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 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!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Available Now: BY BLOOD BOUND (The Smith & Sons Saga)

This is a streamlined, slightly revised compilation of the trilogy of stories that appeared earlier this year in the FATHERS anthology from WTB. It comes in at just under 45,000 words and at the bargain price of 99-cents I don't hardly think you can go wrong. I hope you give it a try, I don't think you'll be sorry.
Silas Smith had been estranged from his two sons for over a dozen years. His wife hated him for donning the blue and going off to fight on "the wrong side" in the Civil War. When he returned home after the conflict finally ended, he found that not only had her hatred deepened even more with the fall of the Confederacy but she and her family had very effectively poisoned the minds of his young boys against him, too. Bitter and discouraged, he rode away again, too war weary to try and buck the odds and fight another battle, no matter the stakes …
Now, after more than a decade, Silas is leading a decent life as the sheriff of a small town in western Nebraska, when he receives word through an unlikely source that his sons have grown into young men headed down the wrong path. Lured on by a no-account uncle, their jump to the wrong side of the law seems inevitable … unless Silas is willing and able to intervene in time.
Feeling the stirrings of a blood bond he had suppressed for too long, spurred on by daring to hope he might be able to re-connect with his sons after all these years, Silas accepts the challenge and heads back toward everything he thought he'd left behind. The trail will be hard and the task won't be easy. Blood will be spilled, lives will be lost, fresh wounds will be inflicted … but the chance to heal old ones is what will keep Silas pushing on.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Noteworthy Reads: HANGMAN'S KNOT - Outlaw Ranger Book 2 by James Reasoner

This second entry into James Reasoner's Outlaw Ranger series lives up to all the promise of its debut from back in September.
G.W. Braddock, the young man born to be a Texas Ranger yet discharged from the ranks of the elite organization through no fault of his own but rather due to short-sighted political cutbacks, is once again at the heart of the story. Determined to take down lawbreakers and seek justice the way a Ranger would do --- even if he has no legal authority to do so and thereby is operating outside the law himself --- Braddock inserts himself into the powderkeg situation getting ready to explode over the capture and pending trial of one Henry Pollard. There is little doubt Pollard is guilty of numerous crimes and overdue to swing on the end of a rope. But his latest escapade, leading a band of ruthless mercenaries on a vengeful attack that leaves a whole town nearly burnt to the ground and its streets strewn with innocent victims, is his worst atrocity yet.
While it seems certain that Pollard will be found guilty in a speedy trial and then hanged, a growing number of enraged citizens don't want to wait. Due to concerns that Pollard's brother, a wealthy and powerful rancher, might pull some shenanigan to spring his sibling (as he has done in the past), a mob of otherwise law-abiding men has formed with the goal of seeing the killer lynched and dead before that can happen.
Contemptible as Pollard is, Braddock knows he must stand with the local law (in the guise of still being a Ranger) to see to it the prisoner is kept alive long enough to go through the proper legal proceedings.
  From this basic set-up, author Reasoner builds a story interwoven with action, twists, surprises, and a cast of memorable (rather unpleasantly memorable, in some cases) characters driven by motivations that are not always what they first seem. 
The writing is assured and evocative, the pace is fast, and the reading experience is thoroughly enjoyable.
James Reasoner always delivers a top-notch yarn and HANGMAN'S KNOT is certainly no exception. And G.W. Braddock is the kind of strong, complex hero that readers will want to see more and more of.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Noteworthy Reads: (A Double-barreled Dose of Western Action) - SAVAGE BARRANCA & HOLT COUNTY IRON

Mean Pete, Frank Leslie, and Mike Sartain, The Revenger, make an unbeatable team when it comes to tough, gritty, adult Western adventure tales!
The twist in this one is that Sartain is doing a job *for* the government instead of being on the run from it … and the "insurance policy" the governor of New Mexico Territory sends along in the form of a beautiful lady Pinkerton, to make sure The Revenger holds up his end of the bargain, only adds spice to the brew.
As anyone familiar with the Leslie (or Brandvold) byline should know to expect by now --- there is danger, double-dealings, hard riding (in more ways than one), and enough gun-blazing action to satisfy all who relish the rowdy days of yesteryear.
Don't hesitate, mount up and enjoy the ride!

The evolution of Richard Prosch's wonderful Whit Branham character continues in this solid new novella, the longest single entry in the series so far. And Holt County, Nebraska, circa 1882 --- both its colorful array of people and the land itself --- also emerges more and more distinctly in the evocative, subtly stylish prose that has become one of Prosch's trademarks.
There is plenty of action in this yarn, starting almost immediately with a shootout that culminates in the rundown of a vengeful fugitive … and ending with a nasty conflict in the midst of a howling blizzard, this one culminating in a shocker of a twist sure to catch even the most alert reader by surprise. But the characterizations --- the quirks, the uncertainties and weaknesses, the *realness* of those presented --- enhance everything to a higher level. And the "iron" of the title is, to some degree, in all of them. This is true of none more than Whit, of course, making him the tough, reliable hero at the center of the story … yet nevertheless remaining also very human, even humble at times, with his own share of personal problems and issues.
In the course of telling a rousing good tale, Prosch does a fine job of conveying a genuine sense of the time, place, and people. You can tell that, as a writer, he cares about all of these things. As a reader, you will too. Enough to make you want to read more of this series and, if you're smart, anything else you can get your hands on with the Prosch byline.
Highly recommended.

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

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.

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


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.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Available Now: FUGITIVE TRAIL by Wayne D. Dundee

Fresh off the virtual printing presses of Bil-Em-Ri Media, my latest Western just went live on Amazon's Kindle program. A print version will follow in the hopefully not too distant future.

FUGITIVE TRAIL is a stand-alone tale (at least that's the way I see it right now, although it ends in such a way that the main character - one Eli Cole - could go on to further adventures if something comes to mind later on).

Here's the cover blurb that I hope stirs readers' interest:

A hardened, battle weary Civil War vet returns home after the fighting … to an unfaithful wife and a trumped-up murder charge!
The choice between facing a hangman's noose or going on the run as an outlaw isn't a hard one for Eli Cole to make. But when a grieving, vengeful father offers a huge personal bounty—not for Cole's capture, but for proof of his death—the swarm of manhunters and mercenaries this stirs up dramatically increases the odds against staying alive on the fugitive trail. 
Complicating matters further for Cole is the group of fellow fugitives he falls in with. Keeping himself alive is tough enough, keeping the others out of harm's way, too, only adds to it. But rage, righteous indignation, and a blazing gun can go a long way toward bucking the odds …

It's over 35,000 words action, raw emotions, and memorable characters --- all bargain-priced at only $0.99! 
Hope you give it a try. I think you'll like it.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Noteworthy Reads: The CUTLER Series created by John Benteen

The John Benteen byline has long been one of my favorites, specifically relating to the Fargo series of paperback originals from back in the 60s and 70s. Benteen's other popular series from that period was Sundance and, while I read a number of those, too, and enjoyed them well enough, for some reason I never warmed to them nearly as much as the Fargo books. While I have no conclusive evidence of this, the fact that Benteen eventually allowed other writers to take over the Sundance series while he kept doing the Fargos almost exclusively (with the exception of three out of twenty-odd titles) suggests that he had a stronger affinity for Fargo as well. Maybe this is merely what I want to believe due to my own tendency to favor Fargo over Sundance --- comes right down to it, I have no way of knowing how much say Benteen actually had in the matter with Belmont Tower, his publisher. 
I guess most people know that John Benteen was one of the pseudonyms of prolific writer Ben Haas, who also did books under his own name. On their own fine blogs and elsewhere, both James Reasoner and Randy Johnson have done some pretty extensive coverage of Haas/Benteen so maybe they will weigh in and tell me where/if I am going wrong in the foregoing … and perhaps also in what follows.

The main gist of this post is to touch on another action/adventure series Haas wrote under the Benteen byline --- one I had not read or heard about before, until Piccadilly recently re-issued them as eBooks. As indicated above, the series was titled Cutler and was centered on one John Cutler, a typically tough, rugged individual very much in the mold of various other action/adventure protagonists as written by Benteen and others.
The set-up for Cutler is that he is a former lawman turned hunter/trapper who is on the vengeance trail for his wife's killer. This is a basic framework that has been used, with a few refinements here and there, over and over and over again in the Western genre. But here's the interesting twist that Haas/Benteen uses for this series --- the killer Cutler is obsessed with running down is not a human but rather a rogue silverback grizzly.
The bear has a stump for one of its hind legs thanks to a trap that Cutler set but did not check on as promptly as he should have, that's what turned the beast into a rogue who's first victim was Cutler's unsuspecting wife. This adds a haunting layer of guilt to the revenge Cutler is after.
Being a rogue, the grizzly roams wide and wild over vast mountainous stretches of Colorado and Wyoming, sticking to no particular territory. Cutler responds to reports from wherever the bear has been sighted, never quite succeeding in catching up with him but also never giving up. He finances his way by hiring out to track and kill other rogue predators who are causing trouble in areas he is near or passing through.
I found the whole concept quite intriguing and well done.

Unfortunately, Haas wrote only two books in this series, THE WOLF-PACK and THE GUN-HAWKS, both in 1972. He then switched to create and write four books in the Rancho Bravo series, as by Thorne Douglas. Whether he would have gone back to do any more Cutlers we'll never know, because Ben Haas died unexpectedly in 1977.
Starting in 1978, Belmont Tower hired another writer, H.V. Elkin, to pick up the Cutler series. He wrote four titles. I haven't read any of those yet, though I plan to check out at least one or two at some point. With no disrespect to Mr. Elkin, I simply don't feel the urgency for that as I did to dive into the Benteen titles when I found out about them. 

Haas/Benteen have brought me many hours of enjoyment over the years. It was great to discover these added titles.
If you haven't discovered Cutler yet --- not to mention (which almost seems unthinkable) Fargo or Sundance --- I heartily recommend you check this out. 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Aailable Now: THE GUNS OF NOVEMBER (Fight Card Books) by Joseph Grant writing as Jack Tunney

Fight Card Books continues slugging out a new title every month and each one is as exciting and entertaining as those that have come before. And while tough, gritty boxing conflicts are always at the core of the tales, the surrounding storylines and subplots are increasingly imaginative and well crafted.
In this latest entry --- THE GUNS OF NOVEMBER, with author Joseph Grant (who previously did THE LAST ROUND OF ARCHIE MANNIS for FC) at work behind the Jack Tunney byline --- we are given a whole new slant on the 1963 assassination of President John Kennedy.

Here, I'll let the cover blurb set it up the rest of the way:

November, 1963...Sent to Dallas by Attorney General Robert Kennedy to investigate the disappearance of a boxer connected to a major Civil Rights violation, FBI Special Agent Jim Gregory finds himself desperately trading punches with those plotting to change the course of history. Kidnapped, beaten, tied up, and blindfolded, young boxer Jimmy Lee Williams knows his situation is dire. Nicknamed Guns for the relentless firing power of his fists, Williams isn’t going to go down without a fight. However, this is no typical 15-rounder...and the clock is ticking toward disaster. Mixing with a disparate group of Cuban exiles, the Mafia, the FBI, the CIA, and corrupt Dallas Police, Gregory’s search for Williams takes him into the heart of the JFK conspiracy. In the Carousel Club, owner Jack Ruby – Gregory's old Chicago boxing opponent – introduces the undercover FBI agent to his many shady contacts, including a young, ex-Marine and Communist defector named Oswald…a man with unusual intelligence and connections to both the FBI and the CIA. With disaster looming, the latest Fight Card novel, Guns of November, is a two-fisted take on the tragic events you thought you knew, but never imagined...

This is one you're not going to want to miss!
I recommend you check it out.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Available Now: DEVIL'S LEDGER by Richard Prosch

Well, I got good news and more good news.
DEVIL'S LEDGER marks not only the return of author Prosch's popular John Coburn (aka The Peregrine) character, but it is his first appearance in a novella-length work. Previously, The Peregrine has made acclaimed short story appearances in DEVIL'S NEST (2011) and more recently in ONE AGAINST THE GUN HORDE (April, 2014).
What's more, since the cover of LEDGER announces it as "Book 1" of an ongoing series, we have some assurance there are more to come. In fact, I happen to have it straight from the horse's mouth (and I don't mean the one Coburn rides) that the next adventure is already being written.

The events of DEVIL'S LEDGER all stem from a legendary volume called The Judas Book, a volume, accumulated over a span of time, detailing all the corrupt dealings and dirty secrets of the territory. The kind of information that men would kill for --- either to keep quiet, or to use as leverage. When Bandy Murphy, Coburn's old pal and former cell mate, shows up claiming to be in possession of the book, such men are hard on his heels and Coburn can't help but be drawn into trying to save both Bandy's hide and the Judas Book.
As usual, one of the big positives here is Prosch's distinct writing style and his use of common, everyday, "real"-seeming folks pulled into extraordinary events. In this tale, I particularly liked the early banter that takes place between Coburn, Bandy, and an old codger named Hutch Gunnar. It is funny, entertaining, and subtly character-establishing for purposes that become important later on. This is certainly not the end of colorful, interesting characters (some who turn out not to be what they first may seem) that the reader will meet, however; nor of the plot twists and turns that will ensue.
Coburn comes across as a little more mature this time around, somewhat comfortably settled into the lore that has built up around his Peregrine persona. Yet he remains ever-cautious and prepared, his anger maybe a bit slower to burn --- but, once the fuse has been ignited, as explosive and dangerous as ever.
This represents some of the best work being done in Western fiction today, and I predict readers will be looking forward to more of Prosch and the Peregrine!
Strongly recommended.

Also of note:
SHOOTING THE MOON, Richard's fourth book in his YA series featuring feisty young Jo Harper and her turn-of-the-century adventures in and around Willowby, Wyoming, has also just been released and it's another corker. Like me, I expect most readers of this blog probably do not read a lot of YA fiction. I've blogged about the highly entertaining books in this series before, and once again recommend them as an exception you really ought to consider making.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Another Look: ORCA (1977 film, starring Richard Harris)

Released two years following the phenomenal box office hit JAWS, this film was undeniably inspired by that success. In fact, according to movie lore, it was set into motion almost immediately after JAWS hit the theaters when executive producer Dino de Laurentiis called his co-producer Luciano Vincenzoni and ordered him to "find a fish that is tougher and more terrible than the great white!"
From that, the film that was to become ORCA was born. It probably shouldn't have come as any surprise, then, that when the movie got released, it was immediately panned by both critics and audiences alike as a JAWS rip-off. Subsequently, it did lousy at the box office.
Only part of that was deserved. Strictly from the standpoint of let's-jump-aboard-a-popular-concept-and-make-some-money-with-our-own-killer-fish- movie, it surely was, as already acknowledged, inspired by JAWS. Beyond that, however, ORCA has its own story to tell and in many ways stands as its own movie. Heck, you could even make the case that it owes as much to MOBY DICK as to JAWS. In a role-reversal sort of way, instead of the human Ahab obsessed with hunting down and dispatching Moby Dick, here you have a vengeful killer whale obsessed with singling out and dispatching the fishing captain who killed the whale's mate.
That's the central theme of ORCA: A shark-hunting sea captain (played by Richard Harris) decides to switch tactics and try instead for a killer whale. In the attempt, his harpoon misses the bull whale (except for slicing a tell-tale notch in its dorsal fin, the sight of which will become a forboding occurrence throughout the rest of the film) and instead hits the bull's mate. As the wounded cow is being winched aboard Harris's ship, she gives premature birth to a calf. Both mother and infant die. Watching from nearby waters—and focused primarily on Harris, who fired the deadly harpoon—is the bull. We have been told earlier, in a presentation by Charlotte Rampling, playing a scientist specializing in killer whales, that the creatures are highly intelligent, they mate for life, and are known to possess a human-like capacity for seeking revenge against anyone or anything who have done them harm.

So there's the rest of the set-up. When Harris docks his ship for repairs in the harbor of a small fishing village, the vengeful bull killer whale follows. First, to the great concern of the local fishermen, all the fish in surrounding waters flee. Then boats—all but Harris's—start being damaged. Then various buildings and businesses on piling all along the harbor are wrecked and damaged, including a huge fire that breaks out when a gas line breaks and is ignited by a fallen lantern. The house Harris is renting is knocked off its pilings and his sister, sliding partially into the water during the chaos, has her leg chomped off by the attacking whale … Yet Harris's boat remains untouched. The message is clear: The whale wants Harris to face him out on the open sea. The fishermen of the village want the same thing—or, at least, they want Harris gone from their village and want him to take his vengeful stalker with him.
Aided by the only remaining member of his original crew, the scientist (Rampling, who is inexplicably drawn romantically to him), and a somewhat mystical Indian (Will Sampson) who knows whale lore and volunteers for this epic battle, the captain sets out to sea to meet the challenge put before him. The whale leads, Harris and crew follows … all the way up to the ice packs of the northern seas where the climax and ultimate final confrontation takes place.
There are many moments in the first two thirds of the film that strain credibility. But they are done with enough energy and excitement to carry them off pretty well. The final third bogs down and plays out so slowly that illogical factors pile up and almost sink the whole show (no pun intended). Whatever the film suffered in the way of negative reviews, etc., is, in my opinion, earned here more so than from any of the rip-off accusations. Nevertheless, according to Wikipedia, in recent years ORCA has earned a cult following of sorts in the natural horror subgenre (whatever the hell that is).

On the plus side, by anybody's standards, the film has top notch production values throughout. The score, the cinematography, the direction (by old pro Michael Anderson) are solid. Same for the acting, for which not a great deal of range is required. Richard Harris's tough, knocked-around Irish mug is perfect for the captain who is pushed to the point of declaring: "I'm coming for you, you vengeful sonofabitch!" And Charlotte Rampling's ever-sultry presence manages to steam up the screen even though she is not called upon to do much more than spout scientific facts and alternately discourage and then encourage Harris as far as what he has to do.
I wish they'd taken time to strengthen the ending. Still, I came away with the feeling that the makers of ORCA (despite the harried middle-of-the-night phone call that launched it) tried hard to do something bigger and better than just copycatting a previous mega-hit. And they scored in a number of areas.
Worth your time if you can catch it on cable or purchase it out of a DVD bargain bin.
Recommended, with reservations.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Noteworthy Reads: OUTLAW RANGER by James Reasoner

James Reasoner writes clean, buttery smooth prose that goes down as easy home cookin'. He seasons it a bit to whatever genre he is writing in, but the basic fare remains Reasoner and that means the reader is sure to come away well satisfied.
James is especially adept at writing Westerns and one need look no further than his latest, OUTLAW RANGER, for an example of his polished skill and for some of the finest Western fiction being done today. Although some of the circumstances in OUTLAW RANGER are based on historical fact, the imaginative storyline and creative twists contained therein are strictly Reasoner.
The protagonist here --- G.W. Braddock --- was born to be a Texas Ranger, and nothing else. He was set on this path by his overbearing father, who was himself a Ranger, and locked into the role by his own determination, stubbornness, and love of the job. When a quirk in the law deprives G.W. from continuing as a Ranger, it is a devastating blow. Complicating matters even more, two of G.W.'s most recent arrests --- a pair of murderous and wholly despicable lowlifes --- are set free under the guise of not having been apprehended "legally". 
(The parallel to some of today's legal shenanigans that too frequently allow obvious scumbags to walk free via even more ridiculous decisions, is painfully familiar.)
G.W. knows that the men who got set free are not done with their ruthless ways … just as he knows damn well that he is not ready to quit being a Ranger, whether some cockeyed court ruling says so or not. The violent, action-packed series of events that eventually cause their trails to converge once again makes for a rousing Western adventure and a page-turning experience for the reader.
Strongly recommended.

And a bit of added good news is that this is the first in an exciting new series planned by James.
He has already announced that the next, HANGMAN'S KNOT, will be available before the end of the year.
I, for one, can hardly wait!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Available Now: TRAIL REVENGE (Book #2 - The Westward Tide series)

Live on Amazon Kindle today is TRAIL REVENGE, the second book in the Westward Tide series being written by Mel Odom and yours truly, as "Jack Tyree".
As with TRAIL JUSTICE, the first title in the series, this one is from me. Mel will be weighing in with a couple of titles soon
Though it can be read as a stand-alone, TRAIL REVENGE picks up right after events detailed in the first book. The following cover blurb sums it up pretty well:

Embarked on the Oregon Trail, the Culbertson-Barkley wagon train has already endured danger, hardship, and betrayal from within their own ranks. But driven by dreams of the promising new lives that await them in Oregon, they press on—even knowing that the distance still to be covered will only get harder as their route transitions from the high plains into the mountainous regions.
Braced for what lies ahead, what the emigrants are unaware of and unprepared for is the menace that is closing on them from behind. Dangerous, determined vengeance-seekers have their sights set on certain members of the Culbertson-Barkley party. But what the vengeance seekers, in turn, are unprepared for is the extent to which other members of the company will go to protect their own.
When the forces clash, the result is bitter and bloody. The journey toward Oregon will continue, but those who forge on will be forever marked by the violence and startling revelations they have experienced.

Having said that REVENGE can be enjoyed as a stand-alone, I nevertheless feel it would be enhanced by having read JUSTICE first. For that reason, for a limited time only (today through Sunday 9/28), I am offering TRAIL JUSTICE for the bargain price of only $0.99. That's two exciting Western adventures for under four bucks.
I think that's quite a deal and I further believe anyone taking advantage of it won't be disappointed.
The wheels of the Westward Tide are rolling—Come on along for the ride!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Available Now: THE BAREKNUCKLE BARBARIAN - Fight Card Books

The Fight Card series continues sending exciting contenders into the squared circle of pulp fiction with a new book every month and the punches landed are always solidly entertaining.
BAREKNUCKLE BARBARIAN is no exception, and even has a little extra going for it by blending in some alternative history and a dose of heroic fantasy. Author Teel James Glenn uses a fictionalized Robert E. "Bob" Howard as his protagonist. He time-shifts him past the point where (in real life, sadly) Howard committed suicide. "Bob" endures the pain of his mother's death (the real-lie event that caused Howard to take his life) and then embarks on a journey beyond his hometown of Cross Plains, Texas where he hopes to benefit from meeting "real" writers and also to test his physical stamina and inner barbarian against a wider slice of the world.
With this imaginative set-up, author Glenn --- in the Part One "Barknuckle Barbarian" title piece of this two part adventure --- first pits Bob Howard against a gang of New York City hoods staging and controlling the bareknuckle fight game in and around Madison Square Garden. Colorful characters from a visiting circus setting up for a run at the Garden is also worked in. In the rousing climax, Bob himself --- a trained pugalist who has battled in bareknuckle "icehous fights" back in Cross Plains --- steps up as a last-minute replacement in the main event to foil the grip of the crime bosses.
In Part Two – "The Fists of Fae" – a mythical/heroic fantasy element that the real Howard (creator of Conan the Cimmerean and King Kull) would have appreciated is introduced. When Bob visits the Old Sod of Ireland to connect with his Gaelic roots, he soon finds himself invited to attend the Fae Fair that takes place every five years wherein the veil between worlds is weakened sufficiently to allow mortal Bob to also attend the festivities leprechauns, elves, centaurs, etc., are present. Here, once again, he is drawn into becoming a participant in the climactic fight.
Author Glenn does a nice job of capturing the "feel", racial attitudes, and language of NYC in the late 30s and his fight scenes are vivid. He imbues "Texas" Bob with just the right mixture of awe and "aw shucks-iness" yet also strong in his sense of right and wrong and self-confidence when it comes to handling himself. And in Part Two he clearly knows  his stuff when it comes to mythology and the intermingling of Worlds.
Imaginative and well done, a pleasant change of pace. Recommended.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Another Look: RIO CONCHOS (1963 Western film)

This tough, gritty, generally overlooked action Western actually has a lot going for it and deserves to be ranked higher on lists of top Western films, where it seldom appears at all.

Heading the list of positives is the gutsy performance by Richard Boone in the lead role as harsh, uncompromising, embittered James Lassiter, a former Confederate officer with little regard for the post-Civil War U.S. Army operating along the Mexican border and a seething hatred for the Apaches who murdered his family.
The latter has set him on a quest to hunt down and kill as many Apaches as he can find. In the process of doing this, he confiscates a repeating rifle from the body of one of the braves he caught up with. His possession of same comes to the attention of Army Captain Haven (played by Stuart Whitman) who recently had a shipment of these rifles stolen from his command by marauders striking from south of the border.
Inasmuch as the Apaches have already been wreaking havoc throughout the territory with less formidable weapons, it would be disastrous for them to gain possession of these modern repeaters. Lassiter is first arrested for possessing the stolen rifle and then offered his freedom if he will lead a special covert unit into Mexico to locate and retrieve the stolen rifles before they fall into the hands of the Indians.
Unable to stand being penned up, Lassiter grudgingly agrees to the job. The unit is made up of Lassiter, Haven, a Buffalo Soldier named Franklyn (played by Jim Brown, in his first film role), and --- just to keep the "sides" even --- a knife-wielding Mexican outlaw named Rodriguez (played by Tony Franciosa), who shared Lassiter's cell during the time he was locked up.
After a series of violent encounters with both bandits and Apaches, not to mention a good deal of bickering and fighting within the group itself, the unit discovers the rifles are in the possession of a madman named Theron Pardee, a former Confederate colonel who at one time commanded Lassiter. Pardee's plan is to trade the rifles to the Apaches for gold, turn the Indians loose to conquer the scattered U.S. Army troops defending the border, and then use the gold to finance a New Southern Confederacy in the conquered territory.
With aid of a sympathetic Apache girl they had held captive for a time in order to help guide them, Lassiter and his unit take desperate action to foil Pardee's plan.
Lassiter and Franklyn sacrifice themselves by driving a burning wagonload of gun powder into the shipment of rifles, still stacked in their shipping crates. Before the massive explosion takes his life, Lassiter is able to kill Bloodshirt, the Apache chief preparing to take possession of the rifles and also the leader of the raid that massacred Lassiter's family.

This is a taut, tough, grim movie with expansive, top quality production values. What little humor there is comes in a few bits performed by Franciosa. Although he shares star billing, Whitman is given very little to do. The Apache maid, played by seldom-ever-heard-from-again Wende Wagner, could have been done by practically any actress in dark make-up and a black wig. Jim Brown hardly has more than a couple dozen lines, but brings a powerful physical presence that perfectly fits the role he's given to play.
Like I said at the outset, Boone is far and away the star here --- both in the role he has and in the way he chews it up and spits it out. The largely unlikeable Lassiter character, in his grimness and racial hatred, is somewhat reminiscent of John Wayne's Ethan Edwards in THE SEARCHERS; just as the latter two thirds of RIO CONCHOS is somewhat reminiscent of THE COMANCHEROS (which also starred Wayne, along with Whitman in a far more substantial role). But maybe that's an unfair comparison, and for sure not one meant to deter from all that is good about CONCHOS in and of itself.

A final note on the director, Gordon Douglas, a veteran whose career spanned over five decades and covered subject matter ranging from Our Gang shorts to Oliver and Hardy features to the cult classic THEM! to Elvis's FOLLOW THAT DREAM (one of his most entertaining) to a string of Frank Sinatra films through the mid/late '60s to the trio of Clint Walker westerns (FORT DOBBS, YELLOWSTONE KELLY, and GOLD OF THE SEVEN SAINTS) that have been compared to the Budd Boetticher/Randolph Scott collaborations and too many more to mention … But, although it came somewhat late in his career, he seldom helmed anything better than RIO CONCHOS.

This is a good one.
Be sure to check it out if you get the chance.