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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 fadingshadows40@gmail.com

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Leo Margulies: Giant of The Pulps

Pulp magazines written initially for boys in the first half of the Twentieth Century dominated the industry with stories about cowboys and Indians, science fiction, and adventure. They were written by such illustrious authors as Louis L’Amour, Ray Bradbury, L. Ron Hubbard, and Isaac Asimov, with a readership of tens of millions, for 10 cents a copy. The best-known editor of this era was Leo Margulies, editor-in-chief of Standard Magazines – The Thrilling Group. During one period, he bought two million words a month. He edited more than 70 magazines and was, for a time, the highest-paid pulp magazine editor in the country. Leo Margulies: Giant of the Pulps—His Thrilling, Exciting, and Popular Journey, by his nephew, Philip Sherman, includes stories by members of his family, friends, and writers, about his generosity and encouragement to so many. Dr. Sherman’s extensive research draws largely upon correspondence records from university archives, including University of Oregon, Northern Arizona University, Boston University, and Texas A&M University, and many others, and from journals such as Writers’ Digest and Author & Journalist. He talked and wrote to writers and others who knew his uncle and of course drew upon his own family’s personal experiences with this remarkable man.


Leo Margulies: Giant of The Pulps (Non-Fiction Biography)
By Philip Sherman
Altus Press www.altuspress.com
ISBN #978- 1618272980
Price $19.95
356 Pages
Rating 5-Stars

“An Editor Who Casts A Giant Shadow.”

The story of Leo Margulies cannot be told without his wife, Cylvia Kleinman Margulies, by his side. Both were true giants in the publishing and editing world. However, this book is focused, and rightly so, and the giant of the pulps, Leo Margulies. His nephew, Philip Sherman, discusses Leo’s early life and his love for books, to his rise as managing editor of the Ned Pines’ pulp house in 1932. Remaining with the Thrilling Group, under it’s many imprints he was in charge of building that empire to one of the four biggest pulp houses of its day. Dr. Sherman covers each of the magazines under Leo’s guiding hand, as well as covering aspects of his personal life. From The Phantom Detective in 1933 to The Man From U.N.C.L.E. in 1960, and until his death at age 75, in December 1975, we learn of his rise, his losses, and his achievements. He always pushed forward, and it was his work that built Ned Pine’s pulp empire, and later his own imprints in the science fiction, detective, and western fiction magazines.

This is a remarkable book, with much data covering the publishing field from early ARGOSY to Leo’s death, and the road he traveled to reach his goal. Although not a book strictly on the pulps, it’s basically a biography of the managing editor, and how he made an empire out of the Thrilling Group. I wish we had biographies on all the pulp editors, as well as the publishers. I was a huge fan of the Thrilling line of pulp magazines, and would love to learn more about Mr. Pines, the man behind the publishing house. Pulps were around for two World Wars and the Korean Conflict, along with numerous skirmishes, yet fiction for the masses survived and entertained. Readers interested in learning more about the pulps, and especially the man considered a giant among them, should pick up this well written book about a fascinating editor. Highly recommended.

Tom Johnson

Author of THE PHANTOM DETECTIVE COMPANION

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Earth Volk

An alien presence, the government’s greatest secret, directs the nations of the world into a brutal confidential war. After taking the volks, an alien mother and off-spring into captivity, it is soon uncovered that they are also from the future… as in 26 million years into the future. Follow Eddy, the child-volk, as he is raised in undisclosed confinements. From his own words, discover how they travelled across space and time. Other beings descend upon the earth in search of the volks. They understand just how important volks really are. Eddy and his mother plot a daring attempt to return to the world where they came from, but their plan goes disastrously wrong. Well into his teens, Eddy finds out his twin brother, Grizz, has survived through an independent organization. Their plans were to train him to be their ultimate weapon. There are shocking consequences to the actions wreaking havoc by these volk’s. Before they can escape earth or die trying, they must endure, what they call, our nightmare world. The advanced volk technologies and lifestyles captivate and challenge the human way of life, but the implications unsurfaced the rampant wrath of the volks.


Earth Volk (SF)
“Genation Book #1”
By Robert A. Hunt
Independent Publishing Platform
ISBN #978- 1484067666
Price $28.00
418 Pages
Rating 3-Stars

“No Solid Structure.”

Eddy and his half-brother, Grizz, are in their insectoid rocket ship entering a far away galaxy when they come upon a space station that looks abandoned. Landing, they are immediately attacked by strange aliens. Eddy is a Volk, a species similar to humans, but with some insect DNA. His half brother is part human and part Volk. Both are good martial fighters; they carry Samurai swords and Shuriken throwing stars. They are hacking away at the weird aliens, slicing body parts off right and left, but we’re told the aliens are good, and it doesn’t matter, all they have to do is put their body parts back on and they immediately attach again. His half-brother is captured, and Eddy is hard pressed when he gets a telepathic summons, and follows the voice to a planet below where he’s drawn to a window. Inside is another Volk wearing a hood and robe – here I was waiting for the figure to say something like, “Eddy, I am your father.” But the hooded figure waves the attacking alien away, proving he is someone powerful on the world, or just has magical powers. Whatever the case, the scene changes time and space, and we are now with Eddy’s mother and father on their honeymoon in their insectoid spaceship (I keep imagining a wasp with wings flapping). Eddy’s father is curious about glowing spheres that show some kind of life, but he is absorbed by one and disappears, possibly exploding and dies. It leaves Eddy’s mother alone, and suddenly there’s a move in time and space, and his mother finds her ship in 20th Century Earth’s atmosphere. Jet aircraft is sent up to intercept her space ship, while there are flying saucers floating around also. Eddy’s mother recognizes the UFO aliens, but it’s too early in the time frame for them to recognize her species. There is an accident, and her spacecraft crashes into a lake, but she has escaped. The flying saucer aliens shoot a bean of light that burns her whole body. She finds a cabin and then helicopters land and take her to a medical facility for treatment, and scientific investigation, naturally. It appears these are American doctors. Then she lays two eggs, one child is dead, but Eddy lives. Now baby Eddy takes over narrative again while his body is still forming, telling about the medical facilities and his mother. And that’s as far as I got in this novel.

I apologize to the author. I saw this on Amazon, and the Blurb caught my interest, so I requested a review copy. There isn’t much solid structure through the first eight chapters, and the POV changes too often to grasp any kind of meaningful plot. I was still confused at the end of Chapter 8, and I couldn’t force myself to start Chapter 9, so I put the book away uncompleted. Evidently Eddy’s mother, Gastonish (renamed Gail for more confusion) will mate with a human later in the novel, giving Eddy a half-brother named Grizz. Now remember, though this female appears human, she has insect DNA and lays eggs (with an umbilical cord?). I studied biology in school, and this just doesn’t seem possible for human-insect mating and childbirth. Nature may find a way in the reptile kingdom, and I am familiar with the Platypus, but even the Bible says each to its own kind. The concept is good, so I’m giving the author 3 stars, but work is really needed on the structure and plot. I couldn’t get through the book, but others might.

Tom Johnson

Author of THESE ALIEN SKIES

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Cover Reveal: Pangaea: Eden's Planet

Cover Reveal: With PANGAEA: EDEN’S PLANET coming off contract in June, I’ve been working on rewrites to the novel, plus Tom TV Powers has provided me with a new cover for the upcoming Kindle book that FADING SHADOWS will release in late June or early July. The story of Pangaea takes place in the Permian Period of our planet’s prehistoric past, 250 million years ago. Seven astronauts go through a time warp in space, and crash land back on Earth. Their mission had been to Mars, but now it has become a mission of survival. One of the main predators of the period is the Dimetrodon, which is featured on the new cover 

Thursday, May 4, 2017

The Princeling of Nanjing

Ava is in Shanghai for the launch of the PÖ clothing line. She has invited Xu, and over the course of the glitzy event and a late-night dinner, she detects a certain hesitancy in him. He confides that the Tsai family, headed by Tsai Lian, the governor of Jiangsu Province and a “princeling” — he is the son of a general who was on the Long March with Mao and a member of China’s power elite — is trying to force him and his Triad organization back into the drug business. Xu is already paying millions of dollars a year to various Tsai businesses, but the family wants more and thinks the new venture can deliver it. Xu believes this move would lead to his eventual destruction and feels he has nowhere to turn. If he opposes them, they will crush him. If he goes along with them, he thinks that inevitably the police and military will hunt him down. Ava sets out to help Xu deter the Tsai family. As she digs into the breadth and depth of the family’s wealth and corruption, she gets caught up in a huge tangled web, extending all the way to the U.S. and the U.K., where it reaches the top echelons of political power.

The Princeling of Nanjing (International Intrigue)
“An Ava Lee Novel”
By Ian Hamilton
House of Anansi Press
ISBN #978-1487001605
Price 10.84
496 Pages
Rating 5-Stars


“A Smooth Page Turner.”

Ava Lee is with May Ling and Amanda, her partners in the Three Sisters business in Shanghai, as they start their clothing business. Their benefactor, Xu is on hand, but he reveals that a powerful Chinese family is forcing him into the drug business, and they won’t take no for an answer. He is truly between a rock and a hard spot. Drugs are a business he doesn’t want in, and if he says no they could destroy him. Although he doesn’t ask Ava for help, she feels obligated to look into the family’s financial dealings. What she finds is proof of bribes and illegal money laundering, something that might look bad within the other Chinese power structures. She begins following the money, and things get more complicated when the head of the family discovers who is doing it.

This is the 8th Ava Lee novel, and the writing continues to be smooth and topnotch. The story is character driven, and the characters actually become part of the reader. We feel a kinship to Ava, May Ling, Amanda, Xu, Sonny, Suen, and everyone involved. They are like our own family. Highly recommended.

Tom Johnson

Author of THE MAN IN THE BLACK FEDORA

Monday, May 1, 2017

Glass Souls

In the abyss of a profound personal crisis, Commissario Ricciardi feels unable to open himself up to life. He has refused the love of both Enrica and Livia and the friendship of his partner, Maione. Contentment for Ricciardi proves as elusive as clues to the latest crime he has been asked to investigate.

The beautiful, haughty Bianca, countess of Roccaspina, pleads with Ricciardi to investigate a homicide that was officially closed months ago. In the tense, charged atmosphere of 1930s Italy, where Benito Mussolini and his fascist thugs monitor the police closely, an unauthorized investigation is grounds for immediate dismissal and possible criminal charges. But Ricciardi's thirst for justice cannot be sated.

A tightly plotted historical noir novel, this eighth installment in the Commissario Ricciardi series is a gripping meditation on revenge and justice in which each character's soul reveals itself to be made of glass.

Glass Souls (Historical Noir Mystery)
By Maurizio De Giovanni
Europa Editions
ISBN #978- 1609454098
Price $12.19
424 Pages
Rating 5-Stars

“Giovanni Continues To Entertain.”

It’s September, and serious crimes are absent at the moment, leaving Commissario Ricciardi and his partner Brigadier Maione with nothing to do. Ricciardi is still suffering after the death of his housekeeper, and his lost love, Enrica. Maione is worried about him, but perks up when Bianca, countess of Roccaspina, approaches them to investigate a four month-old murder already solved. Her husband is in prison, awaiting trial, after confessing to the crime, but his wife wants to know why, since she knows he was with her when the crime was committed.

The case interests them, especially if her husband was somewhere else at the time. Why would he confess? Ricciardi knows murder can be pinned to either hunger or love/hate. To be doing something to occupy his mind, they take the case, though it’s against Rome to do so.

Livia believes Ricciardi is homosexual since he won’t make love to her, and Enrica may soon be engaged to a handsome German soldier, leaving his love life in limbo, and it doesn’t help when the Fascists think the police officer is a homosexual. They won’t him removed.

Glass Souls is character driven, each character proving that souls are merely glass, ready to be shattered. Even if Ricciardi can save Bianca’s soul, can he save his own? And will Enrica discover that Ricciardi also has a glass soul?  The author continues to entertain with his police novels set in Italy, whether contemporary or the 1930s. He is the best writer to come out of Europe in my opinion, and I devour every novel he writes. However, I’m anxious for Commissario Ricciardi to settle down with Enrica, and quit leaving us hanging in every novel. Bring some other characters in for romantic entanglements, and let Ricciardi and Enrica have a quiet home life for a change, after all, it’s been eight novels now, gee. Really, though, this is a wonderful series, and I highly recommend it to mystery lovers, as well as historical noir.

Tom Johnson

Author of THE MAN IN THE BLACK FEDORA