Tuesday, August 22, 2017



Known as The Face That Launched A Thousand Paperbacks, artists’ model Steve Holland embodied and defined the words rough, tough, manly, and heroic. In the ‘70s, Steve Holland’s skill for striking action poses made him the first, and often only model choice, for the top paperback cover illustration artists of the day. When editors insisted their artists use different cover models, the results were never as creative or effective. As a result, sales of their hero centric paperbacks plummeted when Holland’s presence didn’t grace the covers.

Holland’s unique understanding of how the human body moved and position itself in any action related scenario—exaggerated pulp heroics, military combat, galloping on horseback, murder minded men’s adventure vigilantes, firing weapons, or having his flesh ripped by weasels—made him an unmatched phenomenon. Coupled with the craggy lines of his uber masculine features, Holland became the dominant force in the world of paperback cover paintings. His instantly identifiable image was also ripped-off as many times if not more than it was used with authorization.

Doc Savage, The Avenger, The Sharpshooter, The Penetrator, and a hundred other paperback heroes all display the same firm jawline, deep set steely eyes, slightly cruel mouth, and imposing physical frame composed of twisted muscles and iron. He looked good in cavalry jodhpurs and boots, a ripped shirt, a skintight hero disguise, or anything else dragged from a costumer’s closet. Holland radiated machismo.

Holland had minor successes with an acting career. He was Flash Gordon for a quickly and cheaply produced early television series. He had minor roles in summer stock and other theatre productions. None of these roles would lead to anything anywhere near the pinnacle Holland would reach as a cover model. When his posing work began to pay far more than his acting work and provided a steady demand for his services, Holland abandoned acting to pursue his true calling.

Revered American artist James Bama famously used Holland as the model for the series of the now iconic paperback covers he painted for the Doc Savage—the Man of Bronze—adventures, which were published by Bantam. Bama also used Holland as the model for his first paperback cover commission A Bullet For Billy The Kid.

Bama’s style of illustration was known as photo-realistic. He would take numerous photos of his model—in many cases Steve Holland—to use as a guide while creating a painting with the look and feel of a photograph. Bamma was so enthralled with Steve Holland’s understanding of how to use light and shadow to dramatically embody his poses, he referred to Holland as the world’s greatest male model. Nobody has ever argued with the moniker.

Before Holland became a one man paperback cover sensation, he first conquered the world of Men’s Adventure Magazine covers in similar fashion. The outrageous yet brilliant cover paintings on the Men’s Adventure Magazines were steroided versions of the lurid scenes and garish colors from the original pulp magazines. Illustration artists like Bruce Minney, Mel Crair, and Norm Eastman (who often used himself as the model for villains and other characters) fueled these covers with explosions of sex and sadism. And Steve Holland’s visage was splashed across a literally uncountable number of them.

Often, Holland would be featured along with his female counterpart, the beautiful Eva Lynd. The duo rescued, tortured, or chased each other—interchanging roles as damsels/hunks in distress, evil sadists, or brave heroes to fit the needs of the interior stories on hundreds of Men’s Adventure Magazine covers and in other illustrations. 

On cover after cover, Holland was the hard-bitten Marine rescuing a gorgeous, bikini bottom clad woman, her long hair artfully covering her other voluptuous charms, from the clutches of Nazi sadists; the Mauser wielding American agent about to save provocatively posed, scantily clad, battlefield nurses from sexual slavery; the deadly commando knifing Japanese sentries to liberate half naked, high heel wearing, blondes with enhanced attributes, from a POW camp (don’t ask how they got there); the brave, bare-chested American soldier about to be tortured in incredibly ingenious ways; and any other crazed scenario imaginable.

It was common for Holland to be on the covers of two or even there different Men’s Adventure Magazines in the same month. Whether fighting off crazed wild animals of dubious species, taking on a pack of outlaw bikers in the subway, or leading a team of frogmen on a desperate submarine sabotage assignment, Holland made you believe he was capable of taking on any dangerous assignment, or escaping from threatened torments without breaking a sweat.

Paperbacks and Men’s Adventure Magazines were not the only publishing mediums to take advantage of Holland’s masculine presence. He appeared on comic book covers such as Bob Colt, Magnus, Robot Fighter 4000 A.D., The Phantom—The Ghost Who Walks, and many others.

Fashion and similar advertising campaigns, along with posters for B-Movies such as Latitude Zero, Sahara Cross, or A Taste For Killing, all looked to the manliness of Steve Holland to push product. If he was around today there is no doubt his avatar would reign over the world of high tech gaming. 

However, the ‘70s explosion of paperback originals and reprints of established pulp hero adventures made Holland a superstar—his image impossible to escape even today. The Men’s Adventure Magazines made Holland familiar to it’s wide, but niche audience. However, the societal mores demanded Men’s Adventure Magazines be hidden down the side of dad's armchair, or kept in dark corners of garages next to hidden stacks of Playboys.

While some of the top tier Men's Adventure Magazines (such as Argosy) were prominently displayed on the newstands of the day, many of the more salacious titles were consigned to the back racks of the lowest tier lest sensibilities of the less manly be offended.

Paperback covers exposed Holland’s image to the rest of the world. On every drugstore spinner rack across the country, Holland was Doc Savage, The Avenger, The Spider, The Executioner, Jason Striker: Master of martial Arts, Western series hero Buchanan, The Phantom, The Penetrator, The Man From O.R.G.Y. and an infinite number of mercenaries, cops, cowboys, crooks, action series characters and standalone heroes.

In 1992, Holland retired to pursue his passion for painting after posing for a last few Doc Savage covers. He passed away in 1997. He was 72 years old. To this day and into the foreseeable future, even casual collectors of Men’s Adventure Magazines or paperback action series can’t help but have examples of Steve Holland action covers on their shelves. Sylvester Stallone, Chuck Norris, Jason Statham, Dwayne The Rock Johnson, and all the other kick-ass pretty boys are pretenders to the throne of the Ultimate Man Of Action. Steve Holland remains the now and forever king—Long live the king...



***Thanks to Men's Adventure Magazine czar Bob Deis for his input while operating from his hidden lair behind the pages of his Men's Pulp Magazines website...

***With the permision of author and pulp maven Will Murray, I'm adding scans of his article on Steve Holland, which appeared in the June 1998 issue of Starlog magazine...

Sunday, August 20, 2017



John Whitlatch is an author whose name pops up regularly within men’s adventure series genre circles. Between 1969 and 1976, Whitlatch wrote eleven action novels, the first ten of which were published with a series of stunning covers. Lurid and garish, featuring outlaw bikers, big breasted babes in jeopardy, and tough heroes out for revenge, the covers of Whitlatch’s novels could just as easily have graced the covers of any of the titillating Men’s Adventure Magazines of the day. 

In actuality, the stunning covers of Whitlatch’s books first ten books were painted by top Men’s Adventure Magazine artists Norm Eastman (Gannon’s Vendetta, Lafitte's Legacy, Tanner's Lemming, Frank T’s Plan, The Judas Goat, Morgan's Rebellion), and Mel Crair (Morgan's Assassin, Stunt Man's Holiday, Cory's Losers). Men’s Adventure Magazine top model Steve Holland—The Face That Launched A Thousand Paperbacks—appears on several of the covers, adding to their collectability. Unfortunately, Whitlatch’s last novel, Gannon’s Line, did not receive a similar instantly collectible cover. Instead, even though the small central illustration was by the great Robert Maguire, the cover design itself was generic and instantly forgettable.

While the covers of Whitlatch’s books are often the catalyst for men’s adventure readers to buy and collect them, the writing between the covers is uniformly terrific. While definitely in sync with the attitudes and mores of the time period in which they were written, Whitlatch’s tales of every day guys caught up in deadly circumstances never failed to thrill. A Whitlatch hero is a man pushed beyond the reasonable boundaries of civilization and is forced to find a core of inner strength to overcome overwhelming odds—in other words, a guy who you can unabashedly root for as he takes on outlaw motorcycle gangs, voodoo cults, tin-pot Latin dictators, sadistic Japanese troops in the Pacific Theater, Renegade Indians, and other megalomaniac villains.

Whitlatch’s books are straightforward contemporary actioneers. Even when writing a Western (Iron Shirt) or a WWII Dirty Dozen style tale (The Judas Goat), the narratives are straight out of the men’s adventure genre. This is not to say they are cookie cutter or by the numbers plots. Whitlatch’s writing elevates the tropes of the genre with excellent action scenes. His heroes are not supermen, but rugged individuals who face their fears and have the courage to not lay down and die.

For many years Whitlatch himself remained an total enigma. When asked about Whitlatch, regular genre resources and gurus were forced to shrug their shoulders and admit to their mystification at the lack of information.

Usually, this little information about an author would indicate the use of a house owned pseudonym, with a number of authors penning the tales. But, this doesn’t appear to be the case with Whitlatch. Having read all eleven novels, the distinctive tempo and sentence structure make it clear they were written by the same person.

About twenty years or more ago, I tried tracking Whitlatch through his publisher. I was put in touch with Whitlatch’s agent who informed me Whitlatch was deceased. He did, however, provide me with a contact number for his family, warning me they would probably not want to be interviewed.

I eventually made contact with Whitlatch’s sister in Arizona, but while polite, she refused to impart any information. A strange situation, especially coupled with a tid-bit from mystery historian Al Hubin, which noted there had been no copyright renewals on Whitlatch’s titles. This raised the odd possibility of Whitlatch or his work being seen as an embarrassment to his family.

My introduction to Whitlatch originally came through his second published title, Morgan’s Rebellion. This was a great adventure tale. The all-American everyman Jamey Morgan finds himself falsely imprisoned in Central America. Desperate and alone, he takes it upon himself to escape, rally the scattered rebel forces, and overthrow the corrupt regime in order to get his life back and revenge on his wife and business partner.

This was great stuff! Morgan was a cool character with his archery background and his righteous American indignation. Whitlatch is hardly politically correct and he wears the Mad Man style male chauvinist label proudly—definitely a product of his time—but the guy could write a rousing adventure

In 2009, I wrote about Whitlatch in a Forgotten Books post for my blog. At the time, in response to a blog post of his own, my buddy and prolific writer James Reasoner said, “You have to love the Internet.” In James’ case, his own blog post regarding a specific hardboiled author generated unexpected contact from one of the author’s surviving relatives.

In my case, several months after my post bemoaning the complete lack of information about John Whitlatch—beyond his novels and those lurid covers—I received a surprise email. It was from Bob Miller, a friend and former co-worker of Whitlatch’s who had somehow come across my original Whitlatch post. He offered to share information about the elusive author, whom he stated was a down-to-earth nice guy with a good sense of humor. I immediately scrambled to dial the provided phone and quickly found myself chatting with my informant

Bob Miller told me he worked with Whitlatch in the 1960s when they were both claims adjusters for an insurance company working out of an office on Gower Street in Hollywood. Bob remained friends with Whitlatch, and was an ardent reader of his novels, until Whitlatch died in the late 1970s.

Apparently, Whitlatch was a force in the insurance business. He eventually became the head claims adjuster for All-State Insurance, working out of the company’s headquarters on Wilshire Boulevard in LA. Reportedly, he had a large, framed, picture of the All-State HQ building in Chicago hung on the wall behind his desk. The picture had a hand-drawn arrow pointing to one specific window in the building, which Whitlatch claimed was the office of the idiot I work for.

While working as a claims adjuster, Whitlatch also attempted to branch out into private business. For several years, he operated a self-service laundry on Ventura Boulevard—in the San Fernando Valley—with his wife, Geraldine. However, the business was forced into bankruptcy when long-term street repairs closed down easy access to the building.

Crippled with a bad limp, Whitlatch didn’t let his physical infirmities keep him down. Miller remembers Whitlatch’s visits to the ranch where Miller’s father-in-law trained and bred horses. Whitlatch always managed to get around and showed an interest in everything.

During the time of his visits to the stables, Whitlatch began writing spec movie scripts. Miller’s father-in-law had contacts in the movie industry via several of the horse owners for whom he bred and trained. He allowed Whitlatch access to those contacts and, while Whitlatch never sold a script, he received encouragement and praise for his writing.

On one stable visit, Whitlatch witnessed Miller’s father-in-law putting Vicks Vapor Rub in a mare’s nose in order to get her to accept a foal that wasn’t hers. The Vicks worked to distort the mare’s olfactory senses so she couldn’t tell the foal wasn’t her own. Whitlatch was to later use the scene in one of his novels.

A perfectionist when it came to insurance work, Whitlatch was a taskmaster—never letting correspondence or reports leave the office until they were letter perfect. But while he found insurance work financially rewarding, he longed to quit and write full time.

Miller remembers the day Whitlatch called him full of excitement. He had just sold his first two novels. Pocket Books had given him a contract for two of his completed manuscripts and planned to publish both novels simultaneously—a first for the publishing house.

Whitlatch eventually quit All-State to pursue his writing career. He had a handful of other novels published, but there was bad news on the horizon. Two years later, Miller received a phone call from his friend. Whitlatch told Miller he had been diagnosed with a brain tumor and had been given six month to two years to live.

Whitlatch’s final book, Shoot-Out At Dawn, was a non-fiction account of the deadly events at a remote Southern Arizona cabin in 1918. The book was written with Tom Power, one of the survivors of the clash. Whitlatch died shortly after it was published by Phoenix Books in 1981.

From other sources , it appears Whitlatch’s wife died sometime around 2005. The couple had no children. Clearly, Whitlatch will remain an enigma, but thanks to Bob Miller, those of us who have admired Whitlatch’s novels were finally given a glimpse into his background.


Do not forget, gentlemen—violence is the only thing they understand. If in doubt, kill.

Recalling with hatred all the blood and pain these cycle creeps had caused him, Gannon described his enemy to the men who had come to help him. The animals on the hopped-up Harleys had raped Gannon's wife, torched his house, and then—after working him over—dumped him in the desert to die. They never expected Gannon to come out alive. This was the end of the long hunt--high noon at midnight. Gannon had followed the rat pack deep into Mexico. And now he was ready to do battle—their style.


John Gannon had settled into the life he wanted as foreman of the Holguin Rancho, south of Sonora. But powerful people in Washington had singled him out to lead a band of men and horses into the scorching Baja desert. His mission: to locate in that inferno of sand and sun the secret base of an espionage ring—and to crush the sadistic genius who masterminded it.


Prison made a man of Morgan. And the man became a legend.

Jamey Morgan—a quiet California citizen—was arrested on a business trip to Central America. Accused of aiding a revolution he knew nothing about, Morgan was deprived of all diplomatic rights, branded an international renegade, and sentenced to hard labor.

And so, the only way he could return to the United States was to overthrow the government that imprisoned him. He made the revolution his own. After escaping from prison, Morgan fled into the hills and joined the rebel forces. An experienced bowman, he trained and organized an extraordinary guerrilla troop—Los Arqueros, the Archers—fifty rugged men on horseback, armed with bows and explosive arrows. The exploits of this daring commando unit help bring a ruthless dictatorship to its knees—and brought fame, love, and fortune to Captain Jamey Morgan.


They called him El Arquero...

The history books said bows and arrows had gone out years ago. But nobody had told James Morgan. Armed only with his great longbow, he had led a revolution that freed a Central American nation from tyranny. His men were all arqueros, or archers, but he was the only one called El Arquero.

Now, back in the States, Morgan received another call for help—from the F.B.I. This time it was to foil an assassination attempt that everyone else seemed powerless to stop. But then he discovered that he was next on the assassin's list. It was kill or be killed—and as Morgan stalked his man, he discovered he was up against the most diabolical political conspiracy America had ever seen. To defeat it, the arqueros would have to march again...


Tanner—the man who single-fistedly quashed a student takeover and tongue-lashed its leaders into silence at a turbulent school-board showdown. Tanner—the man who had never flown a plane, yet took the stick when a pilot died in midair and landed safely. Tanner—the man whose blunt business sense had won him a place in a Senator's inner circle. Tanner—had he blown a hole in the heart of the man millions of Americans revered? Had he killed Senator Stanton? Could he have been the assassin?



Jonathan Fontaine swore it...in the smoking remains of his homestead, over the charred, mutilated body of his young daughter.

He had gone East but now was back in Arizona with a specially equipped rifle.
And he had a fresh lead on the Indian—the one who had worn a necklace of human fingers and The Iron Shirt...


Life had made them hard...The army made them mean!

The attack squad...Hand-nicked from the entire U.S. World War II army, they were a unique company. Twelve men led by a lieutenant, as able as he was arrogant, and a sharp, seasoned sergeant who was militantly silent about his past. Twelve fighters. among them an ugly man, a black man, an old World War I scout, a southern redneck, and a mountain climber. They were a strange assortment, but they had several things in common—They were tough and tenacious...and they didn't care too much about living.

To the General they were the army's answer to the marines. To the Colonel they were a crack team...the best he could assemble. To the lieutenant they were animals. And by the time their brutal training had ended they were killers.


Jean Larue returns the newspaper said...The last of the Latittes had come back from Arizona to visit his dying grandfather. But enemies lay in wait, blocking his way with fallen trees, terrorizing his wife with poisonous snakes, signaling their malice with voodoo dolls. Someone wanted the old treasure map that was his legacy. But his adversaries had not reckoned with the pirate blood that was also part of Lafitte's legacy. He would tight with all the guile and guts, tenacity and ingenuity that had made his legendary ancestor the terror of the bayou.


His daughter had been murdered...Frank T. had a painful score to settle. And his chance came when a jury freed the accused man, Martin Ballard. Lusting for vengeance, Frank T set out on a daring hunt to bring his prey back alive. But there was another group of desperate men who wanted Ballard dead. To get his man, Frank T would face death and terror with only his guts to get him through.


Max Besh was one tough apache. They shouldn't have gotten him mad.

Max Besh, movie stunt man arid full-blooded Apache, was having quite a vacation in Las Vegas. He'd wan six grand at the crap tables and he'd gotten himself a curvy young dancer for companionship. Next thing he knew, he was looking down the barrel of a .38 and somebody was riding off with the cash and the girl.

What the kidnappers didn't realize was nobody pulls that kind of trick on Max Besh. They eluded police and crossed the Mexican border, but they couldn't shake the angry Indian on their trail. Even if it took a shootout, Max Besh was going to get his money and his woman back—in that order.


When Cory had been stuck with that had murder rap, some of the town's solid citizens had moved in and taken everything he had. Now it was seven years later, and Cory was back with a score to settle.

Meanwhile, his enemies had become the most powerful, ruthless men in town. They knew Cory was coming, and they were ready for him.

But Cory had friends—the losers who, like him, had been taken by the big honchos. Together, they were going to make things pretty hot for those crooked bastards...


John Whitlatch co-authored this book with Tom Power, one of the survivors of the event. There are but a handful of true west stories. The Power family story is one of those. From their simple beginnings in West Texas, to the furious gun battle a snowy winter day in Arizona, to decades of fighting for justice, theirs is a story of pain and courage. Tom and John Power—both blinded in their left eyes during the gun battle—and old, ex-Army Scout, Tom Sission, eluded a 3,000 man posse and soldiers for over a month in some of the most forbidding terrain on this planet. Their story is truly one of the most remarkable feats of courage and will ever played out in the American West.



The Alex Rider books have long been my favorite Y/A spy series..Young Bond comes a close second with Robert Muchamore's Cherub series third...The Alex Rider books were supposedly brought to a conclusion with Scorpia twelve years ago, but apparently you can't keep a good spy down...Author Anthony Horowitz is, of course, currently writing the James Bond continuation novels (starting with the tepid Trigger Mortis) and was the force behind the brilliant British television series Foyle's War...

Saturday, August 19, 2017




 If you’re an established or a budding mystery writer and you can only attend one writers’ conference next year, make sure it’s the Writers’ Police Academy 2018. I had the opportunity to be one of the guest speakers at this year’s Writers’ Police Academy—making a presentation on interrogation—and came away convinced it was the best writers’ conference or convention I’d ever attended...bar none.
An exciting, fully immersive  long weekend event, the Writers’ Police Academy gives attendees hands-on law enforcement, firefighting, EMS, and forensics experiences. The professional staff of law enforcement instructors provided training on an incredible range of subjects and activities including: Long Gun And Handgun Live Fire; Emergency Driving; Traffic Stops; Pursuit Termination Techniques; Defense and Arrest Tactics; SWAT Explosive Entry; Death Scene Investigation; Building Searches and Room Clearing; Shoot/Don’t Shoot Scenarios; Taser Training; Police Dogs; Evidence Collection and Processing; Narcotics; Prison Gangs; Mindset of Cops; Serial Killers; Fake/Genuine Suicide Notes; Arson Investigation; and so much more. The four track programming was so comprehensive and densely packed, it was impossible to do it all.
Cop turned writer Lee Lofland is the innovator of the Writers’ Police Academy. He and his staff work incredibly hard to ensure a seamless conference where writers can enhance the realism of their fiction in an educational and fun atmosphere.
My experience at this year’s Writers’ Police Academy involved hanging out with 250 crime and suspense writers avidly participating in every scenario and skill thrown at them—including 20 of them who volunteered to wear a standard police utility belt with all the trimmings—gun, ammo pouches, handcuffs, CS gas, etc.—for the whole long weekend. I was also able to interact with twenty other staff instructors and a wonderfully uncountable number of volunteers (all in highlighter yellow T-shirts) who could have not been any friendlier. And all of this to help crime writers escape the Hollywood Effect of bad scenarios being perpetrated again and again—silencers on revolvers, anybody? How about getting DNA back between commercials?
I was impressed by the high quality and professional résumé of the instructors. Most were attached to the Public Safety program located on the campus of the Northeast Technical College in Green Bay—used as an actual police academy by many local law enforcement jurisdictions. It was also the location of much of the provided training for the Writers’ Police Academy attendees, along with the nearby newly opened pursuit driving course, and the excellent conference rooms and facilities in the conference hotel.
The bottom line is, the Writers’ Police Academy is an action-packed and thrilling weekend of playing real-life cops and robbers. If you plan to attend in 2018 here are some tips to make your experience the best it can be... 

  • Wear comfortable clothing as it is nearly impossible to duck live ammunition, crawl under loops of barbed wire, and defend yourself against twelve knife-wielding attackers while wearing heels and a skintight leather jumpsuit like many action move heroines. 

  • Bring only the things you need to the academy grounds. It’s tough to kick in doors and perform a PIT maneuver if you’re constantly juggling the contents of a purse big enough for a pack mule. However, sunscreen, sunglasses, bottled water, and a light jacket should be part of your personal gear bag.  

  • Make ahead of time for any child care issues you may have. There are no child friendly options at the Writers’ Police Academy. However, there is a timeout corner for misbehaving adults—most often those who may think it’s okay to keep their phone video app running when the no video rule is implemented. 

  • Cameras used for still shots are acceptable with an instructor’s okay.  

  • Bring a photo ID and keep it with you at all times while at the police academy. Some of the activities do require ID and background checks. For instance, you need a valid driver’s license to participate in any vehicle related activities. Book covers/dust jackets do not count as official ID.  

  • When participating in those emergency driving workshops, keep hands and feet inside the car at all times—especially while spinning wildly out of control. 

  • Be sure to attend the Thursday night orientation. This is where secret details about the event are provided—where to go, when to go there, what to expect when you arrive, what to do and say if captured, schedule changes, classroom number changes…Treat it like a shift change roll call and be there. Besides, it’s fun. 

  • Camping is not allowed at the academy, so be sure to book your hotel accommodations ahead of time—the main conference hotel books up quickly.  

  • The hotel bars and casino are well-stocked with alcohol, so pace yourselves. They will not run out of your favorite beverage. Only TV and movie detectives can drink themselves into oblivion and show up for work the next day popping aspirin and breath mints. Keep in mind the next morning will indeed arrive, and it will include lots of loud gunfire, sirens, and barking, snarling police dogs.  

  • Remember to bring cash and/or credit cards in order to unload a boatload of dollars at the raffle, auction, and silent auction, during the banquet evening. The prizes are unbelievable. This year included a cool guitar signed by the Oak Ridge Boys, a PR package worth nearly $3000, a manuscript review by a top Harlequin editor, two seats at a law enforcement only gang conference, and a ton more.
If this sound as if it’s the conference for you, be sure to sign up as soon as registration opens for 2018. Be prepared to take copious notes at the speed of light, to find the answers to questions you didn’t even know you had, identify those things you want/need to know more about for you writing, and make many potential contacts among the speakers and instructors—many of whom are happy to give out their emails to answer any questions that might arise about procedure, etc.