Thursday, November 29, 2012


Lengthy, interesting (hopefully) interview with yours truly up today in the Belly Up To The Bar feature on Thomas Pluck's entertaining "PLUCK YOU, TOO!" blog. You can check it out here: 

Please have a look, and feel free to leave a comment.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Guest Blogger: Michael A. Black, co-author, THE SHAOLIN COWBOY ADVENTURE MAGAZINE

Mike Black recently retired from the Blue Island, Illinois, police force with too many decorations and citations to count. He is also a kick-boxer and multi-talented author with numerous stories, articles, and books to his credit, including the Ron Shade PI series, the Leal and Hart police procedurals, and the fantastic adventures of Doc Atlas, his homage to the legendary Doc Atlas.
Recently, Mike teamed with award-winning artist Geof Darrow and best-selling author Andrew Vachss to try and capture the wildly adventurous pulp-style heroics of the 30s and 40s. Resurrecting Darrow's previously heralded "Shaolin Cowboy", the results are to be found in THE SHAOLIN COWBOY ADVENTURE MAGAZINE (available everywhere, including this Amazon link: I'll turn it over to Mike now to tell you how this whole undertaking came about:           



The Shaolin Cowboy Rides Again by Michael A. Black

The first time I officially met Geof Darrow I thought he looked familiar. He must have remembered me as well because he asked, “Have we met before?” It turned out that we had crossed paths previously, but neither of us remembered. It took our mutual good friend, mentor, and brother, Andrew Vachss, to make the formal introduction. Andrew was on one of his book tours and had stopped in Chicago. As part of “The Wolf Pack” (Andrew, Mike McNamara, Zak Mucha, and me) I always spend as much time as I can with him when he visits. This particular day he wanted to pay a visit to another good friend, Geof Darrow, who also lives in Chi-town.
I was familiar with Geof’s work. He’s an enormously talented artist and has illustrated several best selling graphic novels and comic books. His work on Hard Boiled (with Frank Miller) and The Big Guy and Rusty Robot were legendary in the comic book field, as was his satirical take on the “chop sockie” martial arts movies, The Shaolin Cowboy. Fascinated by Darrow’s incredible artistic ability, I’d purchased all of these works before I met him. But I didn’t put it together that this was the same Geof Darrow until Andrew introduced us. That’s when Geof and I kind of stared at each other, both thinking we’d met somewhere before.
We’d actually met a few years prior at a pulp con in the Chicago area. I’d rented a table there and was hawking copies of my new Doc Atlas novel, Melody of Vengeance. I’ve always been a fan of the pulps and Melody was my homage to the genre. It was a labor of love—a pastiche of the traditional, larger than life pulp characters told with a retrospective hindsight. It turned out to be a long day in which many people stopped by to chat about the pulps. One such guy was a big dude who looked to be about six-foot-six if he was an inch. He looked at Melody and mentioned he’d always been a fan of Doc Savage and the Shadow. I don’t remember much about our conversation, except that the guy’s quiet manner kind of reminded me of Ron Ely, who had played Doc Savage in the George Pal’s ill-fated production, The Man of Bronze.
I thought no more about the pulp con or the conversation with the big guy until a few years later when Andrew introduced us.
“You two guys should get along great,” he said. “You’re both fans of the old pulps.”
Geof showed us his impressive collection of pulp magazines and the more we talked, the more I felt that we’d met somewhere before. Finally, I mentioned my Doc Atlas stories and Geof snapped his fingers. “Weren’t you at the Windy City Pulp Con a few years ago?” he asked.
Then it dawned on me: he was that big guy who’d stopped by my table to chat. We’ve been fast friends ever since.
“What? You two know each other?” Andrew asked. This was one of the few times that I can remember him being surprised by anything.
In addition to working in the field of comics and graphic novels, Geof also does work for motion pictures. He did the concept designs for the immensely popular Matrix movies and even had a cameo in one of them. (I’ll leave it to you to find him, but he’s the only guy in the movie who’s wearing glasses.)
Fast forward a few years to the present. Geof called me and asked if I was interested in writing a story as a back-up feature for his latest project. “We’re doing a knock-off of the old pulps for Dark Horse,” he said. “It’ll be called, The Shaolin Cowboy Adventure Magazine, and Andrew is writing the main story.”
I told him I would be honored to be part of it.
Originally, we wanted to use a Doc Atlas story, but the Doc novellas tend to run a bit long, just like the old pulp versions, so we had to select something else. Geof had already sent me a prototype of the cover, which was beautifully painted by Scott Gustafson, and it featured the Shaolin Cowboy battling a Tyrannosaurus Rex with a nunchauk. The T-Rex was holding a beautiful babe in its claw as its serpentine tongue flicked toward her.
“There’s no damsel in distress in the actual story,” Geof told me, “but this is supposed to be an homage to the old pulps. They always had a beautiful girl in danger on the covers.”
I understood completely, and thought that the cover was reminiscent of those grand paintings by the great artists of the thirties and forties.
“It just so happens I have a dinosaur story myself,” I said. “It’s called ‘Time Factor’.”
Geof asked to see it and the rest, as they say, is history.
“Time Factor” is my first published sci-fi story and I think it would have fit perfectly in one of the old pulp magazines. It features a military squad sent back in time to the Cretaceous period where they encounter some real, live dinosaurs. Geof got his friend, artist Gary Gianni, to do the illustrations and they are magnificent. When I first saw the galleys I thought I’d been sent back in time to the 1930s and was looking at one of the original pulp magazines.
Andrew did a fabulous job writing the main feature, “The Way of No Way,” featuring the Shaolin Cowboy and Geof provided his customary, excellent illustrations. He also put in some other witty bits of satire giving the mag the appearance of an actual pulp from a bygone era. Andrew said he had a lot of fun writing the story, and if you read it, you’ll see why. And as I said before, I am honored to have been part of this one.
Michael A. Black

If you like your reading wild, wooly, pulpy, and imaginative, be sure to check out this collaboration. You won't be sorry you did.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Available Now: BODY COUNT - The Joe Hannibal Case Files, Volume I

My blue collar PI Joe Hannibal made his debut in the Fall 1982 issue of Spiderweb Magazine, marking this his 30th year in print and making the Hannibal stories and books one of the longest-running, still-active series on the fictional PI scene.

In recognition of this, we have just released a collection of Hannibal stories that span his 30-year (so far) career, starting with his first appearance in the never before reprinted "The Fancy Case" through to "The Hard Side of Heartbreak", an original tale written exclusively for this collection. Also included is the Edgar-, Anthony-, and Shamus-nominated title piece, "Body Count."

The cover blurb reads: "Six short stories, thirteen homicides, five hot dames, and one tough PI ... "

For the sales copy listing on Amazon, Hannibal himself lays it out this way:

"My name's Hannibal. Joe Hannibal.
When you've carried a PI ticket for as many years as I have, you're likely to have run up against plenty of different kinds of trouble in plenty of different places.

It might come in the form of a runaway Illinois wife whose flight ends up making her a target for far worse than what she was trying to run away from … Or it might be a couple of former partners in the bodybuilding racket whose competitiveness triggers a jealous rage neither of them ever saw coming … Or maybe a high priced call girl whose client list turns into a hit list when the obsession of a highly dangerous man turns lethal.

In laid-back rural Nebraska, a thick late-night fog can hold more danger than even the spooky conjuring of an overly imaginative young boy … Or a planned hike through a stretch of remote "badlands" can turn into a life-or-death struggle with a predatory psychopath … And a country western band on the brink of elusive stardom might find their success blocked yet again when deep, simmering secrets from within its members suddenly and destructively boil to the surface.

You don't have to take my word for it. I've opened up my files and laid bare some of my most memorable cases spanning the past thirty years. Get ready to discover that there are 'mean streets' to be found everywhere—not just in the bowels of a big city."

All told, there are almost 50,000 words of hardboiled action here --- for the super-bargain price of only $0.99!
The intent is to hopefully revitalize readers' interest in the Hannibal series and whet their appetites for the new full-length Hannibal novel, BLADE OF THE TIGER, coming in December.
Both BODY COUNT and BLADE will be initially released in eBook format, with print versions to follow in a few weeks.

If you're already familiar with Joe Hannibal, I think you'll enjoy another look at these stories and the new one alone ought to be worth the 99 cents.
If you haven't read the Hannibal series before, this is a good place to start. And if you're a mystery/PI fan I'm counting on you wanting to check out some more titles in the series.
You can follow the link at the top right hand corner of the page or simply click on this: to find a complete listing of my Hannibal books as well as my Westerns and other work.

Hope you give some of 'em a try, I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Persevere --- WD


Friday, November 16, 2012

Noteworthy Reads: RANCHO DIABLO-THE HOLD UP by Colby Jackson
THE HOLD UP is the seventh entry in the popular RANCHO DIABLO series and is yet another fine example of exactly why the series is so popular. Writing chores under the "Colby Jackson" byline alternate book to book between authors Bill Crider, James Reasoner, and Mel Odom—with Mr. Odom being the one wearing the Jackson hat this time around.
The trick to keeping any good series fresh to have some growth, some change, some evolvement within the recurring cast of characters as well as new characters that wander in and out of the various storylines. Again, all those things are present here as evidence of what makes this series so entertaining.
There has always been a strong bond, usually quickly formed, between Sam Blaylock and his family and the hands who come to work for then on the Rancho Diablo ranch. This is important because there also has always been friction between the townspeople of nearby Shooter's Cross and anyone associated with Blaylock's brand. Much of this is due to jealousy over the success of the ranch and the sawmill connected to it. These hard feelings ("as constant as chiggers in high grass," Marhsal Everett Tolliver muses early on in this book) are stirred at every opportunity by Mitchell McCarthy, owner/editor of the town newspaper, who harbors his own personal grudge against  "those barbaric cowboys from Rancho Diablo."
All of this figures into the plot of THE HOLD UP when one of Rancho Diablo's newer hands, Randy Post, is found kneeling beside the dead body of Jessie Holden, a popular saloon girl, in the alley out back of the Wooden Owl. Prior to this, Randy had been seeing Jessie regularly and had convinced himself that she had genuine feelings for him. But tonight he had arrived in town displaying a jealous rage over reports that Jessie had been seeing other men. This was enough to convince everyone who converged in the alley after hearing gunshots that the boy—even though he was found at her side trying to provide aid and comfort—was guilty beyond any doubt of being her killer.
Yet Marshal Tolliver isn't so easily convinced. For starters, there were reports of two gunshots but Randy's gun was only fired once. Who fired the other shot … and why?
From this instantly intriguing start, the rest of this reader-grabbing tale only picks up momentum.
Naturally refusing to believe that their friend and co-worker is guilty of cold-blooded murder, Sam Blaylock and several of his key hands—including Randy's cousin Bob, and Mike Tucker, Sam's quietly deadly best friend since their days together as Army scouts—ride into Shooter's Cross to help resolve the matter. To the surprise of no one more than themselves (since the marshal has previously tended to side with his town when previously caught in the middle of tensions between Shooter's Cross and Rancho Diablo) Tolliver and Sam end up forming an edgy alliance to get to the bottom of who really killed Jessie—and why.
Before they are through, an amazing amount of double-dealing will be revealed, guns will blaze, a merciless slaughter of innocent people will take place, and not one but two attempted bank robberies will have to be thwarted … until the whole shebang culminates in a frantic shoot-out that finally delivers justice but paints the streets of Shooter's Cross bloody red in the process.
Don't miss this one!
Highly recommended.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Noteworthy Reads: A BOMB BUILT IN HELL by Andrew Vachss

The whole thrust of Andrew Vachss's "fiction"—and, indeed, his life's work—has been to hold up a mirror reflecting back upon society the monsters it is producing every day by the abuses allowed against the young and the vulnerable.
A BOMB BUILT IN HELL was his first attempt to utilize crime fiction as a means to reach a wider audience with this message. The lean, tight prose that would become his trademark was very much in evidence and already honed to a fine edge. Wesley, his protagonist, an ice-cold killer forged by the kind of neglect and abuse Vachss wants the world to recognize for the danger it can create, is as chillingly memorable as any character you'll ever read about.
But for all that—for all the skill and passion that went into the message BOMB was intended to be—no publisher would touch it back in the early 70s when it was first offered. The overriding consensus was that it was simply "too" … too violent, too harsh, too extreme. And plot elements that included events like revolt in Haiti, the rise of Chinese street gangs, and someone entering a high school heavily armed for the sake of blowing away everyone in sight—waaay too outlandish.
All of the foregoing is detailed by Andrew himself in an Author's Note at the start of this newly released edition (available in both print and eBook format, from Vintage Books).
Yet, for too long, A BOMB BUILT IN HELL languished, largely unread and unheralded.
Vachss altered his approach (but never his aim) slightly, and went on to write the extremely popular "Burke" series, starting with FLOOD in 1985. Elements of BOMB, as well as the character of Wesley himself, were worked into the Burke books, most notably in BLUE BELLE and HARD CANDY. And the presence of Wesley, even though he was officially considered dead at the end of CANDY, was felt through the remainder of the series until its conclusion in 2008.

Still, Wesley's complete story needed to be told. In fact, the subtitle of A BOMB BUILT IN HELL is now "Wesley's Story". And while some versions of the novel (including a free download at one point, and a prior eBook) have been available before now, these Vintage versions mark its first professionally done edition.
Although something of a "period" piece now, BOMB has lost none of its impact during the intervening years. In many ways, it is as current as today's headlines.
Vachss's writing skill is just as powerful … And Wesley is every bit as chillingly memorable.
Strongly recommended. Don't miss it.