Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Overlooked TV: The White Queen (2013)


I like a good historical costume drama, and while THE WHITE QUEEN, a BBC mini-series from 2013 that ran on the cable channel Starz in the U.S., isn’t quite a top-notch entry in that genre, it’s certainly watchable.

I imagine some of the people who watched this said, “Hey, what a rip-off! They just stole the plot from GAME OF THRONES. Lancasters and Yorks? Come on!” Yep, it’s the War of the Roses again, beginning in this version with King Edward’s secret marriage to Elizabeth Woodville that kicks off all sorts of intrigue and violence over the next twenty years, culminating with Henry Tudor’s defeat of Richard III to become King Henry VII. I’m no expert on British history, but I know just enough that I had a pretty good idea what was going to happen all the way through.

THE WHITE QUEEN, based on several novels by Philippa Gregory, indulges in a little historical speculation here and there, mostly about what really happened to the princes in the Tower of London. Many years ago, I read a mystery novel by Josephine Tey called THE DAUGHTER OF TIME, which features a British police inspector passing the time while he’s recuperating from an injury by trying to figure out what really happened to the princes. I remember thinking it was very good, and I ought to reread it one of these days. But to get back to THE WHITE QUEEN, I thought it did a reasonably good job of sticking to the history, but that may be because, like I said above, I’m no expert.

I didn’t recognize anybody in the cast except one of the villains, but they all do a pretty good job. There’s quite a bit of scenery-chewing, but it works in context. An apparently low budget kind of hurts this production, though. Whenever there’s a scene with the “armies” of the various contenders for the throne, the so-called army usually consists of maybe two dozen guys standing around. Then later, somebody will burst into a scene in some castle and exclaim, “There’s just been a huge battle! Their guys beat our guys!” Or vice versa. There are a couple of actual battle scenes, but they’re small-scale and not very well-staged, with a lot of that quick-cut editing to disguise the fact that there are only a couple dozen guys in the armies.

So why watch THE WHITE QUEEN? The history behind the story actually is pretty dramatic and interesting, and it’s very much a real-life soap opera. And there’s one aspect in which THE WHITE QUEEN maybe even outdoes GAME OF THRONES: gratuitous nudity. Lots and lots of gratuitious nudity. So if you watch it, you know what you’re getting into, as the actress said to the bishop.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Fantastic Adventures, July 1952


I used to own a copy of this pulp many years ago, but I don't recall if I ever read it. I remember that cover by Walter Popp, though. My old editor and mentor Sam Merwin Jr. has a story in this issue, as does John Jakes. The other authors are E.K. Jarvis (a house name), William Morrison (who was really Joseph Samachson), and Ralph Sholto, about whom I know absolutely nothing. But it's an eye-catching cover and I always found FANTASTIC ADVENTURES to be fun.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Dime Western, April 1933


You can't ask for much more out of a Western pulp than this issue of DIME WESTERN delivers. Start with a colorful, exciting cover by Walter Baumhofer and then add stories by Harry F. Olmsted, Walt Coburn, E.B. Mann, Gunnison Steele, John G. Pearsol, Miles Overholt, and more. And that's just a normal issue for this great pulp.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Bonus Forgotten Heist Novella: We Are All Dead - Bruno Fischer


I read this novella, which originally appeared in the May 1955 issue of the legendary crime fiction digest MANHUNT, after I’d reread the L’Amour novel and written my post about it. But “We Are All Dead” is good enough and fits the day’s theme perfectly, so I decided I’d do a second post.

I haven’t read a lot of Bruno Fischer’s work, but what I have read has been very good. “We Are All Dead” is the story of a payroll robbery and what happens afterward. As if the title’s not enough to establish what’s coming, the first line gives you a pretty good idea that things aren’t going to work out well for the guys involved: The caper went off without a hitch except that Wally Garden got plugged.

But it’s getting to that noir ending that matters, and Fischer takes us on a harrowing, suspenseful, very well-written ride with plot twists galore. I have to admit, I saw the final big twist coming, but that didn’t detract any from my enjoyment of Fischer’s pure yarn-spinning ability. This story has been reprinted at least once, in THE NEW MAMMOTH BOOK OF PULP FICTION, and it’s also available as an e-book from Amazon. It’s well worth seeking out, and it’s also made me feel like I need to read something else by Fischer in the near future.

Forgotten Heist Novels: High Lonesome - Louis L'Amour


I first read this novel more than 35 years ago and remembered that I liked it quite a bit. It's also one of Louis L'Amour's novels that you don't hear much about, and a bank robbery is the driving factor in the plot, so it seemed like a good choice to reread for Forgotten Heist Novels Week.

After holding up a bank doesn't net them as much money as they expected, a gang consisting of four men decide to rob a bank in another town that's famous for never being held up successfully. The leader of the bunch is Considine; Dutch is the explosives expert; Hardy is a young gunman; and the Kiowa is a tracker, scout, and highly efficient killer. Considine has always avoided hitting this particular bank because it's in his hometown, and the local marshal is his former best friend who wound up marrying the girl they both loved.

HIGH LONESOME has the classic three-part heist novel setup: the planning, the job itself, the getaway and pursuit. Complications, as they always do, ensue. In this case the main complications are an old man and his beautiful daughter, who are being stalked by Apaches. Do the outlaws get away, or do they risk their freedom and their lives to help these pilgrims?

This novel held up very well on rereading. It's still my third favorite L'Amour novel after TO TAME A LAND and FLINT. I'm not as big a fan of L'Amour's work as many Western readers. His novels tend to have a repetitiveness and lack of attention to detail, and there's a little of that in HIGH LONESOME, but for the most part it's very tight and well-written. The second half of the book, following the bank robbery, is especially suspenseful and effective. There's one of those long, brutal fistfights you get sometimes in L'Amour books, and plenty of other action as well. When he was at the top of his game, L'Amour was very good indeed, and that's true in this novel. It works as both a crime novel and a Western, and I'm glad this week's theme on Forgotten Books gave me a good excuse to reread it. Recommended.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Adventure, June 18, 1919


Here we have another of those self-referential covers: an issue of ADVENTURE with a guy sitting in front of a fireplace reading . . . an issue of ADVENTURE. The art, which I think is pretty good, is by an artist I've never heard of: Hibberd V.B. Kline (the V.B. stands for Van Buren). Is the premise a little cute? Yeah, but I think it works okay here. Inside the issue, there's no question about the authors: W.C. Tuttle, Gordon Young, Talbot Mundy, Gordon MacCreagh, J. Allan Dunn, and S.B.H. Hurst. That's a really strong bunch of writers.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Peacemaker Award Submissions Now Open


Submissions for the 8th Annual WF Peacemaker Awards are now being accepted for works originally published in the year 2017. 

Qualifications:

First time in print must be between January 1, 2017, and December 31, 2017, no reprints or revisions.  Limit of 2 entries per category.

Books and short stories may be published in any country in the world (submissions must be in English) in print or electronic format. Electronic submissions must be made with Kindle/mobi or Word/text files. WF reserves the right to decline any submission for consideration of an Award.

Authors, agents, or publishers may submit a work for consideration of an Award.

At least three entrants in a category must be received during the submission period for an Award to be presented.

Novels and short stories must be set in the time period between 1830-1920 to be considered Westerns under WF guidelines. Time periods beyond the 1830-1920 traditional western focus may be included in submissions as long as the periods outside of the 1830-1920 span constitute no more than 50% of the story. At least 50% of the story MUST TAKE PLACE in the 1830-1920 period. NO EXCEPTIONS.

Nominees for the WF Peacemaker Award will be announced on 05/15/2018 and the winners will be announced on 06/15/2018.

The WF Peacemaker Award will be awarded in four categories:

Best Western Novel – Any novel published during the award year set in the appropriate time period (1830-1920), 30,000 words and higher. There are no format requirements. The novel may be a hardcover, trade paperback, mass market paperback, or eBook.

Best Western YA/Children Fiction– Any fiction written for ages 1-17 published during the award year set in the appropriate time period (1830-1920). May be a hardcover, trade paperback, mass market paperback, or eBook.

Best Western Short Fiction – Any short story, novelette, or novella published during the award year set in the appropriate time period (1830-1920), 500 words to 29,999 words. There are no format requirements. The short story may be published in any publication, print or electronic.

Best Western First Novel – Must meet the same requirements as Best Novel, and must be the author’s first published Western novel. If the author has published novels in any other genre they will not disqualify the author from the Best Western First Novel Award competition. Submissions for Best Western First Novel may also be submitted in the Best Novel category in the same year. 

Procedures:

If sending print form, one copy of the work must be sent to each judge (3 per category), and the Awards Chair for a total of four, accompanied with the appropriate form. 

Electronic versions should be emailed to the Awards Chair, James Reasoner with the appropriate submission form. The electronic submissions will be distributed to the judges by the Awards Chair. All entries must be postmarked or received via email by midnight, CST, January 15, 2018. Judges should not be contacted by any entrant concerning their entry during the consideration period. Doing so may result in disqualification of eligibility for the WF Peacemaker Award. Works submitted will not be returned after the awards have been announced. There is no fee to enter. There will be no exceptions made to the submission procedures, for any reason. 

Links to forms to include are at the bottom of the list of judges. You will need 4 copies for each printed entry, one for each judge and one for the Awards Chair. 


Awards Chair: James Reasoner
P.O. Box 931
Azle, TX 76098-0931
EMAIL james53@flash.net

The list of judges and appropriate submission forms can be found on the Western Fictioneers website.

Speaking as the awards chair, let me say that if you plan to submit a book or story and it's already out . . . go ahead and send it in! Spreading out the submissions rather than waiting for the last minute makes it much easier on the judges, and waiting doesn't increase your odds of winning.

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Thrllling Western, February 1939


I don't know who the cover artist is on this issue of THRILLING WESTERN, but I think it's pretty good although I'm not that fond of extreme close-ups on pulp covers. I'm certainly fond of a couple of the authors in this issue, though: A. Leslie Scott, one of my favorites, writing as A. Leslie with a railroading yarn, a subject he handled very well, along with the always dependable Lee Bond. The other stories are by Sam Brant (a house-name, so who knows), Cibolo Ford (a name that sounds like a pseudonym, but I don't know if it was or not), Victor Kaufman (an author I know nothing about), and William S. Sullivan, whose story in this issue is his only credit in the Fictionmags Index. I'd read this issue anyway, if only for the Scott and Bond stories; if the others are any good, it would be a nice bonus.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Forgotten Books: Ki-Gor--and the Paradise That Time Forgot - John Peter Drummond


KI-GOR—AND THE PARADISE THAT TIME FORGOT, from the Fall 1940 issue of JUNGLE STORIES, seems to mark the arrival of yet another new writer behind the John Peter Drummond house-name, especially during the first half of the novel, which is more low-key and realistic than the volumes that have come before. Ki-Gor and Helene come across an expedition led by three Americans: a brutal, alcoholic doctor; his meek, long-suffering wife; and an equally meek anthropologist who is the couple's friend. They're supposed to be in Africa to hunt gorillas, but really the wife and friend are trying to force the doctor to dry out from his booze binges. This domestic drama is a decidedly odd fit for a jungle adventure story.

Then part of the way through, everything lurches sideways and this becomes a lost race yarn, and one with a fairly interesting and plausible basis, too. Naturally, Ki-Gor, Helene, and the bickering Americans get trapped in the hidden valley where the lost race lives and wind up in danger. Then another abrupt shift in the plot and danger from another source rears its head. This story gets a little schizophrenic after a while.

There's no Tembo George, no Bantu tribesmen. Ki-Gor's sidekick is a pygmy named Ngeeso, and he's a pretty good character. Ki-Gor and Helene now live on an island in the middle of a river, something I don't remember from previous stories. But overall, KI-GOR—AND THE PARADISE THAT TIME FORGOT is well-written other than not being able to make up its mind what sort of story it's going to be. It has just enough going for it to be readable and entertaining, in a very minor way. At the very least, it's an improvement over the previous novel in the series.


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Now Available: Blaze! Bad Medicine - Michael Newton


Arizona Territory is heating up—and Kate and J.D. Blaze are about to get burned! A fanatical Apache medicine man is determined to bring about all-out war between his people and the army, and he's doing it by slaughtering as many white settlers as he can find. Kate and J.D. are drawn into this dangerous situation when a woman and her children are kidnapped by the Apache raiders and intended for a gruesome sacrifice. The Old West's only team of husband-and-wife gunfighters will need all their cunning and deadly skill to bring the captives back alive and stop the medicine man's scheme to flood the desert with blood!

Legendary adventure writer Michael Newton is back with another gritty, fast-action novel filled with all the passion and excitement of the Old West.