Monday, August 31, 2015

We Install - Harry Turtledove

Over the years I've given some thought to reading some of Harry Turtledove's Alternate History novels, but they're all so long I've never tackled one. They tend to run in series, too, and four or five or more books of that length...Nah, that's too much of a commitment for me. However, I recall reading some of Turtledove's short fiction in ANALOG and other magazines years ago and enjoying it, so when a new collection of his stories called WE INSTALL came out, I figured I'd give it a try.

As always in such a collection, the brief introductions to the stories that talk about how Turtledove came to write them were of great interest to me. I always find such things fascinating. So were the articles about writing, specifically about writing Alternate History, which is something I want to do more of.

The stories themselves are a mixed bag. Several of them are humorous, including the title story, and while they're well-written and clever, they didn't really connect much with me. I think that says more about me than the stories, since comedy tends to be very hit-or-miss with me, especially in genre fiction. I don't often find a mystery, SF, or Western comedy story that really appeals to me. A straight genre story with touches of humor is fine, I consistently enjoy those, but one in which the comedy is the main focus...I usually don't care for them.

However, the more traditional stories in WE INSTALL are pretty good. "Drang von Osten" is an Alternate History tale about a very different Russian front during World War II. "Under St. Peter's" is a Secret History story, rather than Alternate History (and Turtledove discusses the difference in the story's intro). It's a rather disturbing yarn, but well-written. "The End of the World as We Know It" is a far future tale, as the title implies, and quite entertaining, if a little bleak.

The centerpiece of this volume, and by far the best story, is the multiple-award-winning novella "Down in the Bottomlands", which is one of those ANALOG stories I mentioned above that I remember fondly from its original appearance. It really holds up well on rereading. This one is Alternate History at its most basic. In it, the earth developed differently geologically, and so everything else is different, too. The Bottomlands of the title are an arid, sunken wasteland where the Mediterranean Sea is in our world, cut off from the ocean to the west by a range of barrier mountains. It's a tourist destination, much like our Grand Canyon, and the protagonist is a tour guide who finds himself trying to solve a murder when a member of the group he's leading turns up dead. There's also a lot of political intrigue going on, which makes "Down in the Bottomlands" read like a contemporary thriller. Turtledove packs a lot into this story, and it's very well done. I don't know if he ever used this setting again, but if he did, I'd certainly be interested to read it.

In fact, I enjoyed this collection enough that I may have to break down and read one of his novels, even though they're too long. But not right now. Just not enough time.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Thrilling Wonder Stories, October 1950

I'm well aware that my brow is on the low side, but dang, I love this stuff. An Earle Bergey cover and stories by John D. MacDonald, Eric Frank Russell, Sam Merwin Jr., Walt Sheldon, William F. Temple, and Robert Moore Williams. I'd read that. And enjoy it.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Ranch Romances, Second February Number, 1951

An eye-catching cover I like quite a bit on this issue of RANCH ROMANCES. I'd like to write a story based on that scene. Maybe I will. In the meantime, there's an excellent line-up of hardboiled Western Writers in this issue: Joseph Chadwick (I think I read a reprint of this story in TRIPLE WESTERN), Giff Cheshire, Wayne D. Overholser, Hascal Giles, and Bennett Foster. Lots of very good stories in RANCH ROMANCES during this era.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Forgotten Books: The Persian Cat - John Flagg (John Gearon)

THE PERSIAN CAT by John Flagg is notable for being the first novel Gold Medal published (with a really nice cover, to boot), but in addition to that it's also a fine yarn of post-World War II international intrigue.

Disillusioned American Gil Denby, who worked with the O.S.S. and the French Resistance during the war, is recruited by an old colleague to go to Iran and maneuver a fugitive war criminal into returning to French territory so she can be arrested and put on trial. However, that fugitive is a beautiful woman, and once Denby arrives in Teheran he starts to fall for her. The city is full of clandestine agents working for various countries as well as master criminals, and not surprisingly, not everything is as it seems and Denby quickly winds up not knowing who to trust as he tries to untangle everything.

John Flagg, whose real name was John Gearon, was an excellent writer with a very smooth style and a steady command of pace and plot all the way to the very satisfying ending. I could easily see THE PERSIAN CAT being turned into a top-notch early Fifties movie with, say, Humphrey Bogart playing the cynical but stubbornly romantic Gil Denby. Stark House has reprinted this novel as one of the initial entries in its Black Gat Books line, and that's a good choice. I enjoyed reading THE PERSIAN CAT and give it a high recommendation.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Now Available for Pre-Order: Mutiny on Outstation Zori - John Hegenberger

Who stole the space station?

At the far reaches of the Imperium, something’s gone terribly wrong on Outstation Zori.  The station has cut itself off from all communication, and the corporation that owns it sends a team of specialists to get to the bottom of this mystery.  But a young con-man, a rebel leader, and a greedy space pirate are in for a mind-bending shock as they face off against alien races, bizarre religions, and an ultimate betrayal by one of their own.

MUTINY ON OUTSTATION ZORI: A space adventure caper with philosophical overtones from John Hegenberger, critically acclaimed author of CROSS EXAMINATION, TRIPL3 CROSS, and the upcoming THE LAST MARTIAN CHRONICLES.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Now Available: When Somebody Kills You (Rat Pack #10) - Robert J. Randisi

Eddie G. must discover why someone wants to kill him. His friends Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland are concerned for him, too.

After Dean Martin saves Eddie G. from being hit by a car, Eddie’s torpedo buddy Jerry arrives from Brooklyn with the news: somebody’s put an open contract out on him. As anybody can cash it in, pros and amateurs alike are coming out of the woodwork to have a shot. So when Eddie is asked by Frank Sinatra to go to LA to help his friend, Judy Garland, with a problem she’s having, Eddie and Jerry seize the opportunity to leave Vegas.

Unfortunately the contract follows Eddie there. While doing his best to stay alive long enough to find out who hates him so much they want him dead, Eddie must also solve Judy Garland’s problem of a possible stalker and blackmailer.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Tuesday's Overlooked Movies: Knockout

KNOCKOUT is one of the most predictable movies I've ever seen. A pudgy teenager who loves boxing (because his grandfather was a prizefighter) has to go to a new school because his mother remarries, and on the first day there he's promptly bullied by the star of the school's boxing team. Oh, and the school's janitor is played by Steve Austin. I don't believe it's too much of a spoiler to say that if you think good ol' Stone Cold is going to take the fat kid under his wing, whip him into shape, and teach him how to box so he can stand up to the bully, you'd be right.

All that said, I enjoyed KNOCKOUT quite a bit. There are a few minor surprises, such as the kid's new stepfather turning out to be a really decent guy and not the jerk stepfathers are usually portrayed as in movies. And Steve Austin, while not the actor that Dwayne Johnson has turned out to be, has a ton of screen presence and is very likable. He's probably my second favorite wrester-turned-actor, after Johnson. KNOCKOUT isn't a great film, but it's entertaining and worth watching if you like inspirational sports movies. And it passes my ultimate movie test: I stayed awake for the whole thing.

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Lawyer: The Retributioners - Wayne D. Dundee

THE RETRIBUTIONERS is the second entry in the Lawyer series, created by Edward A. Grainger and written by Wayne D. Dundee. Like the first volume, STAY OF EXECUTION, this is a taut, gritty, well-written Western yarn.

The title character is J.D. Miller, a successful and respected attorney before the murders of his wife and children send him off on the vengeance trail to track down their killers. In THE RETRIBUTIONERS, Miller's search leads him to a small town in Texas just as a gang of bank robbers blow up the jail to rescue their leader who was captured in an unsuccessful raid a few days earlier. One of the men Miller is seeking is a member of the gang now, so there's no question that he'll go after them. He finds himself with an unexpected and somewhat unwanted ally in the person of the black former deputy who was the only lawman left alive in the settlement. Both of them are after retribution for those they've lost, hence the title.

Dundee's storyline alternates between The Lawyer and his temporary partner and the outlaws they're after, who still plan to return to the settlement and clean out the bank. There's plenty of hardboiled action, and the story just rockets by. The Lawyer is a compelling character, and his latest adventure makes for a fine tale. With luck it'll take him a while to track down all the men he's after, because that means we'll get more of these exciting tales to read. Highly recommended.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Now Available for Pre-Order: Fabulous Five: Five Novels for Middle Grade Readers

Five novels about the American West that will entertain ages nine and up. 

The Phantom Ranger and the Skateboard Gang—Livia And James Reasoner 
Codi Jackson has started a new school—again. Will she ever be able to settle down in one place and make friends? It seems unlikely, especially now that she has the ghost of her great-great-great grandfather appearing at the most inconvenient times! How can she explain him to her history project partner—and her own father? But Codi is determined to come to her dad’s rescue when he corrals a gang of young thieves on skateboards at a nearby mall—and they get some very unlikely help! 

Waiting For a Comet (Jo Harper Book 1)—Richard Prosch 
Racing a Dog Star (Jo Harper Book 2)—Richard Prosch 
Twelve-year-old Jo Harper is fascinated by what people are saying about the return of Halley’s Comet. The year is 1910, and her little Wyoming town is full of speculation. In the first two stories of this series, Jo and her best friend, Frog, unravel some puzzling mysteries that even the adults can’t solve. Join Jo and Frog as they help the new constable, Abby Drake, take on taming what’s left of the Wild West in Willowby, Wyoming! 

The Apache and the Pale Face Soldiers (The Saga of Indian Em’ly Book 1)-Sara Barnard 
On the Colorado Trail (The Saga of Indian Em’ly Book 2)-Sara Barnard 
Wind That Knocks Down Lodges and his little sister, Cactus Flower, must learn to survive among the Pale Faces who have taken them prisoner after their parents are killed. But how can a twelve-year-old boy protect himself and his sister from the Pale Face army men who are taking them away from their familiar surroundings into the unknown? Come along with Knocks Down and Cactus on their incredible journey that begins in the first two segments of the Indian Em’ly Saga, included in this collection.

(Great price on some fine novels. Check 'em out!)

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Argosy, November 26, 1938

I use a lot of ARGOSY covers in this series because it was a great pulp, one of my favorites, and generally had fine covers. The numerous serials make it a problem for collectors sometimes, but the issues are generally worth seeking out. This issue has a striking cover and stories by the great Theodore Roscoe, Judson Philips, Eustace L. Adams, Frank Richardson Pierce, and a reprint from A. Merritt. Good stuff.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Best Western, March 1952

A little bit different sort of cover from Norman Saunders, but excellent work, as always. And with stories inside by Walker A. Tompkins, H.A. DeRosso, Frank Castle, and Lee Floren, the contents are nothing to sneeze at, either.

Friday, August 21, 2015

39 Years Ago Today

This is the wedding party from when Livia and I got married on August 21, 1976, a lifetime ago, and just yesterday, it seems. Too many of these people are gone now, but that's the way life is, I suppose. From left to right, not counting me and Livia, that's her brother Arlon, her cousins Michelle and Renea, her mom and dad, my friend Joe Cross (who performed the ceremony), my dad and mom, my brother Harold, Livia's brother Bruce, and my brother-in-law John Kinchen. The picture was taken in Ash Creek Baptist Church. A day that changed my life much for the better, that's for sure.

Forgotten Books: Three Television Books by Lee Goldberg

UNSOLD TELEVISION PILOTS, 1955 - 1989, THE BEST TV SHOWS THAT NEVER WERE, and TELEVISION FAST FORWARD: SEQUELS AND REMAKES OF CANCELLED SERIES are new e-book editions of three classic TV reference volumes from Lee Goldberg. Labors of love each and every one, and some of them years in the writing, as he explains in the excellent introductions, these books contain a wealth of information about TV pilots that didn't make it, stealth pilots, new versions of old shows, feature film versions of old shows, and a ton of other entertaining and informative material. Many of the pilots that didn't make the cut for the networks sound a lot better than some of the shows that did! If you're like me and have watched a lot of television over the years, you'll find a great deal to enjoy in these books. They're not the sort of thing you'll sit down and read all the way through, but they're perfect for dipping into any time you want a few minutes of entertainment. I love 'em. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Tuesday's Overlooked Movie: Project Almanac

PROJECT ALMANAC is another movie that slipped right past me. I'd never heard of it until I came across it on Netflix and thought it sounded interesting. As it turns out, that was a good decision, because PROJECT ALMANAC is an excellent little film.

It's a "found footage" movie, which honestly is a little annoying at times, but I'm willing to forgive that because of all the things that work so well in it. The story centers around a high school senior who's trying to come up with a science experiment good enough to win him a scholarship to MIT. His late father, who died when the protagonist was seven years old, was an energy researcher and left behind a lot of material, including an odd machine and some schematics that intrigue the hero and his fellow nerd buddies. Turns out that the protagonist's father actually worked for DARPA, and when they build the gizmo according to the plans they have, they wind up with a working prototype of a time machine.

So what do they do with it? Well, being teenage boys, they do what most teenage boys with access to a time machine would do: they go back in time to pass tests they failed, score VIP passes to Lollapalooza, and get laid. There's a brief discussion about killing Hitler, but hey, the other stuff is more important.

Naturally, things go wrong and the movie gets considerably darker and more complicated as it goes along. There are some little holes in the plot here and there, but for the most part the script is funny and twisty and very good. The cast of young, mostly unknowns is excellent, and they're really believable as high schoolers, unlike the 25- or 30-year-olds who usually wind up with those parts. PROJECT ALMANAC is a smart, good-hearted film and much better than I really expected. Well worth watching if you get the chance.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Rough Edges Press Update

When I decided a little more than a year and a half ago to become a small press publisher, my plans had an emphasis on the "small" part. I figured I'd reprint a few books by friends of mine that I thought ought to be available again and maybe do an original or two, along with my own books. It never occurred to me that I would wind up publishing 48 books in 18 months, or that Rough Edges Press would bring out more originals than reprints.

As it stands right now, I have a good-sized inventory of books and stories still to publish, and I haven't been able to devote as much time to that as I hoped, so I'm announcing that for the time being, and with a couple of exceptions, Rough Edges Press is closed to submissions. I plan to spend the rest of the year working through the projects I've already committed to and get them out there to the readers where they need to be.

As for those exceptions I mentioned, the Adult Western series Blaze! has openings in the schedule for next year, so if you're interested in possibly contributing to it, drop me an e-mail any time and I'll get you a copy of the series bible, if you don't already have it. Also, I'm still in need of a few good Alternate History stories for the anthology I'm putting together, which now looks like it will be out sometime this fall, along with the Weird Menace anthology (which is full and now officially closed).

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank all of you who have written, read, bought, and reviewed Rough Edges Press books, and special thanks to Livia for all the help and advice she's given me. I hope I've done right by all of you. I've enjoyed publishing good books, and I have plans for much more to come, as soon as I get caught up.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Detective Tales, April 1941

That's an eye-catching cover, what with a hardboiled dame blazing away with a tommy-gun aimed directly at the reader. Not to mention the apparently mortally wounded guy with the pile of money. With stories by Day Keene, William R. Cox, Russell Gray (Bruno Fischer), Leslie T. White, and Wilbur S. Peacock, probably plenty of good reading in those pages.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: New Western, August 1950

Lots of the usual red and yellow on this rather tense cover from a fairly late issue of NEW WESTERN. Walt Coburn was still a valued contributor to the Popular Publications pulps, although according to some accounts, by this time his drinking problems forced the editors to heavily rewrite his stories to get them to make sense. Other authors in this issue include Thomas Thompson, Max Kesler, Rod Patterson, Marvin De Vries, and Thomas Calvert, who was really Thomas Calvert McClary.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Forgotten Books: The Hell Bent Kid - Charles O. Locke

THE HELL BENT KID by Charles O. Locke was picked as one of the top 25 Western novels of all time in a poll of the Western Writers of America a while back. I wouldn't go anywhere near that far, but it is an interesting book. Originally published in hardback by W.W. Norton in 1957 and in paperback by Popular Library a year later, it's the story of a young Texas cowboy named Tot Lohman, who accidentally kills one of the sons of a powerful rancher during a fight at a dance and then has to go on the run to escape the family's vengeance. He tries to reach his father over in New Mexico Territory but runs into a considerable amount of trouble along the way before finally being cornered by his enemies.

The plot is pretty typical stuff, but what makes THE HELL BENT KID interesting and has won it sort of a cult following is the way it's told, in a series of letters and statements by some of the people involved, plus a long, first-person narrative by Tot Lohman himself, all of which are delivered in a formal, slightly stilted style that's probably fairly representative of the way people really talked and wrote in those days. It's a bit reminiscent of the TV series DEADWOOD, although not nearly as profane, of course. Accurate or not, though, I found it a little annoying and that's one reason I didn't enjoy this novel as much as others have. The story moves right along at a nice pace, though, and there's no denying that the ending is quite powerful.

There's a new e-book edition of THE HELL BENT KID available, and if you enjoy Westerns that are a little more on the literary side, you should check it out.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Now Available: Sherlock Holmes: Zombies Over London - Stephen Mertz

Sherlock Holmes faces perhaps the greatest challenge yet in his long-running war with his arch-enemy Professor Moriarty—the living dead walk, hungry for flesh and doing the bidding of the evil professor! 

From a dirigible carrying a deadly cargo high in the sky over London to a sinister castle lurking in the beautiful English countryside, the Great Detective and his friend Dr. Watson battle to thwart Moriarty's latest scheme to wreak havoc and loot one of the world's great cities. Thousands of lives hang in the balance, and it will take all of Holmes' incredible deductive skills to figure out just what a young writer named H.G. Wells and the German teenager Albert Einstein have to do with Moriarty's plans! 

Legendary thriller writer Stephen Mertz takes on some of the world's most iconic characters in this fast-paced tale that is part mystery novel, part horror yarn, and part steampunk inventiveness. It's a breathless adventure that's sure to entertain from first page to last!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Free For a Limited Time (and a Review): Waiting for a Comet - Richard Prosch

If you haven't tried Richard Prosch's Jo Harper series yet, the first book, WAITING FOR A COMET, is free for the Kindle for a limited time, and I highly recommend it.

Because, you see, I'm late to the party myself and just read this one, and without a doubt, it's one of the best things I've read so far this year. The protagonist is young Jo Harper, the 12-year-old daughter of the local newspaper publisher in the eastern Wyoming town of Willowby. Set in 1910, the West is still just wild enough for these stories to fit firmly in the Western genre. Jo's best friend is Frog Carpenter, who's a couple of years younger than her, and although Prosch doesn't really say so, to me he looks and sounds like George "Foghorn" Winslow, a favorite child actor for many of us.

In the course of this tale, Jo also befriends Willowby's new constable, the rugged old female gunfighter and town tamer Abigail Drake, and gets mixed up with rustlers, all while waiting for Halley's Comet to arrive and kill everybody with cyanide gas when it passes by Earth, as the rumor goes is about to happen.

Prosch spins this yarn in lean, wonderfully entertaining prose that harkens back to the days of Fred Gipson, Jim Kjellgaard, and other authors who wrote "juveniles" that were actually great stories for readers of all ages. This is exactly the sort of thing many of us would have bought from the Weekly Reader or Scholastic Book Clubs at school, and Walt Disney would have made a live-action movie out of it.

In other words, WAITING FOR A COMET is the sort of book you thought they didn't write anymore. But Richard Prosch has, and it's great. Do yourself a favor, grab it while it's free, and if you enjoy it as much as I did, you'll be getting the others in the series. I plan to read them just as soon as I can.

Tuesday's Overlooked Movies: Little Manhattan

(This post originally appeared in somewhat different form on June 24, 2009.)

"It doesn't always have to be six-guns, boobs, and explosions."

That was my comment, referring to my usual movie-watching habits, after we watched LITTLE MANHATTAN, a sweet, occasionally funny film about the budding romance between a couple of fifth-graders who live in New York City. This movie takes place in what I think of as sitcom Manhattan, where everything is incredibly clean and safe and charming. It's a pretty good film, although, lowbrow that I am, I wouldn't want a steady diet of movies like it, either. But that takes me back to my original comments about six-guns, etc. On the other hand, why the hell not?

Monday, August 10, 2015

Tarzan: Return to Pal-ul-don - Will Murray

Tarzan returns in the first novel authorized by Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc. in quite a while, and Will Murray, who has done such a good job continuing the Doc Savage series, is a more than logical choice to carry on with ERB's legacy as well. The title of RETURN TO PAL-UL-DON sums up the plot: John Clayton, Lord Greystoke, has become an RAF aviator during World War II, and he's assigned to locate a British Intelligence agent code-named Ilex who has gone missing in Africa. By this time, Tarzan and the rest of his immediate family have taken the elixir that keeps them from aging and makes them practically immortal, so he's basically the same Lord of the Jungle who participated in the previous World War in Burroughs' novels TARZAN THE UNTAMED and TARZAN THE TERRIBLE (which I've written about as Friday's Forgotten Books in recent weeks).

The trail of the missing spy leads Tarzan to the lost land of Pal-ul-don, where most of TARZAN THE TERRIBLE took place. He's in a region he hasn't visited before, however, so he encounters several species of prehistoric beasts he didn't come across on his previous trip. He also runs into some of the creepiest and most formidable enemies he's ever battled, but he has help from a great new character, the elephant Tarzan dubs Torn Ear, who turns out to be one of the Ape-man's best sidekicks ever.

Everything good you're read about this novel is true: Murray does a great job of capturing Burroughs' style and pacing, the characters are interesting, the setting is vividly rendered, and the action is almost non-stop. Reading it really took me back to those long-ago days when I was eagerly grabbing every Ace and Ballantine edition of Burroughs' work I could find on the spinner racks. If you remember that time, or even if you discovered Burroughs more recently, you need to check out RETURN TO PAL-UL-DON. It gets a very high recommendation from me and makes me there a chance we'll get a new John Carter novel one of these days?

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: North-West Romances, Summer 1943

Since we're in the hottest part of the year, I thought a Northern cover might be a nice, refreshing break. You know, all that snow. Plus a pretty redhead in a tight yellow jacket, a stalwart Mountie, a dastardly villain, and stories by Harry F. Olmsted, Sgt. Dan O'Rourke, Lee Floren, A. deHerries Smith, and the prolific "John Starr", a house-name for this particular publisher. I'll bet they're all pretty good yarns, with a lot of snow and cold weather in them.

Saturday, August 08, 2015

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Lariat Story, May 1945

You know I love covers like this (I have no idea who the artist is) and titles like "Blood-Brand of the Devil's Corral". Les Savage Jr. was a fine Western pulp author, and there are other top-notch pulpsters in this issue such as William R. Cox, Tom W. Blackburn, and J.E. Grinstead. I definitely would have picked this one up back in 1945 if I could afford it.

Friday, August 07, 2015

Forgotten Books: The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas (Whitman Edition)

This is another of the books of my childhood. We've been watching the excellent BBC series THE MUSKETEERS on DVD (I'm sure I'll get around to doing a post about it sooner or later) and that reminded me of this volume I owned when I was a kid. Whitman published it in 1956, but it was a few years later when I bought a copy in Trammell's Dry Goods Store, one of many Whitman books I bought or read from the library over the years. (The Trammell brothers soon got out of the dry goods business and opened Trammell's Village Restaurant in the same space, next to the grocery story they owned...but that has nothing to do with this.)

Anyway, like a lot of Whitman juvenile editions of the classics, this version of THE THREE MUSKETEERS isn't the original. Instead, according to the title page, it's "Retold from Alexandre Dumas' Story". Who did the retelling? I have no idea. The author isn't given credit anywhere in the book. It's illustrated, though, by Peter Steffenson, and they're pretty good illustrations, too.

Surely everybody reading this blog knows the plot of THE THREE MUSKETEERS, so I won't go into that. I'll just say that whoever did this adaptation did a good job of it, because there are a number of scenes that have stayed with me for more than fifty years, including the opening, the numerous battles and swordfights, and the ultimate fate of Milady deWinter. Dumas deserves most of the credit for coming up with the characters and story, of course, but the "reteller" couched it all in prose that was exciting enough to keep an eight-year-old reading and pulled surprisingly few punches about the sordid aspects of the tale.

Being reminded of all this, I decided I wanted to own a copy of this particular edition again, so I found one pretty inexpensively on-line. That's a scan of it above. I may not ever get around to reading it again, but I'm glad to have it. It's not in great shape, but when you flip through those tanned pages, it smells wonderful. It smells like summer days and swamp coolers and freshly mowed grass and a just-cut watermelon that was sitting in a tub of ice for a while before you sliced it open. Some of you know what I'm talking about. And to think you can get all that from a cheaply produced kid's book published almost sixty years ago.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Now Available for Pre-Order: Blaze! #7: Hatchet Men - Michael Newton

War erupts in San Francisco, and Kate and J.D. Blaze are caught in the middle! With the hatchet men of the Chinese tongs on one side and the gamblers and outlaws of the Barbary Coast on the other, the streets of the city by the bay will run red with blood if Kate and J.D. can't uncover the sinister truth behind a wave of kidnapping and killing. It'll take all their cunning—and their deadly skill with their six-guns—to put a stop to an unholy scheme! 

Award-winning author Michael Newton returns to the Blaze! series with another action-packed, fast-paced adventure featuring the Old West's only husband-and-wife team of gunfighters.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Tuesday's Overlooked Movie: Home Sweet Homicide

(This post originally appeared in somewhat different form on November 11, 2009.)

Look quickly during the opening credits of HOME SWEET HOMICIDE and you’ll see a picture of Craig Rice on the cover of TIME, as far as I know still the only instance of a mystery writer’s photo appearing on the cover of that magazine. It shows up here because HOME SWEET HOMICIDE is based on Rice’s novel of the same name (which I haven’t read) and because the story is somewhat autobiographical. It concerns a female mystery writer, Marion Carstairs (played by the very attractive Lynn Bari, cast somewhat against type here since she usually played sultry villainesses), her three precocious children (Peggy Ann Garner, fresh off her Academy Award win for A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN the year before), Connie Marshall, and Dean Stockwell (who grew up to play Al on QUANTUM LEAP), a couple of police detectives (the great Randolph Scott and ubiquitous character actor James Gleason), and the murder they all get mixed up in.

You’ll probably figure out the mystery and spot the murderer pretty early on in this 1946 film, but that doesn’t really matter. The fun in HOME SWEET HOMICIDE is in the gentle swipes at the writing game and the publishing business (there’s a nice line about FOREVER AMBER delivered by one of the kids, for example), as well as the domestic comedy centered around trying to raise three children who are probably too smart for their own good. In fact, this movie pretty much belongs to the kids, who try to solve the murder that takes place in their suburban neighborhood so that their mother will get the credit for it. Dean Stockwell is especially good as the conniving ten-year-old who’s saddled with a couple of older sisters.

For a film that’s concerned with murder, HOME SWEET HOMICIDE is a really pleasant movie, as well a nice little slice of post-war Americana. It’s not that easy to find – I think there was an old videotape, but it’s never officially been released on DVD – but it’s out there if you know where to look. I thoroughly enjoyed it and highly recommend it, especially if you’re a Craig Rice fan.

Monday, August 03, 2015

Now Available: Tripl3 Cross - John Hegenberger

It's 1988, and small-town P.I. Eliot Cross is searching for his long-lost father. Then, a CIA informant says that Dad has been in deep cover for over twenty years. Now, the informant's been murdered and Eliot is on the run. Scrambling to clear his name, Eliot journeys from Washington D.C. to Havana, Cuba, struggling against deadly drug-runners, syndicate hit-men and his own violent nature. But the worst is yet to come, as Eliot discovers his father is at the center of an international conspiracy, a nuclear threat and a double cross...or is that a triple cross? Veteran author John Hegenberger spins a yarn that is both an exciting thriller and a compelling piece of "noirstalgia", expertly recreating a sense of late-Eighties paranoia and double-dealing and painting a vivid picture of Washington and Cuba during that era, as well as saving a shocking twist for the very end. TRIPL3 CROSS is pure reading entertainment.

"In TRIPL3 CROSS, John Hegenberger skillfully blends elements of the traditional PI genre with those of an espionage thriller and comes up with an exciting, entertaining tale sure to please a wide spectrum of readers. Eliot Cross is a tough Columbus, Ohio PI with depth and complexities beyond the norm. At the core of his hard exterior and too-quick temper is the emptiness he feels over a father long thought dead. What ensues after he learns that his father may actually still be alive, makes for a fast-paced thrill ride that propels Eliot relentlessly in search of the truth, all the while dodging the Syndicate, the CIA, and ultimately Castro’s thugs in the heart of 1988 Cuba. A great debut for a protagonist readers are sure to want to see more of!" – Wayne D. Dundee

"It’s 1988, and when p.i.  Eliot Cross finds out that his father didn’t die the way Cross had been told  long ago, Cross decides to find out the truth.  He winds up in Cuba where nobody wants him to be, and he discovers not only the truth about his father but about secrets that others would rather have hidden.  It’s a fast-moving tale of mystery and espionage that will engage you right from the start.  Check it out." – Bill Crider

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Argosy, March 1943

By 1943, ARGOSY was owned by Popular Publications and was no longer a weekly, but it was still publishing plenty of good fiction. Consider the authors in this issue: H. Bedford-Jones, E. Hoffmann Price, Norbert Davis. William R. Cox, Georges Surdez, Tom W. Blackburn, Robert Carse, and Stewart Sterling. That's a really powerful line-up. Nice cover, too. I used to have this issue, but I don't believe I ever got around to reading it.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Thrilling Ranch Stories, November 1933

The first issue of a fairly long-running pulp that was inspired by the success of RANCH ROMANCES. The cover is by Rafael De Soto and not surprisingly is a good one, and inside are stories by Robert Dale Denver (who was really Ray Nafziger), Allan K. Echols, Donald Bayne Hobart, Lawrence A. Keating, and Ray Nafziger again, writing under his own name this time. As you can tell by that line-up of authors, the Western romance pulps weren't that much different from the regular Western pulps.