Friday, November 30, 2012

Forgotten Books: Backfire - Dan Marlowe

BACKFIRE isn't just the title of this 1961 stand-alone novel by Dan J. Marlowe. It's what life has done to its protagonist, police detective Marty Donovan. Marty and his partner Tony Alfieri are on an unauthorized stake-out at a jewelry store, trying to catch an elusive thief who seems to have some connection to the security company that put in the store's alarm system. Things go wrong when the thief shows up, just as Marty and Tony expect, but Tony winds up dead and the killer gets away.

Marty figures he can't just call for help, for a couple of reasons. One, they weren't supposed to be there since they didn't set up the stake-out with their lieutenant, and two, Marty is having an affair with Tony's wife and he's afraid if that fact comes out, he'll be suspected of killing his own partner. So Marty decides to make things look different than they actually, keeping himself in the clear while he tries to track down the killer.

This isn't really a wise decision, because things just keep going wrong, the case gets more and more complicated, and Marty finds himself sinking deeper and deeper into trouble. But you knew that was going to happen, right?

BACKFIRE is a brisk little hardboiled crime novel. Marlowe's style is pretty plain and functional, but he keeps things moving along nicely and the plot has several layers. This isn't on the same level as THE NAME OF THE GAME IS DEATH, Marlowe's masterpiece and one of the best crime novels ever written, but it's certainly worth reading.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Gunshots in Another Room: The Forgotten Life of Dan J. Marlowe - Charles Kelly

I knew when I first heard about this book that I'd want to read it. I've read only a few books by Dan J. Marlowe, but two of them, THE NAME OF THE GAME IS DEATH and ONE ENDLESS HOUR, are among the best hardboiled crime novels I've ever read. Also, I nearly always enjoy biographies of writers, especially the ones that have a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff about writing in them.

GUNSHOTS IN ANOTHER ROOM, Charles Kelly's biography of Marlowe, certainly qualifies. I had no idea that Marlowe had written porn novels and men's magazine stories, although neither of those things surprises me. This book just confirms something that I've come to learn over the years: writers who I would have thought were quite successful financially often really weren't. A lot of times even writers who publish regularly struggle to make ends meet. That was true of Marlowe as well.

I also didn't know that Marlowe collaborated to such a large extent with William C. Odell. I knew Odell's name was on one of Marlowe's novels as co-author but had no idea that Odell also contributed to at least a dozen more. Nor did I know that Odell wrote three of the Nick Carter novels on his own. I don't think I've read those three books, but I'm not sure.

GUNSHOTS IN ANOTHER ROOM also contains a lot of information about Marlowe's other collaborator, bank robber Al Nussbaum, including a rundown of Nussbaum's criminal career, and the most complete portrait yet of Marlowe's medical problems which led to a bout of amnesia that sidetracked his writing career for a number of years. It's all fascinating stuff and very well-written with a novelistic flair by Kelly, a crime novelist himself in addition to his career in journalism. All of it adds up to make GUNSHOTS IN ANOTHER ROOM a fascinating book and definitely one of the best things I've read this year. Highly recommended. Available in both print and e-book editions.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Dustwood: A Western Webcomic

DUSTWOOD is a new Western webcomic with an interesting look to it by C.A. Beninati, a writer, artist, and graphic designer. A long-time Western fan, Chad cites not only Sergio Leone movies as an influence on DUSTWOOD but also the Don Knotts film THE SHAKIEST GUN IN THE WEST. You've got to love that combination! Check it out.

Pariah, Missouri: A Kickstarter Campaign You Should Check Out

Here's a very interesting-looking Weird Western graphic novel project currently being funded on Kickstarter.

1857. Pariah, Missouri is a riverboat boom-town and a haven for the unscrupulous. The charismatic Hy Buchanan works undercover as a foppish cheat, and creates a rag-tag team to ferret out evil, both the corruption of man and the supernatural. His first challenge is the arrival of a duo of thespians, whose intentions are not to entertain.

The script by Andres Salazar and the art by Jose Pescador look good on the sample pages on the website. I plan to contribute to this, and if you're a Weird Western fan you might want to, as well.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Amazon Recommendations

This showed up in the e-mail of a friend of mine this morning. You can't go wrong with that line-up.

Monday, November 26, 2012

New This Week

Well, this week I bought some print books again, for the first time in a while. These were all in the clearance section at Half Price Books, marked down from the regular nostalgia section.

THE STORY POCKET BOOK, edited by Whit Burnett – This is an early collection of mostly mainstream literature stories selected by Whit Burnett, one of the long-time editors of STORY MAGAZINE. Authors include Erskine Caldwell, Jesse Stuart, William Faulkner, Cornell Woolrich, Eric Knight, Lord Dunsany, William Saroyan, and the proverbial many others. This is the first printing of this early paperback, from December 1944. The cover and spine are a little faded, there's some sticker damage on the back cover, but the paper is barely tan. They used great paper back then. Who knows if I'll ever get around to reading it, but it only cost me a buck.

DARK UNIVERSE and THE INFINITE MAN by Daniel F. Galouye – A couple of science fiction novels by an author I've heard about for a long time but have never read, as far as I recall. Galouye published some well-regarded stories in the SF digests of the Fifties. I'll bet Bill Crider has read his work.

GIANTS IN THE DUST by Chad Oliver – I met Chad Oliver a few times at SF conventions but didn't really know him. We had a number of mutual friends, though. This is a science fiction novel from the Seventies.

THE DISAPPEARING ISLAND by Geoffrey Jenkins (originally published as A GRUE OF ICE) – Adventure novel set in Antarctica by a British (or possibly South African) thriller writer whose books I've seen around for decades but never read.

SIREN IN THE NIGHT, MURDER WITH SOUTHERN HOSPITALITY, and WASHINGTON WHISPERS MURDER, all by Leslie Ford – Three mystery novels from the Forties and Fifties, two of which feature Ford's series characters Grace Latham and Colonel Primrose (which name always makes me think of the board game CLUE). I seem to remember that Ford is controversial for some reason, but I don't remember why.

On the e-book front, only one to report that I haven't already reviewed: SHOCK TROOPS OF JUSTICE by Robert R. Mill, another fine collection from Black Dog Books. I've read some of Mill's other pulp stories and liked them.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Branham's Due - Richard Prosch

Richard Prosch knows Westerns, knows his native Nebraska, and is a fine writer, all of which is evident in BRANHAM'S DUE, his new ebook short story. Deputy Sheriff Whit Branham, armed with a 10-gauge shotgun along with intelligence and experience, is on the trail of a horse thief and killer who is hiding out in Branham's bailiwick of Holt County. Branham tracks down his quarry and arrests him seemingly without much trouble, but that's hardly the end of the story as Prosch still has several very nice twists to spring on the reader.

This is an excellent story, and I really enjoyed reading it. The ebook edition includes of a preview of the next Whit Branham story, a novella called HOLT COUNTY LAW that will be out soon. I'm looking forward to it, and in the meantime if you like a good Western yarn I highly recommend BRANHAM'S DUE.

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: South Sea Stories, August 1940

South sea stories were a popular genre in the adventure pulps, and there was even a short-lived magazine devoted entirely to them, published by Ziff-Davis and edited by the legendary Raymond A. Palmer. This issue features a lead novel by Z-D regular Robert Moore Williams, along with a story by "Alexander Blade", a popular house-name that appeared in just about every magazine Z-D published. Other authors in this issue include Robert Leslie Bellem, who did most of his work for the Spicy pulps, and the always excellent Manly Wade Wellman. I've never seen an issue of SOUTH SEA STORIES, and I'm not sure I'd want to read a whole issue of such yarns, but if I did this looks like it would be a good issue to try.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Poison Mean - Peter Brandvold

This is a brand-new ebook short story from Peter Brandvold, so you know what to expect: a lightning-fast pace, plenty of gritty action, well-drawn characters, and a vivid setting. POISON MEAN delivers on all counts. It's an excellent Western adventure yarn about outlaw Chet Villanova, who's so mean (as the title indicates), that he doesn't hesitate to double-cross and murder the other members of his gang so he can hightail it to Mexico with all their loot for himself. Along the way, though, he meets an old prospector and the man's beautiful daughter, and things take a few turns that Villanova doesn't expect.

I had a great time reading this story, and if you need a break from shopping and eating leftovers – or even if you don't – I highly recommend it.

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Ranch Romances, First November Number, 1936

I've read this issue, although it's been quite a few years ago and I don't have a copy anymore. I bought it for J. Edward Leithead's novel "West of the Wagon Tongue", because Leithead is one of my favorite Western pulpsters. This is an excellent yarn, too. But there's plenty of other good reading in it from authors such as Stephen Payne, Lawrence Keating, and Frank C. Robertson. When I first started reading Western pulps I didn't have any interest in RANCH ROMANCES. I learned my lesson, though. There are a lot of great stories in its long run.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Forgotten Books: Blonde Bait - Ed Lacy (Leonard Zinberg)

Ed Lacy's 1959 Zenith Books novel BLONDE BAIT has a great opening: our narrator, charter boat skipper Mickey Whalen, finds a beautiful blonde on a deserted island in the Florida Keys, alone except for a gun and a suitcase full of cash. If you can resist the temptation to find out what happens from there, you're made of stronger stuff than I am.

For a while it looks like Mickey has had a real stroke of luck, but if you've read many of these novels you know it's not going to last. Sure enough, trouble from the past crops up to plague our hero and the beautiful and mysterious Rose, and Mickey has to turn detective to sort everything out and try to come up with a happy ending for the two of them.

Wherever you think this book is going, though, there's a really good chance that where it winds up is a whole other place. And that's why, even though I'm doing this as a Forgotten Books post, I can give BLONDE BAIT only a qualified recommendation. The whole explanation for what's behind the plot just doesn't ring true to me, and Lacy's thinly-disguised political rants don't help matters. A good ending might excuse all of this, but we don't get that, either.

What makes BLONDE BAIT worth reading is the first half, where Lacy fills in the narrator's back-story with a freewheeling mix of flashbacks that work very well and are a nice change of pace from the usual straight-ahead narrative drive of hardboiled crime novels. Mickey Whalen is a likable protagonist, too, and you can't help but root for him. Like some of Orrie Hitt's protagonists, even when he thinks he's being a heel, he's a pretty decent guy at heart and wants to do the right thing if he can just figure out what it is. And even though the book falls apart in the second half, you still have to sort of admire Lacy for the chances he takes, whether they work or not.

So there's my mixed opinion of BLONDE BAIT. Don't rush out to look for a copy, but if you come across one for a reasonable price, it's probably worth picking up. If nothing else, it's a Zenith Book, and you don't see very many of those these days.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Tuesday's Overlooked TV: The Slap Maxwell Story

This dark but funny sitcom lasted only one season, 1987 - 88, and is probably forgotten by most people today, if they ever heard of it to start with. But I really enjoyed it. Dabney Coleman was perfectly cast as an abrasive, old-fashioned sportswriter on a newspaper in a southwestern city. The great character actor Bill Cobbs was a philosophical bartender. And this was the first show where I saw the beautiful actress Megan Gallagher, who I've been smitten with ever since. Mostly, though, it was very well written and acted, with a lot of poignant moments as Slap tried to adjust to a modern world in which he found himself out of place. I've never forgotten the line, "I look at the future and I see a big dog growling in the dark." I really like that. I've felt like that many times.

I haven't seen THE SLAP MAXWELL STORY since it aired the first time, so I don't know if it holds up, but I suspect it does. It's not available on DVD, though, at least not officially.

Monday, November 19, 2012

New This Week

Again, only e-books to report on this week. I just don't seem to buy print books much anymore. No room!

HOT LEAD, COLD HEART -- A Western from the always dependable Matthew P. Mayo.
FIGHT CARD: IRISH DUKES -- The latest entry in the great Fight Card series.
RANCHO DIABLO: THE HOLD UP -- Mel Odom as Colby Jackson this time.
GUNSHOTS IN ANOTHER ROOM -- A biography of the great crime and noir paperbacker Dan J. Marlowe from Charles Kelly. I read about this on Bill Crider's blog and bought it immediately. I think I'm going to read a Marlowe novel for an FFB entry to get in the mood, then read the bio.

That's a pretty solid line-up of books, I think.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Hollywood Detective, December 1943

If you're a Robert Leslie Bellem fan (I am!), you gotta love HOLLYWOOD DETECTIVE. This issue leads off with a Little Jack Horner story by Jerome Severs Perry (who was really Bellem), followed by the Dan Turner story "The Lake of the Left-Hand Moon", a great yarn that was one of the first Bellem stories I ever read when it was reprinted in THE GREAT AMERICAN DETECTIVES, a fine anthology from 1978 edited by William Kittredge and Steven M. Krauzer. If that's not enough, there's a Dan Turner comics story written by Bellem and drawn by Adolphe Barreaux, plus a back-up short story by Ellery Watson Calder (who was also, uh, Robert Leslie Bellem). The only story in the issue not by Bellem is by the great E. Hoffmann Price. What a fine issue.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Pete Rice Magazine, November 1933

PETE RICE MAGAZINE was launched by Street & Smith about the same time as DOC SAVAGE, with covers by Walter Baumhofer, who also provided Doc's covers. This is the first issue. The stories were reminiscent of the Roy Rogers and Gene Autry movies, set in the contemporary West but with plenty of hard-ridin', fast-shootin'  Western action. Ben Conlon wrote all the full-length Pete Rice stories under the name Austin Gridley. After the magazine was cancelled, the character moved to WILD WEST WEEKLY for a while, with other authors using the Gridley house-name. I've read one or two of the Pete Rice novels and thought they were okay without being terribly impressed. I wouldn't mind reading another one sometime to see if that opinion holds up.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Forgotten Books: The Brat - Gil Brewer

Gil Brewer's 1958 Gold Medal novel THE BRAT begins where a lot of noir novels end: with murder, robbery, and the sympathetic but none too bright protagonist's realization of just how badly life and the femme fatale have screwed him. And from there it just gets worse for our narrator, St. Petersburg, Florida printer Lee Sullivan, who has let his beautiful wife Evis talk him into a scheme that includes robbing the savings and loan association where she works. But nobody was supposed to die, and Evis wasn't supposed to take the money and disappear, and Lee wasn't supposed to be framed for killing one of Evis's co-workers at the savings and loan. Too bad for Lee that's exactly what happens.

From there THE BRAT becomes a chase novel as Lee pursues Evis back to the Everglades, where her family still lives. He knows that he has to find her and recover the money to clear his name. Of course it's not that easy, as Lee has to deal with treachery on all sides, an ambitious and vengeful back country lawman, and a barely legal swamp girl who happens to be Evis's little sister lusting after him. That's a lot for anybody's plate.

As usual with a Gil Brewer novel, THE BRAT is permeated with sweaty desperation. Even though a lot of it takes place in broad daylight, an air of gloom hangs over the story, helped in large part by the feeling of being hemmed in by the swamp and all its myriad dangers. You never know what's going to happen in a Brewer novel, but you can count it being bad for the hero most of the time. His prose has such a headlong pace, though, that it's hard to stop reading.

This is a fine novel and a prime example of Gil Brewer's formidable storytelling prowess. I really enjoyed it. And you can, too, since there's an e-book edition available from Prologue Books if you don't have the original paperback. Either way, THE BRAT gets a high recommendation from me.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Now Available: Wind River: Ransom Valley

The new Wind River novel RANSOM VALLEY is now available for the Kindle. The Nook edition is in the works, and this book will soon be available as a trade paperback, too, along with the original six books in the series. When we decided to reprint this series as e-books, we hoped that it would be successful enough for us to continue with new entries, and so it has. RANSOM VALLEY takes place about six months after the events in JUDGMENT DAY, the sixth book in the series. It was great fun to work on . . . and this afternoon Livia and I started talking about what we're going to do in the next book. This is a great time to be a writer.

Rancho Diablo Review Copies

If you're a blogger and/or reviewer and would like a free copy of the new Rancho Diablo novel THE HOLD UP, you should get in touch with Mel Odom, this book's "Colby Jackson". He'll take care of you from there.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Now Available: Rancho Diablo: The Hold Up - Colby Jackson (Mel Odom)

When Randy Post, a young cowboy riding for the Rancho Diablo brand, gets accused of murdering a saloon girl, Sam Blaylock saddles up to get to the bottom of the matter before they fit him for a hangman's noose. Sam doesn't know that the murder has set off a chain of events that will end up with him swapping lead with a murderous gang of robbers eyeing one of the banks in Shooter's Cross.

In the past, Marshal Everett Tolliver and Sam Blaylock haven't seen exactly eye-to-eye on things involving the ranch hands. Tolliver intends to hold the peace in town no matter what the cost. But he's going to need help if he's going to find out who murdered Jessie Holden in cold blood.

Even after they've set their differences aside for the time being, Sam and Tolliver still have to put their lives at risk to hold the line in Shooter's Cross in a gundown on Main Street that will become a legend.

Fight Card: Golden Gate Gloves - Jack Tunney (Robert Evans)

San Francisco 1951

Conall O’Quinn grew up at St. Vincent’s Asylum For Boys, a Chicago orphanage where he learned the sweet science of boxing from Father Tim, the battling priest. After a stint in the Army, Conall finds work on the docks of San Francisco – a place where his fists make him the dock champion. Soon, however, he gets on the bad side of a union boss and is set up for a dock side brawl designed to knockout his fighting career. When Conall comes out on top, things go from bad to worse when he is framed for the docks going up in flames.

Along with Benson, his best friend and trainer, Conall heads for the hills in search of a lost treasure in the vicinity of a mine controlled by the union boss. However, where Conall goes trouble follows and he is quickly embroiled in a heated grudge match between fist-happy miners and lumberjacks.

Championing the miners in an all out slugfest, Conall is about to find out there is more to fighting than just swinging fists … giant, hammer-fisted lumberjacks, the mine owner’s beautiful daughter, union flunkies, and mob thugs all want a piece of him … and when the opening bell rings, the entire world appears to be against him …

As we've grown to expect from the Fight Card series, GOLDEN GATE GLOVES is a very entertaining yarn. With most of the books in the series being set in big cities, as this one partially is, I especially enjoyed the change of pace of having some of the story take place in California's mining country. Evans's prose has a nice headlong pace and the fight scenes are well-done. This is good solid storytelling, and I look forward to getting another prime example of that every month in the Fight Card series.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Tuesday's Overlooked TV: Death Valley Days

When I was a kid there was a regular TV routine in our house on Saturday night: Lawrence Welk, HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL, GUNSMOKE, the 10 o'clock news, and then finally an episode of DEATH VALLEY DAYS, usually hosted and introduced by The Old Ranger, played by actor Stanley Andrews. DEATH VALLEY DAYS was a syndicated half-hour Western anthology series that originated on radio and then ran for more than twenty years on TV. A lot of the stories were based on historical incidents, and I remember it being fairly low-key and realistic most of the time, hardly the stereotypical shoot-em-up. Practically every character actor in the business appeared on the show sooner or later, as well as some young actors who went on to be stars, like James Caan and Angie Dickinson. Ronald Reagan, Robert Taylor, and Dale Robertson appeared as hosts for the program in its later years. The stable of writers included some familiar names, too, such as pulpsters Robert Leslie Bellem and John K. Butler, as well as the wonderfully-named Sloan Nibley, who wrote some good Roy Rogers movies and was married to the beautiful actress Linda Stirling. This was one of my dad's favorite series. As a kid, and a fairly bloodthirsty one at that, I tend to prefer the more action-packed shows, but I remember watching and enjoying a lot of episodes of DEATH VALLEY DAYS, too. There are quite a few complete episodes available on YouTube if you're interested in checking them out.

Monday, November 12, 2012

New This Week

Only one e-book to report on this week: HELL & GONE, an action/adventure novel by Henry Brown.  I read his Fight Card book, TOMATO CAN COMEBACK, and really enjoyed it, so I've been meaning to pick up something else by him. I finally got around to it, and I hope it won't be too long before I'll get a chance to read this one. My reading time has been pretty limited recently, and I've also run into a string of books that I started, didn't like, and didn't finish. I hate it when I get in a reading funk like that.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Detective Novels Magazine, April 1940

DETECTIVE NOVELS MAGAZINE was published by Better Publications, one of the various imprints owned by Ned Pines and ramrodded by Leo Margulies, so you know that means it featured a number of different series characters in "complete novels" written by a regular stable of pulpsters. In this issue, the lead story stars Jerry Wade, the Candid Camera Kid. As you might guess from that nickname, Jerry is a newspaper shutterbug who solves mysteries with the help of a feisty blond gal reporter. That ought to be enough to tell you whether you'd enjoy this series or sneer at it with disdain. I've read quite a few of the Candid Camera Kid stories, which were written by prolific author Norman Daniels under the name John L. Benton, and liked them. It's a minor series in the history of pulp detective yarns but consistently entertaining if you're in the right mood. This issue also includes stories by dependable veterans G.T. Fleming-Roberts and C.S. Montanye.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Now Available: Wolf Creek: Kiowa Vengeance

The second Wolf Creek novel is out from Western Fictioneers, available in both e-book and trade paperback editions. Writing as Ford Fargo this time around is an all-star group of bestselling and award-winning authors: Bill Crider, Jackson Lowry, Kerry Newcomb, Troy D. Smith, Frank Roderus, and Robert J. Randisi. Check it out!

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Big-Book Western, February 1947

Okay, there's the Stalwart, Red-Shirted Cowboy Hero and the Grizzled Old-Timer (he's even got the turned up hat brim, yuh whippersnappers). So where's the Beautiful, Gun-Totin', Angry Redhead? Menacing Bald Guy just doesn't work nearly as well.

What a line-up of authors inside, though: Walt Coburn, William Heuman, Tom Roan, Ed Earl Repp, William R. Cox, Wayne Overholser, and Gunnison Steele. That's an all-star issue! Lots of good reading in its pages, I'll bet.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Forgotten Books: The Case of the Daring Decoy - Erle Stanley Gardner

(This post originally appeared on October 23, 2007 in slightly different form.)

THE CASE OF THE DARING DECOY is from 1957, still a good period in the Perry Mason series, if not as consistently excellent as the more hardboiled Thirties and Forties. By this time many of the books opened not with Mason, as the earlier ones do, but with the person who will turn out to be the client later on. That’s the case here, as the first chapter of the book features Jerry Conway, the young, dynamic president of an oil exploration company who’s facing the fight of his life as a former associate wages a proxy battle to take over the company. Conway is contacted by a mysterious woman who claims to have information that will be valuable to him in his struggle, but she says she’ll turn it over to him only after he jumps through some hoops to make sure neither of them is being followed. Their rendezvous is supposed to take place in a hotel room, but when Conway gets there he finds a different woman, wearing only her underwear and brandishing a revolver. Conway winds up with the revolver (you knew that was going to happen) and a murder charge hanging over his head (equally inevitable). When you’re in a situation like that, who you gonna call? Perry Mason, of course.

From there it’s the usual dizzying mix of interrogations, banter, genuine clues, and red herrings. Is there only one gun involved in the case, or two? What about the peas in the room service meal? Why did the half-naked, gun-toting babe have a mud pack on her face? There’s a little more comedy than usual in this one, with some snappy, funny lines from various characters, even the usually dour Mason, and there’s even a touch of romance. The plot makes sense (I think), and for once I even spotted some of the clues and figured out ahead of time who the real killer was, something that hardly ever happens when I read a book by Erle Stanley Gardner. I didn’t have all the details worked out, but I had the right suspect pegged.

I thought this book was great fun, and my only real complaint about it is the rather sedate cover of the paperback edition. I mean, really, a beautiful woman in her underwear waving a gun around is the perfect image for a book like this, isn’t it? Even with a mud pack? (Okay, you could lose the mud pack on the cover and call it dramatic license . . . )

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Robert B. Parker's Lullaby - Ace Atkins

I have to admit, I stopped reading Robert B. Parker's novels several years ago, and as a result I missed his last few Spenser novels. I may have to go back and catch up on them, because I just read ROBERT B. PARKER'S LULLABY, the first Spenser pastiche by Ace Atkins, and it's given me a taste for the series again.

I've never read anything else by Atkins, although I've been meaning to. Turns out he was a good choice to continue this series, because LULLABY really does read a lot like Parker's work, especially the earlier books in the series. Spenser is hired, sort of, by a 14-year-old girl to find out who really murdered her mother four years earlier. A family friend was convicted of the crime and is in prison, but the girl doesn't believe he's guilty and wants her mom's real killers brought to justice. Of course, things don't turn out to be quite as simple as they appear at first.

The plot and the way Atkins handles it are very Parker-like. He has a great handle on the characters, too, especially Spenser and Hawk. The main differences are stylistic and pretty minor. Atkins' paragraphs are a little longer than Parker's. There's not quite as much dialogue. The banter doesn't seem quite as witty to me, but it's still pretty darned witty. If this book had been published under Parker's name, there's a good chance I would have accepted it as his work, although I should point out that I've always been just a casual reader of Parker's books and hardly qualify as a scholar on such matters.

The main thing to say about LULLABY is that I liked it and I'm looking forward to reading any other Spenser novels that Atkins writes.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

An Opportunity That Might Interest Some of You

The Australasian Journal of Popular Culture is seeking submissions of articles for an "all-pulp" issue.  This issue will be co-edited by the journal's editor, Toni-Johnson Woods, and Justin Everett, area chair for Pulp Studies for the Popular Culture Association. 

Our aim is to produce a truly international publication, and so we encourage articles that explore pulp in every nation!  We are not limiting "pulp" to the American magazine tradition, but wish to include the pulp traditions of countries outside the U.S. which may include paperbacks, comics, and other forms as appropriate to that country's tradition.  Please include as many images as is appropriate to your article.

The Australasian Journal of Popular Culture is a double-blind refereed journal and is the official publication of Popcaanz (Popular Culture Association of Australia and New Zealand).

We are embracing all meanings of “pulp” and are particularly interested in innovative approaches to scholarship—practitioners, artists, and fans are welcome to submit material.  We are also interested in material that comes from the broadest possible spectrum and can include:

•    Print – digests and cheap fiction
•    Pulp “industry”
•    Merchandise
•    Film
•    Music
•    Websites
•    Comics
•    Radio
•    Book Reviews – please submit your pulp book for review
•    Exhibition Reviews
•    Photographic essay

Submission Deadline:  Feb. 1, 2013 for full papers.

All papers must conform to the journal’s style guide (British English):,name=journalstyleguide/

Please submit articles of between 4,000 and 6,000 words to the editors:
Toni Johnson-Woods,

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Now Available: Wedding Cake Killer - Livia J. Washburn

Wedding bells will be ringing in Weatherford, Texas, this Christmas when Phyllis Newsom opens up her home for her best friend’s wedding. And although the bride is wearing white, no one suspects that she’ll soon be wearing black…

After all the planning—and the cake tasting—the big day has arrived. Eve Turner, one of Phyllis’s boarders—and her best friend—is moving out and getting married to the affable Roy Porter. While she’s sad to see Eve go, Phyllis is more than happy to host the event in her house and to bake the bride and groom a delicious three-tiered coconut wedding cake. Even though a snowstorm in the forecast seems like a recipe for disaster, the day runs as smoothly as butter cream.

But the marriage doesn’t last long past the honeymoon. When Roy’s found dead at a Weatherford bed-and-breakfast, Eve’s the top suspect. Now Phyllis must find out who iced Roy before her friend finds herself behind bars…

(As always, this is hardly an unbiased opinion, but I think this is an excellent novel and that Livia does a great job of developing the characters and moving this series along. It's available in print, Kindle, and Nook editions.)

Tuesday's Overlooked Movies: Island in the Sky

(Sorry I not only don't have anything political or election-related to post today, this is also a rerun from 2007. Things have been a mite hectic lately.)

I was right when I said I didn’t think I’d ever seen this film before, so if for no other reason I enjoyed it simply because to me it was a new John Wayne movie and that’s a real rarity. Luckily it’s also a good film.

Wayne plays a pilot flying for the Air Transport Command during World War II (as did Ernest K. Gann, author of the novel upon which this movie was based). Bad weather forces him to land in the snow-covered Canadian wilderness, far north of any civilization. Wayne and the four members of his crew have to survive the sub-zero weather until search parties can find them, and they have only a little food and a hand-cranked radio with which to send out distress signals.

The action cuts back and forth between the stranded men and the other pilots who are searching for them. There are character actors galore in this movie: Andy Devine, Harry Carey Jr., Bob Steele, Paul Fix, Sean McClory, an impossibly-young James Arness . . . If there had been a tough, wise-cracking dame among them, I would have sworn this was a Howard Hawks movie. Instead it was directed by William Wellman, another master of the hardboiled aviation film.

While this is a good film and I enjoyed it, I wouldn’t put it in the top tier of John Wayne movies. Wayne is okay in it, but it’s not one of his better performances. And the sheer size of the ensemble cast maybe works against it. There are too many characters to keep up with, and while everybody gets a little to do, nobody is on-screen enough to make much of an impression, with the exception of Andy Devine, who doesn’t play his role as comedy relief for a change. According to Leonard Maltin’s introduction on the DVD, this film was overshadowed by THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY, another Wayne/Wellman/Gann aviation picture that was released the next year. That’s probably true. I think THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY is a better film. But ISLAND IN THE SKY is well worth watching, too.

Incidentally, among the DVD extras is a short but very nice interview with Harry Carey Jr. Be sure to watch it, too, if you’re checking out ISLAND IN THE SKY.

Monday, November 05, 2012

A Million Words and Counting, 8th Straight Year Edition

As is obvious from the title of this post, today I passed the million-word mark for this year. I'm a couple of weeks behind last year's pace, but that's all right. I never figured on writing a million words year after year, but now I think I'd like to accomplish that for a couple of more years, anyway. I think writing a million words a year for ten straight years would be pretty cool. If I can do that (and I already have close to a million words lined up for next year), I might give some thought to slowing down a little. I'm certainly not getting any younger.

As always, much of the credit for this is due to Livia, who absolutely makes it possible, and thanks as well to the editors who continue to have faith in me and the readers who enjoy my books. Without all of you I wouldn't be having such a great time spinning my yarns.

Guest Post: Brian Drake & The Rogue Gentleman, or Looking for Laughs in All the Right Places

Thank you, James, for another opportunity to write a guest post on your terrific blog.

The other day I spoke to a writer pal about the change in subject matter I have been going through the last year, as in turning away from the hard-boiled noir writing I started out with (with books such as Justified Sins and Bullet for One) and switching to more light-hearted adventure fare. My friend, a terrific hard-boiled writer himself, does not understand why I have decided to change gears. Hard-boiled is alive and vibrant and more important than ever, he says. We have the opportunity to write the history of our time the same way the hard-boiled pioneers wrote about theirs using subject matter they were unwilling or unable to use.

Of course he is right. I wouldn't argue with him. But we have been going through one hell of a rough patch in this country and the last thing I want after a day of bad news is to read or write a grim crime novel full of more bad stuff. As an antidote to the bad news I am writing stories that are thrilling and exciting but also contain elements of humor. If you are looking for an escape, you can read this book and not be reminded of what just frightened you on the news. And if you are reminded, you’re being guided through the story by characters who will reassure you that everything is going to be okay in the end.

Which brings me to my just-released title, The Rogue Gentleman. The story features Steve Dane, the Rogue Gentleman, an international adventurer who rights wrongs wherever he finds them. Dane is a mix of James Bond, The Saint, and Nick Charles, shaken and stirred with hard boiled and humorous elements that make for a great piece of escapism.

In the book, Dane fails to prevent a young woman's kidnapping, and the girl's father hires him to get her back.  Dane soon discovers the decades-old vendetta behind the kidnapping and peels back the layers of a plan that goes beyond a desire for vengeance. Assisted by his lover, the luscious Nina Talikova, Dane dives head first into a conspiracy of terror orchestrated by a powerful and mysterious woman known only as “The Duchess”.

Standard thriller fare, you say. You've seen it before, why should you care? The characters and the humor raise this to a different level. The characters are in on the gag same as the audience; they know what they're doing is ridiculous, and have no qualms about breaking the fourth wall to let you know that they know but we're all out for a good time so who cares, right? It's FUN. That's the point of entertainment, isn't it?

Adventure, humor, romance, cliff-hanger moments....I hope you'll enjoy reading The Rogue Gentleman as much as I enjoyed writing it.

You can find it at the Amazon Kindle store. Thanks for looking.

New This Week

A couple of e-books to report on this week:

THE ROGUE GENTLEMAN by Brian Drake, the full-length novel version of a story Brian serialized earlier this year. A guest post talking about his reasons for writing this one will be coming up later today on the blog.

HARKNESS: A HIGH DESERT MYSTERY by Michael Bigham, a new mystery novel that got a good review recently from my friend Evan Lewis, so I thought I'd give it a try.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Crack Detective Stories, March 1944

Another of the Columbia pulps, which don't have a great reputation, but I like that cover (a beautiful redhead with a gun . . . what's not to like?), and the authors in this issue include T.W. Ford, Robert Turner, G.T. Fleming-Roberts, Tom Thursday, and Russell Gray (probably Bruno Fischer). Sounds like a pretty good line-up to me.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Western Story, November 30, 1940

For a while it looked like there might not be a Saturday Morning Western Pulp this week, since I spent most of Friday night and some of the wee hours of Saturday morning in the local emergency room dealing with a relatively minor but very painful condition. I'm back home now, with just enough time to write and schedule this post before my pain meds kicks in. Is that blogging dedication, or what?

Anyway, I'm falling back on old reliable WESTERN STORY this week, an issue with a pretty nice cover with a very effective use of a shadow. The contents look pretty good, too, with a lead novel by Walt Coburn, stories by Harry Sinclair Drago and L.P. Holmes among others, and part of a Peter Dawson serial, THE CRIMSON HORSESHOE, which I believe was Jon Glidden's first novel (Jonathan Glidden being the real name of Peter Dawson, as I'm sure most of you already know). WESTERN STORY could be a little stodgy, but it was good solid entertainment for a long, long time and certainly one of the top three or four Western pulps of all time.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Forgotten Books: Flint - Gil Dodge (Arnold Hano)

Whenever a book comes out of nowhere for me, when I read a book I'd never even heard of and find that it's spectacularly good, these days that book often comes from Stark House. That's the case with FLINT, a Western originally published in 1957 under the by-line Gil Dodge. The real author behind that name is Arnold Hano, perhaps best known as the editor of the influential paperback house Lion Books but also a fine writer himself. FLINT looks like a typical Fifties Western paperback, doesn't it?

Well, it isn't. Not hardly, to quote John Wayne in BIG JAKE.

The set-up isn't that unusual, though. The narrator, Flint, is a hired killer who has put up his gun and "retired" to a small farm in Arizona. He's living there under an assumed identity because he's wanted in any number of states and territories, and he's also living on borrowed time because he suffered a serious wound during a shootout with a posse several years earlier, and the lingering effects of that injury are sure to kill him at an early age.

Flint just wants to be left alone, but then a representative from a Colorado cattle baron shows up and threatens to expose his real identity to the law unless Flint travels to Colorado and kills a couple of men for the cattle baron. Reluctantly, Flint accepts the job.

That's a fairly standard plot opening, but Hano's fine writing elevates it. Flint is a compelling narrator, a well-read, well-spoken, deeply melancholy man. Despite that, you might think you know where this one is going.

Once Flint reaches Colorado, though, the story begins to take one unexpected turn after another. Not everything is what it appears to be, and after a while you start to wonder if Flint himself is the person he seemed to be at first. Hano peels away the layers of deception slowly and carefully, and FLINT becomes a classic novel of lust, murder, and bleak desperation, as much so as any of the Gold Medals, Dells, etc., from the same era.

This is one of the best Western noir novels I've ever read. In its style, in its characters, in the risks it attempts (and pulls off), FLINT is remarkable. I give it a very high recommendation, and luckily you can read it in the new Stark House volume in which it's included, 3 STEPS TO HELL, which also includes the novels SO I'M A HEEL (originally published under the name Mike Heller) and THE BIG OUT. I'll be getting to them pretty soon, I expect.