Friday, January 30, 2015

Another Look: THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD


In 1958, when this movie came out, I was 10 years old. I still remember it vividly, albeit with the aid of a handful of re-viewings. What I also remember vividly is the bombardment of TV commercials that came with it. That's not to say I recall clearly the content of said commercials --- except for the impact made by the first sight of the Cyclops as presented in Ray Harryhausen's much-touted Dynamation. Even on our tiny, grainy, black-and-white TV screen I knew I was looking at something special and spectacular and I couldn't wait for a chance to see the movie.
This was probably my first awareness of big motion picture hype.
(1958 was also the year of Joseph E. Levine's uber promotion for Steve Reeves' Hercules, but that's a story to be covered another time.)

As film entertainment, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad is an epic adventure filmed in rich Technicolor with state of the art special effects (for the time) that stands the test of time and can be watched and enjoyed over and over. One could quibble about the lousy acting, the poorly choreographed fight scenes, the inaccuracy of Sinbad's ship, and so forth. But the 10-year-old kid who saw these things for the first time nearly six decades ago didn't find fault in any of those things … and the remnants of that 10-year-old who recently sat down and once again watched 7th with his youngest grandson didn't give a hoot about them, either.
While some of the fights and fisticuffs were poorly staged, the sword battle between Sinbad and the evil magician's skeleton was top notch. (This was such a popular scene that Harryhausan used versions of it twice more in Jason and the Argonauts and Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger – each perhaps technically better, but none more exciting or effective.)

The stop-action special effects methodology that Harryhausen learned from his mentor Willis O'Brien (the original King Kong, Mighty Joe Young) then went on to hone and refine throughout his career, holds a special place in my heart over today's admittedly superior cgi techniques … and none of the creatures thus created (except Kong himself, of course) are stamped more indelibly in my mind/imagination that the Cyclops from The 7th Voyage of Sinbad.

Another thing that made an ever-lasting impression on me was the chant to call out the Genie of the lamp who played such an important part in this film. Say it with me: "From the land beyond beyond, From the world past hope and fear – I bid you, Genie, now appear!"
I don't think there's been a point at any time in my later life when, if asked, I couldn't have remembered and recited that for you. Same is true for "Klaatu barada nikto", the critical message for Gort the robot, in the original The Day the Earth Stood Still. I bet there's a high percentage of guys my age (especially the adventure-minded daydreamers, again like me, many of whom probably aspired to and/or became writers) who could also make that claim … Spare me the forced memorization of passages from Edna St, Vincent Millay, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, etc., that they tried to pound into my head in high school --- give me quotes from impactful action movies, and I'll nail 'em every time.

Anyway, back to The 7th Voyage of Sinbad … If you haven't seen it in a while or somehow have never seen it, I urge you to grab a DVD copy or catch it on TCM or whatever, and give it a look. It holds up really well. If you can corral a youngster to sit down and watch it with you, I bet they'll get a kick out of it, too. And that will enhance your own viewing enjoyment.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

WHEN A CHARACTER COMES TO LIFE - LITERALLY



Over the past weekend I had a rather interesting experience involving the cover to O'Doul, one of my Western Trail Blazer "dime novels" that has gotten some new life breathed into it recently via a nice uptick in sales. In fact, along with the Peacemaker Award-winning This Old Star, another of my "dime novel" titles (please believe I mention this out of pride, not to sound boastful) it has, for some time now, been holding in the top 20 in Amazon sales for the Westerns > Short Stories category.





In the course of this, O'Doul came to the attention of an Arizona gentleman named C.L. "Lee" Anderson who sent me an e-mail with this query: "Just curious. How (or where) did you find the photo on the O'Doul cover? The ol' boy sure looks the part."
I replied, explaining that the cover was done by Laura Shin back when she was helping Becca Vickery put out the WTB brand (since taken over by Troy D. Smith). I added that I was pretty sure they got the image of the "ol' boy" from Dreamstime as I had subsequently seen other poses of that same cowboy still available there.
Mr. Anderson then wrote back, informing me that the picture was of him seated on his horse, Concho. He included this link to his website: http://historicaloldwest.org/index.html

I got a real kick out of this --- meeting (via correspondence, at least) the personification of one of my fictional characters. If you check out Lee's website – and I definitely encourage you to do so – you will learn much more about him and Concho, the skillfully trained rescue he calls "my faithful partner". They do authentic living history presentations/re-enactments all over the Southwest and serve as the Arizona ambassadors and flag bearers for the National Day of the Cowboy.

I really appreciated Lee getting hold of me and introducing me to the "real" O'Doul but, in so doing, I fear he may have gotten my hopes up for something more that will likely go unrealized … You see, I have also purchased and utilized Dreamstime images for some of the work I've put out under my own Bil-Em-Ri Media banner. In particular, I'm thinking of some of the "sexy babe" covers I've done for some of my crime shorts and the recent Joe Hannibal re-issues. (See below.)


 

You don't suppose there's a chance any of the models such as shown here might be contacting me with some inquiries, do you?
Nah, I don't figure so, either ...
But an old geezer can dream, can't he?



Wednesday, January 7, 2015

2015 Off To A Great Start --- Available Now > BLAZE! BITTER VALLEY (print version); THE LAWYER: STAY OF EXECUTION; HANNIBAL FOR HIRE (The Joe Hannibal Collection - Volume II)


The term "embarrassment of riches" comes to mind …
In nearly 67 years of living, I've hardly been a stranger to embarrassment. And, except for the monetary kind, I've also enjoyed plenty of the type of riches that really count: love; friendship; decent health; modest levels of achievement and recognition.
But seldom have so many desirable things landed in my lap in such a short amount of time as I've experienced in this transitional span closing out 2014 and starting 2015.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. The pattern for most of my life, though, has been that things tend to go sort of good for a while and then not so good for a while. So a big chunk of Really Good makes me a little nervous about what might be coming around the corner …
Nevertheless, I will welcome the good and savor it for as long as it lasts.
Here's what I'm talking about:


As previously covered here, the exciting new Adult Western series, BLAZE! (created by Steve Mertz), kicked off at the beginning of this week with the launch of three simultaneous titles (BLAZE! by Stephen Mertz; BLAZE! THE DEADLY GUNS by Robert J. Randisi; and BLAZE! BITTER VALLEY by some character named Dundee). The initial releases were only in eBook form – now, as of today, all three are also available in print editions. As I've stated here and in several other places, I'm mighty proud to be part of this. With the series slated to proceed on a schedule of releasing a new title (by a variety of authors) every two months, I'm betting it will be around for a long run and provide a lot of entertainment to a lot of readers.






Available today, THE LAWYER: STAY OF EXECUTION is the first in a new hardboiled Western series based on characters created David Cranmer (aka Edward A. Grainger). The Lawyer first appeared in a powerful short story by Cranmer/Grainger featured in Thomas Pluck's charity anthology PROTECTORS (to benefit Protect.org) – which is also included as an addendum to this new release.
Once an ambitious, successful attorney with a wife and two children, J.D. Miller came home from court one day to find his entire family butchered, their barely recognizable remains left in charred ruins … Rising out of the ashes like a phoenix, The Lawyer was born. Now he roams the West on a revenge trail to hunt down and deliver his own harsh justice on the savages who wiped out his loved ones … Initially available in eBook form, print edition to follow soon.





Finally, also launched today, HANNIBAL FOR HIRE is my second volume of previously published Joe Hannibal novels (And Flesh And Blood So Cheap; The Fight In The Dog; and The Day After Yesterday) --- a "boxed set" collection if you will, available at an incredibly generous meant to introduce/re-introduce readers to Hannibal. Joe's appearances over 30-plus years have been widespread and somewhat sketchy, receiving nice critical attention but never really connecting with a wide readership.
Volume III (HANNIBAL AT RISK) will be available shortly … and a brand new Hannibal novel will be coming out by spring.







In closing, I feel I should acknowledge (without seeming boastful, I hope) that my sales in the Western genre over the past couple months have really escalated … at least based on my personal expectations measured against past performance. Late last fall, I revised, re-packaged, re-priced, and re-launched several existing titles (along with some new ones) under my own Bil-Em-Ri Media. The response has been very gratifying.
I'm proud (and again not meaning to be boastful) to say that as of this writing I have six books on Amazon's Top 100, most of them in the top 50.
I want to convey that I am very, very grateful to the readers responsible for this. I hope you enjoyed the reading experience. For those of you who did, I promise to do my darnedest to keep putting out more work that you'll like … I hope you spread the word, and I hope there are a lot more of you out there.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Available Now: BLAZE! A New Adult Western Series



 Today marks the kick-off to an exciting new Adult Western series created by Stephen Mertz and published by James Reasoner's Rough Edges Press. The launch features three --- count 'em, THREE! --- brand new titles by three well-known authors in the action-adventure/western genre. Going forward, there will be a new title every two months by other top name writers. These initial titles are appearing first as eBooks, but print copies will also soon be available. Same for forthcoming titles.

I'm honored to have been invited to participate in this exciting venture and honored even more to be part of this opening salvo and to be in the company I'm in.

Ready for some gun-blazing, hard-ridin' (in more ways than one) action straight out of the wildest corners of the Old West? Then don't delay. Then don't delay ... Start following the adventures of J.D. and Kate Blaze right from the get-go!

 


 


J.D. and Kate Blaze are two of the deadliest gunfighters the Old West has ever seen. They also happen to be husband and wife, as passionate in their love for each other as they are in their quest for justice on the violent frontier!

BLAZE! is the first novel in a thrill-packed, all-new Adult Western series created by bestselling action/adventure author Stephen Mertz. J.D. and Kate find themselves facing a deadly ambush by Apaches, then they're hired to track down a gang of ruthless outlaws led by the beautiful, savage bandit queen Rosa Diablo. It's gun-swift excitement all the way in this gritty tale from Stephen Mertz.






Husband and wife gunfighters Kate and J.D. Blaze are hired to track down a gang of rustlers, but what they don't know is that they're going to find themselves in the middle of a three-cornered war, playing each side against the others. If they're lucky they'll collect three payoffs instead of one...but will those payoffs be in gold—or hot lead?! 

Legendary Western author Robert J. Randisi, creator of The Gunsmith, joins the Blaze! team with this fast-action novel of treachery, revenge, passion, and blistering gunplay. From the finest hotels in Denver to a savage showdown in a ghost town, The Deadly Guns is adventure all the way!







J.D. and Kate Blaze, the Old West's only pair of husband-and-wife gunfighters, just want to enjoy their vacation in a beautiful Colorado valley, calling it the honeymoon they never had. But a runaway buggy draws them into a deadly vendetta that threatens the life of one of J.D.'s old friends. Belle Braeden, once a San Francisco soiled dove, is now the wife of one of Colorado's richest ranchers, a fact that the man's spoiled children don't appreciate. When murder strikes, Kate and J.D. have to track down a killer and fight for their own lives against a gang of deadly bushwhackers! 

Wayne D. Dundee, one of today's bestselling and most acclaimed Western authors, spins a lightning-fast, action-packed yarn in BITTER VALLEY, the third book in the all-new BLAZE! series. Trouble always seems to follow J.D. and Kate Blaze, and they answer with hot lead!


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Available Now: THE NAME IS HANNIBAL (The Joe Hannibal Collection - Volume I)




Having recently regained all publishing rights to my Joe Hannibal PI books, I am planning to re-release the existing novels, under my own Bil-Em-Ri banner, as a trio of three-title "boxed set" eBooks, very attractively priced, all with "theme" covers by the very talented David Foster.

While Hannibal has been on the scene for over three decades, making him one of the longest running still-active fictional PIs, that span of time and the on-off/sketchy availability of some of the titles during then has kept him, shall we say, less than a household name. This boxed set offering and the modest pricing (only $1.49 for three full-length novels coming in at a total of over 250,000 words) is geared to attract new readers and maybe re-vitalize the interest of some former ones.

This first volume --- under the over-arcing title THE NAME IS HANNIBAL, featuring the novel-length works The Burning Season, The Skintight Shroud, and The Brutal Ballet --- just went live on Amazon.

Here's the cover blurb:


For over three decades, Joe Hannibal has stood tall on the fictional PI landscape. The Hannibal books and stories have been translated into several languages and have been nominated for an Edgar, an Anthony, and a total of six Shamus Awards.


Almost from the outset, Hannibal was dubbed "the blue collar PI" due in equal parts to the series' initial smaller-city setting of Rockford, Illinois, and its surrounding rural areas - as well as to the middle class roots and values that his creator brought to the writing. Later, after author and character both moved to the even more rural setting of west central Nebraska, the distinction only deepened.


Hannibal has matured and evolved as a character and the writing has been honed to a finer edge. But the admiration for and love of the PI genre that was always at the core and heart of the series has never changed.

 While new Hannibals continue to be written, the original titles, although somewhat sketchily available over the years, remain strong, entertaining works. In order for readers to be able to discover this for themselves, a series of "boxed set" collections is being re-issued.

 Volume I, presented here, features the first three full-length Hannibal novels:

            THE BURNING SEASON

            THE SKINTIGHT SHROUD

            THE BRUTAL BALLET

The next two volumes --- HANNIBAL FOR HIRE and HANNIBAL AT RISK --- will be available soon. To follow through on this kick-off effort, I have currently begun a new Hannibal novel, tentatively called A CHILL WITHIN THE SUNLIGHT, that should be out early next year.

Hope you check out some (or all!) of the foregoing. I think you'll be glad you did.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Another Look: THE ROCKETEER (1991 movie)


At the time I saw this movie when it was first released back in '91, I was familiar with the comic book origin of the character as created by Dave Stevens, but had never seen or read any of the tales in that format. That remains the case yet today. Which is not meant in any negative way other than as an admission that my exposure to the Rocketeer and his story starts and ends with this film.
My reasons for being interested when the movie came out were rooted pretty firmly in the old Commando Cody TV series that I watched and liked a lot as a kid; and also TV exposure to the old Republic Pictures serials that first introduced a "Rocket Man" cinema hero. There were three of those movies --- King of the Rocket Men, Radar Men from the Moon, and Zombies of the Stratosphere. While the hero had basically the same jet pack, helmet, etc., in only one of them (Radar Men) was he called Commando Cody. And when Cody showed up in his own TV series, he for some reason wore a Lone Ranger-type mask under his flying helmet. It was all rather confusing, but as a kid I don't recall minding too much, I just liked the flying scenes with the jet pack and all the fist fights and other action. As far as story and/or plots I don't know that I ever noticed and I sure as heck don't remember enough to tell you even a shred of one today.

So catching up with ol' helmet head and his flaming back pack thirty-some years later, when Rocketeer came out, seemed like a fun idea. Okay, I'll toss out another admission … Another chance to ogle Jennifer Connelly, fresh on the heels of her appearances in Career Opportunities and The Hot Spot, maybe also factored a tiny bit in wanting to catch this flick.
And I probably would have ended up figuring that the clinging white satin gown she wore throughout the whole last half of the movie made it worth the price of admission even if the rest of the movie was a stinker.
But the added good news was – and is – that the movie is far from a stinker. It is clever and well done straight across the board. Offering a well-balanced mix of humor and romance and action --- up to and including a terrific serving of good old-fashioned derring-do and even a nice dose of rousing patriotism. When a gang of L.A. hoodlums are standing shoulder-to-shoulder with a team of G-men as they are using Tommy guns to blast a pack of invading Nazis who've landed via a giant dirigible, the head gangster proclaims, "I may be a crook and an outlaw, but ahead of that I'm a red-blooded American and I hate stinkin' Nazis!" … well, doggone it, it's kinda stirring. As is the moment when the Rocketeer, just before he takes flight to go save the girl and give what-for to the slimy traitor who has been aiding and abetting the Nazis, pauses on the rooftop of an observatory and is posed momentarily against a giant, rippling American flag. The whole thing is played slightly tongue in cheek, but at the same time with a lot of sincerity.

The time is 1938. The central plot to all of this is a race between a team of G-men and a pack of Nazi spies (aided by the local hoods who at first are unaware that it's Nazis they are dealing with) to get their hands on the rocket pack that has fallen inadvertently into the hands of a barn-storming stunt pilot (who will, through trial and error and the series of circumstances forced upon him, become "the Rocketeer"). The Nazis want to use the jet pack as a prototype to develop an aerial "army" of heavily armed rocket men who will invade out of the sky in great swarms. The Feds (assisted by none other than Howard Hughes, whose resources developed the rocket pack) are bent on stopping them.

In addition to the aforementioned Ms. Connelly, the rest of the cast includes: Billy Campbell as Cliff Secord/The Rocketeer; Alan Arkin as his mentor and airplane mechanic Peevy; Paul Sorvino as Eddie Valentine, the mob boss; and Timothy Dalton as Neville Sinclair, a swashbuckling Errol Flynn-type movie star who is in reality a Nazi collaborator.

It's all great fun, done with a lot of energy and in fine style. If you've never seen it or not in a while, you really ought to hunt it down and give it a viewing.
I watched it the other night, for the first time in a long time, with my youngest grandson. He enjoyed the heck out of it … and I did too!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Noteworthy Reads: THE SHORTHORN KID by Hugh Pendexter



Meet the Shorthorn Kid! From where he came, no one was sure. But one thing was certain, his natural skill with a six-gun! Ride along with Tall Tim, Dick and Manuel as the Kid evolves from greenhorn to a seasoned cowhand in this string of rousing Western adventures.

That's the cover blurb for this collection of highly entertaining "pulp" tales by Hugh Pendexter and it does a good, succint job of summing what is contained within.
When Tom Roberts, head honcho at Black Dog Books, first contacted me about possibly doing an introduction for THE SHORTHORN KID - And Other Tales of the Old West, I was very honored. While, as I explain in said intro, I was at that point familiar with neither The Shorthorn Kid nor the byline of Mr. Pendexter, I was familiar with Black Dog Books and the fine line of pulp reprints being issued under their banner. As it turned out, not only was the invitation an honor but the stories I got to read in preparation for it was a great treat.
While originally written and published in the late 20s and early/mid 30s, these stories are as fresh and exciting as if they were brand new. Not only was Hugh Pendexter a sure hand with the turn of a phrase but he "knew his beans", so to speak, about the working life of "waddie" cowpokes. Sure, there are fictional flourishes of action and blazing guns, but the in-between banter and humor that takes between the Kid and his ranch hand pals comes across as real and gritty as if you were right there in the bunkhouse or out on the trail with them.
If you like Westerns and especially if you like pulp fiction from the golden age, you will want to check out THE SHORTHORN KID ... And, while you're at it, check out the whole line of exciting pulp fiction available from Black Dog Books (www.blackdogbooks.net). You'll be glad you did!