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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

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Review For The Spider's Web

Reviews For THE SPIDER’S WEB by Tom Johnson

Rating: 5-Stars

In 1980, a young Chinese girl becomes involved with a young man connected to the Italian mob. When she becomes pregnant, her father allows the marriage between his daughter and young man, but secretly conspires to separate them as soon as the baby is born. Throwing a big party for his son-in-law, the Tong places his daughter on a ship for China, while the baby is left under the care of the Chinese.

Thirty years later, the young man now runs his own mob, coming under the scrutiny of the city's paladin, a mysterious crime fighter called The Black Ghost. In a deadly gun battle between the hero and gangsters, the mob is wiped out, the mob leader killed during the fight. Seeking revenge, the child, now thirty years old, gathers a new gang to go up against the Black Ghost. Trained in the martial arts from childhood, the new mob leader dons the regalia of a ninja and begins robbing banks and killing citizens randomly, hoping to bring the nemesis to them.

With the city streets running red in blood, The Black Ghost and his aides mount a campaign to stop the ninja's mob. The action is furious, and sometimes quite violent as the Black Ghost matches guns with the gangsters. In a final encounter between The Black Ghost and the ninja, a martial arts battle between the foes ends with only one victor!

When I was asked to review this novel, at first I hesitated. I wasn't that familiar with "Pulp Thriller" as a genre, just remembering the movie, PULP FICTION from a decade ago. I wasn't a fan of the movie, and feared "The Spider's Web" might be a reflection of the movie. However, I had read this author in the past, and have been a big fan of his work for several years, so I promised to look at the book without making a commitment. I was pleasantly surprised by the plot and mystery elements of the story, and the writing style of the author. Plus, I discovered that The Black Ghost was modeled after the Bat Man and The Shadow; I vaguely remembered the Shadow from radio, but I grew up reading Bat Man comics, and was quickly drawn into the story. The characters came alive, and I was not disappointed in the story telling ability of the author. Even with the violence, this story was top notch!

Terry Roberts, Reviewer (SF/Etc At A Glance)

Rating 5-Stars

In The Spider’s Web, Johnson transports the Golden Age of comic books to the modern day: good guys vs. bad guys, unequivocal conflict between the just and the unjust, and characters who act in ways we can admire or disparage untroubled by vexing shades of gray.
The protagonist is the Black Ghost, a vigilante hero whose identity is known to very few. Johnson takes a real chance when he pits the Black Ghost against The Spider, a female antagonist. Having a near-superhero slug it out with a small woman requires that the woman possess exceptional physical skills—and evil. The Spider is every inch worthy of the Black Ghost’s maximum effort, and the reader is swept up by whirlwind combat.
Great read!

JoAnna Senger

Rating 5-Stars

Tom Johnson has a great imagination. I loved the Spider's Web. What makes it superb reading for me is that it is written in the old pulp style of the '30's and '40's. The Spider's Web is a highly recommended read.

Wayne Greenough

Rating 5-Stars

This book is a collection of Tom Johnson's original, modern, pulp hero. Tom has been working in the neo-pulp movement as a publisher and writer (Echoes and related zines). His writings has included new stories of classic characters and stories of new characters.

His Black Ghost character is one of his original characters. Unlike other neo-pulp characters, this character is set in modern times. Another change is that he marries his girlfriend, which was unknown with the pulp heroes who either had no girlfriends, or they were pinning for the time they could retire and settle down. And his now wife helps him out in his activities as the Black Ghost, sometimes disguising herself as the BG to throw off the villians.

The Black Ghost is really young Jimmy Malone. His father was a cop, killed in the line of duty, and his stepfather is a police detective. At a young age, he was trained by an elderly couple, who were retired super spies (these characters are based on a pair of obscure pulp characters. Since Altus Press has reprinted all their stories, with a new one by Johnson, there is little excuse to be ignorant of them). He created the persona of Compere, but the underworld calls him the Black Ghost. He wear an all-black outfit, carries guns, and has other items to scare and throw off his foes, as well as being an expert fighter. In many ways he is an attempt at creating an original, Shadow-like pulp hero.

This book collects 2 stories. One is "Black Ghost", when the character was a kid. This was a combination of 4 early stories into a single novelette. The 4 stories appeared in issues of "Pulp Fiction Magazine", while the novelette appeared in an issue of Tom Johnson's "Classic Pulp Fiction Stories". While not quite an 'origin' story, but more of a 'young Black Ghost' story, which also explains how he met those old ex-spies.

The "The Spider's Web" is a long story that fills most of the volume. Not sure if this is long enough to be a novel, maybe a novela. It is a sequel to one of the stories in the first Black Ghost collection ("Guns of the Black Ghost"). We have the Black Ghost go up against a very strong foe, whose identity is not known (there are a couple of red herrings). And he adds to his network of agents. Its clear that this story leaves it open to further Black Ghost stories. I look forward to it.

Now for some negatives. There are a couple. One is I saw a few typos, something I see too much with the small presses. The second is the cover. When I first saw the book at Tom Johnson's website, I wasn't interested in the book, not realizing it was a Black Ghost work. At least some text to say "A Black Ghost Adventure" might have helped.

Michael R. Brown

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