Saturday, December 31, 2022

2022 Year in Review

2022 saw the end of the Series Showdown and the debut of Trash Fiction Championship. 57 novels were covered, not including short stories and magazines.

For book of the year we have a tie - David Sodergren's Dead Girl Blues and Derrick Ferguson's Dillon and the Legend of the Golden Bell.

2023 will see even more titles, including an obscene number of short stories. Onward through the fog!

Friday, December 30, 2022

Gatling 1: Zuni Gold by Jack Slade

Gatling 1
Zuni Gold
by Jack Slade (Peter McCurtin)
1989 Leisure

Gatling is hired to test advanced weaponry for Maxim, and uses the opportunity to protect a Zuni tribe from Aztecs hired by a mining consortium. The action scenes start with tactical set ups, but the actual shooting is brief and confusing. Gatling is suitably gritty, murdering more mining executives than the Molly McGuires. A personal gripe, it ends with two of my personal least favorite western elements - a trial, and the US Army agreeing to treat the native tribes fairly. It's not that I don't want to see them being treated fairly, but it's kind of a Pollyanna ending given history.

Available for kindle from Amazon

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Bloody Pile of Horror - Intercontinental Title Match


Our inaugural champion Mike McQuay swaps titles, bringing the Book of Justice against challenger Jack Slade with Gatling.

Sunday, December 11, 2022

Friday, December 9, 2022

Conan the Valorous by John Maddox Roberts

Conan the Valorous
by John Maddox Roberts
1985 Tor

Broke, drunk, and down to his loincloth, Conan agrees to travel to his homeland of Cimmeria to complete a spell at the mountain shrine of Crom. Meanwhile, competing sorcerers make their way to the shrine, carving a scar of blood as they go.

In the middle, Conan finds time to rescue a tribal chief and her daughter and fight a giant bull. The highlight is when the evil sorcerers from not-India use dark magic to double-double-cross pirates, using their blood to summon and ancient evil from the depths.

This one leans into the Cthulu-esque elements of Conan, with horrible creatures and Elder Gods lurking behind dimensional barriers, and Conan rescuing villagers from an underground cave filled with torturing monsters.

Conan's homecoming was fun, like a Cimmerian kitchen sink drama - "Sleeping on a pillow of snow, are ya? Rocks not good enough for the fancy lad what been to the South, eh?" Meanwhile, Conan's acting like a Midwest college student who just came back from a semester in Europe.

I suspected I would like the later Conan pastiches more than Howard's originals, and so far I was right. Bit rushed at the end, and purist may have issues with the characterization, but great action, plenty of monsters, and a touch of horror.

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Eric Brighteyes 2: A Witch's Welcome by Sigfridur Skaldaspillir

Eric Brighteyes 2
A Witch's Welcome
by Sigfridur Skaldaspillir (Mildred Downey Broxon)
1979 Zebra

The original Eric Brighteyes by H. Rider Haggard was published in 1891. This is more of remake than a sequel, and not much room to make this a series given that Brighteyes is born and dies in this Viking saga. 

Brighteyes is banished for a couple years from Iceland and does Viking stuff around the British Isles. Swanhild the witch is obsessed with him, and her manipulations lead to both their downfalls. In true saga form, most of the story is in broad summary, with some battles being wrapped up in a sentence. The more "real time" the story the better, but things speed up again towards the end making the conclusion feel like an epilogue. As this is someone's life story, not much in the way of a plot, just Eric going from place to place.

I've seen this described as the story from Swanhild's perspective, and while I haven't read the original to compare, most of the story focuses on Eric. I half expected some revisionist version, like the way Grendel was from the perspective of the monster, but not so much.

The book stands on weird moral grounds. While Eric seems to have some modern ideals (no killing monks, sees dishonor in attacking the weak) he's still a psychopathic serial rapist slaver. This is historical fiction and these are Vikings, after all, and most of the book is written without judgment. This is olden times and this is a story of horrible people doing horrible things to each other. However, there are parts that imply that Eric is supposed to be a honorable hero, and the ending definitely makes Swanhild out to be a villain deserving of being dragged to Hel at the end.

The ending plays sadly tragic for Eric, but it's hard to feel any sympathy. Can't get too outraged that he was framed for that one rape he didn't do. Morals aside, some occasional good battle sequences and historical details, but I didn't dig the narrative structure.

Paperback from Amazon

Monday, December 5, 2022

BPOH European Title: John Maddox Roberts vs Sigfridur Skaldaspillir


As the Falcon series concludes, we move on to the Conan novels of John Maddox Roberts. Can they stand up to Eric Brighteyes, itself a continuation of an earlier work? It's Cimmerian vs Viking for the European title!

Friday, December 2, 2022

Bloody Pile of Horror: Cruiserweight Four-Way Grudge Match

Roald Dahl turns on Ed Wood Jr. as soon as the bell rings, only to be knocked out by a double drop kick from Lansdale and Etchison. The two go at it blow for blow, but Lansdale comes out on top.

Lansdale is declared number one. Followed by Etchison at ten, Dahl at twenty, and Wood at thirty. These are their numbers for the Reading Rumble! Thirty authors go in, but only one will stay to the end and be crowned the Cruiserweight Champion!

Thursday, December 1, 2022

The Full Count by Joe R. Lansdale

The Full Count
by Joe R. Lansdale
Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine, June 1978, Vol 42 No 6

A Texas Gulf Coast detective looks for a missing boxing trainer. Standard hardboiled detective fare, though well above average. May be Lansdale's first fiction credit. His name is spelled Lonsdale in the table of contents.