Monday, September 15, 2014

Pulp of the Week - Doc Savage 41

July 1936 - The Black Spot

The Black Spot starts while Pat Savage is attending a costume party with a mobster theme at the ritzy Vandersleeve estate in tony Westchester. The party is so high profile and the guest list so exclusive that a newsreel cameraman is present. When the host is killed, Pat and cameraman Red Mahoney are witnesses and get involved in a real gangster mystery.

The Black Spot is a New York centered tale of villainous intentions penned by Laurence Donovan. A killer has invented an vicious and most mysterious murder technique that leaves the victim dead with only a small black spot on their chest. The killings start out in the ritzi suburbs of the Westchester hills outside of Manhattan. The black spot killer quickly moves to Manhattan and continues to target the super-rich.

This is a much smaller-scale story than Donovan's previous effort, but ultimately far more satisfying. There is tension here, and Donovan writes the team well, with a satisfying, exciting finish. My favorite non-Dent Doc Adventure thus far.

The pulp cover is by Walter Baumhofer and the Bantam paperback cover is by Fred Pfeiffer. I'll give The Black Spot a 9 out of 10.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Pulp of the Week - Indiana Jones and the Peril at Delphi

Indiana Jones and the Peril at Delphi
by Rob MacGregor

There is a great used book store called Movie World in downtown Burbank that stocks a mountain of books including plenty of Science Fiction paperbacks. The SF books cover a wall ten feet high and fifteen feet wide. In some spots they are shelved 3 books deep.

One day last year I decided to pay attention to the novelizations that were stacked horizontally by the door. The Indiana Jones novels caught my eye and took a look at them. They were not novelizations, but original stories. I bought a pile of them that were written by Rob MacGregor.

Indiana Jones and the Peril at Delphi is the first of MacGregor's books. The bulk of the story takes place in 1922, but flashes back two years briefly for some antics at his college graduation.

MacGregor's series follows graduate student Jones on an adventure that takes him from the dawn of the jazz age in Paris, to the ruins of Greece, and into an adventure and romance or two. As the title states, Indy ends up in Delphi where famous oracles in the ancient past would enter the caves, breathe in mystical vapors and emerge having received prophetic visions.

Indy has been hired (possibly just seduced) into following professor Dorian Belecamus to Greece and into a political, ethical, and potentially fatal web of deceit and betrayal.

Author MacGregor writes a great tale that despite Indy being college age, really feels like an Indiana Jones story, not a Young Indy story. He weaves in a few character building bits and by the end of the tale,  Grad Student Henry Jones, Jr is one step closer to being the Indy that we know and love.

I highly recommend Indiana Jones and the Peril at Delphi. It also features a great cover by Drew Struzan, the fantastic movie poster artist, that did the Raiders One-Sheet and so many more. His cover contributes considerably to setting the tone that this is Indiana Jones. I give the book 8.5 out of 10.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Pulp of the Week - Doc Savage 40

June 1936 - The Haunted Ocean

The Haunted Ocean is another Laurence Donovan tale, this time with a lofty villian's goal: Defeating all the world's armies and using his own to enforce world peace. The US President (FDR at this time, although not named) telephones Doc and summons him to Washington, D.C. to discuss the disappearance of the peace commission.

At the meeting, the President stated, "The whole thing is fantastic, but it suggests such great possible calamity, it cannot be overlooked! We seem to be threatened by such a power as none of our government scientists and technicians have ever before seen."

Doc replied that science had advanced so rapidly that the threat could be genuine. "None can say what vast force can be discovered at any time. Unfortunately, the discoveries are not always made by those of balanced and straightforward minds."

The villain, The Man of Peace, seeks the same ends as the commission - to disarm everyone but themselves, although this is not acceptable to the great nations.

This was an odd story and in thinking about it, I find it is so strange that the writer and editor in 1936 would not find it strange or worry that the readers would not like the commission members to be Great Britain, France, the United States, Spain, Italy, and Germany! This is only 15 years after the Great War! William Harper Littlejohn (Doc's aide Johnny) was currently the US delegate and has gone missing.

There are plenty of planes and ships and submarines involved in the action, but I didn't find it all that engaging. I'll give Donovan's tale a 7 out of 10. The pulp cover is by Walter Baumhofer, and the Bantam paperback cover is another great James Bama painting.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Awesome Custom Playing Cards

 My friend Matt Drake has created a bitchin' pair of playing cards decks with an undead west theme. I really like these and have ordered on kickstarter already. I bought the dice, too.

So I really want all of you to go buy them so these things get made!

 The Rusted Tin Style

 The Wanted Poster Style

Skull-erific Dice!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Pulp of the Week - Green Lama: Scions

The Green Lama: Scions  by Adam Lance Garcia

Adam Garcia's third Green Lama tale is a terrific addition to the saga. Scions (and planned future books) are published by Moonstone Books and feature the mysterious Green Lama facing off against a bizarre, monsterous, foe.

The story begins with the crash of a passenger ship into Liberty Island. All on board are dead, save one. Dead long before the crash at their own hands. A bloodbath of unspeakable horror. A portent of Lovecraftian delights to follow in this and other adventures.

The Green Lama is joined in this adventure by Jean Farrell, Lt. Caraway, Ken Clayton, and Gary and Evangl Stewart-Brown all get involved, Jethro Dumont puts in an appearance or two as does reporter Betty Dale (from the Secret Agent X stories). She also refers to fellow reporter Din from the Planet (she is the reporter in the Foster Fade stories) and to the Spider. Adam seems to be having a ball with the references and I found it fun, too.

For those interested in such things, there is a handy timeline in the back of the book that shows where Scions fits into the Lamaverse. One of the nice things about the Green Lama saga is that were only around a dozen original stories published in the pulps of the 1930s (unlike the hundreds of Shadow and Doc Savage stories which gives Garcia much less existing canon a lot of space to work in.

I will close by saying that Adam Garcia has another fun pulp tale and really gets the Green Lama and his supporting cast. I eagerly await future volumes. Enjoy this little excerpt of reporter Betty Dale speaking to Dumont's manservant, Tsarong:

    "When are you expecting Dumont back?"
    "I couldn't say Miss Dale, I am not his keeper."
    "Guess we're just gonna have to wait, then." She dropped down into Jethro's desk chair. She waved at the rows and rows of books lining the walls. "Does he read all those?"
    "Not all at once, and usually one page at a time."
    "Now that's interesting," she said, ignoring Tsarong's quip. "By every account, our friend Dumont is little more than an immature womanizer who won't crack open anything that doesn't have two legs and here he is with more books than the Library of Alexandria."

I give "The Green Lama: Scions" a 9 out of 10 and the cover is an awesome painting of Adam by Doug Klauba.

You can buy Scions in print here
 ebook here
4 wheels here


Monday, April 7, 2014

Pulp of the Week - The Return of Foster Fade

The New Adventures of Foster Fade - Pro Se Press - Digital and Print

I picked up this volume of pulp tales featuring one of Lester Dent's lesser known characters for a few reasons. One, I like Dent, and two, it features a couple of stories by Adam Lance Garcia. Garcia is one of the best of the New Pulp writers out there and his main story in this anthology doesn't disappoint.

For those not familiar with Foster Fade, he was featured in a number of stories by Lester Dent prior to Dent's work on Doc Savage. Foster Fade is a sort of Sherlock Holmes with gadgets. The love of gadgets is the source of any similarity to Doc Savage. Otherwise, Fade is quite different. He's tall, lanky and a bit of a prankster. He has little time for figures of authority. And he knows just how good he is.

Part of me wonders if Adam Garcia has modeled his Fade a bit after the Benedict Cumberbatch Sherlock, but regardless, the character is fun and smart.

Foster Fade occupies a large space in Planet Tower, the skyscraper in Manhattan that houses The Planet, a very popular Manhattan daily newspaper. (Perhaps yet another debt that the Superman creators owe Dent.) Fade has an office, living quarters, and the laboratory where he creates his outlandish crime solving gadgets.

The Planet gives away this prime real estate to Fade in exchange for having exclusive access to the Spectacularist (great word, isn't it?) and his exploits. Also included in the deal is that writer Dinamenta Stevens has full access to Fade and is the official writer of his tales. The relationship and banter between Din Stevens and Foster Fade is the most fun part of these tales, and the stories are indeed fun. Pro Se Press should be proud of this volume.

The collection opens with Adam Garcia's mystery as Fade and Din track a cop killer that is sending Fade the murder weapons. Pro Se has put its best foot forward and Garcia's tale is the best in this collection. The other tales are good, but don't match the level of Garcia's prose. The second tale, by Derrick Ferguson is the other standout.

After reading this book of original tales, I will be seeking out the collection of original Lester Dent stories (available from Altus Press) as well.

I'll give The New Adventures of Foster Fade a 7 out of 10, but Garcia's first tale scores a 9, and finally, the cover by the Spectacular Mike Fyles scores a 10. Great work with dynamic characters. One of his best.