Sunday, December 26, 2010

Review: Starting Over by Ken Sharp

Learning that I rarely read celebrity biographies will come as a surprise to some. Having traveled that turbulent road myself, and being cognizant of the perils a chronology offers its historians, while at the same time finding myself horrified by the banality of most celebrity biographies, I have distanced myself from that quagmire of hacks, know-it-alls and snide commentators. I made an exception for Ken Sharp’s Starting Over: The Making of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s ‘Double Fantasy’ which turned out to be every bit as good as I had hoped. This book is constructed as an oral biography that documents the events from August through December 8th, 1980. The book is illustrated with previously unpublished photographs by David M. Spindel and Roger Farrington of John and Yoko during their historic recording session. These photographs are priceless.

The book’s many first hand accounts and reminisces by the musicians, production team, friends and employees at the Hit Factory where the album was recorded offer remarkable insight into John and Yoko’s life. What stands out is the depth of Lennon’s creative genius, his passion for the creative art of songwriting, his intelligence, and the love he had for Yoko. This is, quite frankly, a heartbreaking love story.

Lennon’s assassination at the hands of a deranged fan is a grim reminder at how far our society has slunk into the darkness. A recent issue of Rolling Stone magazine offered his “lost interview” where Lennon states emphatically his dislike for “dead messiahs” which is sadly what he has become for far too many people. Ken Sharp’s Starting Over offers us a true-life glimpse of a working class lad with an extraordinary musical talent. Here is the real John Lennon, a hard-working rock and roller, devoted father and loving husband at the moment he re-visited his creative soul.

I remember listening to Double Fantasy not long before Lennon was murdered. I liked it and Yoko’s edgy songs, including her now famous “Yokorgasm” on the track “Kiss, Kiss, Kiss” elicited  collegiate debates in the university town between cornfields where I lived. It wasn’t too long afterward when late one evening I heard “Imagine” playing from someone’s dormitory room and we learned that Lennon had been killed. After that Double Fantasy became a bittersweet reminder of Lennon’s lost talent, and songs like “Beautiful Boy” and Yoko’s “Hard Times Are Over” sounded like laments. After reading Ken Sharp’s Starting Over I listened to the album again and it sounded just as fresh as the first time I heard it; it’s a solid musical experience with a dash of avant garde performance that made it unique. I have no doubt that if Lennon had lived and toured with Yoko they would have changed the minds of those critics who were initially harsh in their first reviews. Ken Sharp’s Starting Over is the only celebrity biography I have read this past year and I highly recommend it.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!


Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! I'll be back early in January with news, reviews, essays and more! Until then stay safe and happy!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Favorite Fiction From 2010


Since the early 1970s I have maintained the habit of reading one book per week, but this year I managed to read 72 books which included some novellas. Here are some – but not all – of my favorite fiction titles from 2010.

The Map of All Things by Kevin J. Anderson
She Murdered Me with Science by David Boop
Rain Gods by James Lee Burke
Crescent Dawn by Clive and Dirk Cussler.
The Spotted Panther by James Francis Dwyer
Sons of the Oak by David Farland
Captain Hazzard: Cavemen of New York by Ron Fortier
Ghost Squad: Rise of the Black Legion by Ron Fortier and Andrew Salmon
Golden Hell by L. Ron Hubbard
Jack and the Jungle Lion by Stephen Jared
The Pirate Devlin by Mark Keating
Tanner’s Guns by Matt Logan
The City of Corpses by Norvell Page
Sentinels: When Strikes the Warlord by Van Allen Plexico
Shell Scott’s Seven Slaughters by Richard S. Prather
The Big Bang by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins
Robin Hood: King of Sherwood by I. A. Watson

You’ll note a preponderance of pulp fiction listed given that I am a fan of that special era. As time permits I’ll post additional reviews. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Retro Poetry Jam: Sea-Fever by John Masefield


Sea-Fever
John Masefield

I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking
And a gray mist on the sea’s face and a gray dawn breaking.

I must down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must down to the seas again to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

***

NOTE: John Masefield was born in 1878 in Ledbury, Herefordshire and died in 1967. “The Sea-Fever” is one of his better known poems although modern readers might bemoan the missing verb “go” from the phrase “I must down to the seas again…” as Masfield wrote a series of poems about sailors in their natural colloquial style. The poem is presented here as an intellectual interlude and stimulant for the wary traveler of cyberspace where so much nonsense is spread across the digital highway like silicon graffiti. Take a breath, man, read.

The photograph is a painting by John Stobart.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Trail of the Burned Man rides into large print!


Trail of the Burned Man is officially available today in large print. Written in the style of the pulp adventure stories of the 30s and 40s, this was my first western. Hardback copies are also still available. You can order your copy HERE.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

New from Steve Hayes and David Whitehead!


My long-distance friends Steve Hayes (California) and David Whitehead (England) have written yet another book together. It looks to be another exciting adventure from these two superb craftsmen and in the future I’ll be posting reviews of their books. Here’s the blurb:

The president himself gave Special Agent Gus Novacek his orders. He had to stop Koji Shaguma's sinister Armageddon cult before it destroyed the world. But that was easier said than done. Armageddon struck first in Tokyo, then Paris, then London and finally New York, and Gus always seemed to be one step behind the murderous fanatics. Then fate stepped in and set the stage for the final bloody confrontation aboard a hijacked plane bound for Algiers. A plane that was rapidly losing fuel. A plane that was going to crash in the Atlantic and kill everyone on board, unless Gus could find a way to avert total disaster.

To learn more about David Whitehead click HERE

To learn more about Steve Hayes click HERE

Friday, November 26, 2010

Pulp Interview: Tom Roberts from Black Dog Books


Black Dog Books is based in Normal, Illinois and enjoys popularity as one of the pre-eminent publishers of classic pulp fiction. All of the titles from Black Dog Books would make a great Christmas gift so I am running this interview with the hope readers will visit the Black Dog Books website and order up some adventure stories!

You can visit Black Dog Books HERE!

Q:  WHY ARE THE PULPS SO POPULAR TODAY?

A: The explosion of small press operations has allowed many pulp-based works to be brought back into print that were unavailable for decades, both through the rarity of the pulps, and through the price tags the actual magazines now carry. As well, since there is practically no prose market today for new works of this type, some of these small press operations are producing new works by new creators in the tradition of the 1930s pulp hero stories. This gets people excited that always wanted to try their hand at writing a Doc Savage-style or Shadow-type story featuring a costumed hero. I also think people just enjoy the variety found in pulp oriented material. (Maybe it’s a rebellion against the flood of often-mindless reality TV programming. We can only hope!)
 
Q: TELL ME ABOUT THE REPRINTS YOU PUBLISH AND WHICH ARE THE MOST POPULAR IN SALES.

Black Dog Books is one of the few publishing houses that produce books of adventure fiction. I have released mystery, horror and science fiction titles too, but the adventure genre is where my own personal true interest lies. For my titles I have always tried to assemble quality fiction from sources not easily obtained by the average consumer, and I think this has become our growing reputation. Factoring in that all contributors (for forewords and introductions) are professional writers, and experts in their field, just adds to raising the quality level and material presented in out titles. Our best-selling recent title has been The Golden Goshawk, by H. Bedford-Jones. This short collection assembles the adventure of Captain Dan Marguard and his escapades in the South China Sea region. These stories originally appeared in pulp magazines that are nearly impossible to lay your hands (Danger Trail and Far East Adventure Stories). It took me several years to acquire photocopies of the stories for this collection. The book received a couple online reviews, has been well liked by readers, and is doing well. I have recently started two new series: “The Best of Adventure” and “The Adventure Library.” As the title implies, “The Best of Adventure” is a series of anthologies selecting the best stories from Adventure magazine, each volume covered a two-year period. Volume one covers 1910-1912, volume two will cover 1913-1915 and so on. We will be putting out at least six volumes in the set. As with any work of this type, the selections are subjective to taste, but hopefully everyone will find something in each volume they like. Adventure ran a variety of subject matter: Westerns, sea stories, military stories, mysteries, South Sea stories, etc. The magazine between 1910-1912 may have printed ten great sea stories, but to include them all would sacrifice other worthy candidates, so we are trying to not make any volume subject-heavy. Volume one will soon be out and reprints works by recognized authors such as Talbot Mundy, Damon Runyon, Frank L. Packard, Rafael Sabatini, William Hope Hodgson, James Francis Dwyer among others. Many of these works have been unavailable for decades or never reprinted at all. Online banter has been good in anticipation of this series. Issues of Adventure from pre-1920 are difficult to obtain so many readers have never had the opportunity to enjoy this fiction. Titles in “The Adventure Library” will reprint single character series or single author collections culled from the pages of Adventure (and other titles), primarily of uncollected works or forgotten and overlooked series. Volume one of this series, entitled The Black Death, assembled the adventures of Sir John Hawkwood and his White Company in Italy in 1380, written by Marion Polk Angellotti. Volume two collects for the first time in book form In the Grip of the Minotaur by Farnham Bishop and Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur, an exciting tale of Vikings in ancient Crete and Minos. Bishop and Brodeur, college roommates at Harvard, wrote a number of early novels of Vikings and other types of historical adventure that again, were never collected into book form. In the Grip of the Minotaur is the first of several titles by Bishop and Brodeur that Black Dog Books will be issuing in the next year or two.

Q: LESTER DENT IS ONE OF MY FAVORITES AND I BOUGHT TWO OF YOUR REPRINTS. WHAT QUALITIES DID DENT HAVE THAT MAKE HIM SO POPULAR WITH READERS TODAY?

Dent was an exceptional writer of action stories, and action scenes in general. He had a way of weaving pseudo-technology into the works so that it came across as plausible. That is what made his Doc Savage novels so successful. His stories are told in a straightforward manner, and move along at a rapid pace. They never lack for excitement. But yet, at the same time, they do not rely on melodrama. They’re just well-told two-fisted adventure stories. That type of story always seems to have an audience. It may be smaller than it once was, but the genre is still attracting readers. I have three titles currently available in “The Lester Dent Library.” The first, Dead Men’s Bones is a collection of early aviation adventure works; volume 2, The Skull Squadron, assembles all of Dent’s aviation air war, and the third book, Hell’s Hoofprints brings together a series of Western stories Dent wrote for Western Trails. Each book has a new, historical introduction by Dent authority Will Murray, as well as notes, story synopsis and sales information taken from Dent’s working notebooks. As in the pattern with my books, much of this Dent material is from hard to come by magazine sources, being rarely reprinted. There will be at least two more volumes in “The Lester Dent Library.” Lester Dent has never been on the household name level the way some pulp-based authors, lets say Edgar Rice Burroughs, have been, but nonetheless these books have done reasonably well in sales.

NOTE: Thank you Tom Roberts for taking the time to share your thoughts on the pulp industry!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Retro Literary Luminescence: Creep to Death by Joseph Payne Brennan




Originally published in 1981 by Donald M. Grant, the late Joseph Payne Brennan’s (1918 – 1990) strange poetry book Creep to Death was a limited signed edition of 795 copies. The illustrations by Jane F. Kendall match the chilling austerity of Brennan’s poetry. The places in this book are cold, barren and windswept autumnal landscapes of unrelenting despair. Although Brennan is best known as a writer of supernatural fiction, his poetry was equally acclaimed and this volume demonstrates why. Here Brennan describes cornstalks as “…whispering, rows of desiccated witches, rooted in earth, unwilling to die.” Joseph Payne Brennan is nearly forgotten today, except perhaps by a few of us bibliophiles. What horror writers today have yet to learn was mastered by Joseph Payne Brennan in his weird poetry and chilling tales. Less is more. You can find Brennan’s books with on-line booksellers at affordable prices. And so one night, under a full moon and with the wind moaning in the eves, why not find one of his books, begin reading and turn the page…

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Give your wife a tingle - buy her a western!

Looking for that perfect gift? The gift that will make your wife pant with wanton ecstasy? Trail of the Burned Man, Wind Rider or Death Rides a Palomino are guaranteed to put her into some type of catatonic shock at which point you can have your wicked way with her! Visit my website HERE for all the bloody details!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Saturn and Jupiter Images From Nasa!

For those interested in Space Exploration Nasa'a educational website features a photo journal that has some amazing images. Visit their website HERE

The few samples selected here are:

1: Jupiter Polar Winds Movie Blowup at Full Resolution.
2: PIA12652: Tethys in the Fore: A pair of small moons join Saturn's second largest moon in this Cassini spacecraft image spotlighting Rhea in front of the rings.
3: PIA11648: Enormous Elongated Shadow : The shadow of Saturn's largest moon darkens a huge portion of the gas giant planet.
4: PIA02873: High Resolution Globe of Jupiter.

Mind boggling material!




 "Space is deep, Man is small and Time is his relentless enemy." - L. Ron Hubbard, TO THE STARS (1950)

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Monday, November 8, 2010

Trail of the Burned Man is Available in large print!


Trail of the Burned Man is available soon as a large print paperback from Linford courtesy of the Ulverscroft Foundation. You can order it from Amazon.com as well. My old pal Walt Rackowski is selling copies in Chi-town on Wabash under the El. Walt’s got a jug of potato vodka from his cellar and a box of Havana cigars he’ll sell you real cheap. You gotta have cash. Don’t mess with Walt. It’s da Chicago way. Buy da book and we’ll grill some burgers and like, you know, groove on da scene.

Ok, I just said that to see if anyone was paying attention......

Visit Amazon.com HERE.
Visit Ulverscroft HERE

Saturday, November 6, 2010

REVIEW: Cattle King for a Day by L. Ron Hubbard

Originally published in 1937, Cattle King for a Day tells the story of Chinook Shannon who is seeking the true identity of the man who killed his grandfather and is now after his ranch. Hubbard is one of my favorites and this short novel highlights his strengths: fast pacing, strong descriptions and memorable characters. Chinook Shannon is a gem of a character. As Hubbard writes: “He had his health, a good gun-eye, and a fine set of teeth.” Hubbard’s westerns are just as enjoyable now as they were when originally published near the end of the Great Depression. These Galaxy Press reprints are fantastic and fans of classic pulp westerns won’t want to miss any of the action.

I first read L. Ron Hubbard’s classic science fiction novel To the Stars when I was in High School, not to mention his famous Ole Doc Methuselah stories and Battlefield Earth. Hubbard was a genius and I am thrilled that Galaxy Press is reprinting his many exciting stories.

Cattle King for a Day is the fifth western released in the famed Stories from the Golden Age classic pulp reprints, and the 31st title overall in the series. The Stories From the Golden Age series is reprinting 153 of L. Ron Hubbard’s stories in 80 volumes using original pulp artwork and illustrations. The series is being simultaneously released as unabridged, multi-cast audio books with original music and sound effects. The audio books are state-of–the-art productions that capture the feel of classic radio dramas from the 30s and 40s.

For more information visit: http://www.GoldenAgeStories.comhttp://www.goldenagestories.com/

REVIEW: Tanner’s Guns by Matt Logan

I was lucky enough to receive a signed copy of Tanner’s Guns from author David Whitehead who publishes under several pseudonyms including Matt Logan, Ben Bridges, Carter West and many others. He is prolific and he’s good. He is well known as a veteran Black Horse Western writer for the famed series from Robert Hale Publishers. He also writes mysteries and romance novels. He is currently co-authoring suspense novels with veteran Hollywood screenwriter and novelist Steve Hayes. Every book that David Whitehead has written is a top-flight entertainment.

Tanner’s Guns is set in Mexico in 1913 during the revolution. Jake Tanner is a tough guy with the task of helping Elliot Blaze sell is arsenal of weapons. This large-print edition makes for a fun western. Whitehead has done his homework and the historical backdrop is accurate and adds depth to this exciting tale. Now I despise reviews and blurbs by publishers and reviewers who say insane things like “He writes as good as Louis L’Amour” because such hyperbole is generally inaccurate and reflects an ignorance of literary history. But I will say that David Whitehead is equally as entertaining as Louis L’Amour, Mickey Spillane, David Morrell or any other writer of masculine adventures that I so admire. David Whitehead is his own man. Tanner’s Guns is the type of story where “The deep, unsociable roar of a carbine cut across the night.” (p. 93). This is no-holds barred, full-contact writing. No sissies allowed. Kudos to David Whitehead for keeping that tradition alive during an era where bookstores are filled with pantywaist chick lit.

Please visit David’s website HERE, write down some of his book titles and order them!

Mrs. Clause and Her Spider

Mrs. Clause and Her Spider
from Anthropoets by Thomas McNulty

Motherless child, she was
orphaned at three weeks;
war widow at twenty,
keeping company with a spider
at eighty.

In the afternoon she naps.
She dreams swift blue rivers,
the rolling fertile farmland of Belgium
where the air itself tasted clean, but these
are images on a faded tapestry in a monastery
turned to rubble by the Luftwaffe.
She pulls at the tapestry fabric, organizing threads, trying to recall
the fresh scent of lakes –

On Sunday morning the false promise of bells
awakens her.
She takes a glass jar to the playground, sprinkles in sugar,
watches the ants march in, spins back
the lid, brushes away the soot and sand
of another Chicago landfill.
“It’s Mrs. Clause!” the urchins spellbound;
 and regal in her red blouse
she walks the Queen of Marquette Park,
the jar undulating with furious life.

After supper, she sits near her desk,
opens the jar and plucks at the flinching mass.
One by one, day by day she drops an ant
onto the cobweb; then a strike too swift
to see as one movement, the spider feeds.

The traffic hums outside, disembodied voices
catch the wind and flee –
Now, with the sun nearly down, the sky like an unhealed wound,
the freezing wind comes off Lake Michigan,
whips and plummets with the speed of a knife to cut bone,
and this cold wind, unhappy, relentless, sounds
to her like children crying; a distant wail,
rising and falling.

**
Copyright © 2007 by Thomas McNulty

NOTE: this poem is one of three “Mrs. Clause” poems that appear in Anthropoets. I have written three additional “Mrs. Clause” poems for publication later. Mrs. Clause represents a lot of things and when I created her I wanted to explore how people handle grief and that grief sometimes manifests itself into a creative force. Each poem reveals a little more about Mrs. Clause and her tragic past. If you enjoyed this poem I hope you consider Anthropoets as alternative reading material. Thank you.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

So You Wanna Be A Cowboy – Here’s How!

No longer content to read a western in the comfort of an easy chair? Do you occasionally get the itch to strap on a gunbelt and swagger out with a blazing six-shooter? Of course you do. But in these repressive times you need to be careful where you swagger and where you’re pointing that pistol, pilgrim! SASS (Single-Action Shooting Society) may have a club near you. SASS is the predominant organization behind a sport known as “Cowboy Action Shooting” which is the fastest growing sport in the United States. Men, women and youngsters alike all enjoy shooting safely with their trail pards. NOTE: Cowboy Action Shooting is not a “re-enactor’s” sport. The guns are real and we use live ammunition shooting at stationary metal targets. To participate you’ll need a shotgun, a rifle, two six-shooters, a holster and at least a cowboy hat. You get to pick your own alias such as “Buckshot Smith” or “Dandy Derringer Jones.” SASS has clubs in England,  Canada, Australia and every state in the Union.

Visit the SASS website HERE for more information.
Visit the Uberti Firearms website HERE.
Visit the Ruger Firearms website HERE.
Visit the Cimarron Firearms website HERE.
Visit the Henry Firearms website HERE.
Visit Wild West Mercantile HERE.

PHOTOS: Tom McNulty shooting a Henry Big Boy rifle; 
Jan McNulty shooting Cimarron’s 1873 Winchester, Trapper model

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Review: Jack and the Jungle Lion by Stephen Jared

Here’s a debut novel that will knock your socks off. Jack and the Jungle Lion opens in Hollywood in 1937. It’s about a film actor named Jack Hunter who is cut from the same cloth as Tyrone Power, Clark Gable or Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. In route to a location shoot his plane crashes and Hunter finds himself trapped in the Amazon rainforest with animal trainer Maxine Daniels and her two children, as well as the irascible co-pilot, Clancy. Surviving is not going to be easy and Hunter needs to become the hero he’s played on screen in order to get home safely. But can he handle the role?

In sixteen chapters author Stephen Jared takes readers on a whirlwind adventure. The pacing is spot-on, the characters believable and endearing, the action jumping off the page. Jared is a superb writer. This book is being advertised as “A romance of adventure” and truer advertising has never been written. Jack and the Jungle Lion is not only reminiscent of the classic pulp stories from the 30s and 40s, but also of those grand movie adventures during Hollywood’s heyday. Jack Hunter is put through the ringer – poison stick pits, anacondas, malevolent natives – but all of that is a mere trifle when Jack returns to Hollywood and his wife. You’ll have to read the book to see how it all plays out.

Jack and the Jungle Lion is chock full of action, humor, adventure and romance. Stephen Jared has just staked his claim as a pre-eminent voice in the growing legion of writers producing retro style adventures, just the way you want them. Jack and the Jungle Lion is a topnotch entertainment. And yes, it would make a great movie!

NOTE: the book’s beautiful cover artwork is by Paul Shipper.
Visit him online at: http://www.paulshipper.com/

Stephen Jared’s website is HERE.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Retro Western Excitement: Dodge City (1939) starring Errol Flynn

Some years ago I spent a considerable amount of time researching the great Errol Flynn’s life. This resulted in a few magazine articles and eventually a biography published in 2004. I am proud to have been at the forefront of a revival of interest in Flynn’s career, a revival that continues to this day. I have been consistent in stating that Flynn’s first western, Dodge City, is a classic. Dodge City is given scant attention by fans, scholars, and bloggers. Too much is made of the fact that Flynn stated he felt miscast in Westerns. He was effective in these roles and the films were fun. Give Dodge City another look.  The film’s elements will seem familiar because after this its many iconic scenes were emulated in thousands of westerns. Dodge City set the standard high and remains a fine example of “filmmaking as entertainment” par excellent. A cattle stampede, a saloon brawl, a gunfight on a train, galloping horses and blazing six-shooters. All in Technicolor with a Max Steiner score. Flynn, Olivia De Havilland, Alan Hale, Guinn Williams, and Bruce Cabot and Victor Jory as the bad guys. Flynn’s other westerns are: Virginia City (1940), Santa Fe Trail (1940), They Died With Their Boots On (1942), San Antonio (1945), Silver River (1948), Montana (1950) and Rocky Mountain (1950). For an in-depth look at Dodge City and the now legendary press junket find a copy of my book Errol Flynn: The Life and Career published by McFarland Publishers. Visit their website HERE 
.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Walther PPK: “A Real Stopping Gun”


It’s all Ian Fleming’s fault. In his sixth James Bond novel, Doctor No (1958), He replaced Bond’s beloved Beretta with a Walther PPK. The Beretta had jammed in the previous novel, From Russia With Love, and M felt it was time for a re-evaluation. “It’s a real stopping gun” Major Boothroyd tells M, and so the famous switch was made. The scene was realized on screen in the first Bond film almost exactly as it appeared in the book. The Walther PPK suddenly became an internationally famous firearm.

But what kind of gun is this and how does it handle?

There are several models of the Walther, the most common being the PPK – short for Polizeipistole Kriminalmodell or Police Detective model. It was manufactured by Carl Walther Sportwaffen in Germany and currently by Smith & Wesson in the United States, but under license from Walther. In Doctor No Bond is issued a Walther PPK 7.65 mm (about a .32 calibre). As Boothroyd explained: “I like its light trigger pull and the extension spur of the magazine gives a grip that should suit 007. It’s a real stopping gun.” My Walther PPK is the version being distributed in the United States by Smith & Wesson and I chose the .380 ACP over the .32. The Walther PPK has a kick to it all right. Its flat frame and compact size make it the perfect concealed-carry gun. Bond used a shoulder holster but the Walther is just as easily concealed on a hip holster under a large shirt like a football jersey or, in some instances, a Hawaiian print shirt. I recommend a dark colored nylon sports undershirt rather than a white T-shirt which too easily outlines the Walther’s dark frame. There is virtually no bulge visible when the Walther is concealed. Of the automatics in my collection the Walther PPK, the 9 mm Beretta 92FS and the Colt. .45 ACP offer the fastest response. Of course, there’s nothing so pleasing than a Colt single-action revolver which Wyatt Earp and the boys used to good effect at the OK Corral, but that’s another story.

Fleming was right. The Walther is a real stopping gun and shooting enthusiasts interested in owning this historic firearm are encouraged to visit their local gun emporium. And if you haven’t read one of Ian Fleming’s masterful James Bond novels here’s the list below.

Follow the link HERE top the Walther website.

Casino Royale, (1953), Live and Let Die (1954), Moonraker (1955), Diamonds Are Forever (1956), From Russia with Love (1957), Doctor No (1958), Goldfinger (1959), Thunderball (1961), The Spy Who Loved Me (1962), On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1963), You Only Live Twice (1964), and The Man With the Golden Gun (1965).

And here are some inviolate rules of firearm safety: Always keep your gun pointed in a safe direction; always keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot; know your target and what is beyond; know how to use the gun properly; be aware that certain types of guns and shooting activities require additional safety precautions; there is no such thing as an unloaded gun; never aim the muzzle at anything unless you are willing to destroy it. And finally – never assume that your opponent is unarmed! 

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Why You Should Buy A Black Horse Western!


Black Horse Westerns are published by Robert Hale Publishers in London. They are essentially lending library titles with a low print-run. Many of them are also later published in large print by Linford and distributed by the Ulverscroft Foundation. The Hale Black Horse Westerns are hardbacks and sell for about twenty bucks each. Hale publishes multiple titles each month and are the only publisher in the world committed to publishing westerns extensively. No American publisher currently comes close to Hale’s output. The Black Horse Westerns are noted for their strong characters, brisk pacing and plentiful action. They are all reminiscent of the classic pulp stories of the 30s and 40s, but often they are much better. In fact, I contend that the Black Horse Westerns have taken the place and are the rightful heirs to the grand adventure writers of yesteryear. Each Black Horse Western is a collector’s item. Many of the writers have produced dozens of memorable stories. Howard Hopkins, Ian Parnham, David Whitehead and so many others have excelled in a genre that too many people claim is dead. Black Horse Westerns have become so popular (and with the American market frozen like a deer caught in the headlights) that popular writers such as John D. Nesbitt are having their stories published by Robert Hale. I have published two Black Horse Westerns with a third forthcoming and more in the works. I am proud to be a very small part of this prestigious group. Some of these writers such as Gary Dobbs have been highly successful in generating media interest in their books. And the books are good. Each one with its own distinctive style, but all of them satisfying the demand for grand old-fashioned adventures. Visit Robert Hale Publishers website for details. The books are available on Amazon worldwide. Isn’t it time you saddled up with a Black Horse Western?

Monday, October 4, 2010

A Tip of the Stetson to Audie Murphy


Audie Murphy (June 20, 1925 – May 28, 1971) has long been one of favorite actors. His talent was underrated during his lifetime but there is currently a revival of interest in his western films which pleases me enormously. He was the most decorated American soldier of World War II and a celebrated movie star for over two decades in the post-war era, appearing in 44 films, over 30 of them Westerns.

Check out his performance opposite James Stewart in Night Passage. It’s an underrated gem with a superb supporting performance by Dan Duryea. Murphy is right on as the surly and stubborn evil brother who naturally redeems himself in the final reel. And his entrance in the film is a classic – he appears as the Utica Kid, riding at breakneck speed and topping a hill, clad in a black leather jacket, black holster, black hat and reining his horse to a stop as he surveys the train passing below him. His expressions are joyful and mischievous. Murphy had become a fine actor with an appealing “screen presence.” Here he makes the perfect foil for James Stewart who campaigned to keep Murphy in the film when original director Anthony Mann balked at the idea. Stewart and Mann, who had made Winchester 73’, The Far Country, Bend of the River and The Naked Spur together, disagreed on this and various other production details, and Mann pulled out to be replaced by the capable James Neilson. Much has been made of Mann’s departure, and too often film commentators cite this as a reason to disparage Night Passage. But both James Stewart and Audie Murphy fans will tell you this – the film is entertaining, and Stewart and Murphy are reason enough to watch.

Audie Murphy filmography: A Time for Dying (1968), 40 Guns to Apache Pass (1967), The Texican (1966), Gunpoint (1966), Arizona Raiders (1965), Apache Rifles (1964), Bullet for a Badman (1964), The Quick Gun (1964), Gunfight at Comanche Creek (1963), Showdown (1963), Six Black Horses (1962), War is Hell (1962), Whispering Smith (Television series, 1961), Battle at Bloody Beach (1961), Posse From Hell (1961), Seven Ways From Sundown (1960), The Unforgiven (1960), Hell Bent For Leather (1960), Cast a Long Shadow (1959), The Wild and the Innocent (1959), No Name on the Bullet (1959), The Gun Runners (1958), Ride a Crooked Trail (1958), The Quiet American (1958), Night Passage (1957), Joe Butterfly (1957), The Guns of Fort Petticoat (1957), Walk the Proud Land (1956), World in My Corner (1956), To Hell and Back (1955), Destry (1954), Drums Across the River (1954), Ride Clear of Diablo (1954), Tumbleweed (1953), Column South (1953), Gunsmoke (1953), Duel at Silver Creek (1952), The Cimarron Kid (1952), The Red Badge of Courage (1951), Kansas Raiders (1950), Sierra (1950), The Kid From Texas (1950), Bad Boy (1949), Beyond Glory (1948), Texas, Brooklyn & Heaven (1948).

NOTE: the lobby cards are from my personal collection. Not all of these films are available on DVD but let’s hope they eventually make the transition to the digital format.
 

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Tony Curtis: A Memorable Moment

I was fortunate to meet Tony Curtis twice. First in 1993 at a book signing (see photo) and again last year at a film memorabilia convention in Chicago. I found him charming, articulate and compassionate. My favorite memory happened when I was watching him interact with fans in a bookstore. I remember a young woman walked in with her newborn and Tony said “Here, let me hold her.” And he held the baby girl so that the woman could snap photos of her child with a movie star. The woman was thrilled and nearly overcome by his kindness. I’ll never forget the grateful look on that woman’s face as Tony cooed with her beautiful child. He was a fantastic actor and obviously a kind man. He will be missed. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family. Rest in peace Tony Curtis.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Review: Robin Hood: King of Sherwood by I. A. Watson

I purchased Robin Hood: King of Sherwood at the Windy City Pulp and Paper convention this year. It’s published by Cornerstone Book Publishers in conjunction with Ron Fortier’s Airship 27 Productions. The beautiful cover is by Mike Manley with interior illustrations by Rob Davis. In his superb afterword, Watson provides an historical overview of the Robin Hood legend and explains his affection for the pulp magazines of a bygone age: “In writing “King of Sherwood” I was consciously trying to tell the story as if it had been commissioned for such a publication. This is Robin Hood as if he had appeared in Argosy or the Strand Magazine.” Indeed, this is adventure writing at its finest, i.e., literate, suspenseful, action-packed and genuine.

I have mentioned this book in several Internet forums and hope this post rekindles interest in the book. It’s one of my favorites from the past twelve months. The Robin Hood legend has intrigued me since I saw Errol Flynn face off against Basil Rathbone in the Warner Brothers 1938 classic film.

Robin Hood: King of Sherwood by I. A. Watson can be ordered on Amazon.com.

Ruminations From McHenry County


I live on a prairie that borders the Fox River Valley. This tract of rolling grassland is home to farmers and myriad wildlife. The Illinois prairie west of Chicago loses the suburban sprawl that boomed after World War II. The prairie is not flat but nearly flat. There are gullies and trenches and swales that can swallow you alive if you’re not careful. Because we border the Fox River Valley we are co-habitants with the river people. I was a river person once many years ago when I lived in an apartment within walking distance of the Fox River. Illinois is home to over sixty-five rivers which includes tributaries and creeks. Their names are like songs sung at twilight around a smoky fire.

Apple River, Big Muddy River, Boneyard Creek, Elm River, Green River, Illinois River, Iroquois River, Kishwaukee River, Leaf River, Little Mackinaw River, Lusk Creek, Mississippi River, Pecatonia River, Plum River, Rock River, Sinsinawa River, Skillet Fork, Spoon River, Thorn Creek, Vermillion River, Wabash River, Wood River

And on and on. This is the land that witnessed the births of James Butler Hickok and Wyatt Earp. Illinois history is written in blood. But today I am thinking about the Fox River Valley and not the echo of gunfire from our past. The Fox River cuts its way across the land like a diseased green snake. The Fox River has long been polluted and when I was a child I recall being told not to eat the catfish because “they glow in the dark.” Decades of chemical pollutants nearly destroyed the Fox River by the Mid- 1960s. Federal regulations in conjunction with the counter-culture conservation movement finally had a positive effect and today the Fox River is somewhat cleaner, but I still won’t eat the catfish.

For a great many people getting out of the Fox River Valley is a daily chore. From my home on Crystal Lake’s west end I am forced to descend into the Fox River Valley to get to work on time. In this area the majority of the population works in Chicago or the suburban Chicagoland sprawl. This requires descending into the valley and crossing the Fox River. This task is made difficult by a lack of planning on the part of our less than esteemed civic leaders. Every bridge that crosses the Fox River is infected with bumper-to-bumper traffic every morning at 7:00 a.m. This cluster of automobiles lasts until nearly 9:00 a.m. It’s necessary for me to cross the river to enter Kane County and then Cook County.

Once I cross the Fox River I enter the former marshland and scrubland that once was home to the Potowatamie Indians. Today this area comprises the cities and towns of Cary, Fox River Grove, Barrington, Palatine, Hoffman Estates and Arlington Heights. Ranch Houses with aluminum siding or old brownstones from the 1950s are the predominant dwelling.

My drive down route 14 for all of these many years has been enlightening. I’ve lost track of the automobile accidents I’ve witnessed. I’ve seen coyotes, deer, possum, raccoons and skunks suddenly bolt in front of my car in a desperate attempt to cross the highway.

I can’t help but to recall Carl Sandburg, a great American poet who is sadly forgotten today: “I was born on the prairie and the milk of its wheat, the red of its clover, the eyes of its women, gave me a song and a slogan.”

On weekends from my den window I look out onto a quiet sunlit summer street and watch the sky change. I am five minutes from the cornfields. My backyard is home to salamanders, snakes, squirrels, rabbits, birds and the occasional possum. The raccoons are nomadic, drifting from tree to attic to garage to tree. Nature is astonishing, cruel, uncaring and beautiful. On a July Saturday the world appears to cease its rotation and for a brief moment I can hold my breath and look past the suburban sprawl and see the land as it once was. The topography hasn’t changed all that much except that Man has built dwellings and created roadways that exist on the land like scars from a scalpel.

The strip malls, restaurants, gas stations, car dealerships, and factories are an aberration, a blight upon the land. During these harsh economic times the prevalence of CASH FOR GOLD signs is a disturbing indicator of a country’s desperation. The soup kitchens of the 30s have been replaced with CASH FOR GOLD franchise outlets. The problems haven’t changed, only the manner in which we handle them has changed. There are many empty storefronts in the Fox River Valley. The Economic Depression that government officials keep telling us is getting better isn’t getting better. Bank robberies and home invasions have increased nation-wide and the Fox River Valley is no exception.

But no matter these problems the land endures as well. These streets are tree-shaded classic American places of manicured lawns and the sound of kids playing baseball. Sometimes on weekends the loudest sound I hear is that of a lawn-mower. Here in Crystal Lake people still sit on their porches and drink lemonade at noon and talk about the latest Cubs losing streak. The Cottonwood puffs catch the wind in May and clog air-conditioners. And for the rest of the summer the crickets, cicadas and bullfrogs create a harmony of sound at sunset that is truly astonishing.

From here, looking out my den window, I’ll write an occasional blog. Pull up a chair. It’s late summer and we can sit here and talk about things…