Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Pulp Cover Day - Just Because

No special theme here - just some of my favorites. Some you've seen here before, some not.

Which brings me to a question: what are some of your favorite issues, and why?

Western Story, Sept. 20, 1919



Cavalier February 1911



Western Story, May 31, 1924



Argosy (UK) June No. 1, 1926



Adventure, August 23, 1926



Science Wonder Stories, July 1929



Startling Detective, August 1931



Wild West Weekly, November 12, 1938

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Book Review: The Toyman Rides Again

The Toyman Rides Again
Robert S. Napier
Five Star, 2010

Jack Lorentz is an antique toy dealer and ex-investigative journalist who is asked to join a group of Seventh Cavalry reenactors on their annual re-creation of Custer's Last Stand. Lorentz is there to protect Charles Swanson, aka George Armstrong Custer, who's life has been threatened, even though Swanson isn't really concerned about it. Lorentz joins the reenactment, complete with disguise and horse. Lorentz would have been better off staying at the antique mall.

The reenactment starts off disastrously when a group of Native American activists show up to crash the party. In all the confusion that follows, Swanson/Custer is murdered anyway, and the blame is naturally placed on the leader of the activists. But Lorentz has reason to believe that Harold Two Bears is not the murderer, even though it was his knife that was found in Swanson/Custer's chest. Lorentz finds that things are getting more complicated by the minute, and falling for a beautiful Native American named Abigail She Stands In Light doesn't help matters. As things unfold, Lorentz finds himself the subject of an FBI investigation, all the while finding more murders and surprising liaisons that keep the reader guessing until the very last chapter.

I haven't read the first Toyman novel, Love, Death and the Toyman, but that didn't keep me from thoroughly enjoying The Toyman Rides Again, which set in the 1980s in Montana and Washington State. Lorentz is a thoroughly believable hero. He's a junk food addict who puts Swiss Miss in his coffee - a man who's seen it all, yet feels guilty over his inability to keep Swanson alive. The reenactment part of the story is fascinating, and I even learned a little bit about Custer that I didn't know, which was a pleasant add-on.

All in all, Napier provides a skillful and entertaining mystery with some history and romance thrown in for good measure. I was riveted from page one. This definitely should be on any mystery lover's shelf, and if you like to dress up as a Calvary soldier on the weekends, so much the better.

Archiving Pulps: The Debate Rages On

Apologies to all of you for sending you to other places over the past few days. I'm buried in work and also trying to finish some long delayed reading.

You all might recall about a week ago when I sent you over to Yellowed Perils for a discussion on The Future of Pulps.

The discussion has continued (actually, the post was from last Friday) and I encourage all of you to go over there and continue the discussion.

For those of you not familiar with the debate, William brought up the issue of whether a concerted and organized effort should be started to scan and archive pulps on the Internet.

I'm of the mind that yes, we should. I love reading the original pulps like everyone else, but I'm also of the mind that we need to reach out to as many people as possible to get interested in the pulps and their great history. And the reality is that many of these people won't be acquiring original pulps to the length that some of us have, because they ARE getting scarce. Having them available on the Internet for reading can introduce interested people to them - after reading a few, these interested people could be the collectors of the future. At that point, they could buy them via conventions like Pulp Fest, on eBay, or via dealers on the Internet.

There. I've said my two cents. Leave your comment here or over at Yellowed Perils.

Monday, March 29, 2010

It's The Big Valley's Turn on the Big Screen

The Golden Age of TV Western Remakes into Big Screen Movies continues. The Tainted Archive tipped us off this morning that the classic TV Western The Big Valley is slotted to be remade into a big-screen movie, 3D style. The website TV Series Finale reports that the remake will star Susan Sarandon, Ryan Phillipe, Richard Drefuss, and Bruce Dern in key roles.

The Big Valley
ran on television from 1965 to 1969. Along with Bonanza, it was one of my favorite Western shows when I was a kid. Not that I ever watched an episode all the way through - I think it was past my bedtime. But I love Barbara Stanwyck (I love her in everything) and I also like the fact that the show was based on the Hill Ranch, a historic ranch that was located in the area where I grew up: near Calaveras County and the Stockton area.

This is what the Wikipedia entry says about Hill Ranch:

The TV series was based loosely on the Hill Ranch located at the western edge of Calaveras County, not far from Stockton (one episode places the Barkley Ranch a few hours ride from town while another has Jarrod riding past a Calaveras County sign on his way to the TV series' ranch). The Hill Ranch existed from 1855 until 1931, exceeded 1,000 acres (4.0 km2), and had the Mokelumne River running through it. Lawson Hill ran the ranch until he was murdered in 1861. His wife Euphemia (aka "Auntie Hill") then became the matriarch. During their marriage they had four children, one daughter and three sons. Today, the location of the ranch is covered by the waters of Lake Camanche. A California state historical marker standing at Camanche South Shore Park mentions the historic ranch.

I love the fact that these shows are being remade. Granted, they'll never be as good as the originals, but then hey, maybe they will someday. And besides, it gets a whole new generation interested in the old shows and, more importantly, in Westerns.

Reading Recommendation: The Pickle

A few days ago I recommended that you all go over to Stumbling the Walk and check out Chris' post on visiting the Robert E. Howard museum.

Now Chris has his own short story featured over at Beat to A Pulp, and it's a pickle of a story. Great stuff, Chris!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

London with the G-Man from Argentina

When I returned to London after my weekend in Derby, the place that was on the top of my list to go to was Buckingham Palace - if for no other reason but to stand outside and get my photo taken. (The inside of the palace is open for tours, but only in July and August when the Queen is not there.) The rest of the day was up for grabs; I really hadn't decided what I wanted to do.

I had a companion for this day. I had met Gustavo at the pub the night before - the place had been packed and he had asked to sit with my friends and I. Gustavo, a math teacher in Argentina, had just begun his doctorate program to get his PhD in Math and had just arrived in London the day before. He was planning on staying for several days before going to Spain for a four-month study project. Despite the difficulties in communicating - he is more comfortable reading English than speaking it, and my Spanish is practically nonexistent, despite having 2 semesters of it in college - we hit it off and decided to meet the next morning at the Tube to go to Buckingham Palace.

I had my doubts that he would show up. This was vacation, after all, and because we hadn't traded phone numbers at the point, it would have been easy for him to blow it off and not show up. It kind of goes with the territory when you're on vacation. Besides, the language barrier was monumental and it wasn't going to be easy to converse.

But, to my astonishment, he showed up at the Tube station. We jumped on the Tube and took off. It was roughly 9 in the morning.

To get to Buckingham Palace on the Tube, you get off at either the Green Park or Hyde Park Corner stops. Either stop is not really that close to the palace - you still have to walk quite a ways to get to your destination. And there are no signs once you get out of the station, so you need to get your bearings. At that point I didn't have what I wished I had - my London A-Z book (kind of like a Thompson Guide) and I didn't have a clue as to which way to go - right or left? I was impressed by Gustavo's ease at asking people for directions. I speak English and I have to really muster up courage to ask anyone for directions and here he was, walking up to first person he saw and getting the information without any trouble.

Once we got our directions straight, we headed through St. James Park.

Once you get closer to the palace, there are several intersections you need to navigate through. There are also mobs of people. Still, it was turning out to be a gorgeous day, as you can see here.

Once at the palace, we had our picture taken. Funny - it doesn't matter what language you speak, "Will you take our picture" is a universal question that everyone understands immediately.

After checking out the palace - it takes you about two minutes to do this when you can't go inside, we found out that the Changing of the Guard was going to occur at 11:30 - roughly an hour and a half later. We hung around for a while, checking out the ubiquitous statues, like this one of Queen Victoria.



As the time drew nearer for the Changing of the Guard, the crowds were getting to be substantial and because we still had quite a bit of time to wait, we decided to bail on the Changing of the Guard and head towards Big Ben and Parliament.

On the way, we walked by a courtyard and found a contingent (is that the right word) of guards going through their paces. It wasn't until we had been there for a few minutes that we realized that these weren't the Palace Guards that everyone thinks of - these were all young boys. Perhaps some kind of military school - we never did find out the story. Still, their drills were quite impressive, even though their hats seemed to engulf them.





We walked through the park again, and it was glorious as you can see from just this one photo.

As we walked through the park, G-Man (only a pulp fiction enthusiast would resort to calling him that) and I talked and got to know each other. At least we tried. But it was getting easier, because his English was getting better by the minute.

Still, we had some frustrating moments. One of them turned out to be pretty funny. As we walked, I asked G what kind of math he specialized in. (Not that I would really know the difference between them all, but I thought it was a legit question). It all had something to do with math and physics and linear thingies. Even if his English had been perfect, I don't think I would have been able to understand the concept. At one point, he said that he was studying cows.

"Cows?" I stood and looked him. "Cows?"

"Cows." Yes. He was dead serious.

"What do you mean, cows?" How could it be that a mathematician be studying cows? Was this some kind of gaucho/Argentinian thing?

"Cows." I even put my two index fingers up on my forehead to illustrate. We were standing at a busy intersection, pretending that I had cow horns.

"Cows? No, no, no."

"Then what?"

"I spell it for you." Slowly he spelled it out.

"C-H-A-O-S."






At this point we were pretty hungry, and not quite sure where to go. We walked over the bridge towards the London Aquarium, looking for somewhere to eat. Believe it not, when you are right at Big Ben, if there are any restaurants, they aren't that visible. We had to ask a vendor, who sent us over the bridge to the cafe at the London Aquarium.




At this point we decided to go to the British Museum for the afternoon.




Of course, the first required stop for everyone is the Rosetta Stone.



We then went to the Egyptian exhibit. By this time it was late afternoon and the light in the room were starting to get quite dramatic. So I didn't pay too much attention to the descriptions for the exhibits; I was way too much into taking pictures.







But hands down, our favorite room was the Clock and Watch Collection.





By the time we left the museum, it was dusk.

We had to separate at that point - Gustavo had to go to a gathering for dinner. Even though it took an hour to say what it normally would take two English-speaking people to say in 15 minutes, I have to say that it was one of the best days of the trip.

Postscript:

G-man had to leave the next day for Spain. I never expected to hear from him after that - again, that kind of goes with the vacation territory. But we are still in touch via Skype. His courses in Spain (Seville) started out to be very difficult for him, because the courses were taught in English. There are students there from all over the world, so I guess the universal language - even though its the HARDEST one to learn - is the one they use. But it's getting easier for him.

We still use the sign for cows (two fingers on the forehead) when the subject of Chaos comes up.


Saturday, March 27, 2010

Movies in the Santa Clarita Valley is Back in the Saddle

I'm getting warmed up to resurrect the Movies in the Santa Clarita Valley series. To get us all in the mood, here's a clip from Riders of Destiny (1933), a movie starring John Wayne and Gabby Hayes and produced and directed by Robert Bradbury. John Wayne will even "sing" for you in this 4-minute clip, but it's dubbed.



This movie was shot at the Andy Jauregui Ranch, which is now part of the Disney Corporation and is located in the Placerita Canyon. I found this information from the Gabby Hayes' website, which also has photos of the area posted.

For a list of other movies shot at the Andy Jauregui Ranch, go to this imdb list.



For a list of previous posts on Movies in the Santa Clarita Valley, look for the series Table of Contents on the right. You may need to scroll down a little - it's under the "Labels" sidebar.

A Little Swing Dance, Anyone?

I started swing dance lessons last week. So far I've learned four basic steps and how to turn.

Do you think I'll ever be as good as these people? This is Lindy Hop, a fast and difficult form of swing. This video is of from the Ultimate Lindy Hop Showdown from a few years ago and it's been viewed over 2.6 million times on YouTube.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Book Reading: 20 is the new 100.

I've always been a dutiful reader, slogging my way through books for days, weeks, sometimes even months thinking, "I have to finish this." I've always known why I felt that: it's part of my makeup to be The Good Student. And good students of literature always finish what they read.

Well, I've got news for you. I really don't care anymore about being the good student. What I do care about is getting back to a place where reading is a joy for me, because for a long time it hasn't been that way. There are many times that I find myself 100 pages into a book and picking it up every night with a sense of obligation, not anticipation.

That was my old rule: 100 pages. I'd read 100 pages before I decided to finish, because I know that some books need to be given some time to warm up. No more.

So now I have a new mantra. It's "Twenty Pages." That's the limit now. I will give a book twenty pages before I decide whether it's worth my valuable time. Sometimes it may be less, but never more.

That goes for books I'm reviewing for this blog, including books that I've been asked to review. It also includes books that I've announced that I will be reading and writing about on my own. If you don't hear about it within a reasonable amount of time, that means it didn't make the cut.

Now sometimes just because I don't finish the book doesn't mean that it's a bad book. It may be just the type of book that I'm not interested in, or it starts out in a way that I can't follow. A book I picked up yesterday at the library had received rave reviews and from what I gather it's a very good read. But it begins with a group of people - druids - conducting a ceremony. Even though I love reading English history, the time of druids is not one of my favorite subjects. Now, granted, if I waited and read another 100 pages, I mind find myself riveted to the book. But I'm not willing to plow through 80 more pages of druids to find out. I closed the book after 11 pages.

What was the turning point for me? Was it a certain book that put me over the edge?

Not really. The epiphany came when I rearranged my books the other day after my purchases after the weekend. I realized that I had at least two shelves of books that I had purchased over the past year, and that I haven't been able to even open them - even after a year.

What about all of you? What's your page limit?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Must Read: Chris' Report on The Robert E. Howard Museum

Pulp fans: you simply MUST go over to Chris La Tray's blog Stumbling the Walk and check out his report on touring the Robert E. Howard Museum in Cross Plains, Texas.

For those of you who aren't familiar with Robert E. Howard, he is considered to be one of the great pulp fiction writers, a founding father of the fantasy genre, and the creator of Conan the Barbarian. His work was a staple in the legendary WEIRD TALES magazine.

Chris has written an incredible report with plenty of photos. Anyone who has any interest in Howard or in pulps in general should read this post. No excuses.

Book Review: Cowboys, Mountain Men & Grizzly Bears

Cowboys, Mountain Men & Grizzly Bears
Matthew P. Mayo
Two Dot, 2009

What are the limits that a person can bear? If you had the chance to leave a world of poverty, oppression, and little hope and start a new life full of opportunity, what would you be willing to endure?

If you answer, "I'd be willing to endure anything," stop and read Cowboys, Mountain Men & Grizzly Bears, and then ask yourself the question again.

Cowboys is a collection of fifty stories picked by Mayo as the most harrowing and dramatic events that occurred in the nineteenth century and early twentieth century in the West. These chronicle the grizzly attacks, the massacres undertaken by both Native and white Americans, the starvation, the expeditions gone horribly wrong, and the occasional occurrence of cannibalism. In some ways, I think a more appropriate title for this book should have been something along the lines of Heartbreak and Heroism, with a Few Stories About People that Should Have Been Nominated for the Darwin Award.

It is staggering to think of what these people went through. I would have jumped the first stagecoach going east after enduring some of the things these people did. But it was to our advantage that they stayed put - it was their courage and tenacity that formed the foundation of the West and helped make our nation what it is.

Mayo's gift for detail makes for riveting reading. If you've ever wondered what it would be like to have a grizzly bear slice the skin off your back like it was peeling an orange, or what it would feel like to be scalped but only after you'd been punctured with arrows AND shot, or to watch your husband and son be devoured by starving wolves, then you'll have your answers in Cowboys. Needless to say, you won't forget these stories anytime soon.

Mayo, who was recently a finalist for a Spur award for his short story "Half a Pig" that appears in the anthology A Fistful of Legends, is a gifted and skillful writer. Many of the stories in here are just as good as "Half a Pig," especially the stories about the Sand Creek Massacre; Bass Reeves, the black law officer who had to arrest his own son for murder; Marie Doran (who, with her sons endured fifty days in a winter camp and then wandered in the wilderness for another month before being found); and an unfortunate Native American who was posthumously named Head-Smashed-In. (Many of the stories are enriched with dialogue created by Mayo.)

There are a lot of stories on people I hadn't heard of, and I appreciate that they were included in here along with the more famous incidents like the shoot-out at the OK Corral and the battle at Little Big Horn. I hope that Mayo will seriously think about taking some of these stories and expanding on them into either non-fiction works or historical novels.

All in all, Cowboys, Mountain Men & Grizzly Bears is a great read if you're interested in mountain men, pioneer life or Native Americans, or if you just appreciate what our predecessors endured in order to make the West habitable. Just don't think that this book will be one that you can read before going to sleep at night.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Otto Penzler Auctioning Part of His Spy and Thriller Library

Thanks to Sarah Weinman on Twitter for this tip. This is from the Swann Auction Gallery web site:

"On Thursday, April 8 Swann Galleries will offer The Otto Penzler Collection of British Espionage and Thriller Fiction. The sale represents a select portion of the private library of the well-known mystery fiction specialist and bookseller who amassed his collection over 40 years. In that time, Penzler befriended many noted authors including Eric Ambler, Ken Follett, John Gardner and others, who inscribed copies of their works.

....Perhaps the best known of the British espionage works are Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels, which were the source material for the iconic films spanning the last several decades. The auction offers more than 25 of these books, and among the most notable are a first edition of the first Bond book, Casino Royale, in near perfect condition, 1953 ($20,000 to $30,000); a fine copy of Moonraker, inscribed and signed by the author to known Fleming collector Eileen M. Cond, 1955 ($15,000 to $25,000); and a signed limited edition of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, the first novel published after the debut of the film series and an immediate bestseller on both sides of the Atlantic, 1963 ($6,000 to $9,000)."

Go here for the complete description.

Good luck, all you bidders out there! Wish I could join you!

"Ghost Ranch:" For Those that Love Photography of the West

For those of you who love American West photography, this book may be the fix you need.

Craig Varjabedian is a photographer who has chronicled the American West for a long time, and his latest work, Ghost Ranch and the Faraway Nearby, is being recognized as a fine work. It was recently picked by the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum as the Outstanding Photography Book of 2009, and an exhibit of some of Varjabedian's photos are touring the nation. It was recently at the Albuquerque Museum of Art. If I hear of any future exhibits, I'll let you know.

His work brings to mind Ansel Adams. I've seen so many photos of Adams' Yosemite work that I cannot stand to look at them anymore. Yosemite overload: unfortunate but there it is. But Adams' "other" American West photography, namely of New Mexico, are some of my favorites. Varjabedian's work reminds me of that other, lesser known Adams.

In the meantime, go to NPR for a article and a slide show called "Ghosts, Dudes and Ranches" of Varjabedian's photos.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Mom, Why Are We Having Hamburger Heaven Today? Because I Said So.

Another busy day in the Powers household. To hold you over until the next post of any substance, here are some recommendations.

Just Because:

International Society of Super-Villains, in particular, this post on the "11 Lamest Supervillains in History." Thanks to Paul Brazill for the tip.

Friends of the 40s: just because it's (almost) everything I love in one site. It's UK-based.

Writers on the Web:

Rich Prosch's Meridian Bridge has interviewed Matthew Mayo and the first part is here.

Western Fiction Review has an interview with author Robert Vaughan.

Pulp News:

Dave (Evan) Lewis has posted a complete Spicy Detective Story by Norvell Page

PulpFest website has announced that Robert Randisi will be attending this year's PulpFest.

London:

London Daily Photo is just that: one photo a day taken in London, about London, with a quick summary. Great topics. There's also a sidebar that provides you with other cities that have Daily Photo sites.

Book Discoveries (at least for me. You may already know about them):


Edward Rutherfurd. Edward Rutherfurd is a pen name for Francis Edward Wintle [1] (born 1948 in Salisbury, England) known primarily as a writer of epic historical novels. His debut novel Sarum set the pattern for his work with a ten-thousand year storyline. Here is his Amazon author page. His Novel New York: The Novel, won the Langum Prize for American Historical Fiction in 2010. I've ordered his novel London from amazon.

Nancy Huston: There's a funny story behind learning about Huston, a Canadian author. A few weeks ago my friend Gustavo recommended Huston as an author. Gustavo, who's from Argentina, is in the process of perfecting his English. However, some things still get lost in translation. He recommended a book by Huston that had the word "marcas" (mark) in it. I, in my haste, looked at Huston's amazon page and found her book The Mark of the Angel and bought it. A few days later, Gustavo asked how I was liking the book and how far I was. After a bit of confusion (this happens frequently), we discovered that the book Gustavo had read was Huston's Birthmarks (which, from what I can gather, has not been published in English yet.)


I loved The Mark of the Angel, even though it is essentially a tragedy (it's centered around characters that are survivors of World War II, from both sides of the war) and many times I felt as if my heart had been dumped in a ditch. Huston has been published extensively in Europe and Canada, and is fluent in both English and French. But The Mark of the Angel, first published in 1999, was her first U.S. publication. I really don't know how well known she is in the U.S. now - maybe some of you know. Apparently her first English-language novel was The Goldberg Variations.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Vintage Paperback Show, Part Two

Richard Robinson has posted a much better review of the Vintage Paperback Show over at The Broken Bullhorn. Any of you who aren't familiar with his blog, it's a pretty active place - I recommend checking it out.

I also neglected to mention in my earlier post that I also met Art Scott at the show, who has been a loyal follower for a few years now. I met Art when I spoke at the Livermore Library waaaaaay back in 2008.

It's always great to meet these people that I've only known online before. I think I also forgot to mention (WHAT is going on with my brain lately??) that I met Cap'n Bob a few weeks ago, who treated me to a fantastic dinner at Morton's in downtown Los Angeles. Bob was in town for a convention and once I find the link to his report on that, I'll post it also.

I'm really behind the 8-ball this morning. But it's Monday and I'm super busy at my real job, which takes precedence these days.

Abbreviated Report from Vintage Paperback Show

The Vintage Paperback Show yesterday seemed to have a good turnout. I'm new to these things, so I can't be a judge as to whether it was a better turnout than previous years. All I know is that there were three rooms packed with paperbacks, pulps, a few hardback books and lots and lots of people, and a lot of people were offering deep discounts. Many people were offering 50% off everything on their tables and you didn't even have to ask. They threw it out there as soon as you started looking.

I paid my $5 and left a pile of PulpFest flyers at the front desk and went on to explore. In my travels I met Richard Robinson, frequent commenter here and owner of the Broken Bullhorn blog and his wife Barbara. I also picked up a few pulps. There seemed to be a lot more pulp dealers here than last year, which is good news for me.

Here's some of what I bought.

POPULAR, March 3, 1928

SWEETHEART STORIES, September 24, 1929

YOUNG'S REALISTIC STORIES MAGAZINE, July 1923


I bought five LOVE STORY MAGAZINEs, all of which were issued during Daisy Bacon's reign as editor. I won't bore you with all the covers, just this one from August 8, 1936.

And my most expensive acquisition, a BLACK MASK from March 1942. The condition isn't great and there's a tear in the cover, but it's got a Rex Sackler story, which I love and I'll read first.