Monday, December 26, 2016

The Art of Adam West


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. 



Joker Evening Makeup

Christmas Surprise



The Mad Hatter

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas with the Stars

This post is a re-run from a couple three years ago, but worth another look.

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.