Friday, December 25, 2020

Happy Holidays!

 I don't want to end this year's blog on a rant. I'm not sure what else I might post before 2021.

 So, just in case - have a great holiday season.

I can't promise I'll post more frequently or anything. But you never know.


Wednesday, December 16, 2020

recent read; The Writing Life: Reflections, Recollections, and a Lot of Cursing


The Writing Life: Reflections, Recollections, and a Lot of Cursing by Jeff Strand

Jeff Strand's journey through his life as a writer is full of anecdotes. New writers would be well served to read this book and watch for the pitfalls, and learn when to recognize your successes (they don't always show up in bright lights.)

You need not be a horror reader or writer to like this book. It is enjoyable throughout.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

recent reads; Enter the ERB Universe

Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc., if you haven't heard, undertook the launch of two big projects this year.

First off, they are committing to a full collectible hardcover reprint line of *all* of ERB's original books, all with new commissioned cover art by Joe Jusko. I believe the total will be *84* books by the time they are done.

They've started with the TARZAN series.

That takes care of the past, but what about the future?

The future lies within the EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS UNIVERSE. New tales, new characters, old characters, and more.

Author Christopher Paul Carey joined the ERB Inc team, and is the creative director of the project. After some years of sporadic pastiche releases, ERB Inc now has a definitive vision of bringing the ERB canon into the 21st century. (Books which might be non-canon, are lumped under the WILD ADVENTURES OF EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS banner.)

Which brings us to the recent reads. CARSON OF VENUS: THE EDGE OF ALL WORLDS by Matt Betts and TARZAN: BATTLE FOR PELLUCIDAR by Win Scott Eckert are the first two novels in the "Swords of Eternity" super-arc.

I will confess upfront that I've only read the first original Carson novel, and the character didn't stick with me as much as Tarzan or John Carter. All the same, Betts delivers a good story that touches on of the Venus (Amtor) trappings. Betts wisely sets a up a central mystery that pulls the reader along with the headlong sword-&-planet action.

Win Scott Eckert's TARZAN: BATTLE FOR PELLUCIDAR is everything you could want. A new tale with an old friend. New characters. Dinosaurs, hollow Earth, monsters, and mysteries. Perhaps it was the various character reunions, but this story felt like an even stronger launch into the framework of the new ERB Universe. The best way I can describe it is that the tale is true to the ERB characters but with a new tone. That makes sense--only ERB wrote like ERB. I felt like this was akin to reading, say, a John Gardner James Bond novel after reading the original Ian Fleming novels. (that is *not* a negative criticism. I've enjoyed the few Gardner 007 stories I've read.)

I am looking forward to more ERB Universe stories.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

recent read; COLD COMFORTS by Marianne Halbert


Cold Comforts by Marianne Halbert

Another spooky read for the Halloween season. Halbert writes quiet horror, and disturbing, haunted atmosphere well. There are thirteen tales in this collection, and each one pulled me in. From the clairvoyant girl in the morbid "A Bone To Pick," to the fairy tale folk horror of "Housing the Hollygobs," to gallows humor of corporate Hell in "Like Riding a Bicycle," the tales in this book do indeed deliver cold comforts.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020


Sgt Janus on the Dark Track by Jim Beard

Settling in for this year's Halloween reads, I started off with Jim Beard's latest adventure of Sgt Janus. (see earlier reviews of the first book here and the second book here.)

Who Rides the Dark Track?

Returning on a cross-country train trip from a prestigious speaking engagement with his occult-minded colleagues, Sgt. Janus encounters one of the most haunting, most dangerous spirits of his career—and must deal with his abject failure to contain it.

To fight this prevailing evil and save the life—indeed, the very soul—of an innocent young woman, the famous Spirit-Breaker must consider taking a desperate path, one he possessed no previous knowledge of despite his vast experience with the supernatural. He must take the Dark Track.

Only hinted at in the tomes in Janus’ occult library, the Dark Track is not to be ridden lightly, and in fact threatens to alter its passengers beyond recognition. Join the sergeant and his intrepid companion Valerie as he pushes all his doubts and fears aside and makes a momentous decision—to forget all he knows and everything he’s learned to confront the darkness in an entirely new way.

ON THE DARK TRACK is another strong entry in the series. While this volume can be read stand-alone, reading it in context of the series once again highlights Beard's daring in not doing the same thing twice. Whereas the first two volumes were story collections (and those varied from each other in the best way possible [see earlier reviews]) here we have one novel-length story.

 Beard's writing superbly conveys atmosphere. The train and its haunts come to life from the page. As promised, the situation flummoxes our stalwart spirit-breaker, forcing him into unfamiliar territory, where he is challenged at each turn.

 (Also worth noting; my earlier reviews were for the Airship 27 editions [audiobooks, specifically.] Jim has since moved the SGT JANUS series under his own publishing company, Flinch! Books. All the books now have matching artwork covers, and the earlier volumes have been expanded.)

Thursday, August 27, 2020

recent read; DC Jones (and Adventure Command International,) Volume 1

DC Jones, Volume 1 by Jim Beard

There was a time, when toys were toys, action figures were not dolls, and the spirit of fun play came before cartoon tie-ins. (also, the toys were larger and offered many accessories.)

Jim Beard offers up three stories of heady nostalgia, wherein the names have been changed to appease the copyright gods. But, you'll know Jones from Joe soon enough, especially if you grew up during the 1970s.

Jones's Adventure Command are a crack team of action experts who live for adventure. They utilize state of the art (for the 1970s) equipment to accomplish their many missions around the world. In the first novella alone, they must deal with sharks, anomalous Egyptian ruins off the coast of California, cultists, and an incoming hurricane. It's the Perils of Pauline meets Doc Savage.

Jones will have you remembering similar toys you played with, and the adventures which would spring forth from imagination ... and the television commercials, and the Sears catalogs.

A fun, quick read down nostalgia lane.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

recent read; Merkabah Rider: High Planes Drifter

Merkabah Rider: High Planes Drifter by Edward M. Erdelac

Did you ever have a book title on your To-Be-Read list for a long time - like, too long - like, you really knew you should get to the book sooner rather than later but never did? Yeah.

I'd been aware of this one for a long time, even to its previous edition.

If it's on your TBR pile, stop waiting. If it isn't in your TBR pile, drop it on top.

This is a great book!

The Rider is a nameless Hasidic gunslinger who searches the West for the his mystic mentor who betrayed him. The Rider also fights on the nether world of the astral plane, hence the pun title on "High Plains Drifter."

Despite the punning (which carries on with further titles in the series) these are horror weird western stories that deliver. Erdelac steeps the Rider in Kabbalah magick and more. From the first novella, we are immersed in the old West and in the Rider's mystic world and tragic backstory. The Rider went deep into the occult, and then his mentor betrayed him. Hunting for his teacher, the Rider encounters other adventures along the way, of course. Demons, ghosts, occultists, mad preachers, ghouls, and much more.

This first volume contains four novellas and a bonus short story.

If you are a fan of occult horror, horror, monster hunters, occult detectives, westerns, weird westerns ... heck, it's all here. This is one unique Weird Western!

Highly recommended!

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

recent read; DILLON Annual Collection 2018

Continuing my foray into New Pulp, this DILLON Annual Collection 2018 has a spot on Derrick Ferguson's 100 New Pulp Books To Get You Started. What's that? You ask when happened the 25, the 50, the 75? Well, it was always Derrick's goal to create a list of 100 titles. Well worth your time to keep it handy. Pick a title now & then as part of your reading mix!

Back to the collection. Not only do we get a round up of DILLON novellas and short stories, this collection also includes the complete novel, DILLON AND THE PIRATES OF XONIRA, so it's a deal, especially at ebook prices.

Among the mix you'll find; a kidnapped movie star, lost artifacts, action, pirates, submarines, trains, intrigue & betrayals, showdowns with foes and friends, and a coveted bad ass belt buckle!

DILLON stories are very much action movies in prose form, and if you enjoy those flicks, any kind from the 1960s through today, you'll have a blast going along with Ferguson and Dillon on this collected joyride.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

recent read; VEGAS HEIST by Van Allen Plexico

It's the Holiday Season of 1965 and the fabulous Caesars Palace Resort and Casino is about to open in Las Vegas. And the vault is filled to bursting with cash. 
John Harper and Saul "Salsa" Salzman roll into town with inside information: A secret way into the casino, leading right to the vault itself. 
Putting together a small but highly skilled team, they make their move, aiming for untold riches. 
But jobs like this never go as planned. 
A beautiful widow, a jealous enforcer and a murderous rival casino owner all want a piece of the pie. 
Before New Year's Day arrives, Harper and Salsa will be lucky to escape Sin City with their lives!
The cover tease is exactly what you get. Reading VEGAS HEIST is like watching a crime-caper right out of 1960s cinema. It's easy to see why this novel won the Pulp Factory Awards Novel of the Year, 2019.

In an interview I heard recently, author Van Allen Plexico described the novel as 'Donald Westlake meets OCEAN'S ELEVEN.' That description is spot on. Harper is clearly influenced by Westlake's Parker. Though, VEGAS HEIST tends more toward Westlake whimsy than the ruthless aura of Westlake's Richard Stark pen name tales of Parker.

VEGAS HEIST could be dropped right into the Hard Case Crime line without missing a beat.

The narration of the audiobook by Pete Milan is stellar. So good, in fact, that Van Allen Plexico stated on Twitter that those are now the voices he hears as he is writing the sequel, MIAMI HEIST.

You can place your bets I'll be all over that sequel when it it released.

Monday, April 27, 2020

recent read; Bulldog Drummond: On Poisoned Ground

Hugh "Bulldog" Drummond is ex-SAS with a problem--he's easily bored. Civilian life holds nothing interesting for him. He places ads for excitement. Once he's sifted through the dross, he finds himself pulled into an international plot set on destroying Great Britain as a world power. Only Bulldog and his team of former comrades-in-arms can save the day, weaving between the law and the villains.

I.A. Watson brings us a modern Drummond. This novel is as high-octane as any action movie out there today. The novel is wall-to-wall action, does not let up, and leaves you breathless. There is also intrigue, and a plot that twists around like a motorcycle chase on a switchback.

Watson captures the core of "Bulldog" - his tenacity, more than anything, drives him to see a job finished until the bitter end.

If you like pulp, new pulp, action thrillers, James Bond, etc., you'll be right at home with Bulldog. After all, he inspired of many of those action hero creations. Bulldog Drummond was there first, and now he is back!

This revamp impressed me enough that I went back and started to read the first original Bulldog Drummond novel. I'm even more impressed, now. Not that the novel (so far) is terrible, but the overarching plot--financial destruction and destitution of Great Britain--and some of the villainous characters are the same. Watson truly delivered a reboot, not only using Drummond and team, but tapping the first novel to bring into the 21st century action milieu.

Hats off the I.A. Watson and the team at Airship 27! If you want to understand why they chose Drummond, and why they chose to update him for the 21st century, give this bit of podcast a listen/watch. I'm starting the link at 16:55. The Drummond discussion goes until 22:25.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

recent read; Sinbad, The New Voyages (Vol. 1)

I like what Ron Fortier and Rob Davis produce over at Airship 27. I've enjoyed what I've read (listened to) and they have many more titles intriguing me.

Inspired by the Ray Harryhausen SINBAD movies, they have arranged a new set of adventures for Sinbad and set him loose on the world, again. Sinbad sails the Seven Seas with a core international crew--first mate, Omar; a Gaul archer, Henri; a hulking Viking, Ralf; and even a woman samurai, Tishimi.

This volume contains three rousing novellas by Nancy Hansen, I. A. Watson, and Derrick Ferguson. Rest assured this is a cinematic, pulp Sinbad--though echoes of the original classic tales still remain.

I'd even argue these are sword-&-sorcery tales. Yes, they have a bit more levity which might impress a feeling of "(high) fantasy" but Sinbad is a rogue. While loyal to his crew and friends, he's often out for himself--seeking new lands to explore and searching for treasure.

I enjoyed these stories, and I'll be getting to the other volumes in the near future.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

recent read; FLAME AND CRIMSON by Brian Murphy

Brian Murphy has put together an invaluable study and reference guide to the rise, fall, and resurgence of the fantasy subgenre of sword-&-sorcery. From its proto roots, to its birth, its heyday, its decline, and its return as a staple, if not a headliner, Murphy's research has left no stone un-turned. The subgenre goes beyond muscled barbarians, diabolical wizards, and buxom babes--and Murphy shows the reader how & why.

If you are already a sword-&-sorcery fan, you'll want this book on your shelf. And if you're not, this book might illuminate to you why the genre speaks to its fans.

Monday, January 20, 2020

recent read: Derrick Ferguson's Dillon 2-fer

Not so much on detailed reviews here. Just wanted to highlight some very enjoyable New Pulp adventures you should check out.

As I've mentioned before, if you have any interest in New Pulp, a great place to start is Derrick Ferguson's 75 Pulp Books To Get You Started.

Ferguson's own spy-mercenary-adventure hero, Dillon, appears in a growing body of work. If you like James Bond, or action movies in general, you should be reading Ferguson's Dillon tales. They are a blast!

 I first encountered Dillon in BLACK PULP, in the story "Dillon and the Alchemist's Morning Coffee."
Near the end of last year, I read the first Dillon novel, DILLON AND THE VOICE OF ODIN. I was not disappointed. Check out the behind-the-scenes notes.

Recently, Ferguson released DILLON: THE ODD JOBS, where he had other writers play in his sandbox. The results are enthusiastic fun!

In the introduction to the anniversary release of VOICE OF ODIN, Joel Jenkins states, "Derrick has the ability to mix ... disparate elements together so they work." He is spot on. You never quite know what will be thrown in the mix--character-wise, or plot-wise, or both. The Dillon stories are break-neck speed romps of action-adventure.

I will be reading a lot more Dillon in the near future. And you should, too!

Saturday, January 11, 2020

now available; STORYHACK, Issue Five, featuring "Makani and the Vulture God"

My latest short story, "Makani and the Vulture God," is now available in STORYHACK, Issue Five ( Kindle  Print )

Editor Bryce Beattie always does a bang-up job with this 'zine. Please support it and buy it (including the issues in which I don't have a story.) Kudos to Bryce for all he does. If you followed along on Twitter, you know what a ordeal he had to get this issue uploaded!

"Makani and the Vulture God"--as you might infer from the title--is another sword-&-sorcery story featuring my pseudo-Polynesian-world duo, Makani and Lono. This time around, an evil force disrupts a traditional sporting event. This story was inspired by the real sport of he'e houla, the art of surfing down mountains.

As usual, interior art accompanies each tale. This fine illustration was done by Emilo Florencio.