My Blog

Retirement. Publishers, thank you for the many years of reading pleasure you gave me, but all good things must come to an end. Due to failing eyesight I am forced to retire. I can no longer review your books, and any that you send will be donated to the local library, unread. Do not send any more. I can only read for a couple hours every day, and this does not allow me to finish a book in reasonable time. I will be devoting time to my own books from now on, and reading on a personal level. Books that interest me. I prefer paperbacks and hardbacks, not eBooks. My eyesight has been failing the last few years, and I cannot handle hundreds of review books any more. My books are still available for review. Anyone interested in reviewing any of them, they are found in the Link to Tom’s Books On Amazon. Contact me for pdf copies at

Friday, November 29, 2013

The Kept Girl

Title: The Kept Girl
Author: Kim Cooper
Genre: Mystery / Thriller / Historical
Short synopsis: A fact-based mystery set in 1929 Los Angeles, starring the young Raymond Chandler, his loyal secretary, and the idealistic cop who is a likely model for the mature Chandler's greatest creation, private detective Philip Marlowe.
Publication: February 2014 (deluxe Subscriber's Edition may be ordered through 12/25/13)
Publisher: Esotouric Ink
Advance Praise:
"A deeply researched and compulsively readable crime novel." ( Denise Hamilton , author of Damage Control  and editor of the Edgar Award-winning anthology Los Angeles Noir) ...  "Kim Cooper is the perfect Virgil to 1929 Los Angeles… Her knowledge of the city that was is unparalleled, her imagination unnerving. Aficionados of noir Los Angeles will read The Kept Girl  with fascination and with growing horror." ( John Buntin , author of L.A. Noir )... "A delightful addition to this city's literature. The effortlessness with which it borrows against the Chandler tradition while… retaining its unique intelligence and slyly contemporary flavor is just plain stunning." ( Matthew Specktor , author of American Dream Machine )... "Holy cats, this woman can write! The Kept Girl  evokes 1920s Los Angeles in general and especially Raymond Chandler magnificently, without ever stooping to mere ventriloquism. It abounds in grace notes, snappy character sketches and, yes, similes that keep their dignity even in the presence of the master.... Like Chandler, she writes rings around most of what New York is turning out." ( David Kipen , editor of The WPA Guide to Los Angeles )
Los Angeles, 1929: a glittering metropolis on the crest of an epic crash. A mysterious prophetess and her alluring daughter have relieved an oil tycoon's nephew of his fortune. But the kid won't talk. To find the money, the old man calls on a trusted executive, Raymond Chandler, who in turn enlists the aid of his devoted secretary/mistress, Muriel Fischer, and their idealistic patrolman friend Tom James. 
Soon the nephew is revealed as a high-ranking member of a murderous cult of angel worshippers, and the trio plunges into an investigation that sends them careening across Southern California, from sinister sanitariums to roadside burger stands, decaying Bunker Hill mansions to sparkling cocktail parties, taxi dance halls to the morgue, all in search of the secretive Great Eleven. But when Muriel goes undercover to infiltrate the group's rural lair, she comes face to face with disturbing truths that threaten to spoil everything, not just for the cult's members, but for herself as well.
A work of fiction inspired by actual events and featuring the real-life cop who is a likely model for the mature Chandler's greatest creation, private eye Philip Marlowe, Kim Cooper's "The Kept Girl" exposes a mystery so horrifying, it could only be true.
About the author: 
Kim Cooper is the creator of 1947project , the crime-a-day time travel blog that spawned Esotouric's popular Los Angeles crime bus tours, including The Real Black Dahlia. Her books include Fall in Love For Life (Chronicle), Bubblegum Music is the Naked Truth (Feral House), Lost in the Grooves (Routledge) and an oral history of the cult band Neutral Milk Hotel (Bloomsbury/Continuum). The Kept Girl is her first novel. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Bronze Gazette #68

The Bronze Gazette #68

The latest issue of this great fanzine is filled with goodies, as usual. Courtney Rogers presents an article about Bob Larkin’s life, with photos and illustrations, then Howard Wright reviews Will Murray’s Skull Island, complimented by illustration from master artist Ron Wilber. Ron also does a ten-page comic book featuring scenes from Skull Island. As if that isn’t enough, the front cover is penciled by Bob Larkin, and painted by Tim Faurote. And if THAT isn’t enough, we have art by Joe DeVito and Bobb Cotter! The back cover is designed by Keith “Kez” Wilson. Whew.  I apologize for my eyesight, I am almost blind (legally blind) and cannot see the address and price rates. Check out Bill Thom’s COMING ATTRACTIONS this Friday for ordering information.

Sunday, November 24, 2013


Dakota (Mystery Thriller)
By Gwen Florio
ISBN #978-1579623623
The Permanent Press
Price $28.00
264 Pages
Rating 5-Stars

“I loved it, and couldn’t put it down!”

After Lola Wicks, a former foreign correspondent, is downsized from her position, she ends up in Magpie, Montana. Working for a small newspaper, she covers the Blackfeet Indian Reservation and becomes romantically involved with the local sheriff. When the body of a young Indian girl is found in a snow bank a quarter mile from the road, Lola learns that this isn’t the only missing girl from the reservation, and decides to investigate.

A semi truck was also discovered several miles from where the body was found, turned over, and the driver’s neck broken. There is no indication the two incidents are connected. The trucker’s death may be a homicide, but it’s believed the young girl died from exposure, though she may have been hitchhiking home from somewhere, and rode with the trucker to the junction. But the question remains, why would she leave the safety of the truck to trek cross-country in blowing snow and 20 degrees below zero. This is suicide weather, unless it was her only chance of survival to escape a murderer.

More mystery unravels as an oilfield roughneck passing through Magpie recognizes the girl’s obituary picture as a prostitute working the oil patch in North Dakota. Lola senses a story, and requests an assignment to the “Patch”, 500 miles from Magpie, where many of the local Indian men work. Trying to find information in an oilfield setting with roughnecks living in an uncivilized community, and rowdy strip clubs surrounding the thousands of men working the fields, it’s a scene as primitive as any Lola must have seen anywhere in her overseas travels. Even the local sheriff and his buddy appear made of the same cloth. Lola sticks her inquisitive nose in places that could get her hurt – and does; she might even end up dead like the stripper she interviewed, her neck broken like the truck driver near Magpie.

This was a fascinating story, with characters that come alive on the page, as the author describes the locals and their living conditions. As the story unfolds, we discover how evil the people are behind the plot, and wonder how our society has become so sick. To make it more real for me, it took me back to when I spent seven winters in North Dakota on the Canadian border, with temperatures 45 below zero (chill factor dropping to near 100 below), white outs, 3-day blizzards, and the rules of surviving such conditions. The moisture in the automobile gas-lines freezing fifty miles from civilization. No oilfields in sight, but missile silos dotting the landscape everywhere.

I loved the story, but had a few problems with it. How, and even why, was the girl even found in the snowdrift a quarter mile from a road, in blowing snow and 20 degrees below zero? It’s not explained who found her, why they were out there, and how they even discovered her body. She had been reported missing several years previously, and no one knew she was out there. I accepted the fact that she was found, as this instigated the investigation, but it still left me wondering. The suggestion that Lola would be charged with murder is curious. She was the victim, kidnapped, beaten, drugged and held against her will. She had every right to escape, even if that included grabbing a branding iron and striking her captor over the head; remember, her captor was holding a gun (no matter who it was aimed at). However, my main problem concerned the sheriff of Magpie, Montana. The sheriff would have needed a Federal Warrant just to go to North Dakota to pick up a prisoner already in custody. Just because he “suspected” a crime being committed in North Dakota did not give this county sheriff in Montana the authority to cross state borders to make an arrest. Where does his authority (badge & gun) end? Nor can he deputize his friend, also from Montana, to carry a gun and hold a resident of North Dakota in confinement. My guess is the arrest would be kicked out, the bad guys released, and the Montana sheriff and his friend arrested and sued for false arrest of North Dakota residents. Lawyers would have a field day with this case. But technical flows aside, this novel will keep you turning the page, and you will find Lola Wicks one tough-minded reporter.

Tom Johnson
Detective Mystery Stories

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Ground To A Pulp Trading Cards

Retro style Pulp and Sports Culture of the of the Great Depression Ltd Ed. Trading Card set. Cthulhu card unlocked!
A swell 18 picture card set that every Depression-era boy and girl should have had in their back pocket - but didn't.
After 10/17/13 visit for more info on purchasing this set!
Updated 10/04!

Exactly 80 years ago in 1933, at the height of the Great Depression, U.S. unemployment peaked at 25%. This in an era before Social Security, welfare, food stamps and the myriad of social programs we have today. It's not surprising people did whatever possible to divert themselves from the horrible realities and unknown future that lay ahead of them. After all, things were about to get worse with the Dust Bowl only a few years away, and World War 2 in less than a decade. In the years before television video games and the internet, those not lucky enough to live near an air conditioned movie theater could at least look forward to a 1 cent pack of picture card gum, Sunday comics color insert, or a 10 cent "pulp" magazine, and dream away the day while keeping the wolves and dust at the door. It's also no coincidence that many of the most well known creations from that era were also created 80 years ago.
It's precisely that era that Ground to Pulp celebrates - the vibrant picture card releases like those from National Chicle, Goudey and Gum Inc, and the great pulp heroes fromStreet and SmithPopular Publications and the record-busting American athletes that gave us hope, all born at the nadir of the American Century, fueled by a longing for the return of the American Dream so potent that most of those creations are still with us today.
Ground to Pulp is a set that any kid from the 1930s would recognize, with the possible exception of H.P. Lovecraft, who at that time was still only known to the "tinfoil hat brigade" of Weird Tales readers, and Rondo Hatton "the Creeper", though kids would have likely seen him in bit parts throughout the 1930s. The artwork remains in pulp cover style, a little slicker than the images found in Sport Kings or Indian Gum, vibrant but a little faded. Pulp cover artist Hubert Rogers and Basil Gogos were probably the two biggest influences on this set. These 2.5 x 3.5 inch cards will NOT be glossy or UV coated in keeping with the retro feel of this set and the production methods of the era. 18 subjects were more or less chosen from personal preference. The set started out as a pulp set but I included Red Grange, Jim Thorpe, Bronko Nagurski, Mel Ott, Jimmy Doolittle and Jimmy Fox late in the development. There are obvious omissions like the Phantom Detective, who also celebrates his 80th anniversary this year, Joe Louis or James J Braddock, or Robert E Howard and Buster Crabbe as Tarzan, Flash Gordon AND Buck Rogers. I also decided against making them the smaller size seen in the 1930's as I didn't think they'd be as accessible to today's collectors. The card design of the reverse appears yellowed and aged for an older feel.
Included with the base set, for all pledges $28 and over is a randomly inserted original hand-drawn sketch card of one of the 18 subjects in the set, and maybe even a few others!

Prints for this series will be printed on tan pulp-style paper and arranged into two sets. They really look old! I have given some of these away in the past and they were well received. This will be the only time these prints will be available, as I am not in the print business. Most of the prints have a much larger image area than the images on the cards, as they are un-cropped. Hang these stunning 8 1/2 by 11 inch prints in your home, office, den, Fortress of Solitude, or Inner Sanctum with pride.
This print is done in the style of a pulp cover proof on semi-gloss paper. The palette is sort of a sea green/urine yellow. Lovecraft himself is sort of a sickly purple. I tried this with normal coloring, but Lovecraft just doesn't share the same health or tone of some of the other tanned and glistening adventure heroes of this set. A rosy cheeked Lovecraft just looked silly.
An array of rewards is offered for this project. Like my last project, prints will only be available through Kickstarter and will not be available for retail. So pledge now if you want them!
Why Kickstarter?
Kickstarter allows a project to grow more organically than with traditional funding - response, feedback and things like stretch goals take it in directions that it might not have headed in a traditional manner. Therefore, the choice was obvious.
What the money will be used for:
Once funds are released they will be used for covering the cost of printing, both the cards and the rewards and the Amazon/Kickstarter processing fees.

Risks and challengesLearn about accountability on Kickstarter

The artwork is 96 percent complete, aside from color, contrast, brightness correction, correcting eye and hair color, and minor details of that nature. There is always some frustration and delays from dealing with a commercial printer, but once the funds are released, essentially all there is to do is click a few buttons to send printing orders off. All rewards were delivered within 5 weeks of project close of my last Kickstarter project and i'm hoping to repeat that again. Producing more than 200 hand drawn sketchcards within a month can be a challenge, but I've been doing this sort of thing for over a decade now, and shipped to every continent except Antarctica. (For some reason they don't like my work there.)

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Doctor Lovebeads

Doctor Lovebeads (Literary Mystery)
By Gary Reilly
ISBN #978-0984786053
Running Meter Press
Price $16.95
296 Pages
Rating 5-Stars

“Murph Joins The Hippies”

Brendon Murphy, a Rocky Mountain cab driver in Denver tends to get involved too often with his passengers’ personal lives. While parked in front of a hotel waiting for fares, he spots three kids dressed like hippies, panhandling. Fearing the doorman of the hotel will call the police he offers the kids a free ride to a safer location. The next day he spots the same kids panhandling at a bus stop in town, and pulls up to ask them what they are doing. A bus stop isn’t a good place to panhandle either. Learning that two of the girls have free tickets to a concert miles away, and knowing they don’t have the money to get there – or the time, as it’s only a few hours till the concert starts, he feels sorry for them and offers to take them there in his cab – free.

Everything is fine until he learns the girls are missing, and the police are investigating the case. Murph discovers that the girls are staying at a commune with more hippies, and decides it’s his fault. Yep, he gets involved again. But this time he dresses like a hippy and enters the commune, hoping to talk the girls into coming back to their families. It begets more problems than he can imagine.

Murph’s latest problems appear set to fail from the start, as the girls are there of their own will, and the members of the commune are willing to protect them from outside interference. Maybe this time the Asphalt Warrior has bitten off more than he can chew.

As always, the adventures of the Asphalt Warrior are an entertaining and fun read. Somehow, you just know the cab driver will find a way – if he can live through the experience. I was also amused as Murph thought back to reading Doc Savage and wanting to grow up to be like Doc. The Doc Savage series must have influenced a lot of young men and women growing up. I knew several who became doctors because of Savage. It is little wonder the Asphalt Warrior has become highly recommended reading.

 Tom Johnson
Detective Mystery Stories

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Red Scream

The Red Scream (Murder Mystery)
By Pietro Reviglio
Price $.99
68 Pages
Rating 5-Stars

“Solving Crimes Just Might Backfire”

Arriving in New York, a young writer rents an apartment in a low rent district, but discovers that the last tenant was brutally murdered. He is advised by other tenants not to rent the apartment, but does. Curious about the murder he investigates on his own.

This is an interesting murder mystery, with a strange twist at the end. This is a good yarn, well written, and with plenty of suspects in the rooming house. So what could go wrong?

The author has a sense of humor that readers will find enjoyable, and the ending will take you completely by surprise. Highly recommended.

 Tom Johnson
Detective Mystery Stories