Sunday, February 18, 2018

.45 Caliber: Cuno Massey, Gun on the Run by Peter Brandvold

This wonderful hardcover features two novels, .45 Caliber Town Under Siege and .45 Caliber Left to Die. The first book I read by Peter Brandvold was .45 Caliber Revenge (the first Cuno Massey story) and my initial impression remains unchanged after reading dozens of his books. Here’s a writer with the hot, fast violence of the early Mickey Spillane novels, the talent of Hemingway and the guts to write what he wants. Sometimes he gets a little saucy with the ladies, and all of his books are lively, action-packed gems. A few years ago he went all digital on us, but now he’s back publishing hardcover, paperbacks and e-books. That’s a good thing. Brandvold is the best Western writer out there, so clean your spurs, put your boots on, and go order some of his books. .45 Caliber Town Under Siege finds Cuno attempting to live a quiet life as a mule skinner, and of course a local gal has caught his fancy. But when he learns that their frolicking meant more to him than to her, well Cuno is actually heartbroken. Brandvold is underrated for the depth he gives his characters and Cuno’s plight is fully realized. He’s actually a lonely figure, but Brandvold doesn’t allow the sentiment to linger. While the action propels the story, it’s the characters and their predicaments that endear us to figures like Cuno Massey. By the time you blink the town of Nopal is under siege by the killer Cecil Craig and his gang. Cuno “intended on blowing them all to hell in a fine blood vapor. Eventually, each and every one.” Brandvold delivers a rollicking no-holds barred action-adventure that’s not to be missed. The second tale, .45 Caliber Revenge, has Cuno ambushed and left to die, except he doesn’t die, and more blazing action ensues. Peter Brandvold is a pulp writer at heart, with stories featuring lovely ladies, and the red-hot ferocity of a gunfight. Peter Brandvold’s adventure novels are an absolute joy to read. Book Collector’s please note – this Five Star/Gale hardback features a case-hardened embossed cover protected by a dust jacket. The stitching is tight and clean and the boards solid. The paper quality is moderate but bright. This is a high-quality hardcover that is meant to last, and will. The hard case makes it desirable as a collector’s item for Western fans. I was so impressed that I immediately ordered two more of Brandvold’s Five Star hardcovers on amazon, and added two more to my wish list. I intend on replacing the e-books with the hardcovers. If Five Star/Gale is going to produce such a fine volume, and one that features great writing by Peter Brandvold, then I’m buying them all. Highly recommended!

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Sword of Casanova by James Kendricks

This post is for all of you who remember how much fun it was finding a good paperback on a spinning rack. This 1959 Monarch paperback has as much tingle and zest on every page as anything else I’ve read lately. It’s not great literature, and it doesn’t pretend to be, but it’s as entertaining as a Saturday morning B-movie. The historical backdrop, flawed though it may be, adds texture to the sauciness, wanton women, court intrigue and idyllic Italian setting. Sword of Casanova is one of those well-written throwaway paperbacks that you’ll be glad you read. Originally selling for thirty-five cents, it was worth every penny. I have no doubt that the author had Errol Flynn or Robert Taylor in mind when he penned this melodramatic swashbuckling tale. In fact, there are numerous scenes reminiscent of Errol Flynn’s classic Adventures of Don Juan that I’m convinced the author was influenced directly by that film. The story is about Captain Firebrand, Michele di Cadogna, close friend and confidant of Giacomo Casanova. Michele is skilled with a rapier and as famous as Casanova when it comes to romance. Early on a woman asks him, “Am I beautiful?’ and Michele replies: “Whoever invented the word must have had you in mind.” While being kissed he quips: “Your lips are sweeter than the wine you fed me.” There is also plenty of sword fighting – or fencing, if you will. There are enough clashes of steel, slashing rapiers and parry and riposte to remind me of the forgotten swashbucklers of Louis Hayward. The basic plot is a tale of vengeance. Captain Firebrand will seek revenge against Ludovico da Tulleschi, the evil landowner who murdered his father and brother. Michele’s primary love interest is Tea del Andriola. Together, Michele and Casanova fight and romance their way through 12 chapters and 159 pages. It’s all epic, manly stuff, B-movie style, and a treat for fans of pulp paperback fiction. You won’t believe you’re in Italy in 1750, but you’ll believe you’re on a Hollywood backlot reading a story synopsis set in Italy. I’ve been told that James Kendricks was yet another pseudonym for Gardner Fox. Other titles by “James Kendricks” include The Wicked, Wicked Women and The Adulterers

Friday, February 16, 2018

Hunters of the Dark Sea by Mel Odom

The literary world would be a dark place indeed without great adventure novels like Hunters of the Dark Sea by Mel Odom. Published in hardcover by TOR in 2003, I’ve never seen a paperback for this one, although it is available on Kindle. Hunters of the Dark Sea is a literary ancestor of Herman Melville’s and Robert Louis Stevenson’s tales, with a smidgen of H. P. Lovecraft. A tale of the 19th century whaling industry, but with some ominous twists as only the great Mel Odom can create. Ethan Swain is a man with a secret past that comes back to haunt him at the most inappropriate of times. While whale hunting is his stock and trade, Swain and his shipmates come face to face with a puzzling and lethal menace that taxes their ability to survive on the dark sea they call home. With shipboard tensions building, Swain is hard-pressed to forge an alliance with a crew that dislikes Captain Folger, and ship-mate Swain is forced to make some critical decisions as they are tracked by a man that knows too much about Swain’s past. Meanwhile, something evil lurks beneath the waves, something otherworldly. As you might expect, there’s some romance, too, but just enough to add another layer to this complex but fascinating story. Hunters of the Dark Sea is one of many great novels that Odom has published. You can download it to Kindle or Nook. Hunters of the Dark Sea is recommended for lovers of sea stories, along with Odom’s “Forgotten Realms” omnibus, Threat From the Sea which reprints the fantasy novels Rising Tide, Under Fallen Stars and The Sea Devil’s Eye. I think Hunters of the Dark Sea is probably my favorite of Odom’s books, but all of them are a reader’s delight.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Wolf Moon by Ed Gorman

Wolf Moon is my favorite Ed Gorman novel. I was saddened to learn of his passing. Gorman wrote a great many books and I always enjoyed them. I specifically recommend this book to anyone interested in that category we call “Creative Writing.” Wolf Moon defines creative writing for me. Gorman takes a simple plot and weaves a unique and exciting story by populating his narrative with strong characters, fully realized scenes, stunning action and a wild ending. Nothing that I just wrote does the book justice. I’ve talked to other people who feel the same way about this book that I do. It’s a Western, of course, but Gorman does something different here, and I’m not sure I can put my finger on it. Let’s just say that Ed Gorman knew how to write a great story. After ten years in prison, the man called Chase can’t forget his murdered brothers or Reeves, the man who double-crossed him after a bank robbery. Chase is a haunted man, with a face scarred by the wolf that had attacked him and left him for dead. Chase wants vengeance. Told in a predominantly first person narrative, nothing that happens in this story was unexpected, but I was invested in finding out how it all ends anyway. A skillfully handled plot twist isn’t unusual for Gorman, and that’s why I like his books. He doesn’t telegraph the twist, and the twist isn’t always a profound thing in his stories. They just happen, and when you read the last page of Wolf Moon you’ll see how a great writer can drop a little something different in the mix and make it work. Again, nothing profound, but the story flows to a logical conclusion With Wolf Moon Ed Gorman has crafted a mesmerizing tale. This paperback was published by Fawcett Gold Medal in April, 1993. 

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Famous Investigators by Richard Deming

This 1963 compilation from Whitman Publications was of special interest to me as a kid. Not only was I a fan of Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes, I was soon to become infatuated with The Hardy Boys series of books. Just a few short years after receiving this book as a gift from my parents, I was heavily into Arthur Conan Doyle, and even Rex Stout. At that time, I favored mysteries, and I rather fancied myself as a young sleuth. Author Richard Deming highlights the real-life biography (in short form, and written for juveniles) of eight historical investigators. They are Robert Fabian, Alan Pinkerton, Raymond Schindler, Francois-Eugéne Vidocq, J. Edgar Hoover, Francis Phillips, William Tilghman, and William Campbell. I recently re-read it, and found it dry, but it was an important book in my childhood. Famous Investigators introduced me to non-fiction, and through this book I became acquainted with Old West lawman Bill Tilghman. The others, except Hoover, whom I had heard of, were less interesting. Alan Pinkerton was familiar to me as well. Author Richard Deming wrote the sections in a storybook style interspersed with historical facts. This is simplistic writing. Whitman books out of Racine Wisconsin once held the juvenile market in the palm of its hand. Their many titles capitalized on cultural trends, and the 1960s titles are collector’s items today, sometimes fetching as much as $25.00 or $30.00 dollars for a solid copy. The books were cheaply produced, and didn’t hold up well. The covers were coated with a cheap plastic protective sheath that became brittle over the decades, and the paper was low grade. Still, these books are fun to collect. 

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

People of the Wolf by W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O’Neal Gear

People of the Wolf is the premier novel in a series called “The First North Americans Series” published by TOR and written by the husband and wife team of W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O’Neal Gear. I don’t believe it is necessary to read the series in order, but it helps for readers interested in expanding their consciousness beyond the basic entertainment value of reading historical adventure fiction. The authors require no introduction from me because their reputations are secure and they have at least millions of devoted readers. If by chance you are unfamiliar with their work, be aware that Kathleen O’Neal Gear is a respected historian, archeologist and anthropologist, as is her husband W. Michael Gear. Their books are noted for their historical accuracy, well-developed characters, and thrilling narratives. I chose People of the Wolf because I read it recently and it serves as good a debut for this blog as anything they’ve written. I have the utmost respect and admiration for W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O’Neal Gear. People of the Wolf was published in 1990. There are at least 18 novels in the series to date. People of the Wolf concerns the migration of Siberian hunters into Alaska. The primary characters are Run in Light who later becomes Wolf Dreamer, and Heron, a medicine woman. Heron is one of my favorite characters in the novel, but I also liked Dancing Fox. Runs in Light is leading is family south toward the Yukon River. They are seeking a better life, but Raven Hunter, the evil brother of Runs in Light, has other plans. In People of the Wolf and in all of the titles that followed, the plot ingredients are sufficient to drive the narrative, but the true appeal of these books are the characters themselves. It is also not uncommon that certain mystic elements relating to visions and other shaman activities will play a strong role in the characters and their motivation.
This post is dedicated to the memory of my sister
Who loved the novels of W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O’Neal Gear

Monday, February 12, 2018

Batman # 224, August, 1970

It was the Neal Adams cover that got me. What was going on here? The chubby cowled crusader of the 60s had slipped away, and suddenly Batman comics were scary. There was a touch more realism involved, and Batman had become a lean, mean fighting machine. The stand-alone story beneath the cover was written by Denny O’Neil and the artwork was by Irv Novick and Dick Giordano. Novick’s contribution to Batman in the 70s is underrated. He is equally as important as Neal Adams and Dick Giordano. O’Neil wrote a great many stories, and I wonder what he recalls of this one, which remains a favorite of mine. I liked it because it was different. When Batman learns that Blind Buddy, a jazz pioneer, had been murdered in New Orleans, he sets out to find the killer. Batman had been a fan, and felt that he owed Blind Buddy something. At Blind Buddy’s funeral, he encounters a beast man named Moloch, who nearly defeats the caped crusader. Moloch escapes, and Batman dives deeper into mystery and mayhem. They key is Blind Buddy’s horn, which apparently has a crude map scratched onto it and revealing the location of a potential oil drilling site worth millions. This 24-page story is dripping with mood, and artists and colorists today would do themselves a service by studying the panels and color palette to see how talented artists can convey a nighttime scene and rain swept streets without the murky darkness and digital manipulation. This is a damn good, memorable tale of The Batman, as he was meant to be, and handled superbly by real pros. 

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Under the Jaguar Sun by Italo Calvino

Italo Calvino’s allegorical novels and stories seem out of favor in the United States these days, probably because of his political convictions. I have a fondness for this slender volume, published shortly after his death. Calvino intended to write a sequence of stories about the five senses, but only three were completed at the time of his passing. I had previously read Difficult Loves and if on a winter’s night a traveler (the title is intentionally lower case) and enjoyed them. These books are translations. Under the Jaguar Sun was translated from Italian by William Weaver. Calvino explores the senses of taste, hearing and smell. My favorite is the first tale where a couple in Oaxaca, Mexico indulge themselves in the spicy cuisines and flaming hot chilies that become erotic allegories. Calvino was a fabulist, often weaving elements of fantasy into the narrative. In the next tale, “A King Listens,” a prisoner is besieged by echoes, and his time is spent comprehending the messages and images conjured by sound. The final story, “The Name, the Nose,” one character is consulting a Parisian parfumerie in search of a scent worn by a mysterious masked lady; and a rock musician pursues a woman whose odor fascinates him. These stories are hallucinatory and vexing. Calvino presents themes for which the characters are simply vessels. The narrative is fractured, often apparently stream-of-consciousness. It’s unfortunate that Calvino didn’t live to write about sight and touch. Under the Jaguar Sun makes for a good introduction to Calvino, which might lead you to The Baron in the Trees (his best known work) and Italian Folktales.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

All Thy Conquests by Alfred Hayes

Alfred Hayes is perhaps best known as the author of The Girl on the Via Flaminia which I previously discussed. For related comments about post-WWII literature, also see my blog entries about The Glory Jumpers by Delano Stagg and The Cannibal by John Hawkes. All Thy Conquests was published in 1946, and shown here is the 1958 Pyramid paperback. All Thy Conquests is a real gem, forgotten in the wake of Hemingway and Steinbeck, but a novel that resonates with a power equal to that of any other World War II novel. Interestingly enough, Hemingway never wrote a great novel about WWII. A Farewell to Arms is a First World War novel, and For Whom the Bell Tolls takes place during the Spanish Civil War. His lone WWII novel, Across the River and Into the Trees, is widely dismissed as a weak effort. Steinbeck’s major contribution was his great novel, The Moon is Down. It’s the influence that Hemingway and Steinbeck had on a generation of writers who survived the war that’s important to remember. I would argue that All Thy Conquests by Alfred Hayes belongs alongside The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer, The Young Lions by Irwin Shaw, and From Here to Eternity by James Jones as one of the great novels of World War II. All Thy Conquests is structured with chapters alternating between locations and different characters’ point of view, and I suspect that Hayes was playing with the idea of absurdity wherein the literature proposes that the human condition is essentially absurd. Similar to Franz Kafka’s The Trial, the violent anti-Fascist movement that swept Italy after the fall of Mussolini is detailed with the ongoing trial of a pro-Fascist. On page 45 Hayes encapsulates the Italian dilemma; “We are no longer religious; we are only political.” Fascism, it appears, was acceptable until the Allied liberation of Rome rendered it archaic. Those that had publicly embraced Mussolini’s policies are subject to interrogation and possibly execution. Alfred Hayes doesn’t shy away from slapping the reader in the face with his themes up font. The opposition isn’t limited to dismissing fascism. His prose is bright but the words are carefully chosen. Hayes, who lived and worked in Italy as a screenwriter after the war, understood the effects of a corrupt political machine on the Italian people: “…the disenchantment with the experience of anti-fascism, has made the people suspicious of all parties, all organizations. We are tired of them…tired of the professionals who run them for their own profit, tired of tragedies of power and the comedies of factionalism. The Italian soul is an exhausted soul; a soul which has been seduced, betrayed, and kicked out into the streets to whore.” (P.48) This “Literature of the Absurd” as it is known by the literati, makes sense when you consider that Hayes worked on several notable Italian cinema masterpieces, including Vittorio De Sica’s The Bicycle Thief. His American television work included Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Twilight Zone and Mannix, among others. Alfred Hayes is a force to be reckoned with, albeit a relatively unknown one. All Thy Conquests is a fine novel, but thick with ideas, almost overflowing with images and motifs. The lurid paperback cover hints at a simpler approach, perhaps focusing on the sex act, which is a blunt moment of pressing a woman against a wall, lifting her skirt, and pleasuring one’s self. Hardly romantic. Characters parade in and out of the various scenes, like a series of unrelated triptych’s that once viewed, are connected by common images and scenes, hence transforming into a mosaic. Thought provoking; unrelenting in its brutal reality, passionately written, All Thy Conquests is a compelling forgotten book.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Deep Summer by Gwen Bristow

I found this little potboiler in the northern far country. It was resting in a stack of discounted paperbacks the antique shop owner wanted to unload. The cover blurb says it all: “The entrancing romance of a puritan girl and a handsome smuggler in pioneer Louisiana.”  This is Pocket Book paperback # 482 from 1947. The colorful cover sets the mood. There are a few websites devoted to Pocket Book collecting for those interested in googling it. Originally published in 1937, this novel underwent over 20 printings before it became a Pocket paperback. Author Bristow is best known as the author of Jubilee Trail, a bestseller that was made into a popular film starring Vera Ralston and Forrest Tucker and released in 1954. Many of Bristow’s books remain in print and are available as new edition paperbacks or for Kindle. She is certainly not a forgotten author. I enjoyed Deep Summer. The writing has strong images and realistic dialogue. The story is epic, and recounts the struggle of lovers Judith Sheramy and the cavalier slave smuggler Philip Larne who dream of a building a life together. Author Bristow handles the matter of race relations bluntly, and without sympathy. Deep Summer is not a novel that advocates race relations, but instead tells a vivid tale about colonial life when slavery was commonplace. If anything, this is a long character study with Judith in focus from start to finish.  Deep Summer doesn’t completely succeed with its epic scope, and Judith’s tribulations span several decades. I admired the thoughtful intelligence and practical approach to the narrative. Bristow is sharp as a tack, and I can see the appeal in her stories. Gwen Bristow died in 1980. She was inducted into the Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame in 1989. Her other novels include Calico Palace, This Side of Glory, and The Handsome Road. These titles are still available for Kindle.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Dead End by Guy N. Smith

I have often wondered why we read scary books. We don’t read them to torture ourselves, and we certainly don’t wish to inflict upon ourselves the horrifying circumstances the characters in these books experience. So why then do we read scary books? I believe scary books are appealing because in reading them we reaffirm some basic principles about life, and we accumulate and validate our understanding of human nature. In other words, scary books are a reminder that we live in a scary world, not a make-believe scary world, but a truly bone-crunching, frightening place. We need to handle the problems we face in this scary world better than the way the characters in these books handle their problems, because many of them end up getting slaughtered. A horror novel is all of that, and of course, simply entertaining. I can recommend Guy N. Smith’s 1996 novel from Zebra paperbacks, Dead End, as a great tale of terror. This modern classic offers up a nightmarish vision that will linger in your mind long after you’ve finished the book. The first four chapters are like a nightmare itself, expertly handled by Smith. Soon, additional characters are introduced and with alternating chapters following these characters, Smith paints a portrait of a grim, dystopian culture where politicians play games with the citizenry for their own benefit. Sort of sounds like life today. There are monsters, too. They’re called the Downers, and they bite. Smith is an expert at creating a dark mood and sustaining the suspense for 200 pages. When Max Frame enters that part of the city called The Waste looking for his girlfriend, he’s going to have a lot of trouble finding his way home. Oh, yeah, and his girlfriend is dead, but that doesn’t stop her from waitressing in a diner. She warns Max to get out before it’s too late, but he doesn’t listen. Dead or not, he wants his girlfriend back. Big mistake. I much prefer Smith’s novels over most of the other so-called “Horror novelists” because he’s consistent with his characterizations, possesses a wicked imagination, and always leaves me craving more. With Guy N. Smith, every day is Halloween.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Man Trap by Matt Harding

Man Trap was reprinted several times, but this 1970 MacFadden-Bartell paperback has the best cover. Man Trap was originally published in 1960 and written by Matt Harding, about whom I know nothing. Man Trap is not a sex book, although it has a sexy cover. This one falls into the category of “men’s adventure” which remains a dying breed in these sterile, digital times. The set-up is simple: Lora Hunter was a girl that enjoyed lovemaking, and she demonstrated that enjoyment with most men that wanted her. One man wanted her more than the others; a man with a past, a man named Mack. She didn’t like the arrangement, and she was frightened, and so she ran. Mack was violent and cruel and she never wanted to see him again. But Mack found her, and her life was filled with terror. Very soon, Lora would realize she might have friends, but who she could really trust, and if she might even survive knowing Mack was something that was too dangerous to think about. Lora is a swinging love machine all the way, disaffected and not quite wise enough to escape being abused.  Man Trap can be read in a few hours. The lean prose is provocative, the characters believable, the suspense level consistent. It’s not altogether memorable, and I suppose it’s primary fault being that it’s a tad heavy with stilted dialogue that was intended to be meaningful. The MacFadden-Bartell paperbacks from this period are wildly different in quality, and Man Trap falls into that middle field of interest.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Secret of the Serpent by Don Wilcox

Don Wilcox is a name from America’s forgotten past. He was writing exciting pulp fiction before I was a twinkle in my father’s Irish eye. His full name was Cleo Eldon Wilcox (1905-2000) and he wrote dozens of science fiction and fantasy novellas and stories. Thanks to the Pulp Renaissance of the last decade, many reprints of his stories are available. Armchair Fiction has reprinted several Wilcox stories. Secret of the Serpent is paired with Dwight V. Swain’s Crusade Across the Void as part of their double novel reprint series. Dwight V. Swain (1915-1992, and that’s his real name) is another of my favorites, and this pairing of Swain with Wilcox makes for some entertaining reading. There was a time when Don Wilcox and Dwight V. Swain were regular contributors to the once thriving pulp science fiction market. Armchair Fiction specializes in quality reprints of Golden Age Sci-Fi, including the classic covers. Secret of the Serpent is a real humdinger of a story. Bob Garrison is a space-pilot on a mission to a faraway planet, but the spaceship crashes and Bob awakens to find himself transformed into a serpent. Confused at first, he begins to realize who he is, and that’s obviously a problem. What purpose does his life serve now that he’s a serpent on an alien world? It gets weirder as he contacts his former crew, including Flora, a dish that he had fallen in love with on the way across the galaxy. Then he discovers that he has enemies, and things get even weirder. As hackneyed as it sounds, Secret of the Serpent was still entertaining. If weird and startling Space Opera is your thing you might want to check this one out. Crusade Across the Void by Dwight V. Swain is a traditional Space Opera with less weirdness but still right along the style of certain B-movies. With characters like Wolf Stone (the hero, naturally), and Znz, or the lovely Meersa, and you have a Flash Gordon type adventure. Captain Wolf Stone leads a band of fighters known as the “scum of the space ways” to stop a threat to hearth. Stone and his crew are considered space pirates, and their ship is called “Ghost.” This one is short and seems incomplete. It might have worked better as a longer novel. Armchair Fiction reprints are published out of Medford, Oregon.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Tales of Terror from Eclipse Comics

I was surprised to learn recently when I googled this title, that Tales of Terror only ran for thirteen issues, which I still own. The publisher, Eclipse Comics, is long gone, too. At one time, Eclipse Comics was the number # 3 comic book company after Marvel and DC. The collapse of of the mid-1990s direct market distribution system, a now defunct business model that experienced its heyday in the 1980s, is cited for the demise of this once great company. I bought their books regularly and still have them. Tales of Terror # 1 dates from July, 1985, and # 13 hit the racks about a year later. Some of the top talents in that era worked on this title. Tales of Terror # 1 includes tales from Steve Bissette, Michael Gustovich, Bill Pearson, Nicholas Koenig, Dell Barras, and Mark Wheatley. The editor for Eclipse was cat yronwode (all lower-case, as she preferred), whose essays leading off each Eclipse comics were filled with charm, anger, insight, history, facts, and reminisces which I always found appealing. Tales of Terror was never as creepy as the famous EC horror comics of the 50s, but the stories were solid. They promoted Tales of Terror as “The Illustrated Horror Magazine for Mature Readers.” Occasional nudity and gore elevated the interest. Those thirteen issues were a lot of fun – Bruce Jones, Gray Morrow, Tom Yeates, Beppe Sabatini, Cara Tereno, Scott Hampton, Chuck Dixon, Bob Orzechowski, Norm Breyfogle, John Bolton, Timothy Truman, and so many others made these issues interesting to read and collect. There were a great many horror comics on the market in the 1980s, but Tales of Terror had the greatest potential. They usually ran three stories per issue, so something was bound to be good and I was never disappointed. 

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Gamekeeping and Shooting for Amateurs by Guy N. Smith

This genius writer who penned Night of the Crabs, The Slime Beast, The Wood and so many other pulp paperback classics of horror, has published over a dozen practical sportsman guides. As a fan living in the United States, I am fortunate Guy’s website offers a good selection, but certain titles elude me. E-bay is a great resource and it was there I found this third edition of Gamekeeping and Shooting for Amateurs. First published in 1976, this is a comprehensive overview of a sportsman’s activities, chock full of knowledge, spiced with reminiscing, and illustrated throughout. Smith covers all the relevant topics including choosing the right gun, handling dogs, cartridges, rabbits, pigeons, fox control, various birds, deer, the gamekeeper’s task of handling poachers, and conservation. Smith is a lifelong dedicated sportsman and gamekeeper. Smith has been an ongoing columnist for The Shooting Times, and his many articles and books on countryside pursuits are highly respected. I have no qualms is saying that I envy Smith his lifestyle, and the manner in which he worked diligently at both his writing career and his desire for a sportsman’s life. He has succeeded admirably. In 1977 Smith moved to the Shropshire-Welsh border hills where over time he transformed a steep, rugged pasture into a gamekeeper’s property. From there, he continues writing today. 

Friday, February 2, 2018

Monster Ink Will Tattoo You!

I was listening to the CD of Tattoo You by The Rolling Stones when I pulled into the lot at 1520 Carlemont Drive, Unit D, in Crystal Lake (right off Randall Road) for my appointment. Owned and managed by award winning tattoo artist Taylor Kuhlman, Monster Ink’s tag line says it all: “Tattoo virgins to tattoo collectors welcome. We can’t wait to work with you!”
I had arrived for my first tattoo. My wife and daughter, who were already acquainted with Taylor’s artistic efforts, had encouraged me to get a tattoo. I wanted to show my support for Taylor and Monster Ink, which opened last fall to immediate success. In fact, Monster Ink is consistently booking clients months in advance.
Monster Ink is not your traditional “Tattoo Parlor.” Monster Ink is more of a salon and the salon’s interior reflects the owner’s upscale taste. Offering body piercings and jewelry in addition to tattooing, Monster Ink promotes quality over quantity. The interior is purple and accentuated by deluxe original art and prints.
Taylor’s wife, Brenna says, “We wanted to break that stigma of gangbangers and bikers. It’s an art form, and anyone who has stopped in is amazed.” Focusing on cleanliness, Taylor insists on a clean and safe environment for both his clientele and staff. He is licensed by the city and trained in blood-born pathogens. He is certified by the # 1 tattoo certification group worldwide, True Artists.
And Taylor is an artist. He was once hired and contributed illustrations to a book about American film history, and he is an AWARD WINNING Tattoo professional. He also draws and will be selling prints, stickers and other original artwork. His passion for his craft, dedication and training is evident in everything he does.
My tattoo went flawlessly and completed in about an hour. I chose the iconic Superman “S” symbol because I am a lifelong collector of the comics. There was no pain involved at all, and Taylor worked meticulously and swiftly. Contemporary music was playing on the plasma screen and I felt comfortable and relaxed. With convention appearances already scheduled, and an immediate and devoted fan base, Monster Ink has become the preferred tattoo location in McHenry County, Illinois. Tattoo you, me buckos!

Thursday, February 1, 2018

City of Endless Night by Preston & Child

Agent Pendergast is back, and the latest entry in this historic series takes readers on a long and winding road of plot twists, exhilarating excitement, deductive reasoning, and Vengeance with a capital V. City of Endless Night reads like a traditional police procedural but with the added dimension of creepiness as only Preston & Child can deliver. Agent Pendergast has his hands full with a serial killer who beheads his victims. What does he do with the heads, you ask? That my friends, is the key to this entire mystery, and I can tell you it’s a shocker. Pendergast is teamed again with his friend Lieutenant Vincent D’Agosta in his quest to uncover the killer. To complicate matters, a sleaze journalist named Harriman fans the fires of public discontent with his theories on why the killer is targeting certain victims. With New York on the brink of mass hysteria, D’Agosta and Pendergast finds themselves facing a new and extremely dangerous adversary. But is Pendergast up to the challenge? Long-time readers are well aware that Agent Pendergast has suffered a great deal recently, and his gaunt appearance indicates he is not his usual self. The last third of the book is a virtuoso set-piece of action and suspense in the grand tradition of adventure. Preston & Child are at the top of their game in this thrilling novel. I’ll buy anything Preston & Child publish. Recent weeks have seen the release of The Wanted by Robert Crais, Robicheaux by James Lee Burke and now City of Endless Night by Preston & Child. For my money, those are the top three thriller series published today.