Wednesday, January 25, 2012

One Less Catalog To Arrive in Your Mailbox

While a lot of the catalogs that I get in the mail are unwanted and end up in the recycling bin (how many Macy's catalogs does one person need?), I always enjoyed getting the Bud's Art Books catalog, issued by Bud Plant. Now I find out that Bud's Art Books just issued their last catalog. What's worse, eventually they'll be shutting down the entire business: website and all.

A lot of you who have been either pulp and cartoon art enthusiasts, photography lovers, and just plain lovers of beautiful books have known about Bud's for a while. Some of you publishers have used Bud's to showcase some of your best pulp reprints.

I guess I missed the memo when Bud announced this in his December catalog. December was a blur for me. I just noticed the announcement on the cover of the current "Farewell" issue. Besides the nails in the coffins that places like amazon and have put in the coffin of most mail-order businesses, Bud writes in his farewell letter:

I know that a great many of you are not buying online and depend on us for your books. I've been getting many letters and phone messages from customers about this. But there are not enough of you to support the catalogs we produce.

Bud says he was hoping to find a buyer for his online store. Sadly, that has not come to pass, so he will be shutting down the online business as well. That is not going to happen immediately, and I noticed that there are a lot of books on the website that are not offered in the catalog.

Go to to see their current offerings online. I couldn't find any information about the closing of the business on the website, but if you go to Bud's Blog (on the bar at the top) there is a post there from last year announcing the sale of the company.

For now, the Farewell Issue of the catalog has some steep discounts on a lot of books, which must be his liquidation inventory. In any event, if you want to buy some books at deep discounts, get a hold of the last issue of this great tradition (Bud's Art Books has been in business for 42 years), and take part in something that is quickly disappearing from our lives: the book catalog.

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Monday, January 23, 2012

When an Old TV Series is New to You

Question for today: Have you ever "discovered" a television series, but not until it's in reruns? Maybe when it was in it's original run on TV, for some reason you ignored it while it was running, or thought it sounded stupid, or just could never get around to watching it, or you had class the night it originally ran?

So? What show was it?

You won't believe what mine is. SEINFELD. For some reason I only watched it sporadically in the 90s. Now I'm digging it.

And there is an advantage to discovering a series now: it's all new to me, and I get to watch it every day if I want, not just once a week.

I confess there are ALOT of shows I missed, especially in the 90s, because I was in school half the decade.

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Thursday, January 19, 2012

A Short Movie Survey - When Your Tastes Don't Jive With Everyone Else's

1. Has there been a movie lately that you looked forward to seeing for months, only to find that it was a total dud? Perhaps a movie that was really touted in reviews or "top ten" lists, and you see it and go "huh"?

What was it? For me, the latest one was THE TREE OF LIFE. Fifteen minutes into it, I had totally lost all patience in it and turned it off.

2. What about really popular movies that everyone tells you is great, best thing ever, and you go and find it less so? For me, everyone told me that CRAZY STUPID LOVE was wonderful and better than the average romance movie. If that's the case, the average romance movie much be really bad.

3. What do you do when after the movie, everyone's going, "oh, that was SO good" and you're gritting your teeth? Do you say something or, for fear of being viewed as negative, a snob, or a wet blanket you say nothing?

4. And finally, when was the last time you went to a movie with someone and it's their turn to pick the movie and they pick something that you expect to be either a crashing bore or ridiculous, but you end up loving it? For me, that was BRIDESMAIDS.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

What About the Great War?

Watching "Downton Abbey" this season has resulted in me wanting to learn more about the Great War, aka World War I. Here's some questions for you all to ponder and/or comment.

Does anyone have recommendations for good history books on the Great War?

What about fiction? What good fiction is out there that is centered around the war?

And what about the pulps? What magazines had fiction stories with the Great War as a backdrop? Obviously there were the BATTLE ACES and other air-flight magazines that, up until the mid-1930s, were focused on WWI. But what of other magazines?

And as an aside, is it my imagination or is there a current trend towards producing movies and television about the war? Other than "Downton Abbey," there's also "War Horse" released this season. Well, I guess that's only two examples. But it still feels like a trend. We are coming up on the 100th anniversary within the next few years of the war starting.

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Monday, January 16, 2012

More Tributes to Howard

Here are some tributes to Howard across the Internet today.

Dispatches (with a full obituary)

Matthew Mayo's website.

Western Fiction Review

Bill Crider's Pop Culture Magazine

The Education of a Pulp Writer

Black Horse Express
All Pulp

There has been discussion on Facebook between his friends and family of an effort to continue Howard's work and his many contributions to the writing community. Stay tuned to these blogs and web sites to find out more.

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Sunday, January 15, 2012

Rest in Peace, Howard

A lof of you who read this blog are in the same circles as I am, so you probably already know of this terrible news. I learned a few hours ago that Howard Hopkins has passed away. Howard had just turned 50 and apparently died of heart failure.

I loved reading Howard's Westerns. Anyone who loves modern day Westerns, pulp fiction, horror has probably read a Howard Hopkins book.

It's going to take a while to get over this one. Rest in peace, Howard.

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Saturday, January 14, 2012

Probably Never Heard of This One Before

I took Annie to one of the parks in this town this morning. This park has a contingent of people who bring their dogs every single morning to gather and let the dogs play. I've taken Annie there a few times before, but it's been infrequent because I work. So everytime we've gone, Annie has to get used to being around these dogs again.

At first I think she was actually scared of all the dogs. But she eventually began to socialize with the Labs, Australian Shepherds, Labradoodles, beagles,hounds and mutts and even chased one yellow Lab around for a while.

Anyway, about the time we got ready to go, I put Annie's leash on. I turned to talk to someone, and Annie was behind me. Suddenly she lurched at another dog - and pulled me straight off my feet - backwards. I landed ON Annie. She let out a yelp, got up and wouldn't put weight on one of her hind legs. (Hey, I don't weigh THAT much.) As for me, it seemed like a soft landing, and nothing hurt.

Everybody at the park came over in a panic. We massaged Annie's hip for a few minutes and she eventually put weight on it and we walked slowly back to the car. I felt bad for her - she is almost 9 now and has a hard time getting over injuries. Having her mom fall on her probably was scary as hell too.

It's about 9 hours later. Annie is totally fine. As for me, I'm sore as hell and can barely walk. I guess that's what you call karmic justice.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Take a Tour of the Real Downton Abbey: Highclere Castle

My sister sent this video to me today - it's a simply marvelous four-minute tour of Highclere Castle with it's current resident, Lady Carnarvon. A must see for anyone wrapped up in Downton Abbey.

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Monday, January 9, 2012

big Big BIG NEWS!

RIDING THE PULP TRAIL is now available as an eBook for the Nook, the iPad, the iPhone, the iPhoneTouch, and the Kindle!!! At the price of $4.99, you get 340 pages of some of the BEST pulp Western stories around! (Not that I'm biased or anything.)

Here are the links to the various formats:

Buy it at Barnes & Noble for the Nook ($4.99)

Buy it at the Apple store for iPad, iPhone and iPhoneTouch($4.99)

Buy it at Amazon for the Kindle ($4.99)

Here's what one reviewer has said about RIDING THE PULP TRAIL:

Laurie Powers has been gathering, preserving, researching, and publishing the pulp work of her late grandfather, Paul S. Powers. Here, she has gathered six of his stories that have seen print and six that were previously unpublished in a handsome trade paperback edition. The first story is a reprint, the second unpublished, and so on in that order. There is one Sonny Tabor story. The stories are a delicious mix of action, humor, and colorful characters. All are infused with simple morality and the need for justice in a land where the law is sparse and sometimes suborned by evil. What struck me most about the stories were their seeming freshness, as though they'd been written this year and not 60 or so years ago. Their most pulpish attributes are the titles, which glow purple and proud. A few favorites: "Guns at Jailbird Ranch;" "Buzzards Hate Bullets;" "Judgment Day on Whiskey Trail."
A huge vote of thanks goes to Laurie Powers for discovering the lost manuscripts, resurrecting the old stories, and making them available in a handsome package. She also contributes an informative introduction detailing her discovery of Paul S. Powers' career, previously unknown to her, and how she came to gather the stories for this volume. Let's hope it's the first of many.

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Sunday, January 8, 2012


IN THE GARDEN OF BEASTS: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin
Erik Larson
Crown Publishing Group, 2011

Erik Larson made a name for himself as a first-rate historical writer with ISAAC'S STORM, an then with the bestselling THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY. Now he tackles 1930s Berlin, with an astonishing story of William E. Dodd who becomes America’s ambassador to Germany just as Adolph Hitler is close to completing his climb to Absolute Ruler.

Being the US ambassador in Berlin in 1933 was a job that was very hard to fill. It seemed as if nobody wanted the job, with good reason. It was at at time when Hitler was first chancellor and when the Storm Troopers were starting to flex their muscles and Jews were being harassed and stripped of their rights. William E Dodd was not Roosevelt's first choice, in fact, he was at the end of a line of people that Roosevelt asked to take the job. A mild-mannered professor from Chicago, Dodd was the last person some people wanted in the position. He was earnest, idealistic and not the country club type that had filled the shoes before him.

But Dodd took the job, and sailed to Germany with his wife, son, and daughter, Martha. The history of Dodd's amabassadorship during this tense period in Europe is enough to make this book a page turner in itself, even though each page brings a growing sense of dread because, of course, we all know in a general sense what is going to happen. As evidence of Jewish persecution mounts, confirmed by chilling first-person testimony, Dodd telegraphs his concerns to a largely indifferent State Department back home. Dodd watches with alarm as Jews are attacked, the press is censored, and drafts of frightening new laws begin to circulate. Almost exactly a year after Dodd arrived in Germany, "The Night of the Long Knives" occurred, the first of many purges in Nazi Germany in which many of Hitler's so-called "foes" -whether real or imagined - were butchered.

But it's Martha's story that conjures up the saying "truth is stranger than fiction." Martha, who was twenty-four and had already been married and separated, was a woman who was flamboyant and, for lack of a better word, "wild." While in Berlin, she would end up having several suitors, two of which would end up being serious relationships. One of them was with Rudolph Diels, who was head of the Gestapo and actually a man of curious integrity in Hitler's brutal regime. He would be head until he was usurped by a power struggle between Goring and Himmler. Another lover, Boris Winogradov, would end up being a deep love of Martha. Unbeknownst to her, at least in the beginning, Boris was a Russian who was suspected of being an operative for Soviet intelligence, the NKVD, precursor to the KGB.

Martha was so popular and so well known around circles in Berlin that her reputation as a party girl sometimes put her in situations that embarrassed her father and other times threatened to put her in bizarre situations. At one point, before relations between American and Germany broke completely apart, Martha was even set up to meet none other than Hitler himself to see if she had the potential to be his "girlfriend." Like I said, nobody could make this stuff up.

Larson is an extremely gifted writer who, I think, is one of the best of modern history writers. This book is an absolute must for anyone who is interested in this time period and for anyone who appreciates a polished, well-written and thoroughly researched historical account. I just finished it two days ago, and I already want to read it again.

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Thursday, January 5, 2012

Dodger Buying 101

I didn't write much about the Dodgers last season - nothing worth writin' about there. But the sports world is a'buzzin with the news yesterday that Joe Torre has quit his executive job with MLB to pursue ownership, with Rick Caruso, of the Dodgers.

Bill Shaikin has an excellent article in the LA Times this morning on the status and hard facts of the ownership process. It begins:

The Dodgers ownership derby is fast becoming the most intriguing reality show in Los Angeles with athletic legends, civic icons and assorted billionares jockeying for control of a team mired in bankruptcy proceedings.

As of today, according to the Times, the following groups have expressed interest in buying the Dodgers:

Joe Torre, with developer Rick Caruso
Magic Johnson
Mark Cuban
Steven Cohen ("billionarie eight times over")
Dennis Gilbert ("onetime agent for Barry Bonds and champion of amateur baseball in LA)
Ron Burkle and Tom Golisano
Peter O'Malley*
Orel Hershiser*
Fred Claire*

*while these three men are connected by the fact that they were all involved with the Dodgers during the last World Series won (1988), they are bidding as part of separate groups.

Some other factoids and calendar dates:

1. Initial bids are due January 23. MLB has agreed to approve up to 10 bids. BUT, the new owner will be selected by Frank McCourt, NOT Bud Selig.
2. The sale is expected to command $1 billion for the team.
3. McCourt has agreed to complete the sale by April 30.
4. While the team is one of the jewels of baseball and revenue at the park was $289 million in 2008 alone, the real nugget are the television rights. The Dodgers' contract with Fox Sports expires after this year.

For the complete article, go here.

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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Electronic Pulp Trail is Coming!

Great news today from Altus Press, the publisher of RIDING THE PULP TRAIL. We are very close to having the e-book versions of RTPT out, both in e-book and in Kindle. Can't wait to get this all out for those of you who have been waiting.

I'll let you know when they're officially released!

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Sunday, January 1, 2012

Fever Hits Downton Abbey

Seven days and 12 hours from now, on January 8, an event will occur on television that I suspect will be of historic proportions: the second season of Downton Abbey will premiere. The reason I think it will be historic is because, for the past year, anyone who watched the first season of Downton Abbey has been impatiently, fervently, obsessively waiting for the next season to start. 2011 was a very long year. The premiere of the second season promises to draw a record number of viewers for Masterpiece Classic shows, and maybe for PBS shows altogether.

What made this show so popular during its first season, a parse four episodes that seemed to end before it really event started, episodes that have been re-run over and over on PBS stations over the last year? Of course, there's the obvious - that English costume dramas have, since the beginning of time, highly popular with Americans. It's also based on the time-honored paradox of how the upstairs family lives their lives compared to the downstairs staff, and how they mix on a daily basis. But really, how many times can they create television series on these types of characters? The Brits must think Americans are daft for continually being suckers for these class-warfare themed shows.

But the Brits are crazy about this show too, to the point that the production has been plagued with people trying to find out what happens in the upcoming year. It's also because it is so well written with intriguing plots and subplots. It's not adapted from any British novels, television shows, or movies - it's truly original (written by Julian Fellows). It's also blessed with excellent acting, and with costume and setting quality that, I think, is unsurpassed. (It's the most expensive television drama in British history.) The show is very easy on the eyes - I for one can't take my eyes off of it, and I've watched it...well, I won't tell you how many times.

It also is centered around a historical phenomenon that I for one find fascinating. During the latter part of the 19th century, a good number of Englishmen that were titled but cash-poor and blessed (some might say saddled) with enormous estates, traveled to the United States to find young single women to marry who could bring huge dowries to the marriage. In a perfect world these wives, newly settled in England, would bear sons that would inherit these fortunes and keep everything, including 200-room estates, in the family.

But in Downton Abbey, there were no sons borne to Lord and Lady Grantham - they had three girls. Because of that, the inheritance was due to pass to Lord Grantham's cousin and his son, who was engaged to Lady Mary Grantham, the eldest daugheter. This would have safely kept the Abbey in the immediate family. But then there was this thing called the Titanic that created a horrible kink into that plan. Now Downton Abbey has to be passed to a very distant relative, Matthew Crawley, who really is not all that keen on the idea.

But what am I've probably all watched the first season ad nauseam like I have. You know all this.

Now fever has hit Downton Abbey in 21st century media. The second season is centered around World War I and how it affects Downton Abbey, the upstairs family and downstairs staff. Since yesterday, I've read three articles in Entertainment Weekly and the Los Angeles Times Magazine about the upcoming series. I'm sure that there will be dozens more articles and television entertainment show installments in the upcoming week. Dozens of Blogs and Facebook pages are also cropping up. (I found one on Facebook, "Addicted to Downton Abbey" that looks great - lots of bahind the scenes videos posted every day.)

In the meantime, until next Sunday, I for one will be impatiently drinking my tea and watching the first year yet again (recorded on DVR, never to be deleted), and waiting and wondering what will happens to my favorites: to Lady Mary now that she's spurned Matthew, to Bates and Anna, to childlike little Daisy the scullery maid, and to poor Lady Edith, cursed with being the middle child and homely at that. And then there's the Dowager Countess, played by Maggie Smith. She is worth the price of admission herself.

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