Friday, February 28, 2014

Free Stuff - A Voice in the Night by William Hope Hodgson

A Voice in the Night by William Hope Hodgson

While reading the otherwise meh Alfred Hitchcock collection 12 Stories They Wouldn't Let Me Do on TV, I read this gem, originally published in The Blue Magazine in 1907.  A creepy little tale about a castaway who dares not let himself be rescued.  The tale rang familiar to me, and sure enough, it's the basis for this classic:

Matango, aka Attack of the Mushroom People.  It's also been adapted for TV on Suspicion and Naruto.

Read it free here.

Piccadilly Cowboys

The Picadilly Cowboys were a group of British writers who gathered in a pub in Picadilly in London and wrote a series of violent, brutal western paperbacks in the 1970s and 80s.  Writing under various house names, they were Terry Harknett, Laurence James, Mike Linaker, Angus Wells, Ken Bulmer, John Harvey and Fred Nolan.

Much like the serial vigilante genre is a collection of copies, knock offs, and permutations of Don Pendleton's Executioner series, the Picadilly Cowboy genre spun off of the successful Edge series by George Gilman (Terry Harknett).

These ran parallel to other Men's Adventure paperbacks of the era, and had the same feel.  They drew their tone from the spaghetti western films, only much more brutal.  The protagonists were not anti-heroes, or amoral drifters with their own personal code.  They were at their kindest violent bullies, and at their worst outright villains.

The plots were incredibly cliche, but the stories stood out for the massive amounts of gore and violence, which puts most horror novels to shame.  It was obvious the writers were having a lot of fun with it, and were likely trying to outdo each other.  It wasn't unusual for a single gunshot wound to be described over the course of a full page.

Titles are easy to get in used bookstores, though it can be difficult to wade through the Western section to find these gems.  Many have been recently reprinted in cheap ebook editions by Piccadilly Publishing.

Here are the series titles with their credited author name.  There may be a couple of yanks mixed in here that share the same vibe.

  • Edge by George G Gilman
  • Steele by George G Gilman
  • Angel by Frederick H Christian
  • Apache by William M. James
  • Breed by James A. Muir
  • Bodie by Neil Hunter
  • Caleb Thorn by LJ Coburn
  • Claw by Mathew Kirk
  • Crow by James W Marvin
  • Cutter by Duff McCoy
  • Gringos by JD Sandon
  • Gunslinger by Charles C Garrett
  • Hart by John B Harvey
  • Hawk by William S Brady
  • Herne the Hunter by John McLaglen
  • Jubal Cade by Charles R Pike
  • Lawmen by JB Dancer
  • Peacemaker by William S Brady
  • Six-Gun Samurai by Patrick Lee
  • Undertaker by George G Gilman
More at Vault of Evil.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Incredibly Specific Typecasting - Edward LeSaint

I've seen both a million times, but I just recently noticed that the judge in the Three Stooges' short Disorder in the Court...

... is the same as the judge from Reefer Madness.

Both are played by Edward LeSaint, who is credited as a judge 58 times in the IMDB.

EPCOT VIP Lounges - Imagination Pavillion

Pavilion: Imagination
Sponsor: Kodak 1982-2010, currently sponsor-less
Features: You'll have to use your imagination.  Beverages and chairs.
Entrance: Via a ramp on the outside at the far left of the pavilion, past the exit of Captain Eo.
As seen from outside: Visible from the monorail or from the path between the pavilion and the United Kingdom, alongside the far left side of Captain Eo theater.

By Jeff Lange via LaughingPlace
From an ancient Kodak website: 
Kodak shareholders enjoy the hospitality of our VIP Lounge at the Journey Into Imagination Pavilion in Epcot Center® at Walt Disney World® in Orlando, FL. While complimentary soft drinks, coffee and Florida orange juice are served, our Kodak staff will answer your questions and help you make lunch and dinner reservations, reserve golf tee times, and even escort you to a viewing of the 3-D movie, "Honey, I Shrunk the Audience," with no waiting, no line.
Now a manager's office.

More at Backstage Magic.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Able Team 07 - Justice By Fire

Justice by Fire
Able Team 07
by Dick Stivers (GH Frost)
1983 Gold Eagle

able team 07 justice by fier

An El Salvadorean death squad is operating in the US.  After an activist attorney is assassinated and a reporter is threatened, a liberal congressman gets in touch with the Able Team, who assist in guarding the reporter and his witness.

Pretty much no plot here.  Able Team goes to a place, are followed by Black Nationalist and El Salvadorean death squads, stuff is blown apart, go to next place.  This isn't a bad thing.  The action scenes are among the better written ones, with some genuinely exciting stuff, and with anatomical details that rival most splatterpunk books.  Plenty of details on the effects of a grenade on the groin and legs and what damage can be done with the real star of the book, the Atchisson Assault Shotgun.

Executioner 093 - The Fire Eaters

The Fire Eaters
Executioner 093
by Don Pendleton (Ray Obstfeld)
1986 Gold Eagle

I don't have all the Mack Bolan continuity down, but by this time Bolan appears to have gone back to being a fugitive fighting the mafia.  After an opening scene assassination, Bolan turns his attention to helping the widow of one of his Nam buddies who was killed by his own son.

Bolan goes undercover as a survival skills teacher at a military academy, where two shady teachers are using a chemical cocktail called "broth" to brainwash the children of prominent people to steal their political and trade secrets.

Meanwhile, a nineteen year old philosophy student hitman who may or may not be gay is hunting down Bolan, the CIA has their own agent at the school, and the KGB has sent a squad of killers.  Points for having so many irons in the fire, but loses them again by having a rushed ending.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Executioner 009 - Vegas Vendetta

Vegas Vendetta
Executioner 009
by Don Pendleton
Pinnacle 1971

Executioner 009 Vegas Vendetta

Executioner 009 Vegas Vendetta

This is starting to get tiresome.  Mack Bolan goes to a place, this time Las Vegas,  and kills some gangsters as a teaser.  He rescues someone from the mob's clutches, in this case a Lenny Bruce style comedian who wouldn't cooperate with a mob talent agency racket.  We're treated to a looooong stand-up routine about racial sensitivity, which was more awkward than anything else, and lots more of Bolan infiltrating the mob as they run around trying to catch him.

We're teased that the Feds are being added to the mix, but not so much.  Hardly any action in the whole thing.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Mack Bolan, the Executioner

Mack Bolan, the Executioner

The grandaddy of the Men's Adventure genre, the series that started it all, and the only one still in print.

The series was started by Don Pendleton in 1969 with War Against the Mafia.  Pendleton wrote 37 of the first 38 installments, though he may have contracted out some of the writing duties.  These, the best of the series, had Bolan as lone vigilante fighting the mafia.

Bolan is a Vietnam vet who comes home for leave when most of his family is killed.  His father had gone into debt to the mafia, and his sister had turned to prostitution to pay it off.  Shamed, his father killed his daughter, wife, and himself, leaving Mack and his high school aged brother (who is promptly forgotten about).

Bolan goes AWOL and begins his war on the mafia, usually with a combination of sniper attacks and infiltrating their ranks.  It becomes a running joke that anyone that aids Bolan ends up as "turkey meat", a made up slang term for the bodies left over from mafia torturers.

Bolan avoids Bruce Wayne syndrome and quickly admits to himself that he isn't doing any of this for his dead family.  Once the war starts and there's a price on his head, he figures he's a dead man, and that fatalism gives him a boldness and carefree attitude at times.  This is helped by Pendleton's occasional poetic flourishes.

Bolan wears a tight black outfit, has a war journal, and drives a tricked out van called his war wagon.  If any of this sounds familiar to Marvel fans, the Punisher is a shameless copy.

Pendleton's Bolan also had regular one night stands (ala James Bond) who more often than not met a bad end (ala James Bond).  Many of these encounters were with mafia prostitutes.  Like, you know, his sister.

Then the 80s happened.  Pendleton left, Bolan sold out and joined a shadowy government agency Stony Man and turned his attention to terrorism and communism.  The focus went from vigilantism to military fiction, as did Men's Adventure in general.

There were two spin offs, Phoenix Force (51 books, 4 SuperPhoenix Force books) and Able Team (51 books, 2 Super Able Team books), both military group titles.  They were kind of combined into Stony Man (130+ books), which is still ongoing.

Bolan himself still headlines two titles, Executioner (425+ books) and SuperBolan aka Mack Bolan aka Don Pendleton's Mack Bolan (165+ books).

While I prefer the original Mafia Wars installments, it's good to see some remnant of serial Men's Adventure survive long enough to take advantage of the 21st century.  Reasonable digital editions are available at Amazon.

More at the official Gold Eagle site and a superior fan site

Author Overview: Joseph Rosenberger

Joseph Rosenberger (1925-1993)
aka Joseph R. Rosenberger PhD; Joe Rosenberger; Jose Rosenberger; Lee Chang

Joseph Rosenberger is best known for the Death Merchant series, and for writing like a bigoted, drunken reactionary.  To modern audiences his rants against the evils of communism such as the metric system seem like parody, but no, I'm afraid he's the real deal.

He's known for convoluted and sometimes poetic descriptions of physical violence (lines like "the bullet hole in his forehead made him look stupid for forgetting not to get killed") as well as the occasional mystical bent.

He claims to have written for the original Weird Tales, but if he did it was under an unknown pseudonym.

He wrote some non-fiction articles for Fate Magazine.  One I read was a standard pole-shift, meteor strike cataclysm piece with a slight Christian angle.

Some other 60s non-fiction oddities of his include:

Smoke Without Panic: The Truth About the Smoking Scare (1966)
Bestiality (1968)
Sex Kicks of the Watchers (1968)
Confessions of the Pain Seekers (1969)
The Demon Lovers: A Psychosexual Study of Witchcraft and Demonology (1969)
The Young Deviates

His bread and butter for the next two decades was the Death Merchant (70 books plus one super sized special, 1972-88).  Other series include:

Kung Fu starring Mace (5 books, 1973-4)

Murder Master (3 books, 1973-4): Blaxploitation fiction from the man who called Mr. T a bur-head.  I'm sure that went over well.

He evidently wrote some non-fiction "how to kill people" type books for Paladin Press under the name Richard Camellion, the character name of the Death Merchant.

Shadow Warrior (4 books, 1988)
Geneva Force (one off 1988)
and one book of Killmaster Nick Carter, #125

Much more, including interviews, at Glorious Trash.

Joseph Rosenberger at Amazon

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Executioner 048 - The Libya Connection

The Libya Connection
Executioner 048
by Don Pendleton (Stephen Mertz)
1982 Gold Eagle

This one's a few issues after Pendleton left the series and Mack Bolan joined up with the government to fight terrorism.  We could have used a recap, especially since this seems to be a continuation of the last book.  Bolan is after a crooked financier who has a former love interest of his hostage.

Bolan goes to a place, shoots some people, gets picked up, and told where the next place to go it.  We're in the 80s so there's lots of gun porn and Hueys.  Not much story and the writing ranges from flat to clunky.  And every chapter ends dramatically.

Every chapter.




It's good to see that both the phenomena and term "turkey meat" made the transition.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Executioner 008 - Chicago Wipeout

Chicago Wipeout
Executioner 008
by Don Pendleton
Pinnacle 1971

It took this long for Pendleton to dig himself into a complete rut, so why not in Chicago, the American center of the Mafia.  Bolan snipes a mafia meeting place and ends up rescuing a near naked showgirl.  Since Pendleton is still writing the series, and Reagan isn't in office yet, Bolan sleeps with her a few times before managing to get rid of her.

He then proceeds to do what he did in the last book, taking advantage of the mafia's loose organization to pretend to be one of their number.  This time around he manages to manipulate various factions to start a full blown gang war before stepping in to wipe out the remains.

The ending was a bit rushed, not much action, and most of the slim page count was filled with mafioso talking to each other on the phone.  This was the first Executioner where Pendleton's heart didn't seem in it.  Let's hope he gets his groove back in later installments.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Too much evil in one place

Billy Drago.  With a ventriloquist dummy.  Rapping.

Angel Challenge

Angel Challenge
Angel Chronicles 2
by Mick Norman (Laurence James)
New English Library 1973

angel challenge mick norman

When last we left the Last Heroes in Angels From Hell, they had gone to Wales to meet up with a mythic Angels chapter.  The two chapters merged, so we have way too many y's and w's in the names.  The pendulum has swung, and now the police protect the rights of the criminals and bikers are popular anti-heroes.

Another bike gang has challenged the Last Heroes, the gay glam Ghouls, who are infinitely more interesting than our protagonists.  How do these two gangs duke it out for supremacy?  By solving highly literal puzzles in a race sponsored by a tabloid newspaper.  Oh, England.

There's a smidgen of violence, but mostly it's people dickering over the overly complex rules of the game.  This installment definitely misses the sleaze and fun of the first book.

Blood Tide

Blood Tide
by Saul Wernick
Dell 1979

Blood Tide Saul Wernick

Blood Tide Saul Wernick

A Nazi dies while trying to row from a submarine to a Massachusetts cove.  Decades later, his bracelet is found by a borderline psychopathic cop, who is promptly possessed with the Nazi's spirit.  The cop starts up a security company that proceeds to terrorize the small coastal town.  I was hoping this would have been another entry in the very specific aquatic Nazi zombie genre along with Shock Waves and Zombie Lake, but it's more of a It Can Happen Here style drama.  450 pages of padding punctuated by way too many rape scenes.

Things With Claws

Things with Claws
ed Whit & Hallie Burnett
Ballantine Books 1961

Things with Claws

Things with Claws

I had to check the book cover several times to make sure these were supposed to be tales of horror, or terror, or even suspense.  Let's see how they did.

The Birds by Daphne du Maurier - The Birds:
You know this one, it's a classic, fine.  The story, or even the radio adaptation, is better than Hitchcock's version.

The Cats by T. K. Brown III:
A couple has two cats put down because they have no room, and this is a metaphor for the couple not having a frank discussion over whether to have children.  We know this because the author mentions it several times, as if a freshman English paper was integrated into the text.  Thrills!

The Cocoon by J. B. L. Goodwin:
A bratty kid gets his comeuppance after pinning moths and butterflies to his wall.  I think there was an EC comic where a guy gets pinned down by giant aliens.  That would have been cooler, but at least we're in the neighborhood of terror.

Baby Bunting by Radcliffe Squires:
A widow hires a mildly creepy guy as a gardener.  He makes her uncomfortable, so she asks him to leave, which he does without incident.  Chills!

The Red Rats Of Plum Fork by Jesse Stuart
A farm has a lot of rats until they figure out how to get rid of them.  Terror!

Butch by Oreste F. Pucciani
A woman is torn between her dog and a suitor before killing the dog with a fire poker.  At least somebody dies.

The Salamander by William B. Seabrook:
A crazy guy wants to catch a salamander for its alchemic properties.  He dreams he catches one, then wakes up and sets his house on fire.  There are no salamanders.

Return Of The Griffins by A. E. Shandeling: 
An ambassador sees griffins that nobody else can see.  This may be a metaphor for world peace.  Horror!

Congo by Stuart Cloete:
The only story I wanted to see more of.  After a miscarriage, a scientist's wife raises a baby gorilla as her own.  The violent ended occurs off page and is summarized in about as many words as this review.

The Cat Man by Byron Liggett:
We've saved the best for last.  A reclusive author takes his pet cats to a private island, where they breed out of control.  This is before the days of reality TV, so I guess it seems horrific that two hundred cats live on an island a mile long.  You can fit that many into a double wide.

Read more at Vault of Evil.