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

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Vengeance Waits At The Door

A masked hero fights for his life. An ailing reporter faces uncertain death. Will either live until morning?
Following his failed attempt to kill Big Jack, Brent Gregor (aka The Black Spectre) lies near death in a Chinatown parish. Determined to locate the mysterious assassin, the Mob combs the blood-soaked streets to find him. His only hope of survival lies in the mercy of strangers.  
Furious that she missed out on the story of a lifetime, Vicky is stunned to learn that her mysterious savior is actually real. Ignoring Editor Frank Matson’s orders and her own failing health, she goes after the story with a vengeance. But to get the answers she so desperately needs, she will have to march straight into the lion’s den. Alone.
Vengeance Waits at the Door is the third book in the Black Spectre Origins series, detailing the rise of the masked pulp hero The Black Spectre. If you like Agent Carter, the Rocketeer, and The Dark Knight, then you’ll love Roger Alford’s gritty noir mystery that effortlessly combines new pulp with a classic 1930s style.

Vengeance Waits at the Door (Pulp Fiction)
By Roger Alford
Black Hood Press
Price $Free (Kindle)
213 Pages
Rating 5-Stars

There is a lot going on in this third novel. Death strikes close to several main characters. Vicky’s mother passes away in Gibsonville, MO, while Brent’s grandfather dies in Paris. The Black Spectre, finally recovering from his wounds, reaches mob boss, Big Jack, only to find him already murdered by one of his men. Detective Flynn is murdered by the mob, and Detective Shayne’s family are killed because he spoke out.

Everything is set up for the next novel, and we can only hope it will be out soon. The books are character driven, with small plots surrounding each character. Brent Gregor is finally learning how to use his Black Spectre persona more effectively. Highly recommended.

Tom Johnson

Author of THE COBRA

Sunday, November 25, 2018

The Complete Adventures of Jimmie Dale Volume One

In 1914 a character appeared who would permanently transform popular fiction. Frank Packard's Gray Seal melded elements from A. J. Raffles, Jimmy Valentine, the Scarlet Pimpernel, and Arsène Lupin, but those traits were combined with an entirely new concept: the gifted young man who conceals his identity behind a mask to fight crime in the big city. It had never been done before and it's never stopped being done since. Jimmie Dale, the high society millionaire behind the Gray Seal persona, helped to launch the hero pulp boom of the 1930s and was a direct influence on the Green Hornet, the Spider, the Phantom, and especially The Shadow. The Gray Seal template was adopted by the comic book industry as well, and well into the Twenty-first Century continues to appear there, on television, and in the movies. And now, for the first time ever the complete Jimmie Dale saga is being reprinted in a set of authoritative editions. The personal papers of Gray Seal creator Frank Packard have been consulted for this project, along with various unpublished works of fiction by him that add further insight to the series. Also, a detailed chronology has been established for the novels so they can be considered in their proper historical setting. The definitive Gray Seal collection is finally here, beginning with the novel that forever changed adventure fiction - and the larger world of popular entertainment.

The Complete Adventures of Jimmie Dale (Pulp Fiction)
By Frank L. Packard
Edited by Michael Howard
Independent Publishing Platform
ISBN # 978-1986848992
Price $17.99 (Paperback)
381 Pages
Rating 4-Stars

The Complete Adventures of Jimmie Dale in two Parts: Part One – The Man In The Case (eleven novelettes); Part Two – The Woman In The Case (sixteen short stories).
Part One: #1) The Gray Seal, in which we learn all about Jimmie Dale and The Gray Seal, plus, it appears that a young man has stolen money from his boss that should have been put in the safe. It’s up to Jimmie to make the theft look like the work of The Gray Seal, for the boy’s wife lies ill, in need of medications. 2) The Proxy, in which a police official claims to have found a murder victim of The Gray Seal, and will turn over the murderer shortly for the huge reward the newspapers have offered. #3) The Mother Lode, an old miner down on his luck, a crooked financier, and a diamond necklace worth a quarter million dollars, if real. It’s up to the Gray Seal to put things right. 4) The Counterfeit Five, has Secret Service Kline after the gang of counterfeiters. They’ve stolen a cracked printing plate from the government, which was supposed to be destroyed, and blaming a young man from the Mint, the gang started printing out counterfeit fives. The Gray Seal had to catch the real culprit with the goods in order to clear the young man, and escape the clutches of the greatest secret service agent in the government. 5) The Affair of The Pushcart Man is an odd affair. Jimmie is still hiding in his sanctum, with Secret Service agents watching the area. They think The Gray Seal may still be in the house, for that’s where he disappeared in the last story. Unable to go home as Jimmie Dale, he goes as Larry the Bat to burgle his Riverside mansion and obtain money to live off of while disguised as the Bat. Plus, there is another letter from the mysterious woman, ordering him on another job. Known as the Pushcart Man, the fellow has a string of diamonds worth fifteen thousand dollars hidden under his pillow, and the Skeeter gang learned of this and plan to rob and kill the old man. The Gray Seal must steal the diamonds in front of eyewitnesses, to insure the gang believes the diamonds are now gone, and will leave the old man alone. 6) Devil’s Work has The Gray Seal first chasing two pickpockets. His mysterious woman friend has left him another envelope as he’s leaving the theater, but the pickpocket gets the letter and his wallet, and now knows the identity of the Gray Seal. Trailing them to Chinatown, a fight between the two smalltime hoods ends in one’s death, but allows Jimmy to get the envelope and wallet back. Now, he learns what his new assignment is. A bank has been robbed of $100,000.00, and the blame placed on an ex-con. 7) The Thief is a young man who is forced to steal rubies from his employer to give to a jewel fence because he was set up in a frame, thinking he had murdered someone. But The Gray Seal knows everything. In fact, his mysterious contact has given him a name, perhaps by accident, and he calls her Tocsin, French for alarm. Sonnes le Tocsin, sound the alarm! 8) The Man Higher Up is running a criminal organization, but has signed a statement naming all his men and locked it safely in his safe against any attempt to eliminate him. This is what The Gray Seal wants, to send to the DA to prosecute them, but he’s almost caught and killed in a shoot-out, but saved by Tocsin while in a dizzy condition. 9) Two Crooks And A Knave has The Gray Seal intervening in crooks trying to steal the map to a rich mine owned by a deceased man whose wife is destitute. But there is a double-cross going on that almost catches Jimmie unawares. 10) The Alibi is a curious story. Larry the Bat accidently loses his burglary tools, and a crook finds the kit. He tells a detective he knows who The Gray Seal is, and will identify him with the detective’s help. In the meantime, Tocsin has left Jimmie another assignment, and it brings them all together in the end. 11) The Stool Pigeon – an old man is killed for his savings, and one of the Bowery regulars is framed for the murder, but The Gray Seal, as Larry the Bat becomes a Stool Pigeon to help set the record straight.
Part Two: #1 Below The Dead Line is chaos. Someone is following Larry the Bat. He enters Chang Foo’s opium den, then a police raid. Escaping, he finds a bar, only to encounter gunshots and riot, then blackness as lights are extinguished. Suddenly, an envelope is thrusts into his hands and Tocsin’s voice from the darkness. She needs his help. #2) The Call To Arms. Jimmy takes a taxi driven by an agent of Tocsin, but they are intercepted, and a car crashes. 3) The Crime Club. When Jimmie awakes he is in a strange house a prisoner of the Crime Club. 4) The Innocent Bystander: Questioned and threatened with death, Jimmy claims his innocence even with possible death staring him in the face. 5) On Guard: He’s released, but not sure why. 6) The Trap: Discovering his home is being watched he can do nothing at present. 7) The “Hour”: Jimmy works out a plan, hides in the sedan as Benson drives into town. 8) The Tocsin: She is finally identified as dead millionaire, Peter LaSalle’s daughter, Marie La Salle. 9) The Tocsin’s Story: Her father and uncle were murdered, and she was to be next. Jimmy learns of the five years Marie LaSalle has been forced to hide, living in the badlands where she has discovered small crimes she passed on to The Gray Seal. 10) Silver Mag: Marie is known in the badlands as Silver Mag. 11) The Magpie: Slimmy Joe, the Magpie, has a plan to steal half a million from the man who murdered Marie’s father. 12) John Johansson – four-two-eight: Jimmie enters Spider Jack’s, but too late to get the evidence against the Crime Club. 13) The Only Way: Jimmie must enter the mansion and kill the murderer. 14) Out of The Darkness: The safe reveals little, but now he has found the Crime Club. 15) Retribution: The Magpie and Crime Club members shoot it out. 16) “Death To The Gray Seal!”: Magpie alerts the underworld to Larry the Bat’s duel role as the Gray Seal. He and Marie are caught in Larry the Bat’s room with the building set fire, and the cry, “Death to the Gray Seal!”
Thus, supposedly ends the Crime Club and the Gray Seal. But the series would continue in the pulps and four more books.
The Gray Seal was the son of a safe manufacturer, and could open any safe. Wearing a black domino mask and black slouch hat, he would leave a gray seal at all the scenes of his crimes to mock the police. He always returned the loot. It was just excitement and adventure he was after. He had a secret Sanctuary in the badlands, where he stayed at times as Larry the Bat. A mysterious woman discovers his identity and uses the information to force him to stop crimes by others. That woman would eventually be identified as Marie LaSalle, but he only knew her as Tocsin for most of the early stories. She also lived in the badlands, as Silver Mag. They are in love. Jimmie Dale, the Gray Seal, was one of the earliest masked crime fighters. Even Johnston McCulley would draw a lot from the Gray Seal for many of his masked heroes and gentleman crooks. The stories are dated, but a lot of fun, and you can see the influence in The Shadow’s Sanctum, and Doc Savage’s Fortress of Solitude. This edition was published July 2018, and edited by Michael Howard, and is well worth the price. Listed as Volume One, Michael Howard plans on reprinting the rest of the volumes. It is good having the series back in print. My only complaint is the print of the text is too light, and would help if darker. Plus, the editor includes footnotes to the story, but here the text is not only too light, but the print is too small for old eyes to read. The footnotes do no good if we can’t read them, and I wanted to read them, but could not. Highly recommended.

Tom Johnson
Author of THE COBRA

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Bones of Brooklyn

Bones of Brooklyn continues the saga of Howard "Windows" Fenster, the reluctant gangster extraordinaire. In Debasements of Brooklyn, Howie fights his way out of Sheepshead Bay, using insights gleaned from his father's collection of Penguin Classics and an automatic handgun provided by his late boss Vinnie Five-Five. Accompanied by his girl Ariel, they mean to make a brief stop at her studio in Greenwich Village before they escape to points west, north, south or east, anywhere out of the murderous precincts of non-gentrified Brooklyn. But inertia and post-traumatic stress nail them in place. Howie grows a top-knot and finds Bohemian café, while Ariel loses herself in the enticing winter scenes painted inside the Grey Goose bottle. It doesn't take long for Pauli Bones, Howie's psychopathic patron, to track him down. Howie owes Pauli, and Pauli needs Howie because war decimated the old crew and his new crew consists of inept second stringers and unreliable mercenaries. The journey to self-discovery brings Howie to the very point where he started, this time with a new awareness of his powers. Shock and disappointment overwhelm Howie when he learns just how skilled a gangster he is. Pauli Bones, Rose Spoleto (widow of Vinnie Five-Five,) and the Slavic Goddess Alexandra Rachmaninoff all rely on his professional competence to take care of business. Is this it for Howie? Is his dream of living the life of the mind over for good? Can Ariel, whose career in marketing is only tangentially related to extortion and murder, adjust to Howie's new/old life? And if she can, can Howie still love her if he loathes the gangster in himself? The answer to these questions may not satisfy Howie, but they will amuse and horrify everyone else.

Bones of Brooklyn (Mob Fiction)
By Ira Gold
The Permanent Press
ISBN #978-1579625269
208 Pages
Price $25.60 (Hardback)
Rating 3-Stars

Jewish gangster, Howard Fenster and his girlfriend Ariel, between sexual romps, decide to leave Brooklyn. However, Pauli Bones has other plans for him. Pauli, a mob boss without top men under him, wants Howard to kill Russian, Ivan Rachmaninoff. Howard owes Pauli, but he doesn’t want to kill the Russian.

The publisher sent me a copy for an honest review. I think this novel was supposed to be funny, but I found it anything but comical. The sex and profanity running throughout the story left little time for good world building, and I just couldn’t relate to any of the characters. I’m sure it will bring smiles to many, but I found it crude and of little interest.

Tom Johnson

Sunday, November 18, 2018

No Victory Without Scars

A crusading reporter out to prove her worth. A burgeoning hero in denial about his.
When a Mob Boss is gunned down by police, Daily Crusader reporter Vicky Rose is the only one who suspects he was unarmed. Desperate to justify her promotion to the crime beat, her search for the truth leads her into a cesspool of corruption deeper than she ever imagined.
Brent Gregor, his existence as The Black Spectre still a deeply-held secret, only wants to use his newfound powers to win back what he has lost. And to take revenge on those who took it from him.
Both face unexpected consequences that could cost them their lives. And both have to decide if what they wanted was actually worth the price.
No Victory Without Scars is the second book in the Black Spectre Origins series, detailing the rise of the masked pulp hero The Black Spectre. If you like Agent Carter, the Rocketeer, and The Dark Knight, then you’ll love Roger Alford’s gritty noir mystery that effortlessly combines new pulp with a classic 1930s style.

No Victory Without Scars (Pulp Action)
By Roger Alford
Black Hood Press
ISBN # 978-1949352016
177 Pages
Price $9.99 (Paperback)
Price $3.99 (Kindle)
Rating 5-Stars

All of the regular players we met in the first novel are back. Brent Gregor goes to California to welcome Abigail’s return from a world event flight only to discover to his sadness that she is now married. Meanwhile, back in Terminal City the mob still rules the city and the police. Upon his return, Brent decides it’s time to stop mob boss, Big Jack Torrisimo, and donning the cloak and hat of The Black Spectre he invades the new nightclub where the mob has gathered. Unfortunately, his automatics are no match for the mob’s machine-guns, and Brent is almost killed in the gun battle. He’s hidden in Chinatown at the end of the story where he remains between life and death. Redheaded reporter, Vicky Rose is forced to work the society page while she recovers from the ordeal at the Asylum, and misses out on the big battle.

This is a fun series, character driven, with lots of mob activity. Our hero, The Black Spectre is still trying to understand his new powers, and how to successfully battle the mob with all their firepower. Highly recommended.

Tom Johnson
Author of THE COBRA