Monday, September 9, 2019

recent reads; Joseph Payne Brennan

Dover have reissued two hard-to-find horror collections by Joseph Payne Brennan. I'd been waiting to get a hold of THE SHAPES OF MIDNIGHT for a long time. Happy that NINE HORRORS AND A DREAM showed up, too.

These collections are a master class in writing short fiction. The stories contained in NINE HORRORS AND A DREAM are not flash fiction but with a few exceptions, they are short shorts. Brennan gets in, gets to the core of the tale, and gets out. The stories are lean and trim. The stories in THE SHAPES OF MIDNIGHT are slightly longer but still short overall.

Each volume is short. NINE HORRORS AND A DREAM is 106 pages. THE SHAPES OF MIDNIGHT is 124 pages.  (And they are printed in a decent sized font, too.)

My favorites were "The Willow Platform," "Canavan's Back Yard," and "The Mail for Juniper Hill."

If you are a horror or classic pulp horror fan, you owe it to yourself to add these to your collection and read them.

A few notes on these editions;

These are bare-boned editions. There are no introductions. Given that Stephen King wrote an introduction for the original THE SHAPES OF MIDNIGHT, and the fact that Brennan passed away in 1990, an introduction to the writer and his work would have been a value--especially for readers discovering him for the first time. (There is a Wikipedia page for Brennan, if you're curious.)

There is no information about the original appearances of the stories (where and when.) This might be the case with the original editions, I don't have them to compare. Not a deal breaker but I'm always curious about that.

Originally these collections appeared decades apart, so two stories overlapped. They have been cut from this edition of THE SHAPES OF MIDNIGHT but are included in NINE HORRORS AND A DREAM

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

recent read; SGT JANUS, SPIRIT-BREAKER by Jim Beard

Yup! Another entry from Derrick Ferguson's 75 New Pulp Book To Get You Started list. (which, you should keep handy.)

If you enjoy occult detectives, like Carnacki, Sgt. Janus needs to be added to your reading list.

Janus is a mysterious character. His use of rank title and manner of dress suggest a military background. Some people are convinced he is a charlatan. He tangles with ghosts and other occult manifestations.

Beard has a clever twist on the presentation. Rather than sticking with a single chronicler (e.g.; Doctor Watson,) Janus requests that his clients provide written reports of the incidents. This allows different points-of-view and adds variety to the tales.

Further variety is provided by Beard's plots. Some cases are undertaken in the field. Others take place in Janus's sprawling house in the country, where clients come to him.

The stories have wonderful atmosphere. Each story works alone, though there is a definite arc threaded through the collection. Clearly, this is a set of stories written to be presented together.

I'll be rushing to read the sequel, SGT JANUS RETURNS!

Friday, August 23, 2019

recent read; GREEN LAMA UNBOUND by Adam Lance Garcia

Another entry from Derrick Ferguson's 75 New Pulp Book To Get You Started list. (which, you should keep handy.)

I've not read any original Green Lama tales, nor have I read Garcia's Green Lama tales leading into this story. (It's the third in a series.) But that did not matter. I got hooked into the story. I had no problems locking in and going for the ride.

I don't want to give away too much. The plot, in a nutshell; Nazis ally themselves with cultists of the Old Ones. They are preparing to awaken Cthulhu when the stars align and R'lyeh rises from the sea bottom. The Green Lama and his companions, of course, are the ones who must stop the cataclysm.

I don't know how much of the original tales told of the Green Lama's origin. Garcia threads an in-depth origin story via flashbacks as the plot unfolds. He does a good job of tying the Green Lama's power and fate to the fate of Cthulhu and the Old Ones.

There are even a couple of pulp Easter eggs, with certain heroes being described but not named, who have crossed the Green Lama's path. And a few Lovecraft story title nods along the way, too.

I enjoyed this novel, a lot. It is done well.

In fact, I enjoyed THE GREEN LAMA: UNBOUND so much, I will be reading Garcia's two previous volumes. And I will need to try some of the original Green Lama pulp stories, too.

Friday, August 9, 2019

WICKED WEIRD available now!




(Well, kind of. The Kindle edition is available for pre-order. It appears the print edition can be ordered now.)

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

recent reads

No full reviews here. Just thought I'd highlight books I've read lately that I really enjoyed (that I have not yet mentioned on the blog.)

Damballa by Charles R. Saunders
Saunders's take on The Shadow & 1930s pulp heroes. Plus, he gets to bring his boxing reporter chops to the page, too. (Good voices narration on the audiobook.)

Nobody Lives Forever by John Gardner
First non-Fleming James Bond I've read. Bond has a price placed on his head. He must get to the mastermind before various spies and criminals assassinate him first. (Audiobook was great.)

Gates of the Dead by James A. Moore
The finishing novel of The Tides of War trilogy. This grimdark story, though certainly epic in fantasy scope, has plenty of horror and sword-&-sorcery chops. Brogan McTyre is one of the most (Robert E.) Howardian characters I've read in a long time. Brogan will stand to the last, swinging steel at the gods themselves.
 (Also of note; James A. Moore is battling cancer. The prognosis is good. But medical costs will be steep, even with insurance. This month (Aug 2019) Angry Robot will pass through all the money from sales of their catalog of Jim's books [Seven Forges series, Tides of War trilogy] directly to Jim. So--good time to buy the books if you were thinking about it.)

Grim Death and Bill the Electrocuted Criminal by Mike Mignola & Tom Sniegoski
Another take on The Shadow, this time from the weird minds of Mignola & Sniegoski. Grim Death is a vigilante, a servant of Death, carrying out capital punishment where justice has failed. But now one of the ghosts who haunts him needs him to prove a man's innocence. This story is pure pulp with humorous and macabre touches only this team of creatives could deliver.

 (The Best of the) Bolos: Their Finest Hour edited by Hank Davis, created by Keith Laumer

Sentient battle tanks. 'nough said!

Monday, August 5, 2019

Current writing goals & miscellanous publication news

Social media has definitely eaten into posting. Quicker to share news that way than to take the time for a post. But, I should be better about it--even if I'm not sure who comes by here anymore without a social media prompt.


Over the past few years my writing goals have shifted from the calendar year to a more natural rhythm of NECON to NECON for me. That is July to July. Attending NECON gives me a push like nothing else. And this year I really needed it.

I've got my goals laid out now. I need to stay on track and see where I end up next summer.

Other news;

My story, "The Painted Girl," will appear in the New England Horror Writers anthology, WICKED WEIRD. They will debut the book at NecronomiCon Providence in a few weeks. It should be available through Amazon after that.

Doug Draa accepted my story, "The Toll Taker and the Troll," for WEIRDBOOK. That will be appearing sometime in 2020-21. (Yes, Doug has filled out the issues all the way until then!)

Bryce Beattie accepted my story, "Makani and the Vulture God," for STORYHACK. It should be appearing in issue 5. Issue 4 should be out soon. I encourage you all to support the 'zine.

I have another acceptance on short story for an anthology but I am not at liberty to divulge information at this time. I hope it will come out this year, too.

I have one other bit of news but--also unfortunately--that appears delayed so I'll wait to announce anything there. Hopefully I won't be waiting too much longer.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

recent read/listen; Bass Reeves, Frontier Marshal, Volume 1

Bass Reeves, Frontier Marshal, Volume 1

I'm on a kick to read a lot more new pulp. I'm using Derrick Ferguson's list, 75 New Pulp Books To Get You Started, as a starting point.

I've already read a few titles from the list. I'd been building up my Audible credits again, so I grabbed some titles from the list. The nice thing about the pulp titles is that most of them are on the shorter side (8hrs or under,) so I can knock them off faster.

Bass Reeves was a real person. A black man, a former escaped slave who worked the Indian Territories (Oklahoma & Arkansas) as a U.S. deputy marshal. He had an amazing career.

The stories in this volume are fiction, not history. The palate of the Old West and Reeves's exploits serve as a cauldron to mix facts of the man's life with Western tropes to produce enjoyable tales.

Here's the t.o.c with log lines;
"Ride from Three Devils" by Gary Phillips
While chasing the notorious outlaw, Alamosa Bill, Bass Reeves stumbles into a plot to rob a government silver shipment on a west-bound train.

"Whiskey Road" by Mel Odom
Bass must infiltrate a gang of vicious horse thieves to find a kidnapped child.

"No Master But Duty" by Andrew Salmon
Reeves and his posseman collar a wanted man only to have the citizens of the small frontier town he is hiding in refuse to give him up.

"A Town Named Affliction" by Derrick Ferguson
When an old lawman turns outlaw, Bass Reeves and his possemen must hunt down the Chance brothers and bring them to justice.
There is also an introduction from Ron Fortier with suggested histories of Bass Reeves for further historical reading, and each author has an afterword with their story.

I'm not a Western expert. I've read a few. I've seen a fair number of western movies though I still feel like I've only scratched the surface. That said, I thought these stories were solid and entertaining. They were well narrated, too.

Worth your time.

I'll be getting to Volumes 2 & 3 sooner rather than later.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

recent read; three from Edmond Hamilton

I've been itching to get back to science fiction reads for a while. Of course, I am seeking out action & excitement oriented stories, not cerebral deep-thinks. I've been remiss in my reading of Edmond Hamilton. So, I picked up this omnibus and started reading.

I thought this was an okay story but I wasn't moved to keep reading Captain Future adventures. The team of characters are fun (a brain in a box, a metallic robot, and a plasticine android support Captain Future.) In this debut adventure, Future is hunting down a villain who is stirring up trouble among the natives on Jupiter. Imaginative elements keep this light fun.

A running adventure of trouble after trouble, influenced by PRISONER OF ZENDA. Gordon, a man from Earth, trades bodies with a prince from the far flung future. Trapped in the future, Gordon falls deeper and deeper into political intrigue as the galaxy teeters on the brink of war. As described in the biography at the end of the omnibus, Hamilton was best known for his "extravagant, romantic, high-adventure style of SF" and this novel is a prime example.

Hamilton wrote a STARWOLF trilogy in the 1960s. He brought his chops to the table for a different era of space opera readers.

Morgan Chane is an Earth-born, Varnan-raised space pirate (a Starwolf). He flees into exile and falls in with a mercenary outfit. Their latest job is to stop one world from acquiring and using a super-weapon against another world.

This is the story I'd been waiting for. This tale has a lean bite compared to the other novels.

The trilogy was reprinted in an omnibus by ACE. I'll be reading the other two novels.


Monday, April 22, 2019

Another tale in StoryHack

Now that I have signed the contract, I can announce my short story, "Makani and the Vulture God," will be appearing in StoryHack later this year. If plans stay on track, the story will be in issue #5.

This will be my second appearance in StoryHack. This will be the third published story featuring my sword-&-sorcery duo, Lono and Makani. (Perhaps I should call it spear-&-sorcery. There is no metallurgy among their people.)

I enjoy StoryHack. I enjoy working with editor, Bryce Beattie.

I am pleased :)

Monday, April 8, 2019


Though contracts have not gone out, the official t.o.c. was announced for WICKED WEIRD.

WICKED WEIRD is the next anthology produced by the New England Horror Writers group, following on WICKED SEASONS, WICKED TALES, WICKED WITCHES, and WICKED HAUNTED.

The original plan was to launch the book this August at Necronomicon Providence 2019. I don't know if that is still the plan, or if it will slip to their traditional October launch.

As you might guess from the title and launch plan, the theme this time around is 'weird' and 'cosmic' horror. My story, "The Painted Girl," is among the nineteen. Some intriguing titles and good writers here. I'm happy to be included.


Editors - Amber Fallon, Scott Goudsward and David Price

(In Random order - Not book order:)

Jeffrey Thomas - Your Emergency Response Guide
Lauran L. Soares - The Sweetness and the Psychic
Ken Vaughan - A Long Walk to the Ocean
John Goodrich - The Promised Death of Zebediah Dewey
Matthew M. Bartlett - Strange Haze
Barry Lee Dejasu - The Night and all its Visitors
Morgan Sylvia - Salt Cave
Errick Nunnally - A Song of War and Death
Jason Parent - Starry Night
William Carl - Reclaimed
Frank Raymond Michaels - Please Stay Dead, Aunt Marnie
Paul McNamee - The Painted Girl
Peter Dudar - Perfect Parent
Victoria Dalpe - Those beneath, devour
Steve Van Samson - A Feast of Flies
Rob Smales - Pet Shop of the Gods
John Buja - Lost Mine of St. Eloi
Trisha Wooldridge - The Mass of the Greatest Sin
Steven LaCroix - Better Late than Never

There you have it 19 original stories - 93K (pre-edits etc)

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

On the subject of book reviews

The other day on Facebook, a writer friend asked;
What’s a guy gotta do to get book reviews around here? Seriously. All answers appreciated.
 Most everyone replied they had no idea anymore.

I certainly don't.

I am more focused on Amazon reviews in this post, though there are certainly other venues; goodreads, blogs, etc.

Not complaining, just observing; the anthologies I've appeared in barely have reviews.

Personally, for me, the notion of reviewing just isn't on my radar much anymore. It started with backing off any negative reviews. As a writer myself I feel uncomfortable doing that. It might just not be smart as a 'career' move, either.

But now I'm kind of burned out on reviewing anything--even if I like something.

Maybe it's the fact I come from a Pre-Internet world. Pre-Internet, if I enjoyed something I just enjoyed it. I'd tell some people maybe, or it would come up in conversation, but I didn't need to announce it to the world.

I know, we live in a new paradigm. I know authors need the help--I'm one of them.

Amazon's back-&-forth 'policies' on pulling reviews--especially if you are friends with writers--haven't helped. And it is disturbing behavior. How does Amazon determine you are friends? Clearly they must be trawling our social media.

On the flip side of that, Amazon hardly police unjust one-star reviews. Ones that are done out of spite, or "I never read this genre but I'll review this anyway."

I also wonder if Amazon reviews mean anything lately. Other than occasionally hunting up some non-fiction cold, I don't read Amazon reviews to influence my purchases. Most books I buy are on recommendations from other sources--and most of those are recommendations, not reviews.

Also seeing as how nearly every book on Amazon--if they get enough reviews--end up with such a mix from one-star to five-star that the reviews aren't even useful.

I have no evidence that anyone else feels the way I do. But I do wonder.

How about you? Have you burned out on posting reviews, even short ones? Do you feel like the weight of Amazon reviews don't matter to you as much as they did?  Did they ever?

What about reviews from sources other than Amazon?

Thursday, January 17, 2019

recent read; the DARK GATE novels by John Jakes

DMR Books are launching 2019 by having guest bloggers all month. I was invited to participate. (thanks Deuce & Dave!)

I'd been meaning to read two planetary adventure novels by John Jakes: MASTER OF THE BLACK GATE and WITCH OF THE BLACK GATE. I thought a post about them would be a nice change from examining Jakes' sword-&-sorcery tales of Brak the Barbarian.

You can read the blog post here.