Charles Saunders (1946-2020)

It’s been a couple of days since I’ve heard of Charles Saunders passing away. In those couple of days I’ve had a few well meaning people ask me if I were going to write something in reference to his passing and while I fully understood why they would ask me that, I also didn’t feel as if it was my place to do so. And here’s why:

There’s this psychological pattern commonly known as “imposter syndrome” where an individual constantly doubts their talents and refuses to believe that they deserve their success, popularity or achievements. They fully expect to one day be exposed as a fraud and live in fear of the day that happens. You find it a lot among writers. Oh, yah…a whole lot of writers, trust me.

My imposter syndrome manifests in me through my relationship with a number of professional writers that thanks through the Internet I have met, worked with, met in person and even become friends with. The very notion that these accomplished men and women whose writings I have read and enjoyed for many years that treat me as a fellow professional still blows my mind and I often feel that somehow, I’ve tricked them into thinking I’m far more intelligent and talented than I actually am.

Which brings me to Charles Saunders. When people asked me if was I going to write something about Charles, I felt that Ron Fortier, whose friendship with him goes back to the 1970s and Milton Davis, who worked quite closely with Charles in recent years were more qualified to speak about Charles and that I would be stepping on toes by being presumptuous in claiming a relationship that wasn’t there.

But after talking with my wife Patricia and re-reading some of the letters Charles wrote me, I realized that there indeed was a relationship Charles and I had for a long time even though we had never met in person. I wouldn’t be the kind of writer I am without Charles Saunders. Don’t get me wrong…I would still have been a writer. It’s what I’m hardwired to be. But it was Charles Saunders that expanded my notion of what a black writer could write about. He, along with Octavia Butler, Chester Himes, Ishmael Reed, Samuel R. Delany and Langston Hughes helped me to have the courage to write what I wanted to write, instead of what I was “supposed” to write or what I “should” be writing.

I discovered IMARO sometime during the 1980s when I spent a lot of time on weekends hanging out in Manhattan’s used bookstores. At that time, I was hip deep in Robert E. Howard, Michael Moorcock, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Lin Carter, Fritz Leiber and the sight of a Heroic Fantasy/Sword & Sorcery paperback with a black hero on the cover was enough to drive all the air out of my body. I bought the book on the spot, asked the guy behind the counter if he had any more books like that. He gave me that; “Get outta here, man,” look and so I took the book home and during that weekend read it two times. Next weekend I read it two more times. It was that much of a revelation to me.

You have to understand that I didn’t get much encouragement from black folks as to the stuff I liked to write. Even other black writers didn’t have much respect or liking for my pulp influenced action adventures or Science Fiction or Sword and Sorcery. “That’s stuff for white people” I would be told or, “You need to write books that will educate. Our kids don’t need that.”

So when I found Charles Saunders it was akin to Indiana Jones finding the Ark of The Covenant. Here was proof that what I liked to write could be published. I could write what I liked to write and it would find an audience. As this was pre-Internet I had no way of knowing the setbacks and indignities Charles himself had to struggle with and like most visionaries he was not accepted or appreciated the way he should have been because he truly was ahead of his time. He is now known as the Father of Sword and Soul, but man, did it take him a long time for that acknowledgment. It’s not an easy thing to be the founder of a genre. But that’s what it means to be a trailblazer, leading the way for others to follow. Quite often, it’s the scout that returns to the wagon train with a lotta arrows in his back. But because he went on ahead and found a way, the wagon train gets to where it’s going. And all of us who have loved Charles for the characters he created and the stories he told are still on that wagon train, because it’s not the destination. It’s never the destination. It’s the path you create and the journey you take, the pushing of boundaries further and further out so that the ones following you know where to go because you made that road easier.

Charles Saunders expressed an appreciation and enjoyment of my work that still sustains me when I hit those days when the words struggle to flow the way they should. I consider myself blessed that for a time we exchanged letters and communicated not just as writers but I also hope with all my heart, as friends.

Thank you, Charles.

From the “Chadwick Forever: A Stepping Off Point” File by Sean E. Ali

“Is this your king?”

Stick a pin in that, I’ll get back to it.

During the promotional tour for BLACK PANTHER, Chadwick Boseman was asked if he had directly experienced the social impact of the film, and did it affect how he approached the role. At this point in his life, Boseman had already been diagnosed with Stage 3 colon cancer and was privately undergoing surgeries and chemotherapy to combat it. Without revealing that, here’s how he answered the question…

“There are 2 little kids–Ian and Taylor–who recently passed from cancer. And, throughout our filming, I was communicating with them, knowing that they were both terminal. What they said to me, and their parents, is they’re trying to hold on till this movie comes. To a certain degree, you hear them say that and you’re like: ‘Whew. Wow. I’ve got to get up and go to the gym. I’ve got to get up and go to work. I’ve got to learn these lines. I’ve got to work on this accent.’

“To a certain degree, it’s a humbling experience because you’re like ‘This can’t mean that much to them.’ But, seeing how the world has taken this on, seeing how the movement, how it’s taken a life of its own, I realized that they anticipated something great. I think back now to [being] a kid and just waiting for Christmas to come, waiting for my birthday to come, waiting for a toy that I was going to get a chance to experience, or a video game…I did live life waiting for those moments. So, it put me back in the mind of being a kid, just to experience those 2 little boys’ anticipation of this movie. And, when I found out that they…”

Boseman suddenly seemed to feel the full weight of the experience and was unable to continue, because the end of that remembrance is that Ian and Taylor were unable to hold on until the film’s completion. They, despite this relationship they had built, passed away before BLACK PANTHER was finished. Boseman breaks down in tears and eventually he had to excuse himself from the discussion, leaving his cast mates and director to finish up that particular part of the junket.

But the clip, which I posted below is powerful because that man and that vulnerability is an insight into who Chadwick Boseman was. It’s an openness that was rare for him, but it was also very telling about the man’s conviction to carry on. And through this story and countless visits to other children like Ian and Taylor Boseman never let on that there was a deeper meaning to him, a need to not only fight for his own life, but to also be there to comfort the generations that would follow him.

If you watch the man behind the roles, Chadwick Boseman comes across as a man of purpose, passion and conviction. He lived his life unlike most entertainers with a certain sense of obligation and responsibility to not just achieve but to exceed expectations, to create and portray characters on the shoulders of those that sacrificed and fought the battles on the behalf of future generations like his who would pick up the torch and carry it. During an address at Howard University in 2018 as their commencement keynote speaker, Boseman recalled how he, as a student at Howard at the time, had encountered The Greatest – Muhammad Ali as he was crossing a courtyard. Ali who was in the last years of his life, but still every bit of the man and legend he was, locked in on Boseman and assumed a sparring stance. For a few moments Boseman had the unique honor of trading a couple of light jabs with The Champ before Ali’s security and assistants moved the legend along to whatever point in history they were headed to next. Boseman recalled that he left “floating like a butterfly”. For Boseman, the encounter was one he told the students he would have to draw upon later.

He spoke to them of how he was impacted by teachers and actors and the unique chances and opportunities he got as he was raised on the shoulders of those that came before him. How he left Howard and found almost immediate success landing roles and rapidly climbing to his first real TV acting job on a soap opera he doesn’t name where he found himself cast as a character some would say was stereotypical: A young, but angry, man who is directionless but eventually attracted to a gang and their lifestyle. Boseman relates how he was “troubled” about the part and, after a couple of episodes in the can, was invited up as he was filming the third one by the producers who wanted to share their satisfaction with his work and put forth the offer to let them know if there was any concerns or needs on his part because they were looking for a long run with him. So he questioned some of the motivations of his character by asking for background info. The first question was where was the character’s father?

By the time he’d gotten to the second question dealing with why was the character’s mother deemed unfit which led to his character and the character’s brother going into foster care, they were re-reading his resume like they’d missed something. The meeting ended amicably enough, he went back on set and finished shooting for the day…

…and he was let go the following day.

He used his own doubts and questions of that event and how the reality of losing that job gave him a reputation as “difficult to work with”. I’ve been there myself. I’ve got a doozy of a story about my first graphics job which lasted about 14 hours total. So I get exactly how he must’ve felt.

What I enjoyed about watching that address is the appreciation he got eventually for standing by his convictions and questioning the role despite the outcome. Given the people he went on to play and the heights of his career, he made what would become a solid call. What brought him back to himself was his encounter with Ali. The few moments The Champ had called upon his past to recall the fighter he always was even in fun in those few glancing jabs. What he concluded was that in a sense Ali was giving him a gift – a transference of the fighter’s spirit that Ali called upon so often in victory and defeat to face impossible odds and rise above in victory or fall in defeat with the promise to not quit and get back on your feet so you can get back in the fight. If you take time for it, the address is an inspiring half hour and delivered with a sense of awareness, passion and urgency to be up and doing. To not just represent, but also respond.

And if you find another two or three minutes, as I did, check out Boseman’s tribute to Denzel Washington at the latter’s API Lifetime Achievement Award celebration. Boseman’s being in awe of Denzel along with the gratitude given to one of the greatest actors of his generation by his direct contribution to Boseman’s Howard and acting experience that allowed him to study and act in Britain. His praise and earnest appreciation moved a usually stoic Denzel to tears and a standing ovation that you could see was genuine because he was blown away by Boseman’s sincerity as he said there would be no BLACK PANTHER if it wasn’t for Denzel responding to the call to raise the next generation.

People often look at folks who lionize the passing of an entertainer saying they do not rate the level of attention given them. That it’s celebrity worshipping and shouldn’t be voiced or encouraged. In some cases that is generally true. You mark their passing say it’s a shame and move on.

But Chadwick Boseman isn’t one of those. Go look at his body of work, the icons he played, the roles where he would not allow content to be compromised for fame’s sake. For embodying all of the lessons learned at Howard, the values from his upbringing in his family, his humility gained through failure and success, his respect for the past, his passion for the present, his responsibility to the future, and a sense of urgency bought about by knowing his time was short so his actions had to matter.

“Is this your king?”

You better believe he was.

And, in a very real sense, always will be simply because he was trying to be the best man he could be. We could learn a lot from his example.

“Everybody is the hero in their own story. You should be the hero in your own story.”

And that’s who Chadwick Boseman was at the end of the day: the hero of his own story.

And for a time or two, he even saved the world to boot.

While it was sudden to us, it was his time. I hope he finds the veldt King T’Challa spoke of when he said…

“In my culture, death is not the end. It’s more of a stepping off point. You reach out with both hands and Bast and Sekhmet, they lead you into the green veldt where you can run forever.”

He will be missed for much more than BLACK PANTHER, but he leaves behind a brief but impressive legacy.

And consider it a stepping off point to pick up the torch and carry it forward.

And I wish him a Peaceful Journey.

Chadwick Forever.

And the clips I mentioned above can be found below…

Be good to yourselves and each other.

And The Battle Continues: An Essay by Sean E. Ali

Emmett Till should have turned 79 today.

Till was just 14 years old when he was abducted and brutally murdered because of an accusation by Carolyn Bryant, the white married proprietor of a small grocery store in Money, Mississippi. Till was accused of flirting with or whistling at Bryant. In 1955, Bryant testified Till made aggressive physical and verbal advances towards her which deviated from her original story. The jury did not hear the judge ruled that her testimony was inadmissible and the jury never heard it. In an interview given in 2008, Bryant admitted that she had falsified part of the testimony, specifically the part where she accused Till of grabbing her waist and uttering obscenities, saying “that part’s not true” on the record.

His murderers, Carolyn’s husband Roy Bryant and his half-brother J.W. Milam, claimed they were innocent of the crime and they were acquitted by an all white jury. The decision by the jury was rendered after a 67-minute deliberation. It was reported that one juror said, “If we hadn’t stopped to drink pop, it wouldn’t have taken that long.”

A year later, with assurances that they were protected from double jeopardy, Bryant and Milam admitted that they had indeed lynched and murdered Till, saying that they had originally intended to beat him and toss him off an embankment into the Tallahatchie River, but allege that Till “forgot his place” by calling them bastards, claiming he was as good as they were, and he had been sexually active with white women…

Again, at the time of his death, Till was only 14-years old.

Over the years, Bryant and Milam would change their stories and vacillate between admitting they killed Till to denials of having done anything depending on their circumstances. But in the interview with LOOK Magazine, Milam stated:

“Well, what else could we do? He was hopeless. I’m no bully; I never hurt a nigger in my life. I like niggers—in their place—I know how to work ’em. But I just decided it was time a few people got put on notice. As long as I live and can do anything about it, niggers are gonna stay in their place. Niggers ain’t gonna vote where I live. If they did, they’d control the government. They ain’t gonna go to school with my kids. And when a nigger gets close to mentioning sex with a white woman, he’s tired o’ livin’. I’m likely to kill him. Me and my folks fought for this country, and we got some rights. I stood there in that shed and listened to that nigger throw that poison at me, and I just made up my mind. ‘Chicago boy,’ I said, ‘I’m tired of ’em sending your kind down here to stir up trouble. Goddam you, I’m going to make an example of you—just so everybody can know how me and my folks stand.”

The murderers had involved two black men in Milam’s employ, Levi “Too Tight” Collins and Henry Lee Loggins who may have been direct witnesses to the lynching and murder of Till. The prosecution was unaware of their involvement prior to the trial and the sheriff, Clarence Strider, had both men arrested and jailed to make sure they weren’t accessible to serve as witnesses for the entirety of the trial. Strider would also do his part to cloud the issue by changing his definite identification of Till when his bloated and mutilated body was pulled from the river after being tossed over the Black Bayou Bridge in Glendora.

It should be noted that during the trial Sheriff Strider regularly welcomed black spectators coming back from lunch with a cheerful, “Hello, Niggers!”

Because he was a polite, classy guy.

Strider also suggested later that the recovered body had been planted by the NAACP. He speculated the corpse had been stolen and Till’s ring placed on it to solidify identification. Strider changed his account after his comments were published in the press, later saying: “The last thing I wanted to do was to defend those peckerwoods. But I just had no choice about it.”

Identification was difficult due to the state of the body when it was found. Till’s head was very badly mutilated, he had been shot above the right ear, an eye was dislodged from the socket, there was evidence that he had been beaten on the back and the hips, and his body weighted by a fan blade, which was fastened around his neck with barbed wire. He was nude, but wearing a silver ring with the initials “L. T.” and “May 25, 1943” carved in it. His face was unrecognizable due to trauma and having been submerged in water.

Till’s mother, Mamie Till Bradley, insisted that Till’s body not be buried in Mississippi, but returned to her in Chicago. The officials in Mississippi were trying to rush bury Till to put the issue to rest; they had already packed Till’s body in lime and had him in a pine box when they were compelled to comply with Till Bradley’s request to return the body to her. It’s been said that when the body reached Chicago and was opened at the funeral home to be identified before preparing the body for burial, the stench was said to be detectable at least two blocks away from where it was. Till Bradley, based on the condition of her son’s body decided to have an open casket funeral saying: “There was just no way I could describe what was in that box. No way. And I just wanted the world to see.” Images of Till were published in the black and white periodicals of the day and received worldwide attention with regard to the caste system and institutionally backed racism, and racially biased brutality brought to bear against Black Americans.

The counter charge by the officials with a vested interest in maintaining segregation and perceived white racial superiority was that groups like the NAACP were instigating discord and not interested in race related social justice as much as being agitators attempting to “radicalize” the local black community. There were conspiracy theories, reports of riots in the area and vandalism that didn’t happen but were meant to influence public reaction by misrepresenting the intent of outside groups who took an interest in Till’s death and the greater racial and social issues that were raised by it…

…sound familiar?

The admission of Bryant and Milan that they did, in fact, Lynch and murder Till changed their fortunes in an ironic way. The community turned on them despite their nearly unanimous support despite the overwhelming evidence they had a hand in the crime. Both men were compelled to relocate to Texas and take up new professions.

Milam tried to return to farming after his business was boycotted and he was forced to close. He secured a loan and got land, but was unable to coerce any of the black workers, who were the primary labor force in that line, to come and work for him. He’d eventually have to pay higher wages to secure white workers which led to financial problems that closed the new farm. He moved to Texas to try for a fresh start but his reputation and infamy followed him. He eventually returned to Mississippi where he’d be tried for various offenses like writing bad checks, credit card fraud, and assault and battery…

…for folks needing a modern day counterpart to relate: see George Zimmerman.

Roy Bryant’s store where Till encountered his wife leading to the murder was boycotted by the black community (who turned out to be the majority of his customers) and was forced to close it and file for bankruptcy. He’d later move to Texas, have his reputation and infamy make him return to Mississippi where he’d eventually divorce his wife, and open a new store where he would get caught and convicted for food stamp fraud a couple of times. He gave an interview in the 1980s In a 1985 interview, he denied that he had killed Till, but said: “if Emmett Till hadn’t got out of line, it probably wouldn’t have happened to him.” Bryant wanted to avoid the boycotting of his new store so he lived a private life and refused to be photographed or reveal the exact location of his store, explaining: “this new generation is different and I don’t want to worry about a bullet some dark night.”

A couple of years before he died, in 1992, Bryant was interviewed about his involvement in Till’s murder. Bryant was unaware that Till’s mother had been invited to listen in on the conversation in another room so he would feel comfortable to speak freely. During the interview, he asserted that Till had ruined his life. Expressing no remorse, Bryant reportedly said, “Emmett Till is dead. I don’t know why he can’t just stay dead.”

Till’s death is said to have been the tipping point that would inspire what would become the Civil Rights Movement because it was one of the first cases that showed how deeply ingrained racism was and how swiftly local governments and the white community moved to protect his murderers based on the racial component being that “white is right” above all else.

A battle that’s still being fought 65 years later come August.

Incidentally, just last month a bill to make lynching a federal crime, was blocked by a single Republican Senator.

And the battle continues.

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From The “Feeling The Heat In Miami File” by Sean E. Ali

Yes, there’s some art for a book I’m not attached to, but felt compelled to create because…

Well, therein lies the tale…

Since coronavirus came to town my world in particular had gotten crazy and uncertain…

But on the upside, my days aren’t nearly as stressful as say coming home to find the place ransacked and picked clean of profits from something you worked pretty hard to get through means you’d rather not discuss…

…It’s criminal what a guy has to go through.

And what makes it worse is that it happens in the last place you’d expect things like this to happen: a quiet suburb just outside of…

…Miami.

Especially when you just settled down there after retiring from your last job in Las Vegas. But as you’ll soon discover, whatever happens in Vegas, could have consequences you never expected.

Which is a set up for Van Allen Plexico’s all the fun you’ll find in this second helping of professional heisters Harper and Salsa as they find themselves putting in work in MIAMI HEI$T.

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Heist stories, as I’ve said on numerous occasions, have a special place in my heart. They’re entertaining, tricky to plot and execute, and offer some insight into what motivates people to take what doesn’t belong to them and the extremes they’ll engage in to get the job done. And Van, bless him, chose the 1960s to set these up in where these guys were both brutal and cool thanks to films like the original OCEAN’S 11 and books like the series featuring professional criminal Parker written under the pen name Richard Stark by the late, great Donald Westlake. There’s nostalgia and a wonderfully tech free world to work in carry your action without the fear that one of your crew will be posting up video to social media and blowing the job.

So when we last saw our heroes, John Harper and Saul “Salsa” Salzman have successfully managed to get out of Vegas in one piece and considerably richer than they were going in…

…given they were a team of four at the start of the caper, there were a few hitches.

Well we are now months and miles away from Nevada and deep underground on the sun splashed beaches of Miami where Harper has adopted a new name, bought a new home he’s rarely at in Flagler Beach, and picked up a (presumably) new girlfriend Connie Perrigen – who is aware of what Harper does and has none of the issues expected of grad student, and a new Camaro which has brought him back to said new home after leaving (presumably) new girlfriend down at a South Beach hotel after getting a message sent to his new adopted name letting him know someone, somehow knows exactly who he is, where he lives and what he has

…from that time in Las Vegas.

When Harper gets to his house, he finds that his stash with his money from Vegas is long gone from where he hid it. He checks in with Salsa who got an earlier message from Harper that sent him, not to his stash to check his loot, but to the house of Lois Funderburk, who was the finger for the job in VEGAS HEI$T and is now Salsa’s steady girl. By the time Harper gets to Salsa’s office, he finds out Salsa’s been cleaned out too. Lois, being a practical woman, had the bulk of her cut tied up in legitimate investments or it’s in the bank earning its interest on more faith than Harper and Salsa has for those institutions. As despair and desperation kick in, Salsa brings up a job that Harper passed on earlier tied to a local but solitary spot known as Ruby Island which houses an old estate converted into a casino and a legend that there may be gold hidden away in the grounds.

Gold that came there by way of a Nazi submarine during World War II.

Harper and Salsa have a limited crew of themselves and the ladies and while scouting the job they come across a second crew looking to pull a straightforward robbery run by Big Bob Bigelow, a local planner who is talked into supporting Harper’s effort, but is a little annoyed to find the pay day may not be as nice as his team co-opting the job for their own for the risks they’re taking. Harper himself wasn’t too keen on the job from the beginning, and the number of red flags he’s noticed and ignored haven’t helped any.

But with their Vegas money gone and no idea of who took it and where to find it, Harper and Salsa have to play some long odds and go for broke.

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Now, I’ll stop with the summary because I caught myself about to reveal things you shouldn’t know about if you plan to read the book, or details you may be a little fuzzy about if you haven’t bought/read VEGAS HEI$T, which this book leans on heavily to set things up to tell its tale. I want you to check in without spoilers of any sort on my end.

As to how I felt as it played out though?

Yeah, I can share that with you…

Heist stories are solid because most folks think of them as two major acts: everything up to the heist, and the heist itself and everything that follows. You watch the job get planned, you see it executed, you wait for whatever fallout comes of doing what they did and any flagged aberrations that will flip the circumstances in different ways, and you hope all of the above is executed in such a way that you feel you invested your time well. But the thing about heist stories and the folks who occupy them is nothing’s ever according to plan with a nice neat finish. Look at some of the best literary heisters and con artists and in a lot of cases the antihero be it a “gentleman thief like Raffles, or Earle Stanley Gardner’s Lester Leith, or Westlake’s Parker, or TV shows like LEVERAGE and HU$TLE, you’ll find a certain element of chaos that adds to the tension of the story as everything goes off the rails making the crooks we’re rooting for got to work on trying to get everything back under control. The thing is that the bulk of these guys keep their cool and tend not to be reckless as they adjust. And while that’s all well and good, what you almost never see is what happens when your guy pulls off the big job, gets away…

…and it still blows up later.

What MIAMI HEI$T does is take that exact route, if snatches away a successful job with a messy finish in VEGAS and turns this tale into a heist, a caper…

…and a getaway story of sorts. Which is a part of the whole heist genre that gets overlooked as a subcategory a lot. In this case, things don’t just go wrong, but they’re going wrong from the last job which is spilling over into how this job is put together. It’s a nice play of controlled panic and desperation where all concerned are pushed well out of their comfort zone from the folks we met in VEGAS and the new members of the cast who turn up in MIAMI. You get the feeling right away that Harper’s winging this more than he wanted to because he has no safety net, but everyone around him thinks he’s got it together.

It is a beautifully put together character examination of Harper over the rest of the cast where he’s fleshed out a bit and slight divergences from his spiritual father of Westlake’s Parker are starting to show up. Mostly because Parker wouldn’t have gone this route with so many potential holes in the plan. Van also shows some subtle things with Salsa who still wears his feelings on his sleeve, especially where Lois is concerned, Connie may be a keeper, her role in this left me wondering how she and Harper hooked up and exactly what kind of life she had led up to this introduction. There are great character bits, small stuff that puts some weight to Salsa being thought of as a partner more than a convenient associate. Van makes it understandable why Harper works with Salsa and even gives us a sort of Salsa moment from Harper which could very well lead them into their next big job after going to a movie. I also like that I’m personally uncomfortable with Lois being involved as she is. Her use in this book and the way Van plays with her interactions with everyone makes her the same sort of question mark she was in VEGAS but maybe more so given the callouts to the first book. But this is more Harper’s story than anyone else’s and you get inside his head a little with him being more desperate than in control.

The cast is a bigger than the last book as moving parts go, but it was well worth it because, like any good heist story, you’re trying to figure out exactly where the twist is…

…and I’m telling you now, you’ll never see it coming.

…or that other one…

…and definitely not the one…

Well, you get the idea.

Get a neck brace though, you will get whiplash trying to follow all of this after the heist when everything gets WILD!

Plus there’s a lot of loose ends dangling that could (and should) be followed up and at least one guy I’d like to see the crew catch up to on camera as opposed to off. That guy turned out to be slicker than a kitten on skis.

No need for a spoiler alert, that’s the bulk of the cast in this book.

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If there’s any complaint it’s that the McGuffin was gotten to pretty easily, but it set up some really nice sequences after the job was done. Also, though it works from a marketing standpoint, you really should pick up VEGAS HEI$T to really appreciate everything that happens this time around. And you can find that definite gem of crime writing at a link like this one: https://www.amazon.com/…/ref=pd_aw_sim…/146-2096148-8091948…

Also, if you’re so inclined by what I said above, check out MIAMI HEI$T. I picked up a copy for my Kindle app right here:

https://www.amazon.com/Miami-Heist-Harper…/…/ref=mp_s_a_1_1…

Available in ebook and hard copy. Sadly we don’t get a movie version, but hey never say never…

Now, did I enjoy this one more or less than VEGAS?

Let’s just say I doodled a lot more this time around.

Until next time…

…Be good to yourselves and each other.

Oh yeah

As for the doodling inspired by this…?

Told you there were a lot…

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Who’s Who In New Pulp

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WHO’S WHO in NEW PULP is now available at Amazon. Here are 222 bios of the finest New Pulp writers, artists, reviewers, editors and publishers.

Since the days of Homer, people have naturally loved a good story. From the oral traditions of heroic sagas all the way to the traveling minstrels of the Middle Ages and the Penny Dreadfuls and Dime Novels of a burgeoning new continent. People have always enjoyed action adventure yarns. Then in the 1930s they evolved as garishly painted monthly magazines printed on rough, cheap paper and they were christened the Pulps.

Today their heritage continues in both the hundreds of paperbacks that entertain the masses as “populace fare.” There’s nothing high-brow here, just plain old-fashioned entertainment as a new 21st century generation has picked up the mantle to continue those amazing tales. In these pages you will find the 222 Writers, Artists, Editors, & Publishers who together are THE WHO’S WHO Of NEW PULP!

All proceeds from sale of the book to go to the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. 

Thanks to all who helped make this book possible.

Get your copy from Amazon HERE

Derrick Ferguson Agrees That LOVE STORIES ARE TOO VIOLENT FOR ME

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I’ve always thought that for the most part, private eye novels/movies end up being one of two kinds of stories. There’s the one where the private eye is hired to do a job and he doggedly pursues that task, relentlessly wading his way through a miasma of liars, gunsels, crooked cops and deceptive dames until arriving at the solution to the mystery. Think “The Maltese Falcon” or “Chinatown” and I think you’ll get what I mean.

Then there’s the other kind of private eye story where the solution to the mystery seems to be almost an afterthought. True, the private eye is hired for a job but in the course of doing the job he encounters a variety of characters that give him insights into aspects of his own life and force him to re-evaluate who he is and why he’s doing what he’s doing. The central mystery of the story is as much about the private eye investigating his own soul and his meditations/examination of the human condition embodied by the cast of characters he interacts with. Think Robert Altman’s “The Long Goodbye” or “Lady In The Lake”

Will Viharo’s LOVE STORIES ARE TOO VIOLENT FOR ME is firmly in that second kind of story. Viharo’s Vic Valentine very much lives in the past. Not just his past but the past of a world that is now a memory for the majority of Americans who barely remember what happened ten years ago. Vic dresses like he’s a member of Sinatra’s Rat Pack. His taste in movies, fashion, music and style is centered in the pop culture of the 1960s. And he likes it that way. Vic Valentine doesn’t mind being a walking anachronism. He just wishes he wasn’t so lonely in enjoying it. Vic is also a private detective. And to be honest, he’s not all that good at being a private eye. His cases mostly involve gathering evidence on cheating spouses. Once upon a time he had aspirations and ambitions in other, more creative fields. But just as in all other aspects of his life, Vic’s refusal to let go of the past led him to being a 1960s style private eye. And it’s during the labyrinthian pursuit of this particular case that I think Vic truly embraces his destiny and becomes a damn good private eye, worthy to stand next to Sam Spade, Philip Marlowe and Easy Rawlins.

Vic is hired by the alcoholic major league baseball player Tommy Dodge to find Tommy’s wife Rose. She just up and left him one day, leaving only a cryptic note. Tommy wants to know where she is and he wants Vic to find her. Vic really isn’t all that interested in taking the case. First of all, the Christmas season is coming up which depresses Vic to no end and second of all, after just fifteen minutes of talking to Tommy, Vic doesn’t like him much and thinks there’s more to the story than Tommy is telling him.

But of course, there is…what private eye story worth the telling doesn’t have more than what the client is telling? And as Vic follows the slim trail Rose left behind in her wake, he puts together clues that leads him to a revelation about Rose that is absolutely shattering to Vic on both the personal and professional levels and forces him to make some really hard decisions. And this is where LOVE STORIES ARE TOO VIOLENT FOR ME really begins to embrace its Film/Pulp Novel roots as Vic has to navigate the darkest of ambiguous moral and psychological waters to arrive at not only the solution to the mystery of why Rose left Tommy but also to resolve the demons of his past.

I have a list of The Best Writers That You’re Not Reading and Will Viharo is on that list. His ranking is none of your business. All you need to know is that if you haven’t read any of his work, you really should. Will Viharo himself is one of the most fascinating and coolest people I’ve ever met via The Internet. Go ahead and Google him or look him up on Facebook. Just the introduction of this novel where he talks about the dedication Christian Slater has had for years in his attempts in adapting this book into a movie is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Will’s history with Hollywood.

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I like his prose a lot. It’s fun to read as he throws in a lot of pop culture references to enhance Vic’s personality. But Will is not afraid to spend a lot of wordage to explore Vic’s emotional life as well. Vic Valentine is a private eye who really has no business being a private eye, if you ask me. He feels too much for the job. But paradoxically, that is the quality that leads him to solving this case and making the decisions he does make to resolve it and his life.

LOVE STORIES ARE TOO VIOLENT FOR ME is the Will Viharo novel I always recommend to people who have never read him before. And if you love Pulp then you should be reading him. Will Viharo knows Pulp like a monkey knows coconuts. I’ve read novels by writers who think they know what Pulp is and think it’s just a a bunch of wacky characters doing a bunch of wacky things. Will Viharo knows the psychology, mood and style of what goes into Pulp. Pulp is something Will Viharo didn’t have to learn. It’s in his DNA. And if you want a solid read this summer, do yourself a favor and check out LOVE STORIES ARE TOO VIOLENT FOR ME.

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Will Viharo’s Facebook Page

Derrick Ferguson Travels Overseas With JONATHAN FOX IN “THE MONSTER OF EGYPT”

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I finally got around to reading JONATHAN FOX IN “THE MONSTER OF EGYPT” and the first thing that immediately comes to mind is that I wish I hadn’t waited so long to do so. Don’t you make the same mistake I did. Pick this one up at your earliest opportunity. I got the digital version because…well, to be honest, I didn’t know what I was getting and if it turned out I didn’t like it I didn’t want to be stuck with the paperback. I know, I know…that sounds kinda cold. But there have been far too many times I’ve sprung for full price for a product and gotten burned. I’m delighted to be able to say that didn’t happen this time around. The day after finishing the digital version, I ordered the paperback. Because John McClellan is an artist/writer of undeniable talent with a great character who I’d like to see more of.

Jonathan Fox is a master thief who works for your typical shadow intelligence agency that doesn’t exist. He’s extraordinarily capable, resourceful and highly dangerous. He gets involved trying to prevent a devastating terrorist attack on America in a plot that for me was highly reminiscent of 1980s Action Movie and the Timothy Dalton James Bond movies. And I do mean that as a compliment as those who know me know that 1980s Action Movies are a big influence on my own work and that Timothy Dalton is my second favorite James Bond.

The story moves along a rapid pace like a man who is late picking up his paycheck. And the artwork is simply fun to look at. I myself tend to see a Steranko influence in the way the panels are laid out and in the slam-bang action action scenes which are cinematic, to say the least. This whole book might as well be the storyboard for a movie.

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And it may seem like a small thing, I know…but it’s those small things that tend to make me smile while I’m reading a graphic novel and I appreciate an artist who can not only draw engaging and exciting fight scenes but also party scenes where people wear clothes that have wrinkles and hang on their bodies like clothes are supposed to hang. There’s a panel where Jonathan Fox is just standing there, wearing a white suit but dang if John McClellan doesn’t draw that suit as if it had some weight to it. Mr. McClellan also remembers that clothes flap about, tear and retain bloodstains during and after a fight.

And Mr. McClellan also remembers that he’s supposed to be telling a story. There are way too many artists out there now that are more interested in how elaborate or intricate they can get with their storytelling but John McClellan understands that sometimes less is more. He’s out to put down an Action Movie on paper and for me, he did just that. if it sometimes seems as if he’s falling back on the tropes we’ve seen in other spy/adventure thrillers of this type that’s only because in this kind of stories there’s certain tropes you expect to see. You read a Western you expect there to be six shooters and horses, right? You read a romance and sooner or later somebody gonna kiss, correct? So I see no reason to fault any other genre for exploiting the elements we read that particular genre for.

If there is any complaint I have is that while Jonathan Fox continually maintains that he’s just a thief, they guy has a set of combat/tactical/strategic skills that would make Navy Seals envious. But I’m confident that in future adventures, John McClellan will reveal Fox’s full story. But in the meantime, if you’re down for some full tilt boogie Old School spy stuff, do yourself a favor and check this one out.

You can get yourself a copy of JONATHAN FOX IN “THE MONSTER OF EGYPT” at:

http://www.indyplanet.com/jonathan-fox

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