Monday, April 6, 2015

FISTS OF IRON: ROUND 4

FISTS OF IRON: ROUND 4

The REH Foundation Press is proud to present Fists of Iron: Round 4, the final volume of a four-volume series presenting the Collected Boxing Fiction of Robert E. Howard

This volume features the collected Kid Allison stories and measures in at 347 pages (plus introductory material). It is printed in hardback with dust jacket, with the first printing limited to 200 copies, each individually numbered. Cover art by Tom Gianni and introduction by Mark Finn. 

FISTS OF IRON: ROUND 4

CONTENTS

Intro: “A Boy and His Dog” by Mark Finn

KID ALLISON

The Man with the Mystery Mitts
Kid Galahad
College Socks
The Wild Cat and the Star
Fighting Nerves (Kid Allison version)
 
MIKE DORGAN AND BILL MCGLORY
 
The House of Peril
One Shanghai Night
The Tomb of the Dragon

OTHER TALES

The Sign of the Snake
The Fighting Fury
Fighting Nerves (Jim O’Donnel version)
Fists of the Desert
Fists of the Revolution

MISCELLANEA

The Jinx
Fistic Psychology
The Drawing Card
Untitled fragment (“Huh,” I was so . . .)
A Tough Nut to Crack (Allison version)
A Tough Nut to Crack (Clarney version)
One Shanghai Night – synopsis
Untitled notes (Knute Hansen)
The Lord of the Ring, (part 4), by Patrice Louinet

I JUST RECEIVED MY COPY AND AM DELIGHTED TO HAVE THE COMPLETE SERIES OF THESE BEAUTIFUL TOMES …

THRILLER CORNER: BLACK SCORPION ~ THE TYRANT REBORN

THRILLER CORNER: BLACK SCORPION ~ THE TYRANT REBORN

Jon Land is the bestselling author over 25 novels including the Caitlin Strong novels (about a fifth-generation Texas ranger), the Ben Kamal and Danielle Barnea books (featuring a Palestinian detective and chief inspector of the Israeli police), and eleven thrillers starring Blaine McCracken, an exiled agent who knows 14 ways to kill a man in under two seconds – all high octane stuff.

In his latest novel, Land brings back Michael The Tyrant Tiranno, hero of Land’s bestselling novel, The Seven Sins. His new Tyrant novel, Black Scorpion, Tiranno takes on a worldwide human trafficking cabal.

In advance of the novel’s anticipated release on April 7th, Land stopped by Bish’s Beat for the bright lights and rubber hoses treatment …

CAN YOU TELL US A BIT ABOUT BLACK SCORPION: THE TYRANT REBORN? 

I think it’s the most ambitious book I’ve ever done in terms of character, emotion and story.  I say that not only because of its epic-like structure, but mostly because I’ve never written a book before that challenges its characters in so many ways.  It challenges them with truth and the reality of their own natures contrasted against their fates, testing especially Michael Tiranno’s capacity to exceed his own limitations. He has become a classical, almost mythic hero in terms of the losses he suffers and stunning revelations about his own fate he must accept.  All the while confronting a villain just as powerful as he is with whom he unknowingly shares an indelible bond.  Great villains, they say, make great heroes and that’s truly the case here as Michael confronts an all-powerful criminal organization with a plot to do incredible harm to the country and world in the offing.  To stop them, Michael must become a different man than he is when the book starts out, he must evolve, literally, into something more and accepting that fate comes to define both him as a hero and the story as a whole.

WHAT DREW YOU TO WRITE THRILLER AND MYSTERY NOVELS? 

Well, as the great Robert Louis Stevenson once said, “You can only write what you would read if someone else had written it.”  So, when I chose to be a writer, or should I say when writing chose me, I gravitated to what came most naturally to me.  I’d grown up reading all of Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels while away at camp for the summer, this after falling in love with the early films starring Sean Connery as Bond.  The structure of those films has been more influential in my writing than any other individual factor.  As I got older while in college, I began devouring the books of Stephen King, Robert Ludum, Clive Cussler and David Morrell – all great storytellers above everything else, and I realized that’s what I wanted to be too.


MICHAEL TIRANNO, IS BASED ON A CHARACTER ORIGINALLY CREATED BY FABRIZIO BOCCARDI. HOW DO YOU WORK WITH HIM TO DEVELOP EACH STORY?


It’s an extremely close relationship since we basically sweat every single plot development, every single scene – hell, every single line. It can be extremely frustrating at times because I’m used to working alone in a box without interference or micromanaging. Quite frankly, I don’t enjoy the process at all, but have to admit twice now it’s resulted in far better books than I could have written on my own. Fabrizio isn’t a writer or a storyteller and he doesn’t grasp all the intricacies of structure. But he has wonderful instincts that are right more often than not and form the perfect complement to my experience and talents. Look, Michael Tiranno is his baby. He turned him over to me to build, but he could never be expected to let him go altogether. Ultimately, I think we work so well together because our passion is balanced by our willingness to compromise toward telling the best story we possibly can. It may drive me crazy at times, but the ends justify the means

HOW DO YOU APPROACH WRITING A BOOK LIKE BLACK SCORPION?

It all starts with the hero, Michael Tiranno. I started Black Scorpion with the premise that in the five years since the events depicted in The Seven Sins, Michael hasn’t changed very much. He’s still pretty much the same man we left at the end of the first book, a tyrant consumed by his desire to expand his empire and holdings.  The whole essence of Black Scorpion is watching him evolve into something entirely different – Still a tyrant, yes, but a tyrant for good.  A superhero without a mask or cape.  We watch his view of his entire place in the world change, forced upon him by the shattering truths and tragedy he encounters along the way.  And in that respect his quest changes from the pursuit of riches and power to self-fulfillment and self-actualization. So now, above everything else, Michael Tiranno’s character is defined by his obsession for standing up for those who can’t stand up for themselves.  Bullies aren’t confined to the schoolyard and he won’t tolerate them under any circumstances.  He’s spent his life trying to find the security he lost that day his parents were murdered and once there he uses the power that comes with it to defend those who need him the most.  My point is your hero defines the very nature of a book with the sprawl and ambition of Black Scorpion.  The book will rise or fall based on how the audience responds to him and you have to approach a book like this with that in mind.

YOU’VE WRITTEN A NUMBER OF SERIES, IS THIS ONE YOUR FAVORITE TO WRITE?

Frankly, no, that would be my Caitlin Strong Texas Ranger series.  I’m not saying the books in that series are better than Black Scorpion because I think in many ways Black Scorpion is the most ambitious and best realized book in terms of vision I’ve ever written. I’m talking about the process.  Black Scorpion is work for hire and I have an obligation to serve the needs of the Tyrant character’s creator, Fabrizio Boccardi That robs this series, and me, of the spontaneity that defines me as a writer, since I don’t outline.  Writing with someone looking over your shoulder isn’t nearly as fun or gratifying. But, that said, the end result of both this book and its prequel, The Seven Sins, proves I’m capable of adapting.

DID YOU HAVE TO DO ANY SPECIAL RESEARCH TO WRITE THIS BOOK?

It’s always that way with thrillers that involve as much cutting edge technology as this one does. But so much of it is speculative, based not on what exists now but will eventually, that I’m essentially forced to go back to school on subjects I had very little knowledge of to start out. And not just pertaining to the villain’s world-threatening plot either. I had to figure out how to construct Black Scorpion’s lair inside a mountain, and needed to concoct a way for a commando team to access it from beneath a manmade lake in the climax. It’s all very James Bond-like and, as with Bond, with every challenge comes up a wonderful opportunity to do something no one’s ever done before

WHAT DO YOU HOPE READERS TAKE AWAY FROM OR FEEL WHEN READING THIS BOOK?

First and foremost I want them to come away feeling they weren’t just entertained, but spirited away into the fabric of the story.  But I want them to take away from that what makes a man a hero. That a man’s fate isn’t always his to define, as personified in Michael’s case by the mystical relic medallion that’s the one possession he has left from his family.  It’s both his talisman and curse, as it has been for other men of great power who’ve possessed it through history.  And while that medallion might fuel Michael’s quest, ultimately that quest is about saving a woman he loves and preserving the world he has built he now wants to share with her.  So as broad and ambitious as this book is, like all great stories, it’s ultimately very simple.

IS A THIRD ADVENTURE OF THE TYRANT IN THE WORKS?

No, not yet. But there’s a whole bunch of happening in film and comic books, so stay tuned.

ON THE WEB:
www.jonlandbooks.com  
Twitter @jondland

THE BLACK SCORPION: THE TYRANT REBORN

The next adventure of The Seven Sins' Michael "The Tyrant" Tiranno, Jon Land's Black Scorpion is a pulse pounding action-thriller as he takes on a worldwide human trafficking cabal.

Five years have passed since Michael Tiranno saved the city of Las Vegas from a terrorist attack. And now a new enemy has surfaced in Eastern Europe in the form of an all-powerful organization called Black Scorpion. Once a victim of human trafficking himself, the shadowy group's crazed leader, Vladimir Dracu, has become the mastermind behind the scourge's infestation on a global scale. And now he's set his sights on Michael Tiranno for reasons birthed in a painful secret past that have scarred both men.

Already facing a myriad of problems, Michael once more must rise to the challenge of confronting an all-powerful enemy who is exploiting and ravaging innocents all across the globe and has set nothing less than all of America as its new victim. Black Scorpion has also taken the woman Michael loves hostage:?Scarlett Swan, a beautiful archaeologist who was following the dangerous trail of the origins of the ancient relic that both defines and empowers Michael, a discovery that could change history and the perception of mankind's very origins.

With the deck and the odds stacked against him, Michael must come to learn and embrace his true destiny in becoming the Tyrant reborn as a dark knight to triumph over ultimate evil and stop the sting of Black Scorpion from undermining all of the United States and plunging Las Vegas into chaos and anarchy.

A major production for a feature film is in active development in Hollywood based on the franchised character of Michael Tiranno, the Tyrant. The film will be based on the blended adaptation of Black Scorpion and its predecessor, The Seven Sins, which both have also been licensed to DC Comics for comic books and graphic novels publications worldwide.


Saturday, April 4, 2015

COP WRITERS: NUDE IN RED

COP WRITERS: NUDE IN RED 

A new novel from my favorite cop turned writer, O'Neil De Noux, is always an event for me. This time out, it’s a new entry featuring his John Raven Beau character …

NUDE IN RED

Saturday – off-duty NOPD Homicide Detective John Raven Beau spots a long, tall brunette in a short black dress crossing a street just as a bank robber rushes out of a bank. Beau catches the robber and Miss Long-legs-in-a-black dress is there with a Glock in hand. She’s a private eye and cousin of an old friend who warns Beau – she’s a maneater. Beau can’t resist the temptation. Jessie Carini is irresistible and finds Beau hard to resist as well.

Monday – the new superintendent of police has a surprise for Beau, promoting him to Chief Inspector of the new Critical Investigations Unit (CIU) and assigns a murder case with a secret attached. Beau chooses his new partner, Juanita Cruz, and the two tackle a case involving high priced call girls, The Mafia, a Romanian organized crime syndicate and more victims.


Friday, April 3, 2015

PULP NOW: DAY OF THE DESTROYERS

PULP NOW: DAY OF THE DESTROYERS

REALLY HAPPY TO HAVE MY STORY, SHARDS, INCLUDED IN THIS PULP INSPIRED COLLECTION ... AVAILABLE NOW DESPITE WHAT THE AMAZON LISTING CURRENTLY STATES ...

Secret Agent X-11 Jimmie Flint Battles to Save FDR and the Nation

From the epoch of the Great Depression when the pulps were in full bloom, among the millionaire playboys who donned masked avenger garb, there were the super spies from Secret Agent X to those in Thrilling Spy Stories.

It is with great pleasure then that Moonstone Books presents Day of the Destroyers, an all-original prose linked anthology. Each story is part of a larger arc wherein Jimmie Flint, Secret Agent X-11 of the Intelligence Service Command, battles to prevent the seditionist Medusa Council from engineering a bloody coup overthrowing our democracy.

Inspired by actual events from the 1930s, alluded to in the recent Roosevelts: An Intimate History PBS documentary, a grouping of extremist politicians and moneyed interests sought to "take back" the country from President Roosevelt. Day of the Destroyers pits the ever-resourceful Jimmie Flint against these forces.  

He fights across the country preventing an aerial assault on Chicago’s rail lines, destroying a secret factory of gas meant to enthrall millions in New Mexico, to racing to stop a machine of fantastic destruction in Manhattan.  He’s aided by his girlfriend, intrepid newspaper reporter Kara Eastland, his teenaged protégé Tim Fallon, as well as pulp era masked vigilantes the Green Lama, the Phantom Detective, and the Black Bat.  Joining the fight are real historical figures including General Smedley (the original Devil Dog) Butler and war correspondent Martha Gellhorn.  Each exciting chapter-story in the anthology builds to a final showdown between the redoubtable X-11 and his arch-nemesis, Colonel Lucian Starliss, head of the Medusa Council.

Writers who contributed to this one-of-a-kind collection are Pulp Factory award winner Adam Lance Garcia, Macavity and Shamus nominated Jeri Westerson, pulpmeisters Tommy Hancock and Ron Fortier, former Marvel Comics editor Eric Fein, Zeroids writer Aaron Shaps, former LAPD lead detective Paul Bishop, Moonstone EiC Joe Gentile, and Chester Himes award winner Gary Phillips. Introduction by Pulp Ark award winner Bobby Nash.   

DAY OF THE DESTROYERS
276 PAGES, 6 x 9
TPB $13.95
HARCOVER $23.99
 

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

MYOPIC NOSTALGIA – OR ARE THEY TRYING TO RUIN MY CHILDHOOD?

MYOPIC NOSTALGIA – OR ARE THEY TRYING TO RUIN MY CHILDHOOD?

Every time the rebooting of an iconic entertainment franchise is announced, rabid fans of the original series turn their heads away from repeatedly viewing authorized release or bootleg DVDs of the original series to scream knee-jerk bloody murder. 

“It can’t possibly as good as the original. Look what they did to I Spy, The Wild Wild West, and The Avengers – the real Avengers, Steed and Emma, not those costumed jerks. These people are destroying my childhood.”

How dare any actor step into the roles of their coveted heroes as portrayed by the original actors? How dare any studio who owns the rights mess up their childhood memories by remaking their favorite shows for a new generation?

For my money, these curmudgeons are indulging in what I call myopic nostalgia – an inability to see the flaws in the original shows and an unwillingness to change anything at all in a reboot of the idea.

Unfortunately, these curmudgeons are also mostly right. I Spy, The Avengers (British spy version) and The Wild Wild West reboots were truly awful, and so were Starsky & Hutch, Mod Squad, 21 Jump Street, The Honeymooners, Dark Shadows, and Bewitched. Even the goofy original Dukes of Hazzard television series looks like classic literature when compared to the offensive, boneheaded, remake, which had no understanding of the sweet, light, comedic touch that endeared the original to so many. And the less said the better about that offense against humanity referred to as The Green Hornet, for which I will never forgive Seth Rogan…never. Talk about your myopic nostalgia…

While some of these examples, like the 21 Jump Street remakes, sold enough tickets at the box office to bring about further films in the franchise, most lost millions and millions of dollars while committing the double whammy of angering their built in fan base while boring any potential new fans in the audience. Despite this, remakes and reboots remain big business as Hollywood searches for the new golden franchise…

Favorite television series are not the only fodder Hollywood victimizes for the ham-fisted remake/reboot treatment. They also cannibalize their own revered and not so revered movie franchises:

“Let’s remake Ghostbusters, but with an all-female cast.” 

“We just can’t get Spider-man quite right, so let’s make him Hispanic.”

“People will be lining up around the block for Police Academy: Next Generation.”

Yikes…

However, for every baker’s dozen of failed reboots, something decent sneaks through. If we ignore the first misfire in the series of remakes [SPOILER ALERT: Making Jim Phelps a traitor was going way too far], Mission Impossible 2, 3, and 4 were pretty good romps, and I have high hopes for Mission Impossible 5 later this year. 

Though it had little in common with the original series, and certainly has its share of haters, I still enjoyed the recent remake of The Equalizer (with Denzel Washington taking over the iconic role from the very English Edward Woodward). I found it relatively entertaining – completely different, with little in common with the original series, but relatively entertaining.

The various Star Trek reboots have their share of fans and critics. I enjoyed the first of director J. J. Abram’s outings and was disappointed by the second, but they both made huge money despite what I think.

And money is apparently the point. 

Recently, the first trailer was released for the latest reboot to tread on hallowed ground. After many failed attempts, the venerable ‘60s spy show The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is finally getting the big screen treatment. Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer are taking over the roles of Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin from Robert Vaughn and David McCallum, with Guy Ritchie scripting and directing.

The U.N.C.L.E. fan base is still surprisingly vibrant as the original show struck a chord with many impressionable youth. I’ve written in this column before about how U.N.C.L.E. shaped my own choice of career, and how much of my youth was spent chasing THRUSH agents around the neighborhood while brandishing the TV tie-in toy guns produced for the series.

As can be imagined, the doomsayers in the fan base had already predicted the awfulness of the U.N.C.L.E. movie before the first scene had ever been shot. Complaints about the casting, ranging from Armie Hammer being so much taller than David McCallum, to Henry Cavill’s wooden performance in the ghastly Man of Steel reboot of the Superman franchise, were rife. Before a note was put down on the score, complaints about the soundtrack and speculation about the use of the original theme were heard from far and wide.

The fact the reboot will be an origin story of how Solo and Kuryakin first met and how U.N.C.L.E. was formed – making the reboot a period piece set in the ‘60s – has met with a certain amount of derision by some fans who want a movie that picks up in full swing where the series left off. And there is consternation neither Robert Vaughn nor David McCallum were offered cameo appearances.  And where, oh, where is that familiar U.N.C.L.E. logo.

Sigh…

I own the full series of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. on DVD in the cool briefcase carrier, the LP and CD releases of the original soundtrack, know exactly where my U.N.C.L.E. ID card and yellow triangular badge are safely kept, and I recently spent three days at the Golden Anniversary Affair, a convention celebrating 50 years of U.N.C.L.E. 

I’m a fan. A big fan. A huge fan. And I for one am excited for the new film. 

Will it be everything I want it to be? 

If it is a good solid spy film that is better than any of the episodes from season three of the original U.N.C.L.E. show (when the series lost its way in goofiness, before trying to patch things up in the 4th and final season); if it’s better than any episode of your choice from The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. (not hard); and if it makes U.N.C.L.E. accessible to new fans, then it will hit the standard to which I am measuring the success of the film.

The recently released trailer looks good – not perfect, but certainly encouraging. Both actors appear to be enjoying themselves in their respective roles and there is a certain cadence and light touch of class, which was a big part of the original series’ success. I have enjoyed most of Guy Ritchie’s movies, especially his Sherlock Holmes outings. I’m hoping he can again capture lightening in a bottle with The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

Another excellent sign is Warner Bros. moving the movie release date from February – the traditional wasteland where many bad movies have been sent to die – to August, a prime release month between wrapping up the big summer blockbusters and the release of the Oscar bait films at the end of the year.

I don’t think The Man from U.N.C.L.E. movie is necessarily going to win the reboot lottery, but I’m betting it will get most of the numbers right. However, it better include the original Jerry Goldsmith theme!  You hear me, Guy Ritchie?  You better use the original theme! Don’t change one single note! The theme is sacrosanct! You hear me? You hear me? Don’t ruin my childhood!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

FANTASY CORNER: RANGER'S APPRENTICE: THE EARLY YEARS

FANTASY CORNER: RANGER'S APPRENTICE: THE EARLY YEARS

Bestselling fantasy-adventure writer John Flanagan‘s latest series, set for publication October 6th, sports a most cool action-filled cover. Flanagan’s new book is titled The Tournament At Gorlan, and it’s the first in his new series, Ranger’s Apprentice: The Early Years — a prequel to his excellent Ranger's Apprentice series,

While the original series features an orphan named Will and his apprenticeship as a Ranger (a protector in Flanagan's wonderfully evoked fantasy world), the prequels deal with an early iteration of the Ranger group and a threat to its integrity.

I've got the new book on pre-order and have just picked up the fifth book in his companion series, The Brotherband Chronicles...

PULP NOW: THE ARGOSY LIBRARY


PULP NOW: THE ARGOSY LIBRARY

Altus Press has announced the premiere of its new line of books: The Argosy Library series, featuring popular authors such as Lester Dent, Otis Adelbert Kline, W.C. Tuttle, and George F. Worts. 

Founded at the end of the Nineteenth Century by publishing tycoon Frank A. Munsey, Argosy Magazine quickly became one of the most popular – and prestigious – fiction magazines of its day and spawned a publishing revolution. Known as one of the most literate pulp magazines, Argosy published thousands of short stories and novels, many of which features some of the most influential series characters in popular fiction. With the inauguration of The Argosy Library, Altus Press plans to bring back into print the best of the Frank A. Munsey Company, sourced from its suite of sibling titles such as Argosy, All-Story, and Flynn’s Detective Fiction Weekly, among others.

The Argosy Library expects to showcase the varied mix of genres that made Argosy one of the most popular pulps of all time. Series 1 does just that by showcasing adventure, mystery, western, science fiction, fantasy, and crime stories by some of Munsey’s most popular authors such as Lester Dent, W. Wirt, Otis Adelbert Kline, W.C. Tuttle, George F. Worts, and Theodore Roscoe, among others.

The Argosy Library will be released in series of ten books at a time – in matching trade dress – and will be available in softcover, hardcover, and ebook editions. In addition to being available separately, each series of releases can be purchased as a single, heavily-discounted set.  Series 1 of The Argosy Library is expected to be released in May. 

GENIUS JONES
LESTER DENT
INTRODUCTION BY WILL MURRAY

The gold-dusted saga of a red-bearded young giant, raised in the Arctic on seal-meat and encyclopedias, who descends on civilization with a loud and solid crash. In his search for wisdom and adventure, the man Jones doesn’t have Aladdin’s lamp – but he doesn’t really need it…Never before reprinted, it’s the longest novel Lester Dent ever published, and one of the most famous. This edition restores text cut from its original publication. 

WHEN TIGERS ARE HUNTING: THE COMPLETE ADVENTURES OF CORDIE, SOLDIER OF FORTUNE, VOLUME 1
W. WIRT

The sagas of Jimmie Cordie and his crew were among Argosy’s most popular series when it was brought to that magazine during its early ’30s renaissance. Quite clearly an inspiration for the creation of Doc Savage, this edition collects his first nine adventures. 

THE SWORDSMAN OF MARS
OTIS ADELBERT KLINE

Harry Thorne, explorer and swordsman, had scarcely more than heard of the Red Planet, Mars – when an amazing thing happened…. Author Otis Adelbert Kline is well-known as one of the best fantasy/adventure contemporaries of Edgar Rice Burroughs. This edition is sourced from the original magazine text and includes all of the original illustrations. 

THE SHERLOCK OF SAGELAND: THE COMPLETE TALES OF SHERIFF HENRY, VOLUME 1
W.C. TUTTLE
INTRODUCTION BY SAI SHANKAR

Once voted Adventure Magazine’s most popular author, W.C. Tuttle introduced the world to one of his longest-running, and most popular series characters, Henry Harrison Conroy, in the pages of Argosy. Collected here are the first four stories. 

GONE NORTH
CHARLES ALDEN SELTZER

When Jim Fallon started for the Hudson Bay country, he wasn’t sure whether he was on a man-hunt or a wild goose chase – but he found his quest was fraught with real enough peril. Among the best novels ever written by one of Argosy’s most popular authors.

THE MASKED MASTER MIND
GEORGE F. WORTS

One of Argosy’s most popular authors pens this never-before reprinted novel of a trail of crime that ran from sleepy Maple Hollow to Steel City. 

BALATA
FRED MACISAAC

Trees of living gold in the Amazon jungles, guarded by alligators, poisoned darts and rival hunters – such was the lodestone that drew an American expedition, and the unwilling Pete Holcomb…

BRETWALDA
PHILIP KETCHUM

‘Twas the mightiest weapon the eyes of man had ever beheld – its mystic name meant Ruler of Briton. And from over the Northern Sea came a Viking’s thrall – the only man in the world who could wield that fearsome steel – to save good King Alfred and the homeland he scarce remembered. Collecting – for the first time – all 12 stories of the Bretwalda saga. 

DRAFT OF ETERNITY
VICTOR ROUSSEAU

A groundbreaking science fiction, post-apocalyptic & time travel classic from the early days of The All-Story by an underrated writer.

FOUR CORNERS, VOLUME 1
THEODORE ROSCOE

Mystery runs rampant in the quiet, upstate New York town of Four Corners… Easily one of Roscoe’s best-written series, Volume 1 collects the first half of this lost masterpiece of the pulps. 

FOR MORE CLICK HERE

THE TRUE BRIDE AND THE SHOEMAKER

THE TRUE BRIDE AND THE SHOEMAKER

It's always exciting when a member of your writing group releases a major publication. It's even more exciting when you mentor said writing group. 

Laura Palmer first read a chapter from her work in progress to the group in 2013. The feedback was immediately positive. Later chapters received both positive and critical input. Laura kept writing, kept using the positive input to bolster her on her journey while processing the critical input to make her story stronger.

I remember one particular monthly meeting in 2014. Laura reported she was stuck in the middle of the story.  She knew what she had written since the last meeting wasn't working, but she couldn't figure out why. The immediate response from the other members of the group was a rousing, "Don't worry, we'll tell you!"

Laura bravely allowed the problem chapter to be read aloud by another member of the group, and she was right - it didn't work. The chapter clashed with what had gone before in tone and intent and was missing the light touch of magic with which the rest of her story had been painted. However, the beauty of a positive writers group is also a sort of magic, and in the following animated discussion, Laura was inspired to capture for herself what was not working and why...and more importantly, how to fix it.

Laura's willingness to risk her own feelings about her creative work and be open to positive critique provided the true magic of the meeting. 

Since then, Laura has been going to graduate school, pursuing a Masters in Public Administration, all the while continuing to write in whatever time she could steal away from her other obligations.

Laura worked not only with our writing group, but also with other professionals in the editing and design process. She took the path to publication seriously, determined to produce the best possible story presented in the best possible way. 

Today, I received an email from Laura with the wonderful news her novel, The True Bride and the Shoemaker, had just been released into the wilds of publication. The book sports a beautiful cover, which not only catches the eye, but also captures the magic of the story inside.

I've used the word magic a lot in this post, because the publication of a first novel is a magical experience. I'm delighted for Laura and I couldn't be more proud of her.

THE TRUE BRIDE AND THE SHOEMAKER
 
There is magic in the streets of Pippington, but most people are too busy to notice.

Shoemaker Peter Talbot needs a little magic. Cheap, factory made, shoes are putting him out of business, his nagging sisters will never let him rest, and his efforts to find true love are constantly thwarted by worldly fickleness. However, the gift of a wild primrose and a shipment of rare griffin skin are about to change everything…When beautiful handmade shoes begin appearing in his shop every morning, Peter is determined to find the source. What he finds instead will be far more exciting and wondrous than he could ever imagine.

The True Bride and the Shoemaker is the first of The Pippington Tales, introducing a city full of magic and everyday fairy tales for those willing to see them.


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

COMICS NOW: WORDSMITH ~ AN ADVENTURE IN IMAGINATION

1
COMICS NOW: WORDSMITH ~ AN ADVENTURE IN IMAGINATION
 
In the mid-80s, writer and comic maven Dave Darrigo created a most unusual and endearing comic hero – Clay Washburn, Wordsmith. What sets Wordsmith apart is Clay is as far from a comic heroes as most readers themselves. Set in the ‘30s and ‘40s. Clay is a writer, the creator of adventures for a full range of heroic characters, which he sells to the popular pulp magazines of his day. Clay is an everyman, not a star name on covers, struggling to make a living at something he loves, eventually earning a penny per word (many were paid less) in a highly competitive marketplace. As a result, Clay had to be prolific and adapt to writing in many different genres.

Each issue of Wordsmith was further unique in sharing not only Clay’s personal struggles, but also the adventures of the characters about whom he was writing – heroes like Brass-Knuckles Bendix, Captain Strong, Domino Detective, Hunter Hawke, as well as various hard-boiled G-Men and many others.

Written with an amazing, underlying, understanding of a writer’s struggles, Wordsmith stands unique in the comic pantheon. The twelve issues of Wordsmith were clearly a labor of love and quickly became a cult favorite. The original issues are still eagerly sought by not only comic fans, but also fans of the original pulp magazines, those involved in the new pulp movement, and anyone fascinated by a writer’s creative process. Fortunately, Dover Press will be publishing a new collection of the Wordsmith stories later this year.

Through a mutual friend, I was able to track down Wordsmith creator Dave Darrigo and chat with him about the world of Wordsmith as well as his own journey through the world of comics.

DARRIGO
GROWING UP IN THE ‘60S, WHAT WERE YOUR POP CULTURAL INFLUENCES?

What can I say? Color TV! If you are old enough, you know the names of all the shows. They still make movie adaptations of them – mostly bad ones. Did we really need the Green Hornet movie? Glad they left Jonny Quest alone.

After that it was comics. I was into the second phase of Marvelmania. Before that, I was with DC, but mostly with their war comics, and also paperback pulp reprints (I was big on Doc Savage). Even old radio fascinated me. I would have liked to get old comics but, like today, they were out of my price range. Fortunately, we now have many nice reprint collections.

Notice the word old, which I’ve used as a descriptor. Old wasn’t a dirty word back then. But you were in a cult – the cult of nostalgia.

WHAT DROVE YOU TO BEGIN CREATING AND PUBLISHING COMICS AT A YOUNG AGE?

It all started as an exercise in imagination and a way to bond with a friend. Then I realized the Mimeograph machine in my father’s office (he was an independent businessman) would allow us to make copies of our pages. So, why not try to make a faux comic book? It must have driven his secretary crazy, but she just had to endure it all. Boss’ son at play. It’s the next step that is hard to explain.

HAVING DONE MY OWN SHARE OF MIMEOGRAPHING INDEPENDENT PUBLICATIONS, WHAT CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR FIRST PUBLISHING EFFORTS IN YOUR FATHER’S BUSINESS OFFICE?

We decided to use my dad’s financial resources to print on photo-offset presses. This was in 1969. I was fifteen years old. Print shops were not on every corner back then. Nor were there any comic shops in existence. We were really out on a limb. We tried to sell them through mail order, but really could not get over the hump.

Yet did I learn from this? Nope. Twenty years later, after Wordsmith, I went back into comics publishing, creating a company called Special Studio. However, we still couldn’t get over the hump.

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HOW DID YOU COME TO FIND AND APPRECIATE THE PULP MAGAZINES FROM THE ‘30S AND ‘40S? WHAT WAS IT ABOUT THE PULPS THAT HELD A FASCINATION FOR YOU? ALSO, YOU WERE PART OF EARLY COMIC FANDOM EFFORTS IN CANADA. WHAT WAS THAT LIKE? HOW DID FANS CONNECT IN THOSE PRE-INTERNET DAYS?

Toronto is the media capital of Canada. In the late sixties there was a nostalgia oriented book shop called Memory Lane. It was owned and operated by a WWII vet, Captain George Henderson. His shop specialized in comics and pulps and therefore garnered a lot of publicity, locally, regionally and nationally, via print, radio, and TV.

Several of his customer/friends – including a journalist/editor with the national newspaper – joined him to create an informal nostalgia club, which also covered the current film/TV scene. They took it upon themselves to share their knowledge by doing two publications.

One was a bi-weekly called the Penny Dreadful It was a small pamphlet-sized thing, but loaded with info/comments. The other was a monthly magazine called, Captain George’s Whizbang. And there were Whizbang Specials that would showcase old artists, or do unofficial reprints of old comics.
Anyway, this was early fanzine activity that was immensely entertaining and eye-opening for a kid. Captain George even reluctantly carried copies of our comic in his store – although, he probably threw out more than he ever sold. I think he carried them just because I was a customer with a rich father. George had also published one of the first prozine comics in the country since the early fifties. His was pro as opposed to our amateur effort.

One of the members in their club, Don Hutchison, wrote great stuff on pulps, and I followed him avidly. He went on to write many articles for pulpzines as well as authoring several pulp history books. Eventually, I met Don and we travelled to several pulp conventions in Ohio. When Wordsmith came out, I invited him to do text pieces on the pulps. He updated some of his previous material and did new original work.

I realize now, I never actually held or owned a real pulp magazine until I was close to thirty years old. Then I collected them for only a decade or so. I haven’t bought an old pulp in a long time, even with eBay around. I went through a period of buying pulp replica reprints. Loved them, but had to give those up, too. However, I still pick up reprints in book form.

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AS AN INDEPENDENT COMIC CREATOR AND PUBLISHER, HOW DID YOU COMPETE WITH THE INDUSTRY GIANTS?

I didn’t see Special Studio as competing against the big full color boys. I was in the small press black and white universe – happy to get sales anywhere close to the Teenage Turtles. My problem was, I did crime comics just a bit ahead of the curve. Yes, there were characters like Punisher and Vigilante and some in black and white – and Frank Miller was starting his Sin City series – but it was a genre working to make a come-back.

If you want to look for some of my titles check for The Snake, Black Scorpion, Tony Bravado: Trouble-shooter, and Piranha Is Loose! There’s also a one shot called Modern Pulp and another one shot called Heroes from Wordsmith.

I worked at and managed a comic shop at the time Wordsmith came out, so I have great memories of actually selling my comic in my own store. I didn’t own the store. It was owned by John Biernat. Maybe you remember Dragon Lady Press. John published those titles. The store closed down a few years ago after 30 plus years.

HOW DID THE UNIQUE CONCEPT FOR WORDSMITH COME INTO EXISTENCE?

I just got caught up in wondering what it would have been like to be a pulp writer in a time period of history that was of great interest to me. But I wanted to fashion the story in such a way that the writer was not a hero per se – I didn’t want him to be a secret private eye or vigilante. The idea was to look at his life and times as a regular Joe. The action would be in his internal conflicts to finish a story quickly and to overcome plot knots – all the while looking out the window and seeing soup kitchen line-ups and worrying about the rise of fascism and a new war in Europe.

Keep in mind the concept was developed as a novel first. At this time in comics history (thanks to Will Eisner), the medium was evolving into graphic novels, so I thought about twisting the concept into comics form. We had to stop after 12 issues, but it would have been great if it had gone another 8 issues ending in 1945, after the atomic bombs were dropped. when Clay realizes pulp fiction is at a dead end.

Then there would have been a 4 issue mini-series sequel bringing Clay into the next four decades as he wrote paperback fiction and saw the pulps return to market in reprints. The last issue would have had him being honored at a Pulp Con.

So, in its true entirety, it would have been a twenty-four issue graphic novel. However, it had to end half way through when Clay went off to war as a clerk in Washington.

HOW DID YOU SEE WORDSMITH AS DIFFERENT FROM OTHER COMIC CONCEPTS?

There were two problems with bringing this concept to reality. Finding a publisher who got it and finding an artist who could pull it off to everyone’s satisfaction. With good fortune I found both. Wish I could say that same good fortune has stayed with me since.

Everyone was well aware this was very different from the norm, but – again, thanks to creators like Will Eisner and others in the States – there seemed to be a growing audience for more adult approaches to the medium. I had been exposed to European comics, and knew their scene had always encompassed adult material. Not because of sex or violence, but just stories set within real historical settings.

WHAT WERE YOUR ORIGINAL GOALS FOR WORDSMITH

The goal was to show comics fans how their medium was linked to the pulps in form and content. Not because modern comics were adapting pulp characters, but because pulp writers and artists moved to comics when the medium became popular and the writers struggled to adapt. In Wordsmith, I show Clay's long-time editor doing this, as well. 

The second goal was to just bring history to life from 1935 to 1945. I wish I had thought of a story which had Clay attending the 1939 World's Fair, or one centered on the Hindenburg disaster.

HOW DID WORDSMITH EVOLVE FROM ISSUE TO ISSUE?

Simply that time had to pass in Clay’s life. There had to be change. Clay had to move past his fight to reach financial stability, to get married and start a family. I wanted Clay to try new writing challenges, and to react to the big issues shaping the world, as any thinking human would do. All of this had to be done while keeping regular readers happy and trying to get new readers on board.

HOW CHALLENGING WAS IT TO NOT ONLY WRITE CLAY’S ONGOING STORY, BUT TO FIND A WAY TO ALSO INCLUDE THE STORIES OF HIS CHARACTERS?

I would draw your attention to the sixth issue, where Clay took a hiatus to write his Great American Novel. I wanted to show him writing that story and we did so, but there had to be one of his pulp stories shown in the same issue. That was tricky. Although he plotted the pulp story, he had a pulp writer friend of his write it. So, we showed Clay imagining what his friend was writing. And worrying about it. 

Once we sold a publisher and some core readers on the concept, it wasn't too hard to fit in his fictional stories. But issues like issue #5 – where his fictional story was the result of a prank – the aforementioned issue #6, and issue #8 (where almost the entire issue was devoted to one of his written stories) were a challenge. My personal favorite story was issue #4, where Clay tries to save an abused boy from his villainous father. It was where Clay had to come face-to-face with a true Evil.

WHAT WAS THE READERS/FANS RESPONSE TO WORDSMITH?

Although we didn't have a letters page in every issue, when we did have them you can see how my goals were met – usually with a positive reaction. These published letters were chosen from many more. Some were just of a keep up the good work type. Still, I always sent back a response using a Wordsmith form letter, but always adding a personal notation and signature. 

That people took the time to actually write and mail something to us was a great honor and I'll always have fond memories of it. 

One real-life wordsmith, Harlan Ellison, was kind enough to write us. Of course, I printed his letter. He was a long-time comics/pulp fan so he could have been a harsh critic, but he had great praise and set his quibbles aside. He knew our hearts were in the right place and was confident we would improve in time. 

After the seventh issue – our Christmas story – our sales peaked and began dropping, so we began to plan for the end. Frankly the last three issues were done more for love than profits. My thanks will always go to Deni Loubert, the publisher, and R.G. Taylor, the artist, for keeping the faith and plodding on. 

By the way, I think those last three issues were great and really showcased the concept. #12 was our comic’s issue where Clay meets a Jack Kirby-type character and where his fictional story is not a pulp one, but a Captain America type comic book story.

WILL THE NEW WORDSMITH COLLECTIONS BEING PUBLISHED BY DOVER PRESS LATER THIS YEAR CONTAIN ANY NEW MATERIAL OR PREVIOUSLY UNCOLLECTED MATERIAL?

No. Only once over the thirty years have we thought of doing a short story for some anthology, but that never got far. 

I wish Dover well, but even a new story would not make a sales difference. We're just honored to be in their classic line of reprinted material.

DOES WRITER DAVE DARRIGO STILL CONNECT TO WORDSMITH HERO CLAY WASHBURN?

Not really. Because I was writing about someone who, despite being a hack in many ways, at least found a way to make a living at it and just enjoyed exercising his imagination every day. I never did. I still have a cabinet of ideas filed away. Mostly for fiction, crime in particular, however, there's no market for small fiction except online.

I have some ideas for the youth market. For boys. Trying to get to them before they get into games. Working with my artist friends to develop them.

A while ago, I tried a huge challenge – to partner with a friend and write a screenplay. It took a few years to finish a first draft, but we did it and remained friends somehow. Since then, we are actively (and frustratingly) trying to sell it. It's a commercial action thriller and, despite a ton of rejections, we think it is good and fresh. Still relevant for a changing audience.

Trying to adapt to the digital age. Seeing books as we've known them disappear. Seeing people stop reading for the sheer joy of it – no matter how they pretend otherwise. It all started back where we came in on this interview – with color TV's.  Even in the radio age people read. Early TV made an impact, yes. But color TV's and the shows created for it really created the coffin. The nails for the coffin have been put in gradually ever since. Now it's all about the end of TV itself as we know it. 

Still, I basically can relate to Clay Washburn in the same way I did before the comic. By just reading old pulp fiction and imagining what the writer was doing the day he wrote the words.

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I’d really like to thank Dave Darrigo for taking the time to answer all my many questions. In some ways, I feel I’ve found a new friend with whom I can connect on many levels – a true value in today’s transient, disposable, economy.

FOR THOSE INTERESTED IN R.G. TAYLOR, THE ARTIST BEHIND WORDSMITH, A FOLLOW-UP INTERVIEW WILL BE COMING SOON. TILL THEN, IF YOU WISH TO CHECK OUT HIS WEBSITE CLICK HERE