Friday, August 31, 2012


This novel is the debut entry in an exciting, ambitious series being put out by Western Fictioneers. It is a "shared universe" concept with the universe being Kansas, 1871, in the vicinity of the fictional town of Wolf Creek. This novel and others to follow (several more are already planned) will be written by a handful of Western Fictioneers authors, each writer contributing one or two chapters centered on a particular character he or she has chosen and each sequence flowing into the overall storyline.
It sounds more complicated than it is, really, especially when placed in the hands (or at the key-stroking fingertips, I guess I should say) of professionals. And all you need to do is read WOLF CREEK: BLOODY TRAIL to be convinced that the results can add up to a top-notch read. 

The opening chapters of BLOODY TRAIL are slowed somewhat by the introduction of numerous characters and the richly detailed back stories provided for many of them. This is necessary, however, due to the scope of the cast and the ways in which their pasts will play a part in events to come. As it says in the novel's Introduction, "everyone in Wolf Creek has a secret." And, boy, does that ever prove out. Without the earlier background details, it would be nearly impossible to keep track of the individual participants once the action kicks in.
When it comes, the action is fast, brutal, and bloody. It is initiated by a ruthless gang of marauders, former Confederate guerillas, led by a cold-blooded killer named Danby. The Danby gang hits Wolf Creek in a military-style sweep, robbing and pillaging, mercilessly killing men, women, and children—as well as nearly all of the horses in town in order to prevent pursuit.
But a posse of misfits is put together by sheriff G.W. Satterlee, drawing from what able men and horses are still available, and pursuit is nevertheless undertaken. The posse's aim is to catch up with the bloodthirsty gang before they reach safety in the Indian Nations.
Many surprises and plot twists—and plenty more action and gunplay—take place before the conclusion is reached. The different writing styles mesh flawlessly and the overall results make for a highly entertaining and satisfying reading experience.
Strongly recommended.

Persevere --- WD

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


Okay, I'll cut right to it—I enjoyed the hell out of this movie!

If you're looking for intricate plotting, concrete logic, or richly layered characterizations … well, you might want to check somewhere else. However, if you're interested in a testosterone-laced dose of gritty, kick-ass, "tough guy" action like they used to make back in the day—then this should be right up your alley.
And best of all it's done with real live stuntmen using squibs and pyro and spring-loaded vehicle flips that you can follow with the naked eye, rather than sequences presented in a showy CGI blur that leaves you wondering "what the hell just happened?" even after the action has slowed.

No, wait a minute … I guess that's the second best part.
The best has got to be, hands down, the cast: Stallone, Statham, Lundgren, Li, Van Damme, and—in lesser roles, but much more substantial ones than in the first Expendables—Schwarzenegger and Willis; plus, this time around, Mr. Chuck Norris. These are some of the main names who put their stamp on the past wave of tough guy actioners and, although they're each considerably longer in the tooth, they still damn well know how to bring it. Plus, it should be noted, they are capably aided by newer comers: Terry Crews, Randy Couture, Liam Hemsworth, and Nan Yu.

The Expendables 2 is basically told in two chapters. The opening segment is a rousing rescue by the Expendables team of billionaire a Chinese businessman being held for ransom in Nepal. They accomplish their objective with lots of shooting, smashing, crashing, and a good deal of hand-to-hand fighting. In addition to extracting the businessman they also rescue a fellow mercenary, Stallone's old rival Schwarzenegger (playing a character named Trench). And you just know we haven't seen the last of him.

Following quickly on the heels of the Nepal mission, the Expendables team is coerced (by Bruce Willis, reprising his role as the mysterious "Mr. Church") into taking another job, this one in Albania, to recover a critical piece of hardware from a plane that has crashed in remote mountains. They are forced to take a female operative along with them who is specially trained in defusing an explosive device that will go off unless it is handled in precisely the correct way.
Initially, this mission is also a success. But before the team can withdraw with their prize, they are ambushed by a gang of international thugs/arms dealers (led by Jean Claude Van Damme) who seizes it from them and in the process brutally kill the Expendables' youngest member (Hemsworth).
Now the mission becomes not only retrieving the stolen hardware (an electronic map to a huge cache of weapons-grade plutonium left buried in an abandoned mine by the former Soviet Union) but also exacting revenge for their fallen comrade. When asked what they are going to do, Stallone's answer (in that guttural growl that only Stallone can manage) is: "Track 'em … Find 'em … Kill 'em!"

God, I love retribution stories!

It should go without saying that, before all is said and done, the team succeeds in doing what Stallone so succinctly defined. In this final phase, everybody shows up to help get the job done. Schwarzenegger and Willis are in the thick of the big final conflict at a metropolitan airport. Norris, who showed up earlier in a critical sequence, also returns, despite his oft-stated status of being a "Lone Wolf" (a nod toward Lone Wolf McQuade, one of his most popular prior films).
Overall, despite the graphic violence and high body count, there is a somewhat lighter feel to this movie as opposed to the darker, more intense tone of its predecessor. This is mostly due to all the tough guy banter salted throughout the film. It contains plenty of good lines, but the best and most humorous ones involve Schwarzenegger and Willis. The screenwriters overdo it just a tad with all the "I'll be back" references given Arnie, but most of them still rate a chuckle or at least a wry smile. The best exchange came at a point during the massive shoot-out in the airport … ARNIE: "I'm running out of ammunition. I'll be back." … WILLIS: "You're always back. Let me be the one who comes back this time." … ARNIE: "All right then. Yippi-ki-yay."
After which, I couldn't help noticing, Arnie manages to fire off about a thousand more rounds before Bruce returns. When he does, he arrives in some kind pint-sized car. Arnie has to rip off the door in order to fit in … ARNIE: "I have a shoe bigger than this car." … BRUCE (ripping off his own door so he can extend his shooting arm): "Never mind, just shoot something!"

But there are some intense moments, too. The big retribution I spoke of before? It comes at the conclusion of a great fight sequence between Stallone and Van Damme. I won't spoil it by relating too much, but let me just say that the pay-off is very satisfying.

I'll close the same way I started … I enjoyed the hell out of this movie!

Persevere --- WD

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Noteworthy Reads: THE SUCKER by Orrie Hitt

Orrie Hitt reportedly wrote over 150 books in his time, pounding them out on a manual typewriter at his kitchen table while drinking coffee and chain-smoking cigarettes.
Since I've only read about forty of his titles, I guess I can't say with absolutely certainty that THE SUCKER is his best one … but it sure is the best I've encountered so far.
Good enough, at least, so that parts of it stuck vividly in my mind thirty or so years after first reading it. And when I went back and read the Prologue Books eBook re-issue just a couple of days ago, it held up beautifully, every bit as good as I remembered.

THE SUCKER tells the tale of one Slade Harper, a tough, embittered, knockaround engineer who's seen and done it all in many far-flung parts of the world. Jilted years earlier by his first wife, he trusts no one—especially women—and makes it a point to leave no lasting friendships behind whenever he decides to pull up stakes and moves on. Naturally, this kind of attitude makes Slade irresistible to women and causes other guys to walk careful around him.
This book opens only a few weeks after Slade has arrived in the small east coast town of Litchfield to claim the filling station/garage he won in a poker game in Iceland. The garage is a dump and what the guy he won it from didn't mention was that he had a sister who was living there and running the place. The sister, of course, is a lovely, wide-eyed blonde who accepts Slade's bona fides without much question and allows him to move in, sleeping on a cot next to the grease rack.
A passage early on establishes their relationship and sets the tone for Slade's outlook on things, as well as being a fine example of Hitt's writing style: " …In a few minutes she would be up, wandering around in that red robe which kept falling open all the time. Some day, I figured, she was going to lose that robe. I didn't know what I'd do if she did. I grinned … Like hell I didn't know."
But cute little Cleo is too nice a girl to sustain Slade's interests for very long. Slinky, sultry Rita enters the picture and, along with her, a scheme for Slade to put his engineering skills to work as part of bilking Rita's partner out of a lucrative auto parts business. Lots of lust and love-making ensues—spiced by double-dealing, money manipulation, a murder, a suicide, abortion, and a last minute switcheroo (as telegraphed by the title). In addition to Cleo and Rita, a handful of other women—Doris, Beth, and Marie—throw themselves willingly in Slade's path. Not all of them make it out unscathed … And neither does Slade.

This is "the shabby Shakespeare of Vintage Sleazecore" at his very best.
This is what made Orrie Hitt the most popular byline in the genre at a time when most others were "house names" covering a handful of contributors.
The sex scenes are incredibly tame by today's standards, but Hitt could always be counted on to describe a woman—especially the bad girls—in ways that made the pages smolder.

Prologue Books has several of the Hitt titles available at very reasonable prices. Don't think you'd be disappointed if you gave some of them a try.

Persevere — WD

Monday, August 13, 2012

Noteworthy Reads: FORT WORTH NIGHTS by James Reasoner

The 1980 novel TEXAS WIND first introduced Cody, James Reasoner's Fort Worth-based PI, to readers. It remains Cody's only novel-length appearance, despite being highly lauded and nowadays considered something of a cult classic.

Yet while Reasoner penned no further full-length adventures featuring Cody, he did write a number of Cody short stories that appeared in various publications between 1982 and 1988. These stories—along with a brand new one—have now been gathered together for this fine collection entitled FORT WORTH NIGHTS.

Cody is outwardly a common guy type with simple tastes and an easy manner. But he is methodical and tenacious when on the job, sharp at picking up clues and nuances, and not easily swayed from accomplishing whatever he's hired to do. He doesn't regularly carry a gun, but certainly knows how to use one (a wide variety, in fact) when need be. He knows how to handle himself when it comes to the physical stuff, too.

The stories contained here are fast-paced, interesting, filled with colorful people and settings, a good dose of action, and covering a wide range of crimes and exciting plot twists. All told in Reasoner's forthright style, setting just the right tone for the time, place, and most of all for the character of Cody himself.
The new story, "Assisted Dying", written especially for this collection, brings us a Cody who has aged appropriately since the earlier adventures and is quite aware of the fact he is grown older and has certain limitations. But he knows how to work within them … and proves quickly enough that he still isn't someone to be trifled with.

For me, reading these stories—old and new—was like reminiscing with an old friend I hadn't seen in a while. It was a great visit … one I would welcome again soon.
Highly recommended.

Persevere --- WD

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Noteworthy Reads: New Westerns by Peter Brandvold (Frank Leslie)

Nobody currently on the scene writes more exciting Westerns than Peter Brandvold, who also uses Frank Leslie as the byline on several of his titles. In fact, considering his prolific output and the popularity of his work, it wouldn't be hard to make the case that a big chunk of credit for the resurgence in overall popularity the Western presently seems to be enjoying, could be laid directly at Peter's Rocky Mountain doorstep.

And the best news is that Peter isn't showing any signs of slowing down. If anything, he's gaining momentum by recently firing up Mean Pete Press and turning out his own brand of eBooks featuring backlog titles and several brand new ones. Peter's passion for creating action-packed yarns filled with colorful characters caught up in wild adventures against vividly painted Old West backdrops is unmatched.
You can catch his own colorful observations and general outlook on the world of writing by following his blog at or on his web site at . He's also on Facebook.

In the meantime, here are three of his most recent releases:

This is the first entry in a new series featuring Confederate Army Lt. James Dunn and his loyal friend and fellow Reb, Crosseye Reeves. In this debut, the pair find themselves far from the war-torn Deep South, caught up in the sweep of the boisterous West and then drawn on down to savage Old Mexico. Their goal is a fabled treasure that will change their lives—if they manage to survive—and maybe provide the Confederacy one last chance at its own survival.

BULLET FOR A VIRGIN (Peter Brandvold)
In Peter's own words, this is a "spicy pulp Western" and it lives up to its billing perfectly. This time out the protagonist is one Rio Concho Kid, a half-Apache drifter on the dodge from the law north of the border. Peter loves series characters (as do I) and promises that we will be seeing more of the Kid. In BULLET he comes to the aid of the beautiful Tomasina, who is fleeing an arranged marriage with a savage brute named San Gabriel. Before the Kid can deliver her into the hands of her true love, lots of bullets will fly and the Kid will have a suspenseful final showdown with the bounty hunter sent to return Tomasina—El Leproso, The Leper! This is great, gritty, pulpy entertainment done to perfection.

OLD GUN WOLF (Frank Leslie)
This is taut, atmospheric wilderness suspense reminiscent of Jack London. Wilbur Calhoun is an ex gunfighter seeking to quietly live out the remainder of his days on his mountain ranch in the company of his old dog. The days of blazing guns, robbing trains, fighting Indians, dodging posses … that's all behind him. He thinks. Until one snowy evening when a young U.S. Marshal claiming to be his son shows up to arrest him for the murder of his wife—and the young man's mother—twenty-five years ago back in Tennessee. Before anyone makes it off the mountain, however, there are hard lessons to be taught about the truth not always being what it seems and how it is sometimes best to leave the past dead and buried.

These are prime examples of Brandvold's range and skill.
Take it from me, you are sure to be well entertained by anything with his byline(s) on it.

Persevere — WD