Reviews

New Website Review

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New Website for Black Dog Books— A review by James Reasonerbdb_logo_initials

SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 14, 2010—If the Sixties and Seventies were the Golden Age of Pulp Reprints because of all the mass-market paperbacks coming out then (Doc Savage, The Shadow, G-8, Jim Hatfield, and many others), then this must be the Silver Age. There are a number of small presses reprinting great pulp novels and stories, many of which haven't seen the light of day for decades. One of the best is Black Dog Books, published by my friend Tom Roberts. The new Black Dog Books website has just launched, so check it out. Tom produces some beautiful volumes filled with great stories by Lester Dent, H. Bedford-Jones, Harold Lamb, Talbot Mundy, and many other fine authors. I don't think you can go wrong with any of his books.

James Reasoner


This review originally appeared in James' blog, "Rough Edges."

http://jamesreasoner.blogspot.com/2010/02/new-website-for-black-dog-books.html

Thirty Pieces of Silver Review

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Thirty Pieces of Silver—A review by Gabor Luxthirty_pieces_of_silver_thumbnail_website

This collection of exotic short stories, originally published in Oriental Stories between 1930 and 1934, gives us the works of a less-known author largely forgotten until recent times. Gladys G. Trenery, who wrote her stories under a gender-neutral pseudonym, can be considered the predecessor of Leigh Brackett and Catherine L. Moore; in her own tales of Arabic deserts, she brings a peculiar darkness to pulp fiction that is far from the lightweight escapism it was once accused of. At best, her depiction of harsh landscapes and the evil men who inhabit them evokes a feeling of doom, while her protagonists are presented with merciless enemies and treasures that may be more curse than blessing: it is not an accident Robert Weinberg's introduction draws parallels with hardboiled crime fiction and film noir. This is where Pendarves' strength lies: in showing a darker side to 1920s North Africa, where the encampments of Touareg bandits, strongholds of slavers and the last remains of lost civilisations may still lie unexplored beyond European knowledge, she can easily create the stuff of thrilling adventures. When she sets up her stories, she evokes a fascination in readers that shows great ability with words, and an attention to vividly painted characters. Stories such as "The Black Camel," the titular "Thirty Pieces of Silver" or "El Hamel, the Lost One" are prime examples that show her ability in full.

However, the collection is not without its serious flaws, often going back to the typical mistakes found in other pulp stories. Pendarves has serious trouble with her pacing: if the setups are brilliant and intriguing, resolution is often weak; the stories, of which seven are featured in a slim 148 page book, are too short to bring their plot to a satisfactory conclusion. Even when they are executed well, they feel hurried and incomplete; elsewhere, they are resolved through contrived methods, even deus ex machina. It is a pity they could not be longer: since the same problem crops up in the shorter stories of Harold Lamb, it is possible Pendarves could have accomplished more in twice as many pages. As is, too much is left to coincidence to feel right, and some of the victories the protagonists gain don't seem very hard-earned or satisfactory: in fact, letting them fail might have been a better alternative. Finally, it must be noted that much like other pulp authors, Pendarves wrote in a different age than our own (in fact, she was already of advanced age in the 1930s), and some of her characterisations may be seen today as heavily prejudiced. This, however, is not any worse than what other, celebrated writers of the genre had done.

In sum, Thirty Pieces of Silver is recommended as a flawed but nevertheless enthralling example of genre fiction; although not up to the standards set by Harold Lamb, Talbot Mundy and Robert E. Howard (whose oriental stories are perhaps most similar in tone to that of Pendarves), the collection, which is presented in book form for the first time, is worth a read for its virtues rather than condemnation for its flaws.

Gabor Lux

This review originally appeared on Amazon.com.


To purchase a copy of this book visit our Thirty Pieces of Silver listing.

The Silver Menace Review

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The Silver Menace—A review by Gregsilver_menace_thumbnail_website

Having first been published in 1919, these two short novels are obviously dated. They were written with all the conventions of the times, the resourceful and fearless heros, the plucky heroine, the evil genius out for world domination, but despite that I found them an enjoyable read and finished them off on a long, lazy Sunday afternoon. True, some of the science is outmoded, but it hangs together remarkably well given that, better than most of what you see on TV today. In particular, the concept of the "Silver Menace" prefigures Vonnegut's Ice Nine by nearly half a century. Character development is nill, but then, the emphasis is on the action and the ingenuity of the heros. The writing is quite good with some of the discussion of the side effects of the problems in each story sounding remarkably modern.

Murray Leinster's career spanned most of the 20th Century. Best known for some of his stories such as "First Contact", it's good to see more of his works available again.

Greg

This review originally appeared on Amazon.com.


To purchase a copy of this book visit our The Silver Menace listing.

South of Sulu Review

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South of Sulu by George F. Worts—A review by James Reasonersouth_of_sulu_thumbnail_website

This is a very handsome trade paperback from Black Dog Books reprinting five of George F. Worts' novelettes from the pulp Short Stories starring Singapore Sammy, a brawny, redheaded adventurer whose real name is Samuel Larkin Shay. I'd read some of the later Singapore Sammy stories published in Argosy, but evidently the character got his start in Short Stories. And these yarns are absolutely top-notch pulp adventure, too.

In the stories, Sammy is roaming the tropics, mostly Malaysia and the South Pacific, searching for his ne'er-do-well father, who abandoned his family when Sammy was two years old. When Bill Shay left his wife and child, he took with him a will leaving a fortune to Sammy from his grandfather, and of course Sammy wants that will back, along with revenge on his father for deserting them.

Naturally Sammy gets involved in all sorts of adventures while he's looking for his father: stealing a blue fire pearl from an evil maharaja, crossing swords with a crooked gem merchant known as the Cobra, getting trapped in shark-infested waters, hunting down a rare pink elephant, and braving an attack by an octopus to recover some sunken treasure. Some of this is a little over-the-top—what else do you expect from pulp stories? —but Worts was such a good writer that he makes it all believable and keeps the pace racing along. These are fine examples of two-fisted South Seas adventure yarns, and I had a great time reading them.

James Reasoner

This review originally appeared in James' blog, "Rough Edges."

http://jamesreasoner.blogspot.com/2008_04_01_archive.html


To purchase a copy of this book visit our South of Sulu listing.

The Dragoman's Revenge Review

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The Dragoman's Revenge—A review by Jakob E. Logandragomans_revenge_thumbnail_website

Of the Kline stories that I have read, the Dragoman's were in my opinion some of the best written. The book itself also provides some information on the author which may be of interest to those who enjoyed the adventure/fantasy/SF serials of the '20s–'40s. All the short stories are fun to read and leave you wishing Kline had inked more of the Dragoman's adventures. I can't say though in the end that I actually liked the main character, but rather his exploits, which were entertaining to read.

Jakob E. Logan

This review originally appeared on Amazon.com.


To purchase a copy of this book visit our The Dragonman's Revenge listing.