Sunday, June 30, 2013

Music I Like: Moonglow/Theme from "Picnic" - Morris Stoloff

Great movie, great music.

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: The Angel Detective, July 1941

This was the only issue of this pulp, which is notable for the fact that the lead novel was written by Edward S. Ronns, much better known to us by his real name Edward S. Aarons, under which he wrote the excellent, long-running Sam Durell espionage series as well as a number of other top-notch mystery and suspense novels. But everybody's got to start somewhere, and Aarons had been selling to the pulps for only a couple of years when he was tapped to write this story. The only thing I know about it is that the detective wore a mask and had an Eskimo assistant (this courtesy of Bob Weinberg's website). Luckily for those of us who enjoy his later work, the extremely short life of THE ANGEL DETECTIVE doesn't seem to have hurt Edward S. Aarons' career.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Music I Like: Tropicando - Les Baxter

Still in a bit of a lounge mood tonight. My parents had at least one Les Baxter album and I remember hearing music like this quite a bit when I was a kid.

Flash Fiction


"You gotta shoot 'em in the brains, Mabel!"

"They's jellyfish, Claude! They ain't got no brains! Besides, the bullets just go right -- "



As some of you know, Livia and I have spent the past three-and-a-half weeks at her parents' vacation cabin down on the Texas Gulf Coast. Our Internet service was a little patchy, but I was able to carry on much like normal. I carried on better than normal when it comes to the writing, as I always do down there. Livia just put up a blog post with a bunch of pictures, so check 'em out!

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Western Rodeo Romances, Fall 1950

Another RANCH ROMANCES competitor, although even more specialized with its emphasis on rodeo stories. A good line-up of authors, though, including Robert J. Hogan (of G-8 and His Battle Aces fame), Frank Richardson Pierce, Joe Archibald, Clinton Dangerfield, Edwin P. Hicks, and Cliff Walters. (The fact that this issue sports a cover featuring a good-looking redhead with cleavage and a smoking six-gun had nothing to do with me deciding to post it, of course.)

Friday, June 28, 2013

Music I Like: Lujon - Henry Mancini

Music like this makes me think I was born too late. I should've been pounding out paperbacks for Gold Medal, Dell, Avon, Ace, and all the others. But at least I can try to capture that spirit in some of my work.

Forgotten Books: Escape From Five Shadows - Elmore Leonard

I've mentioned before that I prefer Elmore Leonard's Westerns to his crime novels, which puts me in the minority, I'm sure. Not that that bothers me. I've read all of Leonard's Western short stories and am working my way slowly through his Western novels.

Originally published in 1956, ESCAPE FROM FIVE SHADOWS is Leonard's third novel. It opens where a lot of novels might end: with the unjustly convicted protagonist's escape from prison. Corey Bowen, found guilty of rustling and sent to Yuma Prison, then to the work camp called Five Shadows, doesn't get away, though. He's recaptured and brought back, and that's just the beginning of a tense, low-key story that includes plenty of suspense and just enough action and romance.

As you'd expect from a novel by Elmore Leonard, even an early one, the dialogue is excellent and most of the characters can't be trusted as they play off of each other and try to gain an advantage. In addition to Corey Bowen, there are a couple of other inmates who are part of a second escape plan with him; the corrupt superintendent of the prison camp; a government official and his femme fatale wife; the beautiful daughter of a stagecoach station manager; and the Apache trackers whose job it is to go after prisoners who try to get away.

ESCAPE FROM FIVE SHADOWS is a slow burn of a novel that finally erupts in some excellent action scenes. As usual, Leonard's depiction of Arizona Territory is excellent, with the landscape almost becoming a character in its own right. If you've never read any of his Western novels, this would be a fine place to start.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Music I Like: Signs - Five Man Electrical Band

A lot of that Sixties counter-cultural, anti-establishment music hasn't aged very well and these days sounds almost quaint. This song sort of falls into that category, but my friend James Pickard did a great version of it, accompanied only by his guitar, one night at the coffeehouse where we both hung out in the summer of 1971. As I recall, I was sitting on the floor with a girl named Beth at the time. I've been fond of the song ever since.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Music I Like: Silence is Golden - The Tremeloes

This is another song that played in heavy rotation on KXOL, the Fort Worth radio station I always listened to as a kid. I have memories of some pretty good times while it played in the background.

Tuesday's Overlooked TV Movies: Hunters Are For Killing

Like last week's THE BORGIA STICK, HUNTERS ARE FOR KILLING is an early made-for-TV crime movie that impressed me when I saw it as a kid. Burt Reynolds, before he was a movie star, plays an ex-con who returns to his hometown determined to prove that he didn't commit the murder for which he was convicted. Melvyn Douglas is his stepfather, who hates him and blames him for his own son's death. Although I didn't really know at the time what a Gold Medal novel was, what I recall of this movie tells me that it had a certain Gold Medal feeling to it, with Reynolds' character being surrounded by people he can't trust while trying to ferret out the truth.

In addition to Reynolds and Douglas, the cast includes the gorgeous Suzanne Pleshette and a vast array of character actors including Martin Balsam, Larry Storch, Don "Red" Barry, and A. Martinez. I don't think the movie ever had an official release on DVD or VHS, there are no clips from it on YouTube, and I couldn't even find a publicity picture from it on-line. But I remember quite well watching it at my aunt's house in Brownwood, Texas, and liking it. As I recall, even my dad, who wasn't a big fan of mystery movies, enjoyed it. I'd be curious to know if any of you reading this remember it.

UPDATE: As Todd Mason points out in the comments, this movie was released on VHS under the title HARD FRAME (a decent title for the storyline, but a little lacking compared to the original, I think). Copies both new and used are available on Amazon if any of you want to check it out and still have a machine that will play videotapes. (The image on the VHS box above is rather deceptive, since Burt was much younger, and as I remember, sans mustache, when this movie was made.)

Monday, June 24, 2013

Music I Like: Angie Baby - Helen Reddy

I was never a big Helen Reddy fan, but I like this song with its hint of gothic creepiness. Any song with the line "It's so nice to be insane, no one asks you to explain" has something going for it.

Commando: Operation Arrowhead - Jack Badelaire

Last year I read Jack Badelaire's excellent debut novel KILLER INSTINCTS. It's taken me far too long to get around to his World War II series, but I've finally read the first novel in that one and thoroughly enjoyed it.

British soldier Thomas Lynch is the grandfather of the protagonist in KILLER INSTINCTS, but you don't have to have read the earlier book to enjoy this one at all. It's early 1941, and having gone through the humiliation of Dunkirk, Lynch is eager to get back to fighting the Germans. The quickest way is by volunteering for one of the newly formed commando units. Lynch's squad, designated 3 Commando, is landed secretly in occupied France to join up with a French resistance group and help them break the German hold on a small coastal town.

Once the commandos' boots are on French soil, it's well-written action nearly all the way, with just enough black humor and characterization interspersed for punctuation. The violence is pretty graphic, but other than that COMMANDO: OPERATION ARROWHEAD reminds me very much of a gritty, black-and-white Sixties TV series such as COMBAT!, one of my all-time favorites. While Thomas Lynch is the hero, several of the members of the commando squad take the spotlight at times, and they're all fine characters as well. Badelaire's pacing is also excellent. This is one of the fastest-moving books I've read recently. There's enough detail to give the story a strong sense of historical accuracy but never enough to bog it down.

The second novel in the series, as well as a prequel short story, are also available. I already have them on my Kindle and hope to read them soon. If you're a fan of World War II fiction, I highly recommend COMMANDO: OPERATION ARROWHEAD


Sunday, June 23, 2013

Music I Like: Why Should I Care? - Diana Krall

This is probably my favorite Diana Krall song, and there are a lot of them I like. This one was co-written by none other than Clint Eastwood.

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Argosy, May 11, 1935

Now there's a striking cover for you! ARGOSY could always be counted on for good covers, but they were usually more realistic, rather than symbolic like this one. It certainly is eye-catching, though. Inside, in addition to the novel by the always dependable Eustace L. Adams, were serial installments by George F. Worts (about his lawyer-detective Gillian Hazeltine) and the great Theodore Roscoe, and another novel by Richard Wormser. Folks back in 1935 got their dime's worth from this one.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Music I Like: Wayfaring Stranger - Tennessee Ernie Ford

There was no bigger fan of Tennessee Ernie Ford than my dad, so that means I heard a lot of his songs while I was growing up. I still like them, too. 16 TONS was his big hit, of course, but I think a song like this really does a better job of showcasing that magnificent voice. One of the best pure singers ever, as far as I'm concerned.

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Action-Packed Western, December 1939

When I first saw this action-packed cover on ACTION-PACKED WESTERN, I thought it might be by Norman Saunders. It's not listed on the Saunders website, though, so I guess someone else did it, but I have no idea who. I like it anyway.

This issue has only four stories in it, all by authors I've never read (and mostly never heard of): Cliff Campbell, Vernon James, Ted Fox, and Clem Barton.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Music I Like: Yesterday When I Was Young - Roy Clark

People remember Roy Clark mostly for being one of the hosts of HEE-HAW, I suppose, but he was a fine singer and this is a really nice song.

Now Availbable: Red River Ruse - James Reasoner and L.J. Washburn

Lawyer Billy Cambridge, a retired Texas Ranger, and his best friend, vaquero and ranch foreman Nacho Graves, set out by stagecoach from Pecos, Texas, to deliver $20,000 in cash to a client in Fort Smith, Arkansas. When the stagecoach is held up and Cambridge and Nacho lose the twenty grand, they set out on a dangerous quest to recover the money and bring the outlaws to justice . . . a quest that leads them to beautiful women, cold-blooded killers, the last Comanchero, and more surprises than they're ready to face. RED RIVER RUSE is a fast-moving Western novel packed with action, emotion, and danger, from two of the best in the business, award-winning, bestselling authors James Reasoner and L.J. Washburn. Originally published by M. Evans in 1991.

Livia and I collaborated on this traditional Western novel, but she had the contract and I didn't, so it was published under the L.J. Washburn name. We're happy to have it available for the first time under both names, in a new e-book edition. This is sort of a sideways sequel to my Stagecoach Station novel PECOS (published by Bantam under the house-name Hank Mitchum). Some of the characters are the same, even though they have different names. I just read this one for the first time in more than twenty years and liked it even more than when we wrote it. Check it out if you enjoy an exciting, somewhat offbeat Western novel.

Forgotten Books: Ute Revenge - Paul Ledd (Paul Joseph Lederer)

Paul Ledd (real name Paul Joseph Lederer) was a very prolific author of series Westerns during the Eighties, working on, among others, Shelter, Ruff Justice, Easy Company, and Lone Star. As Logan Winters, he wrote the cult favorite supernatural Western series SPECTROS. UTE REVENGE, however, is a stand-alone novel, and a good one.

The story begins in 1850 with the arrival in the Colorado Rockies of Georges Lacroix, a French fur trapper. After a clash with Ute Indians, they burn down the cabin Lacroix has built, so to even the score with them, he kidnaps a woman of their tribe and takes her as his wife. When she gives birth to a son, the Utes regard this as a stain on their honor and set out to kill Lacroix, the woman Morning Light, and their son Mantaka. The Utes have their revenge on Lacroix and Morning Light, but Mantaka escapes and grows up pretty much on his own, able to speak Ute and French, but no English. He is befriended by some prospectors and helps them find gold, which brings even more people into the mountains. Years pass as Mantaka grows into a massive man and a great hunter. When a town is founded and Mantaka runs afoul of the criminals who are trying to take over, he is framed for a murder and has to take to the high country again. And all the time, the Utes are still after him. On the run from all his enemies, he becomes known as The Savage, because he still can't speak English and communicate with people.

It seems to me that Lederer is trying to write a Western version of Tarzan, at least in some respects. I'm not sure he manages to pull that off, but UTE REVENGE is still an entertaining, fast-moving story. Lederer writes in a very readable style, with plenty of action and some nice descriptive passages. I think he intended this to be a more serious novel than his series work (which makes me wonder if the generic UTE REVENGE was an editor's retitling of the book). For the most part, he succeeds.

Lederer stopped writing for a while after the late Eighties/early Nineties, but he's returned to the Western field in recent years, publishing a number of Black Horse Westerns under his old pseudonyms Logan Winters and Owen G. Irons. It's a welcome return as far as I'm concerned. 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Music I Like: Ho Hey - The Lumineers

See, I'm not hopelessly stuck in the Sixties and Seventies. Here's an almost current song that I like a lot, although it's been sort of overplayed and I guess I'm contributing to that, aren't I? I like it anyway.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Music I Like: In the Year 2525 - Zager and Evans

A friend of mine played guitar on the studio version of this song. The lyrics are the height of Sixties pseudo-profundity, but don't the song sound good?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Music I Like: 96 Tears - ? and the Mysterians

Another one from when I was a kid. It's hard to tell from this clip, but ? and the Mysterians were Hispanic, one of the first successful Hispanic rock groups, although that success was relatively short-lived.

New Interview

There's a new interview with me on Tom Rizzo's blog this morning. You can check it out here. Tom asks great questions.

Now Available: Wordslingers - Will Murray



“Wordslingers is a must-read for anyone interested in the pulps or in Western fiction, and it's one of the best books I've read in a long, long time.”

––James Reasoner

Countless books have been written on the Western
fiction genre. Almost all trace the development of the genre
from its dime-novel roots through Owen Wister’s The Virginian
and Zane Grey—the two most influential early frontier
novelists—to the present. Many others focus on the Hollywood

Almost completely overlooked is the Western pulp
magazine. From about 1920 to 1955, almost every important
writer and development in the genre took place in the pages of
Western Story Magazine, Dime Western, Cowboy Stories, Wild
West Weekly, and scores of others.

Wordslingers is an oral history of the Western pulp
fiction magazines, told in the narrative style of a Ken Burns
documentary by the writers, editors and agents who fought and
struggled to keep the Western myth alive in the face of changing
tastes, cultural shifts, Hollywood competition, and a boom-and-
bust genre cycle that forced them to reformulate the Western story
every five years or so.

Westerns boomed in the early 20s, but the genre virtually
collapsed in 1927 when Lindbergh’s transatlantic flight catapulted
the airman hero into prominence. Many editors pronounced the
Western doomed as a genre. A Hollywood Western revival brought
the cowboy hero back to life—until the Depression drove all but
the most hardy Western magazines out of business. The cowboy
hero rode high, wide and handsome until 1940, when the reading
public simply got sick of him. Editors and writers desperately
searched for a different kind of Western hero to take his place.
They found scores of them in the ordinary blacksmith, frontier
doctor and rancher, and the genre was once again redeemed. And
so it went until television and the paperback absconded with the
Western genre in the 1950s, killing the pulp magazine industry

In the middle of this movement is the unending feud
between the realists, cowboy-authors like Arizonan Walt Coburn,
who were of the West and burned to write authentic historical
fiction, and the fabulists, Eastern writers like Frederick Faust (Max
Brand) who lived in an Italian villa and couldn’t care less about
authenticity, both schools perpetuating a Western never-never land
its prolific practitioners often didn’t believe in themselves.

Then there are the pulp magazine editors. Men like
overworked and darkly humorous Frank Blackwell, who edited the
pioneer Western Story Magazine, which for its first twenty years
was published every week! Action proponent Jack Byrne, who
pronounced the Western story dead in 1927—only the eat his
words. And visionary genius Rogers Terrill, who single-handedly
salvaged the pulp Western from oblivion during the Depression
when he launched the revolutionary and cliché-shattering Dime
Western. Easterners all, torn by the constant struggle to keep
Western fans happy, while simultaneously wrangling writers
who had to be retrained every few years as reading tastes
changed—all trapped by a romantic myth they helped create and
didn’t dare shatter lest the Western go completely bust.

Although author Will Murray traces the genre’s development
from its historical origins, through Owen Wister’s landmark works
to the early Paperback Revolution, Wordslingers focuses almost
entirely on the pulp magazines because no previous study has
examined this area in depth. The quotes he’s mined from
period writer’s magazines and other obscure sources—people
ranging from Walt Coburn to Louis L’Amour—make for
fascinating reading and a dramatic immediacy. 

Wordslingers explains how this slice of Americana stayed
so popular for so long, and why it has declined so steeply without
completely fading away. And why the Western may or may not
come back.

No one has ever written a book like this, nor investigated
the sources used to compile it. Will Murray is the first writer to
seriously document this era.

“But this is not really my book,” Murray notes. “It belongs to
the many authentic voices who drive the narrative—funny, salty,
iconoclastic, inspiring voices who, in telling their personal stories,
illuminate a larger one.”

Murray’s more nearly forty years researching and writing
about the pulp magazine era gives him a unique background to
write this book from a deep knowledge of the field. Photos of
prominent authors will put faces to the voices who tell the tale of
their times. Wordslingers is a landmark on the history of popular
literature. It may be a Pulp masterpiece.

(No "may be" about it. WORDSLINGERS is a pulp masterpiece, and it gets my highest recommendation.)

Tuesday's Overlooked TV Movie: The Borgia Stick

This crime drama was one of the first made-for-TV movies in the mid-Sixties, and it made a big impression on me when I saw it. Don Murray and Inger Stevens play a typical suburban couple who are actually anything but. They're not really married, and they work for the mob. But then they make the mistake of falling in love and want to get out of their life of crime, which leads to all sorts of complications, especially when their best friend and next-door neighbor is a cop (played by Barry Nelson, who is a great trivia answer since he was the first actor to play James Bond on-screen).

THE BORGIA STICK takes a rather low-key approach, as I recall, without a lot of blood and thunder until the end, but it generates plenty of suspense anyway. Lots of good character actors in the cast, including the villainous Fritz Weaver and Sorrell Booke. The big plot twist at the end, which I remember more than 40 years later, seems to me now like it must have been awfully predictable, but it didn't seem that way at the time. I recall being really surprised and impressed by it.

According to the reviews on IMBD, THE BORGIA STICK holds up well. I haven't seen it in decades, myself, but I wouldn't mind watching it again. It's never been released on DVD, although gray market copies can be found.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Music I Like: Judy in Disguise - John Fred and His Playboy Band

Like a lot of songs from the Sixties, this one doesn't make much sense, but it sounds great and is a lot of fun. The quality of the clip isn't great.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Music I Like: Dancing in the Dark - Bruce Springsteen

This song is so exuberant I can't help but grin when I hear it. And then I feel incredibly ancient when I realize how young Bruce Springsteen and Courtney Cox look in the video.

Now Available: The Man in the Moon: A Markham, P.I. Novella - James Reasoner


Back in the prehistoric days of my career, I wrote several stories about a private detective named Markham. "The Man in the Moon" is a 10,000 word novella that appeared in the April 1980 issue of MIKE SHAYNE MYSTERY MAGAZINE, and it's been out of print ever since. The Kindle version of it has just gone live on Amazon, appropriately enough for Father's Day since two fathers figure prominently in the plot. A Nook version is in the works as well. If you've read and enjoyed my Cody stories, you should like the Markham yarns as well. The other stories in the series will be available in the relatively near future.

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Red Blooded Stories, October 1928

The first issue of a pulp that lasted for only five issues under this title. Something seems a little off about this cover to me, but the copy really sums up what the general fiction pulps were about: "A Western, Air, Mystery, War, Adventure, Fight, Sea, and Action Story in Every Issue". There's a fine line-up of writers in this one, including long-time pulpsters Victor Rousseau and Charles B. Stilson, Eustace L. Adams, who was a regular in ARGOSY a few years later, and Nels Leroy Jorgensen, best known for his Westerns but the author of a jungle adventure in this one.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Music I Like: Brand New Key - Melanie

A friend of mine had a huge crush on Melanie Safka. I never quite got that, but I liked this song just fine.

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Romance Round-Up, November 1939

This Western romance pulp lasted for 21 issues in the Thirties and early Forties, which makes it fairly short-lived for the genre. It published some excellent authors, though, as in this issue with Harry F. Olmsted, L.P. Holmes, Paul Evan Lehman, and John A. Saxon. I probably would have read this one, although having the word "Romance" in the title might have scared me off if I'd been a kid in 1939. That cover is by George Gross, by the way.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Music I Like: Wolverton Mountain - Claude King

Okay, I guess you had to be there. But I loved this song when I was nine years old.

Forgotten Books: To the Heart of the Storm - Will Eisner

This post originally appeared in slightly different form on November 13, 2005.
I've talked here before about Will Eisner, specifically his work on the classic comic strip The Spirit. (Of course, callingThe Spirit a comic strip really isn't accurate, but it's not exactly a comic book, either . . . but I'm getting sidetracked.)

TO THE HEART OF THE STORM really does deserve the name "graphic novel". Told in flashbacks as a young recruit, an artist named Willie, rides a troop train in the early days of World War II, it's the story of Eisner's own family and his childhood and adolescence growing up as an artistically talented youngster in Brooklyn and the Bronx. One of the themes is the anti-Semitism that Eisner and his family encountered, but that's hardly the whole story. This book is filled with touches that are universal to childhood: being picked on by bullies, having to care for a younger sibling, dealing with parents, etc. It's great stuff, wonderfully written and drawn, and ultimately quite moving. I highly recommend it.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Music I Like: Flowers on the Wall - The Statler Brothers

This is another song I remember hearing on the radio all the time when I was a kid. I still like it a lot.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Music I Like: Should've Been a Cowboy - Toby Keith

This video's a mite cheesy, but it looks like they were having fun and their hearts are in the right place. Any song that talks about Gene and Roy is all right with me.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Music I Like: The Road Goes on Forever - Robert Earl Keen

This is a great story song from a great Texas singer/songwriter.

Blood on Blood - Frank Zafiro and Jim Wilsky

Mick and Jerzy Sawyer are half-brothers in Chicago, but there's no brotherly love between these two. Jerzy is a career criminal, Mick is a disgraced former cop who went to prison because he took the fall for other cops. The two of them basically hate each other . . . but they're forced to work together when their dying convict father puts them on the trail of a stolen necklace and earrings worth millions of dollars. More complications ensue when Jerzy finds himself in the middle of a gang war and both brothers (wouldn't you know it?) fall for the same beautiful blonde.

BLOOD ON BLOOD is the first novel collaboration by Frank Zafiro and Jim Wilsky. Zafiro has written other crime novels and short stories and Wilsky has authored quite a few short stories. They've joined forces here to produce an excellent hardboiled crime thriller. The narration switches back and forth between Mick and Jerzy, and also between past and present tense, and while those are both techniques I often don't care for, Zafiro and Wilsky make them work very well.

They've also written a sequel to this novel, QUEEN OF DIAMONDS, that's out already, and I plan to read it as well, but I recommend you start with BLOOD ON BLOOD. If you enjoy fast-paced, gritty crime fiction, I think you'll like it a lot.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Music I Like: She Drives Me Crazy - Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy

I know there's the original version of this song by the Fine Young Cannibals, which is pretty good, too, but this is the one I like the best. I don't see how anybody could watch this and not have a smile on their face.

Now Available: The Trail Brothers - Troy D. Smith

The legendary days of the cattle drive era come to vivid life in THE TRAIL BROTHERS by award-winning Western author Troy D. Smith. This classic novel follows a group of cowboys, young and old, as they push a thousand head of stubborn cattle north from Texas to the railhead in Kansas, encountering Indians, outlaws, and a vengeful lynch mob along the way. If they manage to survive the dangers that dog their trail, by the time they return to Texas they truly will be brothers for as long as they live.

Troy D. Smith is a past winner of the Peacemaker and Spur Awards, and current president of Western Fictioneers. He teaches American Indian history at Tennessee Tech University. Smith is one of the most highly regarded young authors of Western fiction, and this compelling, action-packed novel is a good example of why he has that reputation. For a great yarn, saddle up and ride with THE TRAIL BROTHERS.

This is one of the best cattle drive novels you'll ever read, folks. Highly recommended.

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Jungle Stories, Winter 1943

I've got to get back to reading the Ki-Gor stories one of these days. The ones I've read have been pretty good. The cover on this issue is by George Gross.

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Music I Like: Sleepwalk - Santo & Johnny

As suggested by Jeff Meyerson, another great instrumental radio hit. I used to hear this one all the time.

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Popular Western, October 1937

Yet another stalwart hero/angry, gun-totin' redhead/old geezer cover. I never realized this was such a popular trio until I started posting covers in this series. Looks like a good issue, with stories by T.W. Ford, Tom Gunn (Syl McDowell) with one of his Painted Post stories, Anthony Rud, Larry A. Harris, Gunnison Steele (Bennie Gardner) and John Cameron Gardner (I wonder he was really Bennie Gardner, too).

Friday, June 07, 2013

Music I Like: No Matter What Shape - The T-Bones

Another hit from a TV commercial, this one for Alka-Seltzer. The video's pretty poor in this clip, but the sound is okay and I still love the song.

Forgotten Books: The Opium Ship & Mr. Shen of Shensi - H. Bedford-Jones

Parts of this post originally appeared in different form on February 11, 2006.

THE OPIUM SHIP originally appeared as a serial in the famous pulp magazine THE THRILL BOOK in July and August of 1919. As I’ve said on numerous other occasions, Bedford-Jones is one of my favorite pulp authors. This is one of his sea-going yarns, about a couple of financially strapped Irishmen, former aviator Gerald Desmond and consumptive fiddler Michael Terence O’Sullivan, who wind up being shanghaied onto a ship where all sorts of deviltry and double-crossing is going on.

Between mutiny, opium smugglers, a hurricane, a couple of shipwrecks, two beautiful women in danger, and adventures on a deserted island, the pace never lets up for very long. Bedford-Jones keeps the story galloping along in his usual clean, spare prose (anybody who claims that all pulp fiction was overwritten must have never read Bedford-Jones) and throws in several surprising plot twists along the way. While THE OPIUM SHIP probably doesn’t belong in the very top rank of Bedford-Jones’s work, it’s quite entertaining and well worth reading.

It's soon to be available in a new reprint from Beb Books, along with "Mr. Shen of Shensi", a novella by Bedford-Jones that also appeared in THE THRILL BOOK in October 1919. This one finds explorer and unofficial secret agent James Kenrick on the trail of the mysterious Mr. Shen, a Chinese scientist, mystic, and professional troublemaker, who appears to have invented a new ray that blacks out all light, similar to the weapon featured in the Shadow novel "The Black Hush" sixteen years later. ("The Black Hush" is one of my favorite Shadow novels, by the way, well worth reading.) Mr. Shen has brought his gizmo to San Francisco, obviously bent on causing some sort of mischief with it, and it's Kenrick's job to find him and stop him.

This is a fast-paced adventure yarn blending espionage, superscience, and a touch of the supernatural, and it's a lot of fun. Combined with THE OPIUM SHIP, this volume is a good introduction to Bedford-Jones' work in a couple of different genres . . . but of course he wrote many other kinds of stories as well. As a storyteller, Bedford-Jones was one of the best, and you can see why in these two exciting tales.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Music I Like: Music to Watch Girls By - The Bob Crewe Generation

This music was played originally on a TV commercial, as I recall, then became a radio hit. I don't remember what the commercial was for, but I know I always liked the song. There was a vocal version by Andy Williams that was popular, too, but I think the instrumental is better.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Music I Like: Walk, Don't Run - The Ventures

Yeah, I'm on an instrumental kick. I loved songs like this when I was a kid. I had a couple of albums by The Ventures and played them a lot.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Music I Like: Pipeline - The Chantays

Another great song from the era of instrumental hits on AM radio. I probably saw this when it aired the first time because my parents never missed THE LAWRENCE WELK SHOW. I usually watched it, too, although I was really just waiting for HAVE GUN, WILL TRAVEL and GUNSMOKE.

Tuesday's Overlooked Movie: The Last Stand

This movie came and went with bad reviews and without doing much business, which I think justifies the overlooked tag. As for me (and I'm sure this comes as no surprise to any of you), I loved it.

The plot has the charismatic leader of a Mexican drug cartel escaping from FBI custody and trying to escape over the border. He plans to cross into Mexico at a small town in Arizona with only a small sheriff's department headed up by, yep, Arnold Schwarzenegger his own self. With his motley crew of deputies and civilian allies, which includes Johnny Knoxville and Luis Guzman, Arnold gets ready to try to stop the bad guy and his small army of cartel killers. Will he succeed? Will all the bits of business set up earlier in the film pay off? What do you think? If you didn't sleep through the Eighties, you know the answer.

Yes, it's extremely predictable, to the point that I turned to Livia as we were watching it and said, "Did we write this movie and just forget about it?" But it's predictable in the same way that a really good chicken fried steak is. THE LAST STAND is cinematic comfort food, and I really enjoyed it. The supporting cast, which also includes Forest Whitaker as an FBI agent, is good, and Arnold gives a nice low-key performance as he slips into the "old but still able to kick butt" mode that John Wayne used to great effect in the last ten or fifteen years of his career. Clearly, I'm the target audience for this movie. YMMV.

Monday, June 03, 2013

Music I Like: All Summer Long - The Beach Boys

And this wraps up my little summer song binge . . . unless I happen to think of another one I like, of course. The clip is from the end of AMERICAN GRAFFITI, so if you've never seen the movie (hard to imagine, but possible, I suppose), you probably shouldn't watch it. It stops before the real spoilers start but still gives away a few points. AMERICAN GRAFFITI is one of my all-time favorite films, and I still remember sitting in the Ridglea Theater in Fort Worth as this song came up  on the soundtrack and the closing credits began to roll and thinking that I had just seen a great, great film. I've seen it many times since then and the last time I watched it I thought it was starting to show its age a little, but I can't overstate how important this movie was to me in 1973. It resonated with me like no other film I'd ever seen before, with the possible exception of THE LAST PICTURE SHOW. Ah, well, this is supposed to be a music post, not a movie post.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Music I Like: Summertime - Renee Olstead

Another summer-themed song, this time by the incomparable Renee Olstead.

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Argosy, Sept. 25, 1937

What is it about a pith helmet that just screams adventure? Well, it does to me, anyway. And inside this issue are stories by excellent authors such as Eustace L. Adams, Borden Chase, and John K. Butler. If not for the fact that it has so many serials, ARGOSY in the Thirties might well have been the best general fiction pulp ever. And if you were there and could afford to buy it on the newsstand every week, I guess the serials wouldn't have been so annoying. (Don't get me wrong, I love an ARGOSY serial . . . when I have all the installments.)

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Music I Like: Summer in the City - The Lovin' Spoonful

I know I posted a Lovin' Spoonful song not long ago, but hey, I'm on a summer kick right now.

Peacemaker Award Winners Announced

The winners of the third annual Peacemaker Awards from Western Fictioneers have been announced. You can find out the winners and congratulate them here. Submissions for the 2014 awards will be opening soon (for books published in 2013). I'll have all those details as soon as they're available.

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Six-Gun Western, October 1946

Here's another of the minimalist but very effective covers that showed up on some of the Western pulps from Trojan Publications in the mid-to-late Forties. Giff Cheshire and Laurence Donovan both have stories in this issue. I don't know anything about the other authors except that H. Charles McDermott, who contributed the lead novel, was the pseudonym of a man who wrote for the Western and detective pulps while in prison (according to the Fictionmags Index).