Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Music I Like: Nights in White Satin - The Moody Blues

When I worked at the radio station I was able to keep some of the promo copies of albums that were sent there, and one of them was DAYS OF FUTURE PAST by the Moody Blues. It's a great album. "Nights in White Satin" is probably the best-known track from it, but really I liked the whole thing.

Writing Update, 4/30

Things came up yesterday so that I didn't get any new pages done, but I was able to do quite a bit of editing. Then today I struggled a little but wound up with 20 pages, giving me 527 for the month of April, my best month since last July. My total for the year so far is 1803 pages. Not bad, but I'd still like to be doing better.

It's been suggested to me that maybe I shouldn't be posting these numbers, that some people will think, "Oh, anybody who writes that much, it's got to be crap." I used to worry about that, too. Back when I was writing Longarm and Trailsman novels, I wouldn't talk about them much around other writers, at conventions and such, because I figured they might look down on what I was doing. But then I realized people are going to think what they're going to think, and everything is crap to somebody. So I'm just having fun and entertaining the people who like what I do, and anything beyond that is somebody else's problem, not mine.

So we're looking at a 500+ page month of May, I hope.

Tuesday's Overlooked Movies: Necessary Roughness

This is the usual college football comedy with the usual team of misfits (in this case led by an overage quarterback played by Scott Bakula and a female placekicker played by Kathy Ireland) going up against overwhelming odds and triumphing. But it's fairly funny, with a good supporting cast including Hector Elizondo and Robert Loggia as the coaches. The real reason I like it, though, is because it was filmed mostly on the campus of North Texas State University only a few years after I graduated from there, so as I watched it could say "I recognize that building" and "I walked along that sidewalk to class every day". On top of that, the farm scenes (Bakula's character is a farmer before he goes back to school) were filmed out in the country not far from where we live, so I recognized those settings, too. Clearly, it doesn't take much to entertain me.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Music I Like: We're an American Band - Grand Funk Railroad

I was never a big Grand Funk Railroad fan, but I do like this song quite a bit. I had a chance to see them in concert but didn't go for some reason. I don't remember what it was now. But I sort of wish I had.

Now Available: West of the Big River: The Lawman - James Reasoner

William M. "Bill" Tilghman had one of the most illustrious careers of any Old West lawman, serving as sheriff, town marshal, and deputy United States marshal in some of the toughest places west of the Mississippi. But he faced perhaps his greatest and most dangerous challenge when he rode alone into the wild Oklahoma Territory settlement of Burnt Creek on the trail of a gang of rustlers and outlaws with some unexpected allies . . .

THE LAWMAN, by New York Times bestselling author James Reasoner, is the first novel in a new series from the Western Fictioneers, West of the Big River. These are brand-new, original short novels inspired by real-life characters and actual events from the exciting, colorful history of the American frontier, written by today's leading Western authors including Robert J. Randisi, Michael Newton, Jackson Lowry, Frank Roderus, Bill Crider, Matthew P. Mayo, James J. Griffin, and many others. Don't miss any of these action-packed short novels that showcase the best of the American West!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Music I Like: The Battle of New Orleans - Johnny Horton

My friends and I sang this on the playground at school during recess. When you're eight years old, it's pretty dang cool. And to prove I've never grown up, I still like it.

Writing Update, 4/28

I said I wanted to have a good weekend, and I think I did. Yesterday was very good with 28 pages written. Today was more of a struggle as the words just didn't want to come, but I managed to get 17 pages done. Starting out the month my goal was to hit 500 pages, and I'm a little over that now. April is going to be my best month since last July (when I did 579, and I'm not going to reach that level this month).

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Bedtime Stories, February/March 1935

Never having read or even seen an issue of it myself, I can only assume that BEDTIME STORIES specialized in, shall we say, risque fiction. Possibly even peppy, racy, and spicy. All I know for sure is that that Earle Bergey cover is pretty daring for 1935. The only author names I recognize from this issue are Jack Woodford and the legendary Robert Leslie Bellem. Although it wouldn't surprise me if Jules le Vin and Frederic Charleaux, who also have stories in this issue, were Bellem pseudonyms.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Music I Like: Feels So Good - Chuck Mangione

Ever since Chuck Mangione (or an animated version of him, at least) appeared on KING OF THE HILL, that's what I think of whenever I hear this song. I've always liked it a lot, though, even before that.

Forgotten Books Update: Best Offer - Jerrold Mundis

Jerrold Mundis, who wrote under the name Robert Calder, has given me a heads-up that his novel BEST OFFER, which I blogged about a couple of days ago, is now available again as an e-book under his real name. So it's not really forgotten after all. I'll be picking this up, and probably some of his other books as well.


Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Western Story, January 1948

Here's a striking H.W. Scott cover from late in the run of the granddaddy of the Western pulps, WESTERN STORY. Even at this point, WESTERN STORY was a fine magazine with some of the best authors in the field appearing in its pages. In this issue, those authors include Bennett Foster, Walt Coburn, S. Omar Barker (with both a poem and a short story), Giles A. Lutz, and Joseph Chadwick. WESTERN STORY is the old gunfighter who's been around for a long time but is still hard to beat.

Rancho Diablo: The Hold Up Now Free for Kindle

Today and tomorrow you can grab a free copy of THE HOLD UP, the Rancho Diablo novel by Mel Odom.

When Randy Post, a young cowboy riding for the Rancho Diablo brand, gets accused of murdering a saloon girl, Sam Blaylock saddles up to get to the bottom of the matter before they fit him for a hangman's noose. Sam doesn't know that the murder has set off a chain of events that will end up with him swapping lead with a murderous gang of robbers eyeing one of the banks in Shooter's Cross.

In the past, Marshal Everett Tolliver and Sam Blaylock haven't seen exactly eye-to-eye on things involving the ranch hands. Tolliver intends to hold the peace in town no matter what the cost. But he's going to need help if he's going to find out who murdered Jessie Holden in cold blood.

Even after they've set their differences aside for the time being, Sam and Tolliver still have to put their lives at risk to hold the line in Shooter's Cross in a gundown on Main Street that will become a legend.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Music I Like: Scotch and Soda - The Kingston Trio

It doesn't get much better than this. One of my all-time favorite songs. Lots of good memories go with it for me.

Writing Update, 4/26

Had to help deal with some medical stuff today (not mine) and run some errands, so there wasn't much time or energy left for writing. As a result I only got a few pages done, but maybe it'll be a big weekend.

Forgotten Books: Best Offer - Robert Calder

When I was in the used book business in the Eighties, copies of this novel from 1981 were everywhere. Now I'd hate to have to try to find one, although they can be had on-line. It was probably so popular because of that sexy cover, and the salacious subject matter probably didn't hurt sales, either. BEST OFFER is basically a sex comedy about a group of suburban couples who decide to auction off the wives for a night to raise money and save the private school all their kids attend.

I haven't read this novel since then, so I don't know how it holds up, but I remember it being surprisingly good, with some darker, more serious aspects underneath all the wink-wink, nudge-nudge sleaziness of it. If you ever run across a copy, you might give it a try, although I make no guarantees. As far as I know, Robert Calder published only one other book, a horror novel called THE DOGS that I never read.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Music I Like: Sultans of Swing - Dire Straits

This is another song that used to play on the jukebox a lot when I was shooting pool.

Writing Update, 4/25

I haven't posted one of these for a few days, but the writing has continued. I checked earlier and today was the 20th consecutive day that I've produced new pages, which is unusual for me. I try to take off at least one day a week. But with that drop-dead date on the current book looming, days off don't seem to be an option. I wrote 23 pages today and should hit 500 for the month sometime this weekend. Don't know if I'll make the deadline or not, but I'm still trying. If I miss it, it won't be by much. And I hope that if I miss it I don't actually, you know, drop dead. That would suck.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Music I Like: Light My Fire - The Doors

An all-time classic, and a song that I must have heard a thousand times on KBWD-AM out of Brownwood, Texas, one summer. (The clip's a little goofy, but I'm okay with that.)

Superman: Secret Origin - Geoff Johns

Despite the title, there's not really much that's new in SUPERMAN: SECRET ORIGIN, a hardback reprinting of a mini-series from several years ago, before DC's latest reboot. For a curmudgeonly old purist like me, that's not a bad thing. Instead, this story is a retelling/slight expansion of the basic Superman mythos we've all known for many, many years (some of us for longer than we like to think about). Writer Geoff Johns has taken elements from several different incarnations of the Man of Steel, thrown them together with a little influence from the SMALLVILLE TV series, rearranged a few things, most notably the introductions of supervillains The Parasite and Metallo, and produced a comfortably familiar tale that has a lot of nostalgic appeal to it.

The script by Johns strikes the right notes for the most part, capturing the personalities of Clark Kent/Superman and the rest of the supporting cast and moving the action along at a nice pace. The artwork by Gary Frank (pencils) and Jon Sibal (inks) is excellent with its crisp look and old-style storytelling. It really fits this sort of yarn.

While I've been primarily a Marvel fan for the past fifty years, I've read and enjoyed many, many DC comics during that time, too, especially during the Sixties and Seventies. I still enjoy reading reprints of the best work from those eras, and from time to time I try out some of the newer stuff, too, and enjoy a lot of it. SUPERMAN: SECRET ORIGIN definitely falls into that category. I had a fine time reading it, and if you're a comics fan, you should check it out.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Music I Like: Passionate Kisses - Mary Chapin Carpenter

Another female singer/songwriter who's done some excellent work.

Tuesday's Overlooked TV: George Gobel on The Tonight Show

Here's another classic moment from THE TONIGHT SHOW that I saw when it aired the first time and many times after that on anniversary shows. Most people have probably forgotten about George Gobel, but he always cracks me up, this bit in particular.

THE TONIGHT SHOW was actually a pretty important series for us. Livia and I watched it regularly, not every night but most nights, for years and years and years. Johnny, Ed, Doc, and Tommy Newsom were like old friends, and I hated to see their run end.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Music I Like: Don't Get Me Wrong - The Pretenders

Another bouncy song that I just like the sound of. And the homage to The Avengers in the video doesn't hurt anything, either.

Now Available: Saddles, Sixguns & Shootouts - Charles Beckman Jr.

Whether it was matters of love, revenge, range wars, or shootouts, the Wild West always seems larger than life. It was a time of do-it-yourself justice, when no wrong was left unpunished, no damsel in distress lacked for defenders, and no gunslinger dared turn his back on an enemy. At least, that’s the way it’s portrayed in the tales that really grab us by the heart. Danger lurks behind every bush; the town saloon is the stage for gambling, drinking, womanizing, and deadly confrontations. And we always root for the good guy. Hop on your imaginary steed and ride along for a trip back to those frontier days with Charles Boeckman, writing as Charles Beckman, Jr., in this collection of 12 vintage pulp stories filled with characters so human that you feel you’re witnessing these stories live and that you have a stake in the outcome of the action. You’ll get into the minds of those cowpokes who had to make instantaneous decisions about who deserved to live or die. Through them, you will feel the scorching heat of the summer prairies, the longing for love, the driving force of their ego when challenged by a foe, the insecurities they stomp down and try to deny, the raging anger of the need for revenge, the cunning required to outwit the foe. Tales of the old West, with their universal appeal, are always fun to read. So grab your Stetson, put on your spurs, and have a great time with these top-notch stories from a master writer.

I don't know about you, but I can't pass up a collection of pulp stories by one of the few real pulp authors still with us. I'm really looking forward to reading this one.

Writing Update, 4/22

My page production has been up and down the past few days, but when I planned out this book, I figured I'd have 120 pages done by now. Today was supposed to be a day off. But with my pages lagging behind where they needed to be, I worked today after all. And by the time I knocked off for the day, I had 115 pages done on the book. So I'm 5 pages off the pace I figured out, which doesn't really amount to much. Made me feel a little better about things.

Also got an email from my editor today asking me about a pretty big project for 2015. I said sure, count me in. I like having work lined up two years down the road. Hope to get more details about the deal tomorrow. However, it's not anything I'll be able to talk about.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Music I Like: Suddenly I See - KT Tunstall

I just like the sound of this song. And it doesn't hurt that KT Tunstall is as cute as she is.

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Navy Stories, April 1929

Of course, there were pulps for almost every interest, for example NAVY STORIES. The lead novel in this issue is by Captain George Fielding Eliot, one of a number of pulp authors to use their military rank in that post-World War I era. Eliot wrote some mainstream, hardback novels with naval settings later on, but he's probably best remembered today, if he's remembered at all, as the author of the first Dan Fowler novel in the pulp G-MEN. This issue also includes stories by a couple of authors best known for their Westerns, Allan R. Bosworth and Gladwell Richardson, as well as others whose names aren't familiar to me. I'm interested in military fiction, so I might read an issue of NAVY STORIES, but I doubt if it would ever be one of my favorites.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Music I Like: Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain - Willie Nelson

I've seen Willie in concert a couple of times, and I always like it when he does this song.

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Cowboy Stories, January 1929

You don't often see this sort of self-referential humor on pulp covers, so this one by Arthur Mitchell caught my eye. COWBOY STORIES was one of the Clayton pulps and lasted about a dozen years in the Twenties and Thirties. The lead novel in this issue is by J. Irving Crump, an author who wrote more for BOY'S LIFE than he did for the pulps. Other authors in this one are S. Omar Barker, Francis W. Hilton, and Glenn A. Conner. I'm not sure I would have picked this one up, but I do think the cover's sort of cute.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Music I Like: Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue - Crystal Gayle

Crystal Gayle was known for as much for her incredibly long hair and for being Loretta Lynn's sister as she was for her music, but I like her songs, too, including this one.

Forgotten Books: Markham - Lawrence Block

This post originally appeared in slightly different form on April 20, 2007. My apologies for all the reruns. I just haven't had much time to read lately.

This is a book I’ve had on my shelves for many years, and I’ve finally gotten around to reading it. It’s a tie-in novel, based on a short-lived series that ran on NBC in 1959 and 1960, starring Ray Milland as New York-based private eye Roy Markham. Now, if Ray Milland isn’t exactly your idea of a hardboiled private eye, well, I feel pretty much the same way. Maybe a lot of other people did, too, and that’s why the series didn’t last long. This novel didn’t come out until 1961, after the TV series was over. I guess Belmont had it in inventory already and decided to go ahead and throw it out there. Lawrence Block wasn’t a big name at the time, so that wasn’t the reason (as it probably was a few years ago when this novel was reissued under the title YOU COULD CALL IT MURDER, with no mention of the TV series or its original Belmont edition).

As for the book itself, it’s pretty standard PI stuff. As a favor to a friend, Markham takes on a wandering daughter job. The girl has disappeared from the fancy private university she attends in New Hampshire. Markham starts investigating and then gets roped into what seems to be a completely different case – but you know the jobs will wind up being connected, and sure enough they are. There’s a lot of small-town college scenes, some late Fifties/early Sixties hipster stuff, a suicide that might be murder, some other deaths that are definitely murder, blackmail, gangsters, and lots of drinking and smoking. Everybody in this book spends a lot of time taking out cigarettes, lighting up cigarettes, putting out cigarettes, etc. Markham gets hit on the head and knocked out. Eventually he untangles everything and exposes the killer, of course.

Not surprisingly, despite the generic plot Block’s use of language is excellent, as always. Even though this book came early in his career, he could already put sentences together in a consistently interesting and entertaining fashion. I didn’t really see anything in this book that was a precursor for, say, the Matt Scudder books. (There is a minor character named Keller, however.) It’s worth reading, although it’s not on the same level as his other early books that have been reissued by Hard Case Crime.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Music I Like: Suite: Judy Blue Eyes - Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young

Speaking of Judy Collins . . . This song is too long and sort of monotonous, but oh, that last minute or so is sweet.

Writing Update, 4/17

I got those two chapters done that I set out to do. 16 pages. That puts me 27 pages into this book working on it part of yesterday afternoon and part of this afternoon. Time to start putting some whole days together.

Medical Update

Some of you know that I've been worried about a growth on my eyelid for the past couple of months. Finally found out that it's a benign seatocystoma, which is a high-falutin' way of saying, "Your sweat gland done swole up, boy." It's harmless and easily removed, but since the only real purpose in doing so is for cosmetic reasons, and I ain't exactly George Clooney to start with, I figured it was best just to leave it alone. The procedure could have left my eyelid sore for a few days, and I didn't want the distraction right now, what with the race to the drop-dead date on the book I started yesterday. Besides, there's a possibility that it'll eventually go away on its own.

I'm a little prone to hypochondria -- I think a lot of writers are, since coming up with worst-case scenarios is sort of our job -- and since this was only about an inch away from where I had a pre-cancerous growth before, I thought it was worthwhile to have it checked out. Just took a while to find a doctor who knew his stuff. So now that I've heaved a big sigh of relief, it's back to work. I think I have time to get a chapter or two done this afternoon.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Music I Like: Send in the Clowns - Judy Collins

Just a sad, pretty song.

Writing Update, 4/16

Well, I finished that book, two days later than I intended. But I liked the way it turned out. Livia was just a few chapters behind me on the editing, so it's ready to send to the editor, which I intend to do momentarily. I finished early enough in the day to get the first chapter done on the next book. So, 30 pages for the day, 19 on the one I finished and 11 on the one I started.

Yep, pretty much insane. Gets a lot of books written, though.

Tuesday's Overlooked TV: The Sentinel

This series about a police detective with hypersensitive senses (like Daredevil, only he's not blind, I imagine somebody said in a pitch meeting) ran for four seasons back in the Nineties on one of the smaller networks (UPN?), so it was fairly successful at the time but seems to be mostly forgotten since. As I recall, we watched most, if not all, of the episodes and enjoyed it fairly well. The character had been lost in the Amazon jungle for several years and gained his mysterious abilities there. Except for that gimmick, though, it was a pretty standard cop show. Richard Burgi, who has gone on to have a productive career playing villainous businessmen, sleazy lawyers, etc., is the stalwart hero in this one and does a fine job. The series was created by Danny Bilson and Paul De Meo, who have worked on a lot of genre TV and movies, most of them pretty good. Bilson is also the father of actress Rachel Bilson, currently on HART OF DIXIE and quite possibly the downright cutest woman on television.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Music I Like: Let It All Hang Out - The Hombres

Like Looking Glass, The Hombres were a one-hit wonder band (as far as I know; hey, I'm not an expert on this stuff, just a guy wallowing in nostalgia). I've always liked this song, including that great intro.

Writing Update, 4/15

Well, I didn't finish the book yesterday. Just too much story left to cover. And I didn't finish today, either, but with 33 pages written today, it wasn't from lack of trying. I just should have tried a little harder some of those days last week and the week before. So now I'm shooting for tomorrow morning, so I can maybe write a chapter of the new book tomorrow afternoon. I thought I wrote some pretty nice stuff today, though, so that's good.

2013 Peacemaker Award Nominations from Western Fictioneers

Western Fictioneers (WF) is pleased to announce the NOMINEES for the third annual (2013) Peacemaker Awards

** Nominees are in no particular order.

The Lifetime Achievement Peacemaker will be presented to Robert Vaughan.


City of Rocks (Five Star Publishing — Cengage) by Michael Zimmer

Unbroke Horses (Goldminds Publishing, LLC) by D.B. Jackson

Apache Lawman (AmazonEncore) by Phil Dunlap

Wide Open (Berkley Publishing Group) by Larry Bjornson


“Christmas Comes to Freedom Hill” (Christmas Campfire Companion — Port Yonder Press) by Troy Smith

“Christmas For Evangeline”  (Slay Bells and Six Guns — WF ) by C. Courtney Joyner

 “Keepers of Camelot” (Slay Bells and Six Guns — WF) by Cheryl Pierson

“The Toys” (Slay Bells and Six Guns — WF) by James J. Griffin

“Adeline” (Protectors: Stories to Benefit PROTECT — Goombah Gumbo Press ) by Wayne Dundee


High Stakes (Musa Publishing) by Chad Strong

Wide Open (Berkley Publishing Group) by Larry Bjornson

Red Lands Outlaw, the Ballad of Henry Starr (AWOC.com Publishing) by Phil Truman

Last Stand At Bitter Creek (Western Trail Blazer) by Tom Rizzo

Sipping Whiskey in a Shallow Grave (Sunbury Press) by Mark Mitten

Winners will be announced on June 1, 2013 on the WF website (www.westernfictioneers.com)

Western Fictioneers (WF) was formed in 2010 by Robert J. Randisi, James Reasoner, Frank Roderus, and other professional Western writers, to preserve, honor, and promote traditional Western writing in the 21st century.  Entries were accepted in both print and electronic forms.  The Peacemaker Awards are given out annually.  Submissions for the Peacemaker Awards for books published in 2013 will be open in July, 2013. Submission guidelines will be posted on the WF web site.  For more information about Western Fictioneers (WF) please visit:  http://www.westernfictioneers.com/ or  http://westernfictioneers.blogspot.com/

Western Fictioneers would like to thank Larry D. Sweazy for being Awards Chair for the first three years and for the excellent job he has done.

(On a personal note, I've known Robert Vaughan for close to 25 years and have been reading and enjoying his books for even longer. His Lifetime Achievement Award is a well-deserved honor. Congratulations, and congrats as well to all the nominees.)

Now Available: Wolf Creek Book 4: The Taylor County War

The fourth Wolf Creek novel is now available. For those of you not familiar with the series, the Wolf Creek books are collaborative novels produced by various members of Western Fictioneers and published under the house name Ford Fargo. This time around, contributing authors are Douglas Hirt, Clay More, Matthew Pizzolato, James Reasoner, Troy D. Smith, and Chuck Tyrell. You can read more about it here.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Music I Like: Brandy - Looking Glass

One of my favorite songs from the Seventies. When this song came out in 1972 my hair was almost as long as that of the guys in this clip. Hard to believe now.

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Red Star Adventures, June 1940 to January 1941

RED STAR ADVENTURES was a short-lived Munsey pulp that ran for only four issues in 1940. Each issue featured a South Seas adventure novel about Matalaa, the White Savage, by Martin McCall. That was a house-name, but the Matalaa stories are by E. Hoffmann Price. I've read them, and they're pretty good. Other authors to be found in the run are William Chamberlain, Allan Bosworth (best known for his Westerns), Lurton Blassingame, Carl Jacobi, Hugh B. Cave, Rolland Lynch, and Nelson S. Bond. Looks like a fine magazine to me. Guess it just couldn't find its place on the crowded newsstands of the day.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Music I Like: Good Ol' Boys Like Me - Don Williams

If for no other reason, this song would be great because of the line about "those Williams boys . . . Hank and Tennessee". But Don Williams has a fine voice, too.

Writing Update, 4/13

I had a pretty good day with 23 pages, although it went so well early that I thought it would be a really good day. However, this afternoon I sort of ran out of gas and had to force myself to keep going. Anyway, it's looking like there's just too much story left, as I was talking about yesterday, and it's going to be Monday before I finish this book. With luck that one extra day won't matter much.

Now Available: Look You on Beauty and Death - James Reasoner and Livia J. Washburn

Despite my love for the genre, Livia and I haven't made many forays into sword and sorcery. This short story is one of them, and I think it's a pretty good one. We wrote it a while back for an anthology called NEW AMAZONS, which was edited by Margaret Weis. "Look You on Beauty and Death" has got swordplay, an evil wizard, a little humor, and a few plot twists. We've gone through it, revising it and expanding it some from its original version. I hope those of you who like heroic fantasy will check it out. It's only 99 cents for 7,000 words of action.

I have an unpublished fantasy novel sitting in my files, but it's going to take a considerable amount of work before it's ready to see the light of day. I expect to have it available as an e-book, too, sooner or later.

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Romantic Western, September 1938

They may call it ROMANTIC WESTERN, but it looks like a Spicy to me. And so it is, since this pulp was published by Trojan Publications, the company behind the Spicy and later Speed lines. It lasted only ten issues, and I wouldn't be surprised if the stories came from Trojan's inventory. That brutal cover certainly isn't very romantic, either, but again, that's par for the course at Trojan. And judging by the gun falling out of the woman's hand, she was about to shoot him. Of course, he probably had it coming.

As for the contents, the lead story is by the always entertaining E. Hoffmann Price. The other authors in this issue are Hamlin Daly (who was really E. Hoffmann Price), John Prentice (a house-name, but in this case, uh, E. Hoffmann Price), Larry Dunn (really Laurence Donovan), and Roy Cutler, whose story in this issue is his only credit listed in the Fictionmags Index, leading me to suspect that may be a pen-name, too. Maybe for, oh, I don't know . . . E. Hoffmann Price? Laurence Donovan? But seriously, I have no idea who Roy Cutler really was. Maybe he was Roy Cutler. Stranger things have been known to happen.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Music I Like: Classical Gas - Mason Williams

All right, this is the last Sixties song for a while, I promise. I remember watching Mason Williams play this on the Smothers Brothers' TV show when it was brand-new.

Writing Update, 4/12

I wrote 17 pages today, down a little from yesterday, but Livia and I took some time off during the middle of the day and went out for lunch. Got to do a little something to stay sane now and then. I can still finish the current book Sunday if I have good days the next two days. Not spectacular days, just good solid, productive days. Unless there's more story than I think there is. I won't really know until I get there.

Back when I was writing Trailsman novels, the editor asked me for 225 page manuscripts. Some were as short as 222, some as long as 228 . . . but for a long time that was the spread. And a lot of them hit exactly 225 pages. No matter whether I had a detailed outline or a paragraph. 225 pages. I have no idea how I did that. Probably couldn't do it now.

Forgotten Books: Fang Tung, Magician - H. Bedford-Jones

This post originally appeared in slightly different form on September 26, 2007.

As I’ve mentioned here before, one of my favorite pulp authors is H. Bedford-Jones, one of three legitimate claimants to the title King of the Pulps. (The other two being Frederick “Max Brand” Faust and Erle Stanley Gardner.) This short adventure novel was originally published in the August 2, 1919 issue of ALL-STORY WEEKLY.

It’s the story of American reporter Eric Heald and British intelligence agent Major John Pendragon, who set off into the wilds of China (which were still pretty wild in 1919) to foil the plans of renegade Taoist priest Fang Tung. Fang Tung is trying to stir up a rebellion against the Chinese government, which was allied with England at the time. Along the way Heald and Pendragon pick up an ally, the beautiful daughter of an American doctor who established a hospital in China before his death, a hospital which the daughter still runs.

This story would have made a pretty good 1930s adventure movie with, say, Gary Cooper, Victor McLaglen, and Myrna Loy. Warner Oland probably would have played the villainous Fang Tung, who can control men’s minds through hypnotism. His stronghold is an island temple in the middle of a lake, complete with secret passages, torture chambers, and other good stuff like that. Our heroes get captured, escape, and get captured again in the usual pulp fashion. The pace is a little slow at times and the prose is a little old-fashioned (imagine that, old-fashioned prose in a book that’s nearly 90 nears old), but everything finally builds up to a climax that’s very dramatic and effective, even if there’s not a lot of the slam-bang action you might expect.

FANG TUNG, MAGICIAN would have to be classified as a “yellow peril” novel, and as such, it’s hardly what you’d call politically correct today. The characters are not as stereotypical as you might think, though, and Bedford-Jones was always good at providing heroes and villains of all sorts. I enjoyed the story quite a bit, even though it requires some patience, and if you like slightly cerebral pulp adventure yarns, I recommend it. A recent, inexpensive reprint is available from my friend Brian Earl Brown, and you can find information about it here, along with info on the other pulp reprints Brian has published.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Music I Like: Incense and Peppermints - Strawberry Alarm Clock

Yeah, I'm stuck in the Sixties. I'll get out of it in a few days. This song always makes me smile.

Writing Update, 4/11

After struggling yesterday, I really needed a good day today, and I got it with 25 pages. I'm closing in on the end of this book and would like to finish it Sunday. That would give me three weeks to write the next book before its drop-dead date. A couple of years ago I would have said, "Three weeks? Eh . . . no sweat." Now it's more like, "Oh, man, can I do it?" Nothing like a little suspense.

Coming Soon: West of the Big River: The Lawman - James Reasoner

My newest Western novel will be out soon. THE LAWMAN is the first book in the West of the Big River series, published by Western Fictioneers. This is going to be a fine series of new short novels based on historical figures and incidents from the Old West, with a great line-up of contributing authors including Robert J. Randisi, Michael Newton, Jackson Lowry, Frank Roderus, Bill Crider, Matthew P. Mayo, James J. Griffin, and many others. You can read about this and all the other Western Fictioneers publishing projects on the WF blog.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Music I Like: Summer Song - Chad and Jeremy

The voices may not be as pure as they once were . . . but the song is. I love this. (And the episode of THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW on which Chad and Jeremy guest-starred is greatness, too.)

Zoo - James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge

James Patterson gets plenty of flack, but I've read a number of his books that I thought were pretty good. It usually depends on who his co-author is on a particular book, and how over-the-top the plot is. (As you know, it's difficult for a writer to get too over-the-top for my taste.)

ZOO is a stand-alone thriller written with Michael Ledwidge, who's collaborated with Patterson on another stand-alone novel I read a while back, THE QUICKIE. I thought that one was okay. Ledwidge is also the co-author of a series about New York police detective Michael Bennett, and I haven't read any of those.

ZOO is sort of like a Seventies disaster movie. Remember the old Fox TV show "When Animals Attack"? That's pretty much the plot of this one. All over the world, animals suddenly go crazy, start acting in uncharacteristic ways, and attack humans. When it gets bad enough, it leads to the sort of global apocalypse usually associated in fiction with nuclear war or zombies. The narrator for most of the book (Patterson and Ledwidge do a little switching back and forth between first- and third-person, but not to the point of being annoying about it) is likable biologist Jackson Oz, who winds up leading a group of scientists trying to find out what caused this phenomenon and what to do about it before humanity is wiped out.

It's certainly not marketed as such, but ZOO is actually a near-future SF novel. I'm not really enough of a scientist to know if what's behind the sudden rise of animal aggression is possible or not (in the words of the great Neal Barrett, Jr., "Who do I look like to you, Mr. Wizard?"), but it all sounds plausible enough and I suppose that's all that really matters in a book like this. There's plenty of action, good characters to root for, and the story really races along. I assume Ledwidge did the bulk of the writing, and it's good enough I might well check out some of the other books he's done with Patterson.

I'm not real sure about the ending, but overall ZOO is probably my second favorite Patterson novel after THE JESTER, a historical adventure yarn set during and after the Crusades that was co-authored with Andrew Gross. I think it's worth reading.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Music I Like: I'd Like to Get to Know You - Spanky and Our Gang

Yes, kids, the Sixties were really weird. But isn't that a great song? I think I'm still a little bit in love with Elaine "Spanky" McFarlane.

Depression Era Pulp? Well . . .


A few of these books are by pulp authors, and a few may have even first appeared in the pulps, but for the most part, no, this is not pulp fiction. I realize the battle has already been lost for us purists, but I still feel like firing a shot every now and then.

And for goodness' sake . . . Walter Thompkins? Please.

All that said, I like a lot of the Phoenix Press books.

Tuesday's Overlooked Movie: Longarm

I'll say right up front that I only saw this movie once, when it first aired on ABC in 1988, and I didn't think it was very good then. But it's interesting that the Longarm Adult Western novels were so successful back then that they prompted the making of a TV movie. If the people who made it had actually taken something from the books other than the name, it might have been successful.

But instead they took a great, well-rounded, interesting character, Deputy U.S. Marshal Custis Long, and turned him into an utterly bland, generic TV Western lawman played by John Terlesky, who has the thankless task of breathing some life into the character.

However, there's one scene that's stuck with me for nearly 25 years, and it still makes me laugh. It involves a frontier baseball game and a moment of inspired lunacy. If you've never seen this movie, it's doubtful that you ever will, but just in case, I won't go into detail. If you ever run across it, though, watch for that baseball game. (No DVD, no YouTube clip, not even an image from the movie anywhere on-line that I can find. If you didn't see it the first time, like I did, it might as well not even exist.)

Monday, April 08, 2013

Music I Like: Baby, The Rain Must Fall - Glenn Yarbrough

I like most of the folkie stuff from the early Sixties. This is a good song, Glenn Yarbrough had a distinctive voice, and the clip itself is an interesting time capsule. The blond girl in the white shirt dancing behind him is really cute. The blond guy dancing down on the floor with the other kids looks like he's about to fall asleep. Must've been past his bedtime. In fact, all the dancers, with the exception of the cute blonde, look really unenthusiastic. But the song is still good.

Writing Update, 4/8

Today was a decent day with 18 pages done, not as much as yesterday but not bad, either. I also helped take an old mattress to the dump, took a flat tire off the riding mower, aired it up, and found out where it was leaking (didn't repair it, that's beyond my capabilities, but Livia will take it to the tire shop tomorrow), and helped cut down part of a very thorny tree that left me with little bloody holes scattered over my hands and forearms.

Bad Sanctuary - Heath Lowrance

"Bad Sanctuary" is the latest short story from Heath Lowrance featuring Hawthorne, his scarred and haunted gunslinger/bounty hunter/avenging angel. In this one he's tracking down a killer to an abandoned army fort that's been turned into a refuge for outlaws and other men on the run, but there's another evil lurking there, too, and it's really what Hawthorne is after.

This is a truly creepy story, and the odds against Hawthorne are so high at one point you have to wonder how he's going to come out of it alive. There's plenty of bloody action, and also a few tantalizing hints about Hawthorne's background. Lowrance is doing a masterful job with this series, and I always look forward to the new entries. If you're a fan of the so-called Weird Western and haven't read the Hawthorne stories yet, you really need to. Go back to the first one, "That Damned Coyote Hill" and read them in order.

Of course, if you're a fan, no doubt you already have "Bad Sanctuary". If you don't, grab it right away. It's great stuff, as always.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Music I Like: Alibi - Shelby Lynne

As recommended by Bob Randisi. This song is pure bad-ass.

Writing Update, 4/7

The more eagle-eyed among you may have noticed that I haven't done a writing update in several days. This is because a. I've been really busy, and b. my page total on some of the missing days was so pathetic I didn't want to post it, which sort of defeats the purpose of this whole thing, doesn't it? I seem to be on a pattern of good day/bad day. Today was a good day. An excellent day, really, with 26 pages written. We'll see what happens tomorrow.

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Black Mask, August 1936

BLACK MASK. Frederick Nebel. John K. Butler. Roger Torrey. W.T. Ballard. 'Nuff said.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Music I Like: The Last Time I Saw Her - Glen Campbell

Now this is a sad song. It was written by the great Gordon Lightfoot, who also recorded it, but I really like this version by Glen Campbell.

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: West, January 1952

A rather pensive cover from the January 1952 issue of the appropriately named and long running WEST (354 issues from 1926 to 1953). With a lead novel by William Hopson and a reprint of an Ernest Haycox story from COLLIER'S, an issue likely worth reading, too.

Friday, April 05, 2013

Music I Like: Jose Cuervo, You Are a Friend of Mine - Shelly West

This may make some of you gag, but I have a fondness for rum and root beer. And since that's what I'm drinking as I schedule this post, why not a rum-related song? I've always liked this one.

Forgotten Books: The Black Angel - Cornell Woolrich

This post originally appeared in slightly different form on November 10, 2007.

THE BLACK ANGEL is part of Cornell Woolrich's famous “Black” series. They all have the world “Black” in the title, beginning with THE BRIDE WORE BLACK, but other than that they’re not connected.

THE BLACK ANGEL is narrated by Alberta Murray, a young woman whose husband Kirk always calls her Angel Face. Alberta thinks everything in her life is going along just fine (always a warning sign) until she suddenly discovers that her husband is having an affair. Worse yet, he’s planning to leave her and run off with the other woman. Alberta goes to the woman’s apartment to confront her, and yep, you guessed it, her husband’s mistress is dead, smothered with a pillow. Worse still, the cops arrest Kirk and charge him with the murder. In short order, he’s convicted and sentenced to death, and Alberta has less than three months until her husband’s execution to find the real killer and clear his name. Luckily, she just happens to have an address book she picked up in the murdered woman’s apartment, and a match book with the letter M engraved on it, pointing to the real killer. All she has to do is investigate everybody in the address book whose last name starts with M to find out who really killed her husband’s mistress and save him from the electric chair.

Yes, this book has its share of the coincidences and far-fetched plot developments that Woolrich’s work is famous for, but it also generates a considerable amount of suspense as Alberta searches for the murderer. Its structure is rather episodic, as she investigates each of the suspects in turn and the plot gets more and more complicated. Woolrich springs a nice reverse at the end that you’ll probably see coming. I did, but I enjoyed it anyway. And the final scene of the story has a sting of its own.

You could spend all day pointing out the flaws in Woolrich’s plotting, and his writing can be breathless and melodramatic at times. But nobody is better at using the emotions of his characters to capture the readers and sweep them along in a story. He’s also one of the best at utilizing the backdrop of seedy hotels and sleazy nightclubs and making that setting almost as much a character in his stories and novels as his human protagonists are. THE BLACK ANGEL is especially strong in that area. It’s a fine novel, and highly recommended by me. (I love that cover from '68 Ace edition, too.)

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Music I Like: Slaughter on Tenth Avenue - Stanley Black and the London Festival Orchestra

I used to have this version on a CD with some other orchestral music and played it pretty often while I was working in my old studio. Even though it's not from a Western, it has a nice epic feel to it and was good accompaniment for what I was writing most of the time.

Writing Update, 3/31 - 4/3

I've been too wiped out the past few days, mostly from stuff going on in real life, to post any writing updates. The other posts that went up were already scheduled in advance. But even though other things have been going on, the writing has continued when it can, with totals the past four days of 22, 16, 7, and 26. I've also done a considerable amount of editing and research during that stretch. I still have a shot at making all the drop-dead dates I'm supposed to, but it's gonna be a real cliffhanger.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Music I Like: That's How the Yodel Was Born - Riders in the Sky

Now for the proverbial something completely different. I got to meet the Riders in the Sky once and actually spent quite a bit of time talking to them. Nice guys, and I love their music.

Commando: Hero From Hollywood - Eric Hebden

The British digest comic book COMMANDO is probably the longest-running war comic in history. It started in 1963 and is still going strong fifty years later, publishing four issues every two weeks featuring stories of warfare through the ages. Most stories take place during World War II, but certainly not all, and they often feature little-known historical events, as well.

I've read a few issues over the years, including this recent one, #4581, "Hero From Hollywood". It's actually a reprint from the series' first year, 1963, originally appearing in COMMANDO #84. Written by Eric Hebden, it's an excellent yarn about an American movie star of numerous Westerns and swashbucklers, Chet Marvin, who's on a tour entertaining British troops in Belgium in May 1940. Unfortunately that's when the German blitzkrieg starts, and Chet finds himself (and his horse) cut off behind enemy lines.

Fortunately, he pairs up with the story's real protagonist, British army truck driver Joe Brent, who happens to be a big fan of Chet's movies. As they try to avoid being captured by the Germans, however, Joe discovers that movie heroism and real-life heroism are two very different things.

This story covers quite a bit of time as it follows Joe and Chet's odyssey back to safety, and it's packed with action and features several surprising plot twists. I don't know anything about the author, Eric Hebden, but his script is top-notch. The artwork is credited only to "Jones", the cover art to "Alvaro", but I think their work is very effective.

I actually submitted a plot to COMMANDO years ago in another attempt to fulfill my lifelong dream of writing a comic book, but nothing came of it. Maybe I will again, one of these days. In the meantime, I plan to read more of them. I never subscribed because the shipping from England to the U.S. was more than I wanted to pay, but I see that now they have digital subscriptions, which you can check out here if you're interested. Definitely something I might do. (Thanks to Calum Laird and Michael Eriksson.)

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Music I Like: Taxi - Harry Chapin

I like a good story song now and then, and this is a good one.

Tuesday's Overlooked Movies: The Desperate Trail

THE DESPERATE TRAIL is a made-for-cable Western starring Sam Elliott. Now, I would have said that I'd seen all of Sam Elliott's Westerns, but nope, this one was new to me. Although Elliott is top-billed, he actually plays a supporting role as a ruthless, vengeful marshal who's pursuing a female fugitive (Linda Fiorentino) convicted of killing her husband. While she's on the run, she throws in with a charming con man and outlaw played by Craig Sheffer, and they team up hoping to rob a big money shipment from a bank.

This movie takes some odd turns. Sam Elliott is the villain, and despite a good performance from him, I'm not sure that works for me. I'm just too used to seeing him as the hero. The music is very low-key and doesn't sound like Western movie music at all, which also bothers me, and there's something off about the photography that doesn't look right.

That said, there are some interesting characters, a few moments of unexpected and almost bizarre humor, and a couple of decent gunfights. I got caught up in the story despite the quibbles I mentioned above. THE DESPERATE TRAIL is a flawed movie, but I think it's worth watching, especially if you're a Sam Elliott completist like me.

Monday, April 01, 2013

Music I Like: FM - Steely Dan

I seem to be stuck in the Seventies.

Doc Savage: Skull Island - Will Murray

To Will Murray: You had me at "Doc Savage meets King Kong."

Seriously, that pairing of two of the most iconic characters in adventure fiction is irresistible. The set-up is great, with Doc, Monk, and Ham arriving back in New York City right after Kong has taken his plunge off the Empire State Building. When they go to see the body and Doc says, "I know this creature," . . . well, maybe it didn't send quite as much of a shiver through me as "They were the footprints, Mr. Holmes, of a gigantic hound!", but it's still a great line.

From there we're off to a flashback that reveals not just how Doc first met King Kong in the days soon after he returns from World War I, it also lets us get to know Doc's father Clark Savage Sr., who is a rather shadowy figure in the original novels, plus Doc's grandfather, the sea captain Stormalong Savage (a great name if there ever was one).

Once Doc and his dad, sailing on the ship Orion (the same schooner on which Doc was born) reach Skull Island in search of old Stormalong, the action is almost non-stop. Headhunters, dinosaurs, and Kong himself provide formidable obstacles for the Savages. This story takes place before Doc adopted his no-killing policy, like the first few novels in the pulp series, so the violence is pretty graphic. But there are quieter, more poignant moments, too, that are very effective.

One of the most appealing things about this novel for long-time Doc Savage fans such as myself is seeing the early, developmental stages of things that will figure prominently in the series later on, such as Doc's superfirer machine pistols and some casual mentions of Doc's uncle Alex Savage, whose daughter Pat becomes a major supporting character. There are also hints of much more Savage family history to be uncovered later on, as well as an explanation of how Doc's father came up with the idea of training him to be an adventurer. (It's not one that I would have suspected.)

If you've never read Doc Savage before, SKULL ISLAND would make a good starting point, although it is considerably different from the other novels in the series. If you're a long-time fan like me, it's even better. Will Murray's done a spectacular job here, the cover by Joe DeVito is breathtaking, and SKULL ISLAND gets the highest recommendation from me. It's currently available in e-book and trade paperback editions, with a limited edition hardcover on the way.