Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Now Available for Pre-Order: Blaze! The Christmas Journey - Stephen Mertz

Husband-and-wife gunfighters J.D. and Kate Blaze are just about the unlikeliest Santa Claus and Santa’s helper that the Old West has ever seen. But when a bank is robbed in Arizona Territory and a frantic mother has to embark on a desperate journey to save her son’s life, it’s Kate and J.D. who ride along to make sure everybody gets what’s coming to them for Christmas, whether it’s a hangman’s noose or hot lead! By horseback, stagecoach, and train, it’s up to the Blazes to deliver presents for one and all, and there’ll be outlaws and Apaches stirring before Christmas morning dawns.

BLAZE! THE CHRISTMAS JOURNEY is a Special Holiday Edition from series creator Stephen Mertz, full of action and humor and heartwarming plot twists. It’s Christmas in the Old West with the deadliest pair of gunfighters to ever hit the trail!

Sunday, October 16, 2016


Those of us who are friends with Ed Gorman knew this day was coming, but that doesn't make the news of his passing any easier to take. I've had many wonderful friends in the writing business over the years, but only a handful I can say are truly like family to me, and Ed was one of those.

Ed was a wonderful writer, of course. Anybody who's read his work knows that. But he was an even better man and friend. It's not too much of a stretch to say that if not for Ed Gorman, there's a good chance I wouldn't even be a writer anymore. Time and again over the years, when I was having trouble selling and was ready to throw my hands in the air and quit, I'd get a phone call from Ed and he'd say, "James, I know this guy who needs somebody to write a series, and I just told him to call you," or "James, I know this guy who needs somebody to ghost a book real quick, and I just told him you're the man for the job."

On two occasions, it was Ed himself who needed a book written in a hurry. He'd sold some Westerns to Zebra but didn't have time to write them. He sent me an outline for a book called THE MAN FROM NIGHTSHADE VALLEY and told me to make it as much like a Max Brand novel as I could. That was no problem, since I'd been a Max Brand fan since I was ten years old, but I quickly read several Brand novels anyway to get in the mood and launched into the writing. The book turned out to be one of my favorites. Zebra published it under the name Jake Foster, with a pretty good cover and the title changed to HELL-FOR-LEATHER RIDER. Since the book's protagonist was a Pony Express rider, that sort of fit, although not as well as Ed's original title.

The other book I wrote for Ed was very different, a noirish Old West novel about a man unjustly blamed for a bank robbery returning to the town where the crime took place. Ed's title was THE PRODIGAL GUN. Zebra published that one, again as Jake Foster, under the less appropriate title RAMROD REVENGE. Many years later, when I republished these books under both of our names, I restored Ed's original titles to them.

I'm trying to remember when Ed and I first met. It was around 1985, I know that, and I believe it was Bob Randisi who put us in touch. Ed sent me a couple of his horror novels that Zebra had published under the name Daniel Ransom. I loved them: fast-paced yarns, funny in places, and genuinely creepy. I'm not sure Ed was that fond of these books in later years, but I still have a soft spot in my heart for them because they introduced me to his distinctive voice. His horror novel THE FORSAKEN (published by St. Martin's, I believe) has passages in it so poignant that they still get me a little misty-eyed when I think about them decades later.

But Ed was one of those guys who could write just about anything. His mystery novels and stand-alone thrillers were all top-notch. He could do excellent house-name books, although he preferred working on his own stuff, and who can blame him for that. But for my money, his best novels are his Westerns. Intricately plotted, tinged with melancholy, full of painfully sharp observations about the human condition . . . We might as well just go ahead and say that Ed Gorman was the best author of Western noir of all time.

When I said above that Ed and I "met" in 1985, I mean through correspondence, of course. Ed wasn't a guy who got around a lot. He liked being at home, and he didn't like crowds. We traded emails and letters for thirty years, though, and in the pre-Internet days we talked for hours on the phone. I'm one of the lucky folks who met him in person, at the WWA convention in Jackson, Wyoming, in 1992. Our visit was a short one, but I treasure the memory of it.

Forgive the somewhat scattered nature of this post. All sorts of memories are bouncing around in my head today. Ed never ended an email without expressing how much Livia and I meant to him. The feeling is mutual, my friend. We'll miss you forever. Rest in peace, Ed, and our deepest condolences to Carol and the rest of the family.

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: All-American Fiction, July-August 1938

What a cover by Rudolph Belarski. And what a line-up of authors: Max Brand, H. Bedford-Jones, Donald Barr Chidsey, Frank Richardson Pierce, Joel Townsley Rogers, Richard Sale, and James Francis Dwyer. That's an all-star issue of ALL-AMERICAN FICTION.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Ranch Romances, 2nd May Number, 1954

I was sort of in a RANCH ROMANCES mood because I just read a short novel by Livia that could have appeared in that pulp during the Fifties. I'll have more to say about that later when it comes out, but for now I was looking at cover scans on the Fictionmags Index when this one, uh, jumped out at me, I guess you could say. Sam Cherry could paint some beautiful women, and he certainly did on this cover.

But what's inside the magazine, you ask? Stories by Walker A. Tompkins, Roe Richmond, Chandler Whipple, Ben Frank, house-name Sam Brant, a couple of authors I haven't heard of, and two female Western authors, Jeanne Williams and Teddy Keller. I met Jeanne Williams at some of the WWA conventions twenty or more years ago and have read some of her novels. Excellent writer. Don't know that I've read anything by Teddy Keller, but I should. Of the others, Tompkins is always good and Richmond sometimes is. From what I've read, the Fifties is my favorite era for RANCH ROMANCES.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Forgotten Books: You'll Get Yours - Thomas Wills (William Ard)

(This post appeared originally in somewhat different form on September 9, 2006.)

This novel was published by the legendary Lion Books in 1952.
The narrator is New York private eye Barney Glines. A PI named Barney Glines also appears in William Ard’s two Danny Fontaine novels, published about a decade later. I haven’t read the Fontaine books yet, so I don’t know if the character is supposed to be the same one or just has the same name. This novel has a very atmospheric opening in which Barney is in a seedy hotel in Mexico, having come there to kill a man. Someone beats him to it, though, and from there the story backtracks to how and why Barney set out on this murderous quest. The yarn includes a beautiful actress, stolen diamonds, blackmail photos, strippers, vicious junkies, and a particularly brutal murder for which Barney is framed. In other words, all the stuff you need for a good private eye novel.

Which YOU’LL GET YOURS certainly is. In the end, the plot is a little too simple and seems to be lacking a twist or two, but the book is fast-paced, the action scenes are very good, and Barney Glines is a likable character. Its strongest aspect, though, is the nightmarish quality that hangs over the entire book, as if it might just be a fever dream rather than reality. One of Ard’s other novels is called HELL IS A CITY, and in this book, New York is pretty hellish. But in an entertaining way for hardboiled readers, of course.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Now Available: The Savage Pack - Fred Blosser

The North Carolina wilderness is a dangerous place in 1714. Trappers and traders Axtel Fannin and Jesse Driggs rescue a beautiful young woman and her brother from kidnappers, only to find themselves entangled in a scheme that may cost them their lives. They and their friends will need every bit of their skill as woodsmen and fighters to survive a savage pack of killers driven by vengeance and greed.

In the tradition of such classic authors of historical adventure as James Fenimore Cooper, Robert E. Howard, and Hugh Pendexter, Fred Blosser spins a colorful, action-packed tale of passion and danger on the early American frontier. THE SAVAGE PACK is excitement from beginning to end!

(I published it so I'm hardly unbiased, but I think this is a great adventure novel, one of the best books I've read this year.)

Snakehand - Chuck Dixon and John Neal

Town-taming lawman Joe Wiley was once a Comanchero, an outlaw and a killer so fast on the draw he's come to be known as Snakehand. However, an unexpected tragedy leads him to change his ways. Now with his blind mentor and sidekick, the former leader of the Comanchero band, Joe travels from town to town in the West, taking on the job of bringing law and order to the worst hellholes between the Mississippi and the Pacific. It's that job that brings him to the settlement known as Mercury Wells, but what he finds waiting for him there is worse than he ever expected and will change his life again.

This is the first Western novel by comics scripting legend Chuck Dixon, along with his co-author John Neal, and it's a rip-snorting tale that barrels along at full speed, an action-packed blend of the pulp, the traditional, and the Spaghetti Westerns. The violence is reminiscent of the Edge books by George G. Gilman and other series produced by the Piccadilly Cowboys during the Seventies, the settings are well rendered, and while Joe Wiley may not always be the most likable guy, he's a fine protagonist. I'm looking forward to the next book in this series. Recommended.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Tuesday's Overlooked Movies: Shadow of a Doubt

(This post originally appeared in different form on July 11, 2010. Haven't had time to watch much, and everything I've watched has been new and/or too popular for this series.)

This is the one that somehow I had never seen until now. It was reportedly Hitchcock’s favorite of his films, and I liked it quite a bit, too. It’s a somewhat uneasy but highly entertaining mix of small-town Americana and serial killer thriller, as a young woman (the lovely Theresa Wright) tries to figure out whether her charming uncle (Joseph Cotton, who will always be Jed Leland from CITIZEN KANE to me) is really a murderer. There’s a great supporting cast in this one and a lot of humor despite the grisly subject matter. Macdonald Carey strikes me as an odd casting choice for the FBI agent who’s the hero. Wallace Ford, who played the taxi driver in HARVEY, is much better as Carey’s partner. This is one of the few movies I’ve seen where I was really uncertain how it would end, so I think Hitchcock deserves that Master of Suspense label on this film. If you haven’t seen it, you should definitely check it out.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Traveler of Worlds: Conversations with Robert Silverberg - Alvaro Zinos-Amaro

I don’t recall when I read my first science fiction story by Robert Silverberg, but it was more than forty years ago, that’s for sure. And I’ve read and enjoyed plenty of them since then. So it’s no surprise that I enjoyed this book-length series of interviews with Silverberg conducted by Alvaro Zinos-Amaro. It’s a wide-ranging conversation, focusing as much on Silverberg’s views about art, music, travel, and philosophy as it does about his writing career and science fiction in general. Now, me personally, I would have been fine with a little more “And then I wrote” material, but that’s just me. All in all, this is a thoroughly entertaining volume, and if you’re a science fiction fan at all, I give it a high recommendation. I seem to recall a few years ago that some young SF writer asked dismissively why anybody should read Robert Silverberg. Well, here’s the answer, right here in this book.

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Complete Stories, First May Number, 1931

This scan comes to us courtesy of David Lee Smith, and I really like this cover. I don't know who painted it. The contents are not as impressive--the only authors whose names I recognize are C.S. Montanye, Hal Dunning, and Forbes Parkhill--but for all I know the stories by them and the other authors are excellent.