Dec 052014
 
When I was in high school I was a big fan of Sax Rohmer's Fu Manchu novels and read all of them I could get my hands on. That was pretty easy in those days, since Pyramid Books had reprinted almost the entire series in paperback and used copies were plentiful. I think I eventually read all of them. But I don't recall reading anything else by Rohmer, whose real name was Arthur Sarsfield Ward.
Nov 132014
 
Peter Rabe created the archetypical gangster in Daniel Port and wrote about him in six different thrillers. These first three books introduce us to Port and his criminal world. Here is Port the mastermind, trying to get out of the racket he helped create, and Port the savior, defending an old criminal against a younger, meaner hood. (These are excellent books from one of the best Gold Medal
Aug 222014
 
Recently Stark House reprinted two more of Robert Silverberg's early Sixties soft-core novels, LUST QUEEN and LUST VICTIM, so strictly speaking I don't know if you can call these books forgotten, but it wasn't that long ago they were. Bill Crider wrote about LUST QUEEN on his blog a while back. Today I'm taking a look at LUST VICTIM. This novel was originally published in 1962 under the
Jul 162013
 

ChomkoA number of publishers will be using PulpFest 2013 to roll out new publications for your reading pleasure. One that has caused a substantial stir is Brian Ritt’s Paperback Confidential: Crime Writers of the Paperback EraDebuting from Stark House Press, this reference work features 132 profiles of the men and women who wrote the books that became the backbone of the pulp and paperback era from the 1930s through the 1960s. Paperback Confidential will be available from Mike Chomko, Books, whose tables will be along the wall, right across from the PulpFest registration desk.

Our friends from FarmerCon will also premier a pair of books, both published by Meteor House. First up will be a new, deluxe hardcover edition of Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life, Philip José Farmer’s biography of the bronze crusader who fought almost 200 separate battles against the forces of evil. The Meteor House edition will include a brand new foreword by Farmer expert Win Scott Eckert; tributes by other Farmer and Doc experts, including current Doc Savage writer Will Murray; and other bonus materials not seen in previous editions, all wrapped up with jacket art by Joe DeVito. Mike Chomko, Books, the representative of Altus Press at most pulp conventions, will have softcovers of the revised edition on hand.

EckertMeteor House will also be releasing the sequel to Philip José Farmer and Win Scott Eckert’s Wold Newton novel, The Evil in Pemberley House, the story of Patricia Wildman, daughter of one of the greatest heroes of our time–Doc Wildman, the bronze champion of justice. The new book, a limited edition, signed novella by Eckert, is entitled The Scarlet Jaguar, the first in a planned series featuring Pat Wildman & Co.

On Friday, Win will be signing the entire print run  of The Scarlet Jaguar  in the PulpFest dealers’ room. He will also be available to sign any other books people might want to bring up to him. Additional details will be announced at the convention.

Ed Hulse of Murania Press is hoping to have a new issue of Blood ‘n’ Thunder on hand. Of course, everyone knows that BnT is THE journal for aficionados of adventure, mystery, and melodrama in American popular culture of the early 20th century. Ed has a Lamont Award to prove it! Ed also hopes to release the new Blood ‘n’ Thunder Guide to Pulp Fiction at the convention. A newly revised and greatly expanded version of The Blood ‘n’ Thunder Guide to Collecting Pulps, the new edition will significantly augment the original text with new chapters on genres not previously represented as well as other additions.

WordslingersDoc Savage author and noted pulp scholar Will Murray will be selling softcover copies of Wordslingers: An Epitaph for the Western at his table. Murray’s Wordslingers is not only the first in-depth history of the Western pulps, it’s one of the best and most important books on the pulps ever written, perfectly capturing the era, the magazines, and the writers, editors, and agents who helped fill their pages.

Laurie Powers, the granddaughter of Western pulp scribe Paul Powers and creator of the popular Laurie’s Wild West blog, will be selling copies of Hidden Ghosts–a collection of atypical fiction written by her grandfather. Best known for creating the Sonny Tabor and Kid Wolf characters for Wild West Weekly, Paul Powers also wrote in other genres, including horror, historical, noir, romance, and animal stories. A collection of fourteen tales, including four that were previously unpublished, Hidden Ghosts is being released in softcover by Altus Press. Laurie will be glad to sign your copy at the table she will be sharing with PulpFest guest Will Murray.

An award-winning journalist and columnist, FarmerCon attendee John Allen Small will be offering three unique titles at PulpFest. He will have copies of his books, Days Gone By and Something In The Air, both of which contain stories that should be of interest to pulp fans. He will also be selling the recent edition of Pharaoh’s Broker, to which he contributed the Preface. A portion of the proceeds earned on this title will go toward literacy education. For those not familiar with Pharaoh’s Broker, it is an 1899 novel that has been cited as possibly inspiring Edgar Rice Burroughs when he sat down to write Under the Moons of Mars. John will be selling these books at the Meteor House/FarmerCon tables.

Airship 27From their temporary hangar in the PulpFest dealers’ room, Ron Fortier and Rob Davis of Airship 27 will be offering a brand new premium free to anyone who buys two of their books–the beautiful Airship 27 crew patches. They’ll also be releasing the latest issue of All-Star Pulp Comics, featuring the Black Bat, Domino Lady, Ki-Gor, Lance Star and other exciting characters.

Additionally, on Saturday, July 27th, Fortier and Davis will have a couple of author signings at their tables. Frank Schildiner, who has written Black Bat, Ravenwood, and Secret Agent X stories for Airship 27 will be there from 11 AM until noon. Taking over from 2 to 3 PM will by Jim Beard, author of Captain Action: Riddle of the Glowing Men, Sgt. Janus, Spirit-Breaker, and other works. Captain Action will be available at 1/3 off the normal price.

Of course, there will be plenty of other great exhibitors in the PulpFest 2013 dealers’ room who will also be selling exceptional materials. You can learn more about them by visiting Our Dealers‘ page on the PulpFest website. And when you are in Columbus from July 25 -28, be sure to visit them all in the Regency Ballroom on the third floor of the Hyatt Regency. Our dealers’ room will be open from 9 AM to 5 PM on Friday and Saturday and from 9 AM until 2 PM on Sunday.

 

 Posted by at 11:58 pm
Dec 122012
 
Stark House is one of my absolute favorite publishers, so I'm happy to pass along this announcement. They have a lot of great books available, so check it out!

Happy Holidays from Stark House Press!

Earlier in the season we offered our first ever Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale to our newsletter subscribers. In an effort to reach out to all our readers, however, we're now making a similar buy 2 get 1 free sale on all in-stock titles from now until midnight on Christmas Day, 2012. And did we mention the FREE SHIPPING?

Details and a complete book listing are available here. Happy Holidays, everyone!
Nov 022012
 

Whenever a book comes out of nowhere for me, when I read a book I'd never even heard of and find that it's spectacularly good, these days that book often comes from Stark House. That's the case with FLINT, a Western originally published in 1957 under the by-line Gil Dodge. The real author behind that name is Arnold Hano, perhaps best known as the editor of the influential paperback house Lion Books but also a fine writer himself. FLINT looks like a typical Fifties Western paperback, doesn't it?

Well, it isn't. Not hardly, to quote John Wayne in BIG JAKE.

The set-up isn't that unusual, though. The narrator, Flint, is a hired killer who has put up his gun and "retired" to a small farm in Arizona. He's living there under an assumed identity because he's wanted in any number of states and territories, and he's also living on borrowed time because he suffered a serious wound during a shootout with a posse several years earlier, and the lingering effects of that injury are sure to kill him at an early age.

Flint just wants to be left alone, but then a representative from a Colorado cattle baron shows up and threatens to expose his real identity to the law unless Flint travels to Colorado and kills a couple of men for the cattle baron. Reluctantly, Flint accepts the job.

That's a fairly standard plot opening, but Hano's fine writing elevates it. Flint is a compelling narrator, a well-read, well-spoken, deeply melancholy man. Despite that, you might think you know where this one is going.

Once Flint reaches Colorado, though, the story begins to take one unexpected turn after another. Not everything is what it appears to be, and after a while you start to wonder if Flint himself is the person he seemed to be at first. Hano peels away the layers of deception slowly and carefully, and FLINT becomes a classic novel of lust, murder, and bleak desperation, as much so as any of the Gold Medals, Dells, etc., from the same era.

This is one of the best Western noir novels I've ever read. In its style, in its characters, in the risks it attempts (and pulls off), FLINT is remarkable. I give it a very high recommendation, and luckily you can read it in the new Stark House volume in which it's included, 3 STEPS TO HELL, which also includes the novels SO I'M A HEEL (originally published under the name Mike Heller) and THE BIG OUT. I'll be getting to them pretty soon, I expect.

Apr 062012
 
As I've said earlier, the momentum of old sleaze and sex paperbacks has arrived. There are numerous reprints and I think there will be even more of them, which is just great, if the books are as good as the ones in the Robert Silverberg double and in the Orrie Hitt double Stark House Press published last year.

Orrie Hitt was pretty much deemed to obscurity in the 1980's and 1990's, but there were some mentions of his name here and there, for example in Lee Server's book on old paperbacks. It seems his star is on the rise - has actually been awhile -, mainly due to the blogs dedicated to the pulp school of writing and vintage sleaze. Stark House did recently a great double volume of his work, with two long-lost titles The Cheaters and Dial "M" for Man. It's a great read and I recommend it highly.

The Cheaters (Midwood 1960) tells about a young man, pretty much down on his luck, taking a job as a bartender in a seedy bar. The guy falls in love with the gorgeous wife of the bar's fat and obnoxious owner, who wants the guy to take over the bar. Dial "M" for Man (Beacon 1962) is about a TV repair man running his own business in a small town. He also falls in love with the gorgeous wife of the town's big man who in his turn tries to run the TV man down in every way he can.

Both books, published originally as cheap and cheap-looking paperbacks, are about ordinary men in bad situations. They just end up in them, even though they try to shy away from bad stuff. It just happens. They fall in love and start to scheme killing a man, albeit rather reluctantly. This is classic noir stuff, exemplified by this quote from Dial "M" for Man: "Here I was, just a little guy with everything to lose - everything that I had not already lost, that is." You care for these guys, that's why these two little books (Dial "M" for Man is just over 100 pages) have stayed alive.

The other reason for their vitality is Hitt's narrative drive. Even though nothing much happens and the prose isn't very refined or stylish, Hitt really knows how to keep the story moving. You keep flipping the pages, though, as I said, nothing much happens. In this Hitt reminds me of Jason Starr, one of my favourite new noir writers, who also writes about ordinary people and in whose books nothing much happens. Especially in Dial "M" for Man Hitt really keeps the shit piling up on his protagonist.

The endings in both books are bad, though, like Hitt didn't really know how to keep up the dark pessimism of the earlier pages.


 Posted by at 6:08 pm
Mar 302012
 



The latest double reprint volume from Stark House is a study in both contrasts and similarities. Let's get some of the similarities out of the way first.

The authors, Bruce Elliott and Elliott Chaze, have a name in common, obviously. Both novels are noirish, hardboiled crime yarns originally published in the Fifties. And both are very, very good.

But the two authors have very different backgrounds. Bruce Elliott was a stage magician who wrote books on that subject in addition to turning out pulp novels and working as an editor on various magazines. Elliott Chaze was a small-town journalist in the South who had a long career as a newspaper reporter and editor as well as being a novelist.

ONE IS A LONELY NUMBER was originally published by Lion Books in 1952, BLACK WINGS HAS MY ANGEL by Gold Medal in 1953. Both novels spent decades in obscurity, but in different ways. BLACK WINGS HAS MY ANGEL was famously obscure, if you know what I mean. Unlike most Gold Medal novels from that era, it was extremely difficult to find, as Bill Crider points out in his introduction to this reprint. A number of articles were written about how good it was, one of the very best novels ever published by Gold Medal, but most fans had never read it and held out few hopes of ever reading it because it was so rare. ONE IS A LONELY NUMBER was just flat-out obscure, a Forgotten Book if ever there was one. I've been reading this sort of stuff for more than forty years now, and I'd never even heard of it until Stark House announced this edition. As Ed Gorman says in his introduction, "I have no idea how a novel this good could have been around for more than sixty years without hardboiled readers being aware of it." I can only echo that comment.

As for the books themselves . . .

ONE IS A LONELY NUMBER is the story of Larry Camonille, an escaped convict who's trying to get to Mexico because he has tuberculosis and thinks he'll live longer in the warm, dry air. One of his lungs has already been removed in the prison hospital before he broke out, and the other one is in bad shape. I don't think Elliott ever mentions what Larry's crime was, but it's established that he's a former musician (a trumpet player) and that he's never killed anyone. In need of money, he takes a job as a dishwasher in a small rural roadhouse, and wouldn't you know it, two beautiful women wind up interested in him, one older, one dangerously younger. And as Larry eventually discovers, both of them have plans for him, plans involving crimes that could send him back to prison or even get him killed.

Larry is about as unsympathetic a protagonist as you could find, but to Elliott's great credit, he makes the reader care about Larry despite that. The plot twists and turns with great skill, and Elliott's prose is fast and lean, just like it should be. The atmosphere of doom that hangs over this novel is powerful, and to quote Gorman again, "Even Cornell Woolrich and David Goodis would find this book a downer." Larry Camonille never really gives up in his struggle to be free, though, and I think that's what makes him oddly admirable in spite of his flaws. Because of all this, I found ONE IS A LONELY NUMBER to be one of the best noir novels I've ever read.

Now, moving on to BLACK WINGS HAS MY ANGEL, when you finally get your hands on a book you've heard great things about for years or even decades, a book you figured you'd probably never get to read, there's always a nagging worry that it's not going to live up to its reputation. That was certainly true in my case when I started BLACK WINGS HAS MY ANGEL.

Luckily, it didn't take me long to realize that wasn't going to be a problem. This book also concerns an escaped convict, and of course he meets a beautiful woman. Only one, though, in BLACK WINGS HAS MY ANGEL, and the crime that gets them both into deep trouble is the narrator's idea, not the blonde's.

I'm not really a fan of Chaze's dense prose. The long, long paragraphs and the scarcity of dialogue at times bother me. I'm accustomed to much leaner, faster, and more hardboiled writing in this sort of novel, and that's what works best for me. Where Chaze excels, though, is in his characterization. The relationship between Tim and Virginia is the dominant factor in this novel, and it's developed in very powerful fashion. They love each other, they hate each other, they fight, they scheme together, they certainly don't trust each other. The reader never really knows what's going to happen next, and that sense of things being off-kilter is what makes BLACK WINGS HAS MY ANGEL such a fine novel.

Taken together, this is one of the best volumes Stark House has published so far. ONE IS A LONELY NUMBER is the better of the two books, I think, but they're both well worth reading and if you're a fan of noir fiction and haven't ordered this one yet, you definitely should.
Feb 242012
 
STRICTLY FOR THE BOYS is the third and final novel in the new Harry Whittington collection from Stark House, and the only one of the three to appear originally under Whittington's name. First published in 1959 by a small paperback house called Stanley Library, STRICTLY FOR THE BOYS is domestic noir, a genre in which Whittington was never very prolific, but he does a fine job of it, as he did with everything else he wrote.

The protagonist of STRICTLY FOR THE BOYS is Amy Reader, still in her teens but already married . . . and on the verge of a divorce. She's left her abusive husband Burt and gone home to her mother, herself a bitter divorcee who wants to see Amy stay married at all costs. Not surprisingly, Burt shows up and starts stalking Amy, intruding into her life even after she manages to divorce him. She gets a job at a manufacturing plant, and there's a guy there who might offer her some hope for the future, but in the meantime Burt is determined to win her back and is getting crazier and crazier . . .

This is a really fast-paced book in which Whittington keeps piling more and more troubles on his heroine, while at the same time providing a vivid portrait of lower middle-class life in the late Fifties, the same sort of insightful exploration that can be found in many of Orrie Hitt's novels. STRICTLY FOR THE BOYS generates a lot of suspense as it races toward its conclusion. I'm really glad to see this one back in print, since I used to have a copy of the original paperback but never got around to reading it. It's a fine companion piece to RAPTURE ALLEY and WINTER GIRL, making this collection one of the most entertaining volumes I've read in a long time. Highly recommended.