Mar 032015
I'm pleased to announce that the Femme Noir team - Yours Truly, artist Joe Staton, inker Rick Burchett, and colorist Matt Webb - have begun production of a new Femme Noir miniseries, "Cold, Dead Fingers."  I can't say when it will be finished, but I'm hopeful that it will be completed this year, and probably see print in 2016. No publisher yet, but I have been having some encouraging discussions.

To celebrate this new beginning, I thought you folks might like to take a look at the first page of our forthcoming supernatural crime saga. To make it more special, I'm going to share with you the process that we employ in making our Femme Noir funnybooks.

I. It Begins With The Word: In this case, I wrote a detailed plot, breaking down the storytelling in some detail. No dialogue or captions as yet - I write those after I have Joe's penciled pages in hand; as I am the letterer as well as writer, I basically do both at the same time. Here's how the plot described this first splash page:
PANEL 1. And here we go…. We begin with a movie poster-styled splash page. In the center of the image is a full-length shot of Le Femme, hat pulled down low, guns in hands, trenchcoat whipping in the wind. Behind her is a sketched in Port Nocturne skyline. On the left, there’s a huge, spookily-lit “ghostly” head shot of our brutish killer – in this iteration, he’s called “Crusher” Corrigan – and below him, a full-length image of mad scientist Dr. Karl Boroff. On the right hand side of the page, opposite Corrigan’s scary melon, is an equally spooky “ghost” head of Madame Morella MaCabre. Below her, opposite of Boroff, is a full-length figure of plainclothes dick Lt. Rod Riley, pistol drawn.

Below that, room for the title lettering – ‘COLD, DEAD FINGERS’ - and a breathless introductory caption.
II. Joe's Deadly Pencil: From this florid description, Joe draws the page in pencil, employing his considerable talent and experience, working his magic:


Joe then e-mails me a lo-res jpeg to review. Once I've looked it over, and am sure that we're both happy with it, Joe then e-mails the page as a hi-res image file to...

III. Putting The Noir In Femme Noir: ...inker Rick Burchett. Joe and Rick have worked together numerous times before, perhaps most memorably on the 1980s incarnation of E-Man. In this case, Rick is applying his atmospheric blacks digitally, using his Cintique tablet.


Once completed, Rick sends jpeg files to both Joe and I to see if we have any notes. If everything's cool, as it is here, the image is then sent on to our last teammate.

IV. Dangerous Hues: Colorist Matt Webb gets his hands on the page next, and with the original script for reference (and having colored several Femme Noir adventures before), Matt digitally - and dramatically - colors the page.


Nice, huh? Once again, a lo-resolution copy of the colors is sent out for approval of all and sundry. Then, it all comes back to me.

V. The Final Words With the finished page in my e-mail box, I take it into Photoshop and fit it into the appropriate page template. Having scripted the dialogue - or in this case, caption - when I got the pencils, I then do the lettering in Illustrator. Finally, I drop the text in on the page back in Photoshop...  and voilà!


So that's how we do it. Repeat for pages 2, 3, 4 and so on... until the book is complete.

Stay tuned here for future Femme Noir updates, sneak peeks and announcements (which will always appear here first!).

Headed For A Hearse by Jonathan Latimer

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Mar 032015
A Bill Crane Mystery

With six days remaining until he goes to the electric chair for the murder of his wife, wealthy broker Robert Westland needs help, fast. He insists that he has been framed, and Bill Crane, a private detective with a method and manner all his own, must prove his client's innocence. In a mixture of the humorous and the macabre, Crane's investigation turns up more than a few nteresting characters, including a tight-lipped valet and a dypsomanic widow, who may or may not know something about who really murdered Mrs Westland.

Printing History
Written by Jonathan Latimer (1906-1983)


 Posted by at 2:54 am
Mar 032015

NICK CARTER – The Parisian Affair. Ace/Charter paperback original; 1st printing, December 1981.

   I was going through of box of paperbacks the other day, a box I’d had in the garage for quite a while. It was time, I thought, that they should not be in the garage any longer. Some I’d sell on Amazon, was the plan, the others I’d donate to the local library.

   This was one of them, and since I’d recently read and reviewed a Matt Helm adventure (check it out here), I thought I’d delay the fate of this one and basically read it and compare. The two stories were not the same, of course, but what, I thought, might be the similarities, and the differences between the story-telling.

   This Nick Carter tale, to get that out of the way first, has something to do with an assassin, quickly discovered to be female, who is targeting foreign diplomats in Paris, all from underdeveloped countries. Nick’s job: find her.

   Well, this established a difference already. Helm’s job in The Interlopers was to infiltrate a gang of Communists and do spy stuff like exchange passwords and pass notes to each other. The scope of Nick Carter’s assigsnment expands to world disaster proportions, politically speaking, real super-spy stuff.

   Nick has a boss named Hawk whom he says “sir” to, just like Helm does. He meets a girl — actually several of them — but he goes to bed with only two of them, as I recall, and believe it or not — and this surprised me, too — one of them survives long enough to walk off the stage with Nick when the play is over, or that is to say, when the book is done.

   Whether or not this lady shows up in the next book, Chessmaster (January 1982), I do not know. It would be surprised if she does, but I on the other hand was taken aback by the fact that she even made it as far as to the end of this one.

   I think that both Matt Helm and Nick Carter are both playing catch-up in each of their separate adventures, but Helm is much more active in pulling the trigger on the bad guys as he runs across them. The Nick Carter adventure is much closer to a detective story than Helm’s, with at least four women coming into play as the possible assassin, three of them beautiful models. The book does take place in Paris, after all, and it’s a large plus that the author seems to know his way around and describes the streets and cafes very well.

   Which brings me around to naming the author, not that you’re very likely to have heard of him: H. Edward Hunsburger, who wrote this one Nick Carter novel and one other book under his own name, Death Signs (Walker, hardcover, 1987). It’s a detective story in which a deaf man is murdered, and Mattie Shayne, a teacher for the hearing impaired, helps the police with their investigation.

   But I digress. My conclusions? I enjoyed both. The Matt Helm book was better written, I believe, and more realistic, but in some ways, I think the Nick Carter one was more fun to read. Overall, though, I think realism wins out. I’d give Matt Helm a solid “B” and by stretching it a little, Nick Carter gets a “C.”

 Posted by at 12:29 am

The Book Thing of Baltimore

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Mar 022015
A few months ago I saw an article on Buzzfeed called 17 Bookstores that Will Literally Change Your Life and I've got to admit that those listed were pretty cool. But that's what the list was, 17 Cool Bookstores. 

If you go into downtown Baltimore, past an old shuttered theater, past plywood crosses nailed to storefront churches, past the signs for the upcoming spaghetti disco, across the street from an old bottling plant is an unassuming building with a cramped parking lot and a simple sign.

You've arrived at The Book Thing of Baltimore. The only book store that will literally change your life (and no, it wasn't listed in the above linked piece).  Why is The Book Thing so life changing? Because it is a FREE book store. They accept donations in the bins outside of the building at all times. Then on Saturday and Sunday, they open the doors to the public, point you in the direction of the pile of empty boxes, and tell you to fill them.

Are they really free? Yes. Yes they are. I walked in the door this past Saturday and left with 100 books. A friend who went down at the same time brought home 356 books. All free. 

If you are in the area, or close enough to road trip it, it is worth the time.

Here's my haul.

Thirty Minutes of Terror at Noicon

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Mar 022015
A bunch of people read scary three minute stories at Noircon back in October. If this appeals to you, here are the links. For the life of me, I can't remember what I read. I think I am on the first day. Hate hearing my voice, so....

Three Minutes of Terror, Part 1, is now live! Feel free to spread any or all of these links around, whatever you think works best:

Mar 022015

The post Visiting Inspector of the Dead: The Magnificent Crystal Palace appeared first on Mulholland Books.

David Morrell’s Inspector of the Dead is set on the harrowing streets of 1855 London. A gripping Victorian mystery/thriller, its vivid historical details come from years of research. Here are photo essays that David prepared about the novel’s fascinating locations. Read the first post about Mayfair and Belgravia, the second post about Constitution Hillthe third post about Lord Palmerston’s House, and the fourth post about Jay’s Mourning Warehouse.

The first world’s fair took place in London in 1851. Championed by Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, it demonstrated the might and majesty of the British Empire. Officially called the Great Exhibition, it quickly became known as the Crystal Palace exhibition because of the amazing building in which it occurred.Crystal1


Essentially a large greenhouse, the Crystal Palace was composed of 900,000 square feet of glass plates secured in a wrought-iron framework. It occupied a massive fifty-eight acres of Hyde Park and stretched twelve stories high, so tall that full-grown elm trees were left in place as interior landscaping.


So vast was the space that two huge organs, two hundred other instruments, and six hundred singers could barely be heard when the queen and Prince Albert attended the opening ceremony. Inspector of the Dead dramatizes that ceremony and a fateful historical incident that happened there, involving a real-life mysterious figure who emerged from the crowd and approached the queen.


When the world’s fair ended in October of 1851, the Crystal Palace was disassembled and recreated at Sydenham Hill, a semi-rural area south of the Thames.


There it remained, in a gradually deteriorating condition until fire destroyed it in 1936.


The post Visiting Inspector of the Dead: The Magnificent Crystal Palace appeared first on Mulholland Books.

Mar 022015

Mike Ripley's new - and, he says, final - "Getting Away with Murder" column has now been published in Shots Ezine. As usual, it contains a wide-ranging ramble through the current mystery scene, particularly as it appears in the U. K. Among the topics this month:

  • Another new Albert Campion book, Mr. Campion's Fox, which Ripley has written with the blessing of the Allingham Society;
  • A reflection on an anonymous literary agent's bad choice;
  • The seemingly endless parade of  nominees for mystery awards;
  • A recommendation for a new mystery that counts SIX different narrators;
  • Announcements about several other newly-published-in-the-UK books;
  • Books he's reading for the Chianti Crime Festival in Siena, Italy, later this Spring;
  • Reviving some old TV serials;
  • Lots more book reviews;

And a possible farewell of sorts. This is column #100 for "Getting Away with Murder." Ripley, who has insisted that column #100 would be his last, runs down a list of people who, he says, are some of the candidates to replace him - well, that's what he says, though the biographies are, er, highly dubious at best.  I hope it's somebody with Ripley's quirky sense of humor, very much on display again here, which has made his columns required reading for me. It occurs to me, however, the next column being dated April 1, and therefore quite possibly an appropriate time to introduce any of these candidates, that it would be wise to withhold lavish displays of grief. At least for now...

Mar 022015


An amazing book. A serial killer who travels through time. One of his victims who lived has to find him. It does have some very grisly murders, which are hard to read and scary. The best thing about it is that it uses the time travel to explore the history and people and social issues, all couched in a thrilling tale.

Mar 022015
The Spider #3: Wings Of The Black Death, by Grant Stockbridge December, 1933  Popular Publications The third volume of The Spider is notable because it was the first to be written by Norvell “Grant Stockbridge” Page, who would go on to write the majority of the ensuing 115 volumes. Having read some of Page’s later volumes, I was curious how different this first one would be. Surprisingly,