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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

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Skull Mountain Affair

The Skull Mountain Affair
Man From UNCLE Fan Fiction
By Jill Thomasson
44 Pages
Price $10.00 Post Paid
Rating 5-Stars

Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin are vacationing in South America when a local man is murdered by THRUSH agents looking for a map to the fabled lost city of “Z”, reputed to be a city of gold. When they show up at the scene a young girl asks for their help in protecting her father who is camped in the jungle. She had been forced to tell the killers where he was. After splitting up at the campsite, Illya is captured and taken to a THRUSH prison camp at Skull Mountain where he is tortured, but Solo arrives in time to save him, of course.

This is a well-written, entertaining and exciting story that reads as well as any of the paperbacks and magazine stories in the series. I was very impressed with the author’s writing ability, and story telling, as well as the professionally edited manuscript.

My only complaint, and it is a minor one, is the price and publishing format. With today’s technology of POD, and the availability of professional printers, a perfect binding is possible that would make a collection of these stories available in a perfect bound paperback edition for just a few dollars more. The Skull Mountain Affair is probably 20,000 words, printed on single-sided 8.5 x 11 pages, and inserted in a three-punch folder. A 70,000 word perfect bound paperback can be printed for $12.00 (cheaper if printed in large runs). I understand the method used here is to print out each copy as it is ordered, which does not involve a lot of upfront money and I can certainly understand that, but I think readers – and purchasers – would appreciate a better looking product that will fit on their shelf, along with more bang for their buck. Just saying. Still, without a doubt The Skull Mountain Affair by Jill Thomasson is well worth the price.

Tom Johnson
Echoes Magazine

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Sex, Lies And Private Eyes

Sex, Lies and Private Eyes
Various Authors
ISBN #978-1933076454
Moonstone Books
Price $14.24
274 Pages
Rating 4-Stars

This is another mix batch of stories from Moonstone. Most are topnotch stories by authors with an extensive resume. There are 17 stories included: The Private Wife of Sherlock Holmes by Carole Nelson Douglas (featuring Sherlock Holmes & Irene Adler); Between Heaven And Hoboken by Kevin VanHook & Jamie Sapp (A Mr. Keen story); Murder Gone Wilde by Mike W. Barr (featuring the Maze Agency); The Mind of The Dead by C.J. Henderson (A Kolchak & Lai Wan story); The Pretty Corpse Matter by Eric Fein (A Johnny Dollar story); Recreational Vehicle by John Lutz (a Nudger & Carver story); Eulogy In Blood by Steven Grant (Featuring Pat Novak); Denbow by Stuart M. Kaminsky (a Toby Peters story); Making Michief by Adisakdi Tantimedh (a Blackshirt story); Love Nest by Barbara & Max Allan Collins (a Sam Knight story); Cutting Corners by Christine Matthews (a Candy Matson story); The Doxy Next Door by K.G. McAbee (a Domino Lady story); The Most Vulgar of Insanities by C.J. Henderson (a Jack Hagee story); The Thrill Is Gone by Gary Phillips (featuring the Envoy); Laying Hands by Fred Van Lente (Featuring the Silencers); Ashes In The Wind by Robert J. Randisi (a Truxon Lewis story); and Unreasonable Doubt by Max Allan Collins (a Nate Heller story). A few stories did not seem to belong since I thought this book was supposed to feature private eyes.  Making Michief by Adisakdi Tantimedh was a vigilante of some kind, plus it was just a plain waste. Blackshirt really does nothing but tells his contact he’s sleeping with two women and learning all the secrets of the so-called bad guys. The Thrill Is Gone by Gary Phillips is a dead man who is now supposed to be God’s (?) assassin. Laying Hands by Fred Van Lente is about a mob hit man and space aliens. Oddly, in Murder Gone Wilde by Mike W. Barr a reporter, Gabriel Webb, friend of the main character, solves the case from a clue that he didn’t see. The main character saw it, along with the readers, but Gabriel was nowhere around. Between Heaven And Hoboken by Kevin VanHook & Jamie Sapp was not the Mr. Keen of radio, sorry. The Mind of The Dead by C.J. Henderson really could have had anyone but Kolchek, because the character of Kolchek in this story just didn’t bring the tension the old Night Stalker series contained; although Lai Wan was much better in her role. My two favorite stories in this volume were The Doxy Next Door by K.G. McAbee & The Most Vulgar of Insanities by C.J. Henderson

The stories that triumph overshadows the miscast tales, and most stories are worth reading, except for a few that shouldn’t have been in the volume in the first place.

Tom Johnson
Echoes Magazine

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Dan Fowler: G-Man V#2

Dan Fowler: G-Man V#2
Various Authors
Airship 27 Productions
ISBN #978-0615820231
149 Pages
Price $16.99
Rating 5-Stars

Dan Fowler was the hero of G-Men Detective, a pulp magazine that ran from 1935 till 1953. One of the most popular of the g-men titles, supposedly each story had to be approved by J. Edgar Hoover himself. Whether or not that was true is anyone’s guess, but I’m sure J. Edgar kept his eye on the magazine. Another rumor says it was also a favorite of Al Capone. Again, who can say? Fowler usually worked carte blanche, answering only to his chief, and was often assisted by young Larry Kendal (his name also went through several different spellings due to the number of writers involved). Like most of the Ned Pines pulp line, there were many authors writing the Fowler stories, which made it uneven, but the stories were fun, and the authors were the best writing for the publisher.

This volume, the second in the series from Airship 27, features four exciting stories: “The Undercover Puzzle” by Derrick Ferguson; “Monkey Business by Aaron Smith; “Proof of Supremacy” by Josh Reynolds; and “Feasting On The Predator’s Corpse” by B.C. Bell. Each story captures Dan Fowler, but with the author’s own touch, so much like those original magazine stories. Although there were no disappointments in this book, I thought “Monkey Business” by Aaron Smith might have made a better Phantom Detective story, as Fowler goes undercover to find the killer of a mob boss, not something the Director would have assigned to Fowler, but would have been perfect for the Phantom Detective. Normally I don’t like team ups, as most writers tend to have the heroes fight each other at least once. How can one win, when both are heroes? But in “Proof of Supremacy” by Josh Reynolds, Fowler is joined by Jim Anthony. Jim is tracking the kidnappers of a financier’s daughter, while Fowler is investigating a series of bank robberies. The two seem to work fine together, and there is no fight between them, thankfully. Still, for my book, I would rather the author just bring in Larry Kendal, why bring in a second hero when we already have Fowler?

The front cover and interior art is also top notch. Volume Two far surpasses the first volume in this series, and I expect only good things for Airship 27 in the future, and looking forward to more great stories from this publisher.

Tom Johnson
Echoes Magazine

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Guns of The Black Ghost

Guns of The Black Ghost by Tom Johnson is available on Kindel for $2.99, and as a paperback from the author at for $16.95

I recently got in trouble with a comic book reviewer that read one of my Black Ghost stories in a previous anthology. Basically, he said my character didn’t deserve the cape he wore since he couldn’t fly or leap over tall buildings. My response was that my character is not a comic book super hero, but a pulp crime fighter who wears a costume. Now, I admit there are a lot of similarities between comic book super heroes and pulp crime fighters, but there is a difference.
After the financial Stock Market crash of ’29, the reading public was discouraged with the Roaring Twenties, and the popularization of the American gangster. They were looking for heroes, and the popular media of the day, the pulp magazines, gave them that change.
In 1931, The Shadow hit the stands and was an instant success. In early 1933, The Phantom Detective followed from another publishing house. By 1933, the market place was flooded with pulp heroes: The Spider, G-8, Doc Savage, and many others. Most wore some weird costume, laughed eerily, or sported a domino mask. Most were copies of The Shadow. They were all a lot of fun.
Walter Gibson, the man who gave us the character of The Shadow, drew from several sources in creating the character; turning New York City into a dark and forbidding locale like that of London in the period of Jack the Ripper, and then dressing our hero like the popular vampire of the movies, Dracula, black cape, hypnotic eyes, a sinister voice, et al. Gibson, himself a magician, put magic in his stories, both in atmosphere and in creativity. The character came alive. He appeared in 325 magazine novels, plus a 1960s updated paperback series from Belmont, and two short stories, plus a long running radio drama, several movies, a number of comic book series, and a Saturday Matinee serial. He was extremely popular.
When Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster created their comic book super hero, Superman, they drew heavily from The Shadow & Doc Savage. Bob Kane and Bill Finger gave us the character of the Bat Man shortly after the appearance of Superman, and they also drew
heavily from The Shadow. By the 1950s, the pulp magazines were dying, being replaced by the comic book as the popular reading material of young adults, but the comic books had pulled heavily from the pulps. The main difference was the super abilities of the heroes. In the pulps, our heroes were tough, could swing a hard fist, were usually an expert in disguise, and carried heavy automatics in which to battle 1920s type gangsters on dark streets. The super heroes of the comics could jump over tall buildings, run faster than a speeding building, and even fly!
I admit it I was a fan of the comic books. In the mid 1940s, I was reading Batman, Superman, and all the rest. But when I created the character of The Black Ghost, I drew from the pulps, especially the character of The Shadow. So the reviewer was correct, my character cannot jump tall buildings or fly, but he didn’t get his cape from the comic books. His cape came from much earlier, the pulp costumed crime fighter!
For readers who are not familiar with my Black Ghost stories, they take place in a modern city (never named), which could be anywhere. He fights crime with a pair of .45 automatics and a sinister laugh, while wearing all black to blend with the dark streets where crime dwells. His costume includes a black hood, which completely covers his head, and a black cape over his shoulder – not to fly, but more in keeping with Dracula of the movies. A martial arts expert, he often has to battle criminals who are also trained to kill with their hands. The stories are full of action, but I also work on plot and characterization, so that the stories are not just mindless action and gun battles.
One difference in my modern hero and those in the pulp era, the crime fighters of the 1930s and 1940s could never marry as long as they wore the mask of the hero. The Black Ghost, however, was married early in his career, recorded in a story entitled, “Hunter’s Moon” (later rewritten as “Murder Town”), and his wife has often donned the guise of the crime fighter to confuse the enemy.
To date, I have written eleven adventures of The Black Ghost. If you like fast action, with a lot of gun battles along with a good mystery, I think you will enjoy the stories in this volume. Seven of the eleven adventures are included. Only missing is “The Black Ghost”, an early adventure when he was still a young boy. Also missing is “Hunter’s Moon”, which was co-written with Debra Delorme, and features him as a young adult. “The Spider’s Web” is a novel, and sequel to “Highways In Hiding”, one of the stories in this volume. Then a short novel, “Carnival of Death” is included in the collection, PULP ECHOES. I am always available for comment and discussion. Just don’t ask me why my character can’t fly!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Ticket To Hollywood

Ticket To Hollywood (Literary Fiction)
By Gary Reilly
Running Meter Press
SBN #978-0984786015
Price $13.01
216 Pages
Rating 5-Stars

“A Wonderful Read”

Brendan Murphy, a taxi driver in Denver has a set of rules he lives by while driving a cab, one of which is never get involved with his passengers. Unfortunately, that’s usually the first rule he breaks. And it always leads to trouble. Picking up a fare, the young girl is attending the Mile Hi Film Festival, and dressed like a flapper from the 1920s. She looks 18, and tipsy on vodka. It’s none of his business until she leaves her purse in the back seat containing a roll of hundred dollar bills. It’s time for Murph’s shift to end, but he wants to find the girl and return the purse. Circumstances intervene, and before the case is over, the girl comes up missing, is found, and then disappears again – to Hollywood.

The character of Murph is a fascinating individual who can’t seem to help himself in getting involved when someone is in trouble. After struggling through seven years of college, he feels his true calling is driving a taxi, though he has a dream of becoming a novelist some day – and has the rejected and uncompleted manuscripts to prove it. Each story is told in a literary style, with a simple plot and interesting character. Murph eats hamburgers three times a day, his breakfast entails Twinkies and a Coke, and he lives on the top floor of an apartment building he called his crow’s nest, because he can see across the rooftops of Denver. Instead of gun battles and fistfights, Murph throws philosophical advice to all of his passengers. A wonderful read.

The cover art for the Asphalt Warrior series is also quite interested. Done in a retro style, they feature the taxi as the commanding figure within the central scene. “Ticket To Hollywood” has my favorite cover so far, but they are all good. The art is by John Sherffius, and the cover design is by Rebecca Finkel.

Tom Johnson
Echoes Magazine