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    See earlier CRIMES BY WOMEN covers HERE.

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    See the first nine Doc covers HERE

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    It's a bad sign when the lunch box looks better than the movie poster.

    The Legend of the Lone Ranger left a bad taste in America’ collective memory, mine included. But hey, it’s been 33 years, so I figured it was time to give it another chance. My main question was - did it really deserve the bad rap? Or were our collective minds poisoned by the two pre-release disasters: 1) The studio’s decision to ban Clayton Moore from wearing the mask, and 2) Klinton Spilsbury’s unRanger-like behavior, getting into fights on set, showing up drunk for work and slapping a cocktail waitress.

    Neither of our local library systems (which have dang near everything) had a copy of the film, and I sure has heck wasn’t going to buy it, so I watched it on YouTube. And for the first 56 minutes, I was mildly surprised. This doesn’t stink, I told myself. It’s not great, but it’s not as bad as I remembered. The worst things about it were the truly insipid theme song “The Man in the Mask” sung by Merle Haggard, and the amazing lack of acting ability displayed by Michael (Tonto) Horse.

    Those first 56 minutes were the set-up. Like many first-in-a-projected-series masked hero movies, this one diddled around for over half the film with the origin story. It was all unnecessary, and it moved too slow (particularly when tries to break Silver in slow motion), but it didn’t really suck. Little did I know that would be the best part of the film.

    At minute 57 Spilsbury finally put on the mask, the William Tell Overture fired up, and the movie began to suck. And it kept on sucking, harder and harder, until the thing was finally over. But though history has dumped most of the blame on poor Klint, it wasn’t his fault. It’s hard to complain about his acting, because - with his dialogue dubbed by actor James Keach - he did so little of it. What made the movie suck were the many bad decisions made by the producers.

    So why was the last half of the film so bad? The reasons could probably fill a book, but here are a few of my main complaints.
        1) The William Tell Overture was used so clumsily as to defy belief. It was simply dropped in every time we were supposed to think the Ranger was doing something exciting. The sound quality was lousy - as if someone had recorded it from their TV - and sloppily edited to fit the brief action sequences. As a result, it just distracted from the action and made it look silly.
        2) The Ranger and Tonto have almost nothing to do. They ride around, walk around and slink around, saying little and accomplishing less while Butch Cavendish (Christopher Lloyd) and his gang menaces and finally kidnaps President Grant (Jason Robards).
        3) For reasons unknown except to the toy franchisee, George Custer and Buffalo Bill are riding Grant’s train, and they have even less to do than LR and T. They’re unused until the very end, when they come riding in with the cavalry. This gives them a chance to wave.
        4) The climax is ridiculously overblown, probably hoping to compensate for the lack of action in the rest of the film. A single box of dynamite produces an unending string of explosions, sending villain after villain flying through the air. And even amid all the carnage, LR and T just scurry about trying to look busy until the cavalry arrives.

    Klint, Mike, Butch & Geo. looking no less wooden than they do in the film. 

    A note about YouTube: Don't go looking, because the movie is no longer there. Thanks no doubt to the studio that once lived up to the name Disney, YouTube removed it the afternoon of July 2, the day before the premier of the Depp debacle.

    John Reid arrives from the East, intent on lawyering.

    Tonto teaches him to survive in the West.

    He finally dons the mask. The producers thought he looked good in it. Hm. 

    The guys ride aimlessly about, listening to Wm. Tell. 

    They stop to pose for a lobby card.

    Jason Robards and Christopher Lloyd exchange unpleasantries.

    Klint poses while everyone else fights.

    Klint and Silver wonder how their movie went south.

    More, and no doubt better (they couldn’t be much worse) Overlooked Films at Sweet Freedom

    Next week: Jeez, not another Lone Ranger movie!! Yep, it's that thing from 2003. 

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    See the first three issues HERE.

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    This is a good book for two reasons: Louis L’Amour wrote it, and it’s about Hopalong Cassidy.

    Although this appears to be L'Amour's very first novel, it sure doesn’t show it. I’ve read them all, and while my favorites are the pre-westerns like Sackett and Fair Blows the Wind, I’d rate this up with any of his straight westerns (and higher than some, because, as I mentioned, it’s about Hopalong Cassidy).

    Beyond the book’s entertainment value, it’s interesting because of L’Amour’s thirty-year attempt to deny authorship. As Louie’s son Beau tells it in the afterword to the 1991 Bantam edition (and online HERE), it came about in 1950, when the folks at Doubleday developed an itch to publish some new Hoppy novels, and asked Clarence Mulford, who had retired in 1941, to write some new ones. He declined, but agreed to license the rights if a suitable writer could be found. Mulford found that writer himself, in the pages of the pulps, where L’Amour had been selling westerns and adventure stories for the past ten years.

    Doubleday initially wanted L'Amour to pattern the character after William Boyd (shiny clean, with a black suit, silver-plated six-guns and hair to match), but he insisted on portraying him more in the Mulford mode, an ordinary looking red-haired cowboy. L’Amour won that battle (temporarily) and wrote the first two novels, The Rustlers of West Fork and Trail to Seven Pines, which were first published in the brand-new Thrilling pulp, Hopalong Cassidy’s Western Magazine.

    Beau notes that the publishers insisted on a pen name, and eventually decided on "Tex Burns." Beau tells it like this:
    Before the war, when Dad was writing adventure and sports stories, nobody had any objections to his using his own name. But in the mid '40's, when he started trying to sell Westerns, he ran into trouble. The management at Better Publications did not believe they could sell Western stories by a writer named Louis L'Amour. Westerns had to be written by a man who could have been a cowboy and everybody knew that cowboys had short, tough-sounding names: Luke Short, Max Brand, Will Henry, Brett Hart, Zane Grey. They told Dad that no one with a name like Louis L'Amour could ever sell Westerns - it was too hard to pronounce, too soft sounding, it was too, well . . . Foreign.

    If the folks at Better Publications (the Thrilling line) actually said such a thing, Louie had to know it was bull. His western stories had been published under his own name in Popular Publications mags since at least 1940, and in the Thrilling pubs since at least 1946. While a few of those appeared under the pen name Jim Mayo, most were published as by Louis L’Amour. The more likely reason for the pen name, also mentioned by Beau, is that the publishers wanted to be able to carry on with another writer if L’Amour dropped out.

    When the time came to publish the hardcovers, William Boyd was coming on stronger than ever, with a new radio show and a TV series about to start, and Doubleday insisted L’Amour rewrite sections of the first two novels to match the Boyd image. L’Amour crabbed, but complied to a degree. He changed Hoppy’s red hair to silver and let him ride Topper (at least a little). L’Amour still wasn’t happy, but went on write two more Hoppy novels for Doubleday, Riders of High Rock and Trouble Shooter.

    For reasons not explained by Beau, the pulp mag died after two issues and the Doubleday series died after four. That seems odd, with the Hoppy craze in full stride.

    Anyway, says Beau, “somewhere along the line” someone asked Louie if he’d written those books back in 1950, and he said no. And for the sake of consistency, he kept on saying no for the rest of his life.

    In a recent issue of the Western APA (Amateur Press Association) OWLHOOT (more on Owlhoot HERE), Bill Crider mentioned that he had outed L’Amour as the author in an entry for The Dictionary of Literary Biography, based on a tip from Mr. Bob Briney. After a little poking around I also came upon this interesting stuff in the Fall 1980 issue of Paperback Quarterly. It's from the article “Louis L’Amour’s Pseudonymous Works” by John D. Nesbitt:

    Of course, this stuff about shaping or tailoring Mulford stories is just so much stuff - apparently a last-ditch attempt to muddy the waters. I suspect John Nesbitt recognized it as such, but out of respect for L'Amour (after a discussion of other works) he  summed the article up thusly:

    In a way, the whole thing is sort of sad. I’m glad these novels have been reprinted, and I’m certainly glad to know they’re by L’Amour. On the other hand, L'Amour went to his grave believing they would never see print under his name. Over the years, Doubleday had been gobbled up by his own publisher Bantam, and he trusted them to bury the books. But he’d been less than three years dead when Bantam, with the full cooperation of his son, started trotting them out in both hardcover and paperback. As you see, his name on the cover is HUGE. R.I.P.? Probably not.

    Check out this week's Forgotten Books round-up at pattinase.

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    See the first nine covers HERE. Many more to come.

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    More Spicy covers HERE.

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    Confessions of an Indie, or: It's like Making Sausages
    By Brian Drake

    Before we start, I must thank Evan for allowing me to hijack this space.

    It’s not easy to write a book. It’s even harder to self-publish it, even with Amazon KDP. If you’re thinking about doing it yourself, or you’re following the “indie scene”, let me describe my experience so you can avoid my mistakes.

    When I started self-publishing in 2010, there was always a nagging doubt about my work in the back of my mind. Reviews were kind, sales were okay, but I couldn’t help but notice that repeat business was slow. I released four books between 2010 and 2012. With each book, I sold less and less. A smart businessman looks at this situation and says, “What’s wrong with my product? Where is it lacking?”
     I yanked those four books and set them aside. For all I know they’re perfectly fine but I still have those nagging doubts that somewhere in the manuscript, there’s a problem that kept readers from coming back for more. Perhaps I’ll release them again later; maybe I won’t.

    I yanked the books instead of improving them because I had a hot new idea for a series and I wanted this to be where my attention went. I wrote The Rogue Gentleman and set aside $1000 for production costs. I spent a total of $800 on two editors, one for content and the other for copy, and a cover artist. I released the new book, and…nothing.

    Hmmmm. Well, I’m stubborn. Books 2 and 3 in the series are in progress and I have just released the first book in the series as a trade paperback. To coincide with the paperback release, the ebook version of The Rogue Gentleman is starting Tuesday the 16th and ending Friday the 19th.

    There is no nagging doubt about this new book in my head because it has been edited, re-edited, and edited again by myself and the professionals I hired. The cover is top-notch. If you're going to do go the KDP route to release your material, spend the time and money to do it right. With those first four books, I was a do-it-yourselfer. I'm that way by nature. I work on my own cars, the house, etc., but this is one area where DIY need not apply. There's too much for one person to handle.

    Here’s the story's description:

    "International adventurer Steve Dane never should have set foot in Italy. Witnessing a young woman’s kidnapping, he is drawn into the decades-old vendetta behind the crime.

    Hired by the girl's father, racing against time as her life hangs in the balance, Dane battles the mafia who want him dead and the police and international agents who want him out of the way. With the help of his lover, Nina Talikova, Dane plunges along a path that leads him past a mere kidnapping and into an ever-more complex world of high stakes, ruled by a powerful and mysterious woman known only as The Duchess.

    Life, it seems, is getting cheaper than Dane could ever imagine and The Duchess has put a price on the ultimate weapon that will make it worthless. Only he and Nina have the power to stop a clock that is ticking away the life of both the girl and the world."

    If you download the free copy, all I ask is that you leave a review on Amazon, even a bad review, if you dislike the story. I don’t think you will, though, unless action/adventure isn’t your thing. It’s action mixed with comedy and reviews have been very good so I think you’ll enjoy it indeed.

    Amazon link:

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    Among Ranger aficiandos, this 2003 Made-for-WB movie is an even greater stench in the nostrils than the 1981 disaster starring Klinton Spilsbury. Until recently, that was my feeling, too. But, having re-viewed both films recently, I must revise my opinion. Here it is: I now believe this film is not a bit worse than The Legend of the Lone Ranger, and might even be a hair less bad.

    Much of this movie’s inherent badness is due to the concept. The folks at the WB tried to retool the Ranger story to appeal to their teen and twenty-something audience. As a result, both young Tonto and the young Ranger are sometimes-angst-ridden, sometimes-smart-alecky twenty-somethings with a lot of growing up to do. The cast includes a hot young blonde as the newspaper editor, a hot young brunette as Tonto’s sister, and a hot young in-between as the widow of the Ranger’s brother. And there’s an eighties-rock soundtrack, totally inappropriate to the time or the setting. But once you get past all this kowtowing to youth (abhorrent as it may be), parts of the film can be mildly entertaining.

    The future Ranger, in this incarnation named Luke Hartman, is played by Chad Michael Murphy, the veteran of such WB classics as Dawson’s Creek and The Gilmore Girls (two shows I've never seen), and went on to a ten-year career on the WB’s One Tree Hill (another show I’ve never seen, and plan to keep it that way).

    Tonto is played by Nathaniel Arcand, who in recent years has been a regular on such unwatched Canadian TV series as Blackstone, Heartland and Arctic Air.

    The only other actor of note (perhaps the only real actor in the film) is Wes Studi, who has made a career of playing convincing Indians, partly because he’s a genuine Cherokee. He appeared in Dances with Wolves and The Last of the Mohicans, in a couple of the mini-series spin-offs of Lonesome Dove, and starred as Tony Hillerman’s Joe Leaphorn in TV movies.

    One of the dumbest parts comes at the beginning, on the first meeting of Tonto and the future Ranger. T’s hot sister is being harassed by a gang of snot-nosed ruffians, and our hero, newly arrived from the East, rushes to her defense. But because he’s totally inept at fighting, he must be rescued by Tonto, who (and here’s the dumbest part) enters the scene with a flying Kung Fu kick right out of Enter the Dragon. There’s a little bit of a payoff later, when the Ranger performs the same stunt, but it’s still plenty dumb.

    The story then gets more familiar. Luke is reunited with his Texas Ranger brother just long enough to ride off with his 12-man troop in pursuit of the bad guys. The bad guys here are not the Cavendish Gang, but an evil bunch called the Regulators, who are trying to force farmers off their lands to clear the way for the railroad.

    The Regulators slaughter the Rangers, leaving Luke for dead, and his Faithful Kung Fu Master Tonto finds him and nurses him back to health. After that, much film time is consumed by Tonto training Luke in the ways of the West (read Force), with the help of his own spiritual advisor (Wes Studi). Yep, there’s a lot of Star Wars influence here. “Luke” even has a Mark Hamill hairdo.

    Along the way, Luke is given something peyote-like and sent on a vision quest, where he trips out and meets his spirit guide - a white horse he names Silver. And we’re treated to a hot tub (well, hot springs) scene with Luke and the hot sister.

    All of this is no worse than it sounds up until the point Tonto deems Luke ready to don the mask. That’s where the film goes to hell. The mask, which Tonto tells him will give his enemies nightmares, is more likely to leave them laughing. Murray was 22 at the time, but looks about 18. In the role of a skinny teenage nobody, he’s everything he needs to be. But in the Ranger’s hat and mask, he looks so wimpy it’s ridiculous. He comes across like some little kid’s big brother taking the squirt out for trick-or-treat. When he rides into action with a rock-laced William Tell Overture thumping in the background, it’s just silly.

    It’s clear the WB had hopes of turning this into a series, and if they’d picked the right Ranger they might have had a shot. As it was, this film was just a minor bad smell between the major league stinkers of 1981 and 2013.

    This is the sixth (and last) in our reviews of old Lone Ranger films. You'll find the first five HERE.

    More and better Overlooked Films at SWEET FREEDOM.

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    George Tuska

     Lou Fine

    Joe Simon

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    See the first three Avenger covers HERE.

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    Frederick Nebel was one of the most important contributors to the two most important hardboiled detective pulps - Black Mask and Dime Detective. His work stood head and shoulders above that of most other writers in the field. But sadly, he did not write mystery novels.

    Of Nebel’s three hardcover novels, Sleepers East (1933), But Not the End (1934), and Fifty Roads to Town (1936), only the first has mystery elements. So in 1945, when paperback publishers (and their readers) wanted mystery novels, he didn’t have much to offer. Avon, possibly at the urging of ex-Mask editor Joe Shaw, had issued collections of hardboiled novelettes by Raymond Chandler and George Harmon Coxe, and Shaw wanted Nebel to submit a collection of his own. But Nebel wasn’t interested.

    On Sept. 18 he wrote his agent: I’ve looked over some of those novelettes. They were written a dozen and more years ago and I think we ought to forget about them. However, I ran across a book length of about 50,000 words that was published in McCall’s in 1937 and of which you probably have a copy in your files. My title was DEATH FOR A HOLIDAY but it was published under the title of WEEKEND TO KILL. It was not, so far as I know, offered anywhere for book publication. This might interest one of the pocketbook outfits.

    The agent responded on Dec. 4: You remember a long time ago when I asked you for material for a collection for direct publication in cheap editions you suggested WEEKEND TO KILL. Since Avon, the house which inquired for the Black Mask short, was not interested in novelette length, I sent WEEKEND TO KILL after Century Publications, another 25 cent house. They want it for publication sometime next year and are offering an advance of $500.00, payable half on signature and half on publication, against a royalty of ½ cents a copy to 150,000 copies, and a ¾ cents royalty on all copies sold over 150,000 copies. This is because they generally put two novelettes by different authors in one 25 cent book.

    That bit about Century “generally” putting two novelettes together was not exactly true, because when the book was published a list of fifteen previous Century Mysteries shows only one containing two stories.

    Weekend to Kill does qualify as a mystery, because one of the main characters is an ex-cop working to solve a murder. But it’s really more a play of manners and romantic foibles, and the murder is mainly an excuse to create conflict among the characters. There are faint echoes of Nebel's MacBride and Kennedy series from Black Mask. The narrator is a reporter, his pal an ex-cop, and there’s talk about a crusading editor striving to expose a corrupt political regime. But the characters are creampuffs compared to Kennedy and MacBride, and the corrupt politicians remain offstage. The murder is eventually solved, but takes a back seat to the resolution of the romantic subplot.

    This book, complete with the shorter Hugh Pentacost story, is now available as a POD trade paperback from Wildside Press. Is it worth the $13.46 Amazon price? Not really. Weekend to Kill is good example of Nebel’s slick fiction, but lacks the crackle of snap of his pulp work. You’d do far better putting your money toward Black Dog Books’ adventure collection Empire of the Devil, or one of the five volumes so far available from Altus Press: Tough as Nails, the Complete Adventures of Donahue (from Black Mask) or The Complete Casebook of Cardigan (a four-volume set of stories from Dime Detective).

    More Forgotten Books at pattinase.

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    See the first 21 covers HERE.

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    Proof that Davy has soul.

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    When I posted a trio of Boston Blackie posters a couple of weeks back (HERE), Shay tipped me off that some of the films were on YouTube. That was good news to me, so I watched one. This one. 

    Alias Boston Blackie was the third in this series with Chester Morris. I suppose I should have started with the first, Meet Boston Blackie, but I thought this was a pretty cool poster, and I'm a sucker for the power of advertising. 

    Blackie was born, I have since learned, in a series of short stories by Jack Boyle, jumped to silent movies in 1918 and eventually had his own radio and television series. But this 1942 film was my introduction to the character, and it sucked me right in.

    Blackie is a former thief who served his time in the big house and is now a sort of freelance do-gooder, aided by his former prison pal, The Runt. In this movie he takes a troupe of performers to his old alma mater to entertain the prisoners, and promptly gets into a mess.

    I can't call this a great film, but it's seems to be everything it should be. It has mystery, humor and intrigue in the proper amounts. The dialogue is fine. Chester Morris seems just right as Blackie, and Richard Lane is good as the laconic cop Blackie must outwit to solve the story problems. But hey, you don't have to take my word for it. Watch it yourself.

    More Overlooked Films at Sweet Freedom.

    Blackie does whatever it takes, including impersonating an officer.

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    All covers by H.J. Ward

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    A crusading knight. An evil Byszantine Emperor. The horde of Genghis Khan. And the near-legendary sword of Roland. Toss them all together and you have a great adventure story. And if that tale happens to be told by Harold Lamb - you have an excellent adventure story.

    The saga of Frankish knight Sir Hugh of Toranto originally appeared in three long novelettes in Adventure in 1926 and 1927. In 1931 they were assembled and published together for the first and only time by Doubleday Doran, as Durandal: A Crusader in the Horde.

    Part 1, originally published as “Durandal,” finds Hugh out crusading with the army of the Emperor Theodore Lascaris. Hugh is chosen to wear the Emperor’s armor into battle, supposedly to protect the ruler’s life and inspire his troops. But it’s really a trick, part of Theodore’s plan to dispose of 700 troublesome Franks, and it nearly succeeds. The problem is that Hugh survives, and gets his hands on the Sword of Roland to boot. Durandal is an awesome blade, so heavy that few men can lift it. Sir Hugh can swing it with one hand, and the effect is devastating.

    Part 2, originally “The Sea of the Ravens” sends Hugh into the desert in search of a way home, and - ultimately - his revenge upon Theodore. Here he incurs the enmity of a Shah fleeing from the Mongol horde, and earns the respect of Genghis Khan’s greatest general, Subotai. Together, Hugh and Subotai chase the Shah to the Sea of Ravens (the Caspian Sea) where the Shah gets his just deserts.

    In Part 3, originally titled “Rusadan,” Subotai seeks a route to Constantinople, aiming to bring the rest of the known world under the yoke of Genghis. Barring his path is a city manned by Russian Christians, and Hugh is sent as an envoy, in hopes of avoiding war. This suits Hugh, for what he desires most is to reach Constantinople, confront Theodore and expose him as a scoundrel. Though war proves unavoidable, Hugh meets the Georgian princess Rusudan, who leads him - both body and soul - a merry chase for the rest of the book. How Hugh eventually finds peace, and Subotai does or does not conquer the rest of the known world, makes for great reading.

    Lamb’s prose, as always, has such power, rhythm and charm that it gets into your blood and sweeps you magically along. I have never read a bad story - or even a bad sentence - by Harold Lamb.

    In the 1980s Donald M. Grant issued lavish volumes containing the first two parts of Sir Hugh’s saga, but the third - and longest - portion, involving Rusudan and the conflict between the Mongols and the Georgians has been out of print since 1931. And that’s a dang shame. This is a Forgotten Book that cries out to be remembered.

    More Forgotten Books at pattinase!

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