Sunday, September 21, 2014

Available Now: THE BAREKNUCKLE BARBARIAN - Fight Card Books


The Fight Card series continues sending exciting contenders into the squared circle of pulp fiction with a new book every month and the punches landed are always solidly entertaining.
BAREKNUCKLE BARBARIAN is no exception, and even has a little extra going for it by blending in some alternative history and a dose of heroic fantasy. Author Teel James Glenn uses a fictionalized Robert E. "Bob" Howard as his protagonist. He time-shifts him past the point where (in real life, sadly) Howard committed suicide. "Bob" endures the pain of his mother's death (the real-lie event that caused Howard to take his life) and then embarks on a journey beyond his hometown of Cross Plains, Texas where he hopes to benefit from meeting "real" writers and also to test his physical stamina and inner barbarian against a wider slice of the world.
With this imaginative set-up, author Glenn --- in the Part One "Barknuckle Barbarian" title piece of this two part adventure --- first pits Bob Howard against a gang of New York City hoods staging and controlling the bareknuckle fight game in and around Madison Square Garden. Colorful characters from a visiting circus setting up for a run at the Garden is also worked in. In the rousing climax, Bob himself --- a trained pugalist who has battled in bareknuckle "icehous fights" back in Cross Plains --- steps up as a last-minute replacement in the main event to foil the grip of the crime bosses.
In Part Two – "The Fists of Fae" – a mythical/heroic fantasy element that the real Howard (creator of Conan the Cimmerean and King Kull) would have appreciated is introduced. When Bob visits the Old Sod of Ireland to connect with his Gaelic roots, he soon finds himself invited to attend the Fae Fair that takes place every five years wherein the veil between worlds is weakened sufficiently to allow mortal Bob to also attend the festivities leprechauns, elves, centaurs, etc., are present. Here, once again, he is drawn into becoming a participant in the climactic fight.
Author Glenn does a nice job of capturing the "feel", racial attitudes, and language of NYC in the late 30s and his fight scenes are vivid. He imbues "Texas" Bob with just the right mixture of awe and "aw shucks-iness" yet also strong in his sense of right and wrong and self-confidence when it comes to handling himself. And in Part Two he clearly knows  his stuff when it comes to mythology and the intermingling of Worlds.
Imaginative and well done, a pleasant change of pace. Recommended.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Another Look: RIO CONCHOS (1963 Western film)


This tough, gritty, generally overlooked action Western actually has a lot going for it and deserves to be ranked higher on lists of top Western films, where it seldom appears at all.

Heading the list of positives is the gutsy performance by Richard Boone in the lead role as harsh, uncompromising, embittered James Lassiter, a former Confederate officer with little regard for the post-Civil War U.S. Army operating along the Mexican border and a seething hatred for the Apaches who murdered his family.
The latter has set him on a quest to hunt down and kill as many Apaches as he can find. In the process of doing this, he confiscates a repeating rifle from the body of one of the braves he caught up with. His possession of same comes to the attention of Army Captain Haven (played by Stuart Whitman) who recently had a shipment of these rifles stolen from his command by marauders striking from south of the border.
Inasmuch as the Apaches have already been wreaking havoc throughout the territory with less formidable weapons, it would be disastrous for them to gain possession of these modern repeaters. Lassiter is first arrested for possessing the stolen rifle and then offered his freedom if he will lead a special covert unit into Mexico to locate and retrieve the stolen rifles before they fall into the hands of the Indians.
Unable to stand being penned up, Lassiter grudgingly agrees to the job. The unit is made up of Lassiter, Haven, a Buffalo Soldier named Franklyn (played by Jim Brown, in his first film role), and --- just to keep the "sides" even --- a knife-wielding Mexican outlaw named Rodriguez (played by Tony Franciosa), who shared Lassiter's cell during the time he was locked up.
After a series of violent encounters with both bandits and Apaches, not to mention a good deal of bickering and fighting within the group itself, the unit discovers the rifles are in the possession of a madman named Theron Pardee, a former Confederate colonel who at one time commanded Lassiter. Pardee's plan is to trade the rifles to the Apaches for gold, turn the Indians loose to conquer the scattered U.S. Army troops defending the border, and then use the gold to finance a New Southern Confederacy in the conquered territory.
With aid of a sympathetic Apache girl they had held captive for a time in order to help guide them, Lassiter and his unit take desperate action to foil Pardee's plan.
Lassiter and Franklyn sacrifice themselves by driving a burning wagonload of gun powder into the shipment of rifles, still stacked in their shipping crates. Before the massive explosion takes his life, Lassiter is able to kill Bloodshirt, the Apache chief preparing to take possession of the rifles and also the leader of the raid that massacred Lassiter's family.

This is a taut, tough, grim movie with expansive, top quality production values. What little humor there is comes in a few bits performed by Franciosa. Although he shares star billing, Whitman is given very little to do. The Apache maid, played by seldom-ever-heard-from-again Wende Wagner, could have been done by practically any actress in dark make-up and a black wig. Jim Brown hardly has more than a couple dozen lines, but brings a powerful physical presence that perfectly fits the role he's given to play.
Like I said at the outset, Boone is far and away the star here --- both in the role he has and in the way he chews it up and spits it out. The largely unlikeable Lassiter character, in his grimness and racial hatred, is somewhat reminiscent of John Wayne's Ethan Edwards in THE SEARCHERS; just as the latter two thirds of RIO CONCHOS is somewhat reminiscent of THE COMANCHEROS (which also starred Wayne, along with Whitman in a far more substantial role). But maybe that's an unfair comparison, and for sure not one meant to deter from all that is good about CONCHOS in and of itself.

A final note on the director, Gordon Douglas, a veteran whose career spanned over five decades and covered subject matter ranging from Our Gang shorts to Oliver and Hardy features to the cult classic THEM! to Elvis's FOLLOW THAT DREAM (one of his most entertaining) to a string of Frank Sinatra films through the mid/late '60s to the trio of Clint Walker westerns (FORT DOBBS, YELLOWSTONE KELLY, and GOLD OF THE SEVEN SAINTS) that have been compared to the Budd Boetticher/Randolph Scott collaborations and too many more to mention … But, although it came somewhat late in his career, he seldom helmed anything better than RIO CONCHOS.

This is a good one.
Be sure to check it out if you get the chance.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Good News for CASH LARAMIE & GIDEON MILES Fans

THE EMPTY BADGE, the third novella-length Cash Laramie adventure penned by yours truly --- having previously appeared in the acclaimed anthology, TRAILS OF THE WILD --- is now available as a stand-along eBook and will soon also be in print format.

As recently featured on his own fine blog, Education of a Pulp Writer, I will let David Cranmer (the man behind the Edward A. Grainger byline and creator of Cash and Gideon Miles), talk about THE EMPTY BADGE:


I had the privilege of publishing TRAILS OF THE WILD: SEVEN TALES OF THE OLD WEST awhile back, though, now, the praised collection has run its course and I have removed it from the published status. In doing so, it left a bit of an issue with the book containing the Cash Laramie novella, THE EMPTY BADGE by Wayne D. Dundee, which is an integral part of the ongoing Western series. So, I'm re-released BADGE on its own. And for fans of the Outlaw Marshal, I will be offering the e-book free for the next several days.    
Plot: It's been weeks since Cash Laramie, the famed "Outlaw Marshal," has been heard from. Meanwhile, at the Federal Marshal headquarters in Cheyenne, Wyoming, some disturbing reports are starting to filter in about the notorious Driscoll Gang rapidly hitting a series of banks, allegedly with the aid of a badge-wearing accomplice claiming to be Laramie. Can it be true? Can it be that the lawman with the hair-trigger temper and the mile-wide independent streak has finally gone completely rogue?  
The truth is seldom easy to find. And on the lonely, twisting trails of northwestern Wyoming in the 1880s, it was often lost forever. But every now and then, when those dusty trails converged in certain unexpected ways, answers were revealed and justice was delivered in a blaze of gunfire.

Did you catch that? ... FREE ... Right now. For the next several days.


What's more, David also mentioned recently on his blog that he is putting the finishing touches on an all-new collection of Cash and Gideon stories --- THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF CASH LARAMIE & GIDEON MILES ---  he is writing (as Edward A. Grainger). This will be the first time in over three years that David himself has written about the rugged Western duo ... News that surely should be cause for celebration from long-standing fans of the popular series.
Keep a sharp eye peeled.
And rest assured that I surely will give notice here when FURTHER ADVENTURES is available.


Friday, September 5, 2014

My Take: EXPENDABLES 3 (Stallone & Company)



I wanted to like EXPENDABLES 3 better than I did.

Which, I guess, is another way of saying I wanted EXPENDABLES 3 to be better than it was.

I've long admired Sylvester Stallone, mainly for the way he stuck to his guns after writing ROCKY and then refusing many lucrative offers for the screenplay until he got one that included him in the starring role. It was a gutsy, believe-in-yourself gamble that rightfully paid off big.
I even forgave him his next phase where too much success too fast (not to mention the apparent brain-numbing effect that the mile-long legs and threaten-to-stab-your-eyes-out plastic boobs of Brigitte Nielson also played) turned him all Hollywoody and cocky and spun him off course for a number of years.
He fixed most of that with the wrap-up chapters (RAMBO and ROCKY BALBOA) to the sagas of his two most iconic characters.

And then he came up with THE EXPENDIBLES (based on an original concept by writer David Callahan). A bunch of nearly-over-the-hill action stars playing a crew of gritty, wild-ass mercenaries taking on the kind of dirty jobs no one else wants to touch … a throwback to those over-the-top action movies from the 80s and 90s that we never took too seriously but flocked to in droves and remembered fondly. This time around with a healthy dose of wry humor to balance the grimness of the bloody action.
EXPENDABLES I was a huge hit and EXPENDABLES II was also well accepted, with more of the same ingredients including expanded roles for Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis, who had received big billing in the original but only very limited screen time. There was even a bit more humor this time around, along with a dose of "youth" injected in the form of team member Liam Hemsworth, and even a babe (Yu Yan) for Stallone's character to get almost romantic with.

But now EXPENDABLES 3 needed something more. The novelty of the aging action stars (even with new players rotated in and out), the witty banter, and the kick-ass testosterone rush had been done … and re-done. Remember, even though Stallone and company does this kind of thing full tilt and does it very well, the whole phase had already played out once before about three decades ago.
What they tried for as a "new twist" this time around is where they almost lost me.
When one of the veteran members of the team (Terry Crews as Hale Caesar) is badly wounded in the film's opening sequence, team leader Barney Ross (Stallone) is deeply affected by the near loss of yet another man (there have been many others, we learn, and their dog tags are hung as reminders in their transport plane). Further upsetting Ross is the fact that during the attempted mission that went awry, the leader of the bad guys turned out to be one Conrad Stonebanks (played by Mel Gibson) who had been a co-founder of the Expendables years earlier, before he turned corrupt and Ross thought he killed him.
From there, Ross knows he has to go after Stonebanks --- to avenge Caesar and also to finish the job he thought he'd taken care of years ago. And here's the really weak, stupid part: Because he can't bear to risk any more of his veteran guys, the men he has bonded with and gone through hell with many times over, he rejects them in favor of going after Stonebanks, possibly his most dangerous foe, with a new, fresh, green team of mercs.

I won't go into any additional details so as not to spoil any more than I already have.
Suffice to say that the new team shows some mighty impressive moves and there's a whole flurry of exciting action. But, ultimately, they get their asses in a sling and --- excuse me, but if you didn't see this coming so it serves as a spoiler, I can't help it --- the old veterans have to re-form to help save the day.
I gotta admit that by the time the vets came back into the picture and joined up with the newbies, I had managed to choke down my frustration and I started to get into it again.
Remember, I said I wanted to like this movie more than I did – I didn't say I didn't like it all. The addition of Harrison Ford and even Kelsey Grammer were fun, as was female MMA champ Ronda Rousey playing (in a real stretch) an ass-kicking female member of the team. And Mel Gibson --- as wild-eyed, menacing, maniacal Stonebanks --- stole every scene he was in (along, presumably, with all the scenery he voraciously chewed up in the process).

All in all, I came away from the viewing … satisfied, I guess. Not really stoked – but satisfied. I laughed, I cringed a little, I was in awe at some of the action stunts.
Lot worse ways I could have spent two hours and six minutes. Plus I saw it at a bargain matinee, so I got no bitch.
It's mostly played on the big theater circuit now, so if you haven't seen it yet you'll probably have to catch it on cable or rental or whatever.
Whether or not there will be an EXPENDABLES 4 remains to be seen. This one didn't do so hot at the box office, partly due to a couple million pirated copies hitting the market before its release, partly because it got its ass kicked by those stupid mutant turtles … a fate nothing or nobody deserves, in my book.
I kinda hope there's another. I'll be ready again in a couple years. After all, by the time it was done, there was quite a bit more that I enjoyed about this than I didn't.
Moderately recommended.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Special Reduced Price for Limited Time: DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH


For a limited time (starting now 9/2/14 thru 9/6/12) I've reduced the price on this, the third and latest entry in the Bodie Kendrick – Bounty Hunter series to only 99 cents! That's a steal, folks, for a full-length, action-packed Western adventure that deserves, in my humble opinion, to reach a wider audience than it has so far.
I am in hopes that this bargain will help turn that around.
Plus, keep in mind that readers who like DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH can also find additional adventures of Bodie already available in HARD TRAIL TO SOCORRO and RIO MATANZA … with the promise of more titles coming in the near future.

Here's what some reviewers have had to say about DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH:

"In a relatively short period of time, Wayne D. Dundee has become one of the best Western writers in the business. DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH is an excellent example of why."  --- James Reasoner

"One thing I liked about DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH is the incorporation of real history that forced me to do a little research … A bit of speculation mixed with history spins out an action packed novel of the old west." --- George R. Johnson

"It's H. Rider Haggard meets Sergio Leone, and Dundee -who has won the Peacemaker Award three years in a row -weaves it together masterfully." --- Troy D. Smith


And here's the sales blurb from Amazon:

Bodie Kendrick wasn't in time to stop the stagecoach from being ambushed, but he did manage to save the lives of the driver and most of the passengers. Among the latter was Amelia Gailwood, a freelance journalist working on "the story of a lifetime." In order to try and make sure her lifetime doesn't end too soon, Kendrick agrees to hire on as her protector while she continues to chase her story. The chase will take them from the gunfire-laced streets of a rowdy mining town, to the smoky mysteries of an opium den, across a punishing desert, and into beautiful but treacherous remote mountains. At the heart of their quest is a legendary gem from the time of Caesar and Cleopatra. But before they can lay claim to it so Amelia will be able to reveal it to the world and tell its fascinating history, they will have to survive betrayal from within and menace from fierce mountain Apaches—all the while eluding pursuit by a pack of hired guns who will stop at nothing to seize the stone for their unscrupulous employer.
Three-time Peacemaker Award-winning author Wayne D. Dundee spins another exciting yarn of grit, gunfire, and gallantry in the Old West! Read DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH and find out why his work continues to win praise and gain followers.

Take advantage of this bargain and get to know Bodie Kendrick.
Then I hope you check out more of his adventures and more exciting books and stories from yours truly.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Goodbye to Another Old Friend (Hardboiled Magazine 1985 - 2014 R.I.P.)




Over the weekend, I received a copy of the latest Hardboiled (#47) from editor/publisher Gary Lovisi. In the envelope, Gary included a short note saying this would be the last issue. On the editorial page of the issue, he expands on the reasons why.
If you want to read what he has to say, I encourage you to buy a copy of the issue. As always, it has a great selection of tough, hard-edged fiction, including tales from two of my favorite writers … the late C.J. Henderson and a current rising star, Thomas Pluck.

Naturally, I have a particular fondness for Hardboiled. It was, after all, my baby originally, when I started it back in 1985 with the help of "outlaw poet" Todd Moore and encouragement from a number of writers in the crime/mystery genre.
We did twelve issues and I'm damned proud of each and every one. I'm sure Gary feels the same.
When I ran out of gas in 1991, Gary took over at the urging (to each of us) of Andrew Vachss. Gary took Detective Story Magazine, which he had begun publishing, fused it with HB as Hardboiled Detective for three transitional issues, then continued on with Hardboiled.


Hundreds of stories later --- by established names, new names who went on to become very established, more than a few one-shots, and everything in between --- HB fades quietly down the dark street of ceased publications.
That's too bad. Because, right from the get-go, it represented what there was (and certainly remains) far too few of … a fair shot for a writer to get published, to get his or her name "out there".


Maybe … just maybe … as Gary indicates in his editorial, there's a chance Hardboiled will be revived as an e-zine or some such. I hope so.
If not, after nearly three decades, I hope it will remain a deservedly fond memory for readers and writers alike.
I know it sure will for me.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Noteworthy Reads: CHASING A DOG STAR - brand new from Richard Prosch



Out today from Painted Pony Books and my pal Richard Prosch. This is the follow-up to CHASING A COMET, and continues the adventures of Jo Harper and her pals --- with more to come, I sincerely hope.
It is billed as YA, but readers of any age will enjoy it, largely due to Prosch's distinct writing style, which I have heralded here before. I had the chance to read this in mss., and the pleasure was all mine.
Here's the Amazon review I put up earlier today:


In this worthy sequel to CHASING A COMET, we are once again in the company of feisty Jo Harper, her loopy pal Frog, and of course the one-eyed, gun-totin' constable of their little Wyoming town, Abby Drake … along with a few other recurring characters we either first met or heard mention of in COMET.

I liked the comfortable feel I got from the characters and the way they're all settled in with one another. Frog comes more into his own (for better or worse, depending on how you look at it) this time around. This amps up the banter between him and Jo and the potential for mischief that they can get in together --- a sort of Tom-Huck feel, and I mean that in a complimentary way. Then, when a sense of danger is injected, it makes even more of an impact.
Abby, of course, remains stalwart throughout.
A wild ride in a horseless carriage is only part of the fun and adventure. With the threat of danger comes a strong mystery element, a pair of bad guys who are by turns cunning and menacing, and then a twisty wrap-up that is very neat indeed.

Though billed as YA, older readers will not come away disappointed, especially with the yarn being told in typical high style via the writing talents of author Prosch.
A fun tale that will give you some thrills and chills, more than a few chuckles, and likely have you feeling a little younger-at-heart, both during and after the reading.
Recommended.