Tuesday, May 12, 2015

A FIGHTER’S TRAIL TO THE ALASKAN GOLD RUSH

A FIGHTER’S TRAIL TO THE ALASKAN GOLD RUSH

This week Duane Spurlock gives us his take on writing the latest Fight Card release, Fighting Alaska…1900 Alaska…Gold, greed, and gamblers – a dangerous combination in a gold rush boomtown. Itinerant boxer Jean St. Vrain has a lifetime of rootless wandering behind him and ten years of knuckle-busting boxing, bar bouncing, and disillusionment. He wants to call quits to the fight game, but he needs a way out. Joining a mob of desperate men heading for the Alaskan gold fields, Jean is caught between crooked judges, crooked businessmen, a soiled dove, and infamous gunman Wyatt Earp and his cronies. With his future looking as harsh as the Alaskan landscape, Jean has one chance left – fight again.

DUANE SPURLOCK

Fighting Alaska came to be written thanks to several influences, which I can boil down to four: magazine articles, North Western pulp fiction, histories of the American Wild West, and movies.

First and simplest: Esquire introduced me to boxing.

Oh, I knew boxing was there – fights were broadcast on TV, and I recall the topics of Cassius Clay changing his name to Muhammad Ali and then his refusing to support the Vietnam War being loudly discussed whenever the aunts and uncles gathered during the period otherwise known as The Summer of Love. But our family was a baseball family. My father would come home Saturday afternoons for a late lunch so he could watch some of the Major League Baseball Game of the Week broadcast before returning to work. 

During the evenings, he would sit in the dark on the picnic table and smoke half a cigar while listening to a game – usually the Braves, sometimes the Cardinals – on a transistor radio. After the game he would save the second half of his cigar in a tray on top of the water heater for a future game. He encouraged me to play baseball starting in the coach-pitch leagues at school starting in the summer before fifth grade. My interest in the game has continued since then.

But boxing was just something outside my ken. The closest thing to boxing I encountered was watching the weekend broadcasts of Nashville wrestling – the names and dynamics weren’t so different from the entertainment I got from reading comic books or watching Tarzan movies (which typically followed the wrestling matches).

Until I opened the Super Sports issue of Esquire, dated October 1974.

It was in a slithery stack of glossy magazines – Sports Afield, Field & Stream, Boys’ Life – at the barber shop. It was a three-chair shop, but I’d only ever seen two chairs used, one by the owner, one by whomever was his employee at the time. I’d finally outgrown the mandatory buzz cut and had been allowed to grow my hair long enough to comb it with a part. Clearly this was an auspicious sign for expanding my sporting horizons beyond the baseball diamond. 

Among essays on baseball, basketball, and football, the Super Sports issue carried only a two-page spread devoted to boxing, and fewer than a dozen words, but the two photographs by Pierre Houles represented more than two thousand verbs, nouns, or adjectives: under a hyperbolic headline on page 144, Actual Size!, was a photo of George Foreman’s left fist facing a photo of Muhammad Ali’s right fist on page 145. Both were wrapped in tape. I’m sure my eyes popped like tree galls. I was flabbergasted, gob smacked, floored. Each of those clenched hands was bigger than my head!

Such was my introduction to boxing.

Like most of the rest of the country, I was swept along in the mass popularity of boxing launched by the success of the 1976 Olympic boxing team and its remarkable lineup of Sugar Ray Leonard, Leon and Michael Spinks, Howard Davis, Jr., Leo Randolph, Charles Mooney and John Tate. Even after that boom dwindled as those fighters rolled through their professional careers, I sought out and read about boxing by writers like A.J. Liebling and Hugh Fullerton – the latter better known for his investigation of the 1919 Black Sox scandal. 

These pursuits eventually led me to an article in the February 1998 issue of Vanity Fair, The Outlaw Champ by Nick Tosches, which he expanded into my favorite nonfiction book on boxing, The Devil and Sonny Liston (also published later under Tosches’ original title, Night Train).

Second influence: The Wild West.

I’ve been a reader of westerns since I discovered a copy of Zane Grey’s The Lone Star Ranger at the local library. I shared a name with its protagonist – Buck Duane – and with a last name like Spurlock, I seemed destined to be interested in cowboys. Western fiction eventually led me to North Western fiction – a subgenre exploited by Jack London, James Oliver Curwood, Jules Verne, Frederick Faust (Max Brand), Ryerson Johnson, James Hendryx, Rex Beach and others. These authors anchored the plots for most of their writing in this field with the Yukon and Alaska gold rush. The extremes of the natural world in this setting – the terrible cold, snow and ice, the rugged geography serving as a barrier between the gold and men’s desire to possess it – required the writers to push their characters to the limits of their physical and mental endurance. In cases, to survive, characters had to exceed those limits. 

Hemingway’s grace under pressure rarely appears in these North Western narratives. Characters go to the brink and jump into the abyss. This quality is part of what makes North Western stories appealing to me – men and women must survive in what can only be described as an alien landscape…Alien, yet still located on Earth…and these people willingly put themselves into this struggle against Nature and against human nature.

My interest in the Wild West, and thence to North Western fiction, led to the third influence on Fighting Alaska: historical studies.

I’ve read a lot of books on Wild West history, and my stories are usually informed by some element of my reading. The University of Nebraska’s Bison Books imprint is a favorite resource for me.

One of the most popular topics for historians and readers in this period is, not surprisingly, the gunfight at the OK Corral. A remarkable number of novels and movies have used this event as a dramatic focus in their narratives. The people involved were all, in one fashion or another, fascinating. As a result, I’ve read a lot of books about Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday.

The mainstream knowledge about Earp focuses on Tombstone and its famous gunfight. But Wyatt Earp had quite a career and life beyond that 1881 shootout. And his time in Alaska during its gold rush aligns well with my interest in North West fiction and its natural (for me, at least) extension to North West history. The historical record of actual people’s experiences in the Yukon and Klondike are, in many cases, far more dramatic and violent than the fictional narratives. For example, the audacity of federal judge Arthur Noyes’ using the law to jump mining claims in Nome, Alaska, sounds more like melodrama than truth. But the North West at that time was just a colder version of the wide-open Wild West towns pictured in many, many films.

Which brings me to the fourth influence on Fighting Alaska: movies.

The obvious Hollywood productions aren’t on this list – Raging Bull, Rocky, and so forth. Instead, the movies that stuck in my mind for years and that colored Fighting Alaska in some fashion were lesser-known works that still deserve viewing: Emperor of the North (1973) and Hard Times (1975). Both films feature excellent character actors famous for their tough-guy roles – Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine and Keith Carradine in the former, and Charles Bronson and James Coburn in the latter. 

Charles Bronson’s character in Hard Times, Chaney, is a reluctant, but effective, bare-knuckles fighter who certainly influenced the character of Jean St. Vrain in Fighting Alaska. But instead of Bronson, it was a grizzled Randolph Scott I pictured in my mind’s eye as the physical model for St. Vrain – the rough-featured Scott of those western films he made with Budd Boetticher in the late 1950s.

All these ingredients simmered in my head until the idea for Fighting Alaska bubbled up – a tale about a boxer in the North Western gold rush who meets Wyatt Earp. The Fight Card crew certainly has my thanks for providing an outlet for these characters and situations.

 

THE ART OF WORDSMITH’S R. G. TAYLOR

THE ART OF WORDSMITH’S R. G. TAYLOR

A few columns back, I had a great time interviewing Dave Darrigo, the creator and writer of the pulp era set comic, Wordsmith, originally published in the 1980s. While Dave strung together the words making up the tales of pulp writer Clay Washburn and the heroes Clay created for his stories, Canadian artist R. G. (Rick) Taylor gave the comic its unique artistic stylings – which still garner praise and influence illustrators today.

After teaching elementary school for 27 years, Rick became a fulltime artist in 2000.  Since then, he has become a popular and critically acclaimed painter while still dabbling in cartooning and illustration. His recent one man show, featuring his transportation series of paintings was a huge success.  In 2008, Rick published Growing Up With Comics, a thoughtful and expressive series of memoirs by comic writers and collectors, each told via the medium of comics featuring Rick’s unique style of black and white illustrations.

Having interviewed the writing half of Wordsmith, which remains one of my favorite all time comic series, I’m delighted to chat with the artistic side of the creation, Rick Taylor…

WORDSMITH CAME ALONG EARLY IN YOUR COMIC CAREER. HOW DID YOUR ASSOCIATION WITH DAVE DARRIGO OCCUR AND HOW DID YOU DECIDE ON YOUR ARTISTIC APPROACH TO WORDSMITH?

Dave was managing a comic shop I frequented. At the time I was doing a cartoon strip about my experiences teaching grade two. It was called the Blackboard Jumble and I did it on and off for 25 years. Dave had seen my sketches and the strip showed I could tell a story. We had lunch and he discussed Wordsmith. I liked the concept, in particular the story within a story part. It meant I could do anything from westerns to detective stories. I also felt setting the book in the thirties was unique. We pitched it to Deni Loubert who was starting Renegade and we were a go.

Although I had looked at a lot of comics, I was a bit ignorant of what was involved in making them. I knew I wanted it to look like a newspaper strip and I knew that required using models. I also knew the logistics of rounding them up from month to month would be challenging so I used myself and my family as well as Dave as characters. 

After that it was several years of non-stop activity working every night and weekend, even some early morning, then teaching school all day. I penciled and inked and painted the covers. My father took over the lettering after the first issue. At one point we reluctantly took the book to a quarterly schedule to avoid killing me. 

DID YOU HAVE AN ARTISTIC GOAL WITH WORDSMITH OR WERE YOU JUST BUSY EXPLORING YOUR TALENT?

Once you start a periodical you are riding a runaway train and all you want to do is tell the story quickly and clearly. Not a lot of time for experimenting. You get better simply because you are putting in hundreds of hours. I confess I have only glanced at Wordsmith since it finished. I see every mistake that was the result ignorance or rushing to meet the deadlines. But people still talk about it and it continues to find new readers. I have done lots of other comics since and have still not missed a deadline. Wordsmith was collected in two volumes by Caliber and I painted new covers. That was enjoyable. Then the publisher Gary Reed published it again in comic form and again I did new covers. Now its fourth incarnation is coming, a volume from Dover Press. Pretty cool.

WHO WERE YOUR ARTISTIC AND COMIC INFLUENCES AND HOW DID YOU DEVELOP YOUR UNIQUE STYLE OF COMIC ILLUSTRATION?

My first serious comic, after reading Bugs Bunny, was a Kid Montana by Pete Morisi. Charlton comics were easier to come by than other comics in the small Ontario town where I lived, so I enjoyed their westerns and war books. I think they had strong distribution along the northeast seaboard. Later I became addicted to Russ Mannings unbelievably brilliant Magnus Robot Fighter. Most of all I loved the newspaper strips Steve Roper and On Stage. I still think Leonard Starr is the pinnacle in art and storytelling. Later I discovered Kirby and the Fantastic Four, but distribution was very erratic. I might come across an issue like number 32 and not see another one until 42. Frustrating.

IN THE EARLY ‘90S YOU DID A RUN ILLUSTRATING SANDMAN MYSTERY THEATRE. WAS THERE A DIFFERENCE TAKING OVER AN ESTABLISHED TITLE AS OPPOSED TO WORKING ON AN ORIGINAL TITLE LIKE WORDSMITH?

Wordsmith was great preparation for Sandman Mystery Theatre. Both were set in the thirties and the Wesley Dodds character was similar to Clay. I had the coats, the hats and the model cars. All I had to do was find a gas mask in an army surplus shop. I had already been buying the comic and really liked it. Matt Wagner wrote a great script. It was a Vertigo book and therefore rather edgy and violent for my tastes. I really enjoyed drawing the developing romance between Wesley and Dianne. It was almost like a romance comic in those sections.

The monthly schedule was grueling since I was still teaching elementary school. Fortunately my editor, Shelley Bond was wonderful. She encouraged me every step of the way. I was hoping to do the bulk of the work during my summer vacation, but that didn't prove to be possible. You can imagine the pressure. I actually did a complete issue, pencils and inks in two weeks, again while teaching all day.

This was at a time when the computer was only just starting to play a greater role in the process, but I didn't own a computer, let alone a scanner. I was on the phone with Shelley a lot and there a lot of back and forth between here and New York via FedEx. It must be so much easier today. Scan your pages and get feedback within minutes.

DID YOUR TALENT FOR ILLUSTRATION EVOLVE INTO A DESIRE TO PAINT OR WAS PAINTING ALWAYS A GOAL? DID YOU HAVE ANY FORMAL TRAINING OR DID YOU LEARN ON THE JOB?

I have always been interested in painting and cartooning. I was not exposed to art history in my small town youth, but loved movie posters and any magazine illustrations I could find. My father was a sign painter who also did some oils, so there was never a dividing line in my mind between high and low art. I feel the same today. Good is good. Ironically when I started doing comics, I was criticized for being too loose and painterly, and when I painted the naysayers said I was too illustrative. When I stopped listening and over thinking it, I introduced heavier line work into my paintings and my fine arts career took off. Dealers and collectors commented on my unique graphic look.

HOW ARE THE WORLDS OF COMIC ILLUSTRATION AND FINE ART DIFFERENT? THE SAME?

Both require solid drawing and a willingness to put in thousands of hours to get to a marketable skill level. Both can grind you down if you let them. I am still telling stories in my paintings, especially in my urban landscapes. I am as passionate about both worlds. One of the advantages of painting is I can finish a piece in one to five days, rarely longer, whereas a graphic novel can take what seems like forever. Then there is the issue of the audience. More people saw an issue of Sandman the day it came out than will see a lifetime of my exhibitions. I can deliver a piece to the gallery, they might sell it almost immediately and then it disappears into someone's home. There are exceptions. We sold a painting to the Toronto deputy chief of police and I have been told it hangs prominently in police headquarters and is seem by hundreds. Mind you, I suspect only a few stop to look.

YOUR GRAPHIC NOVEL GROWING UP WITH COMICS IS A HIGHLY ORIGINAL TAKE ON THE RECOLLECTIONS OF INDIVIDUALS INVOLVED IN VARIOUS COMIC DISCIPLINES FROM WRITERS TO COLLECTORS TO SELLERS. HOW DID YOU APPROACH THE VOLUME, THE PHOTOGRAPHS, AND THE ART INVOLVED? WAS IT DIFFICULT MIMICKING MANY DIFFERENT COMIC ILLUSTRATORS’ STYLES FOR THE COVERS OF THE COMICS INVOLVED?

The book began as a three pager. My cousin Mel Taylor and I were always very close and shared a love of comics. I was visiting him one day and he was chatting about buying his first comic, Hulk #6. He paused, ran upstairs and pulled it out and flipped through it while remembering the family camping trip and the thrill of seeing Steve Ditko's work. I said I had an idea. I'd come back a week later, pick him up and we'd go to his parents' house and I'd photograph him flipping through the comic. I drew the images and he added the narrative, retelling the story that started it all. It was a little gem and Joe Pruett published it in Negative Burn.

I showed it to other chums and not surprisingly they had similar tales about their first important comic and how it shaped them. My very good friend Ron Kasman had been very active in Toronto fandom and we decided to do a full length story about his history. This is when I realized I was on to something kind of new. Sure there had been autobiographical comics, but this was docu-comic. Ron came up with the title Growing Up With Comics. Eventually Joe felt we had enough to collect in a book.

Mimicking other artists was just a ball. I used to do the same thing when I was twelve. I always loved Kirby, but after coping his Fantastic Four pages, I said to someone, "He was not of this earth." Genius incarnate. 

YOU ARE NOW HIGHLY ACCLAIMED AS A PAINTER OF OUTDOOR SCENES, TRAVEL SCENES, AND MOST RECENTLY FORMS OF TRANSPORTATION. HOW HAS YOUR ART AND YOUR ARTISTIC GOALS EVOLVED, AND WHERE DO YOU SEE YOUR ART GOING IN THE FUTURE?

My painting career has been very gratifying. The Ontario government purchased four of my pieces for the archives and cited me as a significant Canadian painter. My second one person show is currently in Artworld Fine Art and the staff tells me I am their second best seller. Nonetheless, almost to my surprise, I am eager to start a new graphic novel. This time I will be collaborating with my nephew, Kevin Taylor. Kevin played the baby in the final issue of Wordsmith. He's really good and we are working closely together. Moreover, its protagonist is a painter. As with Wordsmith, it will deal with the challenges of living a life as a creative person. Everything seems connected in my artistic endeavors and I am hoping it will be the best thing I've ever done.

A BIG THANKS TO RICK FOR TAKING THE TIME TO ANSWER MY QUESTIONS. TO SEE MORE OF RICK’S ART CLICK HERE

Monday, May 11, 2015

COMING SOON ~ FIGHT CARD: FIGHTING ALASKA

COMING SOON ~ FIGHT CARD: FIGHTING ALASKA

DUANE SPURLOCK WRITING AS JACK TUNNEY

COVER: CARL YONDER

FIGHT CARD: FIGHTING ALASKA

1900 Alaska…Gold, greed, and gamblers – a dangerous combination in a gold rush boomtown. Itinerant boxer Jean St. Vrain has a lifetime of rootless wandering behind him and ten years of knuckle-busting boxing, bar bouncing, and disillusionment. He wants to call quits to the fight game, but he needs a way out. Joining a mob of desperate men heading for the Alaskan gold fields, Jean is caught between crooked judges, crooked businessmen, a soiled dove, and infamous gunman Wyatt Earp and his cronies. With his future looking as harsh as the Alaskan landscape, Jean has one chance left – fight again.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

BLACK SPECULATIVE FICTION

BLACK SPECULATIVE FICTION ~ NEW WORLDS FOR A NEW GENERATION

Black speculative fiction is a literary movement with roots from the past currently branching into black-centric genres such as sword & soul, steamfunk, dieselfunk, and urban fantasy. For a wider look at these genres, I turned to Milton Davis, a writer and entrepreneur at the forefront of this contemporary movement, combining literature and community – stories, cosplay, and lifestyle.

Milton is a full-time chemist and the owner of MVmedia – a micro publishing company specializing in speculative fiction representing people of color in a positive manner. He is the author of eight novels, including the just released steamfunk tale, From Here to Timbuktu. He is co-editor of four anthologies, Griots: A Sword and Soul Anthology, Griots: Sisters of the Spear, The Ki Khanga, and Steamfunk! 

WHAT ARE THE ROOTS OF BLACK SPECULATIVE FICTION, AND WHAT DREW YOU TO THE GENRE?

The roots of black speculative fiction are found in the efforts of black independent speculative fiction writers. Black writers in speculative fiction have been around for a long time, but the recent increase in writers due to print on demand, e-books and social networking has increased the number of writers to a point where we can claim a legitimate subgenre.

I came to black speculative fiction like most writers. As a black reader of speculative fiction I wanted to read stories that not only contained main characters that looked like me, but I also wanted stories that included my culture and experiences as well. So I decided to write them.

TO HELP US HAVE A CLEARER UNDERSTANDING, WOULD YOU DEFINE STEAMFUNK, DIESELFUNK, SWORD & SOUL, AND URBAN FANTASY – THE DIFFERENCES AND WHAT TIES THEM TOGETHER?

The one thing that all these sub-genres have in common is that they all contain stories with black main characters, and all include the cultural, historical and contemporary perspective of people of African descent. As far as differences are concerned, Steamfunk takes traditional steampunk trappings (worlds with steam driven mechanics as opposed to electric) while also focusing on stories based on the 19th century Afrocentric cultural experience. Dieselfunk is similar in that takes that same focus to an early 20th century time frame (and uses mechanics based on diesel instead of steam). Sword & Soul is basically sword and sorcery and heroic fiction based on African culture, history, spirituality and traditions. Urban fantasy is a broader term that doesn’t apply directly to Black urban fantasy. It covers most genres that deal with magic in the modern day world.

IN 1974, CHARLES R. SAUNDERS BEGAN WRITING STORIES OF THE JUNGLE HERO IMARO SET IN THE FANTASY WORLD OF NYUMBANI. DID THESE STORIES HAVE AN INFLUENCE ON YOUR OWN WRITING OR ON BLACK SPECULATIVE FICTION AS A WHOLE?

I’m sad to say they didn’t, initially. I didn’t discover Charles’s work until after I began writing. Since then we’ve met online and become great friends. My science fiction and fantasy upbringing was very traditional. I read Herbert, Asimov, Heinlein, Clarke and others. Although I always contemplated writing speculative fiction from a black perspective, it was a historical fiction novel, Segu by Maryse Conde, showed me that it could be done and done well.

WHY IS BLACK SPECULATIVE FICTION AND ITS ASSOCIATE GENRES IMPORTANT IN TODAY’S LITERARY WORLD?

I think it is important for people to see themselves in anything they are interested in. It gives them a sense of being, belonging and engages them more completely. Today entertainment has become a huge part of our lives, influencing us consciously and subconsciously. And speculative fiction has been seriously lacking in black images, especially positive black images.


HOW DOES STEAMFUNK TRANSLATE INTO A LIFESTYLE?

To me, steamfunk is not a lifestyle. It is a literary genre.

HOW DO YOU FEEL THIS BECOMES A POSITIVE MOVEMENT WITHIN THE AFRICAN AMERICAN COMMUNITY?

I don’t see it as a movement. I see it as another opportunity to express black creativity. It think it can and does have a positive effect on black speculative fiction readers, especially African American readers because the way it is currently presented incorporates a lot of our history and culture. I can see it evolving to include Afro-Caribbean, Afro-British, Afro-French and various continental African cultures as well. That in turn will enrich and expand the scope of steampunk. 


DO YOU FEEL AN OBLIGATION TO WRITE ABOUT RACIAL THEMES AS PART OF THE BLACK SPECULATIVE FICTION GENRES? IF SO, DOES THIS MAKE THE STORIES HARDER TO TELL?

I don’t feel obligated to write about racial themes in black speculative fiction, but at the same time I don’t shy away from them, either. I think this is one of the hallmarks of black speculative fiction. We can go there. Mainstream speculative fiction rarely deals with racial issues from a black point of view, which mean the story is incomplete. In black speculative fiction we can deal with an issue in a way that is true to us because our audience is mainly black and will relate to how we present it.

ARE THERE HISTORICALLY RACIAL STEREOTYPES YOU CHOSE TO PLAY AGAINST WHEN PLOTTING OR CREATING CHARACTERS?

The main thing I do in my stories is create strong black main characters, which I guess is playing against the mainstream fiction black stereotype of black characters being sidekicks, sacrificial Negroes or ‘Magic’ Negroes. 

WHO ARE THE CURRENT WRITERS BRINGING THESE TALES TO LIFE?

There’s a long list of writers; Balogun Ojetade, Alicia McCalla, Ronald Jones, Alan Jones, K. Ceres Wright, Carolle McDonnell, Valjeanne Jeffers, Cerece Renee Murphy, William Hayashi, Davaun Sanders, Maurice Broaddus and many more. And, of course, you have the icons – Octavia Butler, Charles R. Saunders, Samuel Delany, Tananarive, Due, Steve Barnes, Nalo Hopkinson, Nisi Shawl, Nnedi Okorafor, N.K. Jemison and David Anthony Durham.

WHO IS YOUR CORE AUDIENCE AND WHAT DO THEY LOOK FOR IN YOUR WORK?

My core audience is black speculative fiction readers.  I think they look for themselves and their culture in my work. Like most writers, I write for myself, but it’s very good to know my stories resonate with so many of my people.

HOW HAVE YOU SEEN BLACK SPECULATIVE FICTION BECOMING A POSITIVE FORCE?

Yes, especially among young black readers. That’s been the highlight of this journey. To see the happy faces of black girls and boys when they see my book covers and to hear the excitement in their voices when they talk about the books makes it worth it. I’ve also see it change people’s historical perspective, especially with Sword & Soul. I often base my writing on historical subjects not often talked about, so when we discuss the books we end up sharing information of which most folks aren’t aware. 

HOW DO YOU TAKE BLACK SPECULATIVE FICTION TO A WIDER AUDIENCE?

Exposure. Doing cons and interviews like this one. It’s a slow process but it works. Since access to the big box bookstores is virtually impossible, we have to work outside the norm. Social networking has been a particularly strong force in spreading the word. My book sales increase in double digit percentages every year so I know the word is getting out.

A big thank you to Milton for taking the time to share the world of black speculative fiction. You can find Milton on the web here:
 
BLACK SPECULATIVE FICTION SAMPLER
 
FROM HERE TO TIMBUKTU ~ MILTON DAVIS
 
The year is 1870. As the young country of Freedonia prepares to celebrate fifty years of existence, a young bounty hunter by the name of Zeke Culpepper is hired by a wealthy businessman to find a valuable book. In the kingdom of Mali on the continent of Africa, veteran warrior Famara Keita has been assigned to find that same book and bring it back to its rightful owner. And in the newly formed nation of Germany, an ambitious Prussian officer seeks the book as well for its secrets that could make Germany the most powerful nation in the world. The result is an action adventure like no other!
 


ONCE UPON A TIME IN AFRIKA ~ BALOGUN OJETADE
 
An exciting Sword and Soul tale by Balogun Ojetade, Once Upon a Time in Afrika Tells the story of a beautiful princess and her eager suitors. Desperate to marry off his beautiful but "tomboyish" duaghter, Esuseeke, the Emperor of Oyo, consults the Oracle. The Oracle tells the Emperor Esuseeke must marry the greatest warrior in all Onile (Afrika). To determine who is the greatest warrior, the Emperor hosts a grand martial arts tournament inviting warrior from all over the continent. Unknown to the warriors and spectators of the tournament a powerful evil is headed their way. Will the warriors band together against this evil?
 


 
STEAMFUNK! ~ EDITED BY MILTON DAIS AND BALOGUN OJETADE
 
A witch, more machine than human, judges the character of the wicked and hands out justice in a ravaged Chicago. John Henry wields his mighty hammers in a war against machines and the undead. Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman rule a country of freed slaves that rivals – and often bests – England and France in power and technology. You will find all this – and much more – between the pages of Steamfunk, an anthology of incredible stories by some of today’s greatest authors of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Steamfunk – African and African American-inspired Steampunk.
 
Editors Milton Davis and Balogun Ojetade have put together a masterful work guaranteed to transport you to new worlds. Worlds of adventure; of terror; of war and wonder; of iron and steam. Open these pages and traverse the lumineferous aether to the world of Steamfunk!
 

Monday, April 27, 2015

NOIR CENTRAL: NIGHT LIFE

NOIR CENTRAL: NIGHT LIFE

David C. Taylor brings a wealth of screenwriting experience to bear in his debut novel, Night Life – a hardboiled tale with a noirish twist set in 1950s New York.  David agreed to undergo the bright lights and rubber hose treatment to tell us a little more about the new book and his process…

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE NIGHT LIFE AND THE PROCESS OF HOW YOU CAME TO WRITE IT?

I wanted to get back to writing prose fiction after years of working in movies and TV. I wanted to write a story set in New York during the era in which I grew up. And I like propulsive stories that carry the reader along, and I wanted to write a story like the ones I enjoy and admire.

SCREENWRITING, PLAYWRITING, AND NOVELS ARE VERY DIFFERENT LITERARY MODES. WHAT DID YOU FIND DIFFICULT ABOUT THE PROCESS OF WRITING NIGHT LIFE, AND WHAT WAS MADE EASIER BY YOUR BACKGROUND IN OTHER FORMS OF WRITING? 

The difficulty in all writing is getting what is in your head down the immense distance from your brain to your typing hand, making concrete all those flashes that are going on somewhere in the cerebral cortex. Screenwriting, and playwriting teach you structure and economy, because, unlike novels, they are limited in length. Novels are limited only by your imagination and your ability to continually engage your reader.

DID THE INSPIRATION FOR NIGHT LIFE FIRST STRIKE YOU AS A SCREENPLAY IDEA OR DID YOU SEE IT AS A NOVEL FROM THE BEGINNING?

I always saw it as a novel, because I was trying to escape not screenwriting itself, but all the other restrictions and pressures the movie business brings to the writer. Prose fiction allows you an autonomy that is not available in Hollywood, and eventually that autonomy became too attractive to ignore.

WHAT DREW YOU TO THE TIME PERIOD OF NIGHT LIFE? 

I grew up in the New York of the Fifties and Sixties, and the city was little changed in those years, indeed until what we call “The Sixties” hit, and I had many indelible memories of that bygone era that I wanted to explore.

MICHAEL CASSIDY, THE DETECTIVE AT THE HEART OF NIGHT LIFE, IS A MAN PLAGUED BY DREAMS THAT SOMETIMES COME TRUE. HOW DID YOU DECIDE TO USE THIS TRAIT TO DRIVE THE SUSPENSE IN NIGHT LIFE?

I experienced dreams like that as a child and up into my twenties. They were not as precise even as the chaotic ones Cassidy has, but they did sometimes come true in a way that déjà vu could not explain. We are told to write what we know, and I knew that, and when we write what we know, we almost always exaggerate or expand for dramatic effect.

ARE YOU A FAN OF HARDBOILED FICTION? IF SO, WHICH WRITERS WOULD YOU POINT TO AS INSPIRATION FOR NIGHT LIFE?

I am a fan. There are many writers of that kind of fiction I admired, including Hammett, Chandler, Ross MacDonald, John D. MacDonald, George V. Higgins (the master of dialogue), Alan Furst, George Pelecanos, John Sandford, the list goes on and on.

DID YOU HAVE TO START RESEARCH FOR THE BACKGROUND OF NIGHT LIFE FROM SCRATCH, OR WAS THIS A STORY YOU HAVE HAD IN THE BACK OF YOUR MIND WAITING FOR THE RIGHT MOMENT?

Much of the background was in my head in a formless way, and I had to do some research to be sure of timelines and facts. What play was on in the Shubert Theatre when Cassidy walks through Shubert Alley the night he finds Ingram dead?

DID YOU CONCEIVE NIGHT LIFE AS A SERIES OR A STANDALONE?  NOW NIGHT LIFE IS BEING PROCLAIMED BY YOUR PUBLISHER AS THE FIRST IN A SERIES OF HISTORICAL CRIME FICTION TALES, HOW DAUNTING IS THE PROSPECT OF CAPPING THE ACCLAIM THIS FIRST NOVEL IS RECEIVING?

I knew before I finished Night Life that I was not finished with Michael Cassidy and some of the other characters and that I would bring them back. It is always somewhat daunting to consider continuing a successful story, and the only real reason to do it is if you have another story that fits the characters and the times equally well. Then the problem once again becomes bridging the distance between the head and the hand.

AS NIGHT LIFE ROLLS INTO BOOKSTORES, WHAT IS IT YOU WANT YOUR READERS TO TAKE AWAY FROM THE NOVEL?

I hope they enjoy the book for the characters, the atmosphere, and the story, and I wouldn’t mind if they came away from it thinking a bit about the tendency of power to corrupt, and about the responsibility of citizens to be watchful of those who want to lead them.

Thanks David for taking time to share your experience with Night Life.  

NIGHT LIFE ~ DAVID C. TAYLOR

New York City in 1954. The Cold War is heating up. Senator Joe McCarthy is running a witch hunt for Communists in America. The newly formed CIA is fighting a turf battle with the FBI to see who will be the primary US intelligence agency. And the bodies of murdered young men are turning up in the city.

Michael Cassidy has an unusual background for a New York cop. His father, a refugee from Eastern Europe, is a successful Broadway producer. His godfather is Frank Costello, a Mafia boss. Cassidy also has an unusual way of going about the business of being a cop--maybe that's why he threw a fellow officer out a third story window of the Cortland Hotel. 

Cassidy is assigned to the case of Alexander Ingram, a Broadway chorus dancer found tortured and dead in his apartment in Hell's Kitchen. Complications grow as other young men are murdered one after the other. And why are the FBI, the CIA, and the Mafia interested in the death of a Broadway gypsy?

Meanwhile, a mysterious, beautiful woman moves into Cassidy's building in Greenwich Village. Is Dylan McCue a lover or an enemy? Cassidy is plagued by nightmares – dreams that sometimes become reality. And he has been dreaming that someone is coming to kill him.


Monday, April 6, 2015

FISTS OF IRON: ROUND 4

FISTS OF IRON: ROUND 4

The REH Foundation Press is proud to present Fists of Iron: Round 4, the final volume of a four-volume series presenting the Collected Boxing Fiction of Robert E. Howard

This volume features the collected Kid Allison stories and measures in at 347 pages (plus introductory material). It is printed in hardback with dust jacket, with the first printing limited to 200 copies, each individually numbered. Cover art by Tom Gianni and introduction by Mark Finn. 

FISTS OF IRON: ROUND 4

CONTENTS

Intro: “A Boy and His Dog” by Mark Finn

KID ALLISON

The Man with the Mystery Mitts
Kid Galahad
College Socks
The Wild Cat and the Star
Fighting Nerves (Kid Allison version)
 
MIKE DORGAN AND BILL MCGLORY
 
The House of Peril
One Shanghai Night
The Tomb of the Dragon

OTHER TALES

The Sign of the Snake
The Fighting Fury
Fighting Nerves (Jim O’Donnel version)
Fists of the Desert
Fists of the Revolution

MISCELLANEA

The Jinx
Fistic Psychology
The Drawing Card
Untitled fragment (“Huh,” I was so . . .)
A Tough Nut to Crack (Allison version)
A Tough Nut to Crack (Clarney version)
One Shanghai Night – synopsis
Untitled notes (Knute Hansen)
The Lord of the Ring, (part 4), by Patrice Louinet

I JUST RECEIVED MY COPY AND AM DELIGHTED TO HAVE THE COMPLETE SERIES OF THESE BEAUTIFUL TOMES …

THRILLER CORNER: BLACK SCORPION ~ THE TYRANT REBORN

THRILLER CORNER: BLACK SCORPION ~ THE TYRANT REBORN

Jon Land is the bestselling author over 25 novels including the Caitlin Strong novels (about a fifth-generation Texas ranger), the Ben Kamal and Danielle Barnea books (featuring a Palestinian detective and chief inspector of the Israeli police), and eleven thrillers starring Blaine McCracken, an exiled agent who knows 14 ways to kill a man in under two seconds – all high octane stuff.

In his latest novel, Land brings back Michael The Tyrant Tiranno, hero of Land’s bestselling novel, The Seven Sins. His new Tyrant novel, Black Scorpion, Tiranno takes on a worldwide human trafficking cabal.

In advance of the novel’s anticipated release on April 7th, Land stopped by Bish’s Beat for the bright lights and rubber hoses treatment …

CAN YOU TELL US A BIT ABOUT BLACK SCORPION: THE TYRANT REBORN? 

I think it’s the most ambitious book I’ve ever done in terms of character, emotion and story.  I say that not only because of its epic-like structure, but mostly because I’ve never written a book before that challenges its characters in so many ways.  It challenges them with truth and the reality of their own natures contrasted against their fates, testing especially Michael Tiranno’s capacity to exceed his own limitations. He has become a classical, almost mythic hero in terms of the losses he suffers and stunning revelations about his own fate he must accept.  All the while confronting a villain just as powerful as he is with whom he unknowingly shares an indelible bond.  Great villains, they say, make great heroes and that’s truly the case here as Michael confronts an all-powerful criminal organization with a plot to do incredible harm to the country and world in the offing.  To stop them, Michael must become a different man than he is when the book starts out, he must evolve, literally, into something more and accepting that fate comes to define both him as a hero and the story as a whole.

WHAT DREW YOU TO WRITE THRILLER AND MYSTERY NOVELS? 

Well, as the great Robert Louis Stevenson once said, “You can only write what you would read if someone else had written it.”  So, when I chose to be a writer, or should I say when writing chose me, I gravitated to what came most naturally to me.  I’d grown up reading all of Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels while away at camp for the summer, this after falling in love with the early films starring Sean Connery as Bond.  The structure of those films has been more influential in my writing than any other individual factor.  As I got older while in college, I began devouring the books of Stephen King, Robert Ludum, Clive Cussler and David Morrell – all great storytellers above everything else, and I realized that’s what I wanted to be too.


MICHAEL TIRANNO, IS BASED ON A CHARACTER ORIGINALLY CREATED BY FABRIZIO BOCCARDI. HOW DO YOU WORK WITH HIM TO DEVELOP EACH STORY?


It’s an extremely close relationship since we basically sweat every single plot development, every single scene – hell, every single line. It can be extremely frustrating at times because I’m used to working alone in a box without interference or micromanaging. Quite frankly, I don’t enjoy the process at all, but have to admit twice now it’s resulted in far better books than I could have written on my own. Fabrizio isn’t a writer or a storyteller and he doesn’t grasp all the intricacies of structure. But he has wonderful instincts that are right more often than not and form the perfect complement to my experience and talents. Look, Michael Tiranno is his baby. He turned him over to me to build, but he could never be expected to let him go altogether. Ultimately, I think we work so well together because our passion is balanced by our willingness to compromise toward telling the best story we possibly can. It may drive me crazy at times, but the ends justify the means

HOW DO YOU APPROACH WRITING A BOOK LIKE BLACK SCORPION?

It all starts with the hero, Michael Tiranno. I started Black Scorpion with the premise that in the five years since the events depicted in The Seven Sins, Michael hasn’t changed very much. He’s still pretty much the same man we left at the end of the first book, a tyrant consumed by his desire to expand his empire and holdings.  The whole essence of Black Scorpion is watching him evolve into something entirely different – Still a tyrant, yes, but a tyrant for good.  A superhero without a mask or cape.  We watch his view of his entire place in the world change, forced upon him by the shattering truths and tragedy he encounters along the way.  And in that respect his quest changes from the pursuit of riches and power to self-fulfillment and self-actualization. So now, above everything else, Michael Tiranno’s character is defined by his obsession for standing up for those who can’t stand up for themselves.  Bullies aren’t confined to the schoolyard and he won’t tolerate them under any circumstances.  He’s spent his life trying to find the security he lost that day his parents were murdered and once there he uses the power that comes with it to defend those who need him the most.  My point is your hero defines the very nature of a book with the sprawl and ambition of Black Scorpion.  The book will rise or fall based on how the audience responds to him and you have to approach a book like this with that in mind.

YOU’VE WRITTEN A NUMBER OF SERIES, IS THIS ONE YOUR FAVORITE TO WRITE?

Frankly, no, that would be my Caitlin Strong Texas Ranger series.  I’m not saying the books in that series are better than Black Scorpion because I think in many ways Black Scorpion is the most ambitious and best realized book in terms of vision I’ve ever written. I’m talking about the process.  Black Scorpion is work for hire and I have an obligation to serve the needs of the Tyrant character’s creator, Fabrizio Boccardi That robs this series, and me, of the spontaneity that defines me as a writer, since I don’t outline.  Writing with someone looking over your shoulder isn’t nearly as fun or gratifying. But, that said, the end result of both this book and its prequel, The Seven Sins, proves I’m capable of adapting.

DID YOU HAVE TO DO ANY SPECIAL RESEARCH TO WRITE THIS BOOK?

It’s always that way with thrillers that involve as much cutting edge technology as this one does. But so much of it is speculative, based not on what exists now but will eventually, that I’m essentially forced to go back to school on subjects I had very little knowledge of to start out. And not just pertaining to the villain’s world-threatening plot either. I had to figure out how to construct Black Scorpion’s lair inside a mountain, and needed to concoct a way for a commando team to access it from beneath a manmade lake in the climax. It’s all very James Bond-like and, as with Bond, with every challenge comes up a wonderful opportunity to do something no one’s ever done before

WHAT DO YOU HOPE READERS TAKE AWAY FROM OR FEEL WHEN READING THIS BOOK?

First and foremost I want them to come away feeling they weren’t just entertained, but spirited away into the fabric of the story.  But I want them to take away from that what makes a man a hero. That a man’s fate isn’t always his to define, as personified in Michael’s case by the mystical relic medallion that’s the one possession he has left from his family.  It’s both his talisman and curse, as it has been for other men of great power who’ve possessed it through history.  And while that medallion might fuel Michael’s quest, ultimately that quest is about saving a woman he loves and preserving the world he has built he now wants to share with her.  So as broad and ambitious as this book is, like all great stories, it’s ultimately very simple.

IS A THIRD ADVENTURE OF THE TYRANT IN THE WORKS?

No, not yet. But there’s a whole bunch of happening in film and comic books, so stay tuned.

ON THE WEB:
www.jonlandbooks.com  
Twitter @jondland

THE BLACK SCORPION: THE TYRANT REBORN

The next adventure of The Seven Sins' Michael "The Tyrant" Tiranno, Jon Land's Black Scorpion is a pulse pounding action-thriller as he takes on a worldwide human trafficking cabal.

Five years have passed since Michael Tiranno saved the city of Las Vegas from a terrorist attack. And now a new enemy has surfaced in Eastern Europe in the form of an all-powerful organization called Black Scorpion. Once a victim of human trafficking himself, the shadowy group's crazed leader, Vladimir Dracu, has become the mastermind behind the scourge's infestation on a global scale. And now he's set his sights on Michael Tiranno for reasons birthed in a painful secret past that have scarred both men.

Already facing a myriad of problems, Michael once more must rise to the challenge of confronting an all-powerful enemy who is exploiting and ravaging innocents all across the globe and has set nothing less than all of America as its new victim. Black Scorpion has also taken the woman Michael loves hostage:?Scarlett Swan, a beautiful archaeologist who was following the dangerous trail of the origins of the ancient relic that both defines and empowers Michael, a discovery that could change history and the perception of mankind's very origins.

With the deck and the odds stacked against him, Michael must come to learn and embrace his true destiny in becoming the Tyrant reborn as a dark knight to triumph over ultimate evil and stop the sting of Black Scorpion from undermining all of the United States and plunging Las Vegas into chaos and anarchy.

A major production for a feature film is in active development in Hollywood based on the franchised character of Michael Tiranno, the Tyrant. The film will be based on the blended adaptation of Black Scorpion and its predecessor, The Seven Sins, which both have also been licensed to DC Comics for comic books and graphic novels publications worldwide.