Tag: Joel Jenkins

Derrick Ferguson Hunts Down The EXILES OF THE DIRE PLANET

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When last we saw Garvey Dire, he was doing pretty well for himself. Oh sure, his mission to Mars had gone wrong, leaving him near death. But then found himself miraculously transported 50,000 years into the past. And in that past, Mars is not a dying planet.  Indeed, it thrives with life including the Muvari tribe which is mostly populated by warrior women.  The males of the tribe are few and are guarded as they assure the continued survival of the tribe.

Garvey survives a number of harrowing adventures to rise to a level of prominence in the Muvari tribe as well as marrying the gorgeous and deadly Ntashia, the finest swordswoman of Mars.  Garvey even managed to prevent World War III back on Earth in his native time period and save the life of his best friend. Salt-N-Pepa could very well have been talking about Garvey in their song “Whatta Man”

When we catch up again with Garvey Dire he’s facing an army of Galbran. They’re a rival tribe of cannibals who have an old score to settle with Garvey and an older one to settle with the Muvari. And while he’s trying to hold off this army in a remote outpost with but a handful of Muvari warrior women, he’s also trying to figure out how to handle the Muvari custom of a man having more than one wife. It’s not as hard one might think since his first wife Ntashia has made the arraignments for the marriage and is actively encouraging it. It’s custom, y’know and when on Mars…hey, do as the Martians do.

It’s almost a relief for Garvey to discover that his old rival and fellow Earthman Arnold Stechter survived the events of “Dire Planet” and is alive and well. He’s lost his memory of his life on Earth and doesn’t recall that he and Garvey are bitter enemies. But Stechter hasn’t forgotten his ambition and desire for power. He has gathered together outcast warrior women from a dozen different tribes and forged them into a savage, bloodthirsty army. And with these EXILES OF THE DIRE PLANET he intends to conquer and rule Mars. But it’s a plan that has to begin with the overthrow of Ledgrim, the hidden Muvari capital city. And it’s Garvey Dire who will unwittingly help Stechter achieve that goal…

If you’ve read and enjoyed “Dire Planet” then you’ll certainly want to read the sequel. Not only does Joel continue to explore and reveal new layers of his Martian culture but he also gives us new layers of his protagonist. Garvey’s naturally hesitant about entering into another marriage when he’s already got a wife he’s perfectly happy with. Garvey Dire exhibits more maturity in this multiple marriage thing than you would expect from a hero in this genre. Garvey’s still learning his role and place in this world and he sometimes wishes things would go a little slower.

One thing he’s not slow at is facing down the hordes of enemies thirsting for his blood in this one. If this book doesn’t have the highest body count of any of Joel’s books, its right up there in the top three. Just the first fifty pages of the book has a higher death rate than most complete novels. And this is before Garvey finds out about Stechter and his army of exiles.

EXILES OF THE DIRE PLANET is an enjoyable book as well as a demanding one.  Joel seems determined to give readers more bang for their buck and while he certainly does that it also means that there’s a lot more you to pay attention to attention to and keep track of. The only complaint I have with the book is that in order to get in as much information as he can, Joel will occasionally have characters explain some aspect of Martian life and culture to Garvey, even during scenes where it seemed to me that concerning themselves with surviving whatever is trying to kill them should be of paramount importance. Also, there’s the character of Naegrik the Galbran. While he provides Garvey with a sidekick who’s just as much of an outsider as he is, Garvey’s acceptance of his conversion from full-blown cannibalism to bosom buddy and lifelong pal is a bit too quick for my taste. But I liked how the other characters kept an eye on Naegrik when he was around and constantly reminded Garvey that this guy grew up eating people.

But the main thing here is the adventure and Joel delivers it with great style and tight control over the half dozen subplots he’s got going. And EXILES OF THE DIRE PLANET ends with a cliffhanger that will demand that you get the third book in the series; “Into The Dire Planet” to find out what happens next.  And for my money that’s exactly what Pulp, whether Classic or New is supposed to do. Enjoy.

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You can find all the books in the “Dire Planet” series and many other fine books by Joel Jenkins HERE

Derrick Ferguson Takes A Trip To The DIRE PLANET

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Not being an historian I’m not sure if Edgar Rice Burroughs created the Planetary Romance genre. But I am certain that he refined it into something so unique and special that all anybody has to do is say “John Carter” “Dejah Thoris” or “Barsoom” and most everybody even remotely acquainted with Classic Pulp will know what you’re talking about. Planetary Romance or Sword and Planet as some like to call it is a wildly popular genre in its own right. Burroughs having struck great success with his Mars books pulled off the same trick with his Carson of Venus books. In the 1980’s I discovered other books/series in the genre written by Lin Carter, Michael Moorcock, Alan Burke Akers and even…sigh, the “Gor” books written by John Norman.

Suffice it to say without going into detail that some of them I enjoyed and others I shook my head in downright disbelief that they ever got published.  I can happily say that DIRE PLANET by Joel Jenkins is one that I’m glad got published as it’s a wonderful example of what New Pulp is about.  Joel embraces the conventions of Burroughsian Planetary Romance but it does it with a modern-day eye. As a result, it’s a book that at once feels familiar and fresh. Just when you think you know which way the plot is going to go, Joel manages to find another fork in the road that takes you someplace else.

The Earthman taken from his native world to the planet Mars this time around is Garvey Dire and he doesn’t get there by mystical means. He gets there by spaceship, the NASA Mars Orbiter.  Garvey Dire’s mission is not just one of exploration and discovery. His mission is one of vital importance to the continued security and safety of The United States. China wants to establish their own base on Mars. And so the race is on.

It’s a race that ends in disaster when Garvey’s ship crash lands on Mars.  With his leg broken, losing air and blood, it seems as if Garvey’s story is over. But that all changes when he sees the image of a gorgeous green skinned swordswoman in armor. And it’s because of that image his life is saved as he’s transported 50,000 years back into the past and to a Mars unlike any he’s ever dreamed of.

It’s all here; flashing swords against ancient super science. Hideous beasts and their even more hideous masters. Noble warriors battling against grotesque humanoid creatures of astounding cruelty. Captures. Chases. Escapes. Fates worse than death. Romance. Garvey Dire finds it all on ancient Mars.

But what really makes DIRE PLANET a cut above other Burroughs inspired Sword and Planet stories is the political element. Once Garvey gets hurtled back to ancient Mars, Joel doesn’t forget the U.S./China conflict and indeed, the way he cuts back and forth between the two time periods is in true Burroughs tradition as he was expert at juggling two sets of characters, leaving one set in a nail-biting cliffhanger at the end of a chapter then bouncing over to the other set of characters for a chapter then leaving them in an inescapable trap then going back and-

Well, you get the idea. It’s a good technique that never failed to work for Burroughs because it’s a surefire way of keeping the story moving. Joel manages to resolve the conflicts in both time periods in a manner that while it’s clever it also involved just a little too much bouncing back and forth through time for my taste. Not that I’m opposed to time travel, mind you. But I think that Joel figured that the only way out was to pinball various characters back and forth between the two time periods. It’s a little bit dizzying but hey, if you’ve hung on with Garvey Dire all that way, you’re going to go on to the end and you won’t be disappointed.

I can’t finish this review without mentioning two of my favorite bits in the book; Number one is the revelation of who The President of The United States is. And number two is that Joel apparently is psychic because he predicted one of the most popular devices in use today way back in 2005 when this book was first published.

So should you read DIRE PLANET?  You certainly should.  If you’ve never read anything by Joel Jenkins this is the perfect place to start.  Joel has been writing what we’re now calling New Pulp as long as I’ve known him and we’re talking roughly around 20 years. And in all that time he’s built up quite the respectable amount of work. DIRE PLANET is one of his best.

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Visit Joel’s Amazon Page to pick up your copy of DIRE PLANET and check out his other books as well while you’re there

Derrick Ferguson Is Certain That THE DAME DID IT

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I know what you’re thinking; “Damn, Derrick…this thing came out back in 2015 and you’re just now getting around to reading and reviewing it?” Well, I did read it back in 2015 and fully intended to write up a review of it back then as I am an avid fan of the work of Joel Jenkins and Percival Constantine. But as so many of my editors/collaborators know, I’m so easily distracted by bright shiny objects. But thanks to Christofer Nigro (who I’ve since also become a fan of) I revisited this book and ta-da…here at last is the review. I hope it’s worth the wait.

“Black-Hearted Killers: A Monica Killingsworth Story” by Joel Jenkins. Monica Killingsworth is one of Joel’s favorite characters. I can tell because of my firm belief that if a writer is truly having fun writing a story/novel then that fun can’t help but be translated to their prose. He’s written several stories about Monica, all of which I recommend. The story itself is in Full Tilt Boogie Action Movie In Prose Mode from start to finish. The only drawback I can point to here is that for somebody like me who has read other Monica Killingsworth stories and so am familiar with the character and her background so that I was able to fill in the gaps from memory. But for somebody who is coming to the character cold they might be a bit bewildered by exactly who these people are and what’s going on. But if all you’re looking for is plenty of shootouts, wiseass dialog and eccentric characters, you should give this one a try. I especially liked how the ending turned out to be a real surprise.

“The Damsel of Disaster” by Christofer Nigro. Christofer does a good job of setting up the scene, letting us know where and when we are. I like that he sets the story in Buffalo as it’s a good reminder than organized crime was operating everywhere and not just in New York City and Chicago. But I do question as to why one mob boss would bring along his daughter and the other one would bring along his girlfriend to a sit-down where they are going to discuss things that are best not discussed with potential witnesses in the room. He’s got good characters and a solid plot but everything feels compressed and rushed and just shoved into too small a space for events to happen organically. Too many moments in the story feel like they happen just because Christofer wanted them to happen and not because they came from the interaction of the characters and the decisions that they make. But overall, it’s a well-paced story that doesn’t slow down for a bit and it does the job it’s supposed to do; tell a hard and brutal story about hard and brutal people and on that level, it succeeds.

“Tragic Like A Torch Song” by Shannon Muir. If I had to categorize the stories so far, I’d say the first one is 1980s Action Movie while the second is 1930s Warner Bros Gangster. This one is firmly in the arena of Film Noir. I could easily visualize this story in nourish black & white while reading it. Torch singer Hazel Atwood agrees to do some amateur detective work for her manager Frank who thinks his wife is cheating on him. The manager is skeptical but Hazel’s father used to be a P.I. and she persuades him that since she knows Hazel, Frank’s wife won’t be suspicious if she does her snooping around. When Frank turns up dead shortly afterwards, everybody is not only suspicious, they’re suspects as well. But Frank’s murder isn’t the only mystery to be solved. There’s also the secret of Hazel’s parentage that gets coiled up in Frank’s murder and she needs to unravel the both of them. Out of all the stories in the book, this is the one you’ve got to pay the most attention to because the solution to both mysteries is both tricky and convoluted. I’m not ashamed to admit that I had to read the ending twice to make sure I understood how and why everybody and everything was connected.

“Shikata Ga Nai” by Percival Constantine. Know what I miss? Private eyes who keep a bottle of booze in their lower right-hand desk drawer, a loaded .38 revolver in the pocket of their trench coat and who solve their cases with experience and knowledge of human nature along with sheer brainpower instead of computers and DNA results. Private investigator Kyoko Nakamura is just such a private eye. In a relatively short story, Kyoko comes to life and Percival uses the location of Osaka, Japan almost as another character in the story. The missing person case Kyoko accepts at first appears to be a fairly easy one. But that’s before the Yakuza gets involved and soon Kyoko has a hired killer stalking her. This isn’t a twisty, convoluted mystery where you have to really work to make sense of what is going on but it is an excellent introduction to the character of Kyoko Nakamura and her world (Note to Christofer Nigro: go read this story for the dialog. THIS is how people in this kind of story talk)

Even though it was published in 2015, this could be the perfect time for THE DAME DID IT to be discovered and find an audience as we’re seeing strong women characters in prose, TV and movies stepping into the spotlight in all manner of fresh, new and exciting ways. A book of stories, all with female protagonists kicking ass and taking names may have been ahead of it’s time in 2015 but in 2018 it’s right on time. Enjoy.

Get your copy of THE DAME DID IT right HERE