Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Wednesday Cover: Dead Weight

As I mentioned in the previous post, I've been enjoying the 1957 Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer television series for the past few nights, especially the episodes written by pulpster Frank Kane. So here's one of Kane's "Johnny Liddel" private eye mysteries, Dead Weight. Enjoy.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Hammer Time!

I finally received the Darren McGavin Mike Hammer series DVDs that I ordered from Amazon a couple weeks ago, on Saturday. I watched the first disc last night. The picture quality on the DVDs is excellent (much better than the M Squad transfers). A&E did a great job on these discs. 

The first three or four episodes were fairly pedestrian (though still entertaining), but then things really picked up with a handful of fairly tough stories from Evan "Ed McBain" Hunter (as "Curt Cannon") and pulpster Frank Kane. I always enjoyed Kane's "Johnny Liddell" private eye novels, and his Hammer scripts are a lot of fun.

I think I'll alternate episodes of Mike Hammer and M Squad for the next couple of weeks, possibly a with a few Peter Gunns tossed in for variety....

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Wednesday Covers: Frazetta's JONGOR

The Return Of Jongor
Jongor Fights Back
As I mentioned here not long ago, I recently purchased the three Popular Press paperback editions of  Robert Moore Williams' "Jongor" novels. I just finished the first book, and thought it was terrific jungle pulp, with an intriguing Tarzan knock-off. Jongor swings in Lost Land, a prehistoric jungle valley somewhere deep in the Australian Outback, where he rides dinosaurs and battles the monkeymen of the lost continent of Mu. Fun stuff.

Even better are the cover illustrations by the legendary Frank Frazetta. Here are two of the three - sans obscuring cover type (I couldn't find a "clean" copy of the first cover). I love these paintings - both compositions are classic Frazetta.

Enjoy!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

More 50's Crime -- Lee Marvin's M SQUAD

After ordering the 50's Mike Hammer show the other night, I didn't plan to buy any more DVDs for at least a week or two. That was before going household shopping with Brandi last night and finding the complete, 3-season, 117-episode Lee Marvin series M Squad (1957-60) on sale new for only twenty bucks ($100 off the SRP) at our local warehouse store.

From long and sad experience, I knew that if I passed it up then, I would never find it that cheap again, so... yep, I bought it - with Brandi's blessing. I'm a lucky guy that way.

So far, I've watched a half-dozen episodes, and while I'm really enjoying the show, with its jazzy musical score and Marvin's tough-as-nails portrayal of Chicago Police Detective Lt. Frank Ballinger, it is a little distracting how obvious it is that M Squad was the template that the 70's spoof Police Squad was based on. In fact, the opening scenes of the first episode are nigh-identical to the beginning of the first episode of Police Squad. Marvin's character (and voice-over narration) are also very clearly the model for Leslie Nielsen's Lieutenant Frank Drebin.

Picture and audio quality aren't that great (another reason to be grateful for the low price I paid) and vary from episode to episode, but frankly, I think we're lucky that the show survives at all. 

Apparently, while Universal licensed the show out for DVD to Timeless Media, they didn't provide the company with any source prints, so the company had to use beat-up 16mm syndication prints that had been in circulation since the 50s. And even then, they were only able to get their hands on 100 of the 117 episodes, so they actually put a call out to private collectors in order to get copies of the 17 remaining shows.

It's great stuff. When my Mike Hammer discs show up, I'll have to start alternating between shows for some serious 50s crime overload!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

If I Had A Hammer...

I was over at Amazon on Thursday night, checking the tracking info on an order I placed a week or so ago, when the site helpfully informed me that one of the items that I'd had on my "Wish List" since last Fall - the A&E Home Video DVD collection of the 1956-57 Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer television series - was currently on sale, at more than 50% off its suggested retail price.

So, I did what I usually do in such situations: I whined to Brandi until she couldn't take it anymore and told me I could order it, just to shut me up.

What can I say? It works.

Anyway, I've placed the order, and I can't wait to get my hands on this set. It should come as no surprise to anyone that I'm a huge fan of actor Darren McGavin, and ever since I found out back in the 80s that he had played Hammer on TV, I've wanted to see the show. According to the customer reviews over on Amazon, the audio and video quality of this DVD set is excellent. I'm especially glad that A&E released all 78 episodes in one set (even if I couldn't afford it until it went on sale); frankly, I'm still disappointed/annoyed that they never finished releasing Peter Gunn on DVD.

Now if only someone would release the 80s Stacy Keach Mike Hammer series - and the 1981 version of I, The Jury - on disc, I'd be one very happy Spillane fan.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Zanthar Of The Many Worlds

While I was tracking down the paperback volumes of Robert Moore Williams' "Jongor" jungle pulp adventures online a few weeks back, I discovered that the author had also written a four-volume science fiction series about a character named "Zanthar," published by the legendary Lancer Books (they of the regal purple page edges) in the late Sixties. From the Jeff Jones artwork and the copy on the cover of the first of these, Zanthar Of The Many Worlds, it sounded like Edgar Rice Burroughs-styled "sword & planet" stuff, and, as we all know, I love that stuff, so I ordered the first two books in the series.

They both arrived today, and from a quick skim through the first book and its immediate sequel, Zanthar At Moon's Madness, it appears that the series isn't so much a John Carter-type swashbuckler, as it is a space adventure along the lines of a futuristic, interstellar Doc Savage (or Captain Future) story. While it's not what I was expecting, it is, nonetheless, certainly intriguing, and I look forward to reading these books in the near-future.

Friday, February 10, 2012

More Covers For Perfect Crime

I just completed these six cover designs for Perfect Crime's upcoming re-issues of author Robert J. Randisi's "Miles Jacoby" private eye novels. As with the covers I put together for Max Allan Collins' "Nolan" books, the idea was to give them a uniform trade dress, while incorporating visual elements on each cover specific to that novel. These new Perfect Crime trade paperback editions will be available in June.

As with the Collins assignment, this one was a personal as well as professional pleasure. I've been a fan of Randisi's books since the mid-80s, and specifically, I always really enjoyed the "Jacoby" novels. They are steeped in affection for the genre and its history, and include plenty of nods toward other authors and characters from private eye fiction, as well as being terrific mysteries in their own right. Of course, I already own copies of all of the books (three in paperback, three in hardcover), but it will be nice to finally have all six available in uniform editions.

I've had the pleasure of meeting Bob Randisi a couple of times, and it was an honor getting to work on his books. Who knows? Maybe I'll get an opportunity to do so again.

'Nuf said.

Monday, February 06, 2012

A Tip Of The Bowler

"Always keep your bowler on in time of stress, and watch out for diabolical masterminds." Happy birthday to the great Patrick Macnee, The Avengers' dashing John Wickham Gascone Berresford Steed, who turns 90 today!

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Jongor Of Lost Land Fights Back

Years ago, when I first read Richard Lupoff's book, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Master of Adventure, I found myself not only determined to read every ERB story I could find, but also intrigued by the Burroughs "imitators" that Lupoff discussed in one of the later chapters. Among those imitators, I remember Lupoff writing about Robert Moore Williams and his Tarzan-esque character, "Jongor."

The Jongor stories appeared in the pulp magazine Fantastic Adventures, back in the 1940s, and were reprinted in three paperbacks by Popular Library in 1970, graced with a triptych of evocative Frank Frazetta covers. I found the second of these, The Return of Jongor in a used bookstore a few years ago, but, as I recently noted here, I dislike reading series fiction out of order, so it remains unread.

While on my online book safari last week, the one where I found and purchased Star Barbarian, I decided to see if I could find the other two Jongor books at affordable prices. As it turned out, I could, so, in a few weeks, I'll have more vintage jungle pulp to add to my reading pile.

It looks like Moore also wrote some sword & planet novels about a character called "Zanthar." If I enjoy the Jongor books as much as I hope to, maybe I'll try and track down those adventures, as well.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Atomic Hotties: Kaley Cuoco

Right. I was going to post occasional photos of beautiful women here, wasn't I? Time to get back to that.

One of the very few TV sitcoms (a short list that includes Community and, yes, Cougar Town) that my wife and I enjoy is The Big Bang Theory. It's not always great, but I enjoy the cast and the geeky humor. I also enjoy watching actress Kaley Cuoco, who is not only stunningly sexy, but a brilliant comedienne, as well.

And yet, you know, I've never really been one for blondes...

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Wednesday Cover(s): STAR BARBARIAN & LORD OF BLOOD!

Okay - a while back, I picked up a sword & sorcery novel at a used bookstore, based solely on the cover art. It was Lord Of Blood by someone named Dave Van Arnam. I didn't read it - I just put it on the shelf with the rest of my fantasy paperbacks. Well, a few days ago, it caught my eye, so I pulled it down off the shelf and started to leaf through it. It was then that I noticed that it was, in fact, a sequel to a novel called Star Barbarian. Which I didn't have.

That bugged me.

Ask my wife - I get obsessive about the weirdest shit, and I cannot knowingly read a series book out of order. Yeah, I know: what the hell, right? Further, I don't even know if Van Arnam is a decent writer, or if these books are even worth reading. But, still....

So, I went online, found a cheap copy of Star Barbarian (pictured above, and sporting a cover painting by the late Jeff Jones) and ordered it. I expect it in my mailbox any day now. Then, both it and Lord Of Blood will be placed on my ever-growing "To Be Read" pile.

Oh yeah, that Lord Of Blood cover that caught my eye? Here it is; artwork by Jim Steranko.

Here's hoping these books don't completely suck....