Monday, April 30, 2012

A Touch of Grand Guignol

Over the weekend I watched about a dozen episodes of Dark Shadows. These were from the 1969 season. Funny thing is, I'm rather amazed that this show was aired at 3:30 in the afternoon back in those days. The Gothic horror tropes come fast and furious. In just these few episodes I've seen two vampires, a werewolf, numerous murders, children possessed by evil spirits, a premature burial, a young woman hanged, another woman set on fire, a couple of ghosts, a witch, and some really bad 1960s era fashions. Okay, that last one slipped by, but seriously, this is some strong stuff. There's a surprising amount of blood shown too. There's a flashback to when Barnabas Collins had just become a vampire, 200 or so years ago, and he ruthlessly stalks a man, terrorizes him, and then kills him. The witch Angelique gloats and laughs over the young woman she has cursed to be buried alive. The hanging scene is chilling as the woman is lead into a small courtyard and forced to climb a short ladder while Barnabas stands by helpless. Strong stuff. I remember being scared by this show when I was a small child, and I figured that I'd find Dark Shadows rather tepid now, but no, it holds up, mostly I think because of the writing and the atmosphere. It's still pretty darn creepy. Again I have to wonder if all of this stuff would get by on a daytime soap opera today. Sure the special effects are pretty poor, and the acting isn't always the best, but the show still exerts a strong feel of Gothic terror and horror. I'm having fun with it.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Conan With a Six Gun

Fargo: The Sharpshooters is another impressive Western from John Benteen, aka Ben Haas. I've learned that many of the Fargo books aren't actually Westerns, but rather adventure tales taking place all over the globe at the turn of the century, Fargo is a soldier of fortune who goes where the money is. The Sharpshooters, however, takes place in Texas and falls firmly into the Western category. This time out a couple of cattle barons try to hire Neal Fargo to kill an entire family of Carolina mountain men who have moved onto some prime grazing land, the rights to which are currently disputed. The 30 or so Canfield men are all crack shots and dangerous fighters. Fargo isn't put off by the clan's prowess, but rather by the fact that in many ways the Canfields remind him of himself. He turns down the cattle barons, but through a set of circumstances he ends up in a brawl with the oldest of the Canfield boys, a psycho named Jess. Fargo wins the fight and earns the respect of Roaring Tom Canfield, the leader of the clan. Fargo goes his own way, thinking his involvement with the Canfields over. Months later, during an attempt to run guns into Mexico, Fargo runs afoul of the Texas Rangers. It looks like prison for our slightly shady hero, but the head of the Ranger group turns out to be an old friend and he offers Fargo one chance at staying free. Seems Jess Canfield has shot and killed a Texas Ranger and Fargo's old pal wants the mercenary to bring Jess in. The Rangers can't currently spare enough men to take on the whole Canfield clan. Fargo agrees, but of course decides to do so in his own way. This is an action packed yarn with plenty of gun play, some fistfights, and a well researched portrayal of the old west circa 1918 or so. Benteen may have been writing formula Westerns but he wrote them really really well. Interestingly enough, I kept thinking of Fargo as a sort of Conan with a six gun. Benteen treats him in much the same way as Robert E. Howard treated Conan. Fargo is the biggest, baddest guy around. Women love him and men fear him. He can go pretty darn berserk too, and it's his savagery that saves him in a couple of situations. I've talked before about similarities between barbarians, cowboys, and private eyes, and this book certainly holds a lot of parallels. They are all self determining men. Men who live by their own codes. And of course Haas's relentless narrative drive certainly brings REH to mind. The book is only 158 pages and it roars along at an amazing pace. Anyway, I really enjoyed The Sharpshooters. I can see why a lot of my friends are so taken with the work of Ben Haas.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Acquisitions

Another good night at the comic book store. Major two books for this week were DC Showcase featuring the Spectre and the third hardback collection of the IDW Dungeons and Dragons series. The Spectre volume contains a lot of great art by Neal Adams and Murphy Anderson, and one of Bernie Wrightson's earliest professional art jobs. Plus the famous Michael Fleisher/Jim Aparo Spectre stories from the 1970s, which were very creepy and violent for their time. A massive chunk of classic comic books stories for a mere $19.99. I'll have to wait to read the D&D book to review it. I've stopped buying the individual issues and instead just pick up the collections, so this is new to me. Like the previous two volumes, this slim hardback is designed to look like an actual D&D supplement, which is cool. In the mail I received two more Frank Belknap Long Gothic romances. I think I just need one more to have the entire set. Also got five of the eight Dark Shadows DVD sets I posted about earlier. Three to go. Fortunately one of the sets was the first of the run, so I can start watching this weekend, even if the other three sets take a bit longer to arrive. So plenty to read and plenty to watch.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

More Dark Shadows

After watching a DVD of 9 episodes of the TV series Dark Shadows, and finding that I enjoyed them quite a bit, I did a little research and found that there were a couple of seasons I wanted to see more of, particularly one that takes the cast back in time to 1897. A little further research revealed that MPI Home Video will be releasing a DVD set of the entire series, presumably to coincide with the new Dark Shadows movie. However the set retails for 600 bucks, and I don't really want the entire series, so I did a little digging and found that I could get 8 DVD boxed sets that covered the seasons I was interested in for well under a hundred dollars. So I have 8 sets on the way, each consisting of 40 half hour episodes, so that's um...320 episodes. That should hold me for a while.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Legacy of Evil

Boy I read a lot this weekend. I've already mentioned some of the short stories I read, but in addition to those by Ramsey Campbell and William Campbell Gault, I also read a couple by Bill Pronzini (the Nameless Detective) as well as a whole bunch of other folks in the Black Wings of Cthulhu anthology. Reading and watching all the Dark Shadows stuff put me in the mood for some more Gothic trappings so I decided to start another of the Gothic romances that Frank Belknap Long wrote under the pen name Lyda Belknap Long. Legacy of Evil may be the best yet, with a strong plot, an engaging heroine, and more action oriented suspense scenes than the other three I've read. There's a harrowing scene where the heroine awakes in a seaside cavern, wedged in between some rocks and the tide is coming in and will soon fill the cave with water. Long makes you feel her terror in the claustrophobic setting. Long's trademark dark, creepy atmosphere is laid on nice and heavy in this one too, including quite a bit of stuff that reads like his more well known horror yarns. Check this out: "Only the sea could give up its dead with their eyes fish-white and staring, and with seaweed tangled in their hair. Bloated and dripping wet, but more recognizable than a corpse that has lain for a long time underground. Only the sea could preserve the dead in quite so terrible a way. But the night had been shrouded in mist and darkness. Could he have seen, from the topmost room, a wave battered form on the beach or the rocks far below? Could the dead arise from the sea and fly through the air, taloned shapes of nightmare?" Nice, eh? There's also a lot of talk about ghosts and zombies and creatures from the sea. This book sounds more like Long than Long trying to write what he thought a Gothic should sound like. Legacy of Evil came out in 1971, five years after Long's first Gothic, So Dark a Heritage, so perhaps he had grown more comfortable with the form. Like a couple of the other FBL Gothics, the romance element isn't that big a part of the story, so maybe he was just writing to his own strengths, emphasizing the scary over the mushy. In any case, this one comes the closest so far to a "Lovecraftian" Gothic romance. Still a couple left to read though, so who knows what I may find?

John Carter and Tarzan

Here's another piece of art from my collection, a commission from Mike Grell featuring Edgar Rice Burroughs' arguably two most famous creations, The Lord of the Jungle and The Warlord of Mars. This one is 10" X 30", and I've never gotten around to having it framed.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

April in Peril

Stumbled across a review of the William Campbell Gault story April in Peril the other day. The review mentioned the story had appeared in Mean Streets, the second Private Eye Writers of America anthology edited by Robert J. Randisi. I was pretty sure I'd read it, Gault being one of my favorite PI writers, but I couldn't recall the tale, so I dug out the book this evening and gave the story a read. In this one private investigator Brock Callahan, a former Rams football player, is hired to play body guard for a young actress named April Fielding. Seems a local mob guy is trying to shake the girl down over some blue movies she did when she was trying to get a career started. Her agent is willing to pay, but he wants Brock to protect the girl while he deals with the mob. I'd forgotten how smooth Gault's writing was. No Chandler imitator, Gault didn't bother with similes or metaphors or any of the other surface trappings those who haven't properly digested the hard-boiled style seem to cling to. Just nice, straight forward prose. Like much PI fiction the tale is slightly melancholy, as Brock finds he's very much attracted to the pretty young April, but he knows there's no future there. They have a sweet interlude just before all hell breaks loose. I remember reading several of the Brock Callahan novels as well as older books about Gault's earlier PI protagonist Joe Puma. In an odd crossover, Brock would eventually have to solve Puma's murder in a book called The Cana Diversion. William Campbell Gault is yet another under appreciated writer who deserves to be rediscovered. Think I'm going to dig out a few more of his books real soon.

The Correspondence of Cameron Thadeus Nash

I don't guess it should surprise me that my favorite story (so far) in the new collection Black Wings of Cthulhu is by Ramsey Campbell. I've gone on record here before about how much I like and admire Campbell's work. Something I once read in an interview with Campbell impressed me very much. He said that he tried hard never to repeat himself, and considering the mass amount of short stories and novels he's written, he's done a fine job of fulfilling that goal. His new story, The Correspondence of Cameron Thadeus Nash is certainly different from anything else of Campbell's that I've read. It purports to be a group of letters to H.P. Lovecraft by the titular Mr. Nash. Campbell sets the letters up by saying that they were originally found by August Derleth, who sent copies to Campbell. At first they seem like other letters from Lovecraft's many corespondents, initially praising Lovecraft's stories and soliciting his help with the sender's own writing. We don't see Lovecraft's side of the correspondence but his answers can be inferred from what Nash says in reply. The first letters gush with praise. Nash seems almost desperate to let Lovecraft know that the two of them are kindred souls, dreamers in a world of hopelessly mundane people. But then slowly, as Nash fails to place any of his own work with Weird tales, he begins to accuse Lovecraft of stealing his ideas and keeping editor in chief Farnsworth Wright from buying any of his stories. Nash's missives become more frantic and disjointed as they go on, and it soon becomes obvious that Mr. Nash isn't playing with a full deck of Call of Cthulhu cards. Campbell does what so many horror writers fail to do. His story is genuinely disturbing. Campbell has a knack for creeping you out. Anyway, there are some other strong stories in the collection, but I found this one to be particularly fine, worth the price of the book all by itself.

The Adventure of the Photogenic Vampire

I emailed by pal Chris about the death of Jonathan Frid, and he reminded me that I had written a story a dozen or so years ago using a character based on Frid as the villain. I'd actually forgotten it, so I pulled out several boxes of old manuscripts. After digging for a while, I found the story, a Sherlockian sort of tale (but not with Holmes in it, obviously), called The Adventure of the Photogenic Vampire. It was about an actor named Jefferson Craig who had appeared on a show called Shadowed Heights (an actual alternate title for Dark Shadows, I think) playing a vampire named Belasco Clayton in the 1960s-70s. In the 1990s, Craig was appearing in a Broadway revival of the show. Thing was, he didn't appear to have aged at all, and there were some suspicious deaths following the show. But of course he couldn't be a vampire because he had appeared on television and vampires can't be photographed. Or can they? I winced at some of the writing, but the plot holds up pretty well. maybe I'll rewrite it at some point.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Farewell Jonathan Frid

Just learned that actor Jonathan Frid, who played Barnabas Collins on the TV series Dark Shadows, died this week. In an odd coincidence, I had just been reading about the series in the new book Return to Collinwood and watched several episodes of the show over the last few days. Like many people of my generation, I can recall watching Dark Shadows after school. I'd get off the bus and hurry to my grandmother's house (she had a bigger TV than we had at home) to plop down and watch the tragic vampire Barnabas deal with whatever supernatural menace the show was featuring that week. Witches, ghosts, werewolves, even a Lovecraftian pre-human race. Barnabas traveled in time and into alternate dimensions, There was never another soap opera like Dark Shadows. It's a little sad that Frid won't get to see the premier of the new Dark Shadows film, in which he and several other members of the cast of the original series have cameo appearances. I don't have high hopes for the movies since it's a comedy (though I do like some of Tim Burton's films) but it would have been nice if Frid could have enjoyed the limelight once more. in any case, I have fond memories of watching Dark Shadows and most of those are related to Frid's performance as Barnabas Collins.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Acquisitions


Big night at the comic book store last night. I got the All-Star Squadron DC Showcase. I was a big fan of this Roy Thomas scripted comic back in the day. I just enjoyed seeing all those Golden Age heroes in action during World War Two. Some of Rich Buckler's best art too, with inks by Jerry Ordway when he was just getting into the comics business.
And picked up a new edition of Dracula, this one illustrated by Becky Cloonan, the current artist on Conan the Barbarian. Some really nice illustrations, with Cloonan's ever impressive line work. I never could learn to ink with a brush worth a darn, and I'm always impressed by people who are good inkers.
Also got Black Wings of Cthulhu, a new collection of Lovecraft pastiches. Looks like a good line up with folks like Caitlin Kiernan, Laird Barron, Michael Shea, Darrell Schweitzer, Ramsey Campbell, and Brian Stableford. Looking forward to working my way through this one. Couple of other items too, which I'll discuss later, but those are the biggies.
Got a couple of packages in the mail as well, one with another of Frank Belknap Long's Gothic romances, and a collection of Victorian horror stories I'd been looking for. Don't think I'll be short anything to read this weekend.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Blood Priestess of Vig N'Ga


Another rousing Ki-Gor adventure. This time the jungle lord is firmly in Edgar Rice Burroughs style territory as he travels to a hidden valley in which there are two warring lost cities, a plot familiar to anyone who has read Tarzan and the City of Gold, Tarzan Lord of the Jungle, Tarzan and the Lost Empire, etc, etc.
I wish I knew for sure who the authors of the Ki-Gor stories were, because, as I've noted before, some are really good and some are embarrassingly bad. Blood Priestess of Vig N'Ga is one of the best I've read so far. As my pal Howard Jones has pointed out, the good Ki-Gors often read as if Robert E. Howard had written a Tarzan story, with their mile a minute pace and bloody battles. At one point in Priestess Ki-Gor takes up a sword and, along with three companions, holds a narrow stairwell against an army of foes. It's very much a Conan moment.
There's also some nice descriptive writing, so once again, I wish I knew who the author was. Anyway, I read this one in High Adventure #86, which you can buy through the publisher, Adventure House, or at Amazon. If you're in the mood for some high octane pulp jungle adventure with the world's second best Lord of the Jungle, jump right in. Fun stuff.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Kharrn of the Black Coast


When Lord of the Rings Online offered a horned helmet for sale at the game store, I knew the time had come to deck my avatar Kharrn out like Conan in Queen of the Black Coast. Mail shirt, scarlet cloak, and horned helmet. Barbarism is alive and well in Middle Earth.

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Losers


I rarely read War comics when I was a kid. I was mostly a super hero guy. I would occasionally pick up a Disney or Archie comic, but for the most part I was only interested in the adventures of Superman, Batman, Spiderman, and the like. However now and again I'd buy a War comic, probably because I'd already read all my favorite titles that month and I lived and breathed comics in those days and needed a fix.
My two favorite War comics were The Haunted Tank and The Losers. The former was about, well , a tank that was haunted, and the latter was about a group of soldiers from different branches of the armed services who were considered 'Born Losers' because of various disasters in their pasts. Funny thing was, the four members of the team were losers in real life too, because all of them had formerly been the stars of their own series or comic book, which had been canceled.
They were an odd group. Gunner and Sarge were Marines. Johnny Cloud was an Air force pilot, and also a Navajo Indian, which made him a surprising hero for a 1960s-70s comic book. Captain Storm was a former PT boat Captain. They all found themselves without a unit, and using the sort of logic that only applies in comic books, they were put together as a special missions team, known originally as the Born Losers, but within the span of a couple of issues, simply as The Losers.
I can't really tell you why I liked this concept so much, but something about it just appealed to me. I think a lot of it was the artwork, which was by the late John Severin by the time I discovered the title. If you're not familiar with Severin, he had a beautifully realistic, understated style that was well suited to real life subjects like soldiers or cowboys. Severin's world looked gritty and lived in. This isn't to say that he couldn't handle superheroes or fantasy. Severin had an amazing run on Marvel's The Hulk and later on the Kull comic. (Sometimes working with his sister Marie.) He was also a gifted cartoonist and caricaturist and turned out reams of pages of art for the Mad Magazine knock-off Cracked. (He also worked on the original Mad in the early days when the magazine was a standard size color comic book.)
Anyway, when I discovered the comic in the early 1970s, Severin was doing some of his best work, so it was a great time to come across him. If I've piqued your interest about John Severin and The Losers, you're in luck, because this week DC Comics released one of their 'phonebook' Showcase volumes with 500 or so pages of Losers reprints, the better part of which are drawn by Severin. There's also some great art by Joe Kubert, Ross Andru, and other Silver Age comics legends. Oddly enough, toward the end of his career at DC, artist/writer Jack Kirby would take over The Losers for a memorable run. Those comics aren't included in the Showcase volume, but they're available in a Hardback Omnibus edition which I reviewed here a while back.
So if you want some fun comics with great art and stories, and who doesn't, glom onto a copy of the Losers. Don't let the title fool you. These comics are winners.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Conan the Barbarian Issue #3


With the third issue of Conan the Barbarian, writer Brian Wood begins to come into his own, as it were. Issues one and two stuck pretty close to the events of Robert E. Howard's story, Queen of the Black Coast, but with issue three Wood begins establishing new characters and situations as he prepares to tell his own stories within the story, which will presumably carry through two years worth of continuity.
Thing is, I've recently decided I'm not as fond of adaptations as I used to be, I mean, if I want REH I'll read REH. I don't really need anyone to draw if for me. I'd rather see some quality pastiches. I've read enough of Wood's Viking series Northlanders to know he has the chops to tell some roaring good action stories, so I'm certainly willing to see him run with Conan for a bit. In this issue Wood delves into the emotions of Conan and Belit, trying to see why these two might have such an instant attraction for one another. Both, to some degree are projecting their own fantasies onto each other. Conan sees Belit as an exotic pirate wild woman and Belit sees Conan as an equally exotic northern savage come down from the icy wastes. But isn't love often that way? Seeing what we want as much as what's there?
And speaking of the icy wastes of Cimmeria, artist Becky Cloonan finally gets to bring her rendition of snow filled dark woods, which impressed me so much in her self published comic 'Wolves', to that land of "Darkness and deep night." In fact, someone ought to get Cloonan to illustrate REH's poem Cimmeria. She has the knack for drawing that kind of scenery.
Cloonan's rendition of Conan is growing on me, much as her predecessor Mike Hawthorne's version did. Cloonan, like Hawthorne, is a storyteller, and the accumulated weight and impact of her panel to panel continuity is considerable. Much more satisfying to me than someone who simply draws pretty pictures.
Conan has extended conversations with a warrior named N'gora and with a shaman who binds Conan's wounds. Both conversations reveal things about these two new characters and about the young Conan as well. The words and pictures combine well to do this. I like to see an artist/writer team who can mesh like that.
There's also an interesting thread of prophecy running through the story as different characters speak of seeing things in the future.
All and all a solid third issue. Looking forward to seeing what comes next.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Hallam


Back in the day, when I was reading hardboiled detective books hand over fist, Robert J. Randisi edited a series of short story collections featuring a bunch of P.I. stories, beginning with The Eyes Have It in 1984. These were great books, featuring folks I was already reading like Max Allan Collins, Loren D. Estleman, and Lawrence Block, and also introducing me to new writers. One of the discoveries I made from this first volume was L. J. Washburn and her very original and nifty P.I., Lucas Hallam.
Hallam was different because he was a former gunfighter from the old west and a former Pinkerton detective. Now in private practice, he worked in Hollywood in the 1920s, supplementing his income by doing movie stunt work in silent westerns. The first adventure I read, the eponymous story, Hallam, took him into the glitzy world of L.A. offshore gambling and the crooks who ran it. Fistfights, gunfights, ratiocination. Everything you could want from a detective story and a cowboy adventure, told in straightforward, often humorous prose.
I went on to read what other short stories and novels I could find about the Hallam character over the years, including a very cool story, Boom Town Bandits, that featured none other than Robert E. Howard as a character. This was in the collection Cross Plains Universe, which you should track down now if you don't have it.
Anyway, while I was researching Western writer Ben Haas, I learned from James Reasoner's blog Rough Edges, that there's a collection of Washburn's Hallam short stories and novellas, called simply Hallam, available for the Kindle. It's currently just .99 cents too. I highly recommend this collection. These are really really fun stories, and a great introduction to Hallam. And if you like the stories, several more of the Hallam books are now available in Kindle format.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Not Scary

I'm going to rant for a bit, just a warning. Yesterday I tried to read a new fantasy novel, this one billed as being in "the old school sword & sorcery tradition." About twenty pages in, the book's protagonists had entered a ruined temple and they were suddenly confronted by a monster, a huge horrible creature summoned from the outer dark. And what did the heroes do? They started wisecracking. I hate this. Absolutely hate this. And here's why.
As I've noted many times before, 'old school sword & sorcery' was created when pseudo-historical fiction was combined with horror. If monsters are used they are supposed to be aberrations of nature and they are supposed to be SCARY. At this point the writer's characters aren't acting like people. They're acting like characters. I get it. They're tough. They live in a world where monsters are known to exist maybe. They've probably seen monsters before. But I've seen tigers before. If one came walking into my apartment right now, I don't think I'd start wisecracking to the cats.
The whole idea of horror is that it's supposed to scare you. Sword & Sorcery, at least in its original form took place in a world more or less like ours. People were just as shocked by actual magic or by the appearance of strange, scary monsters as you or I would be.


Let us look at Conan in Robert E. Howard's The Tower of the Elephant:

"As Conan came forward, his eyes fixed on the motionless idol, the eyes of the thing opened suddenly! The Cimmerian froze in his tracks. It was no image--it was a living thing, and he was trapped in its chamber! That he did not instantly explode in a burst of murderous frenzy is a fact that measures his horror, which paralyzed him where he stood. A civilized man in his position would have sought doubtful refuge in the conclusion that he was insane; it did not occur to the Cimmerian to doubt his senses. He knew he was face to face with a demon of the Elder World, and the realization robbed him of all his faculties except sight. "

See? This is Conan. CONAN. I think we can all agree that Conan is the biggest, baddest character in the genre. And Conan reacts like a human being. He is frozen by horror, Freaked out. Want more? Here's Conan in The Devil in Iron when he learns that the impossibly giant snake inside a dank chamber is real:

"His hand jerked back in instinctive repulsion. Sword shaking in his grasp, horror and revulsion and fear almost choking him, he backed away and down the glass steps with painful care, glaring in awful fascination at the grisly thing that slumbered on the copper throne. It did not move. "

It's okay for your heroes to be afraid. Conan will later battle that snake and kill it, overcoming his fear. It makes him even more heroic. Heroes who aren't horrified when confronted by actual horror aren't realistic. It's like a kid's idea of a hero. And really, from a suspense viewpoint, if your characters aren't concerned for their own safety, how do you expect your readers to be concerned for them.
In my case, you won't have to worry about it because I have put your book down and won't be picking it back up. End of rant.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Swords and Sensibility Redux


For an April Fools gag, someone over at the TOR blog linked Jane Austen to Robert E. Howard. I should point out that (Ahem) Someone already did a similar gag back in 2007...

http://singular--points.blogspot.com/2007/03/swords-and-sensibility.html

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Sex Slaves of the Dragon Tong


Something you will often hear fans of the old school pulps, such as me, say is "They just don't write em like that anymore."
Well sometimes they do, and F. Paul Wilson's 'Sex Slaves of the Dragon Tong' is an unapologetic Yellow Peril story that rockets along like a Lester Dent yarn on speed. A disgraced San Francisco police Detective named Brannigan gets assigned what appears to be a simple runaway girl case. Instead Brannigan learns that the girl has been abducted by Chinese slavers. The white slavery racket falls under the authority of the mysterious Oriental mastermind known to most people as The Mandarin, but known to pulp fans by another more sinister name.
The case gets more complicated when a 10 year old girl is also abducted, bringing her wealthy and powerful father and the men who serve him into the fray. Brannigan has his hands full dodging bullets and hatchets, and venomous insects. Trust me, if you're a fan of the pulps, and for that matter other pop culture of the 1930s, you're going to love this one.
Sex Slaves of the Dragon Tong also comes with two other stories as an e-book. I'll be reading the other stories over the next couple of evenings. If they're half as good as the titular yarn, I'm in for a good time. The e-book is a mere $2.99, available for the kindle here:

http://tinyurl.com/753mzna

And in other formats here:

http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/118805


Tell em Repairman Jack sent you.

Swords and Six Guns


My friend Howard Andrew Jones mentioned that he had been reading bunch of old Series Westerns written by an author named John Benteen. Well, actually Howard mentioned the writer by his real name, Ben Haas. I wasn't familiar with Haas, but since Howard and I tend to like many of the same kinds of fiction, I tracked down one each of Benteen's series, Fargo and Sundance. Started with Sundance: The Wild Stallions. Sundance is a half breed, a striking looking Indian with blond hair and blue eyes. His series is subtitled man of Violence, so that should let you know right off that these are manly books. The one I read was extremely entertaining, very violent, and much better written that one would expect from a series Western from the 1960s-70s.
During my web search for Benteen/Haas, I learned that in addition to writing a lot of westerns, Haas had also written a few sword & sorcery novels using the pen names Quinn Reade and Richard Meade, Turned out I already owned the Reade book, Quest of the Dark Lady, which I had bought a few years back, mostly for the Jeff Jones cover, and had never gotten around to reading. Since Quest and Stallions were each less than 200 pages, I read them back to back.
Of the two, I preferred the Western. Though I'd rate the S&S book on an equal standing with John Jakes' Brak novels, I got the feeling that Haas wasn't entirely comfortable in the sword & sorcery realm. Still, his hero, Wulf the bladesman, is cut from the same cloth as Sundance, so he's not an hombre to mess with.
I will definitely track down some more of the Sundance series. Quick, violent reads, very much in the pulp tradition. So thanks, Howard. Once again you've steered me toward some fun reading.