Thursday, October 6, 2016



Altus Press has announced the return of the icon Black Mask magazine--renowned for the high level of quality fiction which they published for decades, including the early works of Raymond Chandler, Dashiel Hammett, Max Brand, John D. MacDonald, Erle Stanley Gardner, and so many others...I can't begin to explain what it means to have my name on the cover and the lead story in the first new issue of a magazine I have revered since I started putting words on paper...I'll post again when the issue is available...

Tuesday, October 4, 2016


I have enjoyed PULP CURRY—the spicy, noir-centric blog administered by Australia’s ANDREW NETTE—for many years. I also thoroughly enjoyed Andrew’s first novel GHOST MONEY when it was published in 2012.
Set in the mid-nineties, Ghost Money was unusual and intriguing, following Australian ex-cop Max Quinlan as he searches for a missing businessman amidst the chaos of the long-running Khmer Rouge insurgency in Cambodia. Ghost Money was more than a crime novel, it also engaged me intellectually through its stark examination of a broken country and those individuals trapped between two periods of history, the choices they make, what they do to survive. 
Recently, Andrew’s heist thriller set in Queensland, Thailand and Melbourne—GUNSHINE STATE—was published by upstart crime publisher 280 STEPS. Since Andrew’s knowledge of and fascination with heist thrillers and films is more than a match for my own, I was excited to dig into this intricate caper and it’s ensuing complications. 
Complications? Absolutely. Because the immutable truth of every heist thriller and caper film proves the heist always goes wrong...
I’m not sure if Andrew originally coined the catchphrase, the heist always goes wrong, but he has certainly turned it into a touchstone on his blog and made it a mainstay of his social networking outlets. From Richard Stark’s Parker novels to Max Allan Collin’s Nolan tales to Garry Disher’s Wyatt capers...the heist always goes wrong. From Rififi to Topkapi to The Seven Golden Men to The Italian Job to The Caper of the Golden Bulls to The Thomas Crown Affair...the heist always goes wrong. Heist novels, caper movies, even real life crimes, hinge on the unravelling complications when the heist always goes wrong...
I had the opportunity to grill Andrew about Gunshine State and his love for the heist genre...
Tell us a bit about Andrew Nette, Pulp Curry, and (for those not in on the pun) the title Gunshine State
I am a Melbourne-based writer of fiction and non-fiction. I have published two novels, of which Gunshine State is the latest, a swag of short stories and am currently co-editing a couple of books on the history of pulp fiction, the first of which looks at how various youth sub-cultures have been depicted in pulp fiction in the US, UK and Australia, 1950-1980. Pulp Curry is what I believe is called in the trade my online authorial real estate. It is my site where I write about crime fiction and film, pulp and popular (and not so popular) culture.
The main character in Gunshine State, Gary Chance, is a former Australian army driver, ex-bouncer and thief. His latest job takes place in Surfers Paradise, working as part gang run by an aging stand over man, Dennis Curry, who runs off-site, non-casino poker games, and wants to rob one of his best customers, a high roller called Frederick Freddie Gao. The job seems straightforward, but Curry's crew is anything but. Chance knows he can't trust anyone, but nothing prepares him for what unfolds when Curry's plan goes wrong.
If you look it up on the Internet, you’ll see the term Gunshine State has been used to refer to the US state of Florida. I only discovered this after I had decided use it as the title for my novel. I first stumbled across the term in a tabloid headline I read years ago about gun trafficking in Queensland. Whatever the case, I think you get the drift of what it means, somewhere sunny with a lot of crime and dark deeds.
How and when did your fascination with heists in novels and films start?
Watching crime films with my late father. My love of a lot of good things, jazz music, vintage pulp novels and movies, can be traced back to things I was exposed to in my youth though my father.
If you had to pick one heist film and one caper film as your favorite what would they be?
That’s a tough one.  If I had to pick a favourite heist film it would probably be The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973), although John Huston’s 1950 classic, would come close. Robert Mitchum is fantastic as Eddie Fingers Coyle, a 51 year-old ex-con, gunrunner and who knows what else in his criminal career, facing the prospect of a three to five year jail stretch for being caught driving a truckload of stolen whisky. Coyle will do anything to stay out prison, but all he’s got to trade is information, in particular, information on the identity of the gang that has been pulling off a series of audacious bank robberies. Supporting Mitchum is a wonderful group of character actors, including Stephen Keats, Richard Jordan and Peter Boyle. The story, look, the dialogue, every aspect of this film works superbly.
I consider caper films a softer, often more humorous variation on the heist movie (plus, in a caper film, the criminals usually get away with it). If I had to nominate a favourite it would be another Peter Yates film, The Hot Rock, released in 1972. Based on novel by Donald Westlake (whose writing I love), the story revolves around a thief called Dortmunder (Robert Redford), approached by the ambassador of an African state (Mosus Gunn) to steal a valuable gem from a New York museum. This film has a terrific cast (in addition to Redford and Gunn, there is Ron Leiberman and Charlotte Rae), a cracking Quincy Jones soundtrack, and a plot with great twists and turns.
From where did you get the inspiration for Gunshine State?
Gunshine State is my attempt to do a quintessential Australian take on heist crime fiction. I also wanted to try and do justice to the shady past of what was once Australia’s premier holiday destination, the faux Miami known as Surfers Paradise, in Queensland, where a chunk of the book is set.
Does your main character—former Australian army driver, ex-bouncer and thief, Gary Chance—have a real life counterpart, or is he completely a spark of your own imagination? 
He has no real life counterpart I am aware of, although, I did talk to a couple of ex-Australian army guys to get a sense of what Chance might be like, and his experiences in East Timor and Afghanistan, where he drove trucks. My point was, I wanted an ex-army character who did something relatively routine in the Australian army, if you get what I mean. I didn’t want the character to be ex-SAS or some sort of super soldier.
Did you feel confined by the tropes of the heist genre or was there a way to get outside of them?
The only stipulation of the heist genre I wanted to abide by is that the story’s initial heist had to go wrong, resulting in very bad things happening to my main characters. Otherwise, I tried to mix the plot up as much as possible. Only the reader can tell me whether I have been successful or not.
Do you see Australian crime fiction gaining a higher international profile?
Let’s hope so. I think there is some great crime fiction being published at the moment (some of which I have written about on my site) and it would be great to see it get a wider audience.
Will there be a follow up to Gunshine State, and will the heist go wrong?
There will definitely be a follow up. I have the plot. Now I just need to find the time to write it. And yes, the planned heist did go wrong…about forty years ago. 
Thx, Andrew...I appreciate chatting with you and hope Gary Chance manages to keep capering and stay out of prison for the foreseeable future...
A heist thriller set in Queensland, Melbourne and Thailand. Think Richard Stark’s Parker, Garry Disher’s Wyatt, and Wallace Stroby's Crissa Stone. Add a touch of Surfers Paradise sleaze and a very dangerous stopover in Asia.
Gary Chance is a former Australian army driver, ex-bouncer and thief. His latest job takes him to Surfers Paradise, Queensland, working for aging standover man, Dennis Curry. Curry runs off-site, non-casino poker games, and wants to rob one of his best customers, a high roller called Freddie Gao.
The job seems straightforward but Curry's crew is anything but. Frank Dormer is a secretive ex-soldier turned private security contractor. Sophia Lekakis is a highly-strung receptionist at the hotel where Gao stays when he visits Surfers Paradise. Amber, Curry's female housemate, is part of the lure for Gao. Chance knows he can't trust anyone, but nothing prepares him for what unfolds when Curry's plan goes wrong...

Saturday, October 1, 2016


In 1989, I discovered the first book in a cool series of tennis thrillers featuring international tennis star and sometimes-CIA assistant, Brad Smith. The books were published by Tor, who was also published my first three novels. I never knew the author of the series, Jack Bickham, but I enjoyed each adventure in the six book series as it hit the bookshelves.
Only recently, however, I discovered Jack Bickham’s earliest novels were western paperback originals published under various pseudonyms. Without a doubt the most original of these efforts were the fifteen novels Bickham wrote under the pseudonym Jeff Clinton featuring Wildcat O’Shea—the flightiness, drunkest, hardest-headed, most colorful, largest galoot to ever hit the trail. Wildcat is certainly not your standard western hero, but you’d definitely want him as a friend, especially in the middle of a bar fight.
There have been other humorous western characters, most notably Hashknife Hartley and his partner Sleepy Stevens created by W. C. Tuttle during the ‘30s for the then uber-popular western pulps (http://tinyurl.com/ht5ffnj). Tuttle also created the pulp character Henry Harrison Conroy, a down-at-the-heels vaudeville comedian reluctantly turned Arizona sheriff (http://tinyurl.com/jkce5ky). In both of these series, Tuttle deftly merged the western and detective genres holding them together with humor as the glue.
Like these predecessors, Wildcat appears to be a little slow on the uptake, but nothing much actually misses his notice. His penchant for drinking and fighting is often at odds with his common sense, but when trouble breaks out he hits harder than anyone around. Wildcat also has heart, he is an amiable companion, and you just can’t help liking him or laughing at the predicaments he gets himself into. Make no mistake, though, there is enough gunsmoke and action to keep traditional western fans onboard.
On his fact filled website (http://www.benbridges.co.uk), prolific bestselling western writer, Ben Bridges states Wildcat was first introduced in an earlier western by Bickham, Hangman's Territory, under the name Boom-Boom O'Malley. However, while this name didn’t stick, Bickham liked the character so much he began a new series in which the character’s new handle was Wildcat O'Shea. Bickham stated, Until Boom-Boom came along, I didn't know I could write humour. I enjoyed writing about the guy...The moment I wrote that first half-drunken scene with him, my imagination lit up from the exaggeration and I thought I had someone special.
In The Fighting Buckaroo, Wildcat also shows off his sense of sartorial splendor—Wildcat felt a flush of pride. He had worn his best, by jingo, and he was making an impression! Oh, they’d sit up and take notice, all right, when a man with some real fine clothes and gear rode in. Wildcat had painted his saddle flaming orange, and his boots green and yellow. He wore a new blue hat, wide brimmed, a red shirt and deep blue Levis, a black vest and fancy Mexican spurs with purple rowles. He hadn’t messed with his Colt revolver, or finely oiled holster, or with the Winchester in his saddle boot. With these the action and not the looks was what counted…Yes, Wildcat makes quit an entrance.
The Wildcat adventure are a hoot and filled with action. They have become some of my favorite western tales...
The Fighting Buckaroo (1961)
Wildcat's Rampage (1962)
Wildcat Against the House (1963)
Wildcat's Revenge (1964)*
Wanted: Wildcat O'Shea (1966)
Wildcat Takes His Medicine (1966)
Wildcat On The Loose (1967)
Wildcat's Witch Hunt (1967)
Watchout For Wildcat (1968)
Wildcat Meets Miss Melody (1968)
Build a Box for Wildcat (1969)
A Stranger Named O'Shea (1970)*
Bounty On Wildcat (1971)*
Wildcat's Claim To Fame (1971)*
Hang High O'Shea (1972)
*Four of the fifteen Wildcat novels sported cover illustrations by James Bama (best known for his Doc Savage covers and much more) making them highly collectible.
*Wildcat’s first appearance was as Boom-Boom O'Malley in Hangman's Territory, which Bickham wrote under his own name.


Friday, September 30, 2016


My reading interests are wide and eclectic bordering on eccentric. I’m always scouting for current books with a cool new premise or a twist on an old theme. I also enjoy discovering older books by authors either new to me, or who I have never read in the past, but am now drawn to try.
These forays aren’t always spectacular successes. Some are downright flops that don’t pass my twenty page test—if I’m not drawn into a story in twenty pages, it’s time to move on. I may miss a few gems, but I’d rather pick up another potential winner than wade through boring books to see if they get any better. Even if a book is mediocre, I no longer have the desire, the attention span, or the compulsion to finish it simply because I started it. This means I do a lot of separating wheat from chaff, but the end result is the joy of discovering worthwhile, enjoyable reading.
Here’s a look at some recent titles I found worthwhile...
Belcher is a new author to me, but has been lauded for his previous horror/supernatural action titles Six Gun Tarot and Shotgun Arcana. He has now launched a gritty new urban fantasy series about the mysterious society of truckers known only as, The Brotherhood of The Wheel...
In 1119 A.D., a group of nine crusaders became known as the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon--a militant monastic order charged with protecting pilgrims and caravans traveling on the roads to and from the Holy Land. In time, the Knights Templar would grow in power and, ultimately, be laid low. But a small offshoot of the Templars endure and have returned to the order's original mission: to defend the roads of the world and guard those who travel on them.
Theirs is a secret line of knights: truckers, bikers, taxi hacks, state troopers, bus drivers, RV gypsies--any of the folks who live and work on the asphalt arteries of America. They call themselves the Brotherhood of the Wheel.
Jimmy Aussapile is one such knight. He's driving a big rig down South when a promise to a ghostly hitchhiker sets him on a quest to find out the terrible truth behind a string of children gone missing all across the country. The road leads him to Lovina Hewitt, a skeptical Louisiana State Police investigator working the same case and, eventually, to a forgotten town that's not on any map--and to the secret behind the eerie Black-Eyed Kids said to prowl the highways.
Set in 1920’s Harlem, this debut novel features the FBI’s first African-American agent, who has a very complicated personal agenda...
Stunning, suspenseful, and unforgettably evocative...glitters with the vibrant dreams and dangerous promise of the 1920s Harlem Renaissance, as one man crosses the perilous lines between the law, loyalty, and deadly lies...
For college graduate Sidney Temple, the Roaring Twenties bring opportunities even members of his accomplished black bourgeois family couldn’t have imagined. His impulsive marriage to independent artist Loretta is a happiness he never thought he’d find. And when he’s tapped by J. Edgar Hoover to be the FBI’s first African-American agent, he sees a once-in-a-lifetime chance to secure real justice...
Instead of providing evidence against Marcus Garvey, prominent head of the ‘dangerously radical’ back-to-Africa movement, Sidney uses his unexpected knack for deception and undercover work to thwart the Bureau’s biased investigation. And by giving renowned leader W. E. B. Du Bois insider information, Sidney gambles on change that could mean a fair destiny for all Americans...
But the higher Sidney and Loretta climb in Harlem’s most influential and glamorous circles, the more dangerous the stakes. An unexpected friendship and a wrenching personal tragedy threaten to shatter Loretta’s innocent trust in her husband—and turn his double life into a fast-closing trap. For Sidney, ultimately squeezed between the Bureau and one too many ruthless factions, the price of escape could be heartbreak and betrayal no amount of skill can help him survive.
Who isn’t up for a kick-ass lesbian biker chick thriller? Sexual politics aside, this debut mash-up mixes Sons of Anarchy with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo to produce an effective wild ride. I’ll definitely be looking for the follow-up...
In this gritty, fast-paced debut thriller, an ex-con biker chick turned law-abiding citizen risks everything to save her new life—and confront the demons of her past.
Shea Stevens is biker royalty. Her father was the president of the Confederate Thunder Motorcycle Club. Under his watchful eye, she learned how to pick locks, disable alarms, and hot-wire cars like a pro. But all that is ancient history. Or so she thought...
After a stint in prison, Shea has worked hard to make a quiet, happy life for herself in Arizona. She spends her time bonding with her big-city girlfriend and running her bike shop, Iron Goddess Custom Cycles, with her dedicated team of misfits. But when one of her employees is shot and three of her specially commissioned bikes are stolen, Shea’s new life collides with the criminal underworld she tried to leave behind.
Shea knows better than to trust the police. So, with her Glock on her hip, she takes the investigation into her own hands. Shea’s search for the bike thieves leads her straight to her father’s old gang—and her estranged sister, whose young daughter has been kidnapped by a rival club. The last thing Shea wants is to be caught in the middle of a war—but if she learned one thing from her old man, it’s that when someone comes at you, you push back. Hard. And that’s exactly what she’s going to do.
This book came out of left field. It’s the first of four John Tall Wolf novels. Author Flynn has a lot of titles to his credit. He has been published traditionally, but now appears to be doing well self-publishing under his own Stray Dog Press imprint…Halfway through The Tall Man In the Ray-Bans, I was enjoying it enough to swing over and pick up the three other titles in the series.
Out for a day’s adventure exploring the dry bed of Lake Travis in Austin, Texas, two young boys stumble upon a skeleton. It might be all that remains of a fugitive named Randy Bear Heart. Wanted for robbing three banks and killing three cops, Bear Heart was never brought to justice.
The FBI is called on to determine how the outlaw avoided arrest for twenty-five years and who put him in the lake wearing chains. The BIA — Bureau of Indian Affairs — gets the very same job. Special Agent John Tall Wolf is put on the case because one of the dead cops was a Native American who worked at the Mercy Ridge Reservation.
The FBI wants John to “coordinate all your efforts” through SAC Gilbert Melvin. John is having none of that, saying, “I’ll conduct my investigation as I see fit.” He doesn’t even get along with his own boss, Marlene Flower Moon, head of the BIA’s Office of Justice Services.
While interviewing John for his job, Marlene was amused by his assertiveness, and asked him, “What do you want, a license to take scalps?” John said, “Yeah, that’d be good.”

Wednesday, September 7, 2016


In 1968, Peter McCurtin sold two books to iconic sleaze paperback imprint Midwood, which was run by publisher Harry Shorten. Shorten later hired McCurtin to edit books for his other low end paperback houses, Tower, Belmont, and Leisure Books. While there, McCurtin not only edited manuscripts, but wrote books under his own name and a number of publishing house owned pseudonyms. He also turned his own byline into a house pseudonym, hiring other wordslingers to produce books as Peter McCurtin—all of which has created much confusion for collectors and completists. 
Paperback scholar Lynn Munroe has done an excellent job of researching McCurtin’s history and output, all of which can be found on his website: CLICK HERE 
McCurtin first used the house name Jake Slade for the Lassiter series he created in 1969. He later used the Slade pseudonym for several entries in the Fargo and Sundance series—both created and originally written by revered western writer Ben Haas (under the pseudonym John Benteen) and edited by McCurtin. After Haas passed away, McCurtin took over the writing chores on the Sundance novels, publishing them under his own name. McCurtin wrote many of these books, but in some instances he provided plot ideas or half written novels to his crew of regular writers—the most prominent being George Harmon Smith—to complete.
While the pseudonym Jack Slade originally hid the identity many different writers, McCurtin resurrected the name for his Gatling series. These are books he wrote late in his career with the help of his second wife, Mary Carr—who had previously worked with him on several entries in the Buckskin series as Kit Dalton. 
After extensive research, paperback historian Lynn Munroe has established that when Leisure Books killed the Gatling series after six books, McCurtin had already written the manuscripts for books seven and eight. Per Munroe, after a suitable waiting period, McCurtin changed Gatlin’s name to Garrity, repurposed the stories by shifting the emphasis away from the weaponry to feature the protagonist as a traditional hired gun, and sold the manuscripts as a new series—the prose style and plotting, however, clearly marking the books as Gatling adventures.
Personally, I was drawn to the Gatling series by the amazing covers featuring Gatling with different cutting edge weaponry from the western period. These covers are exceptionally rendered and several cuts above the slapdash efforts produced for the men’s adventure and western series of the time. Unfortunately, there is no attribution given to the cover artist on the copyright page of the books or elsewhere. The illustrator has signed the cover paintings with the stylized initials CP, but this does little to help establish identity at this late date.
The covers used for the Garrity books (the repurposed Gatling manuscripts), however, are a completely different story. Research, again by Lynn Munroe, shows the cover art was for the two Garrity tales was copied, borrowed, or stolen from two Outlaw Josey Wales novels.
While the Gatling books are straight adventure novels in the tradition of the Fargo series, McCurtin indulges in some tongue-in-cheekness to explain how a man named Gatling works for the Maxim Gun Company—Maxim’s Col. Pritchett tells Gatling the only reason the Gatling Gun Company originally employed Gatlin was because they were afraid he might be the illegitimate offspring of their founder.
In his first adventure, Zuni Gold, Gatlin is sent to New Mexico—along with a Maxim light machinegun—to help the Zuni people, who are being slaughtered by Jicarilla Apaches working for the evil Copper Trust. An orphan, Gatling was raised by the Zuni and has an obvious motivation for accepting the challenge. 
In Outlaw Empire, Gatlin takes on Wilson Murrill who, after 30 years in a Louisiana prison, is out to organize crime in the Western U.S. by enlisting the the Sydney Ducks (an Australian gang based in San Francisco), the Italian Black Hand in New Orleans, and every Irish thug and Mexican bandit in California. 
Next up, Gatling heads into a Border War delivering weapons to the metis people in their revolt against the Canadian government. Along te way Gatling meets the real-life figures Louis Riel and Gabriel Dumont. McCurtin was fascinated by the hisoriy of the revolt. He does give Border War a new story, but basis it on the same historic events he covered in Sundance: Day Of The Halfbreeds and Lassiter: Gunfight At Ringo Junction
In Gatling’s fourth adventure, he is sent South Of The Border to Panama. Once there, he is forced to deal with rebel revolutionaries who intercept him while he escorts new automatic weapons to the American expedition building the Panama Canal.
In book five, rebels have hijacked a shipment of rifles and ammunition in Mexico. Taking along The War Wagon—a deadly motorized monstrosity created by Maxim—Gatling is sent to get them back.
In the final official Gatling book, Butte Bloodbath, Gatling ends up in the middle of a fight between Montana mine owners and Michael Patrick Kane, the fanatical Irish-born leader of the Western Labor League.
In 1993, Rapid Fire, the first of McCurtin’s repurposed Gatling manuscripts, has the rechristened Garrity reporting to Col. Pritchett of the Maxim Gun Company. In short order, Garrity is sent off to Brazil to retrieve weapons stolen by a hotheaded ex-Confederate General itching to go back to war.  
The final Gatling manuscript is repurposed as Texas Renegade, with Garrity in Texas to aid a Scottish cattle rancher being terrorized by the Ku Klux Klan and a group of labor thugs.
As mentioned, I was first drawn to the Gatling series by the intriguing covers, but happily read my way through them enjoying McCurtin’s hard-bitten, straight forward, writing style at its best. These are well worth tracking down—but be forewarned, Gatling #6 Butte Bloodbath is fairly rare and pricey, but with patience a reasonable copy at a reasonable price can be found.

Gatling #1: Zuni Gold (1989)
Gatling #2: Outlaw Empire (1989)
Gatling #3: Border War (1989)
Gatling #4: South Of The Border (1989)
Gatling #5: The War Wagon (1989)
Gatling #6: Butte Bloodbath (1990)
Rapid Fire (1993)
Texas Renegade (1993)