Monday, June 26, 2017

Stiletto #2: The Fairmont Maneuver - Brian Drake


CIA agent Scott Stiletto is back in Brian Drake’s latest novel THE FAIRMONT MANEUVER, and as usual, it’s a fast-paced espionage thriller with plenty of action. In this one, Scott rescues a Swiss scientist who’s being blackmailed by the Iranians into building triggers for nuclear bombs. That’s just the beginning, though, as Scott then answers a call for help from an ex-CIA colleague and former lover whose father has been murdered by mobsters trying to pressure her into selling her fashion design business. Why would mobsters want to take over a fashion design business, you ask? Well, in a clever plot twist from Drake, the reason doesn’t turn out to be what you’d expect.

I’m really enjoying this series for a couple of reasons. There’s a lot of all-out action, and Drake is very good at writing it in a style reminiscent of the classic men’s adventure novels. Also, Scott Stiletto is a very likable protagonist, human but not weighed down with angst or some cliched back-story. He’s one of the good guys and is very competent at what he does. Nor does Drake burden the tale he wants to tell with page after page of padding, as so many bloated contemporary thrillers do. THE FAIRMONT MANEUVER is lean and swift and very enjoyable.


Sunday, June 25, 2017

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Argosy, March 30, 1940


ARGOSY was still a full-fledged pulp in 1940, as you can probably tell by this octopus-fighting cover by Rudolph Belarski. Despite Foster-Harris's name being on the cover, he's not listed in the contents for this issue in the Fictionmags Index. However, there are stories by Donald Barr Chidsey, Johnston McCulley, Borden Chase, Robert Arthur, Jack Byrne, Kenneth Perkins, and David V. Reed, so that's no shortage of good authors.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Wild West Weekly, November 18, 1933


That's an action-packed cover by Walter Baumhofer on this issue of WILD WEST WEEKLY, and the line-up of authors and stories inside is great: a Johnny Forty-Five story by Paul S. Powers writing as Andrew A. Griffin, a Border Eagle story by Walker A. Tompkins writing as Philip F. Deere, a Hungry and Rusty story by Samuel H. Nickels, a Shorty Master story by Allan R. Bosworth, and non-series yarns by William F. Bragg, Arthur Hawthorne Carhart, and Cliff Farrell writing as Nelse Anderson. Pretty entertaining from cover to cover, I expect.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Forgotten Books: Avalon - Francis Stevens


Avalon is a family name in this long-forgotten pulp novel, not a place. Originally serialized in ARGOSY in September and October of 1919, it takes place on a group of isolated islands off the coast of South Carolina. In pre-Revolutionary times, these islands were granted by the King of England to the Avalon family, who still rule them as a sort of feudal fiefdom despite the presence of a few modern items such as automobiles, gasoline launches, and wireless communication with the mainland.

The current master of Five Isles is Florence “Flurry” Avalon, who is a rugged male despite his feminine name. Avalon is seldom in residence there since he also runs a coffee plantation in South America, but his sister and younger brother live in Cliff House, the ancestral family residence which serves as this novel’s version of The Old Dark House . . . because that’s the kind of story this is, filled with secret passages, villainous Spaniards, shipwrecked survivors, mobs of torch-bearing villagers, unexpected shots in the night, and love at first sight between Avalon and one of the passengers from the wrecked schooner who show up at Cliff House.

The author of AVALON is Francis Stevens (the pseudonym of Gertrude Bennett), who also wrote some early weird thrillers such as THE LABYRINTH and THE CITADEL OF FEAR. I’ve read THE LABYRINTH and thought it was okay up to a point. AVALON lacks as many weird elements, but its plot holds together better and overall I enjoyed it quite a bit. Yes, it’s melodramatic, and its style is so old-fashioned that it might be off-putting to most modern readers. But if you can put yourself in the right frame of mind, the story moves along at a good clip and some of the writing holds up well. It’s available in a reprint edition from Beb Books, and if you enjoy early pulp thrillers, you might want to give it a try.

(This post originally appeared in somewhat different form on May 11, 2008.)

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Now Available for Pre-Order: Blaze! Bad Medicine - Michael Newton


Arizona Territory is heating up—and Kate and J.D. Blaze are about to get burned! A fanatical Apache medicine man is determined to bring about all-out war between his people and the army, and he's doing it by slaughtering as many white settlers as he can find. Kate and J.D. are drawn into his dangerous situation when a woman and her children are kidnapped by the Apache raiders and intended for a gruesome sacrifice. The Old West's only team of husband-and-wife gunfighters will need all their cunning and deadly skill to bring the captives back alive and stop the medicine man's scheme to flood the desert with blood!

Legendary adventure writer Michael Newton is back with another gritty, fast-action novel filled with all the passion and excitement of the Old West.


A Middle of the Night Music Post: Victory - Two Steps From Hell


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Overlooked Movies: Lies and Alibis (2006)


I'd never heard of this movie, but hey, it's got Sam Elliott (quite possibly my favorite living actor) and Rebecca Romijn in it, so why not watch it? And as it turns out, LIES AND ALIBIS is a pretty entertaining, if hard to follow, little thriller.

British comedian Steve Coogan plays a guy whose business provides alibis for cheating spouses to help them get away with their affairs. Romijn, in an underwritten role, works for him. In a fairly predictable plot twist, one of their clients winds up killing somebody and wants Coogan to help him cover up the crime. As if that's not enough of a problem, Coogan is a former con man whose partner has a five million dollar bounty on his head from a Saudi prince they scammed. So people are after Coogan trying to get him to reveal where said partner is. There's also a hitman stalking him. Sam Elliott plays another hitman, this one known as the Mormon because he's, well, a Mormon. Selma Blair is one of his wives. James Brolin is a rich guy who can't be trusted. Lots of stuff happens, much of it not making any sense at the time, but it finally all comes together okay, if you squint your eyes and hold your mouth right.

LIES AND ALIBIS was written by Noah Hawley, who now writes FARGO. We've seen the first two seasons of that series, and when I told Livia that this movie was written by the same guy, she said, "I can see that." Quirky but entertaining dialogue, unlikable characters that you somehow like anyway, and lots of plot twists. I enjoyed it . . . but I think Rebecca Romijn is really good-looking and I can listen to Sam Elliott talk all day, no matter what he's talking about, so if you don't feel that way, you may not enjoy this movie as much as I did. I had a good time watching it and didn't fall asleep, which is my equivalent of the old "two thumbs up" bit, for those of you old enough to remember that.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Science Fiction Quarterly, February 1957


Ed Emshwiller is one of the classic science fiction cover artists, and this is a pretty good one. This issue of SCIENCE FICTION QUARTERLY has a good line-up of well-regarded authors inside, too: Frederik Pohl, Philip K. Dick, Wallace West, Randall Garrett, and Margaret St. Clair. I don't know anything about D.A. Jourdan, who wrote the other story featured on the cover.

A Middle of the Night Music Post: On and On - Stephen Bishop

I admit, when I think of Stephen Bishop the first thing that comes to mind is his scene with John Belushi in ANIMAL HOUSE, but this is still a pretty song and I like it.