Sunday, August 28, 2016

The Shadow In Review

The Shadow In Review (Non-Fiction)
by John Olsen.
Pulplandia Press
Lulu.com
Price $10.00
515 Pages
Rating 5-Stars

In this nicely produced tome, John Olsen has investigated and reviewed all 325 original pulp novels of The Shadow, plus the two short stories, a paperback original novel, a lost Shadow story, and a Shadow turned Batman comic book story, the serial, and the 1994 movie.

This huge work would have fit nicely among ALTUS PRESS Companion books to other series, as basically it provides similar data, though more aimed at reviews. It’s only lacking in not providing scans of the covers, but those can be found on the Internet.

I’ve also read every Shadow novel, and I may not agree with some of the author’s ratings, but we each have our own likes or dislikes, and for the most part he does give valid reasons for the ratings of each novel, and that’s his right. For instance, in one example he gives THE GOLDEN VULTURE, a mishmash by Lester Dent & Gibson a 5-star rating, while dropping TEETH OF THE DRAGON to 4-Stars; I’m sure Gibson had to do a lot of rewrite to Dent’s adventure-style yarn in order to make the novel half way read like The Shadow. While TEETH OF THE DRAGON, on the other hand is a topnotch Shadow set in San Francisco’s Chinatown, and introduces the marvelous Myra Reldon/Ming Dwan, one of best stories in my opinion. I only suggest the reader may consider other ratings. Read the novels, and by all means add this fantastic book to your shelf. Highly recommended.

Tom Johnson

Author of THE BLACK BAT COMPANION

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Baroness #1

The Baroness #1: “The Ecstasy Connection” by Paul Kenyon (Donald Moffitt). I normally enjoy a "good" spy novel, but this one was more sleaze than spy fiction.  There is an ecstasy drug showing up in America, and the CIA, FBI, and all the other government intelligence agencies want to know where it’s coming from. They contact the mysterious “Key”, the only known contact to the top-secret agent code-named “Coin”, requesting the end of the supply and supplier, as well as the formula. “Key” (John Farnsworth), contacts the beautiful Baroness Penelope St. John-Orisini, model, millionaire, and international playgirl. She brings her well-trained team in: Dan Wharton, ex Green Beret, Tom Sumo, the Japanese electronics whiz, Joe Skytop, the Cherokee unarmed combat expert and ex Greet Beret. Also on the team are Paul & Yvette, black models: Paul is into explosives while Yvette is a costume and disguise expert. Other team members from Penny’s modeling agency, International Models, Inc., are Eric, Fionee, and Inga. When they aren’t modeling, they are fighting terrorists and bad guys around the world.

            Although this is listed as issue #1, it was actually written after the second published story, as reference is constantly made to that case. Mr. Sim, a grossly fat man in Hong Kong runs drugs from China to the rest of the world. He is also experimenting with drugs and the brain. Discovering what drugs do to certain areas of the brain, to bring pain or pleasure. He’s found the ecstasy drug that can make a person do one thing, and never want anything else, whether it is food, drink, starvation, or sex. The first hundred pages is little more than drugs and sex, and can be left out of the book for my part, except The Baroness does have her agents do some investigative work, which many authors fail to do. The real story kicks in with the second half of the book when they travel to Hong Kong, where the real action is. Unfortunately, this series appears to be little more than soft porn, as the pace is slowed every few pages by descriptive sex scenes only of interest to boys in their puberty. The author was supposedly a science fiction writer, and you can see this in the many gadgets and science in the story. If the porn had been left out, it could have been a good spy novel. In fact, it appears to be patterned after Modesty Blaise and other female spies. I give the book a 3-Star rating for the action, but really debated a lesser rating due to the extreme use of sex and drugs that were not needed to tell a good story – at least to adults.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Small But Deadly Wars


The A-Team #2: “Small, But Deadly Wars” by Charles Heath (Ron Renald). This is actually two short novels based on two TV episodes, “A Small And Deadly War” and “Black Day At Bad Rock” (Yeah, I get it, taken from “Bad Day Black Rock” – ha). In the first, Police Inspector Ed Maloney puts the word out that he’s looking for the A-Team. They hear his story before taking the case. Four SWAT officers are in the murder business, taking assignments to kill for pay. Maloney has discovered their secret, but he and his family are threatened if he reports them. He wants the A-Team to get the goods on the men. The second is about a biker gang in the white slavery business. They’ve set up a trailer park with prostitutes, young girls they’ve forced into the game. Amy is working on a story with a private detective, Simon Commonble, to bust the business, and the A-Team is heading to Bad Rock to assist. When they arrive, they find the D.A. has already acted, and the park was raided, and the gang leader arrested and locked up in the local jail, but the bikers escaped. The A-Team runs into the bikers on a narrow road, and B.A. is shot. They rush him to town and find a doctor. She takes care of the injured man, but calls the local sheriff. Hannibal Smith and Face are arrested and locked up also. The sheriff runs their prints, and now Military Intelligence finds out the A-Team is in jail and send Colonel Lynch and MPs to collect them. Meanwhile the bikers are coming to town to rescue their leader. This was a fun book, and read like the old TV series, it was like seeing the episodes again in my mind. I can understand why the fans of men’s action novels passed on this series, there is no sex, profanity, are killing in the book. Just a lot of good action. The only seriously injured is B.A. Well worth the read. 

Friday, July 29, 2016

Collector's Guide To Trading Cards

COLLECTOR’S GUIDE TO TRADING CARDS by Robert Reed, and published by CB (Collector’s Books) in 1993. This 8.5 x 11 paperback has a brief history of Trading Cards up to its publication date. It concentrates on non-sports trading cards. There is also a listing of Trading Card companies, and their cards, along with a value guide at that time. Fully illustrated with at least one card from each series (where possible), dates and number of cards in sets. Although a wonderful guide for the collector, it is out of date now. Like comic books, prices quickly jump up after the release of each new set. TV card sets, movie card sets, comic book card sets, famous people card sets, wild life card sets, etc., etc. All are fun to collect and own. I have about 4,000 cards. Some individual cards, especially from WWII, like the Hitler card, are worth many thousands of dollars. So start up collectors should aim for sets that fit their budget. You might want to purchase a book that is more current, but this one is definitely worth a read   

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Hell's Hostages

The Penetrator #41: “Hell’s Hostages” by Lionel Derrick (Mark K. Roberts). Trying to capitalize on The Executioner series, The Penetrator is Mark Hardin, an ex Vietnam soldier whose girlfriend was killed by the Mafia. Now he wants revenge, and brings all his training against them. I read the first three novels in the series, and felt by #3 the series was burning itself out. Plus, the character is highly unbelievable (weren’t they all?). Six years in the Army he was medically discharged as an E-7 Master Sergeant. During those six years he obtained a 2nd degree black belt in karate, learned to speak several languages, becomes a weapons expert, etc., etc. In Vietnam, he was a sniper, a penetrator, and an undercover intelligence operative (whew!). I was surprised to learn the series actually lasted for 53 issues. By this entry, #41, it still feels the authors are struggling for plots and characters. There is now sex in the stories, which wasn’t in the first three stories, and the Penetrator becomes a clone of all the other men’s action novels.

         The Middle East is the setting for this novel. The Revolution Council (People’s Liberation Army) has taken another American Embassy and its people hostage. One of the hostages is reading The Death Merchant, a men’s action paperback series, and tells another hostage, “We could use a man like Camellian right now.” Unfortunately, the plot was bad, and the characters weak – they never change throughout the story. Colonel Toro Baldwin recruits the mercenaries, with Mark Hardin in charge (codenamed Houdini), to infiltrate and get the hostages out of captivity, and kill as many bad gays as possible. We have a lot of weak fight scenes (just massive killings), some I can only imagine young boys getting a kick out of, not grown men. And of course the superman sex between Mark Hardin and one of the female associates was a plus for pre-teen boys. I thought the series should have ended after story #3, and I still feel it should have. It was really a drag getting through this one. Although I know some readers like this kind of stuff, it just wasn’t something I cared for. Heck, even The Death Merchant is better than this.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Trieste


Johnny Fedora #4: “Trieste” by Desmond Cory. British Intelligence has arrested a man they believe is Gregor Panagos, a communist agitator planning something to cause a war in Jugoslavia, but all that is known is “the balloon goes up August 30.” They send Trout to investigate, and he requests the help of Johnny Fedora, who is no longer attached to the service, but works for them occasionally. Together, they go into Trieste, where they have trouble with the local police, and a highly trained assassin named Palli. I’ve read some Johnny Fedora novels where Fedora just stands around looking deadly, and does nothing till the end of the novel. This is pretty much that plot, although he doesn’t actually stand around looking deadly. In fact through the first hundred pages, he does very little of anything. It’s Trout doing all the work. Thankfully the second half of the book picks up, and Johnny is in a fight to the death in one scene, then another where he must assassinate the assassin. The story was a fun read, but Johnny isn’t really in good form in this one. The author even tries for a bit of humor between Trout and Johnny.