Ed Gorman

YESTERDAY’S PULP: “THE MOPPER-UP” BY HORACE MCCOY (1931) by Fred Blosser

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Apr 212015
 


YESTERDAY’S PULP: “THE MOPPER-UP” BY HORACE MCCOY (1931)
by Fred Blosser

I was in the mood to revisit Horace McCoy, but I already had a half-dozen other books stacked up in my to-read pile.  I was reluctant to break my stride by reaching for “Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye” or even one of McCoy’s other, shorter novels.  Bill Pronzini’s wonderful  anthology, “The Arbor House Treasury of Detective & Mystery Stories from the Great Pulps” (1983) charged to my rescue.  One of the stories in the collection, “The Mopper-Up” from the November 1931 issue of “Black Mask,” is 101-proof McCoy but short enough to read in a quick sitting.

The title character, Captain Tom Bender of the Texas Rangers, is dispatched to the prairie town of Rondora, where an oil boom has drawn an influx of gangsters, grifters, and bootleggers.  In a gunfight on main street between the two gambling honchos, Miller and Patton, a stray bullet killed a little girl.  The shooting was the final outrage for the town’s old timers, who are fed up with the lawlessness and the lack of follow-through by the police chief.  Led by the little girl’s father, they’re organizing a vigilante committee.  “I want you to get over there and head off trouble,” Bender’s boss orders.

There’s no detection in the 31-page story and minimal complication.  The plot moves in as straight and focused a line as Bender himself.  The Ranger comes to town, gets the vigilantes cooled off before they can make things worse, shuts down one gambling den, torches the other one, and shoots two or three thugs.  He produces evidence needed to convene a grand jury investigation, and leaves town after helping to install an honest citizen as the new police chief.  

No love interest or even sex interest.  “Women looked at him but he paid no attention because he didn’t know women could talk with their eyes.”  The line makes Bender sound incredibly naive, but elsewhere McCoy clearly indicates that Bender — true to his name — likes to let loose when he’s not working.  Maybe he’s like Hammett’s Continental Op, who has no time for foolishness when he’s on the job, or maybe like Jules Feiffer’s famous analysis of Superman.  He’s the idealize alpha male, so confident and self-sufficient that he doesn’t need to make passes at available women, or even respond to every pass that comes his way.

While there isn’t much that distinguishes Rondora from any other corrupt boom town in pulp fiction, McCoy’s description of the adjacent oil patch bristles with vivid detail, from the back-breaking toil in winter that brings in the first gusher to the Ranger’s initial impression as he arrives in town by train at night:  “The rigs were thrown around the town in an uneven circle, a glow about the floor of each derrick, a lone light gleaming up near the double board, another ninety feet in the air to light up the top of the stands and another above that on a gin pole which shone dully down on the crown blocks.” 

Tom Bender personifies the Texas frontiersman in terms that the “Black Mask” audience of 1931 would have read without batting an eye.  Today’s readers tend to be a little pricklier, granting minor leeway if the terms are used in an ironic hipster way.  “He was the issue of a frontier ancestry that had driven the Indians west of the Pecos to clear settlements for log cabins, a civilization of contrasts: hard, kind and tragic.  The measure of an aristocrat was the nerve he had and the speed with which he could bark an Injun in his tracks and pitch a buffalo on his head with one ball.”

And, in a backstory about the Ranger’s previous mission on the Border that McCoy relates tersely as Bender arrives in Austin to receive his new assignment: “They were as slick a gang of greasers as a man ever clapped an eye on and they fought like wildcats but he brought four of them in alive.”

Wearing a big white hat “that had silk lining as red as the alegria stain that saves your face from the sun,” packing a  .38 revolver and a .45 automatic, Bender brings to mind the flinty, modern-day Texas Ranger played a few years ago by Nick Nolte in “Extreme Prejudice,” with a little bit of “Searchers”-era John Wayne.  Violence erupts suddenly, and McCoy’s descriptions are dillies: “He gave up trying to get the .38 and lashed out hard, struck one of them and heard him grunt.  He fell back, still swinging and something hit him a powerful lick behind the head and he thought it was going to snap off.  A white explosion ascended in front of him and he staggered.  As he did he came out with his .45 from his hip pocket and shook his head desperately to clear the mists and locate one of his assailants.  In a moment he saw a form before him and he leveled the .45 and squeezed the trigger.”

There’s a fair amount of discussion about Horace McCoy on the internet, and even a downloadable HTML of “The Mopper-Up” at the Munseys.com site.  It’s unfortunate that no one has ever collected his “Black Mask” stories in one volume — at least here in America, in the original English.  According to William F. Nolan’s listing in “The Black Mask Boys” (1985), there were 17 stories, mostly featuring the adventures of another Prohibition-era Texas Ranger, Jerry Frost.  That’s a worthy project for someone in this era of pulp resurgence in e-publishing and POD.

Thieves Fall Out review by Gore Vidal Hard Case Crime

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Apr 202015
 




Thieves Fall Out
By Gore Vidal
Hard Case Crime, April 2015/$22.99
ISBN: 978-1-781-16792-2

Reviewer: Kevin Burton Smith

Despite the obvious pen name (Really? “Gore”?), this guy Vidal looks to be a pretty promising pulp writers. Whatever happened to him?

* * * * *

Of course, Gore Vidal wasn’t a pseudonym, or at least not much of one — Gore was a family name, and anyway, when this potboiler came out way back in 1953, it was published by “Cameron Kay.” After the homophobic furor unleashed following the publication of The City and the Pillar (1948), the suddenly black-listed Vidal, struggling to make ends meet, pumped out four pseudonymous crime novels, three well-regarded novels featuring a PR flack turned pseudo-P.I. as “Edgar Box,” and this one, his first stab at crime fiction, proof perhaps that the cheese stands alone. 

But hey, who doesn’t like cheese? 

Literally just off the boat, manly American drifter Pete Wells finds himself down and out in post-war Cairo, ready to do “almost anything to make a dollar.” So he’s easy prey for a gang who rope him into their scheme to smuggle a priceless historical artifact, a necklace with a ruby as big as “a pigeon’s egg,” out of Egypt. Naturally, the thieves aren’t playing it totally straight but then Pete’s no boy scout either — he soon suspects he’s being played for a patsy.

The plot’s pretty much by the book, but the well-rendered setting (Vidal lived for a while in Egypt) is well used, and you’ve gotta love a multicultural gallery of rogues that includes a jaded but pip-pip British agent, a charming criminal mastermind right out of a Fleming novel, a piano-playing hunchback, a lusty French countess, a crooked Egyptian cop with the disconcerting name of Mohammed Ali and a sexy German lounge singer with a secret Nazi past and ties to King Farouk himself.

Oh, the era’s usual racial and cultural stereotypes are all present and accounted for (“swarthy” gets a particularly good workout), and Vidal’s piercing wit is for the most part missing, but there’s the sense he was still very much exploring new avenues. He got better, and the success of his subsequent Edgar Box books convinced him to aim higher. By the end of the decade he was cranking out scripts for stage, television and film, as well as scores of essays and non-fiction books, eventually becoming one of his era’s pre-eminent essayists and “public intellectuals.”.

But historical and literary interests aside, the book’s just a lot of fun; very much a product of its era. Not as twisted as Spillane or Thompson, or as psychologically complex as MacDonald or Whittington, but chockful of that good old pulpy flavour. Give it a Gold Medal for effort.


Of course, we could always ask Louie to do it. That man can do anything. 

Kevin

Ken Levine on on “Highway Patrol” and other stuff oldsters’ll remember

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Apr 192015
 
http://kenlevine.blogspot.com/
Ken Levine:
Here’s another example: I grew up in Woodland Hills, a suburb of the San Fernando Valley. About ten years ago I’m watching a rerun of an old ‘50s action/crime show called HIGHWAY PATROL. This starred Broderick Crawford, an overweight middle-aged balding alcoholic as the head of the CHP. (Imagine getting that guy through network casting today? Now the same part would be played by Elizabeth Mitchell.) 
Quick side note: Crawford really was an alcoholic. In fact, he had so many DUI’s that his drivers’ license had been permanently revoked. This caused a big problem because how can the head of the Highway Patrol not be able to drive? So a concession was reached. Crawford was allowed to drive but only when the camera was running. So the director would yell “Action!”, Crawford would drive the car, the director would yell “Cut! Let’s go again!”, and Crawford would have to exit the vehicle so a crew member could drive the car back to the original spot.
Anyway, I’m watching this show (probably on cable channel 863) and Crawford is driving down a street. Suddenly I recognize a storefront. Neider’s Auto Body. Holy shit! It hits me – he’s driving down Ventura Blvd., right where I used to live! I, of course, hadn’t seen that street in a million years. But it all came flooding back to me. He passed Dillaway Realty. I knew instantly what he would pass next – the Pool Supply store, then the Gulf gas station, the freeway underpass, and Love’s BBQ. 
Sure enough the tracking shot continued. There was the Pool Supply place, there was the Gulf station, and then… what the fuck!? There was no freeway underpass. This must’ve been filmed a year before the freeway was erected. 
I can’t tell you how absolutely weird that was. Truly, like being in a time machine. 
And that was just one example. The Bob Hope movie, BACHELOR IN PARADISE was filmed in my neighborhood. The tract house he lived in was the same model as mine. (The interior was different though. Ours didn’t have Lana Turner.) There were scenes in the Woodlake Bowl where I once sprained my thumb! Landmarks popped up throughout the whole movie. 
And this was not a rare occurrence.  I was very excited one afternoon to come out of the Woodland Hills library and see that they were filming a scene from THE FBI there. Efrem Zimbelist Jr.(who had his license) pulled his car to a stop right in front. And there, in the shot, for all to see, was the back fin of my Mercury Comet! The night it aired I actually invited friends over.
This is one of the perks of living in a company town. Seeing old neighborhoods and places long since turned into Costcos.  It’s a real blast from the past. And it makes up for the horrible downside.
For every nostalgic wistful moment I’ve had, there are an equal or greater number of moments when I’ve been really pissed because traffic is snarled due to location filming of some fucking idiotic movie or TV show. Streets are blocked off.  Temporary “No Parking” signs are everywhere.  Equipment trucks and cable as far as the eye can see.  Giant lights blind you at night.  “Why can’t they film this goddamn thing in Pittsburgh”?! I’ve been known to yell.
But then I see Neider’s Auto Body and realize I’m the luckiest guy in the world.  

This was a re-post from many many years ago. How many of you even remember it?

The new Fiction River: Risk Takers

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Apr 192015
 
SUNDAY, APRIL 19, 2015



Edited by Dean Wesley Smith
Money, business, sports, love: All involve risk—and skill. The skilled authors in this volume masterfully exhibit both. Buckle in while a locomotive engineer uses magic in a race to avoid extinction, a game developer must outmaneuver an alien for Earth’s fate, and an exterminator risks everything to go after some really big rats. Crossing genre lines through science fiction, fantasy, mystery, historical, and mainstream, these adrenaline-pumping stories about taking risks offer nothing but reward.
Fiction River: Fantastic Detectives is a great choice for anyone who loves it when genres are swirled together. It’s nominally more heavily influenced by mystery conventions and tropes, but the science fiction and fantasy elements in it are almost as strong.”
—Long and Short Reviews on Fiction River: Fantastic Detectives
Table of Contents
“Play the Man” by Dan C. Duval
“The F Factor” by Chrissy Wissler
“No Free Lunch” by Anthea Sharp
“Winning the Ocean Pearl” by T. D. Edge
“China Moll” by Cindie Geddes
“A Tale of Good Whiskey, Bad Coffee, and One Devious Woman” by Annie Reed
“Bucking the Tiger” by John Helfers & Kerrie Hughes
“The Messiah Business” by Robert T. Jeschonek
“Muggins Rules” by Russ Crossley
“Cost and Conscience” by Christy Fifield
“Side Baiting” by Phaedra Weldon
“Gambler’s Fallacy” by Brigid Collins
“The Man Who Decided” by Dean Wesley Smith
“Rats” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
“Driving the Line” by Dan C. Duval
“Side Bet” by Lee Allred

The new Fiction River: Risk Takers

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Apr 192015
 

Edited by Dean Wesley Smith
Money, business, sports, love: All involve risk—and skill. The skilled authors in this volume masterfully exhibit both. Buckle in while a locomotive engineer uses magic in a race to avoid extinction, a game developer must outmaneuver an alien for Earth’s fate, and an exterminator risks everything to go after some really big rats. Crossing genre lines through science fiction, fantasy, mystery, historical, and mainstream, these adrenaline-pumping stories about taking risks offer nothing but reward.
Fiction River: Fantastic Detectives is a great choice for anyone who loves it when genres are swirled together. It’s nominally more heavily influenced by mystery conventions and tropes, but the science fiction and fantasy elements in it are almost as strong.”
—Long and Short Reviews on Fiction River: Fantastic Detectives
Table of Contents
“Play the Man” by Dan C. Duval
“The F Factor” by Chrissy Wissler
“No Free Lunch” by Anthea Sharp
“Winning the Ocean Pearl” by T. D. Edge
“China Moll” by Cindie Geddes
“A Tale of Good Whiskey, Bad Coffee, and One Devious Woman” by Annie Reed
“Bucking the Tiger” by John Helfers & Kerrie Hughes
“The Messiah Business” by Robert T. Jeschonek
“Muggins Rules” by Russ Crossley
“Cost and Conscience” by Christy Fifield
“Side Baiting” by Phaedra Weldon
“Gambler’s Fallacy” by Brigid Collins
“The Man Who Decided” by Dean Wesley Smith
“Rats” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
“Driving the Line” by Dan C. Duval
“Side Bet” by Lee Allred


Gravetapping by Ben Boulden- The Husband by Dean Koontz

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Apr 192015
 

Gravetapping


Posted: 18 Apr 2015 08:52 AM PDT
My patience with modern thrillers—anything late-1990s and beyond—is thin. They always open with potential and then become less interesting with each page. I start several each year, but seldom get past the 100th page before cleaning the gutters is preferable. Dean Koontz is the exception to the rule; although labeling him as a thriller writer is similar to confusing a Corvette with a Kia Soul.   

I recently read his 2006 novel The Husband, and I was mesmerized from the first sentence to the last. Its opening is undeniably appealing:

“A man begins dying at the moment of his birth.”

Mitchell Rafferty is happily married, moderately successful with a two man gardening operation, and about to be pulled into nightmare. It begins quickly and without remorse. The day: Monday, May 14, 11:43 AM. Mitch is planting red and purple impatiens when his cell phone rings. A man’s voice:

“‘We have your wife.’”    

The kidnapper demands $2 million in exchange for her life. A sum that is not only unobtainable, but nearly unimaginable for Mitch. More revelation would spoil the meal, but there are a handful of brilliantly executed plot twists—none expected, anticipated, or doubted once revealed—and suspense alarming enough for sweaty palms, shallow breathing, and sleepless nights.

The prose—like everything Mr Koontz writes—is smooth and easy as glass. It is poetic in its simple, metered manner; easy to read and brilliant. But everything about The Husband is brilliant; from plot to prose to character to theme. And even better, it opens with death, but ends in a flutter of life:

“Although he knows her as well as he knows himself, she is as mysterious as she is lovely, an eternal depth in her eyes, but she is no more mysterious than are the stars and the moon and all things on the earth.”   

Winter in a Day by Ben Boulden Gravetapping

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Apr 182015
 
Winter in a Day by Ben Boulden Gravetapping
Posted: 16 Apr 2015 02:10 PM PDT
It has been a long dry winter in my neighborhood. High skies, bad skiing, and uneventful driving. A handful of bushes in my front yard, miraculously, never lost their leaves and really look terrific this spring. I shoveled my driveway a whopping three times; a frequency my back enjoyed. But yesterday the sky opened and winter arrived dropping 6 or 7 inches. It lasted a meager 24 hours, but it was wonderful. 

Then this morning things got even better. I found a visitor in my backyard. A small buck mule deer—velvet covered antlers between his ears—laying in a deciduous alcove. The snow like ground cover around his bed. It really is the small stuff.


Booklist review of my latest novel Elimination

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Apr 182015
 
This was just published in the UK and will be here July 1. Probably sooner on KIndle.


Elimination. 
Gorman, Ed (Author), Jul 2015. 192 p. Severn, hardcover, $27.95. (9780727884664).
Illinois Congresswoman Jessica Bradshaw is beautiful, rich, progressive. She is nearing the end of a fang and-claw reelection battle with an opponent who represents the forces of darkness in Gorman’s cosmology. Michael Dorsey waves the flag, hates abortion, loves guns. And he is gaining in the polls. During their final debate, somebody fires a shotgun blast at Jessica. She is not hurt, but the shooter escapes, and theories bloom. Must be a Dorsey backer, they’re murderous crazies. Wait a minute. Suppose Jessica’s gang did it, missing her on purpose and assuming the blame will automatically fall on one of Dorsey’s gun nuts. Dev Conrad, the novel’s narrator, is Jessica’s political consultant- turned-detective, seeking the truth in this hall of mirrors. Inevitably, there’s another layer: right-wing groups united in their hatred of blacks and the federal government. And they’re attracting police officers. Gorman tells his story in a style both expert and weary, knowing that sometimes the darkest deeds have their origin in hurt feelings. He knows, too, that often the best the good guys can do is hang on. Give this one to fans of the great Ross Thomas, whose political fixers were equally savvy and equally weary.

From Libby Fischer Hellmann

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Apr 162015
 


Hi, everyone. 
I have some fun things for you this time: not one, but two 
stories each under a dollar, and I could use your help 
figuring out a new cover for one of my books… 
Little Molly Messenger is kidnapped on a sunny June 
morning. Three days later she’s returned, apparently 
unharmed. A few days later, the brakes go out on Molly’s 
mother’s car.
An accident? Maybe. Except that it turns out that Chris, 
Molly’s mother, is the IT manager at a large Chicago bank 
and may have misappropriated three million dollars. Molly’s 
father hires PI Georgia Davis to follow the money and investigate Chris’s death.
Doubleback reunites PI Georgia Davis (Easy Innocence
with video producer Ellie Foreman (An Eye For Murder
A Picture Of GuiltAn Image Of DeathA Shot To Die For). 
The two women track leads from Northern Wisconsin to 
an Arizona border town, where illegal immigrants, 
muggled drugs, and an independent contractor come into play.
Capital Partners

















Imagine if your spouse 
got caught n a Ponzi scheme. 
This story is about just that: two women 
whose husbands are involved in a fraudulent 
investment operation. The couples vacation 
at a posh ski resort, where the women take matters into 
their own hands. 
Publishers Weekly called it “a fine story…”
This story was originally published in 
The Writes of Spring Anthology, Nodin 
Press, 2012, edited by Pat Frovarp and 
Gary Shulze 
Discover how the story unfolds at Amazon, 
B&NiBooks, and Kobo.


Imagine if your spouse got caught in a 
Ponzi scheme. 
This story is about just that: two women 
whose husbands are involved in a fraudulent 
investment operation. The couples vacation 
at a posh ski resort, where the women take 
matters into their own hands. 
Publishers Weekly called it “a fine story…”
This story was originally published in the Writes 
of Spring Anthology, Nodin Press, 2012, 
edited by Pat Frovarp and Gary Shulze 
Discover how the story unfolds at 




Help a Graphically-Challenged Author Out?
theMost of you already have the complimentary copy of 
An Image of Death I sent out a month or so ago. (If not, 
let me know, and I’ll get it to you.)

Well… we now realize the cover looks too sweet 

and not enough like the thriller crime novel it is.

Have any suggestions for me? I’d love to hear them!  

Just email me back, or join the conversation on my 
Facebook video here.
Help Needed with An Image of Death
  
Finally, if you are Bouchercon-bound this fall, two of my 
works are eligible to be nominated for an Anthony Award 
(the deadline for nominations is in 2 weeks): 
—  Nobody’s Child is eligible for Best Paperback Original 
— “No Good Deed,” about the unlikely friendship 
between a former KKK member and a young black 
boy in prison, is eligible for Best Short Story. I
t was published in the Fiction River Special Crime Edition, 
WGM       Publishing. I
f you’d like to read the story, let me know. I’ll get it to you. 
Happy reading!

Warmly,

Libby 

New Books Storme Warning by W.L Ripley

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Apr 152015
 




Hail Storme: 
A Wyatt Storme Thriller (Brash Books, May)
The rise of Wyatt Storme (and his extra-deadly sidekick, Chick Easton) by W. L. Ripley


On the heels of the highly successful fourth Wyatt Storme, Storme Warning, Brash Books is releasing the previous three Storme thrillers for the first time in paperback and Kindle version, starting with the first Storme novel, Hail Storme, introducing readers to NFL star turned troubleshooter, Wyatt Storme, who critics are hailing as the long-awaited heir to Travis McGee and Spenser.
Hail Storme finds Dallas Cowboy wide receiver Wyatt Storme seeking some R and R in the Missouri Ozarks but it is delayed when he is set upon by a vicious attack Doberman and a thug armed with a high-powered rifle.  Storme overcomes both using his outdoor skills and a compound bow. This opening scene is one of the most harrowing I’ve penned in my writing career.
Storme reports the incident to the county sheriff and figures that’s the end of things but it’s only the beginning of the danger for the reclusive Storme.  Storme has arranged to provide transportation back to Colorado of a friend of a friend.  “You’ll find him in a local bar” is the only information given Storme.  Storme finds the man downing beer and bourbon like Noah was pairing up animals outside.
The man is Chick Easton.  And Storme soon learns that Easton possesses highly unique, even lethal, talents.  Additionally Storme also finds that Easton’s sense of humor is lively, his loyalty firm and his unflagging courage born of wars endured.
The Sheriff is murdered and Storme is set upon by the local authorities and also by a State Trooper named Sam Browne who initially suspects Storme but later becomes an ally. 
Storme just wants to go home.
However, when the world pushes Wyatt Storme, he pushes back.
Storme begins checking around, much to the irritation of acting Sheriff, Deputy Baxter, who takes an immediate and inexplicable dislike to Storme. 
Following the trail leads Storme and Easton to a local businessman, “Willie Boy” Roberts, who is not who he seems, in fact, Roberts is a formidable antagonist with a shadowy past fully capable of killing Storme and Easton with no more thought than what socks to wear.  Willie Boy is one of my favorite Villains who is Storme’s “Goldfinger”.
I write Storme and Easton as a fun pair of adventurers which many reviewers compare to Robert B. Parker’s Spenser.  However, the real comparison for Storme is to John D. McDonald’s, Travis McGee, in that Storme, like McGee, is a societal drop-out who is neither cop nor private detective.  Storme is just a man reluctantly pulled into dangerous situations due his atavistic code of honor.  Storme is a throwback – a modern cowboy without a horse or a Stetson.  His partner, Chick Easton, is a man of action who is the antidote for complacency.  Storme has limits to his idea of justice.  Easton has no moral dilemmas about dispatching bad guys.  They are the yin and yang of literary tough guys.
And they are tough.  Exceptionally so.  They mean no harm but like nitro they are explosive when disturbed. 
They are also wittiest duo this side of Dennis Miller.  Look for the Easton line about the coital act that gave the world lawyers that sold this book the first time it was printed in hardcover.
If you’re looking for a Miss Marple cozy Hail Storme isn’t that.  If you like bristling action, laugh out loud humor and if you like your heroes tough and larger-than-life than look no further. Storme and Easton are all that and more.
My good friend and colleague, Ace Atkins (Spenser and Quinn Colson) calls Wyatt Storme “one of my all-time favorite series characters, up there with Spenser and Dave Robicheaux”.  The Library Journal calls him “an undeniable treat”.
I call Storme my friend I like to visit and a fun character to write about.  I have no doubt you will find him the same.
Hail Storme (Brash Books, May 2015)