Friday, December 19, 2014
Back in the Olden Days, before Tom Roberts started publishing those glitzy trade paperbacks, Black Dog Books were like this one -- a format he described as "saddle-stitched booklet, under single-color card stock cover." The trade paperbacks are great, of course, but I still have a special fondness for these chapbooks.
The hero of the five stories in Hard Guy, published way back in 2003, is a sometime private detective who shoots trouble in the Texas oil camps of the1930s. He calls himself Hard Guy, and other characters call him that too, as if that's his given name (and based on the content, it's tempting to speculate that his middle name is Dick). Actually, his given name is Dallas Duane, but it's mentioned so briefly it's easy to forget.
The "Dick" part springs from the fact that four of the tales were written for Spicy mags -- three for Spicy Western and one for Spicy Adventure. The fifth, a non-Spicy adventure, appeared in another Trojan magazine, Fighting Western. And yep, they're plenty spicy, spicier than what I'm used to in the Spicy Detective adventures of Dan Turner. While Turner never seems to go beyond smooching and fumbling about with scantily-clad babes, Hard Guy leaves no doubt that his amorous appetites are fully satisfied.
The surprising thing is that these stories ran in western titles, when they seem much more suited to a detective mag. Yeah, the setting is Texas, and we occasionally meet a character who rides a horse, but calling these westerns is a big stretch.
Even more surprising, this James A. Lawson guy was a pretty good writer. His slang is every bit as creative as that of Robert Leslie Bellem, but when he's not aping Bellem, his style is truly unique, and shows real talent. When he describes the Texas oil camps, it's clear he's really been there, and knows what he's talking about. Makes me wonder who "Lawson" really was, and what else he might have written.
A search through my copies of Trojan publications (the Spicys, Speeds, Private Detective, Hollywood Detective and Super-Detective) turned up only one other story, an actual Old West western in the August 1941 issue of Spicy Western. I plan to post that entire story here sometime soon. Meanwhile, I'd recommend this book to fans of tough-guy detective fiction. spicy or not.
Thursday, December 18, 2014
Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Tuesday, December 16, 2014
Surprise! Solomon Kane is a damn good movie. I ain't saying it's a great film, to rank up with the classics, but it's everything it ought to be, and as a long-time Howard fan, I'm mighty pleased.
Somehow, I almost didn't find out this movie existed. I heard nothing about until I happened to see the DVD on sale. Then I heard nothing more until I happened to spot a copy at the library, and brought it home. And enjoyed it from beginning to end.
Curious, I took a squint at Metacritic (it got a 48), and saw a few newspaper bozos whining that it was too gritty and too grim, or that Kane needed a comical sidekick. What bull. Writer/director Michael Bassett and star James Purefoy (bad guy Joe Carroll from The Following) obviously cared about Howard's vision and worked hard to bring it to the screen.
Bassett gave Kane a backstory (as the second son of a wealthy British family who ran away rather than enter the priesthood and roamed the earth as a bad-guy until Satan tried to claim his soul), but there's nothing here that conflicts with Howard. Rather, it enhances Howard's character, explaining why he's a Puritan and why he's roaming the earth battling evil. I'm confident Howard would have approved.
As for the rest, the script, the casting, the sets, the special effects, the music, the tone and the overriding theme of redemption were all spot-on. It was obvious the producers had hopes of continuing the series, and I'm guessing the film fell short of the studio's financial dreams. But at least it was done right. I'd rather see one honest Solomon Kane film than a series featuring a brown-nosing Hollywood phony.
Overlook more Films at Sweet Freedom.
Monday, December 15, 2014
This is one of many incarnations of Hubley's ever-popular Texan Jr. You might think of it as the cap gun equivalent of an automobile. The model changed over the years, while the name remained the same. Like its daddy, the Texan, the earliest version was made of cast iron. This one, probably from the late '50s and early '60s, is nine inches long and made of pot metal. Stay tuned for more Texan Jrs as the Almanack rolls merrily along.
More cool Cap Guns HERE.
Sunday, December 14, 2014
Saturday, December 13, 2014
If this doesn't satisfy your patriotic appetite, our first batch of dead Presidents is HERE and the second HERE. I could have titled this post Forgotten Presidents if not for old Teddy down at the bottom. Some of these guys are so forgotten I couldn't even remember their first names. One I did not have that problem with is Chester Arthur, because I once named a cat after him. (Well, actually I named the cat after Chester Arthur Burnett, better known as Howlin' Wolf, who was named after the prez. That's almost the same, isn't it?) Did you know that one of these dudes served two non-consecutive terms? I know it now because it said so on the back of his figure's base. Collecting toy soldiers has redeeming educational value.
More Toy Soldiers HERE.
Friday, December 12, 2014
I'm a big fan of Mr. Sabatini. I've read Captain Blood several times and rank it as my second favorite book of all time, right after Red Harvest. So I figured Scaramouche, his most famous novel, should be even better. I was wrong.
It was a good read, so I'm not complaining, I'm just surprised it was not as entertaining as I expected. One reason is that the hero, whose name is Andre, but who assumes the role of Scaramouche (a "roguish clown" character from Italian comedies of the previous century), muddles through most of the book without clear focus.
As the story begins, Andre's close friend--a passionate revolutionary--is murdered by a snooty aristocrat. The killer (and continuing villain of the piece) found the man possessed of a dangerous eloquence, and thus a threat to his way of life. Andre, who disagreed with his pal's politics, swears to take up his cause and spread the eloquence of revolution in his stead. He does that, a little, making two speeches that inflame the populace, then spends the next quarter of the book hiding out with an acting troupe. After another brief encounter with his arch-enemy he happens into a job as a fencing instructor and fools around with that for another quarter of the book. Throughout, he has no clear goal and no real conviction.
Finally, with maybe a third of the book remaining, the story kicks into high gear. For several chapters it races right along. Andre seems to know what he wants and how to get it. But his plans are derailed by several seen-them-coming plot twists, and the climax dissolves into creaky melodrama. If Sabatini wasn't such a good storyteller, it would have been pretty painful.
The other problem I had with this book wasn't Sabatini's fault at all. It was entirely my own. The whole tale, you see, is set against the backdrop of the French Revolution. Sabatini assumed (rightly, of course) that his readers would have a basic understanding of the events and the various forces in play. So he explained what was happening only in relation to Andre and the other characters involved. Trouble is, I know dang near nothing about the whole hullaballoo, so much of the revolution-related drama went over my head. I'm now seeking to remedy that, with the Oxford History of the French Revolution, but it's too late to rescue my enjoyment of Scaramouche. Maybe by the time I see the movie it will make more sense.
More Forgotten Books at pattinase.