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

Saturday, December 31, 2016

The City of The Dead

“Now the sons of the East claimed that Samorrah was half as old as time and just as evil. This may have been a myth but the city was indeed ancient. In the days when the dark empire of Sheol ruled most of the world of men, Samorrah was. When Thoth finally threw off the yoke of the Serpent Men but then started to build her black pyramids and demon-haunted tombs filled with ancient evil in honor of those very same oppressors, Samorrah was. Long before the pretensions of the Rhodians and their empire, when Tarantium was but a fishing village on the Syrenian Sea, Samorrah was. When the ancestors of the Caldorians, Espirians and Nestrians still were living in caves, Samorrah was. Samorrah seemed like it always had existed. And when a city becomes as ancient as Samorrah it attracts all kinds of evil like a drain pulls the filthy water to itself, every temptation and perversion known to man since the fall was enclosed in her walls.” This is where Thurl the Hyperian, a wandering mercenary with a regretful past, has found himself; in a degenerate city ruled by the wicked Witch Queen Semiramis and her minions, fighting for he and his friend’s lives and more importantly his very soul. For a tale of high adventure come with us to the antediluvian world in “The City of the Dead”.

The City of The Dead (Sword & Sorcery)
By William M. Hope
Independent Publishing Platform
ISBN #978-1540494832
Price $6.50 (Paperback)
137 Pages
Rating 5-Stars

“A Nice Homage To Conan.”

Thurl the Hyperian mercenary has lucked upon a huge jewel, The Heart of Ashmedai, which he hopes to sell in Samorrah, an evil town in the desert. But there awaiting him is the Living Goddess, Semirrami. The jewel will bridge the dimension between this world and another, and she wants more power – as well as a new lover, and the barbarian looks big and strong.

But will the evil gods of this world be more powerful than the one True God, and what can mortal man, even one as strong as Thurl, do against gods?

The author mixes a bit of the Bible in with the Conan universe. Samorrah can be none other than Gomorrah, the evil town destroyed when God abolished Sodom. This was a fun adventure in the mold of Robert E. Howard’s Conan, with flashing swords, mighty warriors, and beautiful slave girls. Reminded me of those mighty swordmen that followed Conan, and are still talked about today: Brak, Aubec, Thongor, and Fafhrd & The Grey Mouser. They carried the genre forward. And now comes Thurl, the Hyperian. If it’s adventure you want, give this book a try. Highly recommended.

Tom Johnson


Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Phantom Detective

High atop the Clarion Tower, a blinking red light begins to pulse signaling one of New York City’s most illustrious, vigilante heroes, the Phantom Detective. In reality, he is Curtis Van Loan, a debonair playboy millionaire well known in the society columns of all the major dailies. What is hidden from the public is Van Loan’s dedication to law and order. A decorated combat pilot during World War I, he is an expert fencer, ju-jitsu master and speaks a dozen foreign tongues fluently.
Hidden in his Park Avenue penthouse is a secret closet containing clothing of all descriptions and sizes. Along the wall are weapons; automatic rifles, sub-machine guns. There is also a miniature lab along with an extensive make-up kit that allows him to don different faces as his mission requires. Forget the silly Top Hat featured on the old pulp covers, while in action the Phantom Detective wore a belted topcoat, a fedora and black domino mask. He carried a .45 automatic and a hidden knife in his left sleeve.
This popular pulp icon returns now to once more battle villainy and crime in five new cases by Gene Moyers, Whit Howland, Robert Ricci and two from Gary Lovisi. Each recaptures the fun, excitement and thrills of this classic hero from the past—the Phantom Detective!

The Phantom Detective Volume 1 (Pulp Thrills)
By Gary Lovisi, Gene Moyers, Whit Howland, and Robert Ricci
ISBN #978- 0997786897
Price $13.23
174 Pages
Rating 4-Stars

This anthology actually contains five stories featuring The Phantom Detective: The Phantom Menace by Gary Lovisi; Circle of Despair by Gene Moyers; Campaign of Destruction by Whit Howland; Harbor Lights by Robert Ricci; and The Devil’s Minions by Gary Lovisi: The Book starts off with a great cover by Pat Carbajal, with some good illustrations inside. My only complaint is that the interior artwork should have featured scenes of action, not just people standing around, or a car parked in front of a building. The pulps gave us many pages of action scenes.
         Gary Lovisi starts the book off with his tale, The Phantom Menace, where the mayor sets the police against the Phantom. But as we quickly learn, he’s getting his orders from someone else. Gary always gives us a good story.
         Gene Moyers’ tale, Circle of Despair could have been in a pulp Phantom Detective issue, as far as I’m concerned. It’s my favorite yarn in this anthology because the author did his homework, and this even smells like pulp. There were more than the usual editing problems in it, but not enough to damage the story. Oh, the Phantom becomes the Shadow at one point, which should have been caught by an editor. Twenty years previous to this tale taking place a group of college friends belonged to an un-American group, and now someone is blackmailing them, and a reporter may have discovered it. Now someone is killing off members of the old group, and it’s up to the Phantom to uncover the murderer.
         Campaign of Destruction by Whit Howland is another plot with the crooks trying to turn the people against the Phantom. They’re running their own man against the current mayor, and trying to prove he’s done nothing to stop the Phantom and crime. Dan Fowler is in town checking on some things, too, and ties up with the Phantom. There’s plenty of action in this tale with enough purple prose to fill a real pulp yarn. Steve Huston, Muriel Havens and her father are in this one too. It is a nice little pulp yarn.
         Robert M. Ricci’s Harbor Lights is my least favorite in the anthology. Basically it’s a tour and history lesson of Boston. Yes, the Phantom comes to Boston in search of Muriel Havens and Steve Huston who have been taken prisoner. A weak plot, and the author says that Frank Havens doesn’t know the identity of the Phantom, so he hasn’t done his research. Frank Havens got Dick Van Loan started as the Phantom. Surprisingly, he does bring in a character not many people know, Jerry Lannigan, a mechanic in Van Loan’s unit in WWI. Lannigan only made a few appearances in the novels, and I liked the character, so it was a pleasure to see him brought back in this story. Oh, we get to meet a young Jack Kennedy also.
         Gary Lovisi is back for the final story, The Devil’s Minions. The Phantom has a lead on a second-story thief, and is watching an apartment when he sees the thief exit a window and come down the fire escape. But then a cop enters the alley and talks with the thief. They are in cahoots, and speak of their boss, the Devil. The thief wants out, so the cop kills him. The Phantom captures the cop but an assassin kills the cop before he will talk. When Van enters the Clarion there’s a new secretary outside Haven’s office, and she listens in on their conversation. When she quits the job and leaves, she’s captured by the Phantom, but slits her wrists while tied to a chair. Her dying words tell The Phantom that “The Devil made me do it.” Unfortunately, it ends at this point, so I’m not sure if this was supposed to be the full story or merely a come-on for Gary’s next story in Volume Two.
         And I do hope there is a second volume. Airship27 has released a volume of Dan Fowler, and now The Phantom Detective, and I would like to see more of them both. Yes, there were some minor problems with this volume, but I highly recommend it for pulp fans of The Phantom Detective.

Tom Johnson

Monday, December 26, 2016


The debut of a bold new series of literary pulps! Genre veteran Derrick Ferguson, series creator David W. Edwards and newcomer Arlen M. Todd offer uniquely compelling takes on the Nightscape mythos. Superhuman soldiers, secret animal cults, marooned alien gods, masked detectives, crystalline ghosts and surreal apocalypse weapons—this one is chock-a-block with pulp-inspired weirdness! The first novel, The Thousand-Eyed Fear, follows a ragtag squad of teen soldiers on their WW1 mission to infiltrate a secret German research facility and either steal or destroy the prototype for an advanced tank. They discover much more than their military intelligence led them to believe, however, and must find new strengths if they’re to stop the Kaiser from gaining an unstoppable supernatural power. The companion novel, The Q for Damnation, deals with the unexpected consequences of the first. On the eve of WW2, France’s masked vigilante-detective, Monteau, must solve the murder of a longtime friend—and fast!—in order to prevent the Nazis from obtaining a work of art that could grant them control of every mind on earth. She relies on a unique combination of combat skills and surrealist art techniques in her desperate attempt to save a world on the brink.

Nightscape (Horror/Action/Adventure)
“Double Feature #1
By Derrick Ferguson, David W. Edwards & Arlen M. Todd
Imperiad Entertainment
ISBN #978-0692787373
Price $11.99
310 Pages
Rating 4-Stars

As the “Double Feature” indicates, this volume contains two novels: The Thousand-Eyed Fear by Derrick Ferguson & David W. Edwards and Q For Damnation by Arlen M. Todd. The book is well edited and produced.
The first story takes place in WWI, when the allies send a team of highly efficient youngsters, none over twenty, to capture or destroy Germany’s super weapon, a huge tank. The team is led by Lieutenant Nolan Quigg, and his Lost Boys. Nolan is almost a superman, with great strength and mental ability, and the Lost Boys are specialists in their fields. But there’s something else besides a tank they have to worry about. The Germans have captured a Mimirodat, an alien of some kind that can make men feel fear (it brings the fear plague). The Germans plan to use this power against the allies to win the war. The story has a good plot and interesting characters, but the story never really caught my interest, and the easy flow just wasn’t there, causing me to stumble and lose track of the action at times. The authors are established writers, so I’m guessing the problem lies in the authors not jelling rather than any fault with either.
The second story has some run-over from the first. It takes place prior to WWII, and the Nazis are still after the power of the Mimirodat, this time contained in a painting. A French woman vigilante called Manteau uses her position as head of a Marseille crime mob, Unione Carse, to investigate crime, especially those that deal with the supernatural. She’s in Paris after the last man involved in killing her sister when such a crime comes to her attention, and she puts killing her sister’s murderer on hold to solve this new case. Working with a local gangster named Anatole Janvier, they are opposed by a ghost they call a fantome who is also after the painting. This was a very good story, and captured my interest from the beginning. Even though written more for the college level than the mass-market pulps were aimed at, it’s still a good pulpy adventure. Forget the purple prose, it isn’t here. Just over-look the highbrow language and concentrate on the mystery. Highly recommended.

Tom Johnson

Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Magic Quirt

When it comes to boiling up a pot of coffee or stirring up a pot of stew, Old Laramie’s about as good a man as you’re going to find. But other than cooking three squares a day for the cowpunchers over at the Lazy G ranch, Laramie’s not good for much. He’s about as heroic as Walter Brennan on a bender.
But Laramie’s luck—and life—are about to take an amazing turn. Quite by accident, he somehow manages to save a family of Mexicans from bandits, and as a token of their gratitude they give him The Magic Quirt—a horsewhip that he’s told will turn him into a new man.
The transformation is indeed magical. Suddenly Laramie is performing feats of ingenuity and courage that would make even the Lone Ranger proud. But magic is a funny thing—and as Laramie’s about to discover, sometimes it’s all an illusion.
Also includes the Western adventures, Vengeance Is Mine!, the story of a young man who sets out to avenge his father’s death only to commit an act beyond redemption, and Stacked Bullets, in which a game of chance is fixed, a whole town is cheated, and nothing but a stack of bullets can make things right.

The Magic Quirt (Western Fiction)
By L. Ron Hubbard
ISBN #978-1592123766
Price $9.95
136 Pages
Rating 5-Stars

“Western Fun.”

This book actually contains three western stories from the pulp magazines: The lead story, THE MAGIC QUIRT, which was originally published in the July 1948 issue of THE RIO KID WESTERN. Plus, VENGEANCE IS MINE and STACKED BULLETS.
         THE MAGIC QUIRT has the Lazy G trail cook rushing to catch up with the punchers when he loses control of the wagon and almost runs down some cowboys harassing an old Indian and his wife. The cowboys were a nasty bunch, but took off before they could finish their dealings with the Indians.  The old Indian wants to thank Old Laramie for his help, but the cook doesn’t want any payment. Still, the Indian gives him an Aztec statute with snakes on it, saying it will make him a big man. Now Old Laramie has been reading books on magic and things, and now believes the statue is magic and will, indeed, make him a big man. He quits his job, goes into town and gambles, winning big stakes, then has a shoot out with those cowboys he’s ran away earlier. He thinks it’s all because he’s a big man now, and it’s the magic of the statue, only to discover the statue is one of hundreds the old Indian makes and sells to the white man. They have no magic, and Old Laramie passes out. A really enjoyable read.
         VENGEANCE IS MINE is more prophetic. Young Whitey Bates takes some time off at the ranch to check on his father who has been mining for gold in the hills all his life. When he reaches the little cabin he finds his father dying from a gunshot wound and he’s talking out of his head. Finally, Whitey thinks he calmed his dad down enough to be coherent, and asks who shot him? The old man keeps voicing a name, and Whitey believes it’s the name of his killer. He rides out after his dad dies, and trails after the man. Half dead himself now, he’s led to a small town where the man is supposed to be. Stumbling into a bar he sees four men and asks if either of them is the name of the killer. An old man steps out and admits it’s his name, and Whitey shoots him. Whitey has been poisoned by cactus needles from a Century Plant and is dying, and begs the men to fund the doctor for him. Now he discovers the man he has killed was the doctor. Whitey’s father had still been out of his head when he named his killer, and remembered a name from his past. In fact, the shooting had been an accident when Whitey’s father stumbled into brush and he shot himself.
         STACKED BULLETS: In the little town of Stud Hoss, Charley Montgomery is sitting at poker table with ninety thousand dollars from the sell of his spread to the Ringo Brothers. Two of Charley’s pals clean him out, then makes him a proposition; they’ll give him one thousand dollars back if he will shoot the Ringo Brothers. But Charley has made a deal and the Ringo Brothers promised to treat the town right with the water on the property. Well, evidently they lied, for Charley’s pals shows him signs that were printed up, charging everyone for use of that water. Now Charley is angry for he’s been lied to. And the Ringo Brothers come into the saloon calling Charley a rustler because all the cattle are gone from his spread. Now there’s nothing to it but a gunfight. After the lead has been thrown, and Charley is the only one left alive, his poker friends clear their conscious. You see, the deck they were playing with was marked, so they took Charley’s money to make him need the thousand dollars they were offering for the killing of the Ringo Brothers. And the missing cattle, well they took them, too, to make the Ringo Brothers suspect Charley of rustling. Naturally, since everything worked out, they give Charley his money back. And then set back down for more poker. Well, definitely an odd one, since one of Charley’s poker buddies was the sheriff. Guess the law just wasn’t exactly what it was supposed to be in the Old West. Hubbard’s writing in these old pulp yarns is excellent, and the stories are entertaining. My favorite of the three in this volume, however, is the lead story, THE MAGIC QUIRT. Highly recommended.

Tom Johnson