Ron Fortier

SUSPECT

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Jan 042014
 


SUSPECT
By Robert Crais
Berkeley Books
339 pages

As a book reviewer, we get lots and lots of promotional material from various publishers every time a new book comes out.  All of this material is geared to entice us to read their books.  Of course most of it is the same homogenized spiel repeated over and over again until it becomes impossible to distinguish one book from another.  That is why the marketing rep who penned the promotional package for Robert Crais’ newest thriller is a genius.  You see, what he/she explained in the first paragraph of Berkeley Book’s flier was the fact that Crais, after decades of writing best selling novels, has never once agreed to allow any of them to be filmed.  He’s obviously not a big fan of movie adaptations.  But that is all about to change because Crais has found a film outfit he is willing to work with and the book he wants to see on screen is “Suspect.”

Well, if that isn’t an original hook, we don’t know what is.  We were immediately intrigued as to why this particular book was so unique to the author amongst all the others he’s done in the past.  We asked to receive a review copy.  It arrived in time to be our first review of 2014 and after devouring it, we’re thrilled to say the New Year at Pulp Fiction Reviews is off with winner.

Scott James is a Los Angeles police officer.  One night, he and his partner, Stephanie Anders, are caught in a brutal crossfire when they witness the murder of two successful businessmen by a gang of masked men.  Stephanie is killed and Scott terribly wounded.  Months later, after completing physical therapy and while under a psychiatrist care, Scott manages to get himself reinstated for duty.  He is haunted by Anders death and guilt ridden.  Reluctant to be teamed with another officer, Scott request reassignment to the K-9 division of the LAPD.  His logic, dogs don’t talk. 

At the dog training facility, Scott is about to be paired with one animal when he sees a beautiful female German Shepherd with scars on her backside.  Curious, he inquires as to how the animal was injured.  He learns she was a former Marine Scout Dog and while on patrol in Afghanistan, was shot twice while attempting to save her trainer who died from an I.E.D roadside explosion.  Scott learns that Maggie, the dog, also bears her own emotional scars and no one at the kennel expects her pass the rigorous tests required for her to be certified.  Scott, because of his own issues, recognizes that he and Maggie share a great deal and convinces the Sergeant Leland, the man in charge of the unit, to let him have Maggie.

From that moment on, Crais skillfully weaves his story between both the human and the dog, allowing us to see their individual fears exposed through the budding relationship each is building with the other.  Maggie lives to love and serve; it is how all dogs are wired; whereas Scott’s own reservations are daunting.  When he eventually begins to open his heart to Maggie’s purity, his life begins to have purpose again.

Eventually new clues surface as to the identity of the gang who ambushed the businessmen and Scott, through a friendly detective, is pulled back into the case.  At first he is cautiously optimistic and then as new leads begin to surface, the mystery elements of the plot take center stage.  Only now, Scott is the not alone in his quest for justice but he is faithfully assisted by a truly remarkable, brave, four-legged ally.  We haven’t encountered such a wonderful dog hero since Dean R. Koontz’s Einstein in his classic fantasy adventure, “The Watchers.”  Believe us, Maggie, is just as memorable a hero and this is one of those rare books that you will hate to see come to a close.

So, let me conclude with this one thought.  Hollywood, you’ve been given a gem of a tale to bring to the silver screen. As in all such adaptations, casting will be all important and somewhere out there, you had best find the next Rin-Tin-Tin.  Maggie deserves nothing but the best you have to give.

THE WRONG QUARRY

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Dec 232013
 


THE WRONG QUARRY
By Max Allan Collins
Hard Case Crime
221 pages

Here is another tough and gritty tale featuring Max Allan Collin’s killer-for-hire, Quarry. Collins, a superb story-teller with several series under his gunbelt, is never better then when narrating a new Quarry story.  Unlike Collin’s other good-guy heroes, the Vietnam veteran is the quintessential pragmatic character who sees his job of eliminating people as something totally mundane and unromantic.  Quarry’s philosophy is a simple one, certain people need killing and killing is something he is good at.

Upon his return from Nam, Quarry was recruited by a man known as the Broker.  Later, when the Broker betrayed him, the savvy hitman terminated the Broker and confiscated all his files.  Amongst these records were the names of the other killers working for the Broker. It was then that Quarry was struck by inspiration.  What if he were to follow these other killers, learn who their targets were and then use this information to his own advantage.  He would contact the person in the cross-hairs and, for a substantial fee, offer to eliminate the threat to them by killing the killers.  A hitman targeting other hitmen.  As bizarre as the concept was, Quarry actually made it work and was soon living a very comfortable life in his new, albeit macabre, career.

In, “The Wrong Quarry,” Quarry shadows a hitman to the sleepy little town of Stockwell, Missouri and soon learns the man’s target is a gay dance teacher named Roger Vale.  After doing a little digging, Quarry discovers that a year earlier high school senior Candy Stockwell, the granddaughter of the town’s patriarch, had vanished mysteriously.  Although the Stockwell family did its best to prove Vale responsible for the girl’s disappearance, the police could find no conclusive evidence to substantiate their claims.   Quarry learns that the majority of parents whose students were taught by Vale all supported him and believed Clarence Stockwell’s accusations were founded on his dislike of Vale’s homosexuality.

Working against a pair of killers’ unknown timetable, Quarry confronts Vale and informs him of the contract on his life.  He then offers the dance teacher his lethal services.  Once again Quarry sets about fulfilling his contract but he isn’t completely convinced it was the senior Stockwell who commissioned the hit on Vale.  As he begins to do his own private investigation into Candy’s disappearances a different picture takes shape and he soon realizes, as in all things in life, nothing is ever simply black and white.  Somewhere in the missing girl’s past is a hidden secret that hides a sadistic monster and before his job is finished, Quarry will discover the depths of depravity a twisted mind is capable of.

“The Wrong Quarry,” is another solid entry in a truly hard-edged series this reviewer hopes will never end.  These books are just too damn good!

RUNNER

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Dec 212013
 


RUNNER
By Patrick Lee
Minotaur Books
336 pages
Available Feb 18, 2014
Guest Reviewer – Andrew Salmon

Patrick Lee burst on the scene with a trilogy for the ages. The Breach novels were three of the finest action novels I've had the pleasure to read and I was chomping at the bit to see what Lee had up his sleeve for a follow-up.

RUNNER is that follow-up to the Breach and it does not disappoint!

Sam Dryden, a former special-forces operative, is living on auto-pilot following the death of his wife and daughter. One night, plagued by insomnia, he feels compelled to go for a run on the beach during which he runs into a frightened eleven-year-old girl on the run from a group of armed men. Dryden gets involved and they elude the pursuers at least for the moment.

But the group after the girl are a determined bunch and they've got state of the art gadgetry to corner their prey - so long as their prey isn't Sam Dryden. Using tracking satellites, mis-information to the media and dastardly doggedness, Sam and Rachel are running for their lives. And make no mistake, the group is not thinking of capturing the pair, this is a search and destroy mission.

What follows is a breath-taking, full-tilt, action yarn that does not let up until you hit the last page. Part Jack Reacher, part FIRESTARTER, Lee's RUNNERcombines the best elements of both. His characterization is excellent. Dryden comes across as a damaged yet capable human being and Lee makes sure Rachel never strays into the smart-mouth, precocious kid minefield. Twist and turns abound and this is where Lee shines. He has the uncanny knack of slowly unveiling the details while Sam and Rachel flee for their lives and the plot unfolds with tantalizing slowness, just enough to keep you reading until Lee pulls the rug out from under you time and time again.

But where Lee excels is in his payoffs. Once the main thrust of the plot is revealed, any experienced reader could fill in where they think the story is going only they'd be wrong. Lee keeps the standard action, suspense framework of the novel fresh and, although the final payoff does not quite reach BREACH's mind-blowing levels, it is still satisfyingly different and engaging.

 With characters you care about, and an unpredictable plot, RUNNER is sure to satisfy any action junkie. I tore through the thing and am already anxiously awaiting Lee's next effort.

SHERLOCK HOLMES : WORK CAPITOL

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Dec 182013
 


SHERLOCK HOLMES ; WORK CAPITOL
By Andrew Salmon
A Fightcard Novel
137 pages

Canadian writer Andrew Salmon burst on the New Pulp scene several years ago when his very first Sherlock Holmes story for Airship 27 Procutions, The Adventure of the Locked Room, won him the Pulp Factory Award for Best Pulp Short Story of 2009.  Since that outing, Salmon has gone on to write four more tales starring Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous crime solving duo, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.

Now Salmon has taken his affinity for these characters and given us his longest Holmes story yet; one wherein the famous sleuth is tested both physically and mentally.  The Fightcard books, established by writer/publisher Paul Bishop, is a popular series that has quickly revived a classic pulp genre, the boxing stories, by new and exciting writers.
Bringing Holmes and Watson into the 1880s London underground world of bare-knuckle fighting was a stroke of genius first suggested by Bishop and now brilliantly realized in this new title.

Easily one of the author’s most daunting challenges, Salmon clearly did his homework and offers up a terrific adventure that is both historically accurate in its setting and at the same time true to the classic Doyle formula of presenting our heroes with a unique and macabre murder mystery.  With only a few days before Christmas, 1884, Sherlock Holmes engages in a friendly boxing match with an old friend as another of his many personal challenges to better himself.  No sooner has the bout ended then someone enters the hall screaming, “Murder.”  Disregarding his own lack of clothing, Holmes rushes into the snowy night clad only in britches to find the dead body of a young man apparently strangled to death.  But the victim’s footprints are the only ones to be found in the pristine white snow around his body?

And just like that the game is afoot as Holmes and Watson find themselves plunged into a deadly affair filled with sadistic killers, clever counterfeiters and a monstrous ex-pugilist named Tanner who has no qualms about eliminating any who stand in his way.  Thus as the wintery holidays draw near, Holmes and Watson race against the clock to solve not one, but two heinous crimes while matching wits with a diabolic fiend hidden in the shadows.  In the end, Holmes must once again step into the ring and put his life on the line against a sadistic brawler or all will be lost.

“Sherlock Holmes : Work Capitol,” is easily Andrew Salmon’s finest work to date and is destined to become a classic amongst diehard Holmes and fight fans alike.  It is a reading experience to be enjoyed and savored and it is poetically fitting that it comes to us now at Christmas time.  Thank you, Mr. Salmon, for this marvelous literary gift to us all.

DINOSAUR DUST

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Dec 142013
 


DINOSAUR DUST
By Michael Panush
Curiosity Quills Press
225 pages

Early last year we reviewed a book called “Dinosaur Jazz” by Michael Panush of California.  It told the story of a strange and mysterious island in the South Pacific discovered at the turn of the century by British explorers.  On the island were found all manner of creatures thought to be long extinct from dinosaurs to saber-tooth tigers and wooly mammoths; plus a race of ape-like people.  Of course the discovery of such a place had scientific repercussions around the world and soon the island was being invaded by scientist but also tourists, hunters, adventurers and entrepreneurs.  The place was called Archeron Island.

“Dinasaur Jazz,” told the story of Sir Edwin Crowe, the son of the man who had discovered the island and a World War One veteran wanting to put the horrors of the trenches behind him.  The book was a glorious introduction to this unique setting and one filled with so much action and adventure that this reviewer nominated the book for the Pulp Factory Awards ad Best Pulp Novel of 2012.

Now Panush has profuced a sequel, “Dinosaur Dust,” and as unbelievable as it seems, it is just as wonderful as its predecessor.  The book opens in the United States ten years after the events in the first book.  The Jazz Age has given way to the Depression and Americans are in dire straights, to include convicted gangster, Norris Hall.  A former Marine, Hall has no intention of spending his days in an Oklahoma prison and escapes to hunt down the man who betrayed him.  He returns to St.Louis to inform his mob boss that he is out and once again available do to his bidding.

The Boss owns part of a Hollywood movie studio which produces B-movies featuring a trained raptor named Rusty.  Someone has stolen the loveable dino and Hall is ordered to Los Angeles to learn who snatched the scaly star and retrieve him unharmed.  Now if that wasn’t odd enough, he’s also ordered to take along a young pulp writer named Nathan Whipple whose father is a New York attorney who had been helpful to mob families in the past.  The naïve writer wants to learn more about gangsters as fodder for his future pulp sagas.

Of course readers of “Dinosaur Jazz” will immediately recognize this character as the same ten year old precocious lad who was part of that book’s cast of characters.  Having him reappear in this sequel as a struggling pulp writer was a real treat and it helped tie the two books together.  Still, one needn’t have read the first to enjoy this new tale.

The fun of “Dinosaur Dust” is getting to know tough-guy Hall and to watch his character develop a real conscience as he is cast into an entirely new experience unlike any he has ever known before.  He and Nathan manage to uncover the villain who stole Rusty only to learn the creature has been shipped back to Archeron Island and so they must travel there to complete their assignment.  When they arrive, they quickly discover the island has become a microcosm of the world’s current political unrest.  Causing part of this  tension are Russian Bolsheviks who have organized the Apemen laborers and are inciting them to revolt against the rich who control most of Victoria City, the island’s capital. They also discover a huge contingent of both Japanese military and a company of Nazis storm-troopers, all pumping their chests with nationalist fervor and clearly eager to ignite a new world war to achieve their mutual mad dreams of conquest.

So what the hell does have missing Hollywood dinosaur have to do with any of that?
By the time Hall and Whipple discover the answer to that puzzle, things heat up fast and the action explodes non-stop across the pages all leading to a pulp-glorious final battle in the Hollywood Hills between Nazis, dinosaurs, airships and American gangsters to be forever known as “The Battle of L.A.”

Michael Panush is one of the best New Pulp writers on the market today and “Dinosaur Dust,”is by far his most original and exciting book yet.  We will be nominating it for Best Pulp Novel of 2013.  It deserves to win.


SADDLES, SIX-GUNS & SHOOTOUTS

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Dec 052013
 


SADDLES, SIXGUNS & SHOOTOUTS
By Charles Beckman, Jr.
ISBN 9781483922102
179 pages

The latest story in this new collection by writer Charles Beckman, Jr. is dated 1956 so the odds are most of you reading this volume weren’t even born when these were published for the first time in various western pulp magazines.  Now, thanks to the easy accessibility to self-publishing, books like this can be produced and made available to an entire new generation of young pulp enthusiast.  Beckman, during his long career, was one of the hundreds of veteran pulp scribes who pumped out scores of stories in every genre imaginable to earn a living.  Was it great literature?  Hardly.  Rather pulps were the epitome of escapist, entertaining fiction intended not for academia but for the average reading Joe and Jill.

As this new book proves readily, when it came to entertaining fiction, no one took a back seat to Charles Beckman, Jr.  This title features his western yarns and contains a neat dozen.  So saddle up for some genuine wild-west adventures.

BRAZOS WOMEN encapsulates the history post Civil War Texas as seen from a Southern Belle who has escaped the sexist prejudices of New Orleans to make her fortune on the frontier.  It is wonderfully told and Beckman does a deft job of setting an authentic background filled with tragedy and triumph.

BAD MAN FROM BOSTON has greenhorn Art Billows coming to grips with his dreams of being a hero and willing to sacrifice all for one minute of bravery.  While in RUSTY GUNS an old gunfighter seeks revenge only to find redemption.  Clayton Traveler in THE KID COMES BACK follows a ten year old trail to get justice on the men who murdered his father and stole their home.  Jimmy Laredo is an orphan with the face of an angel and the soul of killer unable to escape THE LAST BULLET.  Whereas ex-outlaw, Ollie Towns finds his past hot on his heels in time for him to catch the STAGE COACH TO HELL.

Ex-Confederate soldier, Jim Brady, comes to a small Texas town to start a new life all because of a photograph in HOME IS THE KILLER.  One of my favorites here.  Then tough town-tamer Bull Huler has to decide whether to reconcile with the woman who deserted him, or not, in BITTER REUNION IN RIMROCK. All of Beckman’s stories are infused with simple but powerful human emotions that resonated with this reviewer. Sometimes fatalistic, his men and women are rugged pioneers coping with the ever expanding frontier that will either bring their lives success or tragedy.  THE DEVIL’S DEADLINE tells the story of Ed Brennan, a small town newspaper publisher who finds the courage to stand up to a corrupt sheriff, even though it means the end of all he ever hoped for.

And finally, the book ends with another novelette, HELL’S CARGO; the story of a young riverboat captain who comes home from the Civil War to face the man who stole both his boat and his woman.  It is a fast paced, superbly written tale of the lost glory of the old steamboats that plied the Mississippi and Missouri rivers between St.Louis and New Orleans before the coming of the railroads.  It’s a grand adventure and just the right way to close out this truly excellent collection.

We’ve enjoyed every Charles Beckman, Jr. story we’ve ever had the pleasure of reading and this new title is no exception.  Beckman was a true pulp veteran who could spin a tale with the best of them and SADDLES, SIX-GUNS & SHOOTOUTS proves that beyond a doubt.  Recommending this book is a no-brainer, folks.  You owe tit o yourself to learn what good writing is all about.

HUGH MOON – Catching A Rising Star

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Nov 182013
 



HUGH MONN – Private Detective
CATCH A RISING STAR
By Lee Houston Jr.
Prose Press
175 pages

Last year I had the pleasure of reading and reviewing writer Lee Houston Junior’s debut title featuring his futuristic private eye, Hugh Monn.  It was a collection of tales showcasing the white haired, ex-military vet and his life on the alien world of Frontera. I gave the book major thumbs up and I trust all of you went out a grabbed a copy.  That book reminded me a great deal of the 1950s paperback era and all the marvelous sci-fi authors who appeared in the pages of those Ace Doubles.

Now comes Hugh Monn’s newest case and, much to my delight, it’s a full length novel.
A film company, Stellar Studios, arrives on Frontera to shoot a romantic-comedy vid featuring the very sexy and popular alien star, Ruby Kwartz.  When her human manager, Augustus Dubois, recommends they hire a local to act as an additional bodyguard.  The lucky man they choose is our protagonist.  From the start Hugh isn’t comfortable around the movie entourage finding they gauche and egotistical but they are willing to pay triple his usual rates.  Typical of all private eyes, there’s no way Hugh can turn down that kind of creds.

Then the big star’s publicist, Nola Pierce, also a member of the same red-skinned race, confides in Hugh that she believes Ruby is in real danger.  Although unconvinced at the start, as the gumshoe begins to investigate he uncovers a few unsavory facts about Dubois and Ruby’s co-star, Dirk Hartford.  Then, only hours after location filming begins on a nearby beach, a flying camera goes bonkers and nearly crashes into Monn, Hartford and the actor’s Primoid bodyguard.  Monn doesn’t believe in accidents, especially when he’s working a case.  Is Ruby Kwartz’s life in jeapordy?  And if so was the beach incident meant to eliminate him or her co-star?  And if so, why?

Houston delivers all the standard wise-cracking humor these kind of mysteries of noted for and it is surprising how well the form works even in such an exotic off-world setting.  All the while reading “Catch A Rising Star,” I was reminded a great deal of those wonderful Shell Scott mysteries by the late Richard Prather.  That both Hugh and Shell have premature white hair just can’t be a coincidence; can it?  This is a marvelous book written by a talented writer who knows both genres well and thus merges them so smoothly as to be totally entertaining.  This book cemented my membership in the Hugh Monn fan club, a group that’s about to get a whole lot bigger.  Take my word for that.

SKORPIO

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Nov 112013
 


SKORPIO
By Mike Baron
Word Fire Press
334 pages
Guest Reviewer – Derrick Ferguson

If you’re as well read as I think you are (and you must be…why else are you reading book reviews? You’re looking for something good to read, right?) then you should have some familiarity with the name Mike Baron. Mr. Baron first landed on my radar when I discovered his innovative science fiction comic book “Nexus” which he co-created with Mike Rude. Much like other great comic book pairings like Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers or Marv Wolfman and Gene Colon, the two of them made magic together and if you haven’t read “Nexus” yet then you should correct that at your earliest opportunity.
Mr. Baron has also written many other comic book titles but in recent years he’s been working in prose, writing some really compelling novels such as “Helmet Head” which I really enjoyed. That’s a book you really ought to pick up as it reads like the lost novelization of a John Carpenter movie. Yeah, it’s that good.
SKORPIO is almost as good. It’s not a roller coaster ride like “Helmet Head’ which reads like a runaway train going downhill from start to finish. Mr. Baron takes his time setting up the situation and the characters before he gets to the guts of his story but I appreciate a writer who has the confidence to take his time to take us where we need to go so he can most effectively deliver the goods later on and yeah, SKORPIO delivers.
Vaughan Beadles is a Professor of Anthropology at Creighton University in Illinois where he enjoys a near rock star status. He’s too handsome for his own good with a gorgeous wife and beautiful baby boy. Beadles is riding high due to his acquisition of relics belonging to a previously lost Southwestern Indian tribe, the Azuma. But all that comes to a screeching halt when Beadles is framed for stealing some of the artifacts. And if that wasn’t enough, one of his students dies from a scorpion sting that he got when Beadles lets the kid get an unauthorized sneak peek at the artifacts.
His life rapidly falls into ruin. His wife leaves him, he loses his job and all of his money goes toward his legal fees. The only way Beadles can see to salvage his life is to find where the Azuma actually lived and prove his theories to be true. In his quest to find the birthplace, Beadles runs into a truly amazing diverse cast of characters. Some of them you’ll wonder what the hell they’re doing in the book but trust me, part of the enjoyment of reading SKORPIO is seeing just how Mike Baron pulls all of these characters together and makes them integral components of the story.
It takes a while for the title character to show up but when it does it’s worth the wait. Skorpio is a vengeful ghost of hideous power who appears in the sunlight, which is a nice twist as ghosts are usually associated with the nighttime. I also liked Mr. Baron’s choice of protagonist. Vaughan Beadles isn’t exactly squeaky clean in his dealings and he’s a bit of an opportunist, always actively looking for an angle to advance his career and fatten his bank account.
In fact, most of the characters in SKORPIO are a little more on the gray side than you might expect but I enjoyed that as it gave the book an unpredictability I found refreshing. There’s never any way to tell what these characters are going to do or say and for me, that’s always welcome in my fiction.
Mike Baron’s prose is as uncomplicated and straightforward as the word “No.”  He doesn’t go in for flowery purple prose. He’s a born storyteller who is concerned with only one thing: telling you a good story. He’s not interested in showing off his vocabulary or trying to impress you with his cleverness in turning a pithy phrase. He just wants you to have a good time and I certainly did have a good time reading SKORPIO. 

EARLY CRIMES

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Oct 312013
 


EARLY CRIMES
By Max Allan Collins
Perfect Crime Books
157 pages

All readers have favorite writers; those talented scribes who spin a yarn in a style and fashion that entertains our personal taste in fiction.  In the field of mystery fiction, Max Allan Collins, is one of mine and getting a new book with his name on it is always a cause for celebration.  Whereas this one is of particular significance as it collects three of Collins’ first ever attempts at crime writing and offers us a glimpse into his evolution as a writer.

The book, handsomely produced by Perfect Crime Books, features two of Collin’s short pieces that date back to his college days and a longer novella.  Believe me; digging into this book was akin to finding long lost treasure ala Indiana Jones.

“Public Servant,” is the first short and is clearly an homage to Jim Thompson’s classic “The Killer Inside Me,” which Collins admittedly confesses.  Still it has a sharp slicing bite like an innocuous paper-cut; looking innocent but leaving a trail of blood.  Whereas the second short, “The Rack,” is a tip of the pulp fedora to classic noir novels and films wherein the luckless protagonist, despite his best efforts, is doomed from the beginning and can do nothing but accept his damning fate.  It’s not a genre I’m particularly fond of and the less said here, the better.

The book’s real gem is the novella, “Shoot the Moon,” which is a twisted, funny crime caper that goes horribly wrong for two naive high school graduates.  Fred, who likes to gamble too much, and his best friend, Wheat, owe the school’s muscle bound football jock a lot of money.  When the jock’s bimbo cheerleader suggest they run naked through a wedding reception at a nearby by hotel, the boys agree to the stunt strictly to satisfy the debt.  What neither realizes is that the girl being married is the Police Chief’s daughter.  They are both caught, arrested for streaking and sentenced to lock up in the county jail for several months. 

That punishment isn’t very severe as the facility is used primarily to house inmates awaiting trial.  Those convicted of serious crimes are sent to the state penitentiary.  While serving their time, the lads make the acquaintances of Elam and Hopp, two older seasoned criminals, who con them into play cards to help pass the time.  Without giving away the plot, the boys get conned and, upon their release, go home thinking owe the crooks a few dollars.  A few weeks later, Elam and Hopps show up on their doorstep demanding thousands of dollars.  Then truth of their predicament descends on our heroes like the proverbial ton of bricks.

Once again they are in a jam because of a gambling debt only this time the buy-out isn’t going to be simple prank.  Ed and Hopp have their eye on a small bank in a nearby town and coerce Fred and Wheat to helping them rob it.  They do this by fabricating yet another lie which our gullible protagonist swallow, hook, line and sinker.

What happens next is an unexpected literary curve ball thrown at us by a truly gifted writer.  Collins has always had a penchant for infusing even his most gritty tales with off the wall comedy bordering on screwball antics.  In “Shoot the Moon,” he dishes it out in perfectly measured doses and Fred’s dire fate begins to spool out of control while he desperately tries to find a way and save himself and Wheat.

The plot threads come together so brilliantly at the conclusion, I was both shaking my head and laughing at the same time.  Honestly, this madcap crime tale would make a truly funny short film. Till then, do yourselves a favor, pick up a copy and laugh a little.  It’s good for the soul.

BLOOD AND STONE

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Oct 202013
 


BLOOD AND STONE
(Stone Soldiers # 3)
By C.E. Martin
ISBN # 978148481485
308 pages

No writer in the New Pulp movement writes more intense, all out battle action sequences than C.E. Martin.  His Stone Soldiers series, of which this is the third, is a unique blend of superhero dramatics blended with Tom Clancy style military encounters.  “Blood and Stone” wraps up the first story arc began with volume one, “Mythical,” as Colonel Mark Kenslir and his super soldiers of stone from Detachment 1039 confront the ancient monster-god Tezcahtlip in the heart of the Yucatan jungles.  It is there the ancient shape-shifter has set up his new empire posing as the Mayan deity Kukulcan.

Throughout this series, beside his hyper-pulp pacing, Martin has created some truly memorable characters to populate his over-the-top saga.  With “Blood and Stone,” he adds yet another remarkable player in Dr. Laura Olson, Kenslir’s vampire ally, who joins his team in leading the hunt for Tezcahtlip because in their first encounter, the beast ripped out her heart and ate it.  Sound outrageous?  You bet it is and becomes a pure adrenalin rush from cover to cover.

Our single nagging critique is that sometimes Martin gets caught up in his own gory excessiveness and it becomes repetitious.  The goal of all good writing is that every single sentence, paragraph and chapter is vital to the narrative.  Towards the middle of this adventure, we were stopped short by a chapter which, aside from displaying the villain’s inhuman cruelty, adds nothing new to the plot.  Because we were already well aware of the monster’s character, this entire chapter was pointless.  Martin would do well to enlist an experienced editor to help him recognize these excesses and help him avoid them in the future.

That being said, “Blood and Stone” is a terrific third volume in a very original concept and one this reviewer is eager to see expanded to other storylines. 

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