Sunday, February 16, 2014

Review of "The Corpse on Broadstreet" by Jim Beard, a Pro Se Productions Single Shot.

I'd like to say that I'm very impressed with Jim Beard's writing on his latest story. I really enjoyed his work in "Zeppelin Tales", but he has greatly expanded the scope of the environment with "The Corpse on Broadstreet". "Corpse" is a 42 page prequel introducing us to the characters and setting for a forthcoming longer work, entitled "The Corpse in the City". While his earlier story in "Tales" was more self-contained, we have multiple characters, sub-plots, and are introduced to a much larger locale with the release of "Corpse".

Helen Jonquil has the world at her feet. The undisputed Queen of Broadstreet, she is the toast of the town. The most admired leading lady in the city... and she is about to die a horrible death. The shock of her demise, and the strange and unknown method of her killing quickly reach city hall. Enter Lane Danner, head District Attorney. That is until he lost the most recent election. Now he's waiting for the changing of the guard. The killing falls in his lap, and his soon to be ex-boss, Mayor Patrick J. Battle wants it cleared up immediately. The situation is made more tense by the Mayor having won his re-election bid, and there is an undertone of resentment and betrayal between the two friends. After a council of war is called to debate the best possible response to the killing, Lane leaves to set about finding the murderer and bringing him to justice. One more service to the city before departing office... and then the matter escalates.

While making a visit to the scene of the crime, Lane is joined by his friend Lt. Markie St. Joseph. Mayor Battle's wife, Louisa, is also mysteriously at the scene. Out of nowhere a thick fog rolls in, Lt. St. Joseph is murdered, and the Mayor's wife is attacked, but survives thanks to Lane. The culprit is seen briefly, and his form is somehow... unnatural. A reporter from the local news happens to be nearby, and the press quickly dub the perpetrator 'The Corpse'. After receiving a communication from the villain, the Mayor refuses to capitulate. He declares that they are now at war. Little does he know what he is up against...

As far as I'm concerned, "Corpse" was a thrilling read. Mr. Beard fleshes out the setting and characters nicely, and the shadowy villain is VERY interesting. The underlying tension between the main characters is appreciated, and leaves many questions unanswered. This, of course, means that I will eagerly be waiting for the forthcoming release "The Corpse in the City". If you want a well written, fast-paced short with plenty of mystery and action, you can't really go wrong with "The Corpse on Broadstreet". The Kindle version, which I am basing my review upon, is only .99 cents! Why don't you take a gander, I'm sure you won't be disappointed! 5 out of 5 smoking guns...

Jim's fan page    Jim's blog    Pro Se Productions on Facebook   Pro Se home site   Amazon link

Friday, February 14, 2014

My review of Joe McKinney's "Crooked House".

Meet Robert Bell, a normal guy. He has a loving wife named Sarah, and a young step-daughter named Angela. Sure he's got problems, but he's dealing with them. He's a family man... Look a little deeper, and the chinks in his armor start to show. Drowning in bills; increasingly more erratic. An emotional outburst has gotten him fired from his teaching position, and still he tries to keep everything pent up inside. Imagine the pressure he must feel, and don't you think he might just need one last push, before it all comes boiling out? This is the man we are introduced to in Joe McKinney's "Crooked House", a man on the verge of breakdown, who is lying to himself about the state he is in. Robert is on the verge of going under, when an old mentor swoops in, offering not only a job teaching, but a house free and clear. Upon inspecting the property, Robert is definitely struck with a feeling of uneasiness, but allows himself to be won over by his friend. This is the lifeline he needed, after all, yes? Returning home in high spirits he is confused about his wife's negativity towards the situation. Then the two are hit with the news that Sarah's ex is trying to take away their daughter. All of these ups and downs and they haven't even moved into the house yet. Plus, there is the curious attitude that Sarah has to Robert's mentor, Thom Horner. By attitude I mean outright contempt. After moving in, and having ever increasing episodes of paranormal incidents, Robert begins to research the past history of Crook House, and of it's previous owner, James Crook. He gradually puts together the pieces of the horrid events that brought the Crook family low. Unfortunately, the past seems to be repeating itself, and Robert, Sarah, and Angela are caught in the middle. Will they manage to survive? I'm not telling, but here's my thoughts on the story. The fact that the author has the narrative switch from Robert to Sarah is a very good move. You get to compare their viewpoints and make up your own mind on the truth of things, and watch events fall apart. In my opinion, while the story is nominally about a haunted house setting, I think that the two big themes are about the pressures cast on everyday people, and about the past not remaining buried. Both Robert's and Sarah's past actions not only come back to haunt them, but also keep them stuck in the present situation that is pulling them apart. For that matter, past events and actions of the previous occupants of 'Crooked House' are what came to curse the property. Not to worry though, horror fans. There is plenty of scares in store for you with this read. The story is definitely a page turner, and the author's depiction of a family beset by forces mundane and supernatural rings true. I'd been curious about this book for awhile, and I'm glad I took the opportunity to read it. A very good release from Joe McKinney and Dark Regions Press.

Crooked House on Amazon      Dark Regions Press site

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Review of "Tales to Admonish" issue #2! Some very good stuff...

I'd like to start out by saying that I believe, unintentionally, to have put my foot in my mouth. I had mused one day about different author's works that I would like to see recreated in a graphic format on my Facebook page. I had recently finished reading "Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa", and included it's author, Andrez Bergen on that list. Mind you, Andrez had sent me a PDF version of "Tales to Admonish" #2 to take a look at before said musing. I had downloaded it and taken a quick look, but hadn't gotten past the title page, with which I was impressed. I came back to it earlier this week, and read through it. Back to the foot in mouth incident; Andrew already has a talented artist illustrating his characters in Matt Kyme! Mea culpa Matt! Your artistry perfectly fits the stories that Andrez brings to the table. Let's get to the review, now that I've got that off my chest. We start out with 'Adam's Ribs' a tale featuring Andrez's character's Roy and Suzie, involved in a bit of vampire hunting. Roy's the hard-bitten professional type, with a flair for sarcastic wit; Suzie's his vivacious assistant, who seems to have a bit of a problem with the proceedings, which I'll get to in a sec. The tale starts at what you would think would be the end; Roy musing about previous vampire kills to himself, about to stake another fanged bozo. As he brings the hammer down to drive in the stake... OBJECTION! On Suzie's part, that is. Apparently, she wants to be dead certain that the corpse in question is actually what he appears to be. Her distraction, causing Roy to misplace his strike, does just that... Roy's musings throughout the ensuing incident are pure gold, along with Suzie's comebacks. A nice piece of noir, mixed with the supernatural. Matt's illustrations are stark black and white, with color inserted at times, which really draws the eye. His work illustrating the trio's expressions (Roy, Suzie, fang-boy) are highlights. Very nice! Had me laughing from the get-go! Moving on, we have 'All Fur Coat, No Knickers', in which Bullet Girl manages to not only foil a robbery, but also find something nice to wear for her date! Pure old-school superhero goodness, in my opinion. If you want more (much, much more) background on Bullet Girl, check out the aforementioned "Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa." The opening illustration by Matt definitely reminds me, in many ways, of a image of Sand Saref by the master Will Eisner. Once again, stark black and white, with accents of color. The last of the tales is 'Salvation Nation' set in an a post WWIII setting, where almost everyone is dead. Two survivors in radiation suits search a deserted government base for the 'Salvation Device', their oxygen supply running low, in a desperate bid for survival. Their search is rewarded, but the results are not quite as they hoped for. The last couple of frames had me crying "No you fools!", but that's just me. Definitely evokes the feel of EC and Warren titles from yesteryear, crossed with Stan Lee and Jack Kirby (one of the characters even makes a Kirby reference in the story). Matt's art is once again, black and white, with flashes of color interspersed, but I believe this is a real highlight! Matt really knocks it out of the park on this one... By the way, everything I just referenced, for those of you who haven't experienced the publishers/creators mentioned, means that you should run out and get this title... It's that good! Summing up, I'd rather be reading this than a large majority of more "mainstream" comics that are on the market. Andrez and Matt are both at the top of their game, and you all should take a look. Highly recommended, and if I could give it more than 5 stars on the ranking I would. As it stands, 5 out of 5.

Matt Kyme's opening panels for 'Adam's Rib', a Roy and Suzie adventure.

Here's a couple of links to further your investigations...


Matt Kyme's other project... That Bulletproof Kid!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Here's my review of "Zeppelin Tales" by Jim Beard and I.A. Watson, published by Airship 27 Productions.

Well, I finished reading "Zeppelin Tales" by Jim Beard and I.A. Watson last night. I have to say it was a wild ride, indeed. Breezed through this read over a couple of days, and absolutely loved it. A very well written, and downright fun entry in the New Pulp genre. This release consists of two stories, 'Death Seeds the Clouds' by Jim Beard, and 'Airship 27' by I.A. Watson. In the opening short story we are introduced to Jim's hero, Tracer Talbot. Tracer ( so nicknamed by his father, who developed a new type of tracer bullet for the Allies) makes his living as an air courier working along the Canadian border. Possessing a genial personality and a penchant for breaking into song when the mood strikes him, he travels the skies in his trusty plane Anna Lynne. When a mysterious new client arrives, Tracer takes to the skies. After he (literally) runs across a massive zeppelin (The Silver Cloud) and loses his airplane in the process, the adventure truly begins. What is the purpose of the The Silver Cloud, and who is it's shadowy master, Captain Dusk? Where does his client, Miss Smith fit in the proceedings, and is she at all what she seems? I have to say that the author perfectly evokes the feeling of another time and place with this story. It is easily something I could have read in the original pulp magazines of the era. The story is largely driven by the hero, and Mr. Beard creates a likable, come hell or high water character in Tracer. The story is very fast paced and streamlined. My one complaint, and it's not much of one, is this; the story reads as an opening salvo in a collection of shorts. It left me wanting more entries with Tracer, and I definitely hope to see more stories featuring the character. An excellent story. Moving on to to the second entry (which is novella length), we are presented with 'Airship 27' by I.A. Watson. I'm familiar with Mr. Watson's work on Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective, and must say that I'm a fan. We are introduced to Harry Finian, a former U.S. Naval meteorologist, now disgraced and discharged from the service. Currently languishing in the drunk tank after a night of boozing and brawling, he is surprised when he is bailed out. Enter Verity Castlemere, who is one of the focal points that brings Finian out of his decline. Offered a job working for Verity's employer (and fiance) Senator Nickelhouse on a top secret project, Finian jumps at the chance. Presented with the experimental zeppelin Airship 27, and an oppurtunity to travel the skies chasing a rather strange atmospheric phenomenon, Finian finds his next lifeline. Throwing himself into the project with a will, he is soon back to himself. After being filled in on the snake-bitten history of the project, and witnessing (and foiling) an attempted act of sabotage, he realizes there are more players involved than originally thought. Cue an entirely entertaining adventure, full of action, romance, political machinations, double crosses, and ultimately, redemption. Mr. Watson's writing style is highly detailed, which I greatly appreciate. His characters, down to the most minor, are well formed, having genuine personalities and emotions, and articulate themselves well. The technical details included also lend an air of verisimilitude that pushes the story over the top. All told, an excellent tale. I really hope to read more about these characters one day. Lastly, I'd like to say that the cover art, by Mike Fyles, and the interior illustrations, by Pedro Cruz, are excellently rendered. The afterwords by both authors are well worth reading, and the closing statements by editor Ron Fortier should be read as well. To sum up, two great authors, two heroes who deserve the name, and two highly enjoyable stories. 5 out of 5 stars, highly recommended.

interior art by Pedro Cruz

another example of Mr. Cruz's interior art

Here's some links for the author's sites.
Airship 27 home page    Zeppelin Tales on Amazon    Jim's blog   Jim's fan page   Find out more about I.A. Watson here

Friday, February 7, 2014

Interview with author Darrell Pitt! I must say I'm mighty chuffed... Take a look.

I'd like to say that I'm really excited to publish an Email interview that I had with Darrell Pitt! Author of "The Steampunk Detective" and "Diary of a Teenage Superhero", Darrell graciously took some time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions I had for him. Thanks Darrell, much appreciated! With that said here's the interview...

1.) What authors/works influenced you in your younger days? More specifically, which of these do you credit with motivating you as a reader, and later, as an author?

Stephen King was an early influence. You can’t beat his first books – The Shining, The Stand, Carrie etc. He really is ‘The King’.

Richard Matheson was another strong influence. I loved his work on ‘The Twilight Zone’, and in movies like ‘Duel’, his short story collections and novels such as ‘The Incredible Shrinking Man’ and ‘I am Legend’. He wrote a very particular style of story – the single protagonist against the world, and I think my own work reflects that.

Later, I became a big fan of comic books such as ‘The Dark Knight’ and ‘Watchmen’. I’m so glad that the comic medium is receiving the respect it has so long deserved. It’s a much underrated art form.

  (2.)  Do any of these overtly influence your personal writing style?

Interestingly, some of my earliest reading was an old series called ‘Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators’. These were a boy’s series similar to the Hardy Boys, but far better written. I read and re-read these books as a boy. When I look at my current books, I can see ghostly reflections of that old series. Maybe children’s/YA authors really do relive their childhood through their writing...

  (3.) How long have you wanted to be a writer, and when did you decide that you were ready to publish your work?

Succeeding as an author is a long, difficult route. I wanted to be a writer from the age of twelve, but life got in the way. Life, and the fact that becoming a successful author is near impossible.  

I had written three books by the time I decided to self-publish ‘The Steampunk Detective’. My first unpublished novel was a pile of doggie-doo, the second was markedly better, but it still wasn’t quite right. When I finished writing ‘The Steampunk Detective’, I felt I had written something that was truly good. It read very much like something you would buy in a shop – and that’s a good sign.

  (4.) How was your experience e-publishing, and do you recommend that route to other aspiring authors?

Self-publishing gives authors a foot in the door they never previously had. They can work at building a career as a self-published author, or they can use the book sales to leverage a book deal with a traditional publisher. It’s opening up opportunities for writers and that’s a good thing.

Whether people choose to self-publish or not is up to them. There’s a lot of reasons why people write. Some just want to write their novel and put it out into the world. That’s fine. Others want to build a career. It’s completely up to the writer – which is a good thing.

  (5.) Out of your existing works, which is your favorite, and why?

I’ll always have a soft spot for ‘The Steampunk Detective’ as it was my first real novel. Having said that, I really love ‘Diary of a Teenage Superhero’. It’s a relentless action adventure story with a ‘high concept’ idea behind it. I’ve been contacted by two producers, interested in turning it into a movie, but nothing has eventuated yet. If you know Steven Spielberg, tell him about it! 

  (6.) Are there any genres that you have not yet written in, but would like to?

Probably crime. I think some of the best writing is happening in crime. There are too many good authors to list, but Australian writer Michael Robotham is excellent as is Henning Mankell and Lawrence Block, Harlen Coben...ah, like I say, there’s too many to list.

(7.) How smoothly does your personal writing process go? Is it fairly structured for you, or more random in nature? 

I’m a goal-oriented kind of guy. I need goals to operate by, otherwise I’d just stare at the ceiling all day. When writing a first draft, I set the goal of 2,000 words a day. When I’m editing, I set myself the task of twenty pages a day. I have a chapter by chapter breakdown that I follow, but I don’t have a lot of detail in each chapter. I usually know how it starts and how it ends – but I have to make up the stuff in between.

 (8.) "The Steampunk Detective" is getting a re-release as "The Firebird Mystery". Very hearty congratulations! Can you talk a bit about the story, release date, working with the publisher, and any other pertinent information you might wish to share?

I think steampunk is a great genre and I’ve always loved Sherlock Holmes. Bringing together those two ideas resulted in ‘The Steampunk Detective’.

Ignatius Doyle is a quirky detective looking for an assistant. Jack Mason is an orphaned boy who has grown up in a circus. They join together with Scarlet Bell to investigate a centuries-old mystery involving an organisation known as The Phoenix Society.

Since signing an 8 book publishing deal with Text Publishing, the book has been re-edited and expanded. It is being released as the first Jack Mason Adventure, a book called ‘The Firebird Mystery’ and it is due out on the 26th of February. The sequel, ‘The Secret Abyss’ is coming out in July with the third book scheduled for November, 2014. Here’s the link on Amazon:

My editor at Text Publishing has been Michael Heyward and I’m very fortunate to be working with such an experienced person. There’s a lot of excitement around the release of the book, so I’m looking forward to the big day!

 (9.) What are you working on currently, and what's a tentative schedule, if you can share?

I’m editing the second Jack Mason adventure at the moment and will shortly begin the edit of number three in the series.

In my spare time, I’m working on another book – but that’s a secret project. I expect to be working on the re-release of the Teen Superhero books in the next few months. Exciting times!

  (10.) In my opinion, your stories would translate very well into graphic novels/ comic series. Have you thought about this at all, and if the opportunity came up, would you be open to working in this medium?

I think comic book art is a wonderful merging of writing and art. I’d love to work with a good artist and publisher to produce some comic stories.

  (11.) A random question to round things out. If you could have any artist to do covers/interiors, who would it be? (I have really liked the artwork on your releases to date.)

Boy, that’s a good question! There are so many good artists out there! I like Frank Miller, Alex Ross and so many other comic artists. Then there are so many of those ‘old time’ artists like Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko who helped to invent the medium. There’s Bernie Wrightson, Will Eisner... okay, I’m out of control now.

I think the trick is to make the art work with the words. Sometimes good writing can be let down by poor art and visa versa. I think the two have to work hand-in-hand.

Thanks for the opportunity to answer your questions! It’s been a blast!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

My review of Darrell Pitt's excellent "The Steampunk Detective".

Well, after re-reading "The Steampunk Detective" by Darrell Pitt, I've come to a couple of conclusions. Not only does the story stand up to repeat readings, it actually gets better, in my opinion. Various details and nuances came to my attention that made me appreciate Jack and Mr. Doyle's adventures even more. However, let me present an overview of the story before going further. The two main characters of the tale are Jack Mason, a sixteen year old orphan; and Mr. Ignatius Doyle, consulting detective. The setting is a steampunk version of Victorian England. Despite a rocky first meeting, Jack and Mr. Doyle gradually become true friends and partners. Engaged in a case to find Miss Scarlet Bell's missing father, the duo stumble upon a much greater plot that endangers the world itself. Up against Nazi's, a secret society, and the nefarious M, can the two save the day? Mr. Pitt takes some elements from a more established consulting detective, combines them with his own unique characters, and then turns them loose in his wonderful alternate history setting. Rest assured, this is not a homage or a pastiche. Mr. Pitt takes some inspiration from the world of Sherlock Holmes, but the story he tells here is both well-crafted and uniquely his own. The level of world building put into the setting and it's history is inspiring, and Mr. Pitt's prose is both fluid and highly cinematic. I could easily see this being adapted either into a graphic novel or on the big screen. The world really comes to life through the wonderful prose. The plot itself is seamless, and a grand adventure. Moving from more character-driven moments, to large scale action scenes, to moments more focused on Jack himself, the story behaves organically; nothing is superfluous, everything lends to character development and the advancement of the plot. The characters are well drawn, and as they journey, the journey changes them. They are not the same as they were before their adventure, and have grown considerably. Basically, the story is well written, and a joy to read. I'd like to thank the author, and I look forward to reading more of his wonderful adventures. I enthusiastically recommend "The Steampunk Detective" to anyone wishing to lose themselves in a grand adventure. 5 out of 5 stars.