The 1970’s men’s fiction market was rotten with revenge tales populated by veterans of America’s unpopular war in Vietnam. These isolated, disaffected, and angry men brought a new war of vigilante justice to the crime ridden streets of America’s cities. The literary movement began with Don Pendleton’s multi-million copy selling War Against the Mafia [Pinnacle, 1969] featuring Mack Bolan, an Army sniper, home from the war to bury his family: father, mother, and sister. Their deaths were ruled as murder-suicide, which was true since Mack’s dad had pulled the trigger, but Bolan knew the context of his father’s violence. After losing his job, he had borrowed money from the mafia and their pressure for repayment drove him to murder. Bolan is a righteous hero, never doubting his mission, losing focus (even to look at a beautiful woman), or showing regret for his actions.
Thursday, March 31, 2022
Tuesday, March 29, 2022
by Ben Boulden
Harrison Arnston – Harry to his friends and pretty much everyone else – wrote nine published novels between 1987 and 1994. The critic Jon L. Breen, in his Armchair Detective column “Novel Verdicts” called Arnston’s 1991 legal thriller, Act of Passion, “unusually well plotted” with a trial that “is expertly covered…with some terrific Q-and-A along the way.” Arnston followed Act of Passion with another excellent legal thriller, Trade-Off, in 1992, but his work wandered across the genre in unexpected ways. He turned the 1991 techno-thriller The Big One – where a super-secret government agency is covering up a new discovery for predicting earthquakes – into an enjoyable and outlandish detective story, and The Venus Diaries, Arnston’s final published novel, is a swift tale about an extraordinarily beautiful and brutal assassin for hire, raised in post-World War 2 France by an embittered veteran of the communist partisans.
Tuesday, March 15, 2022
by Ben Boulden
The six Brad Smith espionage thrillers, published by Tor between 1989 and 1994, are Jack Bickham’s most mature work. The critics were enthusiastic. The New York Times’ thriller review columnist, Newgate Callendar, was a consistent champion. He compared the Smith books to Dick Francis’s mysteries: “Bickham is doing for tennis what Dick Francis has done for horse racing.” He called the books, “skillful,” “smooth,” “highly enjoyable,” and “exciting.” Wes Lukowsky, in Booklist, called the series “deftly plotted.” Publishers Weekly, in its review of The Davis Cup Conspiracy, said, “Bickham deftly flips from tennis lore to the spying game in his customary style, nailing another ace.”
Saturday, March 05, 2022
A new edition of a great mystery novel is officially on the street: The Tenth Virgin, by Gary Stewart. Set in Salt Lake City and Southern Utah in the mid-1980s, The Tenth Virgin introduces New York private eye Gabe Utley, as he searches for the missing teenage daughter of his high school sweetheart. The trail takes him from Salt Lake City to the poverty-stricken polygamist clans in Southern Utah. The Tenth Virgin is richly detailed with a vivid setting, believable characterization, and sizzling mystery.
The new Brash Books edition, bringing The Tenth Virgin back into print after more than 30 years, includes an Introduction by an unsung writer – I think his name is Ben Boulden – and is available as a trade paperback and on Kindle.
Check out my critical article about Gary Stewart at Dark City Underground, which is suspiciously similar to The Tenth Virgin’s Introduction, and (more importantly) read the book!
Wednesday, March 02, 2022
Any readers kind enough to frequent Gravetapping have noticed an eerie quiet has settled in over the past several months. I was bored with blogging and things slipped and slipped until it was easy for me to ignore the blog. But things are changing. I’ve started blogging again, but the address where I’m appearing has changed. The new place is Dark City Underground. So far, I have 21 posts at the new label and from my perspective the work is bigger and better. I have a couple detailed critical author profiles I’m particularly proud of (and more coming soon):
an essay – The Cat & The Cowboy – about my late-cat Pete, along with
a hybrid fiction/non-fiction story about the outlaw Bill Hickman: Honor Among Horse Thieves: Wild Bill Hickman’s Christmas Day Shootout. The first of several stories I have planned featuring the horse thief, murderer, and self-proclaimed Mormon Destroying
Angel that roamed the western frontier from the 1850s to the 1870s.
I’ve also been doing my regular routine of reviewing books, both old and new.
If you’ve enjoyed stopping in at Gravetapping, I think you’ll like Dark City Underground even more. And if you’ve been kind enough to link your blog or website to Gravetapping, would you mind linking Dark City Underground, too? And if I haven’t linked to your blog or website from Dark City Underground, send me a reminder and I will.
Thanks, and we’ll be talking soon…