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 fadingshadows40@gmail.com

Saturday, January 12, 2019

The Spider Slaughter, Incorporated

Originally slated to appear in The Spider Magazine in the 1940s, "Slaughter, Incorporated" was ultimately shelved when that magazine was cancelled. Never before published directly from author Donald G. Cormack's original manuscript, this edition has been faithfully reconstructed as an exact copy of the never-published February 1944 issue of The Spider Magazine, complete with vintage interior illustrations. In addition, The Spider: Slaughter, Incorporated (Facsimile Edition) marks the first publication of the never-before-published lost Red Finger story, "Red Finger and the Murder Trio," penned by Arthur Leo Zagat. Also including a story by longtime Spider author, Norvell Page. Rounded out by an introduction by Spider scholar, Will Murray, The Spider: Slaughter, Incorporated (Facsimile Edition) is the most important pulp publication of the year.


The Spider Slaughter, Incorporated (Pulp Reprint)
By Grant Stockbridge (Donald G. Cormack)
Altus Press www.altuspress.com
ISBN #978-1618273178
Price $19.95 (Paperback)
96 Pages
Rating 5-Stars

This was the last Spider novel written in 1943 for Popular Publications, scheduled for publication February 1944. It was obvious that PP had decided to drop the series, as the main author, Norvell Page, was working for the government now. They had hired Donald G. Cormack to write the final entry, but the series ended before Slaughter, Incorporated was published. There wasn’t much of a plot; it was all about the ending. The Spider and Richard Wentworth in a fight to the death. It was a plot to kill The Spider once and for all, and as the story ends we see The Spider dead and Richard Wentworth standing victorious above him. Even Police Commissioner Kirkpatrick buys the finale. I had read this story years ago when Robert Weinberg published it in paperback under the title of Blue Steel.

It took many years, but Altus Press has finally published this important novel in the style of the old pulp magazines, including interior artwork, with short stories in the back pages. One of the short stories is an unpublished Red Finger story that was rejected during the pulp period, Red Finger And The Murder Trio, so readers are not getting just one unpublished story, but two in this lost volume featuring The Spider. There is also a Norvell Page and Wayne Rogers short story in the back. This book is a must for any pulp fan, and highly recommended.

Tom Johnson

Author of THE BLACK BAT COMPANION

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Complete Adventures of The Domino Lady

“Compliments of the Domino Lady!” In order to avenge the murder of her father, socialite Ellen Patrick donned a domino mask, an evening dress and packed a .45. Running for six rare stories in mid-1930s pulp magazines, these stories remain elusive. Now, these are collected in an affordable edition, complemented by an all-new Afterword by pulp historian Tom Johnson.


Complete Adventures of The Domino Lady (Pulp Reprint)
By Lars Anderson
Altus Press www.altuspress.com
ISBN #978-1618273581
Price $19.95
176 Pages
Rating 5-Stars

This beautiful volume produced by ALTUS PRESS reprints the complete run of six issues of this popular pulp heroine; only the second masked heroine to fight crime on her own merits. Yes, there were several women detectives in the pulps, as well as the women who fought beside their men, like The Spider’s Nita Van Sloan, or The Shadow’s Mira Reldon, etc. In this volume are: The Domino Lady Collects; The Domino Lady Doubles Back; The Domino Lady’s Handicap; Emeralds Aboard; Black Legend; and The Domino Lady’s Double. The exciting cover is from the November 1936 issue of Mystery Adventure Magazine, which contained The Domino Lady’s Double.

The Domino Lady is in reality, a young socialite named Ellen Patrick. When her father, District Attorney Owen Patrick is murdered, Ellen dons a black domino mask and goes after the criminals of the city. She’s smart, sexy, and carries a .45 automatic, and a syringe containing a knockout serum.

The six novelettes have interesting plots, and Ellen Patrick follows in the footsteps of Johnston McCulley’s The Masked Lady from 1921, the first woman to wear a mask and evening dress to go after criminals more than a decade before The Domino Lady. Personally, I don’t know why The Domino Lady wasn’t given her own magazine, and a longer run? The stories were a lot of fun. New pulp authors have certainly carried her over in modern day pulpy action, though they have her jumping in bed with any and everyone. They really need to read the original stories to get a real feel for the character. With this collection it is possible to finally read the series in one setting, and I highly recommend this book to pulp fans, and future Domino Lady scribes. Now you can read the real Domino Lady.

Tom Johnson

Author of The Man In The Black Fedora

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

The Adventure of the Dux Bellorum

Intelligence agent Lucy Harker receives the most dangerous job in the world — keeping Winston Churchill safe in the Great War. Despite her unique abilities as Dracula's daughter, she loses Churchill to Kaiser Wilhelm's inhuman allies. If she's to recover Britain's greatest leader, Agent Harker must gain the aid of her Austrian lover, Countess Karnstein — better known as Carmilla. But the notorious vampire is keeping secrets that might doom the British Empire.


The Adventure of The Dux Bellorum (Feminism SF)
By Cynthia Ward
Aqueduct Press
ISBN #978-1619751537
Price $12.00 (Paperback)
Price $5.95 (Kindle)
156 Pages
Rating 5-Stars

In this alternate history of WWI, Lucy Harker is ordered by M of the British Secret Service to guard Lt/Col Winston Churchill while he resides with his men on the front lines. Dr. Kruger, the German scientist who fights against the allies, has created a pack of wolfmen, and they attack Lucy, leaving her dead, and carrying off Churchill. When her lover arrives and brings Lucy back to life, they set off searching for Dr. Kruger’s new lab in the mountains. Here a fierce battle ensues, and single-handed, Lucy fights and kills the Mahars of Pellucidar and pterodactyls before reaching Churchill, and we see Lucy in magnificent form. You see, Lucy is a dhampir – a vampire killer.

This well written short novel is a sequel to The Adventures of the Incognita Countess. Lucy’s father was actually Dracula, but she is also related to Sherlock Homes and has his investigative ability, plus we see men and women, British and German, react to the British spy. The fight in the mountains with Mahars and pterodactyls shows her true strength and ability against great odds. I can highly recommend this book for its great characterization and action in an alternate universe.

Tom Johnson

Author of The Masked Avenger

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Sanderson of Metro

Two masters of the superhero pulp fiction world, Frank Dirscherl and Bobby Nash, have come together to tell this tale, the NEVER before told origin of the first Wraith/Paul Sanderson, as only they could. Witness to the original Sanderson's early childhood, the emptiness in his soul, his yearning for meaning in his life, his finding it in the wilds of Africa and coming face-to-face with the man who would one day become his greatest nemesis. And finally, how he was endowed with the awesome powers of the Eyes of Judgment, becoming the very first Wraith Dread Avenger of the Underworld. This action packed, atmospheric thrill ride could only be told now and could only be told by master storytellers like Dirscherl and Nash. An epic, never to be repeated and not to be missed.


Sanderson of Metro (Superhero Pulp Fiction)
By Frank Dirscherl & Bobby Nash
Trinity Comics
ISBN #978-0646979236
Trinity Comics
Price $13.58 (Paperback)
232 Pages
Rating 4-Stars

From the comic book series the authors bring the origin of The Wraith to prose fiction.  Paul Sanderson, of Metro, is a spoiled rich kid reaching for attention from his mother and father and can’t find it. As an adult he sets out to travel the world looking for his place in it. Almost dying in the African desert, he is saved by a native who tells him there is an ancient prophesy about a white man coming who will save the world, and Paul is the fulfillment of that prophesy. He is taken to a mountaintop where an old man trains him for his coming place in history as the Dread Avenger of the Underworld. But it goes deeper than this. If Paul dies, he is to pass on the power to someone else.

In fact, it is the second man telling the story, as Paul has already died and been replaced by Michael Reeve, a Metro policeman. The story is well written, and the Paul Sanderson’s character flushed out fairly well, but for an origin story we don’t get a whole lot of action. There’s just enough to move the story along. And by the time he starts to fight crime in Metro City, it’s time for him to die and be replaced by the super hero who will carry the legend on after Paul’s death. This is Book #1 in the prose series, and I suspect there is more action in future stories, or at least I would hope so. For those following the Wraith’s stories in comic books, this prose entry will clear up a lot of mystery behind the character, and is a must read for that reason alone. I highly recommend this well written entry for all comic book fans.

Tom Johnson
Author of THE MAN IN THE BLACK FEDORA



Tuesday, December 18, 2018

The Midnight Guardian

WHO PROTECTS YOUR CITY IN THE HOUR OF DARKNESS? In the days of Prohibition, mobster and racketeer Nicholas Diamond—aka Nicky Dynamite—held Union City in an iron grip of fear. But in a heroic moment on a summer night in 1922, one good cop stood his ground and sacrificed his life to stop Diamond’s relentless advance and protect his city. More than a decade later, Diamond is back and determined to reestablish power by building an organization even more widespread and nefarious than his alcohol empire of old. Leaving an explosive calling card wherever he strikes, his exact whereabouts remain a mystery to the police. Enter Jack Hunter, Union City’s up-and-coming assistant district attorney. He’s fiercely committed to taking Diamond down by any means necessary, even if he has to bend the rules to do it. When Hunter acquires advanced technology that pushes his natural abilities to a level that’s more than human, he dives headlong into the gray area between law and justice and becomes a defender of a different kind. Will Hunter be strong enough and fast enough to stop a madman so obsessed with controlling the city that he’s willing to destroy it? The answer lies somewhere in the Hour of Darkness. Join author John C. Bruening for New Pulp thrills and adventure in his debut novel, a work Jim Beard (SGT. JANUS, CAPTAIN ACTION) calls “pulp world-building at is high-octane finest!”


The Midnight Guardian: Hour of Darkness (New Pulp)
By John C. Bruening
Flinch Books
ISBN #978-0997790306
Price $16.99 (Paperback)
416 Pages
Rating 4-Stars

It’s 1936, and after more than a decade, Nicky Diamond is out of prison and back in Union City. He had tried to take over the town during Prohibition, but a police officer had stopped his men before they killed him. Now that police officer’s son, Jack Hunter, is the Assistant D.A., and he wants to put a stop to the crime lord for good. The police have proven ineffective against the mob boss, and the D.A.’s office needs proof to put Diamond back behind bars. Jack and his cousin, Buzz Hunter have always been good at making things and working with equipment, and Buzz has invented a battery operated mask with goggles that gives the wearer heightened abilities, such as seeing in the dark, able to anticipate movements, and the ability to move faster than normal, and react with lightning reflexes. Jack tries them on one night and is impressed. Now maybe he can do something the police can’t do, like get evidence.

This well written novel is plot driven, and the characters seem secondary, but they are interesting. The first 150 pages give us a close look at Nicky Diamond and his psychotic behavior. He is hooked on Benzedrine, better known to truck drivers and entertainers today as Bennies. His actions are a mixed bag, even among his own men. Even after the first 150 pages we still follow Diamond more than the hero. It is the villain running the show. We do see the hero in action, but the author uses descriptive narrative extensively, and the action is slowed down while rooms and areas are described during the action. Don’t get me wrong, I love good descriptive narrative, but in this instance, the pace of the action bogs down, and the story fails to flow, making this 400-page thriller hard to read.  The reader is tempted to put the book down and do something else, which is not what an author wants to happen. There are more than a few editing errors, but they don’t harm the story line. They could have used a few proofreaders to eliminate the problem, however.

I enjoy seeing a good villain in these new pulp hero novels, but I would like to see more of the hero. We see everything that this villain does, and are privy to most of his plans, so there is little mystery for the reader. Our hero pulls a real boner that no good hero should ever do. He is captured and unmasked by the enemy. However, no one recognizes him, so he reveals his identity to them! Heroes don’t reveal their identity if they want to fight crime behind a mask. Regardless, this is an excellent story, the author is a master of words, and I highly recommend it to new pulp readers.

Tom Johnson

Author of THE MAN IN THE BLACK FEDORA