Tagged: wrong

Reviews from the 86th Floor: Barry Reese tackles The Death Tower


THE SHADOW: THE DEATH TOWER
Written by Maxwell Grant
This review is of the Bantam Edition
Originally published January 1932
Bantam Edition published December 1969

The Death Tower of the title is not actually a tower but rather a 40-story skyscraper of which our villain, Doctor Palermo, occupies the top floor. This is a very early adventure of the Shadow and features repeated references to the radio program, several forced uses of “The Shadow Knows” tagline and a main character who isn’t quite as infallible as you might be used to seeing — he’s wrong on a few occasions and even accidentally kills someone near the end (they deserved it, though).

I actually prefer this version of the Shadow to the one you usually found over the course of the series: his occasional failures here keep him grounded and I actually enjoyed the fact that we don’t see Lamont Cranston at all — his identity here is George Clarendon. We also get to see Harry Vincent and the recruitment of a new agent, Clyde Burke. Their interplay was well done and added to the story.

Palermo is a worthy foil for the Shadow — he’s full of tricks, is a master of disguise and even has his own version of the Shadow’s aides (a mute Arab, a master marksman and a femme fatale). I only wish Palermo had sported some cool pulp-villain style name… Palermo not being particularly evocative. Anyway, Palermo comes literally within inches of killing the Shadow and may actually be my favorite villain of the series. There was so much room for future stories with him — alas, as with most pulp villains, that wasn’t meant to be.

The writing is classic pulp, with several thrilling scenes and the occasional clunker of an idea. The Death Tower is my favorite Shadow book, mainly because of the villain and the fact that this really feels like a Shadow Year One adventure, where he’s still breathtakingly dangerous but not yet the seasoned hero that he later becomes.

I give 5 out of 5 stars.

Derrick Ferguson Hunts Down The EXILES OF THE DIRE PLANET!

·  Paperback: 256 pages
·  Publisher: PulpWork Press; 1ST edition (September 15, 2009)
·  Language: English
·  ISBN-10: 0979732921
·  ISBN-13: 978-0979732928
When last we saw Garvey Dire, he was doing pretty well for himself.  Oh sure, his mission to Mars had gone wrong, leaving him near death.  But then he was miraculously transported 47,000 years into the past.  And in that past, Mars is not a dying planet.  Indeed, it thrives with life including the Muvari tribe which is mostly populated by warrior women.  The males of the tribe are few and are guarded as they assure the continued survival of the tribe.
Garvey survives a number of harrowing adventures to rise to a level of prominence in the Muvari tribe as well as marrying the gorgeous and deadly Ntashia, the finest swordswoman of Mars.  Garvey even managed to prevent World War III back on Earth in his native time period and save the life of his best friend.  Salt-N-Pepa could very well have been talking about Garvey in their song “Whatta Man”
When we catch up again with Garvey Dire he’s facing an army of Galbran.  They’re a rival tribe of cannibals who have an old score to settle with Garvey and an older one to settle with the Muvari.  And while he’s trying to hold off this army in a remote outpost with but a handful of Muvari warrior women, he’s also trying to figure out how to handle the Muvari custom of a man having more than one wife.  It’s not as hard one might think since his first wife Ntashia has made the arraignments for the marriage and is actively encouraging it.  It’s custom, y’know and when on Mars, do as the Martians do.
It’s almost a relief for Garvey to discover that his old rival and fellow Earthman Arnold Stechter survived the events of “Dire Planet” and is alive and well.  He’s lost his memory of his life on Earth and doesn’t recall that he and Garvey are bitter enemies.  But Stechter hasn’t forgotten his ambition and desire for power.  He has gathered together outcast warrior women from a dozen different tribes and forged them into a savage, bloodthirsty army.  And with these EXILES OF THE DIRE PLANET he intends to conquer and rule Mars.  But it’s a plan that has to begin with the overthrow of Ledgrim, the hidden Muvari capital city.  And it’s Garvey Dire who will unwittingly help Stechter achieve that goal…
If you’ve read and enjoyed “Dire Planet” then you’ll certainly want to read the sequel.  Not only does Joel continue to explore and reveal new layers of his Martian culture but he also gives us new layers of his protagonist.  Garvey’s naturally hesitant about entering into another marriage when he’s already got a wife he’s perfectly happy with.  Garvey Dire exhibits more maturity in this multiple marriage thing than you would expect from a hero in this genre.  Garvey’s still learning his role and place in this world and he sometimes wishes things would go a little slower.
One thing he’s not slow at is facing down the hoards of enemies thirsting for his blood in this one.  If this book doesn’t have the highest body count of any of Joel’s books, its right up there in the top three.  Just the first fifty pages of the book has a higher death rate than most complete novels.  And this is before Garvey finds out about Stechter and his army of exiles.
EXILES OF THE DIRE PLANET is an enjoyable book but a demanding one.  Joel seems determined to give readers more bang for their buck and while he certainly does that it also means that there’s a lot more you to pay attention to attention to and keep track of.  The only complaint I have with the book is that in order to get in as much information as he can, Joel will occasionally have characters explain some aspect of Martian life and culture to Garvey, even during scenes where it seemed to me that concerning themselves with surviving whatever is trying to kill them should be of paramount importance.  Also there’s the character of Naegrik the Galbran.   While he provides Garvey with a sidekick who’s just as much of an outsider as he is, Garvey’s acceptance of his conversion from full-blown cannibalism to bosom buddy and lifelong pal is a bit too quick for my taste.  I liked how the other characters kept an eye on Naegrik when he was around and constantly reminded Garvey that hey, this guy grew up eating people.
But the main thing here is the adventure and Joel delivers it with great style and tight control over the half dozen subplots he’s got going.  And EXILES OF THE DIRE PLANET ends with a cliffhanger that will demand that you get the third book in the series; “Into The Dire Planet” to find out what happens next.  And for my money that’s exactly what Pulp, whether Classic or New is supposed to do.  Enjoy.
For more information about Joel Jenkins please visit:
The Vaults of Caladrex  http://www.joeljenkins.com/
Pulpwork Press   http://www.pulpwork.com/
And Joel has kindly provided a Dire Planet Compendium that you can find at The Vaults of Caladrex if you go to the right side of the blog and scroll down until you hit the keyword ‘Dire Planet Compendium’

REVIEW: Everything’s Okay

Everything’s Okay: My Journey to Building a Joyous Life After Surviving Childhood Cancer
by Alesia Ellen Shute
80 pages

If you’re lucky, you won’t get this book because you need it.

Don’t get me wrong.  It’s really good.  Maybe even great.  You should hunt it down.  But it’s about something very scary – childhood cancer – and it doesn’t pull any punches, emotional or physical.

Alesia Shute was diagnosed with colon cancer when she was 7 years old.  She went through years of surgeries, hospital stays, discomfort (which is the polite way to describe pain) and tests.  Lots and lots of tests.  She also grew up, fought with her siblings, fought with her parents, dated, fell in love, fell out of love, fell in love some more, got married, and had a child.  Oh, and she got cancer again after she found out she was pregnant.

Several years ago, she wrote a book about her experiences, which she self-published.  With the money raised she raised, she started a non-profit organization, which raises funds for the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (which she affectionately calls CHoP), her alma mater.

This fall, to coincide with Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, Round Table Comics is publishing a graphic novel adaptation of her book, which is available at Hudson Newstands and through Amazon at the link above.  All proceeds will be donated to CHoP.

When I first heard about this project, I thought, in my condescending way, that it was for children, a way for parents to talk to their sick child (or her siblings) about cancer.  I was wrong.  This book is too intense to give to a young child.  While neither bloody nor gory,  Nathan Lueth’s artwork conveys Alesia’s pain and fear, and the loneliness she feels because she’s so different from other kids.  It is, however, a great way for parents and other concerned adults to know what a child with cancer is going through.

There is none of the sentimentality that so often accompanies stories about cancer survivors.  Instead, there are real emotions (not just the noble ones) that reinforce Alesia’s humanity, and make her experiences believably real.

As I write this, Diamond is not distributing this book.  Perhaps if enough of us ask our local comic shops, they might reconsider.

MARTHA THOMASES: Sex and Comics and Rock and Roll

When I started out in comics in the late 1970s when dinosaurs walked the earth, the comic book business was like a small town. It was possible to be at least a nodding acquaintance of all the major players on the publishing side, and quite a few of the retailers as well.It was a small town – a small town scattered around the world. And like all small towns, there was always gossip.

Gossip, being gossip, is often nothing but lies. However, I’ve always found it fascinating because 1) I’m petty and shallow and 2) even untrue gossip reveals something about our feelings for the person involved.

Back in the day, the gossip was a particularly heady mixture of sex, drugs, and the kind of behavior that can only be the result of hideous self-loathing and bad brain chemistry. People would date, cheat, marry, divorce, hook-up, stalk each other – the usual.

And then there were those who were less usual. I don’t know if the stories were true, but they were fascinating: Freelancers who lived in their cars because they couldn’t manage their money, as opposed to freelancers who lived in their cars because they worked for scumbags. People who were such hoarders that they couldn’t walk from one room to another. The editor who did so much coke that they’d find this person dancing on the desk. The editor who had sex in the elevator on way to the office. The freelancer whose wife, looking for him, screamed into the phone so loudly that you could hear her across the office, even though she was out of state.

There is something both charming and small-minded about this kind of gossip. The small-mindedness is obvious. The majority uses gossip to keep everyone in line, obeying the rules. The charming part develops from the fact that we all knew each other and, for the most part, cared about each other.

Today, comics is a bigger business and a bigger scene. There’s more money at stake, and the stories (true or not) have changed accordingly. Now we hear about the men whose marriages fell apart because they were having affairs with their publicists. Or maybe they left their wives for an actress on the set of the movie based on their books. Or maybe it’s a coke habit. The same vices are involved, but the rise in status ups the ante. People (thankfully) can afford to go to rehab. They can afford to pay child support. The problems might grow with the money available, but so do the solutions.

There’s also a different tone. There is more envy, and, as a result, more a note of satisfaction when the person being discussed can’t handle success. It’s meaner.

We aren’t living in that small town anymore where we care about each other. We’re not even in Kansas anymore.

Martha Thomases, Dominoed Dare-Doll, has been a comic industry publicist for two decades, and no client ever made a pass at her. The stories she hears make her wonder what’s wrong with her.

SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman

FORTIER TAKES ON TWIT PUBLISHING’S ‘PULP!’

ALL PULP REVIEWS- By RON FORTIER

PULP!

Edited by Chris Gabrysch

Twit Publishing LLC

213 pages

I make no bones about loving anthologies as I’m a huge fan of the short story format.  And with pulp anthologies of this kind you are bound to find some really amazing nuggets as well as an assortment of lesser quality entries.  Overall, if the number of excellent, fun tales outweighs the bad, you’re in good hands. Which is why it is easy for me to recommend this book edited by Chris Gabrysch as the majority of the twelve included within are truly worth your perusal.

My favorite was easily “A Shot in the Dark” by Peter Michael Rosenberg which features a marvelous protagonist in Cairo based Chief Inspector Walaa Yousesef.  This Egyptian Hercules Poirot won me over from his first appearance revolving around the body of an English photojournalist found crammed in an old cabinet in her hotel room. I hope Rosenberg writes many more cases for this unique detective.

Another enjoyable entry was “Balalaika” by Jennifer Loring.  It deals with vengeful vampire stalking the citizens of an isolated Russian village.  It is well written and haunting in its depiction of rural Russian settlement and the horror visited upon it. Whereas “The Schitzel Connection” by Cyril C. Young Jr. had me in stitches.  It’s a cautionary tale wherein we are warned evolution can easily go backwards instead of forward depending on how much pretzels and beer one consumes.  If you can’t chuckle after reading this, there’s something totally wrong with you.

“Install” by Drew Wilcox is a scary tale of a cable guy’s visit to a very bad address. Horror shorts are hard to do but Wilcox pulls it off and this one really had me flipping pages to get to the end.  Noire crime stories were also well represented with two nifty yarns.  “Smooth as Sharkskin,” by Slade Grayson is a classic crime pulp story and delivers as neatly as its title portents while “My Date with Red,” by Tom Swoffer, is an oddball, highly readable story of a drug dealer scared witless done in a Quentin Tarrentino style.

As this collection is eclectic in subject matter, I was pleased to find “Montana Jack” by Dave P. Fisher, a no-frills classic western tale; truly superb writing.  Another contender for my favorite in this book.  Fisher really should stretch his writing muscles and try a full length western novel.  He’s that good.

And finally there is the fantasy comedy “Whatever Happened to the Dark Lord?” by Frank R. Sjodin that has some really hilarious moments and twists nicely on its own logic.

The remaining four stories did nothing for me at all; obviously not my cup of tea. One, a long crime piece, “Double Take,” by Chris O’Grady was competently written, but in his attempt to mimic other successful hard boiled writers, he completely homogenized his tale so that it comes across bland and spiritless.  Even the toughest, most cynical writers of this genre know you need to inject some melodrama to grease the plot wheels.

So eight out of twelve gives this collection a big thumbs up in my accounting.  Try a copy and let me know if you agree with me.  Or not?

TUNE INTO PULP RETURNS ON A TRIP TO ‘PYTHON ISLE’!

First, some housekeeping.  Yes, it’s been a while since I debuted this column and due to a variety of reasons, this is the first one in awhile.  Do not worry, pulpsters, there will be one a week after this ad infinitum!  Audio Pulp is not only an important part of Pulp history that many are not aware of, but its a growing facet of the genre even today, as you will see in this column today and weeks to come.

You’ll notice an addition to our logo.  Yes, its true, Radio Archives has stepped forward, noticing the trend toward Audio Pulp and entered into an arrangement with All Pulp to sponsor this column.  RA produces top of the line audio material bringing old time classic radio of all varieties to a modern audience.  Fantastic sound quality, tremendous effort to not only preserve material, but also provide new and interesting information on material, and awesome packaging make RA’s offerings top notch.  RA as well is readying itself to be one of the leaders in New Audio Pulp with its foray into audiobooks based on Pulp characters starring in new stories, just like the one I’m about to leap into the middle of.  I will continue to cover all aspects of New Pulp Audio, not simply RA’s contributions, but I do want to thank Harlan Zinck and RA for the support and material and willingness to see the importance of this column enough to sponsor it.

PYTHON ISLE-A Doc Savage Audiobook
Written by Will Murray based on a concept By Lester Dent
Narrated by Michael McConnohie
Directed and Produced by Roger Rittner
Published by Radio Archives (www.radioarchives.com)

Not only has Radio Archives decided to move into New Pulp audio, They have done it by taking giant steps.  The first RA offering in their Pulp Audiobook lineup is not only no lightweight when it comes to Pulp, but instead it is probably the top of the heap, the primo of premium pulp.  And, not to telegraph this review or anything, Radio Archives meets that challenge just the way Doc Savage would have.

PYTHON ISLE is an audiobook version of the novel written in 1991 by Will Murray, based on a concept by Lester Dent.  Directed and produced by Roger Rittner for RA and narrated by Michael Mcconnohie.  The story opens with diamond smugglers catching sight of a plane they believe to be the authorities.  Once the plane is downed, the smugglers discover that not only are there two strangely garbed people aboard, but the plane, once damaged, had been patched and repaired with what appears to be soft, pure gold.  One of the plane passengers, a man who can speak English, is desperate to protect a bamboo tube he has and to make contact with only one man-Doc Savage!



Author Will Murray

 What ensues from this tense, in your face opening is the stuff pulp dreams are made of.  From fist fights and gun battles to harrowing chases in various locales all the way to a ride and epic conflict aboard a Zeppelin, PYTHON ISLE delivers all the thrills and chills anyone could want.  Add into that that this is a Doc Savage tale complete with Doc’s stoic presence, supreme intelligence, and skills honed finer than any blade as well as three of the five aides in their finest form ever and what you have in PYTHON ISLE is more than a treat, better than a nice surprise.  It is simply New Pulp storytelling at its best. 



Narrator Michael McConnohie

 With material like this, one would think that it would be difficult for an audiobook version to add anything at all to it.  Boy, one would be wrong.  PYTHON ISLE from Radio Archives takes this story from the pinnacle it already reaches in prose to an unbelievable high mark as an audiobook.  Michael McConnohie is more than the ‘reader’ or ‘narrator’ of this adventure.  He brings the exact intensity and passion to this story that any well crafted Doc tale would command.  His mastery of his own voice is phenomenal, switching back and forth from Monk’s high pitched affectation to Renny’s thunderous rumblings and then to Bull Pizano’s gravelly retort.  McConnohie makes this feel like a full cast audio drama and that brings the listener completely into the folds of the story.



Director/Producer Roger Rittner

 One issue many audiobooks have, and this is in part due to the fact that they are based on written prose, not scripts, is pacing.  At times, audiobooks lag in the middle and whatever gait had been set previously is lost.  This is definitely an issue with Pulp stories due to the naturally frenetic pacing good Pulp should have.  PYTHON ISLE does not fall victim to this.  Due to McConnohie’s voicing as well as Roger Rittner’s directing, this tale moves along at a good clip from beginning to end.  There are points that I, being both an avid Pulp reader and an audio fan, predicted were going to be those spots where things started to plod and slow down, but every single time due to either a musical sting or a change in inflection or even the speed at which the words were delivered, that plodding never came, nothing slowed down.  Rittner produced a fine piece of roller coaster up and down drama, probably the finest I’ve ever listened to.

Could PYTHON ISLE be better?  Usually I would say that any audiobook could be improved by adding voices and sound effects and changing the leopard’s spots, so to speak, from audiobook to full cast drama.  And don’t get me wrong, I would love to hear this story given that treatment.  Having said that, though, I think that in this case, it would not improve what has been done to make it a full cast drama. I feel like that this audiobook would sit on a shelf right alongside the best possible version of this story as a full drama and still hold its own.   The feeling I got from listening to PYTHON ISLE was much akin to what it must have felt like sitting in a darkened theater in the 1940s waiting to see what Captain Marvel or Gene Autry would do in the next chapter of the latest serial.  It was nail biting, cliff hanging, and inspiring.

Radio Archives has announced that this is only the first of their Pulp Audio books and that future volumes would not only include Doc, but cover other characters as well.  If that’s the case, then I’m one heckuva happy Pulpster.

GUEST COLUMN-WHIMSY IS ALIVE AND WELL IN PULP!

GUEST COLUMN-WHIMSY IS ALIVE AND WELL IN PULP!

We are all serious about our Pulp, be we writers, artists, publishers, or fans.  The goal of ALL PULP is to make sure you as a reader have all the insight and news we can provide you about All Things Pulp!  That includes, although not frequently, whimsy.  Yes, whimsy can exist within the stark black and white right and wrong world of Pulp.  And the best whimsy of all is that which brings Pulp authors and Pulp style to the forefront.  Enjoy the following whimsical, yet extremely valid Pulp post, wont you?

FROM DOC HERMES via DERRICK FERGUSON
http://dochermes.livejournal.com/157023.html
I posted this a few years ago, when I was plowing through pulp stories as if they were going to be taken away any minute. Finishing a Nero Wolfe story right after a Solomon Kane one gave me a whimsical idea.

These are fun to write, please feel free to add a few.

WHAT IF… Robert E Howard wrote a Nero Wolfe mystery?

It was ten o’clock on a dreary winter morning, and as Wolfe lowered his immense bulk behind his desk and rang for the first of his unending series of beers, I couldn’t take it any longer. “Another exciting day, I suppose. It’s fine for you. You’ve got those filthy orchids and pouring beer into your gut while you pretend to read some 700 page book on Hungarian politics. But what about me?”

Wolfe raised one eyebrow, which for him was a dramatic reaction and I exploded, venting all my long pent up rage. “I’m not a bloated product of civilization!” I snapped. “I’m six feet of lean muscle and rawhide, wide shouldered and narrow hipped. I burn to smash my fist into Inspector Cramer`s sneering mug, feeling his teeth splinter under my knuckles. By God, I`m tempted to go down to Centre Street and litter that place with bleeding cops.”

“Archie, cease this flummery,” Wolfe said with that insufferable smugness that made a red haze of fury pass over my eyes. “Have you been reading those so-callled pulp magazines again? Every month when WEIRD TALES comes out, it has a deleterious effect on your demeanor.”

“Well, what of it!” I roared, leaping up with the speed of a starving panther. “When are we going to get a case where I can sink my blade deep in my enemy`s heart and carry off some buxom wench? A case with the stolen eye from some heathen idol or a death cult of slant eyed killers? I’m sick of these sissy cases where only one person gets killed!” Beneath my heavy black brows, my volcanic blue eyes burned hotly.

“Pfui,” said Wolfe, marking his place with a bookmarker. “First, Archie, I must remind you that your eyes are dark brown and you are not Irish on either side. As we have discussed before, you are English and Dutch, with some Cherokee on your paternal grandmother’s side. This Celtomania is fatuous, coming from a man who resembles Humphrey Bogart.”

I barely restrained myself from pouncing upon him in a blur of savage motion. That accursed paycheck held my hand.

“Furthermore,” Wolfe went on as calmly as if I were not poised to leap at him, my iron fists clenched, “Fritz is preparing lamb kidneys with dumplings, and blueberry tarts for lunch and you wouldn`t want to miss that.”

He had me there. Fritz made dumplings with chopped beef marrow, duck eggs and lemon rind. I could easily keep up with Wolfe as far as dumplings went. And faint vapors of the blueberry variety were teasingly drifting into the office.

“Fine”, I gave in with ill grace, and returned to my desk where my copy of WEIRD TALES sat. Wolfe glanced at me and snorted almost inaudibly. “I should be grateful, I suppose, that you don’t read THE SPIDER”, he muttered.

_____________________
WHAT IF… Don Pendleton Wrote a Nancy Drew Story?

Stepping away from her sporty red roadster with its running boards and rumble seat, Nancy felt the breeze stir her golden hair. Yeah, it was a good day to be sixteen and a little princess. It was just too darn bad that for Carmine it would be his last day on God`s earth.

She had parked high on the hill overlooking Makeout Point, where teenagers had been parking under the summer moon for years. Nancy remembered that moon and her face flushed red as she gazed coldly down at the figure waiting for her below.

How had she ever thought that Carmine Salvucci could help her in her solving of mysteries? And what was an Italian family doing in Bayport anyway? Nancy`s lovely eyes narrowed into slits as she saw Carmine leaning against the fender of his own jalopy, cigarette hanging from the corner of his mouth. Enjoy it, she thought, you darned little ruffian.

For a second, she touched the tiny hole where a button was missing from her pure white blouse with the blue collar, and her adorable mouth tightened. Then she turned and from the rumble seat she drew the thing she had taken from the closet of her father, noted detective Carson Drew. The Scheissekopf 374 (with the folding stock and chrome lined barrel) was a heavy weapon, and it took all her strength to lift it, much less hold it steady. But a girl had to do what was right in a world that was going to heck, no matter what the consquences. Yeah, she was determined to live large and stay firm. Soft but firm.

Carmine seemed to sense his danger for he suddenly flicked his butt to the ground and jerked his head up to look right at her. His eyes bugged out with raw terror and his jaw dropped so hard she heard the thump it made. Then she gently squeezed the trigger and a huge copper jacketed slug sizzled through the summer air to plow through Carmine`s face as it it wasn`t there. And in fact, it wasn`t there any longer.

Her shoulder ached from the recoil of the massive Scheissekopf but she didn`t even feel it. She looked down grimly at the cold clay that a minute ago had been a high school student. “No one cops a feel off Nancy Drew,” she whispered.

____________________________
WHAT IF… H.P. Lovecraft Wrote a Lone Ranger Story?

THE UNPLEASANT KIVA

Despite the irridescent luminosity of the Arizona sun, which rivalled Hyperion in the late summer afternoon, the air around the Kiva had somehow a cold, clammy chill which carried a faint odious vapor with it. Even the scrub grass which grows sparsely in that land was absent around the foreboding area; the ground was black and barren, and they seen no sign of any living thing for nearly a mile.

Seated astride their splendid mounts, the masked man and his aboriginal comrade regarded the bleak structure with misgivings. Unlike the typical Kiva, religious structures used by the Indians of the American Southwest for their ancient heathen rituals, this structure stood by itself, far from the cliff dwelings. Its opening, surounded by a low adobe rim, resembled nothing so much as the phantasmagorical maw of some antedilivuian beast, the bones of which normally are only seen in museums.

“Can`t recollect I`ve ever laid eyes on a Kiva like that,” mused the Lone Ranger in a hushed tone.
“How old would you say it is, Tonto?”

“Ugh, me not know,” replied his stoic coppery countenanced companion.

“Confound it!” the masked rider vented angrily. “I know you speak English, Spanish and half a dozen Indian dialects. How is it you cannot manage correct pronouns?”

As his friend turned his head in grieved silence, the Ranger regretted his outburst. Before moving to the wilderness of Texas, his family had been among the oldest and most prominent of the gentry in New England and his innate breeding should have given him the tact to avoid giving offense. “Walll”, he said after a silence, “Since three townsfolk have been missing after they expressed interest in the treasure allegedly buried in this pagan structure, it is our duty to investigate.”

Alighting from his steed, the Ranger uncoiled his trusty lariat from its hook on his saddle and fastened one end securely to a projection on the outer ring of the Kiva. As he placed one polished boot on the rim, he turned and said, “Tonto, perhaps you had best secure our steeds in the shadow of those rather withered and unhealthy trees, since the direct sunlight cannot be good for their health. Then wait for me to climb back up.”

The Indian brave took the reins of the great white stallion which was most appropriately named Silver, but there was apprehension on his lined face. By that, I mean Tonto`s face, not Silver`s. “Kemo sabe, me think there is bad medicine in that hole. Me hear tales of the Old Ones who lived here in the long ago time, before even the red man. Maybe best you wait for me”.
“Balderdash,” scoffed the noble champion of justice, flashing his brilliant smile. “What evil spirit can stand against silver bullets fired by one whose heart is pure?”

With obvious reluctance, the redman rode his painted pony to the shade, towing the magnificent argent beast with him, as behind him the masked man clambered lithely down the foreboding opening. Even as Tonto secured the reins to the trees, which did indeed look as if they had long been exposed to a malign influence, he heard the crisp retorts of two Colt revolvers being fired.

Faster than he would have thought possible, the agitiated brave raced back to the Kiva and thrust his weathered face over the opening, In his hand was his own weapon, drawing without his realized it. For only a second, he listened and then he whirled in fled in a dire panic dreadful to see in a man of such proven courage. The horse Silver he abandoned where it stood, later to be taken by wandering Navajo.

Tonto himself was a broken man after that, losing much weight and babbling dementedly, taking to strong drink and staying behind locked doors the remainder of his life. When asked what could have wrought such a change in his formerly heroic constitution, he would only mumble, “Chewing….me heard CHEWING!”

________________________
WHAT IF… Norvell Page Wrote an Oz Story?

RED PAIN SLAVES OF THE BLOOD DEATH KING

Dorothy reeled back in horror against the door of the summer palace. The Emerald City was in flames, crimson tongues of fire roaring upward but not drowning out the screams of pain. All around her,, hundreds of Munchkins were staggering in agony as red blood poured from their mouths and noses. As the Kansan gasped in disbelief, a dying Munchkin collapsed against her, life`s blood spewing from his face onto her blue gingham dress. “Ewww, gross,” she said and pushed him off.

Horrified beyond words, the young girl turned back to where her best friends in Oz stood in the doorway behind her. The Tin Woodsman`s cold
metallic face was unreadable, but Glinda……! On Glinda`s lovely ageless countenance was a scowl of pure hatred.

“These mishaps never happened in Oz before your arrival,` she hissed at Dorothy. `You must be responsible, Kansan! Kill her, Woodman!”

Even as the unliving horror drew back his mighty axe, Dorothy reacted. Her exploits in Oz had sharpened her wits and toughened her body, and for an eight year old, she was extremely dangerous. She knew Nick Chopper`s weakness. Even as he drew his axe high overhead, the Kansan leaped forward and shoved him hard in the chest with both hands. Taken off balance, the Woodman fell with a loud metallic clang and she knew from their past adventures together that he could not rise quickly.

Whirling toward Glinda, Dorothy cried out. “Have you gone mad? The city`s on fire! Your people are dying from this strange affliction. Now is when we must work together to make things right.” But there was a strange evil glitter in the Good Witch`s eyes, and as she raised her star tipped wand, lurid red sparkles danced around it. In another instant, Dorothy would have been blasted into charcoal but quick as a litttle cat, the Kansan seized the Woodman`s axe. The short tool was surprisingly light (it was made of tin after all) and she whirled it to smash the wand from Glinda`s hand. Even in her desperation, Dorothy was careful to use the flat of the blade, not the edge.
As the magic wand went flying, Dorothy spun to flee. She had to find out what was behind this. Could the Nome King have somehow cast a spell on Glinda?

Dorothy knew there was a farm just down the road with a scarecrow in its field. If she could reach it, she could disguise herself as her friend, the famous living Scarecrow, and be able to move around freely while she found out what was going on.

“Stop!” commanded Glinda`s icy voice. “Have you forgotten….Toto?”

Freezing where she was, Dorothy turned with reluctance to see Glinda`s servants wheeling out a large circus cage which was seperated into two compartments. In the smaller section was her beloved Toto, cringing in the corner, eyes rolling wildly. And in the other compartment, roaring and foaming at the mouth, was the Cowardly Lion. The great beast was too enraged to speak, its bloodshot eyes fixed on the tiny little pitiful beast
almost within its reach.

“Hah hahhh” laughed Glinda in hideous triumph. “The Lion has not been fed in three days and he is not Cowardly anymore only Ravenous. If I give the word, the barrier between him and your miserable little mutt will be lifted. Well, Kansan, wlll you surrender?”

In a few second, the young girl suffered terribly as she realized her awful decision. But Dorothy Gale came from tough pioneer stock and had never been one to give up. Quick as a bunny, she raced to the cage and brought the axe down as hard as her skinny little arms could weild it to snap off the lock on the cage holding the Lion. Even as she dropped flat, the great brute leaped over her to pounce full upon Glinda.

The hideous scene that followed does not bear describing (the editor said no). As Glinda met her fate at those leonine fangs, her spell broke. The Munchkins stopped spewing blood and the burning city began to return to normal.
Casting a wary eye on the feasting lion, the Kansan bent to pluck up the star tipped wand where its late owner had dropped it. A wry smile was on Dorothy`s lips. Killing witches was getting to be a habit with her.

______________________
WHAT IF… Shakespeare Wrote a Mike Hammer Story?

That very breath which inspires warmth and animation into this mortal clay fled her lips as doth mist off ice in the noonday sun. Still she found the will to speak.

“How couldst thou?” spake the virago and I in turn rushed to answer ere flesh and spirit were forever sundered.

“With ease,” I spake to ears which, alas, would never hear aught more.

Reviews from the 86th Floor: Barry Reese looks at

THE ADVENTURES OF DODGE DALTON AT THE OUTPOST OF FATE
Sean Ellis
ISBN 978-0982609996

Sequels can be funny things – deviate too much from what the original successful and people wonder what went wrong. Adhere too much to the first one’s formula and people cite you for being unoriginal. The Adventures of Dodge Dalton At The Outpost of Fate manages to dance along that delicate line that’s needed to create a worthy successor to last year’s debut. Sean Ellis reunites us with a character who’s a canny mix of Indiana Jones and Dirk Pitt, with the intriguing setup that our main character is the ghostwriter for the adventures of the “real” hero.

Ellis manages to infuse his novel with romanticism and good old-fashioned by-the-seat-of-your-pants adventure. Without giving too much of the plot away, this is another globetrotting epic with plenty of narrow scrapes for our heroes and a satisfying ending.

It’s inevitable that a second adventure seems less “new” than the original but Ellis is more comfortable now and the characters more nuanced. The Dodge Dalton series is one of the best New Pulps to come along.

I give it a solid 4 out of 5 stars!

Reviews from the 86th Floor: Barry Reese reviews Viktoriana


Modern Marvels – Viktoriana
Wayne Reinagel
ISBN 978-0981531243

As with the author’s previous books, this one is epic in scope and features multiple plotlines that all converge at the end. This time around numerous famous authors and figures are put into adventurous settings, as we learn (for instance) that the man who wrote Dracula actually had battles with the undead.

Let me start by saying that Wayne Reinagel is the most perplexing author in the New Pup movement. He writes the best action scenes in the biz but he also has several habits that drive me nuts. For instance, the opening chapter pits H Rider Haggard against a horde of vampires. It’s thrilling and was so good that I actually told my wife while reading it, “This guy’s the best pulp author alive today.” Then, less than twenty pages later, I told her, “Argh! He’s doing That Thing again!”

That Thing is delivering Wikipedia style info-dumps in the middle of the story. It’s extremely disconcerting and takes me right out of the story. It’s needed information but it’s so predictable that when you see a new character enter the scene, you know that it’s going to be followed by several paragraphs of biography. Wayne’s able to mix it up sometimes and have characters relay info to each other but far too often, it’s “Here’s Character B. Here’s Character B’s appearance. Here’s Character B’s life story. On with the adventure!”

Now, don’t get me wrong. Wayne’s characterization and action scenes are so good that I’m willing to overlook the info-dumps and I strongly encourage others to try his work if they haven’t already. The concepts here are fascinating and I love the way he ties characters together. There were scenes here that made me laugh, some that made me nearly tear up and even some that caused me to lean forward in anticipation. It’s that good — it’s just that there are things that, for me, keep this from being an absolute classic.

I really feel that Reinagel is one of the top five authors in the New Pulp movement. Depending on what chapter I’m reading at the time, I might even say he’s the very best.

This is well worth a look and continues a trend of each book by Reinagel being better than the previous one.

I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

Webcomics You Should Be Reading: ‘String Theory’

Webcomics You Should Be Reading: ‘String Theory’

Have you ever wondered why mad scientists are so intriguing? Many of us can’t help but be fascinated by this type of character. Frankenstein, Dr. Jekyll, Dr. Horrible — they are all brilliant, eccentric, and villainous. We know their experiments and actions are in terrible taste, but they’re so darn crazy that it’s fun to watch them work. They are like a train wreck, as in you know they’re bad but you can’t look away.

The infuriating yet lovable Dr. Herville Albert Schtein is among these mad scientists. This quirky genius is from Beckey Grundy’s webcomic “String Theory.” The story takes place in a late 2050’s alternate universe, where the Cuban missile crisis went horribly wrong. The story focuses on the laboratory in which Dr. Schtein and his fellow scientists work with plasma wave converters, super magnets, and fluffy test rodents.Very technical stuff. The webcomic begins soon after a deadly lab explosion, which leaves Schtein with two new things to look forward to: a pair of bio-mechanical eyes, and a replacement assistant. However, Schtein’s excessive jerkiness discourages people from staying in the same room with him, which is an obvious problem for his new assistant, Delia Osgood. Though Schtein is the best-of-the-best, his superiors are losing patience with his behavior. He must set aside his disdain for people if he doesn’t want to be canned, or worse, one-upped by his arch rival Professor Langstrom.

Schtein may be an ass, but we can’t help but want to see what will happen to him next. Grundy’s character-based story draws readers in, and does a great job of making an unlikable person, surprisingly, likable. The plot has interesting twists and turns, but this webcomic seems far from over. It feels like Grundy has quite a bit of story left to tell, and I am personally looking forward to every update. Mood wise, the plot goes up and down. There are comedic moments along with several sinister situations. Perhaps a better way to describe it is that the basic plot is serious and mature, but a layer of lightheartedness keeps it from getting overwhelmingly dark.

The first half of the story is in black and white, though some color was thrown in on occasion. The more recent pages have been in full color, which is lovely. Well, as lovely as the gloomy atmosphere allows. The character designs are great, and Grundy has a talent for making them distinct and fun. Emotions are captured very well through the character’s expressions and behavior, and they are a delight to watch in action.

If you’re looking to get a fix of mad scientist adventures, I’d recommend “String Theory” for your reading pleasure. I don’t envy this Schtein fellow, what with him being neurotic and disgruntled, but it sure is entertaining to watch his mind at work!