Sunday, September 24, 2017

BROTHERS OF THE GUN by B. S. Dunn


Brothers of the Gun is an entertaining traditional western written by B. S. Dunn and published by Robert Hale’s Black Horse Western line. B. S. Dunn is a pseudonym for the prolific and very talented Australian scribe Brent Towns. 
A war is brewing in the Cottonwood Creek range between the largest cattle outfit, B-L connected ranch, and the incoming homesteaders. The B-L is owned by Buford Lance who first settled the area “at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo range,” decades earlier with nothing more than a dream and the determination to build an empire. He fought outlaws, Indians and anyone else who came wanting what he righteously believed to be his. 
Now, the homesteaders are coming in waves, fencing and planting the grasslands. To stop the interloping farmers, Buford hires two gunmen. The estranged brothers known as The Gun King, Lucas Kane, and The Prince, Jordan Kane. Lucas has the biggest reputation in the territory, and his younger brother, Jordan, has plans to unseat The King. When the brothers arrive, Lucas turns down Buford’s offer and rides away, but Jordan happily takes Lance’s money. A simple job, it seems, to run off a few dirt farmers, but when Lucas joins the homesteaders it becomes both more difficult and the opportunity Jordan has been waiting for.
Brothers of the Gun is as fast as it is entertaining. The action is brisk, and believable. A traditional range war western with a cast of both good and bad. Buford Lance is the angry, unscrupulous rancher with more money and power than sense. Jordan is a badman with seething rage and something more, while Lucas is a nice take on the moral gunfighter. It reads similar to many of the books packaged as Ace Doubles back in the day—a good thing—and it is both appealing and entertaining.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Mystery Scene: Issue No. 151


The latest issue of Mystery Scene Magazine—No. 151—is at a newsstand near you. As usual, it is packed. It features interviews with Attica Locke and Paul Cleave, a Jake Hinkson article about the Robert Mitchum film “Out of the Past” and many others.
It also features my short story review column, “Short & Sweet: Short Stories Considered.” Two of the four books / magazine covered are available at MS’s website. In the column I discuss:

Bibliomysteries, edited by Otto Penzler, collects 15 mystery tales featuring books and most are very surprising.
Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, July / August 2017, includes stories by James Lincoln Warren, Loren D. Estleman, and Susan Koefod. This is exclusive to the print magazine.
New Haven Noir, edited by Amy Bloom, is a tepid on noir, but long on good storytelling. It features terrific stories from Stephen L. Carter, and Chris Knopf.
Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, July / August 2017, features excellent stories from Steve Liskow, Robert Mageot, and O’Neil De Noux. This is exclusive to the print magazine.
It also includes two of my book reviews. The titles: Path Into Darkness by Lisa Alber, and Fast Falls the Night by Julia Keller. The book reviews are all available at MS’s website:
Path Into Darkness by Lisa Alber is a whodunit set in County Clare, Ireland.
Fast Falls the Night by Julia Keller is a slow paced procedural featuring dozens of heroin overdoses in a 24-hour period.
The reviews are available online at Mystery Scene’s website—click the titles above.
Mystery Scene is available at many newsstands, including Barnes & Noble, and available for order at MS’s website.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

"Merrick" by Ben Boulden



My story “Merrick” is live and ready for consumption. It’s a 25-page action Western short story that I’m fond of, and one that I think most readers will enjoy. It is exclusive to Amazon Kindle; available to purchase for a measly $0.99, or, for the lucky readers with Kindle Unlimited, it can be borrowed for free.
If you read and enjoy “Merrick” please consider leaving a brief review at Amazon or Goodreads, or even better, tell your friends about it. Your enemies, too, if you have any.
Here is the description:
Merrick is hard, tough, and when he needs to be, mean as hell.
When Merrick is called in as a late-replacement for a payroll heist his first inclination is greed. His second is hesitation, since anyone who says a job will be easy is a liar, but this job has been planned by an old partner, Clarence Tilley, who has masterminded more than a few successful heists.
It’s a four man job with a payout worth $15,000 and Merrick’s share would keep him in whiskey and satin for a year. But it may also get him killed.
And if you've read this far, keep reading for an itty bitty preview. You can also get a preview at Amazon.

Sweat beaded on Merrick’s brow. 
Slow moving horses beat a tepid rhythm on the road above. A wagon squeaked, its wheels rumbling across dry clay and shale.
A man laughed. 
Another clicked his tongue at the laboring beasts before saying, “You should have seen it, me and Janie Frain as naked as God made us…”
Merrick drew a breath, held it. He listened to the sound his heart made. The Remington cool and steady in his right hand.
“…and in comes Janie’s—”
A crash and thud bounced on the road above as the armored wagon slammed into the four-foot rectangular trench dug for the purpose. The double tree hitch busted with an ear-shattering crack.
Merrick moved up the incline. His boots slippery on the shoulder’s pale rocks and paler dirt. The road’s flat surface a comfort beneath his Texas boots. The Remington raised to shoulder height, its barrel pointed at the rear of the wagon.


Wednesday, September 13, 2017

PROJECT JAEL by Aaron Fletcher


Aaron Fletcher is a writer I know nothing about. My internet searching determined he is an unknown quantity in the ether-sphere, too. I know his name is on the cover of the successful Outback historical series and he wrote a few suspense novels in the 1960s and 1970s, but otherwise…nothing.
Frank Keeler is a British MI-6 agent, cast in a broken mold of James Bond, with a history of getting the job done. Fresh on the heels of a successful mission in Cairo, Keeler is tasked with disposing of a Nazi plot to kill Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Josef Stalin at a secret summit set for Tehran in 1943. An assignment that is anything but easy since Keeler has to deal with the German spy apparatus, Abwehr, the Soviets, a German Brandenburg detachment led by a hate-filled and industrious Polish officer, and at least two beautiful women. One married, the other a former prisoner in a Russian gulag. It isn’t easy, but Keeler makes it look like another day at the office.
Project Jael is an enjoyable, overly long World War Two thriller, with a smoothly executed and easy to read style without many surprises or anything to raise it above the standard. An original paperback published by Leisure Books in 1985, it is a comfortable yarn that blends Jack Higgins’ The Eagle Has Landed and Ken Follett’s The Key to Rebecca without the originality of either. The Tehran setting is nicely rendered and the competitive nature of the intelligence services, especially between the British / American and the Soviets, is neatly detailed. An entertaining diversion, but not one that you should spend much effort seeking out.

Monday, September 04, 2017

"It Happened Tomorrow" by Robert Bloch


I’m a sucker for two things: 1) apocalyptic stories; and 2) Robert Bloch. When I find something that marries both, a Robert Bloch written apocalyptic story, I drop everything and read it immediately. A situation I found earlier this week when I turned to the table of contents of an old anthology, Futures Unlimited, edited by Alden Norton, and saw the Robert Bloch novelette, “It Happened Tomorrow”.
Dick Sheldon’s morning started in the usual way. Daylight. His alarm’s tattooing brutality. But then things go bad. The alarm won’t stop its ringing until he smashes it to pieces. The lights in his apartment won’t turn off. His bathroom water tap is stuck on. The street car door won’t open, and then the entire car refuses to stop. As does the elevator in his office building. The world’s machines have gone mad. Everything is running, out-of-control, and their human creators are scared, looking for somewhere to hide.

“It Happened Tomorrow” is vintage science fiction. It has big ideas presented in a simple, entertaining package. Originally published in Super Science Stories in June 1951, it is as prescient today—think about the recent talk of artificial intelligence’s peril to humanity from such luminaries as Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk—as when it first appeared. It’s as entertaining today, as it must have been seventy years ago, too. 
A small story about a big subject. It follows the human world’s destruction as it happens from the viewpoint of Dick Sheldon, in a single city over a short period of time. A top-notch example of both classic science fiction and Robert Bloch. A writer who is unjustly forgotten and whose work seems ripe for a revival.

Futures Unlimited was published by Pyramid books as a mass market paperback in June 1969. It features an impressive list of contributors, including A. Merrit, Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Arthur Conan Doyle and others.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Thrift Shop Book Covers: "The Potsdam Bluff"

The Potsdam Bluff was published as a hardcover by Tor in 1991, but the edition that caught my eye is the mass market published in 1992 (also by Tor). The cover is a nice montage that fits its release era perfectly and reminds me a little of Pocket’s Jack Higgins novels with the two main characters pictured across a background of war and destruction. The artist: Don Gonzalez


The first sentence:
“The American news correspondents had been authorized to visit one of the fighter squadrons that were supposed to protect Moscow from Nazi bombers, which, as everybody knew, no longer represented any kind of threat to anybody anywhere, especially here in Russia.”
Jack D. Hunter made a career of the news business, working as a reporter and columnist, and wrote fifteen novels centered around World War Two and the spy game. His 1964 novel, The Blue Max, was made into the 1966 film starring George Peppard and James Mason, and directed by John Guillerman. His writing tends to be descriptive and detailed, but at times, can be bogged down by those same qualities.