New Novel Coming soon!

It’s been over a year since the last Lazarus Longman novel came out and now I’m back with a new series! Celluloid Terrors will be a series of stand-alone horror novels inspired by grindhouse and b-movies of various decades. The novels will have no relation to each other but will take their cues from the types of movies that were popular during the periods in which they are set. The first novel – Curse of the Blood Fiends – is set in the 1940s. This was when Universal Studios was having great success with their monster movies, many of them sequels to their earlier hits like Dracula (1931) Frankenstein (1931), The Mummy (1932) and The Wolfman (1941). During the war and with limited resources, they started to throw monsters together in movies like Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman (1943) and House of Dracula (1945). The 1940s was also the period of Film Noir; shady crime flicks that showed the seamy underbelly of the American city, filled with post-war paranoia and cynicism. This set the perfect mood for a pulpy detective story in a city overrun by creatures of the night.

Curse of the Blood Fiends is set for a late December/early January release. Take a look at the cover and blurb and watch this space!

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The year is 1942 and something deadly lurks in the shadows of the City of Angels.

When private detective Rosa Bridger took the case of tracking down a drug-addled starlet for her fiancé’s movie mogul father she thought it would be a simple missing person’s case. She needs the help of her ex-fling, Steve; the only honest cop she knows. This doesn’t go over so well with her fiancé, Flynn; Hollywood’s hottest swashbuckler. And Rosa has stumbled over the trail of something much more sinister than the hoodlums and hop pushers she is used to dealing with.

A military research project in the Amazon has gone horribly wrong spawning monstrous man-made creatures who kill all in their path. One man survives and makes the long journey home to Los Angeles. Henry Gross – game warden and tough-guy for hire – has been infected with the virus that makes him kill by night. And that virus threatens to turn the entire city into immortal creatures ravenous for human blood.

An action-packed mystery-horror novel inspired by Film Noir and the monster movies of the 1940s.

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Free Short Story!

There’s a new Lazarus Longman story free at Smashwords! I wrote this some time ago and wasn’t sure what to do with it. As I already have a free novella there I thought I might as well give this one away too.

Whereas On Rails of Gold was a prequel to the first Lazarus Longman novel, Through Mines of Deception is something of a prequel to the entire series, showing how Longman became an agent for the British Empire.

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Discover the start of the Lazarus Longman Chronicles in this thrilling novella written in the spirit of H. Rider Haggard and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle!

On the scorching plains of the Zimbabwe Plateau a thrilling adventure is set in motion to prevent a catastrophic war between Boers, Zulus and British redcoats.

Archaeologist Lazarus Longman is contacted by an agent of the British Empire and given an important mission; find the mythical gold mines of Great Zimbabwe before the Boers do and prevent revolution in Southern Africa.

Greatest Ever Pulp Stories #8 – The Curse of Capistrano

capistrano2 By: Johnston McCulley

Appeared in: All-Story Weekly (August – September 1919)

Character/Series: Zorro

The All-Story magazine (which had published Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Tarzan and John Carter novels) switched to a weekly schedule in 1914, becoming All-Story Weekly (and eventually Argosy Weekly in 1920). In 1919 the magazine featured the first tale of another character which would join Tarzan’s company as one of the most influential pulp characters ever.

Zorro (Spanish for ‘fox’) is the eponymous ‘curse’ in the title and Capistrano refers to San Juan Capistrano in California which was under Mexican rule in the early 19th century. It’s easy to see the influence on Batman in this masked crusader for justice and his foppish, playboy alter-ego, Don Diego Vega. Don Diego is a wealthy but cowardly caballero in love with Lolita; the daughter of a local aristocrat who has fallen upon hard times. Her father, Carlos, is thrilled at the promise of a union between the two, but the feisty Lolita is infatuated by Zorro; the dashing bandit and hero of the people (having no idea they are one and the same). Also vying for Lolita’s hand is Ramón; a captain in the Mexican army.

When Lolita is left home alone for an evening, Captain Ramón  visits her and comes on a little too strong. Zorro appears and defends her honor. Ramón swears vengeance on both of them and writes to the governor that Lolita’s family are aiding Zorro. The Governor arrives and has Lolita and her mother and father thrown into jail. Zorro sets about rallying the local caballeros into a band committed to fighting injustice and their first task is to free Lolita and her family, thus thwarting the dastardly Captain Ramón and his oafish henchman Sergeant Gonzales.

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Douglas Fairbanks in The Mark of Zorro (1920) – the first of over 40 movies to feature the character.

The story is a fairly simple swashbuckler and is essentially Robin Hood in Mexico with a liberal helping from The Scarlet Pimpernel. As well as being jam packed with sword fights, gun play and horse chases, it also has a good deal of humor largely stemming from Don Diego’s cover as the idle son of a rich man and his lack of interest in anything approaching adventure or romance. McCulley laid down the groundwork for generations of ‘masked crusader’ characters like Batman and The Shadow and created a timeless character who became synonymous with swashbuckling adventure from the early days of cinema to the present day.

Silent star Douglas Fairbanks purchased the rights to the story as the first production for his new company United Artists. The Mark of Zorro (1920) was so popular that McCulley’s novel was renamed and released in book form in 1924 and has remained The Mark of Zorro ever since. The character’s appeal has barely diminished on film and page with McCulley writing over fifty sequels and many authors and comic book writers picking up the torch after his death in 1958. The Mark of Zorro was remade in 1940 as a ‘talkie’ starring Tyrone Power and there have been countless film and TV appearances of Zorro from serials like Zorro’s Fighting Legion (1939) to the more recent movies starring Antonio Banderas.

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Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta Jones in The Legend of Zorro (2005)

 

 

Greatest Ever Pulp Stories #7 – Under the Moons of Mars

aprincessofmars-c3By: Norman Bean (Edgar Rice Burroughs)

Appeared in: The All-Story (February – July, 1912)

Character/Series: John Carter/Barsoom

More commonly known as A Princess of Mars or John Carter of Mars these days, this swashbuckling sci-fi adventure penned by the author of Tarzan almost single-handedly created the Planetary Romance genre (where action and exotic settings take precedence over science), as well as influencing generations of science fiction writers from Robert A. Heinlein to Arthur C. Clarke.

While prospecting in Arizona, Civil War veteran John Carter hides in a cave from pursuing Apaches. Through some sort of astral projection, he wakes up on Mars (known locally as ‘Barsoom’). Being written in 1912, this version of Mars has breathable atmosphere, water and is inhabited by many colorful multi-legged creatures at war with one another. Due to the planet’s weaker gravity, John Carter has superhuman strength and is able to make great leaps into the air a la Superman.

Captured by a tribe of Tharks (tall, green-skinned creatures with tusks and six limbs), Carter gains their respect by slaying two great white apes and saving the life of Sola; his female guardian. When the Tharks shoot down an airship belonging to the red-skinned people of Barsoom, they capture Dejah Thoris; the beautiful princess of the city of Helium. Kept under guard by Woola – a ten-legged guard dog-like creature – and tutored by Sola, Carter learns more about Thark culture. He develops a strong bond with a warrior called Tars Tarkas and gradually falls in love with Dejah Thoris who is scheduled to be executed.

Carter, Sola and Dejah escape the Tharks and fall in with Kantos Kan; a red-skinned warrior who is leading a massive search party for the missing Princess of Helium. Helium is under threat by another red-skinned people called the Zodangans and, after many further adventures, Carter saves Helium by leading an army of Tharks (now under the chieftainship of Tars Tarkas) to victory over the people of Zodanga, thus forging an alliance between red and green Martians and becoming Prince of Barsoom.

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Cover art for the 1970 paperback by Frank Frazetta

Norman Bean (a typo – it should have been ‘Normal Bean’) was a pseudonym for Edgar Rice Burroughs who wanted to distance himself from some of his more outlandish work as well as joke that he was, in fact, a normal guy and not a lunatic for writing this stuff.  Under the Moons of Mars was republished in hardback as A Princess of Mars in 1917 and Burroughs penned ten sequels although John Carter largely bows out of the series after book 3 with his children by Dejah Thoris as well as other characters taking over as the protagonists.

Under the Moons of Mars is very much a product of its time. Burroughs utilized contemporary science, most notably the theories of Percival Lowell, who postulated that Mars had waterways that were steadily drying out, thus dooming its ancient civilization. Presenting a dying world and the possibility of using technology to change the ecology of a planet, Burroughs left a huge mark on science fiction. We can see his influence in Frank Herbert’s Dune and in the terraforming company in Aliens (1986). By blending the exotic with elements of the Western and creating a feudal alien world where medieval values of honor and chivalry are fused with advanced technology, the Planetary Romance genre was born eventually leading to Flash Gordon and Star Wars (1977).

There was a movie in 2012 with the rather dull title John Carter. Although it took some liberties with the plot and blended in elements from the sequels, the film is generally well-liked by fans. Unfortunately it failed to do much business at the box office shutting down plans for a series. Many blame Disney’s marketing of the film for not playing up the pulpy side and failing to make it clear that this was written a century ago by the creator of Tarzan.

Greatest Ever Pulp Stories #6 – The Man of Bronze

By: Kenneth Roberts (Lester Dent)

Appeared in: Doc Savage Magazine (March, 1933)

Character/Series: Doc Savage

Both Superman and Indiana Jones owe a debt to this classic pulp character created by publisher Henry W. Ralston and editor John L. Nanovic of Street & Smith Publications. Hoping to replicate the success of their recent hit The Shadow magazine, the series was handed to Lester Dent who churned out over 150 Doc Savage novels between 1933 and 1949 under the house name Kenneth Robeson (changed from Roberts after the first issue). A too-good-to-be-true hero of almost superhuman strength, Clark ‘Doc’ Savage Jr. is a bronze (literally) giant with gold eyes and hair. An adventurer, scientist and detective combined, Doc was trained from the cradle by his father (a wealthy philanthropist and all-round do-gooder) in martial arts, medicine and surgery to follow in his footsteps of righting wrongs throughout the world. Living on the 86th floor of a skyscraper in Manhattan, Doc’s pad is penthouse and research lab combined. A high speed underground train leads from Doc’s apartment to a vehicle hangar on the Hudson River filled with trucks, boats and planes. Doc also has a ‘fortress of solitude’ in the arctic which he occasionally uses as a retreat to meditate and train his mind (hello Superman).

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The Man of Bronze being the first Doc Savage novel, opens in the wake of Clark Savage Sr.’s death from a suspicious malady. Doc is visited by Monk, Long Tom, Johnny, Renny and Ham; friends he met during the war who become his companions throughout the series, each a specialist in a particular field (archaeologist, chemist, attorney etc.). Doc discovers hidden papers pertaining to his inheritance; a concession of several hundred acres of land from the government of Hidalgo to his father. An assassin who speaks only ancient Mayan tries to kill Doc by sniping at him from a nearby skyscraper before jumping to his death telling us that not everybody wants our hero to get his hands on his inheritance. Setting off for Central America the companions discover a lost Mayan city populated by a people living in fear of the mysterious ‘Red Death’. Aerial dogfights, fisticuffs, princess-rescuing and killer sharks are all present and correct making this a quintessential pulp story.

A fairly tongue-in-cheek movie called ‘Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze’ was released in 1975 and is largely forgotten but there is talk of ‘The Rock’ himself, Dwayne Johnson taking on the role in the near future.