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Monday, September 18, 2017

OUT OF THE SHADOWS—JAMES MCKIMMEY

OUT OF THE SHADOWS
JAMES MCKIMMEY

I’ve immersed myself in the noir/crime/mystery genre for many years as a reader, writer, collector, and enthusiast. I consider myself relatively well versed in not only the mainstay writers and novels in the field, but also many of those hidden in the more obscure corners. 

However, the genre is mind-bogglingly wide making it near impossible to have read or be familiar with all of the once highly prominent writers who have now slipped into obscurity. Many of these writers have been overshadowed, at times unfairly, by those greats recognized not only within the genre, but within the general reading public at large. 

So it is, I revel in the chinks Stark House Press reveals in my reading armor by  regularly publishing new collections of these forgotten gems under their Crime Classics banner. Not only are these collections packaged and priced attractively, the introductions by prominent names in the genre are often as valuable as the original prose that follows. 

This year alone, Stark House has brought me up to speed on Basil Heatter, Peter Rabe, Clifton Adams, and Carter Brown—three authors with whom I was familiar, but had never read, and another I was only aware of as a writer of Westerns. They also published the outstanding collection of introductions and essays by Rick Ollerman (Hardboiled, Noir and Gold Medals), which I wrote about in an earlier column. 

In December, Stark House will release a collection of two novels, Perfect Victim/Winner Take All, by James McKimmey, introduced throug an interviewof McKimmey conducted by Allen Guthrie. This will be the second collection of McKimmey novels from Stark House, the first being Cornered!/The Long Ride, with an introduction by Bill Crider.




McKimmey was an author who had never registered on my radar before, but after reading Perfect Victim/Winner Take All, I immediately purchased Stark House’s first collection of McKimmey stories. I wanted more McKimmey, and I wanted it right away. 

Checking the Internet for images of McKimmey's novels, I immediately recognized the amazing Robert McGinnis covers on the first edition paperbacks published by Dell Books. I realized I’d seen them before. I even had a couple on my shelf, collected strictly for the McGinnis covers.

Because of my unfamiliarity with Mckimmey,  I had never cracked them open to read—a situation quickly rectified.

Best known for his crime fiction, McKimmey began his writing career churning out science fiction, juvenile stories, Westerns, and tales of adventure for the pulps. Looking to move up the pay scale, McKimmey began writing for the slicks (Saturday Evening Post, Colliers, etc.) in the mid-50s. His first novel, Perfect Victim, sold to Dell in 1957. 

McKimmey’s story structure is to present seemingly unrelated characters and eventually connecting them as needed to bring the plot to a boil. He establishes his main characters (and even his secondary characters to some extent) and our belief in them through the technique of dynamic dialogue, with his style relying minimally on descriptive passages. This keeps the story moving fast enough to keep the reader from thinking too hard about the coincidences and, at times, artificial set-ups, which often drive these types of stories.

Reading like Jim Thompson filtered through the lens of James M. Cain, David Goodis, and John D. MacDonald, McKimmey deserves to be rediscovered and have a much higher profile with fans of compulsively readable tight, nasty, and twisted noirs. Kudos again to Stark House Press for keeping the flame burning.

THE PERFECT VICTIM 

Al Jackson, traveling salesman, knows that he isn’t likely to get any equipment sales in Willow Creek, but he’s nursing a hangover and stops here anyway. He’s a friendly guy, on the road too long, and can’t help flirting with the waitress, Grace. But Willow Creek folks don t take well to outsiders making time with their Grace. So when she is found murdered the next morning, everyone naturally assumes that the foreigner must have had something to do with it. And now Jackson is in jail while the town howls for blood. Only the real murderer knows what happened and he has no intention of letting the salesman live to see a courtroom. 

WINNER TAKE ALL 

You've kicked around the world, a soldier of fortune. But nothing prepares you for a man who shows up in your San Francisco hotel claiming to be your twin, with an offer to switch places for ten thousand dollars. Yeah, there's going to be some rough stuff you've got to settle your twin's gambling debt with some very dubious characters in Reno but the money looks good, and you're up for it. You get to live the high life for a while, which is something you could definitely get used to. But you don't figure on lovely Linda. And you sure don't figure on the neat double-cross that saps you right between the ears. Because, my friend, you've been swapped for murder!

Monday, September 11, 2017

THE WOMEN OF MEN’S ADVENTURE

THE WOMEN OF MEN’S ADVENTURE
The paperback original men’s adventure and western series of the seventies and eighties provided a fertile proving ground for dozens of authors—some of whom wrote hundreds of books in the near uncountable number of series which proliferated during the time period. The huge majority of the writers of these action oriented, violence dripping, sex soaked series filled with lone wolf vigilantes, elite military teams, shoot first cops, lusty international spies, billionaire adventurers, and the many other variations had one thing in common—they were males. While they weren’t necessarily as hairy-chested, muscular, or quick-triggered as their fictional creations, they were certainly toiling in the traditionally male written, testosterone filled, genre.

While the low rent end of Hemmingway Street was customarily male, there were a surprising number of women writers who embraced the macho guidelines of the genre—matching their male counterparts bullet for bullet, violence for violence, and sexual kink for sexual fetish. They infiltrated the genre seamlessly, proven by the fact no men’s adventure series reader ever stopped reading the latest installment, outraged because, “Hey! This was written by a broad!”

Fortunately, a number of women writers who braved the world of men’s action adventure paperback series were willing to share their experiences…

GAYLE LYNDS
Gayle Lynds, now the acknowledged Queen Of Modern Espionage Fiction, began her literary spy career writing adventures for the Nick Carter: Killmaster series.  The author of 10 bestselling international spy novels—including The Assassins, The Book of Spies, and The Last Spymaster—speaks freely about her early experiences in the men’s adventure genre...

In the early 1980s, I was divorced and struggling to find a way to support my two children. I was writing literary short stories, which I loved, but I was paid in copies of the journals in which they were published. Since paper was not a food group, and my children had grown accustomed to eating, and since the magazine I was editing wasn’t paying enough to support us, I turned to writing male pulp novels.

This serendipity was due to my husband-to-be, Dennis Lynds, aka Michael Collins, who signed the contracts and created the outlines for two Nick Carter novels, which I then wrote. The Nick Carter series has been around for decades, written by many male authors, and is sometimes described as an American version of James Bond. After I’d finished the first two, I insisted I take over creating the outlines for the next books in the contract. This was because I wanted to learn how to think the bones of a book.

In the end, I wrote five Nick Carters, all of which had international settings and were based on international political intrigue. I know that sometimes people are shocked I would “lower” myself to write pulp fiction, but I looked upon it as an exciting opportunity to grow and experiment as a writer. And, too, Dean Koontz and Martin Cruz Smith and Ross Macdonald and my husband and other fine authors had plowed those literary fields early in their careers. Why shouldn’t I?

Did the publisher ever know I was doing it? I doubt it. The contracts were in Den’s name because he was a known quantity, which meant we got the highest pay grade — a shockingly low $3,000 per book. Wahoo! But money was money, and I gloried in being allowed to experiment with character, scenes, and voice. I was even able to do multiple viewpoints. I looked upon it as a graduate course in popular writing...

TO VISIT GAYLE LYNDS’ WEBSITE CLICK HERE

MOLLY COCHRAN
Molly Cochran is the author of 27 published novels and four nonfiction books under her own name and various pseudonyms—including the teen paranormal romances Legacy, Poison, and Seduction.   With co-author Warren Murphy, she also wrote the New York Times bestselling novels Grandmaster and The Forever King. She has lectured extensively and has taught writing at the college level as well as at a women's prison—insisting she was not an inmate at the time. In her dark and mysterious past, she also contributed a clutch of novels to one of the most iconic men’s adventure paperback series, The Destroyer. Molly remembers her time ghosting The Destroyer fondly...

I think most Destroyer fans know I was one of several ghost writers who worked on the series. The fact I’m a woman hasn’t seemed to make much difference in the public’s response to my work, which has been pretty positive. Where it did make a difference was in my own grasp of the craft. 

Writing men’s action/adventure stretched me far beyond anything I might have reached for on my own. The Destroyer is not a vehicle for dreamy setups or vague descriptions, faults shared by many (bad) women’s novels. It is fast, action-packed, and plot driven. Ghosting this iconic series gave me discipline, confidence, and the ability to work under pressure.

As a writer, I have nothing but the deepest gratitude to Warren Murphy and Dick Sapir (who was still alive when I began ghosting for them). The twelve Destroyers I wrote provided the best postgraduate course in fiction writing I can imagine. Here are some of the things I learned directly from Warren, who was my main mentor:

—People aren’t going to pay as much attention to every word as you do. When writing action, tell them you’re going to do it, do it, then tell them you did it.
 
—Nothing in a novel is inconsequential.

—Reaction propels the story forward as much as action.

—Make sure every character’s motives are (or become) clear. People can be ambiguous, but fictional characters cannot.

—Writers don’t lose their talent. What they lose is their nerve. Don’t lose it. Always be willing to fall on your face.

After I completed my dozen Destroyers, Warren and I co-wrote Grandmaster, which won an Edgar Award, rose to #3 on the New York Times Bestseller List, and became an international bestseller. All in all, we wrote seven successful books together. Oh, and incidentally, we got married...Good times...

TO VISIT MOLLY COCHRAN’S WEBSITE CLICK HERE

ALICE DUNCAN
Author of romance westerns and the popular Daisy Gumm Majesty series set in the Roaring Twenties, Alice Duncan also made her bones in the world of men’s adventure fiction. Having written two books in the Trailsman adult western series (under the house name Jon Sharpe), Alice has her own slant on the quirks and challenges of the genre...

It was early in what I laughingly call my writing career, and I was incredibly single-minded and ambitious (a tendency I’ve since gotten over). I wanted to write everything. I’d written western romances and thought maybe I could write straight westerns without the romantic element.

My agent approached an editor at Signet (can’t remember his name, but I do remember he was Canadian and his family had Beaucerons—a breed of guard and herding dog—working on their ranch). My agent had sent the editor a proposal for a western I was working on.

The editor said he admired my writing, and would I like to write for the Trailsman series? I said sure, and went out and bought two of the novels. I knew the books contained a lot of sex, because my agent had warned me. I’d had an idea of having three pseudo-nuns running into Trailsman hero, Skye Fargo (and people say romance heroes have weird names). However, the first Trailsman book I read had three nuns in it. So, I scrapped that idea and decided to write a book set in the Pecos Valley in New Mexico Territory.

My new plot involved an evil rancher who has taken over a town. Skye Fargo intervenes and organizes a bunch of hookers to free the town from the rancher’s grip. As soon as the editor read the book (fortunately, those things were short), he said I had to rewrite it, as I’d clearly totally missed the concept of Skye Fargo being at every woman’s mercy. Even 18-year-old virgins seduced him (didn’t take much effort on their part). So, I made the required changes.

The second book was set in Gold-Rush California and involved a fake woman preacher who was really an evil gambler. Skye Fargo manages to fool her, ruin her career as a fake evangelist, and save the town from further depravity—at least from her. They still had plenty of depravity going on from other sources. The editor said he still liked my writing, but he needed folks to write Trailsman books whose work didn’t need so much correction from him. I understood completely.

The main problem I had with the Trailsman-like westerns was writing too much introspection and too little action. I also absolutely and totally did NOT comprehend the male-fantasy aspect of the books, which had every woman alive wanting to jump Skye Fargo’s bones. Never mind he had a huge beard and wore buckskins that probably never got laundered (how do you launder buckskins anyway?), and he never had to make a move on a woman. All I could think of when I was writing those two books was how stinky Skye Fargo must be, you know? Not to mention how many people Skye had to kill in order to fulfill his purpose on earth. 

Anyway, that ended my Trailsman career. A shame, too, because those books made me more money than any other books I’ve ever written. Sigh...
Along with writing her own Jazz Age cozies, Alice also edits the westerns for Five Star  written by Peter Mean Pete Brandvold—who also cut his teeth writing Trailsman novels.  About Peter, Alice says, He’s a great writer, and he’s got the western thing down pat. In fact, I always lose track of the body count when I edit his books. Mean Pete KNOWS what a western is supposed to be. Wish I did. Oh, well...

TO VISIT ALICE DUNCAN’S WEBSITE CLICK HERE

MARILYN GRANBECK
Writing as Marilyn Granbeck, Marilyn Ruth Henderson created and wrote all novels in two men’s adventure series—The Peacemaker and Blood. She also wrote one entry in the Nick Carter Killmaster series. Now a respected mystery writer, Granbeck believes her time writing men’s adventure novels set her up for success...

I began with short stories under the mistaken impression that short meant easier. I sold my first one eleven months after I had set my goal. During this time though,  a remarkable thing had happened. One of the selling members of the writers' group offered to help me. He wrote and sold action/adventure and mystery/suspense paperback originals to a small Midwestern publisher I never knew existed. He gave me some  of his books to read to see if I thought I could write the kind the publisher wanted.

That was my first real recognition that writing a book that sells meant writing for the intended market, not for myself. I had to come up with an idea and write a book the editor knew his readers would buy. Learning that important basic of marketing put me on the road to  success. When I asked my mentor how I could ever repay him, he said—Pass it on some day…
On his Glorious Trash blog, Joe Kenney gave an interesting perspective on Granbeck’s men’s adventure work in her Blood series...Granbeck usually fades to black in the sex scenes, though sometimes she gives a bit of the juicy details. It’s not full-on explicit but it’s more than nothing, and she has no qualms with describing the female anatomy. She even goes the extra mile by occasionally referring to breasts as tits. So clearly, she was making the attempt to cater to the demands of the genre. And yet for all of that, you can still detect something afoot, as Blood appears to develop feelings for most every girl, and indeed tells us he can’t have sex if there are no feelings involved – what more proof do you need that the writer was a woman?

JOANNE WALPOLE
Joanne (Jo) Walpole is an establish writer of Black Horse Westerns under the pseudonym Terry James (a name apparently stolen from her husband). A Piccadilly Cowboy for a new generation, Jo’s new violent Western series Maggie O’Bannen is about to make a cannonball splash into the waters of men’s adventure series under the pseudonym Joe  Slade. On her blog, Jo talks about her new series...

Not long ago, I approached Piccadilly Publishing with an idea for a series. I wanted the freedom to 'go large', as I put it, and break away from the mainstream type westerns I had previously written. They were happy to let me run with it and off I went.

Recently, I submitted the first book in the Maggie O’Bannen series—Days Of Evil. It only took me 2 months to write from start to finish, which was a record for me and proves how much I enjoyed doing it. I'd go so far as to say it's my favourite book out of the seven I have had published since 2005. Piccadilly seem to agree.

I decided to use a different pseudonym for this one as it's more violent than anything I've written before and I wanted to draw a line of distinction between Terry James [the pseudonym she uses for her more traditional Black Horse Westerns) and this new version of me.
I'm very lucky to have had Tony Masero design the cover. I admit I was a little nervous as the women I'd seen on some of the Piccadilly covers tended towards overtly sexy and Maggie isn't that. I provided an overview of how I saw her and I think Tony Masero has done a really good job with her. I very much like the simplicity of the cover art overall.

The second book in the series is already under way with the working title, Wanted: Dead. I'm still very excited about Maggie and her band of misfits and am very much hoping readers will take to them as much as I have...

Maggie O’Bannen #1: Days Of Evil will be available November 6, 2017.

TO VISIT JO WALPOLE’S WEBSITE CLICK HERE

DOROTHY AYOOB
In the mid-'90's there were two men’s adventure series, Stakeout Squad and Code Zero, written by D. A. Hodgman. Both series were highly regarded series due to their high degree of verisimilitude regarding police procedure and the technical detail relating to firearms and ammunition.
 
Reader Phil Wong felt the books read like a fictionalized version of the Ayoob Files, a regular column in the American Handgunner magazine. In Wong’s opinion there was a strong chance D. A. Hodgman was a nom de plume for Massad Ayoob. 
 
Wong finally met Massad Ayoob in person. Hoping to get his copies of Stakeout Squad and Code Zero autographed, he asked Ayoob if he was indeed the man behind the D. A. Hodgman pseudonym. It turned out, however, D. A. stood for Dorothy Ayoob neƩ Hodgman, who had been Massad's wife. Massad served as the primary technical advisor on the books, but the actual writing was all done by Dorothy.

ANDREW / ANDREA SUGAR
Then there is the odd case of Andrew Sugar who wrote action and violence filled men’s adventure series such as the body-hopping-clone series The Enforcer, and the butt-kicking Israeli Commandos. Sugar famously sued Warner Bros. over their authorized novelization of The Enforcer—based on Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry film—claiming it had substantially injured him financially and caused damage to his property rights.
 
At the time of the court filing, however, Andrew Sugar had undergone a sex change operation and was now Andrea Sugar. An expert witness in the case stated Sugar wasn’t a bad looking woman, allowing for a missing lower front tooth.
 
Sugar was highly regarded as a men’s adventure novelist, which adds a certain irony to his journey as a woman starting out in a man’s body.




******
There are also numerous other examples of women writers exercising their literary muscles by contributing to men’s adventure paperback series.

J.B. KELLER
Keller wrote many entries in the Trailsman series. Her significant other was Trailsman series creator Jon Messmann—whose name is very well known in men’s adventure series circles as the creator of Jefferson Boone: The Handyman, The Revenger, and many more action series. However, when it comes to the Trailsman series, it’s unclear which of the two wrote which books—various books credited to Keller were written by Messmann and vice-versa.

ELLEN RECKNOR
Ellen Recknor wrote at least four entries in the Trailsman series as Jon Sharpe. She also wrote four Slocum books under the Jake Logan house name—three of which were Giant Editions. Unfortunately, there is no central listing to identifying the individual authors behind the Jake Logan pseudonym or which books they wrote. Unlike the listings for the Trailsman series on the U.S. Copyright site (where authors can be identified by painstakingly checking each entry), the great majority of the Slocum books do not have similar specific author information.
 
Recknor had a lifelong interest in the Old West, which she found useful when she began her writing career. In 1998 she won a Spur Award from the Western Writers of America for Best Paperback Original, for Leaving Missouri. In 2000, she won the Best Novel of the West Spur Award for Prophet Annie. She passed away in 2014.

ARDATH MAYHAR
As John Killdeer, Mayhar wrote the first six books in the Mountain Majesty series, in which frontiersman Cleve Bennett and his Cheyenne warrior wife fight for their high mountain freedom.
Mayhar was nominated for the Mark Twain Award as well as numerous other nominations for awards in almost every fiction genre. She won many awards for her poetry. In 2008, she was honored by Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America as an Author Emeritus. Mayhar wrote over 60 books ranging from science fiction to horror to young adult to historical to westerns. Mayhar passed away in 2012.

BARBARA PUECHNER
As Terence Duncan, Barbara Puechner wrote the first three books in the eight book Powell’s Army series. The title character of the series is Lt. Col. Amos Powell, who leads an army of fearless firebrands consisting of former soldier/Ranger Landrum Davis, the Dartmouth educated Gerald Glidinghawk, and Celia Burnett—who was adept at both shooting and riding.

CHARLOTTE SHERMAN
Wife of prolific Western writer Jory Sherman, Charlotte Sherman is credited to the seventh book in the Remington series under the house name, James Calder Boone. As Cort Martin she also wrote all the books in the Bolt series except the first—which was written by her husband. 

OTHER WOMEN CONTRIBUTORS
The Hank Mitchum house name for the Stagecoach Station series was adopted by Kit Prate (three books), Michelle McQuaid (one book), and Amanda Cockrell Crowe(one book).

As John Holly, Joan Carol Holly got on the board writing one of the Ace original tie-in novels for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. series—The Assassination Affair.

Valerie Moolman was both editor and writer for numerous books in the Nick Carter Killmaster series, while Linda Stewart and Dee Stuart each contributed two novels to the same series.

With her husband Ed, Martha Quillen contributed at least ten entries in the Trailsman series.
 
Along with Jo Walpole (writing as Terry James), there are a number of Black Horse Westerns with female writers behind their pseudonyms.



******
BELOW IS AN ADMITTEDLY INCOMPLETE LIST
OF MEN'S ADVENTURE NOVELS
ATTRIBUTED TO WOMEN WRITERS...

THE DESTROYER
Molly Cochran:
Balance of Power / Spoils of War
Next of Kin / Dying Space
Skin Deep / Killing Time
Shock Value / Time Trial
Last Drop / Master's Challenge
Date with Death / The Eleventh Hour

NICK CARTER KILLMASTER
Gayle Lynds:
The Mayan Connection / Day of the Mahdi
Pursuit of the Eagle / White Death

Valerie Moolman
Run, Spy, Run (with Michael Avallone)
The China Doll (with Michael Avallone)
Saigon (with Michael Avallone)
The Mind Poisoners (with Lionel White)
Checkmate in Rio / Safari for Spies
Fraulein Spy / A Bullet for Fidel
The 13th Spy / The Terrible Ones
Hanoi / The Weapon of Night

Linda Stewart:
The Peking Dossier / The Jerusalem File

Marilyn Granbeck:
Assignment: Intercept

Dee Stuart:
Death Message: Oil 74-2 / Pamplona Affair

TRAILSMAN
J. B. Keller:
Death Blow Trail / Cheyenne Crossfire
Coins of Death / Crowheart’s Revenge
Silver Maria / Silver River Conspiracy
Texas Triggers / Buffalo Guns
California Quarry / Ambush At Skull Pass
Ghost Ranch Massacre / Tornado Trail
Yukon Massacre / Colorado Carnage
Sutter’s Secret / Betrayal At El Dorado
Vengeance At Dead Man Rapids
Fort Range Conspiracy / Black Gulch Gamble
Salmon River Rage

Alice Duncan:
Pecos Belle Brigade / California Crusader

Ellen Recknor:
St. Louis Sinners / New Mexico Nymph
Silver Mountain Slaughter / Kansas City Swindle

Martha Quillen (with Ed Quillen):
Colorado Robber / Minnesota Missionary
Smoky Hell Trail / Utah Slaughter
Texas Hell Country / Cave of Death
Death’s Caravan / Desperate Dispatch
Mexican Massacre / Santa Fe Slaughter
PEACEMAKER
Marilyn Granbeck:
The Zaharan Pursuit
The Yashar Pursuit
The Xander Pursuit 
The Wyss Pursuit

BLOOD
Marilyn Granbeck:
Blood / The Spandau Warrant
The Cat Cay Warrant

MOUNTAIN MAJESTY
Ardath Mayhar:
The Untamed / Wild Country
Wilderness Rendezvous
Blood Kin / Mountains West
The Far Horizon

POWELL’S ARMY
Barbara Puechner:
Unchained Lightning
Apache Raiders
Mustang Warriors

THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.
Joan Carol Holly:
The Assassination Affair

REMINGTON
Charlotte Sherman:
Red River Revenge

BOLT
Charlotte Sherman:
Dead Man's Bounty / Showdown At Black Mesa
The Guns of Taos / Shootout At Santa Fe
Tombstone Honeypot / Rawhide Woman
Hard in the Saddle / Badman's Bordello
Bawdy House Showdown / The Last Bordello
The Hangtown Harlots / Montana Mistress
Virginia City Virgin / Bordello Backshooter
Hardcase Hussy / Lone Star Stud
Queen of Hearts / Palomino Stud
Six-Guns and Silk /  Deadly Withdrawal
Climax Mountain / Hook Or Crook
Rawhide Jezebel / Not On the Warpath
Maverick Mistress

MAGGIE O’BANNEN
Jo Walpole:
Days of Evil / Wanted: Dead

CODE ZERO
Dorothy Ayoob
Speedball
Deathride
Operation Barbary Coast

STAKEOUT SQUAD
Dorothy Ayoob
Line of Fire
Miami Heat
Color of Blood