Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Dillon And The Pirates of Xonira by Derrick Ferguson

Dillon And The Pirates of Xonira
by Derrick Ferguson
2012 Pulpwork Press

Dillion is hired to investigate his old friend Lord Chancellor C'jai of Xonira, accused of piracy. We get submarine battles and swordfights, but not near as over-the-top as other entries. 

Available from Amazon

Monday, June 5, 2023

Rogue by Greg Gifune

by Greg Gifune
2014 DarkFuse

A civil servant who monitors sex offenders is losing his mind. He's suspended for actions he doesn't remember, prone to fits of anger, has horrifying hallucinations, and is visited by a stranger in his backyard warning him to not use the phone.

Is it a government conspiracy? Demon possession? Time travel and alternate universes? Is it all a dream? Is he dead and being tormented in the afterlife?

Good prose, but the story reaches a level early on and doesn't move from there, aside from a quick scene of violence that felt out of place. Without things ramping up I was just left to guess what the resolution would be. I didn't guess completely right, but given that the story felt four parts Jacob's Ladder and one part Angel Heart, it wasn't a surprise either.

Some loose threads are wrapped up at the end, but like Jacob's Ladder a lot is dropped. The audiobook's narration was a good artistic choice, whispery and lethargic, but didn't help with the pacing.

Available from Amazon

Sunday, June 4, 2023

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Reading Rumble Round 15


Robert "Author of Psycho" Bloch worked from Weird Tales through Tales from the Darkside. Known mainly for the Hitchcock adaptation, my favorites from him have been in horror anthology TV and film.

Catnip by Robert Bloch
Weird Tales, March 1948

A school bully is menaced by the cat of a witch whose house he burned down. Just gruesome enough to stay in the ring.

The Dragon of Kao Tsu by Robert E Howard
Spicy Adventure Stories, September 1936

A woman wanting a dragon statue and our "hero" run around a warehouse getting menaced and knocked out. No adventure, an unfair mystery, and caps off with a bad-even-for-spicy-pulps light hearted rape.

Her Lover - Death! by Wyatt Blassingame
Horror Stories, January 1935

A mill owner prone to blackouts believes he's been on a murder spree and is a danger to his wife. Standard shudder stuff, though Blassingame crafts a more dreamlike atmosphere than most.

Not From Detroit by Joe R. Lansdale
Midnight Graffiti, Fall 1988
Collected in Lost Highways: Dark Fictions from the Road from Amazon https://amzn.to/3U7JTkE

Lansdale waxes sentimental with an elderly man fighting death to save his wife.

Slaves of the Worm by Richard Shaver
Fantastic Adventures, February 1948

Deep in the inner earth, the evil Fellowship of the Black Cross worships a giant worm with a human head.

Death Dines Out by Paul Ernst
Dime Mystery Magazine,  January 1936

Everyone drops dead at the death themed restaurant CafĂ© Styx, where guests sit at coffins and are served by waiters dressed as skeletons. Felt like he wrote a mystery into a corner  and just abandoned it as a horror tale.

Murder in the Family by Leigh Brackett
Mammoth Detective, March 1943

A homeless man finds a woman dead in the jaws of a lion statue at the La Brea tar pits. Promising premise runs aground in a series of false finishes in a single locatiom.

Brackett goes over the ropes. Robert E. Howard is disqualified and escorted out of the ring by security.

Monday, May 8, 2023

Reading Rumble Round 14


Our next entry Wyatt Blassingame started with Weird Menace before moving into juvenile non-fiction.

Dread Exile by Paul Ernst
Strange Tales of Mystery and Terror, June 1932

Spooky story of interplanetary body transference.

People of the Dark by Robert E. Howard
Strange Tales of Mystery and Terror, June 1932

A man seeking to kill his romantic rival is bonked on the head and awakens in the past as Conan the Reaver, who has square bangs, wears a loincoth and worships Crom. This supposedly isn't officially Conan, but whatever. These framing stories of people regressing to past lives feel like ways to fill out story fragments.

Death Seems So Final by Richard Shaver (as Alexander Blade)
Amazing Stories January 1947, Vol 21 No 1

Narrative of a man still conscious after dying in a crash. Cliché subject saved by Shaver's inept yet impassioned take.

You Can Go Now by Dennis Etchison
Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine, September 1980

Guy dies in a car wreck, dies in a plane crash, looks for his houseboat, killed his wife.

Subway Jack by Joe R. Lansdale
The Further Adventures of Batman, 1989

Batman fights Lansdale's interdimensional serial killer The God of the Razor, from his novel Nightrunners. Mostly prose, but parts are written in comic book script, which was distracting.

I Feel Bad Killing You by Leigh Brackett
New Detective Magazine, November 1944

Disgraced former cop navigates the world of criminals and crooked police to uncover the truth of his brother's suicide. My favorite tough guy prose, but the plot was a little limited.

They Thirst by Night by Wyatt Blassingame
Dime Mystery Magazine, June 1935

An Alabama preacher is seduced by a vampire. 

Etchison goes over the ropes.

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Reading Rumble Round 13

Tunneling up through the floor, Richard Shaver emerges from the hollow earth and joins the fray.

Was Shaver a man haunted by strange messages from beyond and used those experiences to become a pulp writer? Was he an aspiring pulp writer first and used the Shaver Mystery as a gimmick? Was he a rambling lunatic whose inane scribblings were rewritten by Ray Palmer?

Whatever the truth, the man was crazy.

The Mind Rovers by Richard Shaver
Amazing Stories January 1947, Vol 21 No 1

A prisoner learns a novel means of escape - into his own mind. The world his dreams created has spawned life, and he can live in that world while a robot in the dream world controls his daily activities. He can travel into other dream worlds, where he recruits other prisoner and seeks to bust up the Prison Industrial Complex Racket, only to find it run by a former Nazi with strong mental defenses. Ambitious, creative, and Shaver definitely doesn't pull it off.

The Pitch by Dennis Etchison
Whispers, October 1978

Mall kitchen appliance pitchman with dark motives.

He Asked for Hell by Paul Ernst
Horror Stories, November 1935

A crystal cube creates a doorway to a gruesome dimension of the dead, where a man tries to dump the body of his murder victim. Truly chilling.

The Demons of Darkside by Leigh Brackett
Startling Stories, January 1941

A falsely accused man hijacks a ship to Mercury for evidence to save his loved one and encounters telepathic crystals.

On a Dark October by Joe R. Lansdale
The Horror Show, Spring 1984

Available in Bumper Crop from Amazon 

Dark quickie tale of human sacrifice.

The Grisly Horror by Robert E. Howard
Weird Tales, February 1935

Arcane African rites and a carnivorous gorilla in the pine swamps of Mississippi. More racist than it sounds.

All authors stay in the ring

Sunday, April 16, 2023

Reading Rumble Round 12

The Queen of the space opera, Leigh Brackett, springboards over the ropes and into action.

Galactic Central 

Black Amazon of Mars by Leigh Brackett
Planet Stories, March 1951

Earthman from Mercury John Stark accompanies a dying friend to his homeland on primitive Mars, only for him to die, leaving him a mysterious talisman. He gets involved with an invasion led by the titular Amazon, who's described as on the cover, and stops an ancient frozen city from awakening and reclaiming the planet. Good prose and imagination, but could stand to have more adventure - the Amazon hardly does anything.

Collected here 

Death Wears My Face by Paul Ernst
Horror Stories, 1935

A man is approached by people he's never met, claiming they know him under a different name, only to later turn up dead. A doppelganger story outside of the shudder pulp formula.

Daughter of the Golden West by Dennis Etchison
Nightmares, 1979

A teenager is found dead and mutilated and his friends trace his steps to a new girl in school. There's a fine line between "atmospheric quiet horror" and "half-formed ideas with no ending".

The Case of the Stalking Shadow by Joe R. Lansdale
Weird Detectives: Recent Investigations, 2013

Not really an occult investigator story, other than a wrap around narrative. A woman returns to the woods to discover the truth behind a shadow that scared her as a child. Thin story with some creepy imagery.

The Devil in His Brain by Robert E. Howard
Lurid Confessions 1, June 1986

An abusive husband loses his arm in the Foreign Legion, and like everyone exposed to the horrors of war and trauma, came out a gentler man. Unsold attempt at the confessions market, more fun as a novelty than on its own merits. 

The Cold Cash Kill by James Reasoner
The Green Hornet Chronicles, 2010

Green Hornet and Kato investigate the murder of one of Hornet's alter ego's employees. 

James Reasoner goes over the ropes. Howard clings on by sheer force of novelty. Lansdale is knocked cold, but comes to before Ernst can drag him over the side.

Saturday, April 8, 2023

Reading Rumble Round 11

Author of mystery, weird menace, and action, prolific pulpster Paul Ernst enters the ring.

Galactic Central bibliography 


The Tower of the Elephant by Robert E. Howard
Weird Tales, March 1933

Conan sneaks into a sorcerer's tower to steal a fabulous jewel, only to find it's a tortured captive alien. The third Conan story published, and my favorite of his so far.

The Shaggy House by Joe R. Lansdale
The Horror Show, Fall 1986

Comedy horror piece about a vampire house that drains the life from other houses in the neighborhood.

Death in Clown Alley by James Reasoner
The Avenger Chronicles, 2008

The Avenger and Justice Inc. help a threatened circus against ghost clowns.

We Have All Been Here Before by Dennis Etchison
Whispers II, 1979

A psychic with her own agenda helps the police find a killer.

Madman's Circus by Paul Ernst
Horror Stories, February 1935

Two reporters go to a spooky insane asylum for lunatic deaf-mutes. Horrible creatures, secret passages, blasphemous surgeries, everything you want from a Shudder Pulp

Collected in Twelve Who Were Damned and Other Stories, available from Amazon 

All five authors stay in the ring.

Sunday, April 2, 2023

Reading Rumble Round 10

From men's mags to the Twilight Zone, master of the form Dennis Etchison returns to the squared circle.

Bibliography https://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/ea.cgi?1419

Tarzan and the Land That Time Forgot by Joe R. Lansdale
Worlds of Edgar Rice Burroughs, 2013 from Amazon https://amzn.to/3WRq8yi

Tarzan's airship crashes on the way back from the underground land of Pellucidar, landing him near an island with strange creatures. Paced like a longer piece that was cut short.

Aloft in the Whirlwind: A Tale of the Great War by James Reasoner
Rocket's Red Glare, 2017

A WW I pilot is abducted by aliens and joins in their intergalactic war.

Valley of the Worm by Robert E. Howard
Weird Tales, February 1934

The first published James Allison story, a modern man who remembers the lives of his previous incarnations. Feels like a framing device to publish story fragments, but the monsters were fun enough.

The Walking Man by Dennis Etchison
Mystery Monthly, November 1976

Noir plot (dame asks a bar pick up to commit murder) with quiet horror execution.

Californian Dennis Etchison withstands the Texas tornado and all authors stay in the ring.

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Reading Rumble Round 9

Robert E. Howard brings his two fists to the ring, and the three Texas titans face off in the squared circle.


Probably not complete works at Amazon 

By the Hair of the Head by Joe R. Lansdale
Shadows 6, 1983

Atmospheric chiller of an author living with a former keeper in a defunct lighthouse.

Reprinted in High Cotton, from Amazon 

Pirate's Blood by James Reasoner
Kolchak the Night Stalker Casebook, 2006 from Amazon 

Reporter Kolchak encounters ghost pirates after revenge on a corporate raider aboard a cruise ship. Fun, but doesn't quite hit the tone of the TV show.

Black Vulmea's Vengeance by Robert E. Howard
Golden Fleece, November 1938

Irish pirate Vulmea invents a hidden treasure to escape the clutches of the British. Angry natives, hidden tunnels, and a giant snake. Vulmea ends up aiding his British captor for the sake of his wife and daughter - presumably the scores of men he kills were childless bachelors.

All authors stay on their feet.

Friday, March 24, 2023

Reading Rumble Round 8

The million word a year man James Reasoner steps in the ring. His output defies bibliography. Read his blog https://jamesreasoner.blogspot.com/ and buy his stuff on Amazon  https://amzn.to/3GioDlN

Man in the Morgue by James Reasoner
Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine November 1978 v42 n11

An obit writer follows a lead about deaths at a flophouse.

Chompers by Joe R. Lansdale
Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone Magazine, July 1982

Quickie about a homeless woman finding a cursed pair of dentures.

Lansdale and Reasoner go toe to toe, both authors staying in the ring.

Friday, March 17, 2023

Reading Rumble 7

Fantasy and horror author Tanith Lee springboards into the ring.

Bibliography https://isfdb.org/cgi-bin/ea.cgi?105

Amazon shop https://amzn.to/3vyFmvX


The Nightmare's Tale by Tanith Lee
Women of Darkness II 1990

Collected in Tanith Lee A-Z, from Amazon https://amzn.to/3IhgBft

A man's object of revenge dies too soon, but not too late for voodoo-esque magic.

Drive-In Date by Joe R. Lansdale
Cemetery Dance, Winter 1991

Two dirt bags an their drive-in "date". The first of his splatterpunk dark comedy pieces in the Rumble.

The Wood of the Dead by Algernon Blackwood
The Empty House and Other Ghost Stories, 1906

"What happened to that old man I was talking to?"

"There's no old man here. Might have been the ghost that portends death in the village. Excuse me, I'm off to live a happy and full life."

Lee and Blackwood go over the ropes.

Saturday, March 11, 2023

Reading Rumble TV Title Winner

The further Star Wars gets from Lucas the better it tends to get, but the tie in novels just seem like a mess. Forgotten Realms retains the title.

Thursday, March 9, 2023

Forgotten Realms: The Crystal Shard by R. A. Salvatore

Dungeons and Dragons: Forgotten Realms
The Icewind Dale
The Crystal Shard
by R. A. Salvatore
1988 TSR

In the far north of the Forgotten Realms, a wizard is possessed by a magical crystal and is building an army of goblins, giants, and a demon to threaten the settlement of ten-towns.

Meet our heroes: Drizzt the Drow, a dark elf shunned by his own people for not being evil; Bruenor the grumpy elf, Wulfgar the Barbarian, and there's a halfling thief that is in the periphery who joins the gang later.

The entire genre acts as a pastiche to Lord of the Rings, but there are some very specific elements here, including the dwarf and elf comparing kill counts. Homage or theft, depending on how charitable you feel.

Ninety percent exposition and council meetings, but the remaining ten percent was good fun. The first appearance of fan favorite Drizzt - I was expecting him to be more angst ridden, but this may be what counts as edgy in fantasy fiction.

Available from Amazon

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Star Wars: The New Jedi Order Vector Prime by R.A. Salvatore

Star Wars: The New Jedi Order
Vector Prime
by R.A. Salvatore
1999 Del Rey

Set 25 years after A New Hope, the Star Wars gang have kids, the new Jedi are disorganized, and the galaxy is being invaded by the Yuuzhan Vong, an alien race of religious zealots who use advanced biology for their technology.

Mainly known for killing off Chewie by dropping a moon on him. Everybody's got to go sometime, and this all got rebooted after The Force Awakens, but Salvatore kind of pulls a Ed Brubaker, killing off a major supporting character on the front end to show the stakes are high.

The audiobook I listened to was abridged, mercifully. The full version is four times longer, and from what I could tell reading a synopsis, didn't have additional major scenes. Other than Chewie buying it and the cool aliens, not a whole lot going on. First in a series of nineteen.

Available from Amazon.

Sunday, March 5, 2023

Reading Rumble TV Title Match

It's Salvatore vs Salvatore, as two tie-in Titans face off for the Television Title

Saturday, March 4, 2023

Estelle Roberts and the death of Mona Tinsley

I first came across the account of medium Estelle Roberts assisting police in the investigation of the disappearance of Mona Tinsley in 1937 England in the book Strange Talents by Bernhardt J. Hurwood. In that account, Ms. Roberts accurately described the murder, identified the killer, and located the body. A check of primary sources flavors those claims a bit differently.

Wikipedia has a good summary, and I've verified things like dates and places with contemporaneous newspaper accounts. Roberts involvement was covered at the time by Psychic News, and her direct account was published in her 1969 book 50 Years a Medium.

Mona Tinsley was reported missing in January of 1937, Roberts became involved a month later, and Mona's body was discovered the following June. Roberts did not ID the suspect, as Frederick Nodder was arrested a couple days after the disappearance, well before Roberts got involved.

Roberts also didn't help police locate the body, which was found by boaters. She says herself "“I can’t say precisely where" the body was, but supposedly channels Mona's tormented spirit to follow the path, which led to a field that Roberts and her entourage found impassible, though the killer supposedly had no problem following the route carrying the corpse.

The location she supposedly gave has along the lines of through fields and rivers, which describes pretty much all of England. It's implied that the body was found just beyond the "impassible" field - it was eight miles away across several villages, in an accessible area.

Roberts herself still hedged her bets, saying "The river holds the secret of the child’s whereabouts", which isn't the most exact way of saying you know the body is in the river.

So far, at best, even if Roberts had legit psychic powers, they didn't come in handy in this case, as the killer was already known and she didn't help locate the body. Most of the claims about the details of the murder were unverified, as Nodder never confessed.

Her knowing some limited details is less impressive when we learn that police questioned her about her impressions of the case prior to her entering the murder scene, which would tip her off. Her knowing the landmarks near a building she just travelled to isn't particularly remarkable. The biggest piece of evidence of her psychic powers was supposed to be the fact that she knew the killer used the side door to dispose of the body, which was proven because the front door was nailed shut. Despite having a 50/50 chance to begin with, she probably figured that piece out when she entered the house.

The only things that she reports to have known that were verified were that the child was dead and that she had been strangled. It was widely assumed Mona had been murdered - in fact this case led to changes in British law requiring a body for a murder charge. The strangling she was accurate on, but even then she only revealed this after the end of the trial.

Psychic News drip fed hints during the case, but only published details after they had been confirmed. According to the paper, Roberts told her followers that she had told the police where to find the body, which doesn't match her later account, and was told to her followers after the body had been found. Psychic News hints at other details, but doesn't publish any until after the trial was over.

Roberts reports being hesitant to assist police - contemporaneous accounts say she was concerned about the death penalty, and her later account says she didn't want publicity (despite announcing details to her followers at her own meeting hall). Either way, she claims that she helped in order to bring the family peace and closure.

Here again, even (or especially) if she was psychic, this doesn't hold up. Roberts claimed that Mona was raped (not verified in the autopsy) and that she was constantly in horror reliving the experience again and again, possibly for eternity. I'm sure this brought the family great comfort when they read this in the papers.

Saturday, February 25, 2023

Reading Rumble Round 6

The grandmaster of ghost stories, the wiseman of the weird, Algernon Blackwood straightens his bowtie and enters the ring. Bibliography https://isfdb.org/cgi-bin/ea.cgi?1126

Ancient Sorceries by Algernon Blackwood
John Silence, Physician Extraordinary, 1908

An Englishman is drawn to a sleepy French village, where he becomes obsessed with a young maid and witnesses a Satanic cult of werecats. Which is possibly debunked by Dr. Silence with the much more plausible explanation of past life regression.

The Crown Derby Plate by Marjorie Bowen
The Last Bouquet: Some Twilight Tales, 1933

Turns out that ghost in the haunted house was a ghost.

Available in The Bishop of Hell and Other Stories from Amazon https://amzn.to/3uEXYdD

Black Thirst by C.L. Moore
Weird Tales April 1934

Interplanetary outlaw Northwest Smith is recruited by a Venusian harem-mate seeking help against her inhuman captive. Like Shambleau it involves his will being sapped by an alien creature, and like Black God's Kiss the story was mostly walking through corridors and repetitive descriptions.

At the Mouth of Time by Joe R. Lansdale
Originally in Fantasy Tales v6 n11, Winter 1982

Sword and Sorcery this time, from being hired in a tavern to fighting a sorcerer, with some horny schtick from the hero.

Collected in in this 45th Anniversary Tribute, from Amazon https://amzn.to/3Q8Ktg8

The Sixth Sense of Frau Bernhauer by John Kobler
Detective Fiction Weekly v104 n03, 8/15/36

"True" story about a blind landlady who finds the clue that jails a bluebeard tenant. More artistic license than usual to create a narrative, and not the most interesting case to begin with.

Lansdale cleans house, knocking Kobler, Moore, and Brown over the ropes, Blackwood barely holding on.

Friday, February 17, 2023

Reading Rumble Round 5

Early 20th century gothic author Marjorie Bowen returns to the TFC ring.

Biliography https://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/ea.cgi?12578

Collections in print from Amazon https://amzn.to/3EWyU6t

The Fair Hair of Ambrosine by Marjorie Bowen
The Last Bouquet: Some Twilight Tales, 1933

A clerk in Revolutionary era France is haunted by a murdered former lover. Telegraphed ending, but atmospheric enough.

Available in The Bishop of Hell and Other Stories, from Amazon https://amzn.to/3uEXYdD

The Events Concerning a Nude Fold-Out Found in a Harlequin Romance by Joe R. Lansdale

Dark at Heart 1992 - available from AbeBooks affiliates.abebooks.com/DVYg9b

Amateur detectives get intrigued by a vandalized page of a porn mag stuck in a Harlequin romance sold to a used bookstore by a disgraced circus dog trainer.

Science Challenges Crime Part 5: Rough on Rats by John Kobler
Black Mask October 1938

Dry history of toxicology. The highlight is an early technique - having doctors taste the vomit of a dead child and then taste various poisons to see what matched.  Science!

Black God's Kiss by C.L. Moore
Weird Tales October 1934

Conquered warrior Jirel travels to the pits of hell for a weapon to claim revenge on the man who defeated and forced a kiss on her. Beautifully descriptive, thought there's only so many times you can use "dark" and "cold".

Collected in Jirel of Joiry, available from Amazon https://amzn.to/3FXU3Pq

Kobler's pushed against the ropes, but rallies back to the center of the ring. All four authors stay in the ring.

Monday, February 13, 2023

Reading Rumble Round 4

From Weird Tales to 77 Sunset Strip, C.L. Moore spent much of her career writing with her husband Henry Kuttner, though we'll be focusing on her individual, unique style. ISFDB

Daemon by C.L. Moore
Famous Fantastic Mysteries, October 1946

A shanghaied simpleton sees daemons, colored spiritual beings like living auras, among the ship's crew.

Bar Talk by Joe R. Lansdale
New Blood #7, 1990

Flash monologue about a barfly Martian vampire.

Collected in A Little Green Book of Monster Stories available from Amazon

History's Gallery of Monsters No. 7: William Stewart, The Monster of the Mary Russell by John Kobler
Dime Mystery Magazine April 1938

True story of a sea captain slaughtering seven of his crew, most with a crowbar, in a fit of paranoia.

All authors stay in the fight.

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Reading Rumble Round 3

Lin Carter was best known as a fantasy editor, but was also a prolific name in the pulp revival scene of the late 60s through the 70s. Much of his work is in print as ebooks, available at Amazon 

Bibliography at ISFDB  

The Devious Lady by John Kobler
Detective Fiction Weekly v106 n03 11/7/1936

True crime story of a spinster who falls in love with a doctor, tries to kill his wife with poison candy, then contrives to poison the stock of the confectioners to cover it up.

The Madness Out of Time by Lin Carter
Crypt of Cthulhu #39, 1986

Written from the perspective of Abdul Alhazred, the mad Arab author of the Necronomicon. Not sure if this is supposed to be a story or what was happening, just a lot of old timey talk name checking every Lovecraft proper noun with an apostrophe.

Huitzilopochtli by Joe R. Lansdale
Skullduggery June 1980

A couple in a cabin and a tale about human sacrifice to an ancient idol.

Collected in A Little Green Book of Monster Stories available from Amazon 

Lin doesn't even make it through the ropes, but Lansdale and Kobler stay in the ring.

Saturday, February 4, 2023

Reading Rumble: Round 1 and 2

Our first entrant is Joe R. Lansdale. From detectives to splatterpunk to westerns to sword & planet, Uncle Joe covers a lot of ground, and is the master of East Texas noir. Get his stuff on Amazon 

Limited bibliography at Galactic Central and ISFDB 

He is shortly joined by our second author, John Kobler.

Before moving up to the slicks, John Kobler spent three years writing for the pulps, mainly Dime Detective. In addition to gory historical true crime features he introduced a couple of defective detectives. One of the more over the top pulp writers and you could feel that he was having fun. Good bibliography of this period here.

The Princess by Joe R. Lansdale
First published in Mummy! A Chrestomathy of Cryptology, ed Bill Pronzini, 1980, available from Amazon

An ancient preserved body dug up from a bog in Denmark possesses a woman.

The Merchant of Damnation by John Kobler
Dime Mystery v18n03 October 1938

Defective detective Peter Quest is going blind and has a death wish, hoping he dies in action before the lights go out. He keeps news clippings of his exploits, and although the cases were successful, he writes "failure" across them, because he failed to get himself killed. Peter Quest is little dramatic. In this case, wealthy old men disappear to turn up murdered and stricken with leprosy.

Friday, February 3, 2023

Reading Rumble Opener

Thirty authors enter the ring, one by one. Each round every story I like stays in the ring. Any misfire and it's over the ropes.

After all thirty authors have entered things get more competitive. If all the stories in a round are good, the one I like the least gets eliminated.

Depending on performance, we could see from 30 to 59 rounds, and from 30 to over 900 stories. Buckle in, we're going for a ride.

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Reading Rumble

Six champions defend their titles.

David Sodergren and Ray Garton face off in the steel cage for the Intercontinental Title and a shot at the World Title belt.

Thirty short stories authors enter the ring one at a time. Last author standing is the our first Cruiserweight Champion.

Twelve novels and potentially hundreds of short stories.

Take a look. It's in a book. A Reading Rumble.

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Pre Show Match - Garbage Men vs Night Wind

The Garbage Man makes a great showing in his debut, while Night Wind is out of its element. Garbage Man covers for the 1 2 3.

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Night Wind by Stephen Mertz

Night Wind
by Stephen Mertz
2002 Four Winds

A single mother moves to a small town which is being plagued by violence. Her son and her author neighbor love interest seek to find the truth.

A good example of how a novel can change genres by turning various elements up and down. The first half reads like a Zebra Horror novel with the murders cut out - there's a serial killer, but it's all in the background. There's a bunch of  foreshadowing things like a haunted house, a psycho ex-husband, and evil native American spirits before settling down half way through.

The second half is more of a thriller, which is a weird middle category in itself - not scary enough for horror, not enough fighting for action, not enough mystery for mystery. There's a dash of hinted supernatural in the form of a wolf who might be a reincarnated wise man.


The official category for Night Wind is romantic suspense, of all things. Not my expertise, but the only romantic elements were that the male lead was described as handsome more than once and we get a couple quick "maybe we can be more than friends one day" lines


Reminds me of pulp stories where they'd add "her blouse ripped and you can see her boob" to an unsold story of any genre and they could sell it to the spicys. This feels like a trunk novel from a prior decade (payphones and answering machines figure in the plot, along with the obligatory "we don't get cell reception in the mountains") that got updated and tweaked for the market.

Available from Amazon

Friday, January 27, 2023

Garbage Men: Wrestling in Shadows by Anthony Adams

Garbage Men: Wrestling in Shadows
by Anthony Adams

Book version of the twitter feed @garbagemania and the story of the Garbage Man, a wrestler who went from 90s Japan to the Arkansas indies to a mall food court pretzel shop. He's making a comeback in a side yard fed filmed in VHS for Dutch investors while trying to manage single fatherhood.

I tend to be suspicious of any book that started line online, much less from twitter, but the flow works better in long form while keeping the concision of the original format.

Hilarious, great stuff, though granted it's niche to the point that it feels like it was custom written for me. Check out the twitter feed, and if you dig the vibe check out the paperback, which has new material.

Paperback from Amazon

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Pre Show Match - Garbage Men vs Night Wind

Opening our event in non-title action, a Men's Adventure veteran faces off against a veteran of the Tokyo Dome. It's Garbage Men: Wresting in Shadows by Anthony Adams against Stephen Mertz' Night Wind.

Monday, January 23, 2023

Bloody Pile of Horror Wrap Up


Forgotten Realms claims the TV title from Alien Nation.

Derrick Ferguson defends the Young Guns Title against Hunter Shea.

Startling Detective Adventures defeats Fantasy Tales to retain the Tag Team Title.

Returning horror authors defeat new reads in the Chamber of Horrors in a contested match. All beefs will be squashed when David Sodergren and Ray Garton settle their difference in the steel cage. The winner claims the Intercontinental Title and gets a shot at the World Title.

John Maddox Roberts defeats Sigfridur Skaldaspillir and keeps hold of the European Title.

Mike McQuay vacates the Intercontinental Title in a no-contest match against Jack Slade's Gatling.

Kevin Randle and Vietnam Ground Zero keep the high ground and save the United States title from Donald Hamilton's Matt Helm.

Richard Stark's Parker defeats Robert Faulcon's Night Hunter and is our new Trash Fiction Championship World Champion.

Joe R. Lansdale wins the dubious honor of first place in the 30 author Reading Rumble for the Cruiserweight Championship, coming to a social media platform near you.

Saturday, January 21, 2023

Bloody Pile of Horror - World Title Match Results


I like Parker's style, but it challenges the limits of my patience at times. But the Night Hunter got complacent, and Parker sneaks up with a schoolboy, rolling him up for the pin. Donald E. Westlake is our new World Champion.

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Parker 2: The Man With the Getaway Face by Richard Stark

Parker 2
The Man With the Getaway Face
by Richard Stark (Donald E. Westlake)

Parker gets a face job from a black market plastic surgeon and plans an armored car heist, which is complicated by threats to reveal his identity to the outfit.

This is a heist novel but it also has the feel of a police procedural, only from the criminal side.

The prose has a lack of affect that mirrors Parker's sociopathy, and reminds me of early Bret Easton Ellis or Dennis Cooper. I like this kind of style, but when it's utilized for page upon page of Parker buying a used car it can get to be a bit much. Others could find it lifeless and padded and I couldn't really argue.

The way the story is lined up is unusual. Not a lot of planning for the heist, but a lot of preparation, along the way foreshadowing point by point what was going to go wrong: a curious state trooper, vehicles about to break down, etc. Then the heist goes more smoothly than it had any right to.

The story is then taken over by a side plot from the point of view of the plastic surgeon's chauffeur, Stubbs, a brain damaged former Communist organizer. Parker's involvement seems convoluted and ultimately futile, as he goes to great lengths to avoid killing some people and drops others without a qualm.

I'd rather Stubbs had gotten a series, as he was a more interesting and likeable character. Parker gives lip services to having a code, which would put him in anti-hero territory, but then he'll do something like enjoy hurting sex workers, not because he's a sadist, but because he wants them to pay attention. A couple notches further into bad guy territory than a Walter White, but not full blown Freddy Kreuger either.

Currently criminally overpriced for Kindle, check your library.

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Night Hunter 5: The Hexing by Robert Faulcon

Night Hunter 5
The Hexing
by Robert Faulcon (Robert Holdstock)
1984 Arrow

Dan Brady investigates Judge Dredd obsessed children who stumble upon Arachne activity and are menaced by spectral dogs. Far and away the weakest of the series.

Paperback from AbeBooks

Sunday, January 15, 2023

Blood Pile of Horror - World Title Match


The World Champion mounts its psychic defenses against the nihilistic onslaught of Richard Stark's Parker.

Friday, January 13, 2023

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Matt Helm 2: Wrecking Crew by Donald Hamilton

Matt Helm 2
Wrecking Crew
by Donald Hamilton
1960 Fawcett

Matt Helm is assigned to take pictures for a journalist in Sweden with the expectation he will be given a target to "touch". In the meantime he's been ordered to not take action, and lets himself get beat up to avoid arousing suspicion, which doesn't help thrill levels. Every cover is blown from the start, and Helm jus kind of hangs around while those around him are occasionally murdered.

The Helm series feels like a reaction to idealistic trends in the genre, like grimdark is to fantasy, but this is years after James Bond and decades into hardboiled and noir crime fiction, and I have no idea what he's reacting to. The whole "I might eventually kill someone, do you find that upsetting?" attitude seems a bit tired by 1960.

The attitude towards women is tiresome - one has to put up with at least a little chauvinism in these kinds of books, but it felt like half the word count was Helm judging women's appearances. Some folks go in for the non-PC, "when men were men" stuff, but here he's complaining about their shoes. Pretty much all the secondary characters are women, but they just exist for Helm to brutalize. He even brags about torturing a woman in the first novel. It's not that I disapprove of women in action settings, but it's written to be edgy years after I the Jury started that trend.

Another take is that Helm the character is actually sentimental and trying to convince himself, unsuccessfully, that he isn't. Either way, these kinds of themes are better delivered while the action is going on - here, we get themes instead of action.

Available from Amazon

Monday, January 9, 2023

Vietnam Ground Zero 4: The Fall Of Camp A-555 by Eric Helm

Vietnam Ground Zero 4
The Fall Of Camp A-555
by Eric Helm (Kevin Randle)
1986 Gold Eagle

While the bulk of the troops are on a mission to rescue a VIP downed behind enemy lines, traitors among the South Vietnamese troops allow a takeover of Camp A-555, with journalist Robin Morrow taken captive.

The re-taking of the camp plays out as a series of small skirmishes. This series works better on a smaller scale, and I didn't get a sense that hundreds of people were involved. This is the second book in a row in which Morrow is captured and tortured, this time with even less emotional impact than the last - hopefully this doesn't become part of a formula.

Available from Amazon

Saturday, January 7, 2023

Bloody Pile of Horror - United States Title Match


Vietnam Ground Zero shores up its defenses against challenger Matt Helm.

This match brought to you by Black Coat Press, publisher of French science fiction in translation and modern Wold Newton tales. Visit them at blackcoatpress.com and buy their stuff at Amazon

Thursday, January 5, 2023

Bloody Pile of Horror: Intercontinental Title

Two interesting titles, one pro-corporate violence, one with anti-corporate violence. Interesting, but not enough to continue either series. The referee declares no contest, and the Intercontinental Title is vacated.

Monday, January 2, 2023

Book of Justice 1: Genocide Express by Jack Arnett

Book of Justice 1
Genocide Express 
by Jack Arnett (Mike McQuay)
1989 Bantam

William Lambert is William Justice, CEO of Lambert International and ruler of his own island nation Haven. After a man dies in his UN office, he takes his entourage to Uganda and involves himself in a civil war. Gaddafi is trying to reinstall Idi Amin as ruler, using biological weapons developed in a cola plant.

Justice fulfills a white savior prophecy of Mama Alice, the spiritual leader of an opposing tribe, and leads a charge to destroy the factory, releasing the biological agent that kills the defending army.

Not great on action - a handful of scenes of Justice's crew running from soldiers before the final raid, for which Justice is naked throughout - but some interesting elements. In the fake bio in the back for McQuay's pseudonym, it states this book is "the bulk of his message to the world".

McQuay is slow dripping Justice's background, which would be great if I intended to read the other books. His family was killed, and sometime after that he created Lambert International, a company that does business. LI liberates an island from the French and starts its own country of Haven. Justice rules as CEO, and citizens are also shareholders and employees. This maps out to either Libertarianism or Communism. Other than standing against injustice and wanting corporations to rule everything, we don't get much more of Justice's politics.

Probably best to read Justice as a lunatic wreaking havoc wherever he goes, not so great at traditional heroics. He leads hundreds of unarmed tribesmen to their death as a distraction (if that), kills 10,000 soldiers who probably aren't involved with the biowarfare, all to maintain power for Museveni, who is technically an improvement over Amin.

Available from Amazon