Friday, April 18, 2014

Blogging Dan Barry’s Flash Gordon, Part Twelve

“Starling” by Dan Barry was serialized by King Features Syndicate from July 11 to September 3, 1955. “Starling” starts off with Flash visiting Dr. Zarkov one evening to find his old friend depressed as the U.S. Government has turned down his request for an additional million dollars funding to finish construction of the Super-S Rocket. It is a nice hint of direction for the strip to come which will take the series closer to its roots. Flash and Zarkov are startled by the discovery of a prowler outside, but the man gets away. Over the next few days, similar disturbing incidents occur. Flash and Dale are nearly run down by a speeding car while out walking one afternoon on the grounds of Zarkov’s estate. Later, a crate is dropped off the roof of a downtown building when Flash is walking beneath and just misses him. Shortly thereafter, Zarkov receives a telephone call from B. B. Remsen, the billionaire industrialist requesting an interview with Flash. Upon visiting Remsen’s estate, Flash is outraged to discover Remsen hired his goon, Byron to test Flash’s reflexes by nearly running him down with a speeding car and dropping a crate off a building. Byron was the prowler at Zarkov’s estate who learned of the need for financing for the Super-S Rocket. Remsen agrees to finance the rocket if Flash will take on a unique assignment. Remsen’s very wild granddaughter, Starling wants to travel in space and Remsen wants Flash to pilot the rocket that will take her to the stars. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Forgotten Treasures of the Pulps: Tony Rome, Private Eye

The paperback original (PBO to collectors) was the immediate successor to the pulp magazine as the home of pulp fiction. Marvin Albert was one of the bright lights of the paperback original market for detective fiction. Albert’s work is revered in France where he is considered a master of the hardboiled form, but he is largely forgotten Stateside since his work lacks the literary polish of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler and was never as shocking as Mickey Spillaine. Albert never broke new ground, but he did excel at crafting hardboiled private eye stories in the classic tradition from the fifties through the eighties. Much like Max Allan Collins or Michael Avallone, he also supplemented his income adapting screenplays as movie tie-in novels for the paperback original market. Oddly enough, Albert’s specialty was bedroom farces where Hollywood adaptations were concerned. Albert utilized a number of pseudonyms during his career (many of which were reprinted under his real name in later years). He published three mysteries featuring tough private eye, Tony Rome in the early 1960s. The books were published in the byline of Anthony Rome as if to suggest the tales being told were real cases. Tony Rome is remembered today thanks to a pair of campy Frank Sinatra vehicles in the mid-sixties which portray the character as a middle-aged playboy drooling after bikini-clad lovelies half his age. The fact that the private eye operated out of a houseboat drew comparison to the later Travis McGee private eye series. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Thankless World of the Continuation Author

Despite the title, this article is not intended as a forum for a continuation author to lament how unforgiving his critics are. Bad reviews are tough to avoid for any writer and, in this instance, I’m the one bad-mouthing another continuation writer. I do not feel pangs of guilt since the author in question is not only talented, but very successful and lauded in his industry. In other words, I’m an insignificant mouse picking on an elephant and that hopefully protects me from charges of betraying one of my own. I recently read Benjamin Black’s The Black-Eyed Blonde, the first Philip Marlowe continuation novel in nearly 25 years. I can think of only one nice thing to say about the book and that is at long last Robert B. Parker need no longer be disparaged as the man who wrote the two worst Philip Marlowe mysteries. I am a fan of Black’s original historical mysteries, but my familiarity with his work did nothing to convince me he was a good choice to revive Raymond Chandler’s classic private eye hero, particularly when a talent such as Ace Atkins is out there and writing new Spenser mysteries that do justice to the originals. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE ON FRIDAY.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Blogging Sax Rohmer’s The Island of Fu Manchu, Part Four

Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu and the Panama Canal was first serialized in Liberty Magazine from November 16, 1940 to February 1, 1941. It was published in book form as The Island of Fu Manchu by Doubleday in the US and Cassell in the UK in 1941. The book serves as a direct follow-up to Rohmer’s 1939 bestseller, The Drums of Fu Manchu and is again narrated by Fleet Street journalist, Bart Kerrigan. The final quarter of the novel sees Rohmer really deliver the goods with Kerrigan and Sir Denis Nayland Smith successfully infiltrating the Haitian voodoo ceremony of Queen Mamaloi. While similar scenes had occurred in the past at various clandestine gatherings of the Si-Fan, the sequence most closely resembles the gathering of the followers of El Mahdi in 1932’s The Mask of Fu Manchu. Rohmer’s mastery of the art of suspense writing makes the reader believe the heroes are in genuine danger. While this is no small feat considering the number of times Rohmer had penned similar scenes in the past, part of the success here is down to the climactic revelation of the voodoo Queen Mamaloi. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE ON FRIDAY.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Blogging Sax Rohmer’s The Island of Fu Manchu, Part Three

Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu and the Panama Canal was first serialized in Liberty Magazine from November 16, 1940 to February 1, 1941. It was published in book form as The Island of Fu Manchu by Doubleday in the US and Cassell in the UK in 1941. The book serves as a direct follow-up to Rohmer’s 1939 bestseller, The Drums of Fu Manchu and is again narrated by Fleet Street journalist, Bart Kerrigan. The second half of the book gets underway with Sir Denis Nayland Smith, Sir Lionel Barton, Bart Kerrigan, and the local police chief holding a council of war to discuss the enigmatic Lou Cabot. A meeting is arranged by Kerrigan and Sir Denis with the dancer Flammario who is Cabot’s former lover. Cabot is involved with the Si-Fan and has run afoul of Dr. Fu Manchu. Both the Devil Doctor and Flammario wish to see Cabot dead. Flammario is clearly meant to recall Zarmi from the third Fu Manchu novel, but she is more bitter than she is seductive. She leads Smith and Kerrigan to Cabot’s apartment. Unfortunately, the Si-Fan had the advantage and arrived before them. The place is in a shambles and they find Cabot’s hideosuly mangled corpse. Kerrigan spies Ardatha’s ring on a shelf and knows that his lost love has fallen back into the Si-Fan’s clutches. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE ON FRIDAY.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Blogging Sax Rohmer’s The Island of Fu Manchu, Part Two

Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu and the Panama Canal was first serialized in Liberty Magazine from November 16, 1940 to February 1, 1941. It was published in book form as The Island of Fu Manchu by Doubleday in the US and Cassell in the UK in 1941. The second quarter of the novel begins with Ardatha phoning Kerrigan before he leaves for their mission abroad. She shares Fu Manchu’s itinerary with him in the hopes he will arrange for the return of Peko, Fu Manchu’s pet marmoset. After hanging up, a confused Kerrigan learns Sir Lionel abducted the animal while being liberated from the clinic in Regent Park. Sir Denis explains both he and Barton understand Peko’s value as a hostage. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE NEXT FRIDAY.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Blogging Sax Rohmer’s The Island of Fu Manchu, Part One

Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu and the Panama Canal was first serialized in Liberty Magazine from November 16, 1940 to February 1, 1941. It was published in book form as The Island of Fu Manchu by Doubleday in the US and Cassell in the UK in 1941. The book serves as a direct follow-up to Rohmer’s 1939 bestseller, The Drums of Fu Manchu and is again narrated by Fleet Street journalist, Bart Kerrigan. The previous book in the series was published just prior to the outbreak of the Second World War in Europe. Rohmer chose to portray characters such as Hitler and Mussolini under thinly disguised aliases. More critically, he chose to have these threats to world peace removed by the conclusion of the book as he naively believed a Second World War would be avoided at all costs. Over a year into the war, Rohmer had to address these issues for his readers. His excuse was a brilliant one. The prior narrative had been censored by the Home Office. Bart Kerrigan was forced to alter names and events. Hitler and Mussolini yet lived. Interestingly, Rohmer chose to pick up the story some months after the last title and reflect changes in the lives of his characters. The Si-Fan has fallen under an unnamed pro-Fascist president who counts Fu Manchu’s duplicitous daughter among his closest allies. The Devil Doctor himself has fallen from grace within the Si-Fan as he opposes fascism at all costs. This rift threatens to tear the secret society apart as much as the war was doing the same to governments around the world. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE ON FRIDAY.