Sunday, June 30, 2013

THE MAN IN THE MOON by James Reasoner

A new release from James Reasoner is always good news. And when it's a mystery featuring a tenacious new PI, that makes it even more so.
Okay, technically, neither THE MAN IN THE MOON nor its protagonist, Markham, are exactly new. But they are to me (and, I expect, a number of other readers). You see, this title and this PI originally appeared back in 1980 within the pages of Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine. Although I've been reading Reasoner for as far back as 1980 (the same year as his cult classic novel, TEXAS WIND) and also checked out MSMM on a fairly regular basis --- yet I had somehow missed this title and others in the series.

Happily, THE MAN IN THE MOON has now been re-issued as a stand-alone 10,000-word novella for Kindle. What's more, other tales featuring Markham are scheduled to be released soon.

On top of all that good news, I'm happy to report that THE MAN IN THE MOON reads as fresh and entertaining as if it were written yesterday. Yes, there are some outdated references but, hey, that just makes it a period piece, right?
Although based out of LA, in this tale Markham is traveling on his way back home through rural Arizona late at night when he encounters two children walking alongside the road. Markham returns them home and a competent-seeming local sheriff takes over from there, assuring the PI that everything will be taken care of. But we all know how things are in those quiet rural towns, right? Nothing is ever as tranquil and tidy as it seems on the outside. And we also know that a loner PI like Markham isn't going to just walk away without satisfying himself that the kids are going to be okay and all of his questions are answered.
You will be very satisfied, too, with the way Reasoner/Markham wraps everything up. This is a good one --- I'm glad I finally got to meet Markham, and I can't wait to read the other stories featuring him.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

New Bodie Kendrick Novel: DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH - Preview & Special Sales Offer

My new Bodie Kendrick adventure, DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH, will be available on Kindle this coming Saturday (6/29). It's a corker, if I do say so myself. It takes a few bits of history (like the U.S. Army Camel Corps that operated in the Southwest both before and after the Civil War, resulting in a handful of escaped "phantom camels" that roamed the region for decades afterward) and then spins a wild fictional yarn around them.
Here's the Kindle blurb to tease with a few more details:

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.

If that doesn't whet your appetite, how about a sample of the kind of action you'll find inside:

Kendrick was just about to cross the mouth of a narrow, dark alley—after passing through a weak shaft of light that spilled from the window of a print shop with somebody working in the back—when a rifle barked on the opposite side of the street. The bullet passed close enough to singe the hair on the back of his neck before smashing into the corner frame of the shop and spitting back a stinging spray of wood chips.
Kendrick instantly pitched forward off the end of the boardwalk and went into a diving roll as he hit the hard-packed, sandy ground. He continued to roll, twisting and scrambling to make it deeper into the blackness of the alley, the cigar that flew from his mouth leaving a rooster tail of sparks as it sailed through the air.
More shots cracked and roared behind him. Two rifles firing now. Bullets whined all around him, some slapping off the sides of the buildings bordering the alley, others chewing into the dirt behind his frantically digging heels.
Kendrick bumped against a fat wooden rain barrel shoved up to the side of the print shop building. He dragged himself in behind it with one hand, got his Peacemaker unholstered with the other. Slugs continued to slam into the alley. One of them hit the empty rain barrel, making a hollow boom like a drum, and exited an inch above his head.
Scrunching down lower on his belly, Kendrick leaned out cautiously and spotted the muzzle flash across the street from one of the guns firing at him. He wasted no time returning fire, but he’d gained the advantage of having the muzzle flash to aim at. He triggered three rounds just as fast as he could cock and fire and had the satisfaction of hearing someone cry out as if hit. But there was no time to savor this because he’d now revealed his position in the darkness by his own muzzle flash. The second shooter was quick to act on that, pouring in a fresh volley of lead. The wooden barrel boomed and shook crazily as bullets pounded into it.
Kendrick pushed himself up, gathering his legs under him, and then shoved forward hard, away from the barrel, going into another double roll that took him to the opposite side of the alley. He found no cover there, but at least he’d distanced himself from the spot that was drawing such heavy fire. And he noted there was only one rifle firing now, giving a good indication that the cry he’d heard before meant he had indeed scored a hit on one of the shooters. What was more, the volley from the remaining rifleman now had his position revealed. Much like Kendrick, he was in the black maw of the same alley as it continued on the opposite side of the street.
Raising his .44, Kendrick aimed at the flashes he’d seen there and emptied the Colt of its last three loads. After immediately squirming to a new position, he began reloading as fast as his nimble fingers could perform the well-practiced task.
The shooting from across the street had let up also and, after a moment, Kendrick could hear somebody say in a harsh whisper: “Reese! … Reese, you there? … You okay?”
As he shoved fresh shells into the Peacemaker’s cylinder, Kendrick couldn’t resist responding. “No, he ain’t okay, you dumb sonofabitch. I killed him … And now I’m aimin’ to do the same damn thing to you!”

Additionally, as a kind of get-acquainted special offer for those of you who may not be familiar with Kendrick yet, I am offering for three days only --- Friday 6/28 through Sunday 6/30 --- the previous title in the series, RIO MATANZA, for the bargain price of $0.99.
You can buy both titles and still have enough left from a $5 bill for a dollar soft drink from Mickey-Ds. The soft drink may not last long (especially if you're experiencing the kind of heat we're getting out here in Nebraska these days) but the books will give you hours of great Western entertainment.
Trust me, you won't be sorry if you give 'em a try.

Saturday, June 22, 2013


I grew up on the George Reeves version of Superman via the Adventures of Superman TV series that ran throughout the mid-1950s, and then for many years thereafter in syndication. That was probably the peak of my interest in Superman. I remember regularly watching and enjoying the show, but hindsight suggests that may have had as much to do with limited choices for anything else to watch as a genuine fondness for the character.
As far as comic book super heroes in general, my tastes very early on ran more toward Batman and the Challengers of the Unknown. Superman was simply too much --- too invincible, too perfect, etc. Without trotting out some tired old variation of exposing him to krypton, where was any sense of danger or risk or suspense?
I will admit to enjoying the first Superman movie, with Christopher Reeve in the role, but never paid much attention to any of the ones after that (which, from all reports and from the bits and pieces I've since seen of them while flipping through cable TV channels, got rapidly and progressively worse).

Therefore --- getting to the subject at hand in a rather roundabout way --- I was somewhat surprised to find myself interested in seeing the new Superman "reboot", Man of Steel. I guess all of the preview trailers did their job: They hooked me. The edgy tone, the promise of Christopher Nolan and Zack Snyder, etc, all played a part.
In the final analysis (at least mine), Man of Steel is a good action movie that could have been a great film if not for the almost total lack of humor and the excessively long CGI action sequences at both the beginning and end. In between, the heart of the film --- how Kal-el was sent to earth, how the Kents of rural Kansas raised him as their own son Clark, how the boy and then young man learned to cope with and eventually develop his phenomenal powers, how he finally presented himself to our world in order to protect and ultimately save it --- is extremely well done. The performances in rather brief roles by Diane Lane and especially Kevin Costner, as the Kents, are outstanding. And Henry Cavill stamps the lead role as his, pretty much blowing away all who previously have donned the cape and slapped the big S on their chests. Even though Cavill's acting chops may not be that strong, he still sells the hell out of this part. I mean, after all, we're talking Superman here, folks, not Hamlet.

Where the movie falters, in my opinion, is:
First > In the overblown, overlong "framing" sequence on the world of Krypton. There's everything from childbirth (the first natural one, we are told, on that planet in centuries) to flying, four-winged dragons to civil war to manmade environmental disaster to the rebels being condemned to the Phantom Zone … and still the planet implodes, as we knew all along it was going to, but only after the baby Kal-el is placed in an escape pod and launched into space where he will land on Earth and one day become Clark Kent/ Superman.
Second > After the Krypton rebels, led by General Zod, are inadvertently freed from the Phantom Zone by the destruction of their own planet, they search the Universe until they finally track down Kal-el/Superman. From there, a series of battles ensue in the attempt to force Superman to hand over the codex (trust me, some of this is too convoluted for me to begin to try and explain) that will allow them to take over Earth and re-populate it with a new race of Kryptonites. These battles go on and on and on and on and on … get the point? … and involve the destruction of hundreds of Metropolis skyscrapers and various other buildings, buses, cars, planes and helicopters --- not to mention demolishing the farm where Clark/Superman grew up, along with his nearby hometown and, just for good measure, a few anonymous chunks of countryside in between.
I don't have to tell you who ends up winning.

When the dust finally settles (literally), the stage is set for the next entry in this series (which there is certain to be, given the huge monetary success of this one). Man of Steel fades on newly hired "stringer" Clark Kent being introduced to his co-workers and fellow reporters at the Daily Planet newspaper …

All in all, I liked this movie more than I might have made it sound. I'd give it, say, a 7.5 out of 10.
I only wish there was somebody with the balls and/or authority to rein in these wonder-boy director/producers who have one or two huge hits and then are turned completely loose, unrestrained, on a subsequent movie that snowballs into a bloated, excess-laden piece of work that could have been so much better if only there'd been someone there to hold them back a little. (Classic example: Peter Jackson's 2005 remake of King Kong.)

Man of Steel is worth seeing, especially if you can catch a lower-priced matinee (like I did). And, if you're smart, avoid the scam of paying extra for 3D.

Monday, June 17, 2013

"You're The Hot Dog Guy!"

I got the idea for this piece a couple of weeks ago when I was preparing for my planned trip to attend the Printer's Row Lit Fest in Chicago. In addition to the event itself, I was looking forward to spending time with some friends (Andrew Vachss, Mike Black, Zak Mucha, and Lou Bank, among others) I hadn't seen in too long.

I was also looking forward to getting re-acquainted with another old and dear friend --- a for-real, honest-to-goodness Chicago style hot dog. Oh yeah, I planned to spend a lot time with that old pal.
But then, as most of you know by now, a last-minute eye problem (essentially a stroke in my right eye that cost me most of my vision there, and necessitated some rather complex and ongoing treatments) prevented me from making the trip and kept me busy with other thoughts to occupy my brain over the past week or so.
Yesterday, however, as I was writing about my dad for the Fathers Day post I put up, thoughts of hot dogs again drifted through my mind.
Now anyone who knows me or has read any of my interviews where the subject came up, knows what a passion I have for Chicago style hot dogs … a commodity sadly lacking out here on the Nebraska frontier. (Side Note: I have to admit, though, that the Sonic fast-food chain in this area has begun featuring on their menu for the past couple years , a Chicago dog that ain't too bad. It's not the real deal but, when the carvings are strong enough, it'll help you make it through. Sort of like dating the okay sister of the really hot babe you'd rather be with.)
Anyway, the link between hot dogs and my father is simple: He, too, was a hot dog lover. His passion, when I was growing up, was always for "wieners with the skin on" --- i.e. hot dogs with a natural casing over the beef filling, so that when you bit into one and broke through the casing it would make a kind of cracking sound. No doubt they were good, but they were hard to find even back then and all the more so later on.
So I introduced him to Chicago style dogs and he grew to enjoy them almost as much as me.
In his last couple years of life, when he was in and out of the hospital a lot, I would frequently take him a bag of Chicago dogs when I visited him in his room of an evening. Sometimes he'd even request it. It wasn't on his recommended diet, of course, but he had so many different things wrong with him near the end that a few dietary no-nos weren't going to make a helluva lot of difference anyway. I never mentioned to the nurses on duty what I was smuggling in, believing it to be a classic case of "Better to beg forgiveness than ask permission" should the question arise.
The capper to all of this came a few years after Dad had passed away and my wife and I were at a clinic in the Rockford area (where Dad had spent a number of his hospital stays) for reasons related a health issue Pam was having. I noticed that one of the nurses who came in and out kept looking at me in a funny way and I realized there was something vaguely familiar about her, but I couldn't place why. I sensed she was having the same problem. You know how it is in such cases … nobody wants to be the first one to say anything in case the whole thing is a mistake.
Finally, full recognition hit her and she blurted out: "I remember now --- you're the hot dog guy!" It turned out that she had been on the hospital nursing staff a number of times when I'd made those covert hot dog deliveries to my dad. She went on to tell Pam and I how the aroma of the booty I thought I was so cleverly smuggling in would fill the corridor and then linger there, leaving her and the other nurses agonizing for hours afterward with a hot dog craving.
It was a funny little story that I still chuckle over when I think of it. I hope you get a smile out of it, too.
I guess I'd rather stick in the minds of pretty young nurses due to my dashing good looks and charm. But that ship left the dock a long time ago. So, what the hey, reckon I'll settle for being the "hot dog guy". There are worse things to be remembered for.

Sunday, June 16, 2013


My dad passed away several years ago. I don't need a politically-selected day to remember and/or honor him. I think about him almost daily and I hope that I honor him at all times by conducting myself in a way he would approve and be proud of.
Nevertheless, one does think about their father on Father's Day and I may not have gotten around to writing this piece if I hadn't received a nudge by that being the case.
It also was given impetus by the book I'm currently working on.
So let me try to piece all of that together and explain …

It goes back to dad's name. Elwood. Elwood William Dundee. The "Elwood" part doesn't really roll musically off the tongue, does it? Try to name a famous or well-known Elwood … Okay, Elwood Blues from the Blues Brothers. But that's about it, right?
Hmm, there might be a pattern or clue starting to form.
Another clue might be that, in his lifetime, Dad was known by different nicknames such as Al, Tony, and Epse (can't say that one's a helluva lot better, and how it came to be is too convoluted to go into). But then, our family, on both my mother's and father's side, used to be big on nicknames, so maybe that doesn't mean so much after all. I had plenty of my own, as a matter of fact: Buck, Pancho, Dingo, Angus, and Boobie (never mind about that last one – yes, it got applied in high school but not for the reason you might think).
Anyway, to get back on point, it became a sort of running joke in our immediate family – as my brothers and then various grandchildren started being born – if it was a male child there would be talk of naming it after Dad. "Elwood" would be discussed but then, when it came right down to it, nobody ever had the guts to follow through with it, not even as a middle name. As my mother put it when my brother Mike came along: "I just can't do that to a poor little baby." Even Dad chimed in: "For Christ's sake no." Hence there are about a dozen offsprings (starting with both of my brothers, Michael William and Robert William, plus various grandsons  and nephews) who bear the "William" tag. (My own grandson, Dad's first great grandchild, is William Wayne) … But, alas, nary a single Elwood.

Until, that is, (sorry, Dad, here comes a little bit of self-promotion mixed in) a central character in the new book series I am working on with my pal Mel Odom. The over-arcing banner is THE WESTWARD TIDE and it tells the tale (in 30,000-word novella segments) of emigrants crossing the country in the 1840s/1850s on the Oregon and California trails. The first book (or segment, as you will) is done. It's called Trail Justice. I'm working on the second one --- Trail Manhunt --- now. (We wanted to have at least two titles in the hopper so we could kick off the series with a fairly quick one-two punch; future titles will alternate between Mel and me under the house name "Jack Tyree" and we're aiming for the first title to be out by early August.)

But what I want to emphasis in closing is that one of the main recurring characters in these books will be a scout/former mountain man named Elwood Blake. He's a solid, old-fashioned, larger-than-life hero in the mold of John Wayne, Clint Walker … and Elwood Dundee.
So there, finally, is your namesake, Dad. I think you'd like him.
Happy Father's Day.