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Blogging Sapper’s Bulldog Drummond, Part Five – “The Final Count”

Friday, July 25th, 2014 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

1189621421509Sapper’s The Final Count (1926) saw the Bulldog Drummond formula being shaken and stirred yet again. The first four books in the series are the most popular because they chronicle Drummond’s ongoing battle with criminal mastermind Carl Peterson. The interesting factor is how different the four books are from one another. Sapper seemed determined to cast aside the idea of the series following a template and the result kept the long-running series fresh, as well as atypical.

The most striking feature this time is the decision to opt for a first person narrator in the form of John Stockton, the newest member of Drummond’s gang. While Drummond’s wife, Phyllis, played a crucial role in the first book, she barely registers in the early sequels. One would have expected Sapper to have continued the damsel in distress formula with Phyllis in peril, but he really only exploits this angle in the second book in the series, The Black Gang (1922).

The Black Gang reappear here, if only briefly, and are quickly dispatched by the more competent and deadly foe they face. This befits the more serious tone of this book, which has very few humorous passages. The reason for the somber tone is the focus is on a scientific discovery of devastating consequence that threatens to either revolutionize war or end its threat forever. Robin Gaunt is the tragic genius whose invention of a deadly poison that could wipe out a city the size of London by being released into the air proves eerily prescient.

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How to Slay a Dragon, Realistically

Thursday, July 24th, 2014 | Posted by M Harold Page

Dragonslayers from Beowulf to St. George

How does a Dark Age warrior or Medieval knight imagine he might kill a dragon?

One of the draws of  Heroic Fantasy is that it takes the archetypal, the magical — the magical realistic even! — and makes it immersively real by engaging with it in a practical, sweaty-browed, grimy handed way.

For example, a surrealist artist might paint a city inhabited by human wolves, but James Enge in Wolf Age plunges his hero into a realistically imagined civilization of werewolves and makes him fight to survive physically and morally.

That’s what the genre does. It says: Assume this crazy but cool thing was true; what would be the implications?

Now, dragons are about as crazy and cool and magical as beasts get. Suppose you had to kill one?

Don’t look to Greek Myth for tips! Yes, Heracles prunes the Hydra to death,  but he’s a demigod. Jason slays the Colchian dragon, but only after Media cast Sleep on it. Faced by a dragon, a mythological hero uses supernatural cheat codes. Puny humans without magic or divine descent don’t get a look in — which is fine. The listener, or reader, is civilised, and dragons belong to another era.

You’ll have more luck with the tales crafted — evolved in the telling — for the descendants of the barbarians who took down the Roman Empire. These rough men were accustomed to resolving problems through the medium of muscle-powered violence. The dragon, like a post-Roman city, a Byzantine army, or the walls of Jerusalem, merely presented an interesting challenge and thus their response becomes interesting to us:

So how does a Dark Age warrior or Medieval knight imagine he might kill a dragon?

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Vintage Treasures: To Here and the Easel by Theodore Sturgeon

Thursday, July 24th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

To Here and the Easel-smallA few weeks ago, I wrote about Theodore Sturgeon’s collection The Stars Are the Styx and complained that virtually all of Sturgeon’s brilliant short story collections had now been out of print for over three decades.

I did this mostly out of bitterness and greed. I’d spent several years happily tracking down all 16 of Sturgeon’s paperback collections — a highly collectible lot — but now, those days were over. I wanted more, but  no more were forthcoming. It’s not like I was going to discover a new Sturgeon collection I’d never heard of or something.

Of course, a few days after I wrote that article, I discovered a new Sturgeon collection I’d never heard of.

It was To Here and the Easel, a gorgeous Panther paperback from 1975, with an eye-catching Peter Jones cover. I discovered it accidentally on eBay and, after gawking at it for several long minutes — and them making sure it wasn’t simply a retitled version of a US collection I already had — I promptly purchased it.

It arrived a few days later and I am thrilled to have it. Here’s the back cover blurb:

Here are all the ingredients for a splendidly varied and entertaining collection of science fiction and science fantasy: a mental parasite which lives in the minds of successive human hosts, forcing them to do its will… the man who ‘reads’ gravestones… a devastating weapon sent from beyond space and time which poses the ultimate threat to an already shaky galactic federation… and more!

With virtuoso skill and brilliance of invention, Theodore Sturgeon displays in this collection the mastery of his field which has won him international acclaim.

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New Treasures: There is No Lovely End by Patty Templeton

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

There is no Lovely End-smallIt’s always a delight when one of our bloggers publishes a book. But it is a very special delight to see the brilliant Patty Templeton release her first novel, There is No Lovely End, which I have been enjoying in tiny snippets at various readings across Chicagoland for the last two years.

There is No Lovely End is a ghost book with a truly amazing cast of characters, living and dead — including Hester Garlan, once the most powerful medium in the nation, bereft of her supernatural gifts and in relentless pursuit of the boy she thinks can return them: her son Nathan; and Sarah Winchester, heiress to the Winchester Rifle fortune, on a quest of her own to rid herself of ghosts. Not to mention a very resourceful rat named O’Neill. C.S.E. Cooney calls the novel ”a New World populated with a new kind of ghost. Templeton’s language is lavish and diabolical, as if Charles Dickens strolled into the Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and came out the other end wearing ruby slippers.” How right she is.

Apparitions! Outlaws! Mediums! 1884. Nathan Garlan hears and sees the dead. Using his uncanny aptitudes to assist society and its specters, he has become the most acclaimed medium in Boston. But not all esteem him. Nathan Garlan’s own mother craves her boy butchered — and she’s not the only one…

Misery! Lust! Murder! New Haven. Sarah Winchester is the heiress to the Winchester Rifle fortune and a haunted woman. She has searched for release from familial phantoms for two decades, yet found no respite. However, she has heard of a medium in Boston who regularly administers miracles…

Wit! Wonders! Outrage! Who is the Reverend Doctor Enton Blake? Why does the lawless Hennet C. Daniels search for him? What form of profane curio is a trick box — and what, precisely, does one inter within it? Will Sarah Winchester find serenity through Nathan Garlan’s services? Or will Hester Garlan find her son first?

There is No Lovely End was published on July 1st by Odd Rot. It is 444 riveting pages, priced at $16 in trade paperback, and $4.99 for the digital edition. Check out the trailer here. The cover and interior spot art are by Matthew Ryan Sharp. It gets my highest recommendation.


The Start Of A Grand Adventure Goblin Moon by Teresa Edgerton

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

oie_2254425vQLXHqXWMatthew David Surridge reviewed Teresa Edgerton’s Goblin Moon (1991) here at Black Gate early last year, and here I am to write about it again. It’s a book that, though recently reprinted, I suspect most readers are unaware of, so I want to shine another spotlight on it. Also, since reading Tim Powers’s The Drawing of the Dark, my itch for swashbuckling adventure got itchier.

I read this when it first came out and my memory of it was very pleasant. I remembered loving the dry humor and also the tremendous detail. Now my friend Carl, on the other hand, said he hated any book that spent as much time as it did describing characters’ clothes. My response was, if I recall correctly, that he was missing the point or something like that.

On rereading Goblin Moon this past week, I was happy to find that, one, the book held up very well and two, yes, Carl missed the point or something. Actually, the point he missed was that Teresa Edgerton created a deliriously detailed world, down to the clothing, that is richer than just about any other in fantasy.

There are a host of things that make Goblin Moon a fun read. The elaborate world-building, the intricate plot, and the colorful characters, to name an important triumvirate, are exactly the sorts of things you want to find in a book with its roots in Stevenson, Thorndike, and Sabatini. Add a lively pace and clever writing and you’ve got the perfect way to while away several lazy hours amidst floating coffins, decadent diabolists, a vengeful fairy, and an interlude with pirates.

Goblin Moon opens with a pair of river scavengers, Jed Braun and his uncle Caleb, drawing a coffin out of the waters of the River Lunn. The casket bears the strangely undecayed body of a man and several tomes of dark magic. Their discovery leads Caleb back to an old companion, the bookseller and one-time alchemist Gottfried Jenk, and consequently leaves young Jed in need of a new way to support himself.

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: The Case of the Copyrighted Detective

Monday, July 21st, 2014 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Copyright_SnoopyThis column was written the day before a nine-day, 1,900 mile round trip venture to Disney World. So, it’s a bit of a rush job. I’ll tackle the issue in more depth when the Supreme Court gets going.

Did that catch your interest?

Beginning with his children, the heirs of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle have battled to maintain control of the Sherlock Holmes copyright. The sons developed a reputation that endures to this day of gleefully trying to stick it to anyone who wanted to use Holmes without paying them their due.

When August Derleth attempted to publish his first collection of Solar Pons tales (you’re going to be reading lots more about Pons in this column: trust me!), the deceased Doyle’s sons threatened to sue him. Derleth persisted and happily, over 70 Pons stories would be published.

Derleth said, “The plain fact is that the Doyle sons are a pair of lazy bastards who have tried to eke out a complete living from proceeds of their father’s writings. Others have told me that before; I was dubious; but I am less so.”

All 60 of Doyle’s Holmes stories are in the public domain in England. At one time they also were in America, but when Disney backed legislation to protect their ownership of Mickey Mouse, the last set of Holmes stories, collectively known as The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes, came back under copyright protection.

The characters from all non-Casebook stories and those previous stories remained in the public domain, for use by all. To avoid “trouble,” and/or to get the Estate’s blessing, many authors, filmmakers, etc., have paid a fee to use Holmes.

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Future Treasures: The Whispering Swarm by Michael Moorcock

Sunday, July 20th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Whispering Storm-smallWe’re big fans of Michael Moorcock at Black Gate.

I published an original Moorock novella, “The Dreamthief’s Daughter,” way back in our very first issue. More recently, Fletcher Vredenburgh reviewed his classic The Eternal Champion, Connor Gormley looked his at Von Bek series, Matthew David Surridge examined his Hawkmoon novels, and I covered the reprint of his early novels The Warlord of the Air and The Sword of the Dawn.

Now comes word that Tor will publish a brand new novel from Moorcock, a semi-autobiographical fantasy of a young man in post World War II London…

Tor Books now proudly presents Moorcock’s first independent novel in nine years, a tale both fantastical and autobiographical, a celebration of London and what it meant to be young there in the years after World War II. The Whispering Swarm is the first in a trilogy that will follow a young man named Michael as he simultaneously discovers himself and a secret realm hidden deep in the heart of London.

The Whispering Swarm is the first novel of The Sanctuary of the White Friars.

The Whispering Swarm will be published by Tor Books on December 9, 2014. It is 512 pages, priced at $26.99 in hardcover and $12.99 for the digital edition.


Afrofuturism and Empowerment

Sunday, July 20th, 2014 | Posted by Elwin Cotman

DETCON1This weekend, I have the pleasure of attending the DETCON1 in Detroit, the North American Science Fiction Convention. I have never been to a NASFIC, but it rose on my list of cons after seeing how sincere the organizers were in having a diverse body of panels and panelists. Not just from a standpoint of age and background, but the mediums that are represented too. I will be doing four panels, two of them on Afrofuturism.

Pretty cool. Still, I feel trepidation. When you go on a vacation (and that’s what con-going is), the real world does not stop. And in the real world, the host city Detroit is in dire straits. With property so cheap, gentrification is at an extreme level. Corporations are buying up whole blocks. Citizens who can’t pay their water bills are getting the utility shut off.

It is nice that the city can attract events like NASFIC or the recent Allied Media Conference. But I hope that we aren’t so busy celebrating spec-fic to at least acknowledge that we’re in a city where the poorest people don’t have water.

I don’t know why anybody reads The Hunger Games. You want dystopia, just read Reuters.

But that’s the irony of dystopia. Writers make novels about the types of issues that marginalized communities face every day, and pass it off as something that could only happen in the future.

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New Treasures: Seeker’s Bane by P.C. Hodgell

Sunday, July 20th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Seeker's Bane-smallSometimes it’s handy being editor of Black Gate. For one thing, it sure keeps you in-the-know on great books. I was editing Fletcher Vredenburgh’s enthusiastic review of P. C. Hodgell’s God Stalk last October, which begins thusly:

Out of the haunted north comes Jame the Kencyr to Rathilien’s greatest city, Tai-Tastigon. From the hills above, the city appears strangely dark and silent. She arrives at its gates with large gaps in her memory and cat claws instead of fingernails. She’s carrying a pack full of strange artifacts, including a ring still on its owner’s finger… and she’s been bitten by a zombie. Wary, but in desperate need of a place to heal, Jame enters the city. So begins God Stalk, the first book in P.C. Hodgell’s Kencyrath series and one of my absolute, bar none, don’t-bother-me-if-you-see-me-reading-it, favorite fantasy novels…

I’m so grateful Carl gave me this book thirty years ago. P.C. Hodgell seems so far below the general fantasy radar, I don’t know if I would have ever heard of her at all, which is pretty darn shameful.

Ha, I thought smugly, looking at my bookcase. Maybe she’s below the radar for most folks, but I’ve got my copy right here. Fletcher continued:

Following God Stalk came the 1985 sequel, Dark of the Moon… It’s taken nearly thirty years for the next four books to appear: Seeker’s MaskTo Ride a RathornBound in Blood, and Honor’s Paradox.

Wait, what? There are sequels? Like, five sequels? How did I not know? Are they out of print? Gahhh!

Fortunately, Baen Books to the rescue. Baen has collected the first four novels in two handsome mass market paperbacks: The God Stalker Chronicles (January 2010) and Seeker’s Bane (August 2010), both still in print. They’re a great way to get started on this terrific series, which Hodgell and Baen are continuing — I note the seventh volume, The Sea of Time, was just published last month. I just bought Seeker’s Bane and it’s a fabulous bargain: 1168 pages, priced at $7.99 in paperback and $6.99 for the digital version. The covers are by Clyde Caldwell. Check ‘em out.


Future Treasures: Resurrection, by Mandy Hager

Saturday, July 19th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Resurrection Mandy Hager-smallThere’s no question that the hottest trend in fiction right now isn’t vampire romances, zombies, or even superheroes. It’s young adult dystopias. The trend didn’t begin with The Hunger Games, but for sure that’s the series that kicked it into high gear. Wander the young adult section of your local bookstores and you’ll see what I mean — you’ll find dozens of volumes advertising a grim future for our young folk. It would be depressing, except for the cheery sound of a cash register ringing.

There’s been such a flood of new dystopian fantasy that it’s made it tough for a quality new series to get noticed. Mandy Hager’s Blood of the Lamb trilogy — beginning with The Crossing (January 2013) and Into the Wilderness (January 2014) — has quietly been accumulating excellent reviews and new readers, and the arrival of the third book next month is sure to launch this one into the spotlight. Pick up the first two books now, while there’s still time.

When Maryam arrives back at Onewēre and tries to loosen the Apostles’ religious stranglehold by sharing the miraculous remedy for Te Matee lai, she finds herself captured once again — prey to the Apostles’ deadly game. The ruling elite manipulate her return by setting in motion a highly orchestrated ritual before a hysterical and brain-washed crowd. Somehow Maryam must get the islanders to listen to her plea that they start thinking for themselves — hoping to stir the independence in their hearts, even as she finds herself on the brink of death.

Resurrection will be published on August 12 by Pyr Books. It is 365 pages, priced at $17.99 in hardcover and $11.99 for the ebook.


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