back catalogue in ebook form. We will be releasing several titles per week over the coming months until all our titles are available in the manner.

Links may be found at the bottom of a titles’ listing page (under the “Add to Cart” button) on the BDB website to the Amazon delivery platform for downloading. If a link is not listed, a title has not yet been converted into ebook form. Be patient and check back often.

BDB Trade Show Appearances
Black Dog Books will be appearing at the Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention in the greater Chicago area, April 27-29 taking place at the
Westin Lombard Yorktown Center, 888-627-9031 <>. If you are in the area, please come by and say hello. Visit <> for more information.

Thank you for your patronage. And remember, please order direct whenever possible. Your direct orders and support do make a significant difference to independent press operations.

Onward and Upward!

Tom Roberts
Black Dog Books
1115 Pine Meadows Ct.
Normal, IL 61761-5432

Follow us on Twitter—blackdogbooks1!/blackdogbooks1

Like us on Facebook—Black Dog Books

The following Spring 2012 are now available for purchase:

As a follow up to our highly acclaimed Best of Adventure, Volume 1, (2010 Finalist in the IPPY Book of the Year Awards), Black Dog Books is proud to offer:

THE BEST OF ADVENTURE, Vol. 2, 1913-1914 by Doug Ellis (ed.)

Assembled from years three and four of its history, this collection brings together 20 of the best tales that appeared in Adventure, including rarely or never-before reprinted works by Talbot Mundy, Rafael Sabatini, Edgar Wallace, H.D. Couzens, J. Allan Dunn, George Washington Ogden, Stephen Chalmers and others.

These stories, by authors both familiar and forgotten to today's readers, represent historical and modern-set fiction (modern as in circa 1914) in all corners of the globe.

Selected and with an introduction by Doug Ellis.

To learn more, or to purchase your copy,visit our BDB webpage listing for The Best of Adventure, Volume 2, here:


  • The leopard couch of eternal memories . . .
  • The severed hand of a desert sheikh—and its frightful vengeance . . .
  • An old hag damned to misery, until she can acquire a thousand kisses . . .
  • The mysterious black cat that knew too much . . .
  • The vampiric young nobleman who terrorized London . . .
  • A Christmas house party—with Satan himself as a guest?

These and more thrilling adventures by the incomparable Sax Rohmer await the reader in The Leopard Couch and Other Stories of the Fantastic and Supernaturalincluding four stories never previously published in the United States!
With an introduction by F. Paul Wilson, recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Horror Writers of America.

Selected and with editorial notes by Gene Christie.

To learn more, or to purchase your copy, visit our BDB webpage listing for The Leopard Couch, here:

THE THREAT OF THE ROBOT by David H. Keller, MDTravel to nine dystopian tomorrows, where current trends threaten the very existence of mankind.

  • A time when robots threaten to throw millions of workers into unemployment
  • A world where everyone lives 24 hours a day in individual automobiles
  • A program that selectively breeds office workers for maximum efficiency
  • An academic rivalry between two universities that ends in mass murder
  • A city so crowded that people make their homes in never-landing airplanes
  • A more totalitarian society than 1984 and Brave New World

The Threat of the Robot marks the first new collection of works by Keller in over thirty years, and includes many uncollected works.

With an introduction by Gene Christie.

To learn more, or to purchase your copy, visit our BDB webpage listing for The Threat of the Robot, here:

WEB OF THE SUN by T.S. StriblingTwo short novels of scientific adventure!
—What can be the source of the perplexing green splotches?
—Journey to the far reaches of the Andes of South America to uncover the mystery encountered in Web of the Sun by Pulitzer Prize Winner T.S. Stribling.

With an introduction by Richard A. Moore.

To learn more, or to purchase your copy, visit our BDB webpage listing for Web of the Sun, here:

SHOCK TROOPS OF JUSTICE by Robert R. MillIt’s 1935, and crime dominates the headlines. With the backing and resources of the F.B.I., Special Agent James “Duke” Ashby unleashes his Shock Troops of Justice to relentlessly battle crime through 12 machine-gun riddled cases!

With an introduction by PAUL BISHOP, author of the Fay Croaker mystery series and two-time LAPD Detective of the Year.

To learn more, or to purchase your copy, visit our BDB webpage listing for Shock Troops of Justice, here:

EMPIRE OF THE DEVIL by Frederick Nebel
From a master crime-detective fiction writer comes this first collection of tales of exotic adventure. Hunt lost treasure in Borneo; pursue a cursed
gem in India; battle a secret society in the Orient; unravel a mystery at sea; flee from headhunters and more in these 8 thrilling tales. Nearly 300 pages of adventure!

Selected and with an introduction by Tom Roberts.

Also including are—

  • Frederick Nebel: A Brief Biography by Evan Lewis
  • An extensive 30+ page “Bibliography of Works by Frederick Nebel” by Evan Lewis and Tom Roberts, compiled in part from Nebel’s own files!

A must-have title on your summer reading list!
To learn more, or to purchase your copy, visit our BDB webpage listing for Empire of the Devil, here:

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: All-American Western, December 1940

This is the first and for all I know only issue of this Western pulp. That's a nice dynamic cover (look at the red shirt and yellow bandanna on the cowboy), and the line-up of authors includes the prolific and well-known E.B. Mann and Charles N. Heckelmann, plus W.D. Hoffman, Vernon James, and Thomas Tyler Jackson.

And as a bonus, here's the cover of the paperback edition of the E.B. Mann novel featured in this issue. I've never read anything by Mann, and I really need to remedy that.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Forgotten Books: Darker Than Amber - John D. MacDonald

I have to cheat a little bit this week. I was going to reread this book so I could write about it intelligently, but time and real life conspired against me. I mentioned it just the other day in my final Favorite Bookstores post, though, so it seemed appropriate for John D. MacDonald Week.

As I said earlier this week, I bought this book off the paperback spinner rack at Lester's Pharmacy, walked back across the highway and up the street to my parents' house, sat down on the porch, where I did a lot of my reading, and read this opening line: "We were about to give up and call it a night when somebody dropped the girl off the bridge."

How could I not keep reading after that? Years later I read an interview with MacDonald in which he said that opening was inspired by a pulp story that got right into the action with the opening line, "I dropped to one knee and fired twice" (probably a Race Williams story by Carroll John Daly). It sure worked for me, because I tore right through DARKER THAN AMBER, then went back to Lester's and bought A DEADLY SHADE OF GOLD. For a long time after that I grabbed every John D. MacDonald book I could find.

I never stole the line about somebody dropping a girl off a bridge, at least that I remember, but if you pick up a copy of LONGARM AND THE OWLHOOT'S GRAVEYARD, you'll see that the opening line is, "Longarm dropped to one knee and fired twice." I'm nothing if not shameless.

As further evidence of that, I've written an entire Forgotten Books post and said very little about the actual book. But I don't hesitate to recommend DARKER THAN AMBER. It made me a life-long John D. MacDonald fan.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Cover for the Lost James M. Cain Novel

Here's the cover for the Hard Case Crime edition of THE COCKTAIL WAITRESS, James M. Cain's final novel that will be published later this year. I haven't read a lot of Cain's work yet, but I've liked everything I've read and I'll definitely read this one. That's a mighty nice cover, too.


In ancient Greece, evil King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke, chewing the scenery for all it's worth) is trying to get his hands on a mystical bow that will enable him to revive the Titans, put into what seems to be suspended animation following their defeat by the gods of Olympus. If Hyperion succeeds, he'll be able to use the Titans to help him conquer the rest of the known world. Zeus and the other gods don't want this to happen, but they're forbidden from interfering with the affairs of mortals, so Zeus tries to manipulate things by appearing in human form and befriending the heroic young peasant Theseus (Henry Cavill), who will serve as the gods' champion against Hyperion. After that, a bunch of running around and CGI blood-spilling ensues.

As I've probably mentioned before, when I was a kid one of the local TV stations ran those Italian-made sword-and-sandal movies every week, when they weren't running Tarzan or Roy Rogers movies, and I was a faithful viewer. IMMORTALS strikes me as a direct descendant of those movies. It might as well be titled THESEUS VERSUS THE TITANS. Sure, there are a lot more special effects, but the plot and dialogue are right out of those earlier films, so much so that it actually looked a little odd to me when the words matched the lip movements. I'm used to bad English dubbing in movies like this.

All that being said, I enjoyed IMMORTALS quite a bit. You can't take it seriously – all the blood is just cartoonish and silly after a while – but the movie has a certain goofy, over-the-top charm to it, just like the ones I used to watch on Channel 11 on Saturday afternoon. If you're a fan of those movies, too, IMMORTALS is a pretty entertaining way to spend a couple of hours.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Favorite Bookstores #9: Hometown Favorites

You have to understand, when I was growing up there were no bookstores, new or used, in my hometown. There still aren't, but that's another story. Back then, the closest bookstore was Thompson's, in downtown Fort Worth, which was fifteen miles away from my house. (I measured it once I was old enough to drive.)

But that didn't mean there were no books for me to buy. A couple of blocks down the side street where I lived and across the highway next to the hospital was Lester's Pharmacy, which had spinner racks for comics and paperbacks and a small selection of magazines.  I could walk there easily, and I did, probably hundreds of times. There were four lanes of divided highway and four lanes of service road between me and those books, but you don't think I let that stop me, do you? (To be fair, there was a lot less traffic back then. The highway's been totally rebuilt since then, and I'd hate to have to cross it on foot these days, although I think it could be done. But there's no reason, because . . . but I'm getting ahead of myself.)

My family had been friends with the family that owned Lester's for years and we got all our prescriptions filled there, so I was well acquainted with the place. Once I started buying my comics there, I became a very familiar face to the employees, showing up like clockwork about ten minutes after four o'clock in the afternoon every Thursday during the school year (the school bus dropped me off about four, and I would walk home, drop my books, and head for Lester's), or about ten o'clock in the morning during the summer. Thursday, you see, was the day the new comics came in. A year or so later the delivery day changed to Tuesday and stayed that way for many years afterward. During the summer I became a sort of volunteer employee (or "pest"), unloading the new comics from the boxes, counting and sorting them, pulling out the ones I wanted (of course), and getting them ready to go on the spinner rack. Did I enjoy getting first crack at the new comics each week? You bet I did.

But comics weren't the only thing I bought at Lester's. That's where I picked up most of the issues of the Man From U.N.C.L.E. digest magazine, published by Leo Margulies (whose widow, Cylvia Kleinman, was still the publisher of MSMM when I started selling there). Lester's was where I first encountered the Warren black-and-white horror magazines, CREEPY, EERIE, and VAMPIRELLA. I bought my first John D. MacDonald novel, DARKER THAN AMBER, off the spinner rack at Lester's, as well as my first Louis L'Amour, THE SACKETT BRAND, and Tolkien's THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING in the Ballantine edition. I'm sure I bought plenty of other paperbacks, too, but those are the ones I recall. Most of my memories of Lester's revolve around comics, though.

That was the only store within walking distance that sold books, but all the other drugstores and grocery stores in town had books and comics, too, so I tagged along on my mother's shopping trips as often as I could.

At Trammell's Pak-a-Bag Grocery, I bought a few comics, including DAREDEVIL #1 and AVENGERS #5, but the thing I remember best is picking up one of those Corinth/Regency paperback reprints from the Operator 5 pulp, LEGIONS OF THE DEATH MASTER. I was already a pulp fan by then, and I remember the thrill that went through me when I read the line on the cover: "Bounding out of the Thirties!" Trammell's is also where I bought Roger Simon's first Moses Wine novel, THE BIG FIX, and I was deep in my private eye phase at that time and really loved this updating of the classic genre. I read the other Moses Wine novels later and liked them, but none of them ever captured the magic of that one for me.

Directly across Main Street, at least early on, was Tompkins' Pharmacy. I never bought much when it was in that location, but I do recall buying some Dennis the Menace comics there, as well as an issue of the DC war comic OUR FIGHTING FORCES ("featuring Gunner & Sarge . . . and Pooch!"). I may have told this story before, but buying that issue was a real shock for me because the price had gone up to 12 cents from a dime. I could barely afford it.

A few years later, Tompkins' moved up the road to a new shopping center where Buddies' Supermarket and Mott's Five-and-Ten were also located. All three of those became important places to me. Buddies' just had paperbacks, but I bought THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. #1 by Michael Avallone, the first time I encountered Avallone's work. A little more then ten years later, I was married and Livia and I did most of our grocery shopping at Buddies' (I think it had changed to a Winn-Dixie by then and had been remodeled, but it was still in the same place), and that's where I bought THE SINS OF THE FATHERS by Lawrence Block, as I mentioned here not long ago.

Moving down the sidewalk to Mott's, they carried the Whitman juveniles (remember those bright cardboard covers?), and probably the most important one of those I bought was TARZAN OF THE APES. I was already a Burroughs fan, but a new one, having read only A FIGHTING MAN OF MARS, loaned to me by my future brother-in-law, and reading the Tarzan book confirmed that I was going to be a Burroughs fan for life. Mott's also had a small paperback rack that was something of an oddity: they sold only Bantam paperbacks. But that was all right. I was there the first Tuesday of every month (yes, the same truck that delivered books and comics to Lester's delivered them to every other store in town, too) to pick up the new Doc Savage. That's also where I bought a number of Louis L'Amour novels, some of the Bantam Shadow reprints, and assorted mystery novels by authors such as Ross Macdonald, Rex Stout, Michael Collins (Dennis Lynds), and Harold Q. Masur.

A short walk beyond Mott's was the new location of Tompkins' Pharmacy. I probably bought more memorable paperbacks there than anywhere else in my hometown: METEOR MENACE, the first Doc Shadow novel I read. THE SHADOW STRIKES by Maxwell Grant (Dennis Lynds), the first of the new series of Shadow paperbacks published by Belmont. A bunch of the Ballantine Tarzan reprints. Evan Tanner books by Lawrence Block. Larry & Stretch and Nevada Jim Westerns by "Marshall McCoy" (Len Meares, years later my friend-by-correspondence). There were books I remember seeing that I didn't buy and wished later that I had: the Ace editions of THE LORD OF THE RINGS and those "new" Tarzan novels by "Barton Werper".  Tompkins' was an important part of my comics-buying, too. After being introduced to the Marvel Age on Christmas Day 1963, that's where I bought my first big stack of comics in early '64. That's also where I bought most of my issues of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. AGENTS. Plus I bought a number of fiction digests there, along with a few of the last remaining men's "sweat mags" such as FOR MEN ONLY (had to be pretty sneaky to get those past my mother, but you could hide an issue in a big stack of comics if you were careful) and the slightly more respectable TRUE and the Sixties incarnation of ARGOSY. Later the drugstore changed hands and became Thrifty Drug, and it was there I bought LONGARM #1 and THE BOOK OF ROBERT E. HOWARD.

Certainly, I bought books in other places, too, and I could name some of them, but these are the ones that dominated my hometown book-buying from the ages of 10 to 18. Where are they now, you ask? (Actually, you didn't, but I'm going to tell you anyway.)

Lester's Pharmacy remained in business for many years, even after Livia and I were married, but they stopped carrying books and comics. After the pharmacy closed, the building was used for several other things, including the home of a community theater group for a few years. Just within the past year, the building was torn down and replaced with an office building that's part of the hospital complex. It was a sad day when I drove by and saw it gone for the first time.

Trammell's Grocery is now El Paseo Mexican Restaurant (very good Mexican food, by the way) and the main entrance is where the side entrance to the grocery store used to be. Every time I go there I walk past what's now a flowerbed but used to be the "minner tank", where Trammell's sold minnows to use as fish bait. I'm pretty sure I could find the spot in the restaurant where the paperback and comics spinner racks once stood, but I've never bothered to do that.

Across the street, the old two-story white frame building where Tompkins' was originally is still standing. It's the oldest building in downtown, well over 100 years old now. For decades it was where C&W Electronics (one of my dad's competitors in the TV repair business) was located, but it's empty now and is for sale. I sure hope somebody doesn't buy it and tear it down, but I wouldn't be surprised if that happens.

A mile or so away, part of the shopping center where I used to go to Buddies', Mott's, and Tompkins' later location is still standing. The end that housed the grocery store (and a laundromat where Livia and I almost got snowed in one day) was torn down several years ago, and a Pizza Hut and a Jack-in-the-Box sit on that end of the parking lot now. The spaces where Mott's and Tompkins' were located are still there and the sidewalk is still the same, but I don't know exactly where the doors were anymore because of remodeling. Both of them may be doctor's offices now.

This brings my Favorite Bookstores series to a close. Sure, I bought books in lots of other places, as I mentioned above, but the ones I've written about are the ones that are most special to me for nostalgic reasons. Thanks to all of you who have stuck with me this far.