Those are the magic words, aren’t they? So let’s look at some things that are undeniably New, and arguably Improved—and, yes, Free.
Why do I get the feeling we’re gonna hear about Kindle Unlimited?
You’re just a deeply intuitive human being, that’s why. Amazon unveiled this new program on July 18, and it could be a real game-changer for ebook readers. Here’s how it works: (1) Anyone with a Kindle (or a Kindle app for a smartphone or iPad) can subscribe for $9.99 a month. You do not have to be an Amazon Prime member. And right now you can get a trial month free. (2) A subscription entitles you to borrow up to ten books at a time at no charge, and keep them as long as you like. When you want a new title, you simply select one you’ve read and tell them to take it back.
So I get to read ten books a month for my $9.99?
No, you can read a hundred books, or a thousand. There’s no limit. You pay the monthly fee, and you read as rapidly as you please, and you replenish your KU library as you go.
What books are available?
At the moment, Amazon has 600,000 titles in the program. That includes ALL self-published titles enrolled in the Kindle Select program (which essentially means they’re Amazon exclusives). It also includes books of those commercial publishers who elect to make them available to KU.
So is your stuff available?
Some is, some is not. Of my self-published work, the KU-available titles include most of the short stories, most of the John Warren Wells books, and The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons. Open Road is the publisher of 40+ of my backlist works—the Chip Harrison and Jill Emerson novels, most of my non-series crime novels, Random Walk, Ronald Rabbit, and a spread of my Midcentury Erotica—and all of their titles are enrolled in KU.
KU looks to be particularly good for short fiction. Here’s a case in point. in 2012 Hard Case published my novel Getting Off, and it’s been available ever since in both printed and electronic form. The book’s an episodic novel, and it started life as a short story series, so I broke the book into twelve sections and ePublished them separately as the Kit Tolliver Stories.
That makes it easy to sample the book, or to read a section you may have missed. But if you buy all 12 stories at $2.99 apiece, you wind up paying way too much; the complete Getting Off ebook is a much better deal at $6.99. With KU, however, you can read all the stories absolutely free.
So I’ll be saving $6.99.
Or $35.88, depending how you look at it. More to the point, it’s all free. I hate to say anything’s a no-brainer, but it seems to me that anyone with a Kindle who doesn’t jump on the free month’s enrollment in Kindle Unlimited is, um, eating with one chopstick.
But even if you don’t sign up, you can get the first Kit Tolliver story free.
I can? How?
It’s called “If You Can’t Stand the Heat,” and for the next five days it’s free to all comers. The link is to amazon.com, but it’s every bit as free on all the other Amazon sites—Canada, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, India, Australia, Brazil, Mexico, Japan, Mars, Alpha Centauri…Sorry, my bad, Amazon hasn’t officially announced those last two yet. You won’t be borrowing the story, it’s yours to keep, and after you read it you can (1) sign up for KU and read the others for free, or (2) cut to the chase and buy the Getting Off ebook, or (3) decide you don’t much care for Kit Tolliver, the homicidal slut, and quit while you’re ahead, or (4) do nothing, which is always a safe choice.
A last word on Kindle Unlimited: I don’t know what it’s going to amount to, or even if it’ll be around for very long. Amazon doesn’t make many dumb moves, but whether or not this’ll fly is something I can’t know yet, and I’m not sure they can either. While it’s here, I’m taking full advantage of it myself—I just downloaded Jerrold Mundis’s 5-book Shame and Glory saga—and I can only suggest you do the same.
Can we move on to something else now?
I’d be happy to. I’m a little punchy at the moment, because earlier this week I did something I once thought I’d never do again. I wrote a new book.
A book! A book! What’s it about? What’s the title? When will it be out? Who’s gonna publish it? How can I get my hands on a copy?
Whoa! Easy there, big fella. You’ve asked a lot of questions, and the only one I’m prepared to answer is the first. What’s it about? It’s about 60,000 words long. I can also say that it’s a non-series crime novel, but as for the rest, I don’t even know the answers myself. Some weeks ago I moved to a rented apartment in another city, propped my MacBook Air on a desk, and got to work. A few days ago I typed The End and collapsed. Rest assured that you’ll know more as soon as I do.
Meanwhile, some other news. I think I’ve told you about my venture into audio self-publishing. Hard Case Crime brought out my very early novel Borderline this spring, and just last month I published it as an ACX audiobook, superbly narrated by Mike Dennis. The whole process was so quick and easy and so much fun that I looked through my backlist for other titles not yet available in audio, and found Thirty, which I wrote as Jill Emerson. The book’s in diary form, covering the thirtieth year in the life of a restless married woman, and Open Road offers it for $2.99. (Or free, via KU, but you already knew that, right?)
A female voice artist was called for, and I found a terrific one in Emily Beresford. She’s completed the narration, and in a week or two you’ll be able to buy her rendition of Thirty from Amazon, Audible, or in the iTunes store. Emily tells me she loved reading the book, and I think you’ll love listening to her.
Before I forget, ACX gave me a batch of one-time free download codes for Borderline reviewers, and I have a few left. If you’re a fan of audiobooks—and of old-time pulp fiction—and think you might like to review Borderline for a print or online publication, or blog about it, email me and ask for one. I only have a few, I can’t get more when they’re gone—so, well, you get the drift.
I’m sure there was something else…
Uh, like the movie???
Oh, right. A Walk Among the Tombstones opens September 19, with Liam Neeson as Matthew Scudder. This week the trailer began getting wide distribution in theaters, and the reactions have been all I (or Universal) could hope for. And I’ve just been booked to join my good buddy Craig Ferguson on the Late Late Show on CBS on the night of Wednesday, September 10th. Astonishingly enough, I believe this will be my tenth appearance on the program—and probably my last, as America’s favorite Scotsman is leaving the show in December.
Gosh, I’m gonna miss that wild and crazy guy.
You won’t be the only one. Rest assured, though, that the great man will be Doing Other Things. He’s about as likely to retire as I am.
MAN MADE MONSTER. Universal, 1941. Lionel Atwill, Lon Chaney Jr., Anne Nagel, Frank Albertson, Samuel S. Hinds. Director: George Waggner.
In the same year that he took on the role of the hapless Larry Talbot in The Wolf Man (1941), Lon Chaney Jr. portrayed Dan McCormick, also a doomed protagonist, in the quasi-Gothic horror film, Man Made Monster. Both movies form part of Universal Studio’s timeless horror canon. George Waggner, who also produced the 1943 version of Phantom of the Opera, directed both films, which were released just months apart.
Man Made Monster and The Wolf Man explore similar themes. A man transformed by powers beyond his control into something hideously monstrous, the duality of good and evil in every man, unrequited love, and the contrast between the pre-modern period of castles, horse-drawn carriages, superstition, and the modern era of automobiles, electricity, and science.
That said, Man Made Monster is more of a Frankenstein-inspired mad doctor film than a supernatural creature film. Case in point: veteran horror film actor Lionel Atwill is cast as Dr. Paul Rigas, a conniving and creepy scientist who transforms the cringe worthy naïve Dan (Chaney) into an electro-biological murdering fiend. To no one’s likely surprise, Dr. Rigas’s creation develops a mind of his own and eventually ends the evil doctor’s time on Earth.
Lon Chaney is actually quite good in this film, although not nearly as good as he would be in his skillful portrayal of Larry Talbot/The Wolf Man. In Man Made Monster, his character, Dan McCormick, is a carnival entertainer who does tricks with electricity. Soon after the film begins, we see a bus crashing into a power line.
As it turns out, Dan is the only one to have survived the horrific incident. Apparently, he has built up some sort of immunity to electricity. But he doesn’t really know what the word “immunity” means, leaving us to believe that the guy’s just not all that bright.
Still, he’s willing to go visit Dr. John Lawrence (Samuel S. Hinds) at his laboratory and to take part in some experiments to try to figure out how he survived what should have been a fatal electrocution. I should mention that Dr. Lawrence houses his lab in an estate complex known as The Moors and that Lionell Atwill’s character is a worker in the lab. Once we see him, we all but know Dan’s fate is sealed.
Early on during his sojourn at The Moors, however, everything seems to be going okay for Dan. He’s living at this somewhat Gothic estate, playing with the Lawrence family dog, and flirting unsuccessfully with Lawrence’s niece/secretary, June (Anne Nagel). Without much success, because she’s otherwise occupied with her emerging love interest, newspaperman Mark Adams (Frank Albertson).
Soon enough, though, Dr. Rigas demonstrates that he has his own wicked plans for Dan. With Lawrence out of town, Dr. Rigas (Atwill) conducts a series of bizarre experiments on the hapless Dan, transforming him into an electro-biological man-creature hybrid that needs constant bolts of electricity to survive. Rigas wants to create a race of electrically powered men who will be enslaved to men with superior intellects. Men like him. Or something.
Altogether, Man Made Monster is a well-paced, solid horror movie. It’s not a classic, but it’s quite good. Chaney had some duds in his later years, but in this short little film, he really shows how talented an actor he can be. Watch for the scenes in which his character repeatedly drones the following three words: “I killed him.” The lines are chilling and Chaney delivers them well.
Also worth looking for is the penultimate scene in which the family dog attempts to revive a dying, or dead, Dan McCormick (Chaney). It’s actually pretty heartbreaking, if you really stop to think about it. In many ways, it’s indicative of what this film’s really about: a scientist with an outsized ego preying upon a simple, cheerful man, dooming them both.
JOHN BINGHAM – Murder Plan Six. Dodd Mead, US, hardcover, 1959. Dell R112, US, paperback, 1962. First published in the UK by Victor Gollancz, hardcover, 1958.
Anyone out there ever heard of this one? I picked up the Dell paperback in a Myrtle Beach used book store, mostly out of boredom. The cover touts it as “in the chilling tradition of Psycho,” but in 1962 they were marketing everything that way, including Miss Marple, so I wasn’t expecting much. This, however, is The Goods: a deftly plotted, skillfully told, constantly surprising bit of work reminiscent of The Red Right Hand, though much better- written.
The story opens with Tom Dempster, a free-lance writer, asked by his sometime editor to come see him – Oh, and while he’s on his way, could he stop by so-and-so’s cottage and see if she’s heard anything from a chap called Michael Barlow? Don’t tell her why, don’t get her upset just ask in a nice way, will you? there’s a good chap.
It quickly develops that Michael Barlow is the assumed identity of a very disturbed fellow who has gotten involved in a complex plan to murder his lover’s husband — a plan he is smugly revealing piece-meal to the editor through a series of tapes — and who might just takeanother innocent victim along with if the plot, which he half jokingly calls “Murder Plan Six,” goes awry.
Author Bingham manages in this slender volume the neat trick of revealing his characters in easy stages as the plot unfolds, so we get a feeling of people shaping and being shaped by events and other characters. He also achieves quite a bit of tense momentum as the story careens to an intelligent and surprising conclusion. The sort of precise, skillful writing we don’t get much of anymore, and I was glad to find it.
Getting ready to spend the weekend in not-too-distant New Brunswick, New Jersey with more mystery readers and mystery writers. It's Deadly Ink, and while it's relatively smaller than, say, Malice Domestic, it's just as enthusiastic about the mystery genre and its various sub-genres. The guests of honor this year will be Donald Bain and his wife, Renee Paley-Bain, authors of - among other things - the continuing series of about two dozen novels (so far) based on the characters from Murder She Wrote. Jessica Fletcher may share the bylines, but the Bains have the responsibility.
Also in the spotlight will be Toastmaster Donna Andrews, another award-winning author and one of the funniest people I know. I'm very much looking forward to seeing and hearing her again this weekend.
And for full disclosure: the Deadly Ink folks have been kind enough (or misguided enough) to name me as their Fan Guest of Honor this year.
At Saturday night's banquet, the group will announce the winner of this year's David Award, for the best mystery published during 2013. The award is named for David G. Sasher, Sr., and the nominees this year are:
- Lethal Treasure, by Jane Cleland;
- There Was an Old Woman, by Hallie Ephron;
- Condemned to Repeat, by Janice MacDonald;
- The Wrong Girl, by Hank Phillippi Ryan;
- Dark Music, by E. F. Watkins.
There will, as always, be panels, book signings, and the usual continuing opportunities for schmoozing with other fans about mysteries, which is really the best part of these things. I hope I'll see some of you there!
PulpFest 2014 will start on Thursday, August 7th. The dealers’ room will be open to registered sellers to set up their displays from 4 to 11 PM. Ohio State’s Thompson Library will also offer a free lecture at 4:30 PM. Early registration for all convention attendees will take place outside the dealers’ room from 5 to 9 PM. There will be early-bird shopping available to PulpFest members who will be staying at the Hyatt Regency Columbus from 6 to 10 PM. Our full slate of programming will get underway at 8 PM.
Thursday, August 7th
4:00 PM – 11:00 PM – Dealer Set-Up – the dealers’ room will be open to dealers to assemble their displays.
4:30 PM – Ohio State Lecture Series – author and pulp fan Laurie Powers will be speaking about her grandfather, the noted pulp writer Paul Powers, at Ohio State’sThompson Library. PulpFest members are invited to attend this annual lecture sponsored by Ohio State University.
5:00 PM – 9:00 PM – Early Registration – general members and dealers will be able to register for PulpFest.
6:00 PM – 10:00 PM - Early-Bird Shopping – the dealers’ room will be open to loyal attendees who help to defray the convention’s costs by staying three nights at our host hotel.
8:00 PM – Remembering Frank Robinson – winner of the 2000 Lamont Award,Frank Robinson was the author of The Power, Pulp Culture, Science Fiction of the 20th Century, and other works. Years before setting pen to paper, Frank was collecting pulp magazines. PulpFest pays tribute to the author, collector, and friend who passed away on June 30th of this year.
8:30 PM – Frank Munsey’s Famous Fantastic Mysteries – Blood ‘n’ Thunder editorEd Hulse and author Nathan Madison discuss this reprint magazine, one of the major science-fiction titles started in 1939. It introduced new readers to the classic “scientific romances” that originally appeared in the premier Munsey magazinesThe Argosy and All-Story Weekly.
9:15 PM - The Avenger’s Diamond Jubilee – in 1939, Richard Henry Benson, the chalk-faced crime fighter who founded “Justice, Incorporated,” was the last of Street & Smith’s major pulp heroes to get his own magazine. Pop-culture scholar Rick Lai offers a behind-the-scenes history of the character’s creation and development.
10:00 PM – The Farmerian Vision – moderator Paul Spiteri and panelists Jason Aiken and Christopher Paul Carey will discuss the unique way in which the Hugo award-winning author blended pulp elements and themes with his science-fictional works..
11:00 PM - Buck Rogers – Chapters 1 – 4 of this science fiction classic from 1939, this Universal serial starred Larry “Buster” Crabbe as the time-traveling hero introduced in Philip Nowlan’s 1928 pulp novella “Armageddon 2419 A.D.”
Friday, August 8th
9:00 AM – 10 AM - Early Registration – all members will be able to register for PulpFest. The dealers’ room will be open only to dealers for set-up.
10:00 AM – 5 PM – Wheeling and Dealing – the dealers’ room will be open to all.
1:30 PM – The New Fictioneers – Dick Enos, author of the popular Rick Steele adventure books, will read from four of his novels as well as his not-yet-released Rick Steele adventure, The Monster of Chinatown.
2:30 PM - The New Fictioneers – Christopher Paul Carey, the coauthor with Philip José Farmer of Gods of Opar: Tales of Lost Khokarsa, and the author of Exiles of Kho, will read from the Farmer-inspired “The Goddess Equation.”
7:30 PM – Welcome to PulpFest – Chairman Jack Cullers offers an official welcome to all attendees
7:40 PM - 1939: Science Fiction’s Boom Year – a brief overview of the “big bang” that launched six science-fiction pulps and ushered in the genre’s Golden Age.
8:00 PM - Startling Stories: An Overview – designed as a companion to Thrilling Wonder Stories, this pulp outlasted most of its competitors and became one of the most respected science-fiction pulps in the field. PulpFest‘s Ed Hulse presents a slideshow of Startling’s 99 covers and touches on the many famous yarns published in its pages.
8:30 PM - A Feast of Farmer: PJF’s Early Science Fiction – Meteor Housepublisher Mike Croteau and Book Cave co-host Art Sippo review Philip José Farmer’s pulp and digest stories, including “The Lovers,” a classic tale from Startling Stories that pioneered the intelligent use of sex in science fiction.
9:00 PM - Pulp Promos, Part Two – in a sequel to his extremely well-received presentation of last year, Chris Kalb takes another look at the now-rare premiums that pulp fans of yore could obtain for a dime and a coupon.
9:30 PM - Eighty Years of Terror - weird-menace fiction was less than a year old when its most successful and long-lasting exponent, Terror Tales, first appeared on the nation’s newsstands in the summer of 1934. A blue-ribbon panel of fans and collectors weighs in on this Popular Publications title, as well as other shudder pulps.
10:30 PM - Science Fiction’s “Golden Age” - under the editorship of John W. Campbell, Street & Smith’s Astounding Science Fiction was the genre’s trend setter, introducing many of the field’s top authors and publishing some of its most memorable stories. This presentation reviews Astounding’s 1939 issues, which featured the early fiction of Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, Theodore Sturgeon, and A. E. van Vogt.
11:00 PM - Buck Rogers - Chapters 5 – 8 follows Buck and his pal Buddy Wade in their battle against the ruthless dictator, Killer Kane, and his army of super-racketeers.
Saturday, August 9th
9:00 AM – 4:45 PM – Wheeling and Dealing – the dealers’ room will be open to all.
1:00 PM - New Pulp Fiction Panel – moderator Ron Fortier is joined by writers Ralph Angelo, Jim Beard, Wayne Reinagel, Frank Schildiner, and Art Sippo as they discuss “The Fun of Writing Pulp Fiction.”
3:00 PM - The New Fictioneers – Frank Schildiner, who has written for Black Coat Press, Pulp Obscura, and others, will read from his forthcoming Thunder Jim Wade novella and a story from the Tales of the Shadowmen series.
5:00 PM – 7 PM - Saturday Night Dinner – join your fellow fans of pulp fiction for a delightful meal at Buca di Beppo in this get-together arranged by registration and volunteer coordinator Sally Cullers. (Note: Sorry, but this has sold out!)
7:30 PM – PulpFest 2014 Business Meeting – all members are invited to ask questions and offer suggestions at this session.
8:00 PM - Unknown: The Best in Fantasy Fiction – celebrate the 75th birthday of Street & Smith’s Unknown, the home to many of the pulp era’s most memorable—and oft-anthologized—fantasy and horror stories. We revisit the magazine’s highlights, including Edd Cartier’s magnificent artwork, in our tribute.
8:30 PM - The Mystery and Mastery of John Newton Howitt –art historian David Saunders chronicles the life and career of this prolific pulp artist, paying special attention to his memorable covers for the Popular Publications weird-menace magazines Terror Tales and Horror Stories.
11:30 PM – Buck Rogers - Chapters 9 – 12 bring the 1939 Universal serial directed by Ford Beebe and Saul A. Goodkind to an exciting and satisfying close.
Sunday, August 10th
9:00 AM – 2 PM – Wheeling and Dealing – the dealers’ room will be open to all as our dealers pack up. Buying and selling opportunities may be limited.
For questions and/or suggestions about our programming, please write to programming director Ed Hulse at email@example.com.
In James Neal Harvey’s first new thriller in more than fifteen years, a starlet’s murder draws an NYPD detective into a cross-country manhunt...