Thursday, September 30, 2010

Forgotten Music: The BlackAdder Theme

I've been watching BlackAdder: The Complete Collector's Set (from the library, natch) this past month, and this ding dang theme song seems to be stuck in my head. Lucky for me, I like it.

I can recommend only the first half of this video, with the great closing credits to the first series, the haunting closing to that series' finale, and one or two closings to BlackAdder II. The second series was unique in that each episode closed with different lyrics, specific to events of that episode. Listening to six of them in a row may rot your mind. The sing-a-long lyrics were added by a fan, and one who is not a particularly good speller. The fan also thought BlackAdder's horse was "blacker than a vole," while the official sing-a-long provided on the DVD says "blacker than a hole." An important difference, I'm sure you'll agree.

This opening theme is cool and classical. The end theme went a whole 'nother direction, trying to be jazzy and avant garde. Mostly, it was just annoying. Still, I would have posted it here if there'd been a decent recording on YouTube. The only one I found was very hard to hear.

Put on your marching shoes.

This single episode filmed ten years after the others was new to me, and definitely entertaining, but writers Richard Curtis and Ben Elton had mellowed, and the old BlackAdder edge was dull. Didn't hurt the song any, though. The lyrics are tough to make out, so I've provided them below as a public service.

Let joy fill every Briton's heart,
for now our country's going to make it.
At last a king who looks the part,
At last a queen who looks good naked,
BlackAdder, BlackAdder,
A monarch with panache.
BlackAdder, BlackAdder,
he's got a nice mustache.
Everything he wants he'll get,
The world is now BlackAdder's oyster.
Most prime ministers are wet,
But Baldrick he is even moister,
BlackAdder, BlackAdder,
A dog who's got his bone.
BlackAdder, BlackAdder,
a bastard on the throne.
BlackAdder, BlackAdder,
His beard is neatly curled.
BlackAdder, BlackAdder,
he's going to rule the world.

More of this month's Forgotten Music at Scott Parker's Blog!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

BLACK MASK: A Message from "Cap" Shaw

If you harbored any doubt that Black Mask is the number one magazine for rip-snorting, red-blooded he-men, Editor Joseph "Cap" Shaw and his pal Colgate Baker are here to set you straight:

from Sept. 1932 (click to enlarge)

If this cover looks familiar, it's because I borrowed it to celebrate Brian Drake's Mask-inspired story collection, Reaper's Dozen.

Coming Friday Oct. 8: A Forgotten Black Mask Book. Think you know what it is? Bet you don't.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


I’ve never read a Ralph Compton novel, and that record remains intact after finishing this one.  The fine print, you’ll notice, says this was actually written by Joseph A. West.

I have to assume Mr. Compton (who departed this earthly plane in 1998) was a decent writer, based on the continuing selling-power of his name. But I can't imagine him being better - or even as good as - Mr. Joe West.

Vengeance Rider is an epic quest - a journey involving not only vengeance, but the sole chance of saving the life of a little girl. Thankfully, we never meet this pitiful waif, but her plight weighs heavily on our hero, an outlaw-turned-rancher named Buck Fletcher. Buck, who once rode with the likes of John Wesley Hardin, had hoped he’d hung up his guns for good. But he's forced into action when his ranch hand is killed and his racehorse stolen by a ruthless gang of next-generation bad guys.

Buck needs that horse, you see, to compete in a race sponsored by the renowned Texas John Slaughter, for a prize of $10,000. That prize would be his only means of sending his wife and daughter to Switzerland, where doctors could tackle the kid’s tuberculosis.

Lucky for Buck, he meets an old acquaintance, a dying dentist known as Doc Holliday, who joins him in his quest. Buck doesn’t always approve of Doc’s methods, but they make an engaging duo, and shoot their way out of many tight scrapes en route to Slaughter’s ranch.

West’s prose is fine throughout. Blazing action, sharp dialogue, lush scenery. The guy has no weak spots. I’m looking forward to some of many books where his name appears in BIG TYPE on the cover. Next on my Joe West reading list: First in his GUNSMOKE series - Blood, Bullets and Buckskin.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Case of the Kindle-Reading Bus Driver

It was a rainy Thursday in the City of Roses. TriMet driver Lahcen Qouchbane was tooling the No. 96 bus down I-5, just coming into the treacherous Terwilliger curves. Those curves had caused more accidents than any in Portland, and were especially deadly when wet. But Lahcen didn't care. He was reading his Kindle, even steering with his elbow when necessary to turn the pages. Everything was cool, until that nosy passenger pointed a cell-phone camera at him, catching 60 damning seconds of video.

Next thing Lahcen knew he was all over YouTube. Then TV. Then he was suspended, and finally fired. But hey -- rumor has it he was reading Killing Trail by Charles Gramlich, so it was all worth it. And now that he's no longer driving, Lahcen has even more time to read. Rumor has it he's now zipping through A Policeman's Lot by Gary M. Dobbs. A storybook ending, no? 

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Patti Abbott's new FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE: Jealousy

It's true. Patti Abbott, co-editor of the soon-to-be-released flash anthology Discount Noir, has issued the call for entrants in a new and innovative challenge. The theme this time is Jealousy (or Extreme Envy), and the stories will be written in a Round. If James M. Cain were still around, you know he'd be down with this.

Here's how it works: Patti will write the first 1000-word story, about a person who is jealous of someone else. The next writer will compose a tale about that someone else (the object of Patti's protagonist's envy), who is in turn jealous of another person. Each week a new writer will take up the gauntlet, based on a protagonist introduced in the previous week's story. Where will it all lead? Nobody knows, but it's sure to be a wild ride.

As of this posting, 11 folks have tossed hats into the ring. How about you? The fun starts Oct 5, and will run at least into December. To sign up or get more details, check out Patti's post (and comments) RIGHT HERE.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Forgotten Books: The Double Take by Roy Huggins

Yeah, I know this book has been unForgotten before, notably in fine reviews by Richard Robinson and J. Kingston Pierce, and I encourage you to check them out.

I wrote this piece some months back for THE TAINTED ARCHIVE's TV Cops Weekend, but I screwed up and failed to send Gary all the artwork. So here's the article with art included . . .

Along with all the TV Westerns I watched as a kid, and there were a LOT of them, I somehow found time for the Warner Brothers stable of private eye shows - Hawaiian Eye, Bourbon Street Beat, Surfside Six, and the best of them all - 77 Sunset Strip.

Back then, I had no idea that 77’s lead detective, Stu Bailey, had first appeared in a novel.  But I know now, and would see the show (if I COULD see it) in a whole different light.

The Double Take was published in 1946, appearing both in hardcover from William Morrow & Co, and in the March 1946 issue of Mammoth Mystery, a magazine edited by mystery writer Howard Browne. Browne must have loved this extremely Chandleresque novel by newcomer Roy Huggins, because Browne’s own first homage to Chandler (Halo in Blood by John Evans) was published that same year.

The opening sentence of The Double Take tells you what to expect:
“I was sitting in his paneled office on the top floor of the Security Bank Building looking at him across a desk that was bare as a mannequin’s mind and large enough for a pair of midgets to play badmitton on.”

Yep, it starts like a Philip Marlowe novel and never lets up. Reading the book again recently, I found myself smiling on every page.

(click to enlarge)

Huggins followed up later that same year with two Stuart Bailey novelettes for The Saturday Evening Post. A third Stu Bailey story appeared in Esquire in 1952. Meantime, The Double Take appeared in paperback and Huggins wrote two more unrelated mystery novels, Too Late for Tears and Lovely Lady, Pity Me

Huggins got his first taste of the motion picture business in 1948, writing the screenplay for the film version of The Double Take, titled I Love Trouble. In this one, Stu Bailey was portrayed by Franchot Tone.

From then on, Huggins’ literary career fell by the wayside as he devoted himself almost exclusively to films and television. In the late 50s he went to work for Warner Brothers, revitalizing Cheyenne (a show that was in trouble) and creating Maverick.

That’s when Jack Warner asked him for a detective show, and Huggins created 77 Sunset Strip, using old Stu Bailey as the hero. He moved Bailey of his shabby Marlowe-style office into swanky digs on the Sunset Strip, right next to Dean Martin’s nightclub, Dino’s. He made the new Bailey an ex-secret service man, and gave him an ex-lawyer (played by Roger Smith) as a partner.

Unfortunately, Huggins was robbed of the credit. Jack Warner wanted to own the show outright, so he had a pilot written and produced by someone else, then had it briefly shown as a motion picture in the Caribbean. This gave Warner the legal footing to claim that the TV show was based on the film “Girl on the Run” rather than on Huggins’ literary works.

This soured Huggins’ relationship with Warner Brothers and he had little more to do with the show. But he’d given it a great start, and it rolled on from 1958 to 1964. Ed Byrnes, who had died as a villain in the pilot, was so well-received that he returned in a new role as “Kookie” the parking lot attendant and eventually graduated to private eye.  77 Sunset Strip was so popular that Warner Brothers built the three shows mentioned above on the same formula, and sometimes had crossovers between the series.

(from Mammoth Mystery - click to enlarge)

In 1959, Huggins strung his three Stu Bailey novelettes into a “novel”, published in paperback as 77 Sunset Strip. To see my review of that book, pics of 77 memorabilia and a complete episode of the show (from YouTube) click HERE.

Roy Huggins went on to create The Fugitive and (with Stephen J. Cannell) The Rockford Files, and produced such shows as The Virginian, Baretta and Alias Smith and Jones. He died in 2002.

You know the drill: Check out more Forgotten Books at Patti Abbott's pattinase.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Operator 5 and The Spider Return!

Here's the scoop . . .

Moonstone Books, as part of their "Return of the Originals" initiative, will debut a comic book in January featuring two of my favorite pulp heroes.

Operator 5 will be written by Gary Phillips, with pencils and inks by Roberto Castro. The Spider will be penned by Martin Powell and drawn by Pablo Marcos. I'm really looking forward to this one. The first issue blasts out of the past in January.

Thanks to Gary Phillips for the tip (and this fine cover mock-up by Dan Brereton). I encourage you to pay Gary a visit right HERE.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

RIO CONCHOS: Book to Movie

Sometime back, Dale Goble ran this dual review in the Western apa OWLHOOT, and I thought it deserved a wider audience. Coincidentally, around that same time OWLHOOT alumnus Steve Lewis reviewed the film over at Mystery*File. Both guys did a great job. After you read Dale's review here on the Almanack, I suggest you click HERE to see how Steve handled the subject.

by Clair Huffaker, 1958
a review by Dale Goble

I've always felt that Clair Huffaker was a cut above most western writers. So eventually I wondered why I had never read anything other than THE COWBOY AND THE COSSACK. So I hunted up another.

Our story begins in post-Civil War Texas with our hero, Riot Holiday, and another fellow with a not-exactly-felonious reason to avoid the law, being attacked by a marauding band of Comanche. These were the days of evil Indians, when they were always marauding. The Comanche chief is named Blood Shirt--so we know how we stand right out of the chute. Huffaker let's us know right away that Riot Holiday isn't one of them John Wayne cowboys; Riot happily abandons his saddle pal to the Comanche while he escapes. Said saddle pal had done the same to him just a few minutes before, so Riot can be practical-ruthless without being villainous-cruel. Riot escapes, but is critically wounded. He is found and rescued by the McCallister boys, a family of settlers who nurse him back to health.

Here Huffaker uses a familiar literary device, but one I wouldn't automatically associate with westerns; our hero has six months to live. Seems like when young Thaddeus (Tad) McCallister pulled the Comanche arrow out of Riot's shoulder, the metal arrowhead was left in the wound, just fractions of an inch from Riot's heart. This was before centimeters. The Doc tells Riot that if he takes it easy he might live six months before the arrowhead works its way to his heart and kills him.

Riot decides to eschew the cautious living part and to go out with a riot--sorry--of hootin', hollerin' and high livin'. Except Blood Shirt and his marauding Comanche warriors attack the McCallister place and, well, Riot and young Tad McCallister are kinda forced into a situation where they feel the need to track down Blood Shirt and take him to task.  Their odyssey leads to Comancheros, stolen guns, chases, gun battles and whiskey. There's a subplot about Tad--the proverbial innocent farm boy--learning the ways of the world.

I found it interesting that Huffaker lets Riot waver from the vengeance trail once or twice, unlike most of the vendetta stories I've read. But I guess I expected that from Huffaker.  This is a traditional western with a twist or two in the tale, and I quite enjoyed it.

review by Dale Goble

Early in July I read GUNS OF RIO CONCHOS by Clair Huffaker. When the Fox Movie Channel screened RIO CONHOS in early August, I wondered if they were connected. I was in the Navy in '64, so I hadn't seen the movie. They were, indeed, the same story. Mostly. The film was based on Clair Huffaker's book, and he coauthored the screenplay with Joseph Landon. I saw this in the credits--I avoided looking at sources that might reveal anything about the movie.

The movie starred Richard Boone, Stuart Whitman, Anthony Franciosa, and Jim Brown. I have not been a fan of two of the three actors, and Jim Brown is in a separate category. I watched.  Riot Holiday and Tad McCallister have been transmogrified into Richard Boone's character, renamed Jim Lassiter, and aged about thirty years. So, forget the first third of the book--all that's important is that we know Lassiter hates Comanche . . . uh, make that Apache. He hates Injuns, kills them whenever he can.

Comanche chief Bloodshirt has become Apache chief Bloodshirt, played by the ubiquitous Rodolfo Acosta, who wears a blue shirt in the film. The young, innocent, idealistic, Tad McCallister is morphed into cavalry Captain Haven, woodenly portrayed by Stuart Whitman. The cavalry unit is never mentioned, but Jim Brown plays Sergeant Franklyn, so it must have been the Ninth or Tenth. We're in Texas, so I guess that makes sense.

Brown plays the Sergeant as a competent non-com without any blaxploitation elements. I was pleased. (His character wasn't in the book. Neither was Capt. Haven's. Nor was the Anthony Franciosa character, the sterotypical irascible Mexican bandit stereotype. His character might have been added to show the less reverent side of Riot Holiday in Huffaker's book, I think. Rodriguez/Franciosa does a lot of the things the Riot Holiday character did in the book's non-vengeance sections.

The story then proceeds with the quest for the guns and the desperate need to keep them out of the hands of the marauding Comanche--oops--bloodthirsty Apache. The film adds an Indian maiden to the mix, I can only guess that she was sleeping with the producer, she doesn't do much acting. Or, to be less judgmental, there has always been that particularly idiotic Hollyweird notion that you can't make a movie without dames, even WWII submarine movies have dames in them, POW camp movies got dames, and so forth and so on, sheesh.

The film turns the Comancheros into Civil War Secesh holdouts down in Mexico, and Edmond O'Brien does a little southern Colonel bit. (Boone's character is an ex-confederate officer, and by fortunate happenstance, knows the Colonel. Wow, who'd have guessed?) In case I'm sounding a little harsh, let me just say that Hollyweird turned a better-than-average book into an ordinary film. It wasn't bad, but it could have been better.

Clair Huffaker bibliography
Badge For a Gunfighter
CH's Profiles of the Old West
The Cowboy and the Cossack
Flaming Lance
Guns from Thunder Mountain
Guns of Rio Conchos
One Time, I Saw Morning Come
Posse From Hell
Rider from Thunder Mountain
Seven Ways from Sundown
The War Wagon

Clair Huffaker filmography

The Valdez Horses (1973) (screenplay)
The Deserter (1971) (screenplay) (story)
... aka The Devil's Backbone (USA)
Flap (1970) (novel "Nobody Loves a Drunken Indian") (screenplay)
100 Rifles (1969) (screenplay)
Hellfighters (1968) (writer)
The War Wagon (1967) (novel "Badman") (screenplay)
Tarzan and the Valley of Gold (1966) (screenplay)
"The Virginian" (2 episodes, 1964-1966)
- Ride a Cock-Horse to Laramie Cross (1966) TV episode (writer)
- The Hero (1964) TV episode (writer)
"Daniel Boone" (2 episodes, 1965)
- The Trek (1965) TV episode (writer)
- A Place of 1000 Spirits (1965) TV episode (story)
"12 O'Clock High" (1 episode, 1964)
- Decision (1964) TV episode (teleplay and story)
Rio Conchos (1964) (novel) (screenplay)
"Destry" (3 episodes, 1964)
- The Infernal Triangle (1964) TV episode (written by)
- Deputy for a Day (1964) TV episode (written by)
- Big Deal at Little River (1964) TV episode (written by)
The Second Time Around (1961) (screenplay) (as Cecil Dan Hansen)
"Outlaws" (3 episodes, 1961)
- The Brathwaite Brothers (1961) TV episode (writer)
- My Friend, the Horse Thief (1961) TV episode (writer)
- Chalk's Lot (1961) TV episode (writer)
The Comancheros (1961) (screenplay)
Posse from Hell (1961) (novel) (screenplay)
Flaming Star (1960) (novel "Flaming Lance") (screenplay)
Seven Ways from Sundown (1960) (novel) (screenplay)
"Lawman" (18 episodes, 1958-1960)
- Man on a Mountain (1960) TV episode (writer)
- Girl from Grantsville (1960) TV episode (writer)
- The Ugly Man (1960) TV episode (writer)
- To Capture the West (1960) TV episode (writer)
- The Stranger (1960) TV episode (writer)
(13 more)
"Bonanza" (1 episode, 1960)
- The Avenger (1960) TV episode (writer)
"The Rifleman" (1 episode, 1959)
- The Coward (1959) TV episode (story) (teleplay)
"Rawhide" (1 episode, 1959)
- Incident at Spanish Rock (1959) TV episode (story)
"Riverboat" (1 episode, 1959)
- Strange Request (1959) TV episode (writer)

Thanks, Gobe, for letting me share this!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

John Smith and Pocahontas - Together Again (sort of)

One of the highlights of our trip to Virginia was a visit to Jamestown Island. Big John Smith stands atop a towering pedestal, gazing out over Chesapeake Bay as if awaiting supply ships from England. Directly behind him is the recreated fort, utilizing some of the post holes of the original.

Pocahontas, looking considerably more grown up than she was when saving John from the chopping block, occupies a rock on the opposite side of the fort. Legend says it's good luck to shake her hand (which we did, of course). Did it work? Not so you'd notice, but we've had no recent disasters either.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Operator 5: The Corinth Editions

Following up on my Forgotten Books post on the Freeway Press Operator 5 reprints from 1974, here are two of the eight volumes issued by Corinth way back in 1966. Like the Freeway books, these are the work of Frederick C. Davis, when Jimmy Christopher (Secret Service Operator #5) was truly a spy rather than the freedom fighter he became during Emile C. Tepperman's Purple Invasion. The odd cover designs on these seem to reflect a blend of 007 and Flower Power motifs.

These pulp covers appear on the amazing Galactic Central site.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Bedew No Man's Face with Your Spittle -or- George Washington's Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior, Part 3

Is that George Washington posing in the tricorn hat? Well, almost. Actually, that's me, channeling my inner George at the Yorktown, Virginia Victory Center.

I'm taking great pains of late to emulate old GW. To whit, I now murder my vermin, fleas, lice and ticks only in private, and whenever I see filth or thick spittle I put my foot dexterously upon it (provided it's not too deep). Will I grow up to be President some day? Stay tuned.

To see earlier posts in this series, click HERE.

11. Shift not yourself in the sight of others, nor gnaw your nails.

12. Shake not the head, feet, or legs; roll not the eyes; lift not one eyebrow higher than the other, wry not the mouth, and bedew no man's face with your spittle by approaching too near him when you speak.

13. Kill no vermin, or fleas, lice, ticks, etc. in the sight of others; if you see any filth or thick spittle put your foot dexterously upon it; if it be upon the clothes of your companions, put it off privately, and if it be upon your own clothes, return thanks to him who puts it off.

14. Turn not your back to others, especially in speaking; jog not the table or desk on which another reads or writes; lean not upon anyone.

15. Keep your nails clean and short, also your hands and teeth clean, yet without showing any great concern for them.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

David Cranmer Rides Again!

Yep, Cash Laramie is back, this time in "Kid Eddie" at The Western Online. Edward A. Grainger (aka David Cranmer) delivers yet another crackerjack yarn in this fine series.

Cash Laramie, you may recall, made his debut in the Express Westerns anthology A Fistful of Legends, in "Cash Laramie and the Masked Devil. He turned up next (along with Marshal Gideon Miles) at BEAT to a PULP with "Miles to Go." This time his job is to escort an accused killer to trail. Trouble is, the accused is little more than a kid, and a likable one at that. Could he be innocent? (As a bonus, this tale reveals that Cash inhabits the same Western universe as one of everyone's favorite TV heroes.)

Still another Cash adventure, "The Wind Scorpion," is coming our way PDQ in the print anthology BEAT to a PULP: Round One, and two more have already been written. I'm hoping we'll soon see him in a novel, and I know I'm not alone!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Forgotten Books: The Exploits of Sherlock Holmes by John Dickson Carr & Adrian Conan Doyle

When it comes to Sherlock Holmes pastiches, I’m not real picky. I’ve read a ton of them, and, with one exception**, enjoyed them all. So I have absolutely no complaints about The Exploits of Sherlock Holmes.

The hardcover edition, published in 1954, was sort of a pioneer in the field. It may not have been the first collection of Holmes pastiches, but it was certainly an early entry. And the familiar names of the two authors added to its impact.

As a collaborative effort, this collection is something of an odd duck. According to the introduction, John Dickson Carr and Conan Doyle’s youngest son Adrian wrote the first two stories together. The next two were written almost entirely by Carr. Two others were almost entirely by Doyle. The final six, say the publishers, were written by Doyle alone after Carr suffered a brief illness. The only real difference I noticed was that the two “mostly Carr” stories were more whimsical than the rest.

One internet reviewer says the collaboration was actually more complicated than the introduction admits, referring interested parties to the Douglas C. Greene’s book John Dickson Carr: The Man Who Explained Miracles for details. I attempted to procure that volume from my library, but they seem to have misplaced it, so I remain in the dark.

Again, according to the publishers, all but one of these stories originally appeared in Collier’s magazine (the other appearing in Life). And Adrian Conan Doyle, it is said, used the same desk on which his father wrote. Each story (again with one exception) purports to relate one of the “lost” tales mentioned by Dr. Watson.

Paperback editions have sometimes split this work into two volumes, one by Carr & Doyle and the other by Doyle alone, so look before you buy.  A complete edition was published in hardcover in 1999 by Gramercy Books.

**That one exception was the truly execrable The Whitechapel Horrors by Edward B. Hanna, in which Holmes halfheartedly tries to solve the case of Jack the Ripper, then simply gives up. I rate this as the absolute worst novel I have ever read (and I've read some bad ones).

More Forgotten Books are remembered each week at Patti Abbott's pattinase.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

TODAY ONLY: Win a Texas Rangers book!

Would you like to win a signed first-edition hardcover copy of this book by Mike Cox? I know I would. Well, now's our chance, because today - and today only - Texas book publicist Stephanie Barko is giving one away. To enter, click HERE to visit Stephanie's blog and leave a comment, saying you'd like a shot at the book.

The Texas Rangers: Wearing the Cinco Peso, 1821-1900 was the first of Mike's two-volume history of the Rangers. It was published by Forge in September 2009 and was followed by volume two, The Time of the Rangers, 1900-Present in June of this year.

The publisher says this about the book:
___From their tumultuous beginning to their decades of fighting outlaws, Comanche, Mexican soldados and banditos, as well as Union soldiers, the Texas Rangers became one of the fiercest law enforcement groups in America.  In a land as spread-out and sparsely populated as the west itself, the Rangers had unique law-enforcement responsibilities and challenges.
___The story of the Texas Rangers is as controversial as it is heroic. Often accused of vigilante-style racism and murder, they enforced the law with a heavy hand. But above all they were perhaps the defining force for the stabilization and the creation of Texas. From Stephen Austin in the early days through the Civil War, the first eighty years of the Texas Rangers is nothing less then phenomenal, and the efforts put forth in those days set the foundation for the Texas Rangers that keep Texas safe today.     

Western author Elmer Kelton said this:
___Mike Cox has a unique background for presenting the checkered history of the Rangers. During several years as a spokesman for the Texas Department of Safety, he had access to detailed records and experienced first-hand the mystique that clings to this fabled law enforcement body. Though he gives us the flashes of glory, he does not flinch from the dark side of the Rangers' past.

Mike Cox is the recipient of the A.C. Green Lifetime Achievement award.
For more info from the publisher, click HERE.

Visit Stephanie Barko's blog to enter NOW. Your entry must be in no later than 11:59 pm, Texas Time. But if you don't win, don't fret. You can still get a good deal on this book from Amazon.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Figurehead Mania Part 2

Three more ships' figureheads from the Mariner's Museum in Newport News, Virginia . . .

Saint Michel from the Saint Michel, 1909.
I'm not sure what to make of this one. There have been many ships named Saint-Michel. Jules Verne owned three of them, but since he died in 1905 it seems unlikely this was one of his. Saint Michel is sometimes an alternate spelling of Saint Micheal the Archangel, the patron saint of mariners, who is often portrayed fighting Satan with a sword. But Michael was a he-angel, and this one sure looks like a gal to me. Maybe she's supposed to be Micheal's sister.

Hope, ship unknown, 19th Century.
No question of gender here. This babe flaunts what she's got.

Hindu, ship unknown, 19th Century.
And for all you ladies out there, here's a studly sophisticate in short pants.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Art Gallery: John Wayne

In celebration of the really big JOHN WAYNE WEEKEND going on over at THE TAINTED ARCHIVE, heeeeere's Johnny.




Friday, September 10, 2010

Forgotten Books: Operator 5 by Frederick C. Davis

The other day Laurie Powers talked about pulps on eBay (that’s HERE) and said she spotted a complete run of Operator 5 being offered for $2,475. That didn’t sound too bad at the time, but on checking I discovered the mag only lasted 48 issues. So even if I had the bucks (which I surely don’t) I wouldn’t be bidding. But Laurie’s post brought old Jimmy Christopher, aka Secret Service Operator #5, back into my consciousness, and that’s always a good thing.

While all the major pulp heroes are in some way different from one another, Operator 5 has always seemed more different than the rest. While Doc Savage, The Shadow and The Spider spent most of their time chasing after criminal masterminds, civil servant Jimmy Christopher was busy defending America.

In a way, there were two Operator 5s. The character as introduced by creator Frederick C. Davis was basically a spy. He handled threats that make James Bond’s seem tame by comparison, but he was still a spy, and each book ended with America back to business as usual. Davis wrote the first 20 novels in the series, all under the house name Curtis Steele, before handing the chore off to the wild and woolly Emile C. Tepperman.

After a brief warm-up, Tepperman cranked up a threat so dire that it took Jimmy Christopher and thousands of other patriots 13 whole issues to dig their way out. In this saga, called “The Purple Invasion,” America is conquered by a distinctly Germanic European power and Operator 5 becomes a freedom fighter, traveling the length and breadth of the country to lead the resistance movement.

As Tepperman left the series, the Purple Empire was in retreat, but new writer Wayne Rogers gave Operator 5 no rest. Hard on the heels of the Purple guys came an invasion by the Yellow Empire, and Jimmy was up to his neck in trouble again.

My introduction to the series came with these three paperbacks, published in 1974 by Freeway Press. They present the first three pulp novels, all by Davis, and all from 1934. These early tales have a bright-eyed, gee-whiz, Doc Smithy sort of charm. Jimmy Christopher is the All-American Boy grown up, and is ably abetted by his kid sidekick Tim, sister Nan, father John and true love Diane, All-Americans all.

In The Masked Invasion, a guy called the Red Master unleashes a cosmic ray weapon on the U.S.  The Invisible Empire finds an air-borne super-fortress blasting away at New York City from the sky. And The Yellow Scourge brings the first invasion by the Yellow Empire, the guys who return with a vengeance after Jimmy finally puts the Purples on the run. These books are all great fun. 

Links to more Forgotten Books have been posted once again by Patti Abbott.  

The pulp covers shown here are borrowed from the fantastic website Galactic Central.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Hail to Thee, O Father of TV

On our trip to Virginia, we spent one foot-weary day in Washington D.C., where we took the official tour of the U.S. Capitol. Since Congress was not in session, there were no thieves or pirates to photograph, so I had to be content taking pics of statues.

Each state, it seems, is allowed to display statues of its two favorite heroes of the moment. There were many familiar names, and many I'd never heard of, but this dude struck me as one of the most important. He's one of Utah's picks. (The other is Brigham Young.)

Here's the poop on him from the official government website:

Philo T. Farnsworth was born on August 19, 1906, on Indian Creek in Beaver County, Utah. His parents expected him to become a concert violinist, but his interests drew him to experiments with electricity. At the age of 12, he built an electric motor and produced the first electric washing machine his family had ever owned.

Farnsworth is called "the father of television" for his invention of an early electronic television system, which he first visualized when he was in high school. He transmitted his first electronic television picture in 1927. Although he won an early patent for his image dissection tube, he lost later patent battles to RCA. He received some 160 patents during his career for many important inventions, which played roles in the development of radar, the infra-red night light, the electron microscope, the baby incubator, the gastroscope, and the astronomical telescope.

Farnsworth died on March 11, 1971, in Salt Lake City, Utah. Television receivers in production at that time carried approximately 100 of his patents.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Justified Sins: Brian Drake Kicks Butt Again

When I reviewed Paul Cain’s Fast One some time back, I remarked that the mystery was not who-killed-whom, but rather who would still be alive at the end. That’s also true of Brian Drake’s new short novel, Justified Sins.

On the mean streets of Drakeville, no one is safe, and I mean no one. Luckily, one man cares about the innocents. He’s determined to extract vengeance for those already fallen, and do his damndest to protect those still alive. That man’s name is Pierce.

Pierce is a pretty cool guy. Part Sam Spade, part Mack Bolan. He jokingly refers to himself as Batman without the cape. Unfortunately for the criminal element, Pierce is fully versed in the use of handheld weapons of mass destruction. In the tradition of Don Pendleton’s Executioner, Pierce brings military battle tactics to bear on the bad guys, and takes no prisoners.

The plot involves a couple of rival mobsters who’ve sent their minions to Pierce’s town after an incriminating video tape. When people close to him end up dead or in danger, Pierce unleashes all his fury on all concerned, and the city becomes a war zone.

As in the short story collection, Reaper's Dozen, Brian Drake’s prose kicks butt along with his heroes. A sample:

PIERCE WATCHED the silent cabin from behind the stump. 
___Soon the front door opened and Ben Regan rushed out with an MP7.  While Regan ran into the clearing Chubby blasted from the doorway, spraying the trees and bushes around Pierce.  Pierce stayed low and listened to the rounds whistle.  The flash of Chubby’s weapon gave Pierce a nice target.  He squeezed the trigger once and down went Chubby.
___Regan reached the black car and ducked near the front fender.  His knee struck a rock and he gritted teeth against the sharp stab of pain.
___Pierce fired a full-auto burst.  The front passenger side tire exploded, that side of the car sinking.  Regan appeared around the back end and Pierce’s next burst stitched a pattern of holes in the fender.
___Regan scooted back.  Dust clung to his sweaty face.  The tire didn’t provide enough cover and his body was visible in the gap between car and ground.  The car started to shake as nine-millimeter slugs hammered the body, split the air overhead.  Regan dropped prone; scooted past the rear bumper to level his own MP7 at Pierce’s position.
___Pierce reloaded as rounds split the foliage, struck the stump.  Shards of bark peppered his neck.  He held back the Beretta’s trigger and flame spit from the muzzle, sending hot stingers into the back end of the car.  Regan let out a clipped yell.
___Pierce reloaded again, let the dust clear, selected semi-auto and popped round after round into Regan’s prostrate form until he could no longer physically pull the trigger.  He crawled on hands and knees over the dusty ground, shoving rocks out of the way, to Regan’s body.  He felt through the pockets of the blood-spattered pants, removing a money clip with a few hundred dollars and cell phone.  He yanked the gold chain from Regan’s wrist and wiped blood away.  LOVE THY NEIGHBOR.  Pierce wanted to vomit.

This ebook is a flat-out steal at $2.99. Steal it NOW from Amazon or Smashwords.
And while you're at it, you might pop over to Brian Drake Explains it All to read a fine interview with the author.