Monday, December 26, 2016

The Art of Adam West

Batdog

An email from MeTV told me that Adam West, now 88, has a bunch of paintings on exhibit in an art gallery in Ketchum, Idaho. The examples here are priced between $3000 and $8500. 

Penguin

Alfred

Joker Evening Makeup

Christmas Surprise

Riddler

Liberace

The Mad Hatter

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas with the Beatles? Almost.


I posted some of these Christmas songs by The Fab Four a few years back. Here are all 20 tracks, with a couple of extras thrown in. Some are more listenable than others, but they're all mighty dang interesting. My thanks to music mogul Mr. Drew Bentley for turning me on to them.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Steve Mertz rides again with BLAZE! THE CHRISTMAS JOURNEY


If you’re hankerin’ for a new-fangled Old West Christmas, it’s available right this minute in The Christmas Journey, the latest Blaze! adventure by series creator Stephen Mertz.

This one has everything anyone could want in a Christmas story: Santa Claus, religion, sex, love, shootouts, goodwill towards men, bank robberies, motherly love, wild Indians and a hat tip to The Grateful Dead.

It begins with J.D. Blaze (fastest gunslinger in the West) playing Santa Claus at the insistence of his nubile wife Kate (the second fastest), and gets crazier by the minute. Next thing they know they’re on a two-horned quest, committed to catching a couple of bank robbers and rescuing an innocent boy from the hangman’s noose.

That’s when the Journey (of the title) begins, first with a stagecoach ride (complete with echoes of the John Wayne flick), then onto a train attacked by redskins (complete with a fight on the roof) and finishing in a prairie schooner (with Three Wise woMen). Along the way, we meet a large cast of quirky characters, including smart and stupid outlaw brothers, a preacher who’s lost his faith (and never gets it back) and a good-guy Injun chief named Iron Eyes.

Everyone exhibits the Christmas spirit in their own way—even the Apaches. Recognizing that the season is special to the white eyes, they deem it a bad time for shedding blood. “Well,” says one, “could we at least raise a little hell?” The answer is yes, so in attacking the train they shoot over passengers’ heads, laughing all the way.

And, this being and adult Western series, we have a deftly handled sex scene:

     Kate knew that no woman could ever tame a man like J.D.—but she could handle him in the oldest way known to the species. She consciously shifted the way she sat against the headboard. Her legs stretched out before her beneath the clinging bed sheets, parted ever so slightly.
     She smiled and said in a throaty whisper, “It sure would please this girl if her husband would oblige her this one single favor in keeping with the holiday spirit.”
     J.D. could not restrain his eyes from appraising her naked curves so clearly outlined beneath the thin sheet concealing her from the neck down. He said, “Uh, are we negotiating?”
     “Maybe we’re just celebrating Christmas early. Maybe this girl would like Santa to come down her chimney.”
     J.D. shucked his trousers. He climbed into their bed.
     He said, “Ho Ho Ho.”

The author (at right) even manages to slip in a sly bit of autobiography. This passage with Kate Blaze ruminating about southeastern Arizona comes straight from the heart:

     Kate, born in the East, had come to love this country. When it was her time, when God came looking for her, He would find her in these southernmost borderlands of the U.S. where mountain ranges—the Huachucas, the Whetstones, the Mules—were already dusted with snow above the tree line. Big sky country where a soul could breathe.
     This was her home. A land of open prairie and rugged mountains and isolated pockets of what they called civilization; small towns like Horseshoe. Beyond the town limits, beyond the mountains lush with pine and game, home of the Apache, the vistas swept clear to the distant horizon, where you could roam free. She led a free range life with J.D. and she could never again live any other way.
     One of the things Kate loved out here was the weather. She could recall snow blizzards that had hammered the desert right around Christmastime but more often the season was like today. The daytime air crisp but pleasant in the sunshine. It beat hell out of the harsh winters she’d endured growing up as a kid back east.

     J.D. Blaze sums up Blaze! The Christmas Journey with the borrowed lyric, “What a long, strange trip it’s been.” That’s true. It’s also a tribute from Mr. Mertz to the land he loves, a celebration of the Christmas spirit, and a rollicking good time. Minus the sex stuff, it would make a great TV movie. Are you listening, Hallmark Channel?

The book, or eBook, can be had HERE

Monday, December 19, 2016

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

New from Stark House: Shanghai Flame // Counterspy Express by A.S. Fleischman

Having enjoyed Stark House’s earlier A.S. Fleischman duo, The Sun Worshippers / Yellowleg. I welcomed the arrival of this new volume. And I wasn’t disappointed.

Shanghai Flame, a Gold Medal orginal from 1951, is a corker of an adventure set in (you guessed it) Shanghai and at sea during the Chinese Revolution. The Commies are taking over the town, and it’s no place, as the author tells us, “for an American journalist without a gun in pocket.” But recently canned reporter Alex Cloud is obsessed with finding and regaining the love of the woman he wronged, a red-haired fellow reporter he calls “Flame.” Trouble is, she hates Cloud, is obsessed with a lost love of her own, and may have turned Red.

In his pursuit of Flame, Cloud gets entangled with smugglers, thieves, cops, killers and spies, and saddled with microfilm that must—at all costs—be kept out of the hands of the bad guys. Fleischman supplies a multinational cast of well-drawn characters, each with his or her own agenda. There’s a treacherous French tavern owner, an all-knowing German with fingers in every evil pie, a mysterious Italian, and any number of murderous Chinese. And: an Irish ship captain of uncertain loyalties, a White Russian vamp with a killer bod, a French-Chinese wife who steals the key to her chastity belt, a snooty French filmmaker, a Mexican attorney/juggler, and a black Irish mercenary. All this, and (shades of Terry and the Pirates) pirates too.

Plot-wise, there are echoes of The Maltese Falcon (a good book to echo), with a conniving mastermind, a Joel Cairo stand-in, and a Captain Jacobi-like scene, where a guy comes through the door with a knife in his back.

The book is an interesting snapshot of the political climate. One character nicely sums up the situation in Shanghai: “China was opened up like a melon one hundred years ago for the profit of our world. Now she closes the melon, picked and rotted. But a few remain, like flies.” So the flies are flying away, as fast as they can. In one scene, anti-American protestors are rampaging through the streets carrying grotesque effigies of Uncle Sam and wearing dogs-head (as in “running dogs) masks.

Counterspy Express, featuring a CIA agent, was first published as half of an Ace Double in 1954, only a year after James Bond made his debut in Casino Royale. It’s an interesting look at an American spy novel of the same era. The spy in this one, who uses the alias of Jim Cabot, is sent to Italy to find and rescue a Russian defector with info vital to the Cold War. Among his many obstacles are an Italian Commie intelligence officer, a smug Brit turncoat who sells secrets to the highest bidder, and the gorgeous Italian babe Cabot tries hard not to fall for.

Bond-like, the tale features a sequence of exotic locales and foreign villains, a harrowing drive over the Austrian Alps and a deadly train ride.

In the Introduction by the esteemed Mr. George Kelley, we learn that Fleischman deliberately modelled his prose on Hemingway, but there are numerous lines that would have been at home in a Hammett story.

I never take good advice.

I didn’t smuggle myself into this Red squirrel cage to do business with you.

I looked at her breasts, full and breathing apprehensively. I liked what I saw and it made me angry. I didn’t want any entanglements.

She stared at me.
“You bastard,” she breathed.
“You meddling idiot,” she growled.
“You goddam newspaperman,” she spat.

We walked out of each other’s lives once. I wanted you to keep walking. I still do.

The brittle edge came back into her voice. “I’m trying hard not to be a bitch.”
“You must not be trying very hard.”

He spent the rest of the afternoon in the pilot house boiling over with oaths. Rage did not die easily within him.

I threaded my way to the main deck, where several hand-to-hand fights had broken out. I got in one.

Shanghai Flame/Counterspy Express will be published this Friday, and is now available for pre-order from Amazon and other fine retailers.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Saturday, October 8, 2016

It's Out! The Best American Mystery Stories 2016


My thanks to the folks at Publishers Weekly for the kind words. The book is now on sale. Here's what's in it:
"The Little Men" by Megan Abbott (from Bilbiomysteries)
"Okay, Now Do You Surrender?" by Steve Almond (from Cinncinati Review)
"Toward the Company of Others" by Matt Bell (from Tin House)
"Fool Proof" by Bruce Robert Coffin (from Red Dawn: Best New England Crime Stories)
"Safety" by Lydia Fitzpatrick (from One Story)
"Christians" by Tom Franklin (from Murder Under the Oaks)
"A Death" by Stephen King (from The New Yorker)
"For Something to Do" by Elmore Leonard (from Charlie Martz and Other Stories)
"The Continental Opposite" by Evan Lewis (from Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine)
"Street of the Dead House" by Robert Lopresti (from nEvermore!)
"Lafferty's Ghost" by Dennis McFadden (from Fiction)
"The Tank Yard" by Michael Noll (from Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine)
"Trash" by Todd Robinson (from Last Word)
"Christmas Eve at the Exit" by Kristine Kathryn Rusch (from Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine)
"The Mountain Top" by Georgia Ruth (from Fish or Cut Bait: A Guppy Anthology)
"Mailman" by Jonathan Stone (from Cold-Blooded)
"Rearview Mirror" by Art Taylor (from On the Road with Del & Louise)
"Border Crossing" by Susan Thornton (from Literary Review)
"Entwined" by Brian Tobin (from Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine)
"God's Plan for Dr. Gaynor and Hastings Chiume" by Saral Waldorf (from Southern Review)
plus:
A Foreword by Otto Penzler and an Introduction by Elizabeth George

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Continental Nomination


"The Continental Opposite" and I are honored to be noticed by the Private Eye Writers of America. The winner will be announced this Friday night in New Orleans. Wish I could be there. With four other fine tales in the running, the odds ain't good, but my fingers will be crossed. Toes too.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Forgotten Books: THE EARP CURSE by Glenn G. Boyer (1999)

Boyer lists his serious Earp publications (in order) as Suppressed Murder of Wyatt Earp, I Married Wyatt Earp, Wyatt Earp by Wyatt S. Earp, and Wyatt Earp's Tombstone Vendetta.

His first book Illustrated Life of Doc Holliday, he insists was written as a "spoof" in the tradition of Mark Twain.

Without his work, Boyer says, "there would be a remarkable amount that we wouldn't know today. The work has now been accepted as a "given," in the why-everyone-knows-that manner. Such writers as Paula Mitchell Marks in her And Die In The West and Richard Erwin's The Truth About Wyatt Earp, both proceeded as though that were the case--due I suspect--due to profound ingornace-- as though what I'd discovered had always been known. This could also have been partly deliberate, to repay me for declining to help either of them. My work, whatever criticisms are made of it, has added to our sum of knowledge, rather than simply rearranged it, which is what such writers as Casey Tefertiller and Don Chaput have done."

"Most readers today, like the above writers, take my discoveries for granted. They proceed as though everyone had always known the details regarding Wyatt's second wife, who had been a suicide, and his third, who until I collected and edited her memoir had been no more than a name. They appear to believe that everyone always knew all about Doc Holliday's Woman, Big Nose Kate, Morgan Earp's wife, Lou, the true identity of Sheriff Johnny Behan and his extensive discreditable record, etc. The fact is that prior to my digging up their pasts and often their families, had been little but names and had been allowed to remain little more than that, as though the writers and historians concerned believed the world could never learn more about people who had lived so long ago."

"To the contrary, I brought all of those shadowy figures into the spotlight, with books on some and extensieve articles on others that contained information now firmly planted in the body of Earpiana. I usually did this by finding the still living families of the parties concerned, and for the most part found them wondering how writers could tell their stories without consulting them. The use of this material without attribution to my research helped make reputations for some."

Boyer goes on to mention many of the people he met and befriended, including several who had known Wyatt and Josie Earp well. These included family members and relatives of both those individuals, plus relatives and descendants of Johnny Behan, Big Nose Kate, Tombstone Epitaph editor John Clum  and many others.

Boyer's wife Jane Candia Coleman made great use of his research in her historical novels xxx and sss.

Boyer goes on to name twelve of these enemies, most of whom receive a full chapter detailing their sins against him. Several others also come in for some heat. 40% of the book is devoted to appendices, presenting supporting evidence in the form of letters, book promotion flyers, cancelled checks and other ephemera. In many places Boyer notes that events and conversations he describes have been preserved on video tape.

While he frequently attests that these betrayals and attacks have not perturbed him, the tone of the book makes it clear that they bothered him a great deal. Though he projects a sense of humor and personality throughtout, the overall tone of the book is bitter.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

DEATH by ELECTION


Along with two Dan Turner stories and a Little Jack Horner adventure (as by Jerome Severs Perry), Robert Leslie Bellem provided this "Harley L. Court" novelette for the May 1944 issue.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Overlooked Films: William Campbell Gault's DEAD END FOR DELIA (1993)



In the premiere episode of Showtime's Fallen Angels, Gary Oldman stars in this Gault tale from the November 1950 issue of Black Mask.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Overlooked Films: "A Dime a Dance," from a BLACK MASK story by Cornell Woolrich (1995)



Based on the story "The Dancing Detective" from the February 1938 issue of Mask. This one stars Jennifer Grey and Eric Stolz, and was directed by Peter Bogdanovich.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Braggin' Time: BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES 2016


Yeah, I've been slacking for the past few months. It's a cryin' shame, and I'm dutifully embarassed. But I got a jolt in the arm the other day with word from Otto Penzler that "The Continental Opposite" has been selected for this year's volume of The Best American Mystery Stories. Who else will be in it? I don't know, but I've seen Internet leaks naming Megan Abbott, Todd Robinson and Robert Lopresti, so I know I'll be in good company. The book is several months away, but Amazon is already taking pre-orders. That's here: 
The Best American Mystery Stories 2016

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Forgotten Music: Howlin' Wolf

xxx

Hidden Charms



Little Red Rooster


Wang Dang Doodle


Wang Dang Doodle London sessions


How Many More Years


Shake It for Me


Dust My Broom


Do the Do


I Ain't Superstitious