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.