Sunday, November 16, 2014

Anthology In Memory of C.J. HENDERSON: A Kickstarter Project









Earlier this year, I wrote about the passing of my old pal C.J. Henderson.
My association to Chris went back a long ways and was mainly linked through his Jack Hagee and Teddy London stories and novels.
But Chris wrote extensively in other genres and had a wide, wide range of friends and fans from his writing and the many appearances he made at numerous book conventions and conferences … right up to the end.
It's been brought to my attention that some fine folks who were touched by Chris, either through his writing or appearances or both, are working on a tribute anthology that deserves wide attention.
I pass this on for your consideration:

Danielle Ackley-McPhail has put together a tribute anthology for C. J. Henderson, who passed away last July. She's funding it through Kickstarter. If any of you can spread the word it would be greatly appreciated.
Here's the link
http://kck.st/1xu1DH9





Saturday, November 15, 2014

Noteworthy Reads: THE IRON FISTS OF NED KELLY (Fight Card Books)


This latest in the Fight Card series (with David Foster behind the Jack Tunney byline for a second time) is another case where a rousing fight climax is cleverly interwoven with historical events and people --- such as most recently done with the JFK assassination and a fictionalized extension of the life of pulp writer icon Robert E. Howard.

This time around, the historical figure – as clearly indicated by the title – is Australia's infamous, romanticized, Robin Hood-like outlaw/folk hero, Ned Kelly. Although author Foster manages to incorporate much of Kelly's brief, violent history (he was hanged at age 25) via a "framing" device in which Kelly is talking to a priest before going to the gallows, the main thrust of the tale involves a bare knuckle fight between a young Ned and another rowdy Irishman named Isaiah "Wild" Wright. In an Afterward, Foster reveals that the fight actually did take place, although it may not have been on as grand a scale as re-told here. Kelly and Wright would go on to become good friends and Wright would even become a member of Kelly's gang in later years.
Foster (an Australian himself) clearly knows and has a fondness for his subject matter. His writing style is fast-paced, with frequent cuts in and out of different scenes building up to the prolonged and exciting climactic big fight. A strong sense of time (late 1800s) and place is conveyed, enriched by the use of local slang and a wide range of colorful characters.
All and all, an exciting, rollicking good tale that leaves you feeling as if you were given some real insight into Ned Kelly and the hard, harsh circumstances of the time in which he lived, fought, and rebelled.
You're sure to have a good time with this one.
Recommended.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Noteworthy Reads: UNDERGROUND by Andrew Vachss


This latest work by Andrew Vachss is a futuristic tale of repression, deceit, corruption, control, rebellion … and, ultimately, hope and survival.
Underground has been built by the Rulers to escape the Terror. Whatever the Terror is – or was – is never made quite clear to the citizens of Underground. They need only to believe and trust that the Rulers have their safety and well-being at heart. Strict adherence to the ever-growing, ever-evolving, often harsh "Rules" under which people must live are necessary --- even at the cost of their individual liberties --- in order to survive the Terror. Beyond the protection within Underground's charted tunnels, no one can survive.
A large part of the Rulers' power over Underground comes from control of all news media and education. What is thus imparted becomes the accepted truth. It is only with the rise of the "Book Boys", who begin spray-painting the walls of the tunnels with graffiti done in a specialized blue ink that the real truths are told to citizens who are willing to open their eyes and pay attention. From these words, these truths, a path out from under the thumbs of the Rulers may be found …

As usual with a Vachss book, there are many layers and nuances to this story. Different readers will take away different things; and re-readings may reveal previously unrealized points. In UNDERGROUND, the many parallels to today --- the biased news media, government over-regulation (my take, my opinion), the infringements into our personal freedoms for the sake of our safety and overall good, etc. --- are unmistakable and can be taken as a warning of what might be just around the corner if we aren't careful. The abuse of our young and vulnerable (the theme Vachss always incorporates – "I have but one song to sing" is his often stated goal) is here, too, and is the hinge upon which so much else pivots.
UNDERGROUND is available in a beautifully produced, hardbound graphic novel from Dark Horse Books. The story is from an original screenplay by Andrew Vachss. Scripting is done by Mike Richardson and Chet Williamson. Internal artwork is from Dominic Reardon and Keith Champagne, with a striking front cover by Sean Phillips.
And an afterward ("Leaving the Underground") by the always insightful Zak Mucha provides a fine analysis of the work and an overview of what Mucha calls Vachss's "unrelenting message": Crimes against children are the greatest danger our society faces.

A powerful, important work - not to be missed.
Highly recommended.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The BODIE KENDRICK Series --- Re-formatted, Re-priced, and Ready to Ride into Your Action-Western Library


The supportive hands of the good folks at Bil-Em-Ri Media continue to keep busy.
As a result, the three titles (so far – more coming soon) in my Bodie Kendrick – Bounty Hunter series are now all under the Bil-Em-Ri banner. They've been re-formatted to feature a set of "theme" covers and --- best of all, for potential readers --- they have been re-priced on Amazon Kindle to a bargain $0.99 each.
If you are not yet familiar with the Bodie and his adventures, this is your chance to get caught up at a very modest expense.
Here's what reviewers and peers have had to say about the available titles:
 

"Guaranteed to please fans of hard-edged Western fiction."

"Dynamic tension leading to a satisfying conclusion."

"Plenty of action, sympathetic characters, snappy dialogue, surprising twists, and even a bit of romance."


 

"The protagonist is tough and likeable, the villains are suitably evil, the setting is rendered in vivid prose, and there are plenty of great action scenes."

"Great stuff … Dundee writes the kind of Westerns that harken back to the Golden Age."

"There's tons of adventure, gun-play and romance along with great characters in high stakes situations."


 "In a relatively short period of time, Dundee has become one of the best Western writers in the business."

"Great narrative, lots of action and dialogue, and larger-than-life characters that leap right off the pages."

"Brisk action, old-fashioned adventure --- it's H. Rider Haggard meets Sergio Leone, and Dundee weaves it together masterfully."




Saddle up and ride with Bodie!
I think you'll be glad you did.

Friday, October 31, 2014

ME, POPSICLES, & DRACULA - The Summer of 1958


It seems like I might have done a post of this story at some point in the past, but I'm darned if I can remember where. Maybe it was part of an interview. At any rate, I can't find it in the post history of this blog so, it being Halloween and all, I thought I would go ahead and share it here. If you've read it before and I'm being redundant, my apologies; if it's new to you, I think you might enjoy and maybe get a chuckle from it.  –WD- 

In 1958, when I was ten years old, Hammer Films of England, in the early stages of what would become their signature series of movies re-telling most of the horror lore from the old Universal pictures of the 30s (Frankenstein, The Mummy, Invisible Man, etc.), released their version of Bram Stoker's classic tale, DRACULA. So as not to be confused with Universal's famous earlier version starring Bela Lugosi, in the US Hammer called their version Horror of Dracula. It was a lavish, full-color production starring Christopher Lee as the bloodsucking count and Peter Cushing as his nemesis, Van Helsing. It was quite faithful to Stoker's tale and, to take full advantage of its color feature, it incorporated plenty of bright red blood and dripping fangs to an extent never before seen.
One evening, two of my older cousins invited me along to see Horror of Dracula and The Monolith Monsters at a local drive-in showing. By that point, even at my young age, I had seen dozens of horror movies (although the term "horror" wasn't in vogue yet back then – the TV Guide called them melodramas) on late night presentations shown via the syndicated Shock Theater program, and was never affected by them … But, for whatever reason, I'd never seen Dracula or anything with vampires.
To cut to the chase --- Horror of Dracula, in all its moodiness and gory, bloody color, scared the living crap out of me. The Monolith Monsters (more of a science fiction thing, done in black and white, with a meteorite that crashed to earth and then its shattered remains began rising up into huge columns that eventually toppled and destroyed everything in their path as the rubble crept across the land) didn't bother me one whit.
Then came Dracula … I sat through it without saying anything (although I likely closed my eyes a few times, sitting in the back seat by myself) because there was NO WAY I was going to let my cousins know I was crapping my pants. Nor, after returning home, did I say anything to my parents or anybody else. I was a BIG BOY, see, and couldn't be acting like a sissy.
To make matters worse, where we were living at the time (due to my dad's "hobby" of frequently switching jobs and moving from one rented house to another) was this huge old gray, unpainted monstrosity of a house out in the country that had once been a rural inn. It had no running water or indoor plumbing. The pump was outside and all water for washing, bathing, doing dishes, drinking, etc., had to be pumped and brought inside in buckets. Guess who's job it was to pump a fresh pail of water last thing every night and bring in to be ready for drinking and making coffee in the morning? What was more, the outhouse was across a gravel driveway and then back in some bushes and trees alongside an old shed that we called "the garage".

Up to that point, I'd never been bothered by the dark. Heck, I even enjoyed it. Late in the evening, playing tag or hide-and-go-seek with neighbor kids from down the road, catching lightning bugs, etc. --- I never gave a thought to how late it got.
But after that damn Dracula movie, a trip outside after dark to the pump or – worst of all – to the outhouse, became a dreaded prospect. I just knew that bloodsucking bastard or one of his minions was lurking out there somewhere, waiting for me.
So, because I couldn't let on how much going out after dark suddenly bothered me --- so as not to appear a sissy or fraidy-cat (things that were very serious concerns back in those days) --- I had to figure out some way to overcome my fear. It occurred to me that, in the big climax of the movie, the way Van Helsing had overcome Dracula at the height of their fight was to grab two large candlesticks and hold them up as a sign of the Holy cross. This drove Drac back and forced him into the sunlight, where he ultimately crumbled and died.
So there was my answer. The sign of the cross.
Why it never occurred to me to have my mother buy me a small, simple cross to carry around in my pocket or maybe wear on a chain around my neck, I can't say. Other than to lay it on the impression made by Van Helsing grabbing those candle sticks and holding them up with such a dramatic flourish … My solution, then? My version of that?

Popsicle sticks.
Yeah, you read right --- Popsicle sticks.
Popsicles were a common and popular treat around our house back then. So, once I'd seized on my combat/survival plan, I immediately began gathering up and saving empty Popsicle sticks after the frozen goodness had been eaten off of them.
From then on, I ALWAYS had two or three Popsicle sticks in my pocket. And I had a pile of spares in a drawer in my room. I used to walk around practicing how fast I could whip out a pair and hold them up in the form of a cross. I got so good I could have out-drawn Wild Bill Hickock in his prime. It darn near got to the point where I looked forward to visiting the outhouse after dark, daring that pussy count to make a try for me … darn near, but not quite; not really.
Nevertheless, my Popsicle sticks got me through that summer. I never told anybody my secret. But I was always ready. At some point, I don't recall exactly when, my fears and my habit of carrying the sticks in my pocket ended. A passing phase, like so many we go through when we are young.
Yet today, however, you can still find Popsicles in my freezer. For my grandkids … Or, just maybe, in case that creepy ol' bloodsucker comes lurking around again.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

In Time for Halloween: THE NAKED AND THE UNDEAD - A Novel of Hardboiled Horror


Just in time for Halloween, the busy hands at Bil-Em-Ri Media have regained the rights to this novel that I wrote some time back and had published under the title NIGHT SPOOR. The title was mine but, in retrospect, I think it was a lousy one that played a big part in the book's resounding thud clear down to the bottom of the sales barrel. The previous publisher (whom I won't name, not for lack of gratitude but so as not to embarrass them) did a very nice job with the cover and promotion, so I can't blame them. Still, for whatever reason, NIGHT SPOOR not only never took off, it barely even wiggled its wings in the nest.
But we authors (at least this one) are a stubborn bunch. The things we write are like our little offspring that we trot out into the world and push for them to do well. To others they may appear homely, ungainly, buck-toothed little gremlins, but they are ours, damn it, so we keep pushing and believing ("Look, everybody in the marching band is out of step except my kid!").
For me, so it is with THE NAKED AND THE UNDEAD (aka NIGHT SPOOR). Darn it, I still think it's a pretty decent tale and I believe there is a reading audience for it, out there somewhere. So, with a title change, a couple minor revisions to the content, and a jazzed-up cover, I am once again nudging the offspring to the edge of the nest and hoping this time that it flaps its wings a little stronger than before …

Story-wise, THE NAKED AND THE UNDEAD is a hardboiled crime fiction approach to horror lore. This method has been done before, of course, but my first exposure to it --- and, admittedly, a primary inspiration for me to eventually try my hand at it --- was Jeff Rice's initial novel, THE NIGHT STALKER. I read the book long before I ever saw the famous TV movie and all that it has since spawned.
Basically, my tale is that of a cynical hit man hired to kill a vampire. He doesn't for a minute believe in nonsense like vampires, but for the right price he'll kill anybody he's hired to go after and, for a little extra, even do it in a prescribed manner ("Hell, I'll snap 'em to death with a rubber band, if that's the way you want it"). Wrapped around this premise are various subplots and a cast of other characters --- on both the Good and Evil sides --- who provide some unexpected twists and motives along the way. Giving it all added impetus is the realization soon arrived at by the hit man that his target really is a vampire and that there is evil loose in the world far greater than anything he represents!

As far as the title, it is, of course, a play on Mailer's famous THE NAKED AND THE DEAD. I originally came up with my variation at a time when I was contemplating --- since I couldn't seem to be able to sell anything anywhere else --- trying my hand at a book for the porn novel market that was going pretty strong back then. Hustler, for one, had a line going that incorporated all sorts of other genres (everything from pirates to the science fiction) as long as the tales were heavy on graphic sex. Since writing private eye fiction was my ultimate goal, THE NAKED AND THE UNDEAD was originally planned as having a cynical PI (Mike Rex, I believe I named him) hired to hunt down a vampire. Much later, when the concept again rolled to the front of my consciousness, I'd already established a pretty solid PI in Joe Hannibal, so I brought in the hit man angle instead. And, although the resulting book contains plenty of sex and sensuality, it is not of the overtly graphic nature I first contemplated for the Hustler-type market.

Anyway, THE NAKED AND THE UNDEAD is now available via Amazon Kindle at the bargain price of only $0.99. It is fitting for the Halloween mood and beyond --- an exciting, suspenseful, romantic (yes, romantic) tale of things that go bump in the night and unlikely forces aligned to bump back. I call it "a novel of hardboiled horror" because everything I write has a hardboiled edge to it.
I hope you give it a try.
I think you'll like it.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

THE BEST THING THAT EVER HAPPENED TO ME




On this date forty-eight years ago, the best thing ever to happen to this ol' country boy took place when a beautiful brown-eyed young lady named Pamela Daum said those magic words – "I do" – and became my wife.

Although we would have the marriage blessed in a Catholic Church a few years later, our initial union came as the result of a simple ceremony performed by a judge. We eloped, you see, probably the first serious act of rebellion Pam ever did against her parents, thanks to the influence of impetuous me.

Needless to say, there was a definite chill between me and my brand new in-laws for a while, but eventually I became the favored son-in-law. I'd like to think I earned most of this but, truth to tell, part of it was also due to the fact that the other son-in-laws who came along to marry Pam's sisters proved to be a parade of duds who just kept making me look better by comparison.

The day of that first marriage, the judge scheduled to perform the ceremony forgot the appointment and failed to show up at the courthouse. What was more, I couldn't remember his name. So I had to go to the cop shop next door and start doing cold calls to the list of local judges in hopes of finding the right one; I scored on the third call and he came right over. I always figured he must have been home engrossed in a college football game on TV (it was a Saturday) because, when he did show up, he rattled off the words and the pronouncement in mighty quick order and then took off again. Which was fine with me --- all I wanted was to get started on the honeymoon (you know the main thing on my mind).

With the dodging parents part and the absent-minded judge and all, you might think there were some bad omens in there that should have warned Pam and me we were off on an ill-fated venture. If there were, we failed to pay any attention and blew right past 'em. I never regretted being married or who I was married to for one second; I'm pretty sure Pam never did either.

We had 41 years, 3 months, and 13 days together before she died in my arms in 2008. I could dwell on the sadness of having her gone now --- and, believe me, I am aware of that empty feeling every minute of every day --- but on this day I will instead think about the blessing of having had her for as long as I did.
And why shouldn't I … it was the best thing that ever happened to me.