Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Goodbye to Another Old Friend (Hardboiled Magazine 1985 - 2014 R.I.P.)

Over the weekend, I received a copy of the latest Hardboiled (#47) from editor/publisher Gary Lovisi. In the envelope, Gary included a short note saying this would be the last issue. On the editorial page of the issue, he expands on the reasons why.
If you want to read what he has to say, I encourage you to buy a copy of the issue. As always, it has a great selection of tough, hard-edged fiction, including tales from two of my favorite writers … the late C.J. Henderson and a current rising star, Thomas Pluck.

Naturally, I have a particular fondness for Hardboiled. It was, after all, my baby originally, when I started it back in 1985 with the help of "outlaw poet" Todd Moore and encouragement from a number of writers in the crime/mystery genre.
We did twelve issues and I'm damned proud of each and every one. I'm sure Gary feels the same.
When I ran out of gas in 1991, Gary took over at the urging (to each of us) of Andrew Vachss. Gary took Detective Story Magazine, which he had begun publishing, fused it with HB as Hardboiled Detective for three transitional issues, then continued on with Hardboiled.

Hundreds of stories later --- by established names, new names who went on to become very established, more than a few one-shots, and everything in between --- HB fades quietly down the dark street of ceased publications.
That's too bad. Because, right from the get-go, it represented what there was (and certainly remains) far too few of … a fair shot for a writer to get published, to get his or her name "out there".

Maybe … just maybe … as Gary indicates in his editorial, there's a chance Hardboiled will be revived as an e-zine or some such. I hope so.
If not, after nearly three decades, I hope it will remain a deservedly fond memory for readers and writers alike.
I know it sure will for me.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Noteworthy Reads: CHASING A DOG STAR - brand new from Richard Prosch

Out today from Painted Pony Books and my pal Richard Prosch. This is the follow-up to CHASING A COMET, and continues the adventures of Jo Harper and her pals --- with more to come, I sincerely hope.
It is billed as YA, but readers of any age will enjoy it, largely due to Prosch's distinct writing style, which I have heralded here before. I had the chance to read this in mss., and the pleasure was all mine.
Here's the Amazon review I put up earlier today:

In this worthy sequel to CHASING A COMET, we are once again in the company of feisty Jo Harper, her loopy pal Frog, and of course the one-eyed, gun-totin' constable of their little Wyoming town, Abby Drake … along with a few other recurring characters we either first met or heard mention of in COMET.

I liked the comfortable feel I got from the characters and the way they're all settled in with one another. Frog comes more into his own (for better or worse, depending on how you look at it) this time around. This amps up the banter between him and Jo and the potential for mischief that they can get in together --- a sort of Tom-Huck feel, and I mean that in a complimentary way. Then, when a sense of danger is injected, it makes even more of an impact.
Abby, of course, remains stalwart throughout.
A wild ride in a horseless carriage is only part of the fun and adventure. With the threat of danger comes a strong mystery element, a pair of bad guys who are by turns cunning and menacing, and then a twisty wrap-up that is very neat indeed.

Though billed as YA, older readers will not come away disappointed, especially with the yarn being told in typical high style via the writing talents of author Prosch.
A fun tale that will give you some thrills and chills, more than a few chuckles, and likely have you feeling a little younger-at-heart, both during and after the reading.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Available Now: THE FYREDRAKE'S PREY by James Reasoner

And now for something a little different from the ever prolific, ever reliable James Reasoner. James calls this "Not quite fantasy, not quite sword and sorcery, but more along the lines of what George R.R. Martin and Joe Abercombrie write … " Since I, personally, am not familiar with the work of either of those men, I can't quite judge what that leaves. So it seems safe to say "somewhere in between".

In the end, though, I don't expect that it makes a whole lot of difference. Like I said, James is always reliable. So if you're in the mood for a rousing adventure tale set in olden times, you will surely be in good hands. If the exciting synopsis below gets your motor revving --- the way it does mine --- then what are you waiting for?

Be sure to check it out.
THE FYREDRAKE'S PREY is available now on Kindle, with a print version soon to follow.

Sir Gault the Red was once the fiercest knight in all Malachar, but that was before age and a life of peace reduced him to a shadow of the warrior he once was. Now his epic battles against the fyredrakes, the race of reptilian monsters that terrorized the countryside in times past, are just a memory...until an unexpected encounter prods him into a desperate attempt to recapture past glories.

Keldrick is the last of his kind, a giant fyredrake whose flaming breath once blazed a path of destruction across the land. He wants only to reach the legendary northland where others like him may still be found...but his journey will also be one last rampage of fire, death, and devastation across the domain of the hated humans.

These two natural adversaries are fated to meet, but before they do both will be drawn into a web of deceit, ambition, and lust that will leave them questioning who are the real monsters, humans or fyredrakes!

THE FYREDRAKE'S PREY is a gritty fantasy saga packed with bloody action and unexpected heroism from New York Times bestselling author and legendary storyteller James Reasoner, a never before published 70,000 word novel available only from Rough Edges Press.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

FROM THE PEN AND PRESS OF MEAN PETE ... and an added personal rant from the guy behind the desk here at FDD

Ol' Mean Pete is a mighty slippery character.
In addition to the Mean Pete handle, he also goes by aliases such as Peter Brandvold and Frank Leslie. You just know you gotta keep your eye on any hombre who dodges around like that. What's more, word has it that he soon will be pulling his picket pin and hitting the wide open trail with some dubious dame called Miss Sydney … putting him even more on the dodge.

But the good news about all of this is that --- by whatever name and from wherever he may roam --- Peter Brandvold (that one is his real moniker, folks, in case you're trying to keep track) keeps on turning out some of the toughest, grittiest, most exciting Westerns being published today. And most of them are being first made available on Kindle through Mean Pete Press.
Just today, I posted reviews on Amazon for three of the most recent:

 Blood Trail of the Horsetooth Widow 

Nobody writes tougher, grittier, more action-packed Westerns than Frank Leslie (who everybody knows is really Peter Brandvold, ol' Mean Pete hisself). In addition to rough and tumble protagonists and vicious villains, he also creates some of the sexiest, most memorable gals on the frontier --- the Horsetooth Widow in this yarn being among the tops. Saddle up for twists, turns, double- and triple-crosses, gun-blazing shootouts, and bouts of blistering sex. Recommended.

Love and Bullets

Author Brandvold crams so much into this short, bittersweet, action-packed tale that you come away feeling more satisfied than you often do after reading a novel-length work from other writers. The title really says it all. Drifter Tanner Moody meets a ravishing Spanish beauty who just happens to be a vengeance-seeking outlaw, falls in love with her amidst a flurry of hard riding and blazing bullets ... only to have it all end tragically. But not until he has discovered the root of her desperate rage and makes sure her revenge is complete. Not to bee missed.

The Devil's Ambush 
I've been a huge Lou Prophet fan right from the git-go, and this latest entry in the series only makes me appreciate the depth of the character and the talent of author Brandvold all the more. This is a somewhat more reflective, slower-paced outing for the rugged bounty hunter (keeping in mind that slower-paced for Mean Pete still means plenty of grit and action) as he struggles with concern for the well-being of his sometimes partner/sometimes lover Louisa Bonneventure while at the same time plotting revenge for those who harmed her. There is a mysterious, somewhat eerie tone to all of this as the central storyline and a couple of subplots gradually play out. When the conclusion comes, it is fast and satisfying and we can rest assured that Prophet --- and Louisa --- will ride again for our enjoyment. Strongly recommended.

One must always keep in mind that Amazon reviews are a multi-edged sword. It is a good forum for common, everyday readers to voice their opinions and (hopefully) support authors and books that they like. Unfortunately, it is also an outlet that can be used for personal beefs and agendas that can drag a book's "rating" down for reasons that have little or nothing to do with the work itself.
In the end, any review --- even by the so-called pros --- is only one person's opinion. As an author, if you enjoy the reviews that laud your work, then you must also accept the ones that may be less flattering. To take issue is to look like a whiner munching sour grapes … IF the reviews are done in a genuinely analytical way, that is. For the other kind, the author still has little recourse without putting him- or herself in a bad light.
But that doesn't mean that others can't take up the skirmish for them.
While preparing to write my review for Devil's Ambush, I noted that one of the reviews already posted was only one star. One star? What the hell was up with that? Then I read the review and found out --- The so-called reviewer hadn't even read the book. He or she (the byline was one of those chickenshit kind that uses a cutesy term ["interchangeable head", in this case] instead of an actual identity) was *actually* bitching because the work was available only as an eBook, meaning IC would have to buy "a hunnert dollar machine" to read what was allegedly being reviewed. So, for those reasons, the book's rating got trashed.
I, in turn, gave Devil's Ambush a 5-star rating (legitimately so, because I liked it that much) and unloaded a piece of my mind in the Comments section of IC's review.
I encourage everyone else to take similar action when you run across this kind of thing. In the grand scheme, I don't know how important an Amazon star rating is to a book's success, especially for an established name like Brandvold/Leslie. But it surely might make a difference for a lesser-known. Besides, what's right is right and what's wrong is wrong. If we don't hit a lick for right at least once in a while, then we're allowing wrong to skate free.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Latest Two-Fisted Action from FIGHT CARD

Fight Card keeps on punching and keeps on putting out some of the best, most exciting two-fisted action to be found anywhere. In addition to just entertaining readers, however, they also are making time for worthwhile charitable causes. Their second effort in that category is the just-released BATTLING MAHONEY AND OTHER STORIES, featuring 15 stories by some of the finest writers in the business. You should check it out. Enjoy a good reading experience and put your money toward a good cause, at the same time.

We have recently release our second Fight Card charity anthology, Fight Card Presents: Battling Mahoney & Other Stories, which is available via Amazon as an e-book for $2.99 with 100% of the proceeds going to help the family of the late Jory Sherman. A paperback version will follow shortly.
The second in a series of charity anthologies from the Fight Card authors’ cooperative – a writers’ community featuring many of today’s finest fictioneers – features fifteen rounds of fight fiction from authors James Reasoner, Loren D. Estleman, Len Levinson, James Hopwood, Mark Finn, Jeremy L. C. Jones, Michael Zimmer, Marc Cameron, Nik Morton, Marsha Ward, Clay More, Chuck Tyrell, Bowie V. Ibarra, Art Bowshier, and featuring an extensive essay, On Boxing, by Willis Gordon.
Compiled by Paul Bishop and Jeremy L. C. Jones, 100% of the proceeds from these anthologies go directly to an author-in-need or a literacy charity. Words on paper are the life blood of a writer. The writers in this volume were willing to bleed in order to give a transfusion to one of their own – and then continue to bleed to give a transfusion to literacy charities in support of that most precious of commodities...readers. They are true fighters, every one...

Fight Card’s upcoming line-up includes Bareknuckle Barbarian from Teel James Glenn (featuring the two-fisted adventures of Bob Howard – R.E.H.), Job Girl from Jason Chirevas (the sequel to Monster Man), Joseph Grants long awaited The Guns of November, and a new Fight Card Sherlock Holmes tale from Andrew Salmon.

Friday, August 8, 2014


Rye Callahan is a relentless bounty hunter, grimly determined to always bring in his prisoner, even if he literally has to go through Hell to get the job done.

Callahan is the protagonist in these action-packed short features recently released by James Reasoner via his Rough Edges Press. He is a tough, hardboiled Western character that I, for one, certainly wouldn't mind reading more about.
But, as is generally the case, the real star in these tales is Reasoner's polished writing. Anybody out there who wants to become a genre writer or simply hone their craft as one—you can take courses and go to lectures and all that sort of thing … or you can simply read and savor the work of veterans like James. It's all right there on the page. He hooks the reader in just a few sentences and then propels said reader along, never letting up, until the final word is arrived at … and more are wished for.
Want proof? Read the first couple paragraphs of LAST CHANCE CANYON then see if you can put it down and walk away without getting withdrawal symptoms from wanting to go back and get the rest of the rush of finding out what happens next.
Both of these titles are billed as "weird westerns" and there certainly are supernatural elements present in each, but as much as anything they are just gritty, damn good Westerns.

LAST CHANCE CANYON has an interesting back story as it was originally written a number of years ago, only to see limited foreign market release. Then the manuscript for it—along with any likelihood of the tale ever seeing American exposure—was lost in a fire. But a recently revived copy and subsequent translation allowed Reasoner to revive it, punch it up a bit, and make it available to a wider range of lucky readers.
In addition to trying to outwit and survive the cunning of his quarry, bounty hunter Rye Callahan finds himself desperately trying to escape the soul-hungry clutches of a desolate haunted canyon where the dead don't want to stay dead and the living have only the slimmest chance of getting out in one piece.

THE LAST STAGECOACH TO HELL brings bounty hunter Rye Callahan, along with his latest prisoner, to the town of Providence, Arizona Territory. Although the citizens of the town at first seem friendly enough – although in a strangely dazed kind of way – it won't be long before Callahan and his bounty find out that their biggest fight for survival may not be against each other, but rather for either of them to get the Hell out of Providence alive.

Both available in eBook format at a steal of a price, and both highly recommended.
Don't miss 'em!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Available Now: TRAIL JUSTICE - The Westward Tide Book #1

This is the beginning of what I believe readers will find to be an exciting new series being done by best-selling author Mel Odom and yours truly (as the guys behind the Jack Tyree byline).
The idea was first pitched to me by Mel. He suggested we do something with lots of action and adventure, but also with plenty of drama, tragedy, romance, and even touches of humor. I recall him saying something to the effect of: "A soap opera on wagon wheels."

So that's what we went for.

I wrote the first two volumes, simply because my schedule permitted it, whereas Mel had other commitments to take care of. Book #2 – TRAIL REVENGE – will be out late this month or very early September. Then Mel will take over for a couple titles.
We see the adventures of this first wagon train lasting for about a six-book arc. If interest from readers is good, we will come up with some other trains to follow --- perhaps with some recurring characters, perhaps not.
For right now, though, I hope readers will give this debut tale a try and, if they like it, spread the word.
The wagons are rolling …

In the spring of 1848, the Culbertson-Barkley company, so named for the Illinois and Missouri counties from which most of its members came, heads out for the promise of new beginnings and new lives in the Oregon Territory. 52 wagons, 233 men, women, and children who have been battered by a seemingly endless string of devastating winters and destructive spring floods. Battered maybe, but not defeated. Instead, toughened and filled with a collective iron resolve to change their fate and their future.
But the Oregon Trail is a challenge, even for the toughest and most strong-willed. It starts out hard and gets progressively harder, every inch of the way. It is a foregone conclusion that not everyone who is there at the beginning will make it to the end. It will take men like Wagon Master Eugene Healy, trail scout Basil St. Irons, and former mountain man Elwood Blake to get as many through as possible. And it will take determined women like Ingrid Healy and Evelyn Harmony to nurture and encourage their men in order to help them find the strength and courage to endure.
From within and without, they will be tested. By the elements, by the threat of Indians, by betrayal … and by secrets from the past.

Sunday, August 3, 2014


This just out from Western Trail Blazer, available first in eBook format --- a collection of stories about fathers and fatherhood all set in the American West.
I'm proud to have been invited to participate and honored to be part of the line-up of fine writers and stories that make up the end result.

My stories, which I call the "Silas Smith Saga", comprise a trilogy centered on the aforementioned Silas Smith, an aging Nebraska lawman at the start, who has been estranged from his two sons for a dozen years. Circumstances cause Silas to strike out in an effort to re-connect with his boys and try to deter them from being lured down the Outlaw Trail. What ensues is packed with action, drama, and emotion. If you give it a try, I think you'll like it … along with the other terrific yarns.

Here's the promo blurb for FATHERS:
Editor Jeremy L. C. Jones has collected twelve western-themed stories about fatherhood, three tales each from four of the most highly regarded, award-winning authors working in the genre today: John Duncklee, Wayne D. Dundee, John D. Nesbitt, and Troy D. Smith.
Fathers is a powerful book about responsibility and trust, kindness and compassion, wickedness and meanness, success and failure, honor and shame. There are people in these pages doing the right thing, doing the wrong thing, and doing the best they can. There are folks standing up and backing down. There are characters that follow in their father’s footsteps, blaze their own trails, and other who are just trying to figure out where their paths diverged.

Mostly, though, Fathers is a book about love. But not the easy kind of love, if there is such a thing.

Another Look: THE CHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE (1936 movie, starring Errol Flynn)

My retention of the kind of "classic" poetry they tried to pump into me back in high school is, alas, pretty pathetic. Trying to memorize - let alone make any sense out of  - something like Ode to a Grecian Urn, gave me a serious case of I-don't-give-a-shit-itis. Especially when I had paperback versions of true classics like Mickey Spillane's The Snake or Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan at the Earth's Core tucked away in my locker, waiting to be read and savored … Not to mention a case of near-terminal raging teenage hormones that made it almost impossible to concentrate on anything but finding a way to coax Nancy Mae into the back seat of my car again so we could resume what we … But, never mind that.

Getting back to poetry: One of the very few "classics" that appealed to me enough for even a few of the lines to stick in my memory was Alfred Lord Tennyson's Charge of the Light Brigade. I mean, come on
Cannon to the right of them,
Cannon to the left of them,
Cannon in front of them,
Volleyed and thundered;
Stormed at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well;
Into the jaws of death
Into the mouth of hell …
What red-blooded young lad could fail to be stirred by something like that?

Actually, prior to any "scholarly" exposure, I had a passing familiarity with Tennyson's poem by virtue of the 1936 film adaptation of it, which I saw for the first time when I was about ten or twelve on the old WGN station (before it was called a Superstation) out of Chicago. I was a big Errol Flynn fan, especially back then, due to other movies of his I'd seen on the tube (THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD, CAPTAIN BLOOD, etc. - probably via WGN in those cases, too). So any listing I spotted in the TV Guide with Flynn's name attached, I tried to watch.
I can't say I recalled much of the storyline from those early viewings, but I remembered that the battle scenes were certainly rousing and I remembered some of the poem's lines (the "cannon" stanzas) being superimposed over those scenes as they were playing. It was really pretty effective.

A recent re-viewing of THE CHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE (this time on TCM) showed the film to hold up quite well, at least from my perspective. For PC purists, of course, it glorifies and over simplifies the British occupation of India and is therefore rather racist. Nor does it come anywhere close to be historically accurate. But as strictly a rousing adventure movie, it still delivers.
Directed with customary flair by Michael Curtiz and featuring a terrific musical score by Max Steiner, it stars the aforementioned Mr. Flynn along with his favorite leading lady Olivia de Havilland (this was the second of nine times they would co-star together). It also has David Niven, Donald Crisp, Patric Knowles, and Spring Byington in supporting roles. A sub plot involving de Havvilland, as Flynn's fiancé, having fallen in love with Errol's younger brother (Knowles) while Flynn was out fighting battles and skirmishes, drags on for-freaking-ever and gives Olivia little else to do but to fret and look anguished over the guilt of her betrayal.
But, as already noted, the action is the real star here and it gets delivered by the shovelful. The most powerful sequence in the film is not the climactic charge at the end, but rather the fictionalized account of the Siege of Cawnpore (which actually took place three years after the actual Charge, so the filmmakers changed the name of the besieged city to Chukoti). In either case, after the outnumbered British defenders of the city surrender and turn themselves over --- along with more than a hundred women and children --- to the Suristani forces under Surat Khan (a fictionalized country and leader) they are brutally massacred. Only Flynn and de Havilland make it out alive, due to a debt owed by Khan to Flynn for once saving his life from an attacking leopard.
Months later, after Khan has allied his army with the Russians fighting the British in the Crimean War, Flynn sees his chance to get vengeance for the Chukoti massacre. According to this telling, History's infamous "blunder" (never precisely pinned down as far as how or who) that sent the Light Brigade into the "Valley of Death" came as the result of Flynn's character falsifying actual orders so that he and his lancers were allowed their chance for revenge by being commanded to charge against the heavily fortified battery at Balaclava
When can their glory fade?
Oh the wild charge they made!
Honor that charge they made,
Honor the Light Brigade.
Noble 600.
As survivors of the charge reach the main artillery posts (which is historically true, although that wasn't enough to turn the battle), Flynn zeroes in on the evil Khan and manages to kill him even at the cost of his own life.

Riddled with historic inaccuracies, filled with clichĂ©s and over-the-top heroics, muddled here and there by an unnecessary (and unnecessarily complicated) romance … This is still a dandy adventure flick on a grand scale. If you're in the mood for something in the line of LIVES OF A BENGAL LANCER or GUNGA DIN – movies the way they used to make 'em – I'd recommend checking this out if you get the chance.

Final note: THE CHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE has long held a certain notoriety for its brutal treatment of horses during its filming. The use of trip wires and other cruel tricks to stage "falls" during the shooting and explosions of the big charge sequence, killed or maimed (which still resulted in death, in most cases) dozens of horses. Largely as a result of this film, those kind of tactics were banned by the ASPCA and Congress was forced to pass laws ensuring the safety of animals during the filming of motion pictures.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Noteworthy Reads: SOME DIE HARD by Stephen Mertz

What a delightful too-long-out-of-print gem this is.
A good old-fashioned hardboiled PI thriller with all the ingredients --- a tough loner private eye (Denver-based Rock Dugan, former Hollywood stunt man), crooked cops, surly hoods, shootouts and fist fights, and not just one, but two delectable dames thrown into the mix --- that have kept this enduring sub genre alive for a century and counting. And on top of all that there is what amounts to a locked room-type puzzle involving a flying corpse who manages to land (albeit somewhat roughly) a glider airplane.
Written with the energy of a young writer clearly in love with the genre and demonstrating the solid skill that would only be honed sharper and sharper in works over the coming years, this was the first novel by Stephen Mertz and it's a darn shame that more Rock Dugan mysteries didn't follow.
An entertaining Afterward by author Mertz, detailing the shenanigans of the novel's initial publisher, Manor Books, may explain part of why that didn't happen.
At any rate, SOME DIE HARD is a fine hardboiled read and I strongly recommend it.
(Oh, by the way --- the delicious-looking babe on the cover [reminiscent of the McGinnis-type covers on the old paperbacks of the '60s and '70s] doesn't hurt a darn bit, either.)