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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

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Similar Covers

Above is the July 1939 issue of Black Book Detective, featuring The Black Bat. Below is the Fall 1941 issue of Exciting Western. See the similarities in the cover? Pulp cover artists probably made twenty-five dollars for a cover, so hiring models for each cover might not be feasible. Why not just a few changes in a previous painting? Thanks to Matt Moring of Altus Press for the heads up on these two covers. Both covers are from Ned Pines' Thrilling line.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Modern Pulp Heroes

Modern Pulp Heroes (Pulp Thriller)
Pulp Empire Vol #1
By Various Authors
ISBN #9781477575811
Metahuman Press
191 Pages
Price $12.00
Rating 3-Stars

E 31 by Terry Alexander is a nice entry concerning the experiments in transferring mind control from humans into animals. Naturally, such a discovery could have many aspects, and worth millions. It could also lead to murder. This is an exciting, and entertaining story. Excellent plot but lacks good characterization.

Toybox Warrior by Teel James Glenn is an interesting tale, to say the least. A boy genius is being used by the military to create new strategies for war, but he needs a tutor to assist him in the “games”. Retired Marine Major Deacon Furie applies for the job, and then learns the real story behind the boy’s power. Well written, exciting, entertaining, and top notch.

The Commander of Knights by Caine Dorr. Uh, I’m not even sure this constitutes a real story. Commander Knight and his driver, Mac, leave the giant skyscraper on a “mission”, but in the parking garage find there has been an accident and they can’t get to their car. It’s a trap, but after a lot of shooting, and Knight muscling the so-called wrecks out of the way, they are quickly on the way. Evidently, they have a tracking device in the car and know who they are after. Catching up to the car, another fight ensues, Knight gets his shirt ripped a la Doc Savage, and they rescue a German girl. A lot of action, but it read more like fan fiction than a real story.

To The Mountaintop by Jeff Pawlak.  Great boxing story, in this case MMA – mixed martial arts, in which a young fighter is just now reaching the top ranks in the profession. However, he’s now facing tougher competition, and during a three-fight contest, he breaks his hand during the second bout. Now he must prove he really wants to move up in the sport. Whether boxing or martial arts, this was a well-written and entertaining story. Top notch.

Return of The Blade by Steven Gepp. A long line of family “punishers” is using a sword to whack off the hands of criminals in the act.  From grandfather, to father, and now the son, an Australian calling himself The Blade seeks justice.  This one had more potential, but was a bit too short. I would have liked to see more of the story.

Sisiphus Komplex by Joe Mogel. Okay, let’s see if I got this right. The Devil turns two Nazis into zombies, and offers them freedom once they kill so many evil people – and save so many good people’s life. Plus, they have comic book super powers. But in the end, the Devil has his true plans, which they don’t really understand. Maybe this would have worked in a comic book, but it felt out of place in this anthology. Plus, the over-use of German in the dialogue was too distracting for a good read.

Maximum Death by Viktor Kowalski. While filming an action spy movie in South America, the lead actor Charlie Porter is entangled in a real spy case when an undercover cop plants a microchip in his pocket while running from the Cartel. The best story in the volume by far, and the most exciting. Top notch!

Domino Reborn by Nicholas Ahlhelm. On Fiona Hazzard’s return to America from London, she learns of the murder of her parents. Strangely, at the funeral a 90-year old woman tells her she is Ellen Patrick, Fiona’s great-great grandmother. Ellen gives her a black domino mask and asks her to assume the role of her old self, the Domino Lady, in order to bring her parents killers to justice. The indication is that Ellen married Captain Hazzard (duh!), thus the name of her descendants. This was a hard story to get through, and read like a fan fiction piece, plus the story doesn’t end – we’re supposed to buy the next issue (huh?).

This was a mix match of stories, four were pretty good, a few actually topnotch, but the other four were mediocre at best; two even read like fan fiction instead of professional stories.

Friday, June 15, 2012

The New Adventures of The Eagle

The New Adventures of The Eagle (Spy Thriller)
By Various Authors
ISBN #978-1477577653
Pro Se Press
186 Pages
Price $12.00
Rating 3 Stars

The Eagle originated in the pulp magazines during the 1940s, and featured American G-2 spy, Jeff Shannon, known to the world of espionage as The Eagle. This volume contains six brand new adventures of the characters by new pulp writers.

“Lights! Camera! Sabotage!” by Bobby Nash is a simple plot involving sabotage of secret military installations conducting classified experiments. The sabotage occurs during the filming of a movie studio nearby, and one of the members is suspected of being a spy. Naturally they call The Eagle back from Europe to handle the case (?).

Well written and interesting, but weak. Anyone could have uncovered the spy, even a Hollywood detective. The author uses a lot of popular phrases that add nothing to the story in my opinion. Although, Nazis are mentioned, and it’s obvious the story takes place during WWII, one of the actresses is wearing a bikini. Bikinis were not introduced until 1946, so I may be wrong about the time period. I won’t even discuss The Eagle’s escape from a locked room filled with gasoline fumes (from barrels of petrol) by exploding small charges against the door! But a fun read, nevertheless.

“A Black Friday In Australia” by Lee Houston, Jr. In 1939 The Eagle is sent to Australia by request of their government, but while en route, he discovers an Axis agent on board the ship and uncovers a dangerous plot. Germany has set up Safe Harbor in Australia, where their ships and submarines can dock for refuel and supplies. The Eagle is captured, but a huge brush fire is spreading over this part of Australia, and the Germans have to abandon the Site as the fire approaches. Jeff Shannon is left to die, but escapes and trails them on a motorcycle. The fire eventually catches everyone but The Eagle.

Well written, but a one-dimensional plot, and with characters you don’t really care for. The author relies on an actual event – the brush fire of 1939 that destroyed so much area of Australia. Still, a fun read, even with the minor faults.

“The Melting Skin” by Ashley Mangin.  The basic plot has to do with Germany inventing a radio wave that melts the skin. But this is a ruse, as an American gangster intends to steal plans from England’s work on the atomic bomb. The Eagle rushes from an America beach to England to France, to Germany – in the matter of paragraphs, then returns to England with his report, but discovers that the enemy has been aware of his every move. He had really been set up, so now it’s back to France and Germany to catch a couple double agents, and back to France once more; then he returns to America to pick up two friends to help him catch the gangster, and then ends up back at the beach.

The plot was terrible, and badly executed. There was really no “interesting” action to keep a reader involved. I had trouble getting through the story.

“Fire From The Skies” by R. P. Steeves. A scientist has been kidnapped in Greece. He was working on a super weapon Germany wanted. Obtaining his papers, no one could interpret them, so they hoped to use his old love as a threat against him. Jeff Shannon, aided by his secretary (?) Joan, and a Greek named Rico go after the kidnapper who has the scientist, hoping to stop him before they can take him to Germany. There’s quite a bit of action, but The Eagle is never in any real danger. Regardless of the plot, this seems to be a minor entry, just moving from one action scene to the next. But the author definitely keeps the action moving.

“The Coming Storm” by Teel James Glenn.  In the U.S., the Brown Shirts have kidnapped a scientist and holding him in nearby Camp Nordland in Sussec County, New Jersey. The FBI has sent in agents, but they were lost, feared murdered by the Bund. They request from G-2 America’s greatest spy, The Eagle.  Jeff Shannon had once been an amateur magician, and the Bund is seeking entertainers, which the FBI feels will be a way to get The Eagle in their camp.

This was a gem of a story. It had a real plot, real characterization, and good dialogue.  The story is set in September 1938, and the hurricane of September 21st, known as the Long Island Express, plays a part in the final scene. Jeff is assisted by an ex boxer named “Lefty” Kovaks (wonder why there’s never a “Righty?), who felt he owes his life to the super spy. This is a great read by a writer who knows pulp fiction.

“Island of Deceit” by Nick Ahlhelm. Germans have infiltrated a Marine base in the Philippines, with plan to destroy this strategic American military installation, allowing their Japanese allies to take over the island. But C.I.A. agent (what happened to G-2?) Jeff Shannon, The Eagle is on the job.
This was another hard story to get through. Basically, the plot was interesting, but the author lacked the writing ability to pull it off.

I actually wanted to give this a 4-Star rating, but though some of the stories were readable, there was only one that really deserved high ranking. A couple should not have been included in the book. I even have to wonder if any of the writers of this volume ever read an original Eagle story? It is worth reading, if you have a few hours to kill. 

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Savage Land of Jur

Coming soon from NTD, “Savage Land of Jur” by Tom Johnson, the sequel to “Jur: A Story of Pre Dawn Earth”, with a new cover by talented artist, Teresa Tunaley. Originally written in 1970, this has been newly edited, and tightened from the previous editions.

Friday, June 1, 2012

City of Brotherly Death

City of Brotherly Death takes on New Life

Some time ago, the Blood Moons and Nightscapes book Tom and I collaborated on had run its contract. So I had in mind to publish my share of the stories through the Night to Dawn imprint. Steel Rose and its sequel, Blood Moon Rising, have been my major focus these last several months, and an editor is reviewing Steel Rose now. So when I started putting together my anthology, I saw it as a quick stop-off between my magazine and my works in progress. Then I started going through the stories that were published by The Masque Noir, The Vampire’s Crypt, and the Fading Shadows magazines. I want to take this time to thank Margaret L. Carter, Ginger Johnson, and Rod Marsden for giving these stories a home.
I had fun playing with these tales, tweaking them, and in some cases, coming up with new spins on them. Particularly “Garden of Souls” and “One Last Favor.” All of them take place in Philadelphia, my home town. I spent several months trying out different titles without success. Then I got to thinking, since we have a lot of revenants and zombies, William Penn’s beloved Philadelphia has become a city of brotherly death. Hence my title.
So what did self-publishing mean for me? It meant I didn’t have to rely on a publisher’s timetable or their choice for a cover or editor. It also meant responsibility. I had to handle my own distribution, buy the ISBN’s, and handle my own formatting, editing, cover, and marketing. If you don’t have the skills to do those things, then you hire a team to handle the jobs. I was ahead in the ballgame because I’ve been publishing books for other people.
Dreamstime and Getty Images have great looking cover images for a reasonable price. Designing a cover isn’t my strongest suit, though, and those companies couldn’t help me with that. You have to pick the right size font and color for your title to stand out and look good. NTD illustrator Teresa Tunaley does just that. She took over titling the covers that she illustrated for the NTD books. Lulu and CreateSpace are user-friendly sites for self-publishing, and they have illustrators who can do covers, too.
If you format the interior yourself and work with Lulu or CreateSpace, find out their requirements before you begin. I found this out the hard way with the NTD books. For a 6 by 9 inch trade paperback, for example, your front and back cover dimensions should be about 6.125 by 9.25 inches. Not more, and not less. All print and images should be ½ inch away from the border to avoid getting cut off during manufacturing of the book. Your chapter headers should be about 1/3 way down the page. More important, your headers should be at a consistent level in all chapters. It is best to stick with Garamond or Times New Roman fonts.

I’ve been doing the formatting for the NTD books, including City of Brotherly Death. What helped me was looking at some of the trade paperbacks in a bookstore to get ideas on setting up title page and chapter headers. Each time I begin a new chapter, I count spaces from the top of the page. If you’re new at formatting, Word software can prove a formidable foe. If formatting makes you nervous, Lulu and CreateSpace have people who can format the book for you for a fee.
Your first page should be the title page – Title, author, and the name of your book company. To look professional, you should treat your writing like a business and that means creating your own publishing company.  The next page will have your masthead: your editor, ISBN, illustrator, contact, and copyright information. This is the spot where you mention “Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental, etc.”
I would never self-publish any work without consulting an editor because no writer can see their own mistakes. So a good editor is a wise investment. Alas, so many self-published books turn out badly because of multiple typos and lack of content editing. If money is a constraint, a lot of editors will find a way to work with you. Belonging to a writer’s group will help. Perhaps someone there can refer you to a reputable editor.
I confess to major jitters, and my buddies at the Bucks County Writers’ Group assured me this is normal. Judicious use of Mylar balloons and time spent with my friends helped me to get through that. The book has gone live, and it’s available on Smashwords and Kindle. I’m actually having fun promoting this book, thinking of Philadelphia being overrun by zombies and revenants. I’ve posted my webpage with illustrations of scenes from some of the stories at
One thing does concern me. If William Penn gets a whiff of the tales I’ve been spinning about his beloved Philadelphia, he might come and haunt me.