Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Overlooked Films: The Sea Hawk (1940)

After reading and reviewing Rafael Sabatini's novel The Sea-Hawk (that's HERE), I was eager to take another look at the Errol Flynn version. My vague memory of the film was that Flynn played a pretty standard pirate hero in the Captain Blood mold. This would be very much at odds with the book, where the title character is an Englishman who has converted to Islam. Sabatini's Sea-Hawk wears a turban and commands a crew of Muslim corsairs

Well, my memory proved correct, and the explanation is fairly simple. The 1940 version of The Sea Hawk was not based on Sabatini's novel at all. A fairly faithful silent version had been made back in 1924, and Warner Brothers held the rights, but when they got around to doing a remake they decided (probably wisely) to go with an entirely different story and keep only the title.

In this version, the King of Spain wants to rule the world, and plans on starting with England as soon as his Armada is ready. England has almost no navy, so her only protection lies in The Sea Hawks, a band of loyal privateers whose most effective member is Captain Geoffry Thorpe, in the person of Errol Flynn. The only similarity to the book is that the Spanish are the bad guys, and at one point our hero is captured and chained to an oar in a Spanish galley.

That said, The Sea Hawk is one hell of a fine adventure film, with plenty of rousing sword fights, sea battles and rollicking pirate humor. Flynn is at his swashbuckling best, and among his crew are perennial sidekick Alan Hale and Edgar Buchanan. Claude Rains and Gilbert Roland ably portray Spanish villains. And Henry Daniell makes a suitably slimy traitor, a role that was probably intended for Basil Rathbone. Warner Brothers built two full size ships on the studio lot, and even flooded the set with water to provide more realistic battle scenes. Even the musical score is outstanding.

Lots more Overlooked Films at SWEET FREEDOM.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Forgotten Books: Flash Casey by George Harmon Coxe

Yikes! Got busy this week and Friday crept up on me. So this one's a recycyled review. Something new next week, I promise!

Flash Casey wasn't really a detective, of course. He was a newspaper photographer who acted like a detective.  But I suppose Avon Books can be excused, because one of the stories in this collection is actually titled "Casey - Detective".

George Harmon Coxe was one of "Cap" Shaw's second tier of stalwarts during the glory days of Black Mask. Shaw made no bones about the fact he wanted his writers to emulate Hammett's style, and Coxe does a creditable job. You can enlarge the title spread (below) from "Women are Trouble" and see what I mean.

Three of the tales in this collection, first published in 1946 as an Avon digest, were from the Shaw years. The fourth also appeared in Black Mask, but not until 1941, five years after Shaw's departure. Coxe sold Flash Casey stories to the magazine until 1943, among them two serialized novels later published in book form as Silent Are the Dead (1942) and Murder For Two (1943).

Coxe devoted most of his time (21 novels) to another photographer hero named Kent Murdock. Since Casey made his debut in 1934, and the first Murdock book was published in 1935, I have to wonder which character Coxe created first. Was Murdock a cleaned-up, married and respectable version of Casey, or was Casey a rough-and-tumble version of Murdock? Any Coxe scholars out there?

Meanwhile, Casey carried on a life of his own in the radio series Casey, Crime Photographer, got his own Marvel comic book, and appeared in two movies. There was also a TV series on CBS in 1951-52. Richard Carlyle began in the leading role, which passed to Darren McGavin and then two others before all 40 live episodes had aired.

Coxe returned to the character in the 60s, writing three more novels, the last published in 1964. This span of 31 years means Flash Casey may have had the second longest literary life of any of Shaw's Black Mask characters. W.T. Ballard's Bill Lennox debuted in 1934 (I think) and appeared in his last novel in 1960. The champ, Carroll John Daly's Race Williams, was in business from 1923 to 1955.

"Women Are Trouble" is the first (and longest) story in this collection. My copy of the April 1935 Black Mask featuring that story is the rattiest mag I own that still has the cover somewhat attached. (Be interesting to know how it got this scuffed up and remained intact.) The story was also the basis of the first Flash Casey film (still another movie I've never seen), a 1936 MGM production starring Stuart Erwin.

(click to enlarge)

Like Forgotten Books? Find more at pattinase.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Where the Successful Mystery Writer Gets His Ideas

(ASSOCIATED PRESS NEWSWIRE) This famous mystery writer, who chooses to remain anonymous (“You publish my name and I’ll shoot your ass full of buckshot,” he told our correspondent), was observed this morning researching his latest novel in the swamps near Alvin, Texas. Asked what role alligators would play in the book, he replied, “They’ll be snacking on Thin Mints, of course, while discussing the persecution of Paris Hilton. What else would they be doing?” The interview was cut short when the author produced a sawed-off shotgun and let bam with both barrels. Our reporter is now undergoing emergency buckshot removal at  West Houston Medical Center.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Doc Savage Returns! The Infernal Buddha by Will Murray

Every new Doc Savage adventure is a kick in the butt, and I got an extra kick out of this one, because the weird menace is so dang cool. During the first half of the book, all concerned - the good guys, the bad guys and those who could fall either way - are battling for possession of a toe-shaped dingus that could destroy the world.

A toe that could wipe out all life on earth, how dangerous is the rest of the statue? Yikes! Lucky for us Doc and the gang were on the job back in 1930-something, when this story takes place, or we wouldn’t be around to read it today.

Will “Kenneth Robeson” Murray has delivered another crackerjack tale, packed with all the action and humor you expect in a Doc Savage saga. His quirky villains are always good, and here we meet two of the best - a Malay pirate named Dang Mi (inspired by the Roger Miller song?) and Poetical Perkins, a guy who always speaks in rhyme.

And best of all, we get to see Doc himself masquerading as a pirate captain, complete with eyepatch. Here’s a sample:

     A great figure stood in the bow, like a sea rover of old.
     Tall he was, and broad of shoulder. He might have been a figure plucked from the days of Genghis Khan, the former ruler of half the known world. His clothes, from coat to buskins, were Mongolian. His face had that wind-burned gleam of copper that bespoke of the Gobi Desert. Numerous knife scars crisscrossed a face that was bold and full of unbridled humor. The silver eyepatch detracted not a whit from that impression. His good eye resembled an ebony pearl plucked from a treasure.

The Infernal Buddha is the third in a projected series of at least eight new WILD Adventures of Doc Savage from Altus Press, and is available HERE. The earlier volumes, The Desert Demons and Horror in Gold are still available too.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


OK, folks, I finally have this baby in hand, and am pleased to present for the first time ever on the World Wide Web (I think), the complete table of contents. Off we go . . .

Foreward by Sophie Littlefield
The Space Killers by Bill Pronzini
Far From Home by Vin Packer
King by Dave Zeltserman
Missed Flight by Steve Weddle
Purrz, Baby by Vicki Hendricks
The Little Boy Inside by Glenn Gray
An Open Door by Chris F. Holm
The Shadow Line by Charles Ardai
Ransom and Red Fingers by Garnett Elliott
Pillow Talk by Jodi MacArthur
Skyler Hobbs and the Cottingley Fairies by Evan Lewis
The King of Mardi Gras by Anthony Neil Smith
The Lake Bottom Bones by Wayne D. Dundee
Night Terrors by Jake Hinson
The Valley of the Skoocoom by Matthew P. Mayo
Shadow of the Cross by Larry D. Sweazy
A World You Don't Know by James Reasoner
State Road 53 by Alec Cizak
The Hand That Feeds Him by Patricia Abbott
A Special Kind of Hell by Hilary Davidson
A Good Kill is Worth Repeating by C. Courtney Joyner
Drifter from Wenatchee by John D. Nesbitt
Giving Dad the Finger by Keith Rawson
Ghost of a Chance by Howard Hopkins
The Quick ... and the Dead by Bill Crider
Rift by Nik Korpon
Big Darlene the Sex Machine by Matthew J. McBride
Maybe Someday by Sean Chercover
The Old Ways by Ed Gorman
Pulp Art: An Appreciation by Cullen Gallagher

Me gotta go now. Wanna start reading. Get your copy HERE.

Overlooked Cowboy Stars: Tom Keene


Ain't nobody watching old Tom much anymore, but he was hot stuff for RKO back in the early '30s, and generated some decent movie posters. I've seen a couple of his films, and while he was a less gifted thespian than say, Ken Maynard, he wasn't too bad. He was still starring in his own westerns into the '40s, after which he changed his stage name to Richard Powers and kept busy with guest roles on various TV Westerns. Sadly, he ended his career with The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet and Plan 9 from Outer Space.



More Overlooked Filmiana at Sweet Freedom.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Art Gallery: Will Murray's Doc Savage

I've gone adventuring with Doc Savage again, this time reading Will Murray's new book, The Infernal Buddha (available HERE).  As usual, it puts me in the mood to haul out and admire some of Will's earlier Doc novels. These two, from 1992, feature Bamaesque art from Joe DeVito, the same guy who's doing the covers for the new Wild Adventures from Altus Press.

I enjoyed the two earlier Wild Adventures, The Desert Demons and Horror in Gold, and I'll be reviewing The Infernal Buddha later this week.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Forgotten (and FREE) Stories: Race Williams in Carroll John Daly's "Blind Alleys"

Here's the third in our continuing series of forgotten Race Williams stories. Far as I know, it's been out of print since its first appearance in the April 1927 issue of Black Mask. Both of the earlier stories, "Alias Buttercup" and "The Super-Devil," were published while Phil Cody was editor, but this one appeared after Joe "Cap" Shaw took the helm. I was curious to see if Shaw exerted any influence on Daly, so I was paying special attention the prose. But shucks, I didn't notice a dang bit of difference.

This is an unusual case for Race, though. His wannabe client is a guy messing around with another man's wife, and when hubby takes her back by force - from under Race's nose - Race is insulted enough to take cards in the game. With, as usual, deadly consequences.

Carroll John Daly, lest we forget, was the creator of the first hardboiled private eye, and Race Williams, his most famous character, starred in the first hardboiled detective series and the first hardboiled detective novel. His stories can be pretty hokey, I'll admit, but they're always fun, and clearly a product of their era. When you read a Race Williams story, you're experiencing a bit of hardboiled history.

If you requested either of the earlier stories, I'll be sending you this one too. If not, shoot me an email at delewis1@hotmail.com, and I'll be pleased to send scans of all three. And more to come.

More Forgotten Books this week at Sweet Freedom.

Free Today for Kindle: HORSE MONEY from Black Dog Books

Today, this great collection of mysteries is available free for Kindle. That's HERE.

And be sure to check out all the other amazing stuff offered by Black Dog Books, right HERE.

HORSE MONEY contains four hard-boiled novellas of crime and intrigue around the Sport of Kings.

"These are perfect reading for anyone who enjoys hard-boiled characters and race track settings. Sit back, relax and start reading—and enjoying."—Robert J. Randisi

Known from Saratoga to Belmont and throughout the racing circuit,  Chief Van Eyck keeps the bookies and fix games in check—whether using a little strong-arm, or the nickel-platted death secured in his wide right fist—in the process.

And Van Eyck is never above picking up a few greenbacks on the side thanks to an inside tip or two from the jockey club.

Grab a stool, order a strong one and slid to the edge of your seat as the ponies and Van Eyck both give a thrill ride from wire to wire!

First time in book form.

With an introduction by Robert J. Randisi, author of the Rat Pack, Joe Keogh, Miles Jacoby, Nick Delvecchio and Henry Po mystery series; founder of the Private Eye Writers of America.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

BEAT to a PULP: Round Two !!

Yep, it's BIG, and it's now available from both CreateSpace and Amazon. I've placed my order, but until it arrives I can't give you the full list of stories. The only one I can name for sure is  "Skyler Hobbs and the Cottingley Fairies," by someone I see in the mirror every morning. But here's the lineup of all 29 authors in alphabetical (as in A for Abbott) order:

Patricia Abbott
Charles Ardai
Sean Chercover
Alec Cizak
Bill Crider
Hilary Davidson
Wayne D. Dundee
Garnett Elliott
Ed Gorman
Glenn Gray
Vicki Hendricks
Jake Hinkson
Chris F. Holm
Howard Hopkins
Courtney Joyner
Nik Korpon
Evan Lewis
Jodi MacArthur
Matthew P. Mayo
Matthew J. McBride
John D. Nesbitt
Vin Packer
Bill Pronzini
Keith Rawson
James Reasoner
Anthony Neil Smith
Larry D. Sweazy
Steve Weddle
Dave Zeltserman


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Overlooked Films: The Buccaneer (1958)

Yep, this is The Overlooked Films of Jean Lafitte Part 2 (of 2), and the last in our Lafitte marathon. Like the 1938 original, this movie shows us a little of what Lafitte was doing before the War of 1812 found it's way to Louisiana, then what he did when it arrived. In a nutshell, he turned down an offer to help the British, then offered his expert gunners, cannons and stockpile of powder and balls to the American cause, thereby saving Andy Jackson's bacon. Plenty of rip-roaring action. Dang! This makes me want to see it again.

More Overlooked Films: Sweet Freedom

More Jean Lafitte (as in "The Judgment of...") right HERE

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Legacy of Jean Lafitte

Jean Lafitte’s presence in the city of New Orleans is pretty much limited to a tavern known as Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop. Legend has it this shop was once a front for the Lafitte brothers’ smuggling operation. While they surely had a warehouse or two in the city, there is no real evidence linking them with this building or address.

It is, however, a pretty cool tavern, and said to be one of the oldest buildings in the U.S. They sold me a T-shirt stuffed inside a souvenir plastic cup. The cup proclaimed it to be the “Oldest Bar in the USA Since 1772”.

When my wife and I visited the city a couple of years ago, one of the French Quarter souvenir shops was named Pirate Jean Lafitte. But the only actual Lafitte items they stocked were T-shirts (like the one above) and they were going out of business. Though we poked our noses into just about every tourist junk shop in the Quarter, I saw not a single coffee cup, key chain, baseball cap or ballpoint pen with Lafitte’s likeness on it.

The State of Louisiana remembers Lafitte (at least in name) with the Jean Lafitte National Historic Park and Preserve. This umbrella name is given to parks and preserves all over the area, including much of the swamp and bayou area Lafitte used for his smuggling operation. BUT, near as I can tell, within all that territory there is not a single historical site, museum or even monument devoted to Lafitte himself. I got this refrigerator magnet at Chalmette Battlefield, site of the final (and climactic) confrontations of the Battle of New Orleans.

Lafitte is the patron saint of the annual Contraband Days in Lake Charles, LA. They bring in big-name music acts and hold sporting competitions, but other than a few folks dressing up as pirates it sounds much like any other community festival.

I suspect Lafitte would be highly amused to see his name emblazoned on the side of a police car.

Tomorrow: The long-awaited end of our Jean Lafitte Marathon.