Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Three Investigators

The Three Investigators were created by author Robert Arthur and intended as a literate alternative to the immensely popular but simplistic Hardy Boys series. The first 43 titles were published between 1964 and 1987. Additional titles were published in a spin-off series through 1990.
The Three Investigators are Jupiter Jones, Pete Crenshaw, and Bob Andrews. Their motto is “We investigate anything” and their headquarters is a 30-foot mobile home located in the salvage yard owned by Jupiter’s uncle Titus.
The first thirty titles were “introduced” by film director Alfred Hitchcock, a marketing ploy to sell books. At the time of the first appearance Hitchcock was still alive and had been involved with the publishing industry. With Robert Arthur’s assistance Hitchcock’s name graced many an acclaimed anthology.
Robert Arthur wrote # 1 thru 9 and # 11; William Arden (AKA Dennis Lynds) wrote # 10 and 12, 13, 18,19,, 22, 25, 26, 28, 30, 33, 38, and 42; Nick West (Kin Platt) wrote # 14 and 16; M.V. carey (Mary Virginia Carey) wrote 15 additional books; Marc Brabel wrote three; G. H. Stone (Gayle Lynds) wrote three. Additional authors include William McCay and Peter Lerangis. Artist Harry Kane provided cover paintings for # 3 thru 16 and interior illustrations for the first sixteen books. Ed Vebell did the covers for # 1, 2 and 17. Harry Kane’s splendid artwork, including the famous graveyard endpapers, set the tone for the series.
I read the first fifteen of the original series. I thought enough of these books to save them and I still own them. I began reading the series in the late 1960s. Naturally my favorites are those penned by Robert Arthur but many of William Arden’s are also fondly recalled. The covers by Harry Kane had me hooked. Some personal favorites include The Mystery of the Whispering Mummy (1965), The Mystery of the Green Ghost (1965), The Mystery of the Fiery Eye (1967), The Mystery of the Screaming Clock (1968) and The Mystery of the Moaning Cave (1968, along with its classic Harry Kane cover).
For additional information about the authors and artists associated with the Three Investigators series please visit Seth T. Smolinske’s fantastic website HERE!.
Visit a website devoted to artist Harry Kane HERE!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Classic Pulp: Unmasked edited by Tom Roberts

Tom Roberts at Black Dog Books has published a fascinating little gem with Unmasked which is subtitled “The Forgotten Origins of Hollywood’s Most famous Westerns Heroes.” Included here are the original The Cisco Kid, The Lone Ranger, Zorro, and Hopalong Cassidy. The introduction by Francis M. Nevins places this collection in its proper historical context. Each section is prefaced by an editorial note by Tom Roberts, all of which adds a scholarly tone to this enjoyable collection. For my money the real treat here is the concluding Lone Ranger story, “The Masked Rider’s Justice,” from 1937. The actual author is unknown but the story is worth reading. The pulp influence on the later Lone Ranger television series is evident in this little known pulp tale. Tom Roberts and Black Dog Books are publishing beautifully designed books and naturally the content is extraordinary. Unmasked is a welcome addition to my pulp library.

Visit Black Dog Books HERE!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

New Pulp: Viktoriana by Wayne Reinagel

Wayne Reinagel’s epic gothic horror novel, Viktoriana, is a tour de force entertainment encompassing a splendid cast caught up in a wild plot that held me spellbound. The back cover blurb only hints at the intricate plot: “Nine incredibly unique individuals. Trapped in a deadly battle between an ancient evil and the vampire nations. Mankind’s last hope...” well that’s putting it mildly. Those incredibly unique individuals happen to be H. Rider Haggard, Arthur Conan Doyle, Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, Mary Shelley, Harry Houdini, Bram stoker, Nikola Telsa, and Edgar Allen Poe. Adding to this brutal menagerie are Countess Elizabeth Bathory, Varney the Vampire and Count Dracula. And more. Plenty more.

Reinagel has a blazing talent and it’s clear from page one that his storytelling skills are honed to perfection. Strong images set the scenes, the dialogue is appropriate, and his characters are believable albeit fictionalized incarnations of actual persons. The story unfolds at a fever-pitch with H. Rider Haggard encountering a vampire Queen in Africa. Reinagel knows his literary history in addition to the proper historical background as Haggard and company make their way through a series of adventuresome explorations. Viktoriana is loaded with wonderful literary references. For example, in chapter seventeen he has Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker at Stonehenge where readers will encounter a sly reference to Robert E. Howard’s Bran Mak Morn and even Stoker’s own “Lair of the White Worm.” Of course these literary references will slide past the uneducated novice literati but that shouldn’t detract from the excellent writing.

Viktoriana is told in five sections, sixty-six chapters and eight unique epilogues. The end papers include biographies of the characters, recommended reading and an historical time-line. I enjoyed all 472 pages of this epic story. Viktoriana has it all: actions scenes galore, moody locations, nefarious evil, stalwart heroes, bone crunching violence, blood drenched terror, and a labyrinthine plot that makes perfect sense in the end.

You can learn more about Wayne Reinagel and his “Modern Marvels” series of adventures novels by visiting his web-site HERE!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Interview with Author David Whitehead

This is the inaugural interview in my “Living Legends” series on writers.
David Whitehead was born in East London in 1958 and grew up loving westerns. He published his first book in 1986 and to date has published over 70 novels. He is best known as one of the Black Horse Western writers (Black Horse Westerns are an imprint of Robert Hale Publishers in London and the pre-eminent publisher of westerns worldwide) although David’s talent includes thrillers, romance and science fiction. I am pleased to present this exclusive interview with David Whitehead.
1: First, thanks for consenting to this interview! With 70 books to your credit I want to ask you up front what was your first book?

Many thanks for your interest, Tom -- I appreciate it. By the time I was sixteen I had already written a stack of books, albeit in longhand and really for my own amusement. Then, in 1974, I decided to write expressly for publication. I spent the entire summer holidays from school writing a book called Vampire Scourge. I sent it off to various publishers, all of whom said they liked it but that it wasn't for them. They really used to let you down gently in those days! Anyway, I went on to write a further eighteen books, collected whole scrapbooks of rejection slips and finally decided to give it up.

One day I was doing some work around the house and I injured my back. Whilst recovering I got so bored that I decided to dust off an old western called Shimmering Silver and rewrite it according to the suggestions of a writer called Peter Watts, who was better-known as 'Matt Chisholm' -- arguably the best western writer Britain has ever produced. I knew Peter and one day he told me to send him what I considered to be the best western I had written to that date. He then went through it and returned it with a list of everything I had been doing wrong. It was a revelation to me, and I still apply the lessons he taught me a quarter of a century or more later.
Anyway, Shimmering Silver became The Silver Trail, it was accepted for publication in 1984 and issued in 1986. After that I never looked back.

2: Tell me about the allure of the western? And why is it that westerns are more popular in the United Kingdom than they are in the United States?
We Brits can't always understand the American fascination for pomp, splendor, royalty and history, but I suppose it's because we have it and you guys don't. The reverse also applies. We have tremendous respect and love for the wide open spaces, the pioneer spirit, man's struggle against a hostile land and the adventure and danger of the opening of the west. Thanks to my dad, who was a big western fan himself, I was brought up on a diet of western movies, TV shows and paperback books and comics. They fired my imagination more than almost anything else. Even today I feel that when I write a western, I'm representing the genre and want to do right by it.

3: You’ve written under multiple pseudonyms – Ben Bridges, Glen Lockwood, Matt Logan, Carter West and Doug Thorne to name a few. Tell me how these pseudonyms developed and do you consciously think a book fits a certain alias as you’re writing it?
Each pseudonym has his own 'voice', if you will. Some stories will lend themselves to, say, Glenn Lockwood, while others would be more suited to Matt Logan. I remember the first time I met Terry Harknett, who wrote the phenominally popular 'Edge' westerns of the 1970s. It was a revelation to discover that he was also Charles R Pike, Joseph Hedges, William M James and others. It was such a thrill to hunt down all these different books that I decided that I wanted to masquerade as several different people as well, and hopefully give my readers the same excitement when they found out that Ben Bridges was also Carter West, etc.,

4: You also write thrillers with our mutual friend Steve Hayes. Tell me how that came about.

I read Steve's western Gun for Revenge and was so impressed by it that I reviewed it very favourably. Steve later contacted me to say thank you. Then, some time later still he got back in touch and suggested we collaborate on a couple of projects. Of course I was thrilled to accept. So far those couple of projects have become ten ... and counting!
5: In addition to publishing with mainstream publishers you are among many successful writers who are creating their own brand using print-on-demand companies. Are you embracing E-books as well? What effect do you think this will have on westerns and other genres?

I believe that self-publication, be it through print-on-demand companies or ebook specialists like Kindle, has given us an opportunity to keep this wonderful genre alive and spread the word to a whole new audience of potential readers. The only thing that worries me is that right now, there is no form of quality control. If a potential reader buys and reads a western/thriller/horror/whatever and it's not really up to scratch, then we risk alienating him altogether. It's a great thing that anyone can have a go ... but please, let's never forget that we should be offering a quality product -- great stories, well-told, and presented in a professional format.
6: Do you feel as I do that there is a creative literary revival underway in both the U.S. and U.K. for pulp style adventure stories? Westerns, space opera, and far-flung adventure tales all seem to be chic right now.

I think that may well be the case. Publishing, frankly, has become rather overblown. There are no 'small' books any more, only big blockbusters. Not every story takes 500 pages to tell, and not everyone has the time or the inclination to wade through something of that length. I believe there is a new audience that wants to go back to the days of the short, punchy action-adventure novel -- I know I do!

7: Any chance we’ll see you write a swashbuckler?

It's entirely possible. But there's a practicality to writing in that you have to write what you know you can sell. Let's just say "never say never".

8: What writers have had the strongest influence on you?
A fabulous writer named Ben Haas. He wrote several long, serious novels and considered his westerns as little more than a means to keep food on the table. In fact, his westerns were tough and original, and he had an original, engaging style to his storytelling. I remember reading some of his books in the early days and feeling that this was how westerns should be written. And even now I will sometimes hear Ben's 'voice' in a certain turn of phrase. He and Peter Watts were both instrumental in setting me off on the right course. As time progressed I adapted all the lessons I learned to find my own style.

9: Finally, I want to talk about Robert Hale Publishers. It’s great to see their Black Horse Western brand get so much attention in recent years. They publish more westerns per year than any other company worldwide. Is it still exciting for you to see these new titles come out each month?

Very much so. And these westerns, with their sturdy format and colourful covers have become  tremendously popular with collectors. Right now there are several BHWs coming out over the next few months that I can't wait to get my grubby little hands on!
You can visit David’s website HERE!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

New Pulp: Zombie Pulp by Tim Curran

I first became aware of Tim Curran a few years back. I read Hive, a sequel to H. P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness, followed by his weird westerns Skull Moon and Grim Riders. Although I’m not a big fan of the current trend in zombie stories (because most of them are poorly written) I decided to tackle Curran’s collection Zombie Pulp. It was a good choice because Curran is a fine writer and his zombie collection is the only one I would recommend. Zombie Pulp features eleven stories: “Shelter,” “Corps Cadavre,” “Emily,” “Dis-Jointed,” “Piraya,” “They Walk at Night,” “Mortuary,” “Eulogy of the Straw Witch,” “Monkey House,” “The Mattawan Meat Wagon,” and “Morbid Anatomy.” Curran is a strong writer. His characters are well defined, the plot and scenes logical and paced with a precision timing. His descriptions are vivid in everything he writes, but since this is a zombie collection be forewarned  the imagery is visceral. The best of these stories are “Emily,” “Piraya,” “Eulogy of the Straw Witch” and the concluding novella “Morbid Anatomy.” In fact, one of the reason’s I bought this collection was to read “Morbid Anatomy.” This is Curran’s sequel to H. P. Lovecraft’s “Herbert West – Reanimator,” a 1922 tale that is not as well known as Lovecraft’s other work. Curran does Lovecraft justice – and himself – and avoids the clichés and gruesome splatter that mars most of the zombie stories being published today. Not that it isn’t gruesome at times – it is – but Curran is so good at telling stories that I don’t really mind all of the decaying flesh and pools of blood. If you only read one story in this collection it has to be “Morbid Anatomy.” Curran’s talent is on display in every paragraph of “Morbid Anatomy.” This is a fine collection that showcases Curran’s talent and I hope this review encourages interested readers to sample some of his other novels.

You can visit Tim Curran’s website HERE!

Below are some of Tim Curran’s other modern classic horror tales.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Review: Paul McCartney at Wrigley Field, Chicago, July 31, 2011

No matter that the temperature was in the nineties and that once the stadium was full the heat index cracked 100; and no matter that the usual lakefront breeze was noticeably lacking but would have been welcome on this sweltering July afternoon; no matter all of that because seeing the legendary Paul McCartney put on a great rock and roll show took precedence over all other concerns.
The heat be damned – we came in throngs from all over Illinois. McCartney’s show lasted three hours but once he started singing the heat was no longer a factor. This was music history in the making, from perhaps the finest songwriter of our generation in a career that continues to touch the lives of millions. McCartney and his band have practiced long and hard, and although I haven’t “fact checked” this yet I believe he has now played longer with Paul “Wix” Wickens and Abe Laboriel than any other band-mates.
 (McCartney photos by Jan McNulty)

Paul McCartney and his band (including Rusty Anderson and Brian Ray) not only know the material, they appear to love the material. With songs pulled from McCartney’s impressive career, the Wrigleyville neighborhood was suddenly under siege by one of the finest pure adrenalin-laced and passionate rock and roll shows I have ever seen.
Beatles, Wings, and ample solo material was all covered by McCartney who looked and sounded healthy and happy. Some stand-out moments:
- although it was probably rehearsed, the short but explosive “Foxy Lady” instrumental followed by McCartney’s anecdote about Jimi Hendrix.
- a superb cover of “Paperback Writer” with pulp paperback covers flashing on the digital screen behind the band.
- A heartfelt acoustic version of “I Will.”
- The emotional tribute to John Lennon - “Here Today” – which was especially poignant given McCartney’s statement to the audience that we should all keep in mind the importance of saying something nice to those we love. Usually “Yesterday” is the song that hushes the crowd, but this time it was “Here Today.”
- Blistering hard-rock renditions of “Jet,” “Let Me Roll It,” “Band on the Run,” “Back in the USSR,” “I’ve Got a Feeling” and “Helter Skelter.”
- The pre-concert sound-check which lasted an hour and all of us mingling outside the ballpark could hear. The sound check included renditions of “Blue Suede Shoes” and “Ebony and Ivory” which he did not sing during the show. They both sounded great.
- The fan who ran up the aisles holding a sign that said” “Paul McCartney – More Hits Than the Cubs.”
- McCartney acknowledging the signs the fans held up, especially one that said “I’m a Priest! I’d Love to Do Your Wedding!”
- The rendition of George Harrison’s “Something” which began with McCartney playing solo on the ukulele but halfway through switched to the full band and sounding remarkably like a damn good live electric version that Harrison himself might have delivered had he lived longer. I thought the ukulele solo version I saw him sing in 2002 was special, but this version was stunning.
With special thanks to my friends at The Drive, 97.1 FM Radio for the two complimentary tickets.  Visit the DRIVE HERE!

Paul McCartney Set list, Wrigley Field, Chicago, July 31, 2011

Hello Goodbye
Junior’s Farm
All My Loving
Drive My Car
Sing the Changes
The Night Before
Let Me Roll It
Foxy Lady (Instrumental jam tribute to Jimi Hendrix)
Paperback Writer
Long and
Winding Road
Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five
Let ‘Em In
Maybe I’m Amazed
I’ve Just Seen A Face
I Will
Here Today
Dance Tonight
Mrs. Vanderbilt
Eleanor Rigby
Band on the Run
Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da
Back in the USSR
I’ve Got a Feeling
A Day in the Life – Give Peace A Chance
Let It Be
Live and Let Die
Hey Jude

First Encore

Lady Madonna
Day Tripper
Get Back

Second Encore

Helter Skelter
Golden Slumbers/Carry that Weight/The End