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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THRILLVILLE

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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Derrick Ferguson Saddles Up To Ride With U.S. MARSHAL BASS REEVES #1

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U.S. MARSHAL BASS REEVES #1

Allegiance Arts & Entertainment

Season 1/Episode 1: “No God West of Fort Smith”

Kevin Grevioux: Writer

David Williams: Artist

Kelsey Shannon: Colorist

Patrick Stiles: Editor

First off, can I say how good it was to hold an actual-to-Stan Lee Comic Book in my hands again? Most of my comic book reading of the last ten years or so has mostly been digital. Either on my Kindle or on my computer. I’ll re-read one of my graphic novels once in a while but this is the first single issue of any comic book I have held in my hands in ages. Just having that feeling of excitement and anticipation just before opening the cover come back to me again was worth reading U.S. MARSHAL BASS REEVES #1 for. That the story was well worth my time reading was an added bonus.

Wyatt Earp. Doc Holliday. Bat Masterson. Buffalo Bill. Charlie Siringo. Cole Younger. John Wesley Hardin. Wild Bill Hickok. These are names that we still remember and are renowned as legends of the Old West, the Wild West. The Wild West that has long since become as mythologized as the 1930’s of Doc Savage and The Shadow or Blaxploitation New York of the 1970s. Because their stories have been told and retold in novels, movies, comic books, radio dramas and TV shows until they’ve become integral threads in the great and grand tapestry of American Mythology. But where is Bass Reeves in this tapestry? Where are his comic books? His radio dramas? His movies? His TV shows?

Fortunately, Bass Reeves is become more and more well known by mainstream pop culture and his legend is enjoying the renown it deserves thanks to movies, print and television. And now we have a new comic featuring the great lawman to enjoy. And it’s a solid, entertaining beginning to what I hope will be a long run.

The various elements of Bass Reeves are well-highlighted in “No God West of Fort Smith.” We see him as feared bounty hunter, father/husband/family man and the start of his professional/personal relationship with Judge Isaac Parker, the infamous “Hanging Judge” of the Western District of Arkansas. Saying that the territory is lawless is an understatement. The Judge needs a new kind of lawman to tame this territory and he thinks Bass Reeves is it.

However, Bass has recently retired from bounty hunting and while he appreciates the offer, he’s made up his mind to settle down and raise his family in peace. Circumstances soon show Bass that in a land this savage and untamed, peace can only be maintained by strapping on his guns again.

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This is billed as Season 1/Episode 1 and indeed, it does have that feel of a pilot for a television series. Reading this I got the same vibe I do watching Classic TV Westerns of the 1960s and as I do so love those Westerns, that indeed is a good thing.

I only know Kevin Grevioux from the “Underworld” movie series and after reading this I need to seek out his other comic book work. He knows how to keep a story moving along at a nice clip and I liked his dialog, as to me, it does the things dialog is suppose to do: reveal character, provide information and keep the story moving. Now, dialog doesn’t have to do all of these things at the same time but to my mind, that’s what the best dialog does. I wasn’t crazy about Bass reciting his Biblical screed before committing mayhem as I was reminded way too much of the Bible passage Samuel L. Jackson’s character in “Pulp Fiction” would recite. But it’s something I can live with if used in future issues.

I greatly enjoyed the artwork of David Williams, especially the lean angular bodies of the figures. These aren’t people who sit around all day watching Netflix and bitching on Twitter. These are muscular people who live a hard life, working from sun-up to sun-down and their bodies reflect the life they lead. There’s one panel of Bass Reeves, having just received his badge and his commission with him looking down at the badge pinned to his vest with his wife standing behind him and the expression on their respective faces says more that any amount of dialog could. That is what I call artistry.

So should you read U.S. MARSHAL BASS REEVES #1? Absolutely. Those of us who have been into comics since who laid the rails know that Comic Books are way more than superheroes and are capable of telling stories in all genres. The Western has a long and respected history in this entertainment medium and I for one intend to continue the ride for as long as it goes. Enjoy.

 

There’s a 2019 Bass Reeves movie available on Amazon Prime: HELL ON THE BORDER. If you’re interested, you can find my review HERE.

Airship 27 has been publishing a prose anthology series about the legendary lawman: BASS REEVES, FRONTIER MARSHAL all of which are available via Amazon as paperback, ebook or audiobook.

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Derrick Ferguson Flies With THE WARBIRDS OF MARS

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Edited by Scott P. Vaughn and Kane Gilmour

Paperback: 476 pages

Publisher: Quickdraw Books (April 25, 2013)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0984954813

ISBN-13: 978-0984954810

Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 1.1 inches

Here’s the thing; I love The Internet. I truly do. Yes, there’s a lot crap out there that gets in the way of the good stuff but the good stuff is there. It just sometimes takes me a while to get around it. Take for instance the webcomic WARBIRDS OF MARS that has been around for a goodish amount of time now. I, however have been woefully ignorant of it until I was made aware of the anthology WARBIRDS OF MARS: STORIES OF THE FIGHT and while it’s a hefty introduction to the situation and principal characters at the heart of the series it is one well worth reading due to the interesting mix of talent involved.

The set-up is fairly easy to get hold of: Invaders from outer space attack The Earth while it’s engaged in World War II. The alien invaders actually aren’t Martians but what the hey, WARBIRDS OF MARS is a great title so let’s not spoil it with minor details. The Martians have chosen this time to invade as for years they’ve had agents on Earth, half-alien/half-human fifth columnists working behind the scenes to make the invasion easier. And with the world powers fragmented and not able to work together it’s not long before many major cities and nations are conquered and under control of the invaders. But there’s still hope: human resistance forces are fighting back with every weapon and resource at their command to take back the planet.

The core characters of WARBIRDS OF MARS: STORIES OF THE FIGHT! are an elite cadre of resistance fighters known as The Martian Killers. The leader is Hunter Noir, a fedora wearing, trenchcoated man of mystery who keeps his face bandaged. Jack Paris is your typical wisecracking, two-fisted pilot/adventurer. Josie Taylor is the team’s femme fatale and Mr. Mask is a human/alien hybrid who has joined the resistance, proving to be a valuable asset to the the team due to his having been trained by a samurai master.

These characters all get plenty of time to strut their stuff both in solo stories and in stories where they work together but WARBIRDS OF MARS: STORIES OF THE FIGHT! also takes the opportunity to show what is going on with other people trying to survive in this hellish brave new world in various locations around the globe and through the eyes of characters both human and alien.

“Hunter Noir” by Scott P. Vaughn leads off the anthology with the origin of the leader of The Martin Killers and how the invasion began. It’s a good origin story with the only bump in it for me is the sudden decision by the protagonist to become a masked man of mystery while being hunted by the enemy and whipping up a costume and new name for himself in no time flat but y’know what? That’s just me. It’s that kind of story and you either go along with it or not. It wasn’t enough to make me stop reading the story and that’s the main thing.

“In The World Today” by Megan E. Vaughn is one of my favorite stories in the anthology as it concerns a small-town movie date and the effects the Martian Invasion has on it. It’s a short slice of small town American life kind of story but it doesn’t skimp on the characterization.

I love the weird western comic book “Desperadoes” written by Jeff Mariotte so it’s no surprise that I loved “Southern Cross” even though it wasn’t set in the Southwestern United States as I might have expected. (Ron Fortier takes care of that part of the country…we’ll get to it soon…be patient) No, Jeff takes us out to the South China Sea for this one as Jack Paris gets involved in Oriental skullduggery.

“The Deadly Triad” by Alex Ness is a nifty little look into what’s going on with the Chinese and Japanese and I greatly appreciated the break from the slam bang adventure of the previous story to take time out to see what was going on elsewhere in the beleaguered world.

Sean Ellis has long been one of my favorite writers who never fails to disappoint and he doesn’t do so with “The Farmboy’s Adventure” which has an ending that I truly did not see coming and when it did I immediately went back to the beginning of the story to see if there were any clues that I had missed. I’m betting you’ll do the same.

“The Bitter Edge” is by Kane Gilmore and is another origin story. This one concerning Mr. Mask, so called because he wears a German gas mask constantly. He’s a lot of fun to read about as I kinda get the idea that Kane’s inspiration for the character was G.I. Joe’s Snake Eyes. But with Mr. Mask being a Martian/Human hybrid training how to be a samurai warrior brings an added dimension to the character that moves the story into an exploration of identity and self-respect that lifts it a notch above just another action/adventure entry.

As promised, Ron Fortier serves up a wild west romp with “The Monsters of Adobe Wells” which takes The Monster Killers way out west to team up with Sioux warrior Charlie Three-Feathers, a character I wouldn’t mind seeing more of if there are future WARBIRDS OF MARS anthology. And again, the changeup in setting provides readers with another aspect of the war against the invaders. The international aspect of this anthology is one of the best things about it and a western story fits in here just fine.

Megan E. Vaughn returns for “The Skull of Lazarus” which is a story that makes me wonder if Megan is a “Thunderbirds” fan as her Lady Doyle and Jerry reminded me strongly of Lady Penelope Creighton and her bodyguard/chauffeur Parker. This is an adventure built for nothing but sheer thrills and like Ron’s Charlie Three-Feathers, I hope to see more of Lady Doyle.

“Red Sky Phoenix: The Rise of Free Russia” is another snapshot from Alex Ness as to what’s going on in yet another part of the world. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to have even more of these prose postcards in future anthologies.

“Human Guile” by Chris Samson is where I finally hit a major bump. I’ve read this story twice and still can’t quite wrap my head around what the story is about. It just seemed to me like there was way too much plot and way too many characters doing things I just didn’t understand why they were doing them. For me, motivation is a Big Deal in my fiction. It’s not necessary for me to like or dislike the characters but I do demand that the writer establish why they’re doing what they’re doing and I simply didn’t get that here.

“Surprise” by Stephen M. Irvin is indeed that as I didn’t expect to find a hard-boiled noir story in here but I as I continued reading more and more into this anthology it soon became apparent to me that this concept could and did support a variety of genre stories very well indeed such as J.H. Ivanov’s “The Road Out of Antioch” and “Shipwrecked” by David Lindblad, both of which are out-and-out horror stories with “The Road Out of Antioch” approaching Lovecraftian proportions of cosmic dread. It’s that good, trust me.

“Refined Elegance” by Scott P. Vaughn takes us home and if I had to make a choice between this one and “Hunter Noir” I’d have to go with this one, much as I liked “Hunter Noir.” It’s told from the point of view of Josie Taylor. The Martian Killers have been doing that for quite a while now, the war appears to have no end in sight and Josie is starting to ask herself and her teammates some hard questions the dangerous missions they routinely go on.

The stories are complimented by strong, solid artwork from Jean Arrow, Adriano Carreon, Mike DeBalfo, Bill Farmer, Matt Goodall, Christian Guldager, Robert Hack, Rob Hicks, John Lucas, Paul Roman Martinez, Nathan Morris, Dan Parsons, Nik Poliwko, Richard Serrao and Jason Worthington that serve the needs of the stories they were drawn for, successfully evoking the mood and tone of the prose.

So should you read WARBIRDS OF MARS: STORIES OF THE FIGHT? I certainly think so. One of my concerns about New Pulp is that it not fall into a rut. Masked avengers of the night and scientific adventurers are cool as hell, no doubt about it. But New Pulp can’t survive on a steady diet of those. Stories such as the ones in WARBIRDS OF MARS: STORIES OF THE FIGHT! that gives us mashups of war stories mixed with science fiction, horror, day in the life, hard-boiled noir and other genres provide a refreshing new dish for the palate of our imagination to taste and savor. It’s a solid package as you get a lot of story and art for your money and time. Enjoy.