Thursday, June 30, 2011

Forgotten Music: ODESSA by the Bee Gees

It's fashionable these days to dis the Bee Gees, along with every other recording artist tainted with Disco (and most deserve the dissing). But eight years before succumbing to Saturday Night Fever, these guys released their masterpiece, their answer to Sgt. Pepper, the four-sided concept album called Odessa.

Released in 1969, this album has so many good songs  it was hard to pick just six, but I knuckled down and did the deed. Two of these, "Give Your Best" and (especially) "Whisper Whisper" sound like they could have been recorded by the Beatles. The only clunkers are a couple of orchestral numbers, in which the Gees themselves barely took a hand.







FORGOTTEN MUSIC is brought to you each month at this time by Mr. Scott Parker (and by me when I can remember, which is too seldom).

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Overlooked Cartoons: Bingo Crosbyana (1936)

Here's a fun one. Supposedly Bing Crosby sued Warner Brothers because this cartoon depicted him in a negative light. I reckon that's because when the spider attacks, he's exposed as a coward. My favorite part is the song by the Andrews Sisters bugs, who are apparently not voiced by the real Andrews Sisters.

More Overlooked Entertainment at Sweet Freedom.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Death Stalks the Rangers - The Video

My fellow OWLHOOT James J. Griffin, author of a fistful of traditional Texas Rangers adventures, has a new one, and a cool video to go with it:

Friday, June 24, 2011

Forgotten Story: "A Man Couldn't Breathe" by David Goodis (writing as David Crewe)

While looking at Carroll John Daly pulps on Abe last week, I happened to see the issue at right (which I own) offered by a dealer for $750. What the hell??  I've seen some overpriced Daly items, but never one that far out of line. But reading on, I discovered Daly wasn't the reason for the outrageous price tag. According to the dealer, this issue sports the third crime story ever published by David Goodis (the first, according to that same dealer - also under the David Crewe pseudonym - was "The Shape of Murder," in the October 13, 1934 issue of the same magazine, which he will kindly sell you for the low, low price of $1,850).

Now, I'm no Goodis expert, and have no reason to doubt that those are his first and third crime stories. I am, though, a longtime book and pulp collector, and consider those prices absolutely ridiculous. So it gives me great pleasure to present to you, free of charge, that third story, "A Man Couldn't Breathe," from the April 6, 1935 issue of Detective Fiction Weekly. My only regret is that I don't have "The Shape of Murder" to share with you too.

NOTE: Goodis supposedly wrote about 400 pulp stories under various names. If anyone has a list, I'd sure like to see it. Chances are I have others I don't know about, and would be happy to post them here.

ANOTHER NOTE: This issue of DFW introduced Mr. Strang, my 3rd favorite Carroll John Daly character, and the hero of two novels. See my review of Mr. Strang HERE.

Check out this week's amazing Forgotten Books at pattinase.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

RANCHO DIABLO 1: Shooter's Cross by Colby Jackson (Mel Odom)

Bottom Line first: I enjoyed the hell out of this book.

I guess I’m not really surprised, it’s just that I didn’t know what to expect. And whatever those nebulous expectations were, Shooter’s Cross exceeded them by a country mile.

I knew James Reasoner and Bill Crider were involved in this project, and knew they’d written books 2 and 3 in the series, respectively. I’ve read a good number of books by both those gents, and they’ve always delivered the goods. But the author of this inaugural entry, Mel Odom, was a mystery to me.

No more! Mel delivers, too, introducing the Rancho Diablo saga in grand fashion. Shooter’s Cross is sort of an origin story, in which nail-tough Army scout Sam Blaylock lays eyes on Rancho Diablo and never looks back. The locals, residents of the nearby town of Shooter’s Cross, think the place is haunted, but Sam thinks it’s the perfect place to make a home for his friends and family.

In this one, we meet two of Sam’s old friends: Duane Beatty, a stalwart Cajun with a knack for engineering, and Michael Tucker, a wizard with a six-gun. And two new ones: An aptly-named old coot called Gabby (think Hayes) and a young whippersnapper from the town named Randy. These four appear slated to be regulars in the series, and offer many directions for future storylines.

Meanwhile, back in Shooter’s Cross, there’s stern-but-fair Marshal Tolliver, who seems destined to be strong ally, and newspaperman/gambler Mitch McCarthy, a capable adversary. With these members of the cast in place, we’re ready for the arrival of Sam’s wife and kids in the next installment.

The story is compelling, the prose smooth and the dialogue tight. It all adds up to a great read, and has me eager to see what Misters Reasoner and Crider have for us in the next two books. And thankfully, I won’t have to wait. All three books are available for Kindle RIGHT NOW, and for us old-fashioned paper book collectors, Shooter’s Cross is also offered in paperback.

More info at the Rancho Diablo Blog, including the very good news that this intrepid trio already has a spin-off series in the works!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Coming Friday: A Forgotten Story by DAVID GOODIS

Until recently, I had no idea David Goodis was selling stories to the pulps as early as 1934, when he was a mere 17 years old. Seems to be true, though. This Friday, I'll be posting scans of the 7-page story, "A Man Couldn't Breathe," from the April 6, 1935 issue of Detective Fiction Weekly, published under the pseudonym David Crewe. If this tale has ever been reprinted, I can't find any record of it. Come on back and check it out!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

PIRATES of the M.P.C.!

In the late 50s and early 60s, the Multiple Plastics Corporation (known as MPC) produced 60mm soft plastic figures known as "ringhands" because their hands had holes to accommodate a variety of accessories. Each guy was about 2 5/8 inches tall. There were cowboys, Indians, frontiersmen, Civil War and Revolutionary War soldiers, African warriors, G.I.s, cops, firemen, space explorers, and probably others that are slipping my mind. My favorites were the pirates.

Each figure also had a hole in the base, to slip over a peg on certain larger accessories. For cowboys, these pegs were in wagons, for Indians they were in canoes. The pirates had ships!

Some of the accessories pictured here are the row boat and oars, shovel, anchor, sword and hat.

At the bow of the blue ship there's a plank, in case anyone needs to walk it, and a red lantern. (At the upper right is a Skyler Hobbs accessory. This is the actual Superman-blue PT Cruiser driven by Jason Wilder in the Hobbs stories.)

This peg-legged guy, no doubt inspired by Long John Silver, has a parrot on his shoulder. Near his right leg is a treasure chest.

I know it's hard to see, but the guy steering the red ship has a cat-o-nine tails. Nautical trivia: The cat, a short whip tipped with nine knotted strips of leather, was normally kept in a bag when not in use. When the time came to flay some unlucky transgressor, the cat came out. This was the origin of the saying - yep, you guessed it - "the cat's out of the bag."

This dangerous looking dude has a pick in his left fist. The yellow guy visible behind him is preparing to bop somebody with a boarding pike.

More ringhands coming soon!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Forgotten Books: UP JUMPED THE DEVIL by Cleve F. Adams

Remember Rex McBride? He debuted in Sabotage (1940) and returned in And Sudden Death (1940) and Decoy (1940), all previously featured as Forgotten Books.

This fourth volume of the series, from 1943, boasts the coolest title, lending itself to some of the coolest artwork. Why then, when Signet reprinted the book in 1950, did they retitle it Murder All Over? Beats me! (BTW, beware of the Handi-Books edition. It's abridged.)

Reading Cleve F. Adams is always a joy. My brain slides right into the familiar rhythm of his prose and the jaded attitudes of his heroes. In Up Jumped the Devil, Rex is in San Francisco on the trail of a fabulous string of diamonds known as the Adelphi necklace. It’s gone missing, and the company that insured it for a hundred grand has hired Rex to get it back.

He’s up against the fatcat owner, a Cesar Romero lookalike sniffing around the owner’s wife and adopted daughter, a dirty cop who hates his guts, an unscrupulous diamond dealer, a gambling den magnate and an assortment of small time hoods and grifters. And just to make things tougher, the FBI is using him as a stalking horse in their investigation of sabotaged war plants on the West Coast.

For this one, Adams employed the art of “cannibalization” made famous by his friend Raymond Chandler. The first third of the book began life as the novelette “Exodus” in the Jan. 13, 1940 issue of Detective Fiction Weekly. In the story, the detective is a McBride clone named Regan. Some of the supporting cast retained their names in the novel, while others were rechristened. That same issue of the mag featured Part 5 of the 6-part Rex McBride serial published later that year as And Sudden Death. While "Exodus" later proved to be a fine title for a movie - and a great Bob Marley song - I consider "Up Jumped the Devil" a big improvement.

If you haven’t read Adams, the first two pages of “Exodus” (below) will give you a good taste.

On this reading, the character of Rex McBride struck an extra chord, and I got the possibly crackpot notion that John Sandford, author of the Prey series, might be a Cleve F. Adams fan. Like McBride, Sandford’s hero Lucas Davenport is dark complexioned, a fancy dresser and a womanizer. Both like to spend money on themselves, both have quick, violent tempers, and both have contacts at all levels of society. How about it, Mr. S? Is Lucas is Rex’s nephew?

(click to enlarge)

Crave more Adams? I posted scans the complete short story "Jigsaw" right HERE.

For links to more Forgotten Books from the usual suspects, visit pattinase

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Guest Post by Nancy Farrell: Introducing the Noir Series from Akashic Books

One wouldn't usually expect the most recent, surprising, and ground-breaking noir series to be published by a small press; yet, that's exactly what Akashic Books has done with their location-specific Noir Series, a series that began with the award-winning Brooklyn Noir anthology in 2004, and has since gone on to visit American and international locations alike: Dublin, Wall Street, Queens, Rome, San Francisco, with anthologies forthcoming based in St. Petersburg, Long Island, and so on. Most recently the press struck gold with their Haiti Noir anthology, edited by celebrated Hatian-American writer Edwidge Danticat. The anthology received excellent reviews in The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, and the Los Angeles Times, as well as a mention in Oprah Magazine.

So what exactly does a long-running noir series include and how has it become so successful with mainstream audiences? Well, Akashic Books has taken an interesting editorial vision regarding how it presents noir, what it considers noir, and who it selects to edit these volumes. Essentially, the publisher has greatly expanded what it considers to be noir: a woeful, dark story that ends unhappily. Certainly, many stories in the series have a criminal and violent feel, but there are also many stories that seem quieter and painful in other noir-ish ways. Diehard fans of noir might find those stories to be a bit tepid; however, consider the mainstream success of the anthology, and you can see how other readers might appreciate the subtler stories as well. Overall, the anthologies have a good mix of stories.

Secondly, the publisher has sought out a variety of factors to influence the feel of each collection: specifically the guest editors, from crime mainstays like Dennis Lehane to the aforementioned Edwidge Danticat, a literary writer who has made her name writing subtler fictions, and the settings. The tastes of each editor significantly influence the feel of each manuscript, just like the atmosphere of each location lends its own feel. Imagine the differences you'd feel in, say, Baltimore versus San Francisco, and that will give you an idea as to how the anthologies differ as well. Think of each editor as a guide, who has selected certain parts of the city to show you. In this way, the series has been able to go on for quite some time without seeming tired or repetitive.

If you're at all interested in taking a peek at this series, I recommend starting with either the original Brooklyn Noir anthology or the Haiti Noir anthology. If you're still interested, you can read an excerpt of Pete Hamill's story, "The Book Signing," which appeared in Brooklyn Noir; hopefully that will be enough to whet your appetite!

Author Bio:
Nancy Farrell is a freelance writer and blogger. She regularly contributes to criminal justice schools, which discusses about child abuse, human rights, divorce, and crime related articles. Questions or comments can be sent to:

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Overlooked Films: Ken Maynard in Between Fighting Men (1932)

I’ve been chugging through the movies on the 50-film collection The Way West and so far I've seen over a dozen of them. (I talked about a few of the films and posted the complete list of titles HERE.)

The movies in this set are mostly from the 30s, and feature a lot of guys I’d heard of - or seen on movie posters - but had never seen on screen. Some are better than expected, some worse, and at least one (to be discussed in a future post) is unbelievably bad.

Ken Maynard was one of the good surprises. He had the look, the personality and the screen presence it took to be a first-rate B-Western star. And Between Fighting Men was a good vehicle to show off those qualities.

The story here is familiar: Sheepmen are moving into cattle country, and the cattle guys are pissed. But it just so happens that the first sheepherder to arrive has a beautiful daughter. And the leading cattle rancher has a skirt-chasing son.

Ken is NOT the son. He’s the son’s best pal, and top hand at the ranch. One of the good things about this film is that Ken doesn’t need a goofy sidekick for comedy relief. Ken and the son provide that themselves, with their good-natured competition for the attention of females. The sheepherder’s daughter does cause friction between them, of course, but when the chips are down their friendship proves stronger than the rivalry.

Make no mistake, this is a B-Western cheapie, but it’s still mighty dang good entertainment.

Gallop on over to Sweet Freedom for more of today's Overlooked goodies.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The OTHER James Arness

He wasn't ALWAYS Matt Dillon. Just 99% of the time.

(OK, you caught me. I couldn't resist just one Dillon pic.)

Friday, June 10, 2011

Forgotten Books: The White Circle by Carroll John Daly

I don’t know who the should get the credit for being fiction’s first masked do-gooder. Some folks say it’s the Scarlet Pimpernel, who was in the masked hero business as early as 1903. Zorro entered the ranks in 1919, and I’m guessing there were numerous modern-day crime fighters using the gimmick prior to 1926.

Still, 1926 seems pretty early, long before the Spider and The Phantom Detective and even The Shadow, whose mask consisted of make-up rather than cloth.

The mask worn by Daly’s hero in The White Circle is not described in detail, but I got the impression it either covers his whole head, or hangs down to completely conceal his face. The same can be said of the mask worn by the hero’s arch-villain, known as The Black Circle.

The White Circle was Daly’s first solo novel. I say solo because it was slightly preceded by Two-Gun Gerta, published in book form the same year and co-authored by C.C. Waddell (that’s reviewed HERE).

It seems likely this adventure first appeared in a magazine, probably as a serial, but I’ve yet to discover where or when. If anyone has a clue, I’d sure like to hear about it. (And not long after posting this, I did! David Wilson reports that The White Circle was published as "The White Champion" in four consecutive issues of Flynn's, August 15, 1925 to September 5, 1925. Thanks, David!)

Our hero here is a two-fisted, two-gunned adventurer named Stacey Lee who has traveled the world and sown his oats, finally amassing a small fortune and settling down to a respectable life in the second echelon of New York society. As the story opens, he has lost that fortune and faces ruin.

But just in the nick of time, he’s approached by an old man calling himself The White Circle. The old man offers to restore Stacey’s riches if he agrees to don the white mask and do battle with the blackmailing scoundrel known as The Black Circle. Stacey agrees, and finds his old lifestyle has equipped him well to play masked avenger. And just to make it more fun, he is provided with a sheet of little White Circle stickers, so he can paste one on the body of every bad guy he shoots (shades of the Spider).

By the time this book was published, Daly had been writing Race Williams story for three years, and Stacey has a lot of Race in him. Which is all to the good, of course. I like a hero who isn’t shy about using his trigger fingers.

As is typical of Daly’s early work, the plot is creaky and melodramatic, and there are always curtains handy for someone, good or bad, to hide behind with a gun. But Daly’s prose was actually pretty good, except for his abominable habit of leaving thoughts and sentence unfinished, or loading his paragraphs with so many M-dashes that they became nearly incomprehensible.

Here’s the opening of the book, an example of Daly at his best:

I went to sleep broke—as free from money as a bluefish is from wings. And I went to sleep sober, without a care or worry. It wasn’t in me to drown my sorrow. I felt none—when a man comes back, he fights his way—not slops it. My life had been chuck full of adventure: South America, the gay boulevards of Paris, the shining steel in the hand of a vicious Arab in that romantic, forbidden section of the old hillside city of Algiers. Even the deadly, biting stillness of the jungle night in the sweating tropical climate of Africa was not unfamiliar to me.

In New York I turned a little bank account into a fortune; the instinct to take chances made me in Wall Street, and that instinct wiped me out. There was no kick. For two years I had lived, but there was nothing of romance in the city—that uncertainty of lurking foes, that living, breathing closeness to death that had ever been in my nostrils. 

Not bad, eh?
But here’s a sample of the choppy stuff:

“Take off your coat,” I told him. “Sling it about your head—you know the house—is there a way down the back?—but lead, you must—I’d be lost out there.”

He nodded, his head wagging grotesquely through the haze—just a head, nothing more—the thick, seeping, clutching, stifling vapor pierced through the nostrils and into the base of the brain.

Coats over our heads—both at the door—Bert nearest the exit, we flung it open again. A burst of smoke again—a white, drifting wave that vanished almost at once—fire, just a raging fire—lay without, leaping from below—above the dark banister that guarded the stairs. 

I know one other die-hard Daly fan who finds this early stuff unreadable. Me, I enjoy it anyway, but I’m hard put not to whip out a pen and edit as I read.

As far as I know, this book has never been reprinted in any form, and is one of the few Daly novels not available in PDF format from The Vintage Library. I think that's a cryin' shame. (More late-breaking news: Got an email from Bill Halvorson, who advises me that a 2008 reprint is available HERE. Great detective work, Bill!)

An aside: When I first started reading this book (sometime in the 80s, most likely), it taught me a great lesson. The lesson was: NEVER TAKE A RARE BOOK OUT OF THE HOUSE, YOU IDIOT!

At the time, I lived just across the river from downtown Portland, and often rode my bike to work. After much hunting, I had tracked down a British edition of The White Circle (which cost me about 30 pounds plus exorbitant postage), and had just started reading, so I strapped it to my bike rack and took it along, planning to read it on breaks and lunch.

Well! When I reached the other side of the bridge, the book was no longer with me. Frantic, I retraced my route all the way back to my house, and the sucker was nowhere to be found. Took me another year and a lot more bucks to track down another copy, this time the American edition pictured above. But I learned my lesson, and have not lost a book since, rare or otherwise.

More Forgotten Books at pattinase!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

SHOW NO MERCY: Brian Drake Strikes Again!

If Black Mask had run a spy serial, it would have read a lot like Show No Mercy. Brian Drake’s two previous books, the story collection Reaper's Dozen (review HERE) and the novel Justified Sins (HERE), were very much in the Mask tradition, featuring hard-as-nails protagonists who shoot their way out of tough situations.

In Show No Mercy, we meet several protagonists - and several antagonists - who duke it out on a global scale, and they're playing for much larger stakes.

The book is billed as a Michael Dodge Thriller, and I suppose that’s true. Dodge, a CIA agent, is the first hero we meet, and the story ends in his point of view. But Show No Mercy actually features an ensemble cast, and Dodge gets only slightly more face time than some of the others.

Like any good spy thriller, Dodge and his friends are up against a major league threat to mankind - in this case a leftover batch of the super-deadly Soviet nerve gas Delta Nine. Numerous bad guys are out to get it, all with their own nefarious agendas. The quest to retrieve the gas takes Dodge and crew around the world, where they land smack in the middle of do-or-die firefights. These battle scenes are always intense, and Mr. Drake is a master at putting us in the middle of the action.

But beyond all the intrigue, and the ever-mounting body count, this is a story of relationships. At the crux of tale is Harry Ames, a near-legendary CIA operative who has been undercover so long, and gone so deep, that no one (including the reader) can be sure whose side he’s on.

Michael Dodge is conflicted because Ames was the man who trained him, and became almost a father to him. Our number two protagonist, Agent Tracy Ames, is even more tormented, because Harry is her father. She badly wants to believe he’s still loyal to agency, but even she can’t be sure. And the man who is both Michael and Tracy’s boss, General Ike Fleming (a tribute to Ian?), who has known and respected Harry longer than either of them, is equally in the dark.

Dodge is torn between his duty - which may require killing Harry - and his feelings, not only for his mentor, but for Tracy, who is one of his closest friends, and potentially even more.

How does it all play out? You’ll just have to read Show No Mercy, and find out for yourself!

(Brian Drake explains it all at Brian Drake Explains It All.)

NEWS FLASH! For a Limited Time Only, all three of Brian Drake's eBooks (including this one) are just 99 CENTS EACH from Amazon! 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Overlooked Cartoons: Popeye the Sailor (1933)

If you've never met the one, true Popeye, and by that I mean the one depicted by E.C. Segar in the 1930s comic strip Thimble Theater, you really should. The strips, both daily and Sunday, are finally back in print, the Sundays are even in color. The stories, the art, the characters and the humor are all fantastic.

But the next best thing to the REAL thing is the Popeye of the Fleischer cartoons. The Fleischers always delivered great animation and great music, and Popeye's screen debut is no exception. This first one is actually  a Betty Boop cartoon, though Betty has only a minor role as a hula dancer. After this, Popeye got his own series, and punched his way through dozens of cool cartoons.

More Overlooked Thrills each week at Sweet Freedom.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Forgotten Coloring Books: The Shadow and The Lone Ranger

Here's some great summer reading for those of us with short attention spans. The Shadow Coloring Book, from 1974, features art by Tony Tallarico (of whom I've never heard) and features two complete stories, told in full page colorable pictures with captions. In the first tale, The Shadow foils a museum robbery, and in the second he catches some jewel thieves. 

To make sure you get your money's worth from this post, we offer two uncolored pages. It is highly recommended that you print them out before coloring, but if you prefer to apply your crayons directly to your computer monitor, hey, go for the gusto. 

The Lone Ranger Color Book, copyright 1954 but no doubt reprinted in the 70s, is somewhat less cool. The uncredited artwork is less distinguished, the publisher was cheap in applying the ink, and the pages are just random drawings. Despite the subtitle "A Western Adventure," there is no story here.

Forgotten Books are brought to you each week by Patti Abbott at pattinase