Friday, June 30, 2017


I'm letting you in on a secret here: The Moses Deception by Stephen Mertz, released in May by Wolf Pack Publishing, may look like a book, but it's actually a blockbuster action movie cleverly disguised as a novel. (Don't tell Steve I spilled the beans.)

The Moses Deception stars Brad and Angelina as Adam Chase and Lara Newton, archaeologists on a dig on the Syria-Turkey border. They're seeking evidence of Moses and the Exodus, but find way more than they're looking for - the shattered fragments of tablets Moses toted down Mount Sinai. On those tablets (and this is not a spoiler, because it's revealed on the back of the book) is an Eleventh Commandment.

One of the first problems our heroes encounter is a Kurdish rebel leader (played by Navid Negahban) who demands a piece of the action. Violence ensues.

Next up is Turkish military captain Yilmaz (ably portrayed by Robert Davi), who also wants a slice of the pie. Violence ensues.

But so does his superior, Major Basra (Adel Imam), and there are only so many pieces to go around. Violence ensues again.

Enter rival archaeologist Vernon Jeffreys (Dolph Lundgren), who has his own agenda, and gets additional firepower from . . . 

. . . a snarling mercenary called The Wolf (played by Keanu Reeves. Yeah, this is BIG budget bookfilm). More violence ensues.

Adam and Lara's backer is a filthy rich Texan media magnate called Buckeye Calhoun (Joe Don Baker), whose passion is proving the inerrancy and infallibility of The Bible. 

And the lady behind Buckeye's throne is his mild-mannered assistant Prudence Mayberry - known as Mrs. M. (Betty White). She has to be mild-mannered to put up with his shit.

Much of the action takes place in Rome, where Adam's dear old friend Sister Dominic (Lily Tomlin) works at the Documentation Lab at the Vatican. Violence . . . well, you get the idea.

While in Rome, Adam enlists the help of a shady character named Tony Quaso (Michael Imperioli). Then it's on to Berlin, where they meet . . . 

. . . Adam's super-nerdy dear old friend, vintage blues enthusiast and collector Edo von Hofsteder (Lewis Skolnick). And yeah, violence continues to ensue.

Adam and Lara are assailed from all sides, one of which is represented by a couple of inept ex-Mossad agents, portrayed by Oded Fehr and Naveen Andrews. Who's behind it all? What does the Eleventh Commandment say? Is the tablet for real? Will Adam and Lara get to share it with the world? Will they ever hook up? Will they even survive? 

I ain't telling, but the tension keeps ratcheting up until it all comes to a head at a secluded hideaway in the Alps, where MUCH more violence ensues. But I have one more secret to reveal. Guess who's cast as Big Daddy Moses, the guy who started it all?

I know what you're thinking -- that's Charlton Heston in the scarlet robe. Wrong! In the tradition of creator cameos by such icons as Alfred Hitchcock and Stan Lee, author/producer Stephen Mertz plays Moses himself! Great type-casting, eh? (He modeled for the cover, too.)

So there you have it, or some of it. The good news is you don't have to wait for The Moses Deception to come to your neighborhood theater complex, where they'd make you stand in line and charge you $15 to see it in 3D ($11.75 for seniors), $8.25 for popcorn and $6 for a drink. Instead, you can order it right now from Amazon or elsewhere, make your own popcorn, pour your own soda (or adult beverage), and take this wild ride from your own easy chair.

Do it now and I can promise you this: Violence will ensue.

Thursday, June 29, 2017


10-Story Detective May 1942

Detective Short Stories July 1938

New Detective April 1952

Friday, June 23, 2017

Forgotten Books: E.C. Segar's POPEYE (1929-1938)

I grew up with Popeye cartoons at the theater and on TV, with Dell Popeye comic books, and with the newspaper strip by Bud Sagendorf. And I thought I knew Popeye. I was wrong. The real Popeye sprang from the pen of Elzie C. Segar in 1929, and lived until 1938, when those not-quite Popeyes took over. While some later artists duplicated his look, none were able to fully capture the strip's wild humor.

I met the genuine article in 1984, when Fantagraphics began their first series of reprints. Volumes 1 through 4 featured Sunday strips in black and white in a large (11 x 15") format, while the dailies took over with volume 5 in a smaller (11 x 8 1/2") size. There were 11 volumes in all. Being thrifty, I bought the paperback editions, but there were hardcovers issued as well. 

The strips were amazing. Sundays sometimes had continuity and were sometimes stand-alone shorts, while the dailies had the best of both worlds - gags enmeshed in long adventure stories. Segar introduced the world to characters like the Sea Hag, Alice the Goon and Eugene the Jeep (yeah, the word--and name--Jeep, came from Segar).

Beginning in 2006, Fantagraphics struck again, reissuing the whole thing in six large (10 1/2 x 15") hardcover volumes as E.C. Segar's Popeye, This time, dailies and Sundays appeared in each volume, though in different sections. On the plus side, the Sundays were printed in color, but on the down side, the daily panels were smaller (some say too small). Another downer was that these books were bound in extremely fragile paper-covered cardboard. The corners got chipped and ugly quick, and the copies my local library bought were destroyed and discarded within a couple of years. The color is nice, but for readability I'd recommend the 1984 series.

The strip, called Thimble Theater, began in 1919, centering on Olive Oyl and her family. By 1929 it was largely a comedy-adventure following the exploits of her brother Castor Oyl and boyfriend Ham Gravy. When one of their adventures that year required a ship, they hired a sailor - a character slated for a temporary minor role. And you know what happened. He stole the show.

Here's a Segar sample - a complete Sunday story from August 1, 1935. Future superhero artists must have been inspired by his ability to depict violence, while an unborn boy named Robert Crumb was clearly influenced by his style.