Thursday, December 30, 2021

Only Child by Patricia Wallace

Only Child 
by Patricia Wallace
Zebra 1985

A private plane crash lands near a small town, the only survivor being a young girl Hannah who escapes unscathed. After she arrives the playground burns down, the schoolteacher has a violent miscarriage, and children begin disappearing into thin air.

Hannah and the plane are traced to a California commune where kids also went missing, which is good enough reason to believe she is supernaturally evil and inject her with preacher blood, causing her innards to explode out.

Nothing is explained, but does it need to be? She's a devil girl who killed children, what more do you need?

Kindle ebook from Amazon

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Series Showdown: Predator vs Dark Shadows

It's an army of Predators versus a not vampire and not werewolf. Neither contestant did great, but I tend towards action over talk, and Predator has multiple authors so I may be in better luck next time.

Thursday, December 23, 2021

The Quagmire by James Kisner

The Quagmire 
by James Kisner
1991 Zebra

A witch uses the dark arts to sacrifice her enemies to the powers of darkness. She turns her attention to a group of kids, one of whom is the son of a fortune teller. Does a good job with the lives of the children and the miserable dead end neighborhood of drunks, cheaters, and creepers. Less so with the horror elements, most of which is taken up by the witch's brain damaged brother who keeps asking to nurse off her deformed 3rd teat.

The setup is great, but it gets a bit cute in the ending, with a couple of teen ghosts causing violent mischief and the introduction of a couple of bumbling cops.

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Series Showdown: Renegade vs Jubal Cade

Renegade improves with the second installment, while Harknett's version of Jubal Cade is a mere shadow of Angus Wells'. Captain Gringo fires his Maxim machine gun from the hip as Jubal Cade is stripped to the bone by soldier ants and piranhas.

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Jubal Cade 3: The Hungry Gun by Charles R. Pike

Jubal Cade 3
The Hungry Gun by Charles R. Pike (Terry Harknett)
1975 Mayflower

Cade gets on a train populated by an all female entertainment troop. Thinking one knows a clue to his wife's killer, Cade rescues them after they're captured by bandits. In almost an epilogue, there's a rushed scene of him chasing after the lead, who just happened to rob a bank and hold ranchers hostage within minutes of Cade getting to town.

Had about a quarter of the content of Days of Blood, and what was left read like a rejected Edge first draft. One of the more actively misogynistic Westerns I've read, with gang rape scenes played for laughs, and Harknett spends the last three pages of each chapter setting up his anemic puns.

From AbeBooks

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Predator: Concrete Jungle by Nathan Archer

Predator: Concrete Jungle
by Nathan Archer
Bantam 1995

Predators attack drug dealers and cops in New York City. Believing these attacks are related to the disappearance of his brother Dutch, NYPD cop John Schaefer travels to Central America for clues. He kills a Predator, is captured by a drug cartel which is attacked by Predators, and returns to New York with General Philips, who leads a secret government anti-Predator squad. Philips plans to turn Schaefer over to the Predators to avoid massive attacks on an urban population.

Schaefer escapes, and with his partner Rasche recruit and arm psychotic street gangs to fight the Predators. There's the beginnings of a massive showdown in the city streets, with cops, gangs, and the Army facing down multiple Predator ships, but the fighting just kind of stops, the Predators collect their dead, and leave.

Based on the 1989 comic with a couple of added scenes. Many of the story elements appeared later in the superior film Predator 2. Not as exciting as it should have been, the plot is iffy, and the voice is what one would expect for a comic book novelization in the 90s. In addition to constant tough guy bravado, we get constant italics to denote sarcasm. I'm so sure that's a good literary technique.

Included in the Predator Omnibus, available from Amazon.

Thursday, December 9, 2021

Renegade 2: Blood Runner by Lou Cameron

Renegade/Captain Gringo 2
Blood Runner
by Lou Cameron as Ramsey Thorne
1979 Warner

Captain Gringo, Richard Walker, wakes up in a Panamanian jail after recovering from a jungle fever. After escaping, he considers his options in the country, the subject of upheaval from the foreign interest in digging the canal. He's groomed by a mysterious arms dealer, contacted by British intelligence, and meets with his old comrade in arms Gaston.

Slow going at first, until Walker is forced to flee into the jungle where he faces federal troops, gun runners, natives, and the cruel forces of nature itself, including soldier ants and piranhas. Excellent adventure, with Walker using strategy and tactics to overcome overwhelming odds.

The sex seemed more farcical in this installment, like something out of madcap 70s comedy. 

Ebook for kindle available from Amazon

Sunday, December 5, 2021

Series Showdown: Thongor vs Michael Kane

These two titles are so similar I'm already have problems distinguishing them. But when in doubt, bet on the laser toting boneless desert ghouls. Michael Kane dispatches Thongor and moves up to the finals.

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Michael Kane 2: Blades of Mars aka Lord of Spiders

Michael Kane 2
Blades of Mars aka Lord of Spiders
by Michael Moorcock as Edward P. Bradbury
1965 Compact

Michael Kane returns to ancient Mars, landing on a different part of the red planet. He encounters the blue giants, who are more civilized in this area, and assists a prince to fight off invaders. They find laser wielding ghouls in a desert fortress, find an airship built by ancient advanced technology, are blown off course, fight spider men, then return to pick up the plot.

The femme fatale Horguhl from the last installment shows up and Kane uses a magic mirror to thwart her plans of domination. Strongest in episodic adventures, less so when the main plot takes over.

Paperback from Amazon

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Thongor and the Dragon City by Lin Carter

Thongor 2
Thongor and the Dragon City 
by Lin Carter
1966 Ace

Thongor, the princess Sumia, and the other guy fly back from their adventures of the first novel. They crash land in the jungle, get captured, fight cannibals and man-eating plants, escape, get captured, escape, find the airship again, get captured by a vampire scientist, escape, defeat an army and evil druids, and became king of everything.

This one started out feeling more juvenile than the first, and the ending kind of lost the thread with Thongor and company barely participating.

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Series Showdown: Vietnam Ground Zero vs Super Bolan

I'm still not sure how Vietnam: Ground Zero operates as a series, but they're more literate than most Men's Adventure, and I can't even remember what happened in the Super Bolan. Super Bolan is terminated with extreme prejudice, and Vietnam: Ground Zero moves up to the finals.

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Super Bolan 100: Devil's Bargain by Dan Scmidt

Super Bolan 100
Devil's Bargain
by Dan Schmidt
2005 Gold Eagle

Jihadist attack America's transportation system as a cover to rob black budget funds from a bank. Dull with poor action scenes. There's a mercenary called Thor, I guess that's interesting. Have not had much luck with 21st Century Bolans.

Kindle ebook and Audible audiobook from Amazon

Currently available on Hoopla, check your library

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Vietnam Ground Zero by Eric Helm

Vietnam Ground Zero 
by Eric Helm ( and )
1986 Gold Eagle

Captain Gerber, stationed in the Mekong Delta, sends an assassination team into Cambodia to assassinate a Chinese officer who's been supporting the NVA. Word of the hit travels to a general who has it out for Gerber, and two of his men are court martialed.

The initial hit was superbly written - suspenseful, action packed, and if it wasn't historically accurate it faked it well enough. The bit with the trial, and the efforts of Gerber to free his men, made less sense. To prove that his men were innocent of the war crime they definitely committed, they proceed to commit another war crime, travelling back to Cambodia.

The idea, I guess, was either to prove they had a good reason for the assassination or to blackmail the general into an acquittal by threatening to publicize it. This depends on a reporter withholding the story of her career because she's banging the Captain, but also begs the question of why the General held the court martial in the first place when he could have just ignored the hit and kept it quiet.

I don't mind sketchy plot devices as rubber bands to hold action scenes together, but narratively the action scenes just set up the court martial, which held up the bulk of the story. The female reporter shoehorned in to squeeze in a sex scene didn't help either.

The military scenes were well written, and we could have done with more of that. The second incursion felt like Randle and Cornett got bored halfway through and ended it early, and the next potential action scene, an escape from the brig, was entirely off page. 

This felt like a standalone novel, but it's actually the fifth in the series - it was preceded by four titles under the title Scorpion Squad. It doesn't act like a typical men's adventure war novel. As a solo title, Captain Gerber hardly sees any action, and it's not a typical Howling Commandos style squad. I'm not sure any of these characters are even in the final installment, Zebra Cube.

The whole series is available on Kindle, and as of this writing free to Kindle Unlimited subscribers.

Sunday, November 7, 2021

Series Showdown: Gladiator vs Flashman

Flashman was the better novel, and Gladiator underperformed, but based solely on which series I'd rather continue reading, Gladiator holds Flashman's head under a trough of vomit until his legs stop kicking.

Thursday, November 4, 2021

Flashman by George MacDonald Fraser

by George MacDonald Fraser
1969 Barrie & Jenkins

Flashman is the satirical memoir of a the exploits of Harry Flashman, a fictional 19th Century military figure. Flashman is not a nice man. He's a snob, a drunk, and a coward. And he's supposed to be, as this is a conscious satire of the English "gentleman", with Flashman snatching victory from the jaws of defeat, and vice versa, sometimes through skill but mostly just sheer luck.

The story itself covers Flashman being kicked out of school, joining the military, and ending up in the First Anglo-Afghan War, the highlight being the disastrous retreat from Kabul, in which thousands died in an attempt to flee to India.

There's a long tradition of unsympathetic protagonists in comedy, from Basil Fawlty to Dennis Reynolds, and a good comparison can be drawn to Blackadder. There's fun in watching them fail, but you also find yourself rooting for them. This is a little harder with Flashman, as he's a bigoted serial rapist. This isn't my bleeding heart 21st Century assessment, he's presented this way.

Flashman is such a horrible creature it creates some tonal problems. If this was a straight, warts-and-all historical adventure the character would be historically accurate, and not much worse than the average of the time. This is a theme, with Flashman being honest with himself about being horrible while most of British society is arranged around trying to hide it.

The adventure and the comedy largely alternate, with most of the satire coming in the breaks around the action. It's a bit too miserable, what with the dead children, rapes, and constant n-bombs, for light comedy, especially for the modern reader, and it's a bit on the silly side as a straight historical adventure with social commentary.

I've read that the character softens throughout the series, becoming closer to a Blackadder, to be more of a loveable scoundrel. I always seem to have a limit with these kind of characters. It's an essential part of comedy for characters to satirize the less honorable side of human nature, but at a certain point it seems to indulge it a bit too much. Veep did the same thing to me through the seasons, as it felt like it went from "let's laugh at these horrible people" to "wouldn't be great to be able to get away with things like this, but not really" to "let's do a bunch of racist stuff but it's the character doing it, not us".

Well written and well regarded, but like a Ricky Gervais character (or Ricky Gervais himself, for that matter), the schtick gets wearisome.

Kindle version is currently overpriced, paperback available from Abebooks

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Heavies: OJ Simpson

Here's OJ Simpson playing against type as a football player threatening to murder his wife on Medical Center.

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Zebra Scorpio

In 1977, Zebra created the imprint Scorpio specifically for the subgenre of Iceberg Slim cash-in prison memoirs. Unlike the Holloway House titles they're emulating, not all the titles involve African Americans - Max Rabinowitz I'm assuming is Jewish, and Johnny North is a white biker. These titles are rough to find, and there's very little information online. The Black Prince seems to have been picked up by some incel and MRA losers as a pimping how-to - good luck with that, fellas!


Dig the N----- Up - Let's Kill Him Again by Robert E. Chinn


The Black Prince by Anonymous

The Day They Scrambled My Brains at the Funny Factory by Max Rabinowitz (available free from the author here)

God's Renegade by Johnny North

Prison Diary by Edward Conway

A Right to Anger by Karamoko Baye

Underground by James S. Dutton

The Virginia Ratt by Ratton Hall and Sandy Sidar

Sunday, October 31, 2021

Series Showdown: Six-Gun Samurai vs Lone Star

It's East meets West meets East meets West. Lone Star was more mature and had better story, but lacked the gore and sleaze of Six-Gun Samurai. Lone Star's head falls on its lap staring up at the blood fountain spurting from its own neatly severed neck stump.

Saturday, October 30, 2021

Alfred Hitchcock Anthologies

Woe be to the Alfred Hitchcock anthology completist.

Genius director and garbage can of a human being Alfred Hitchcock's name has been attached to over a hundred books and hundreds of digest magazine installments with thousands of stories of mystery and suspense. With a possible exception of the very beginning, he neither selected the stories nor wrote the introductions in his name.

A better history is at Casual Debris. A 95% accurate and complete bibliography at Casual Debris and The Hitchcock Zone. A cover gallery and an index for the magazine is at Galactic Central.

After a handful of scattered titles in the 40s, things picked up after the beginning of the 1955 TV series. Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine began in 1956, and a book series followed in 1957. I don't think they were formally connected, but they had some synergy, with the books reprinting and the TV show filming some magazine stories.

Most of the books came out in hardback and dividing in half for two paperbacks. Some of the paperback titles had a first installment sharing the hardback title, such as Stories for Late at Night, with the second half as More Stories for Late at Night, or with a different title such as Skeleton Crew. So you get the same book with multiple titles, and multiple books with the same title. The hardbacks during this era were mostly from Random House and the paperbacks from Dell, but there are exceptions.

On top of that, there were different editions with different art, and on rare occasions slightly different story lineups, or abridged versions with a couple stories shaved off.

There was a series aimed at children, with the same caliber of stories, and a British series edited by Peter Haining, possibly the hardest to find. There were several French editions, but I haven't compared the table of contents to see if they are straight translations or new lineups.

Meanwhile the digest magazines have been published continuously since 1956 to this day, the second longest running mystery digest next to its sister title Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. There were reprint titles in the UK, Australia, and India. From 1957 to 1968, mostly in the fall, there was a sampler magazine. These were literally three random unsold magazines with the covers ripped off and stuck in a generic cover. I have a couple with the same cover and each has different titles underneath.

Things get confusing again with the series of 27 anthologies more directly linked with the magazine, edited by Eleanor Sullivan and Cathleen Jordan, published between 1977 and 1989. Some were numbered editions in thicker digest format, some also reprinted in hardcover, some reprinted in two large print hard covers as part one and two, some reprinted in the numbered series Alfred Hitchcock's Book of Horror Stories. Despite being more closely tied to the magazine, not all the stories came from there.

The hardback anthologies continued through the 90s, and began to be combined with stories from Ellery Queen. Cynthia Mason edited the later anthologies, with the theming focusing on theme (holidays, cats, etc) and the mention of Alfred Hitchcock being minimized.

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Lone Star 2: Lone Star and the Opium Rustlers by Wesley Ellis

Lone Star 2
Lone Star and the Opium Rustlers
by Wesley Ellis
1982 Jove

Jessie Starbuck is the heir of the Starbuck fortune seeking revenge against the Prussian cartel who killed her family. Ki is a half Japanese samurai who pals around with her. Their connection isn't clear in the second volume, not sure if their partners, he's her employee, there's some honor blood debt thing, or what. They've got a Moonlighting will they / won't they sexual tension thing going on, but it doesn't stop them from performing in the three sex scenes contractually obligated in adult westerns (two for Ki and one for Jessie).

Jessie checks in on her corporate interests in San Francisco, discovering that the Prussian cartel is working with the Tongs and corrupt city officials. Jessie goes undercover in a brothel while Ki frees slaves from the Tong. Ki falls in love with a local Chinese girl which definitely doesn't get her raped and killed.

Like the best of adult westerns, this would have been so much better without the sex, which was shoehorned in at awkward intervals. The plotting was good, and did a pretty good job of establishing this as an episode of a longer series. The story is standalone, but you got a sense of progress towards Jessie's overall long term goal.

Kindle ebook from Amazon

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Six-Gun Samurai by Patrick Lee

Six-Gun Samurai
by Patrick Lee (Mark Roberts)
1981 Star

Tanaka Tom Fletcher was a westerner raised in Japan after being orphaned. He was trained as a samurai and returned to America to avenge the brutal massacre of his family.

We get the usual "Kung Fu" style of fish out of water culture clashes, with a text that alternatively decries and revels in casual racism. Tanaka comes across more ninja than samurai, though he quickly adopts Western firearms.

It more than delivers in violence and sleaze. Fletcher's swordplay is straight from a chanbara film, slicing up the baddies and having their various chunks slide off like a cartoon cat running through a harp. The villains are some of the worst  - their scam is to find landowners who have a gold claim and rape their children until the owners sign over the deeds.

The plot unravels a bit towards the end, with the story making some stretches to make sure some baddies live to be killed in further installments, but a fun ride overall.

Paperback from Amazon

Monday, October 18, 2021

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Series Showdown: Cap Kennedy vs Simon Rack

Cap Kennedy was more focused and had a better story structure (barely), but Simon Rack had a castle siege with exploding intestines. You do the math.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Simon Rack 1: Earth Lies Sleeping by Laurence James

Simon Rack 1
Earth Lies Sleeping
by Laurence James
1974 Sphere/Zebra

Simon Rack, agent of the futuristic Galactic Security Service, is sent to Earth for a mission involving freeing up trade of an element necessary for space travel. Earth is stuck in the middle ages, and there's kind of a Prime Directive thing about not using advanced technology, but not really. Simon and crew hang around taverns, get captured, escape through elaborate death traps, and generally go through the motions of a sillier D&D campaign.

There's a decent pay off at the end where Rack leads a rebellion, featuring a castle siege with advanced weapons which make your intestines crystallize and explode out of your stomach. His first novel, this one felt like James already had a first draft of a medieval novel and rewrote it when his editor wanted scifi. Curious how the rest of the series plays out.

As of this writing, a cheap edition available for Kindle on Amazon.