Happy New Year

G’day friends. Happy New Year to you all.

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 7.54.59 amAs we say good bye to 2015, I thought I’d take a look back at the last twelve months and all that I acheived. On the surface, it didn’t seem like a very good year. There were some personal hurdles to climb – which I won’t bore you with here – suffice to say sometimes life can kick you in the guts when you least expect it. And on the writing front only three shorts stories were released. When I realized this, for a brief moment I was pretty down (Oh, shut up you whinger!) Then I sat down with pen and paper and jotted down everything I had achieved. It wasn’t so bad.

January saw the release of CUTTER’S LAW – the first story in the Vengeance trilogy – and a part of the Pro Se Single Shot Signature line. The follow-up stories, GET CUTTER! and CUTTER AND THE KINGSNAKE unfortunately got held up when the Signature series went off the rails. But I have been told the project should be back on track early this year – so hopefully those of you who have been waiting for the next installments will be rewarded very soon. The reviews for CUTTER’S LAW were great – most people seemed to get exactly what I was trying to do. Here’s a couple of snippets.

For readers mourning the demise of the famed Executioner series and the whole Men’s Action sub-genre subsequently spawned and reaching a fever-pitch peak in the ’70s and ’80s … take heart. In the capable hands of James Hopwood, a new kick-ass hero for the new century is at hand. His name is Nathan Cutter. He’s an ex Aussie soldier returned home for revenge and retribution and the Devil help anybody who gets in his way.

Wayne D. Dundee

This is all the men’s action stories I read in the 70’s & 80’s boiled down to their lean, bloody core. I enjoyed this story immensely. I miss action stories that don’t take 600 pages to get to the point.

J. L. Stubblefield

While I could not–and still can’t–decide whether this was supposed to be a throwback, homage, or parody of ’80s men’s adventure fiction, one thing that was never in doubt was how much fun I was having while reading it. It took all the vital elements of the genre–tough hero, tragic loss, big guns, high body count, etc.–and boiled them down to their bare bones essence in a brisk 25-page short story. Again, not sure how serious we’re supposed to take this stuff, but anyone who enjoys the genre cannot help but grin like an idiot when the hero emerges from a vehicle brandishing a Skorpion machine pistol in each hand and begins to simultaneously gun down the bad guys. Or even better, when the villain, on the cusp of his comeuppance, yells at Cutter, “Who are you?” and the only answer our hero gives is, “I am Vengeance!”

Mark Allen

BULLET GAL_Its Not You Its Me_Collection_COVERIn early April, the graphic novel, BULLET GAL: IT’S NOT YOU, IT’S ME, written by Andrez Bergen hit the shelves. Hidden in its pages,was a rather 80’s retro pin-up poster of the heroine cobbled together by me. My contribution won’t shake up the art world – or the comic book world either – but it was a fun project, and it’s nice to see it out there in the wild and to do something a little different. It is available from Underbelly Commix.

In May, UNDER THE RADAR, written by Aaron Smith, was released by Pro Se Productions. The novel, which is a rapid fire spy thriller, featuring globe trotting agent Richard Monroe, was edited by me. Despite fantastic cover art by Jeffery Hayes, the novel hasn’t received the recognition it deserves – so if you enjoy a good old fashioned spy story, check it out and give it some love. Monroe previously appeared in NOBODY DIES FOR FREE.

RadarSeptember saw the release on the 2015 WRITER’S BLOCK Anthology, which featured my short story SHERMAN’S SECRET. By nature I am a pretty shy guy, so getting out there and talking about my writing is difficult, but in early 2015, I started attending Writer’s Block. They are a truly a great support network – never judgmental – always encouraging, which has helped me more than I can say.

Through Writer’s Block I also wrote my first radio play. Entitled SONG BIRD, the piece was a tight little beat-the-clock thriller, set on the Mornington Peninsula. Unfortunately, the project seems to have stalled. Hopefully the wheels may begin to turn this year. It would be great to hear it on air sometime.

In October, THE GREAT BIG BOOK OF AWESOME ADVENTURE TALES was announced by Clan Destine Press. My contribution, THE LOST LOOT OF LIMA introduces two new heroes, Mark and Sarah Page – dubbed The Pages of History. This promises to be a fantastic collection of Antipodean adventure stories, and I can’t wait to see it hit the shelves in mid 2016.

Just before Christmas, LEGENDS OF NEW PULP FICTION was released by the crew at Airship 27. The anthology is a benefit for friend, publisher, editor and mentor, Tommy Hancock. My contribution was a rollicking action-adventure tale entitled THE PIRATE KING.

So that brings up up to date. But what’s in store for 2016, I hear you ask? Of course, things may move about a little – and some things I can’t talk about – but here’s a few highlights for the coming year.

As I mentioned above, the VENGEANCE series should start up again very soon, so look out for GET CUTTER! and CUTTER AND THE KINGSNAKE. Also THE GREAT BIG BOOK OF AWESOME ADVENTURE TALES should be out mid year.

Ambrosia V3I am pleased to announce the next Jarvis Love novel, THE AMBROSIA KILL is just around the corner. I don’t have an exact release date, but start preparing now for the greatest thrill ride ever committed to the written page. Okay, that may be a slight exaggeration – but believe me, I have pulled out all stops on this one. If you liked THE DANAKIL DECEPTION, then AMBROSIA is going to blow your mind. I kid you not!

In May, Beat Girls, Love Tribes, and Real Cool Cats: Pulp Fiction and Youth Culture, 1950-1980 will be released by Verse Chorus Press. Put together by Andrew Nette and Iain McIntyre, this promises to be an amazing book that every student of Pulp Fiction will need on their shelf. I have contributed a couple of articles and an interview with George Snyder – who wrote the OPERATION HANG TEN books. Here’s the spiel.

Beat GirlsThe first comprehensive account of the rise of youth culture and mass-market paperback fiction in the postwar period, Beat Girls is a must-read for anyone interested in retro and subcultural style and popular fiction.

As the young created new styles in music, fashion and culture, pulp fiction followed their every step, hyping and exploiting their behavior and language for mass consumption. From the juvenile delinquent gangs of the early fifties, through the beats and hippies, on to bikers, skinheads and punks, pulp fiction left no trend untouched. Boasting wild covers and action-packed plots, these books reveal as much about society’s desires and fears as they do about the subcultures themselves.

Featuring over 300 pulp covers, many never before reprinted, as well 70 in-depth author interviews and biographies, articles and reviews, Beat Girls offers the most extensive survey of the era’s mass market pulp fiction. Novels by well-known authors like Harlan Ellison, Lawrence Block, Evan Hunter/Ed McBain, and by filmmakers Samuel Fuller and Ed Wood Jr., are discussed alongside neglected obscurities and contemporary bestsellers ripe for rediscovery. More than 20 critics and scholars of popular culture contributed to this celebration of a fascinating body of work.

The western series I have teased on a few occasions has hit a few snags of late – and may be looking for new publisher. I hope it finds a new home and finally sees the light of day. There are also a few short adventure stories scheduled to appear in anthologies over the year, so keep your eyes peeled.

2016 promises to be a pretty exciting year for me, and I hope yours is too.
All the best, D.

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Legends of New Pulp Fiction

Legends

G’day everyone. I trust you had a great Christmas – and wishing you and yours all the very best for the New Year. I have just returned from a short break in the mountains (in Jindabyne) with family which was very pleasant and relaxing (and thankfully not too hot). On the downside I think I’ve put on a few extra kilos (ha ha). With turkey-drumstick in hand, while I manfully gazed at the lake and the wind rustled my unkempt hair, another of my stories escaped into the wild. It is called THE PIRATE KING and it’s part of a new anthology called LEGENDS OF NEW PULP FICTION. The book, which is an absolute monster – more like a phone book – is a benefit anthology for a gentleman named Tommy Hancock – who is editor-in-chief at Pro Se Productions (a US publisher who put out my first novel – THE DANAKIL DECEPTION – and have released several of my short stories). Earlier this year, Tommy was diagnosed with congestive heart-failure – and consequentially hit with medical expenses after undergoing treatment/surgery. The New Pulp community (of which I consider myself a part) decided to band together and see what we could do – the end result is a collection of rollicking adventure tales.

When the call was put out for stories, I immediately jumped on board, despite other writing commitments I had. The deadline for the submissions was tight too. I knew if I wasn’t going to let the team down, I wouldn’t have time for universe building – that is to say, start a story from the ground and work my way up. I needed characters and a world I was already familiar with. The obvious choice was Mace Bullard – a character from BISHOP & HANCOCK’S PULSE FICTION. Bullard is a character – a French Foreign Legionnaire – created by Paul Bishop. For PULSE FICTION, I took the character and ran with him in a story called HONOR OF THE LEGION.

I contacted Paul and asked if he had any objections to me using Bullard once again. He didn’t. With Paul’s blessing I was on my way. The resulting story, THE PIRATE KING was a blast to write – and while it is a Foreign Legion tale, it also harks back to great old-fashioned swashbuckler movies I used to watch as a kid, such as THE SEA HAWK, CAPTAIN BLOOD, THE BLACK SWAN and THE CRIMSON PIRATE – to name but a few.

I am proud to be a part of LEGENDS OF NEW PULP FICTION. From early on in my writing career Tommy Hancock has been there offering his support. Even before I was part of the Pro Se family, when I self-published my novella THE LIBRIO DEFECTION, Tommy asked me to appear on the PULPED podcast to talk about my work. He got nothing out of it – he was simply helping a new author get a little recognition and exposure for his work. Now, in my small way, I am glad I can repay not only that favor, but many others ever since. Thank you Tommy – all the best my friend.

The press release from Airship 27 follows…

AIRSHIP 27 PRODUCTIONS
Proudly Presents
LEGENDS OF NEW PULP FICTION

Earlier in the year we learned that New Pulp writer/editor/publisher Tommy Hancock was suffering from congestive heart-failure. A relatively young family man, this was a dangerous condition that threatened not only Tommy but his entire family. Almost immediately after this news was made public, several members of the New Pulp community began putting their heads together to see if anything could be done to help the Hancocks.

“Jaime Ramos proposed the idea of doing a benefit anthology,” says Airship 27 Productions Managing Editor, Ron Fortier. “It was such a great idea, I realized it needed to get done and we began planning such a project.” The first thing Fortier did was bring aboard his partner in Airship 27, Art Director Rob Davis. “There was no way this was going to fly without Rob handling the book’s overall artwork and design.” Fortier then went to Hancock and informed him of their plans. With Hancock’s blessings, he then posted an ad on Facebook explaining the project and seeking submissions from both writers and artists. “It was always our intention to do this as a traditional pulp tome and thus artwork would be a major element in the final product.”

Much to Fortier’s surprise, and delight, the first creator to volunteer his assistance was Douglas Klauba, one of the finest artists in the field. Klauba volunteered to paint the anthology’s cover once the book was assembled.

“Honestly,” Fortier confesses, “I was in shock. Doug is an amazing artist and his offering to do the cover was very much an omen that we were about to put together something truly unique.”

Within 48 hours after posting his recruiting ad, Fortier had received 57 commitments by New Pulp writers while 36 artists signed on to do the illustrations. Amongst these creators were some of the most popular New Pulp writers and artists in the field. In fact, getting so many promised stories in just two days, Fortier begrudgingly realized he and his associates were being handed a giant book and he publicly closed the admission call.

“It was crazy,” he recalls. “Fifty-seven stories in just two days! Of course there were naysayers who warned me we’d never get all of them. They were right, we got 62 instead.”

And so the project began with Fortier reading each entry and then assigning it to an artist to illustrate. Each tale features one black and white illustration. Ramos acted as his assistant editor proofing each story after Fortier. Then, months into the project, Ramos, who suffers from diabetes, found his own health in jeopardy and after having handled half the stories, was forced to sideline himself. What looked to be a major set-back was averted when writer/editor Todd Jones, a protégé of Fortier’s, volunteered to take on the task of finishing the proofing.

And so, after months of ups and downs. Airship 27 Productions is extremely proudly to present LEGENDS OF NEW PULP FICTION. A giant treasure chest of some of the finest New Pulp fiction ever produced in an 800 page collection. Representing the varied genres of pulp tradition, this volume features tales of horror, mystery, suspense, pirates, fantasy, private eyes, crime-busting avengers and westerns to name a few.

“Rob and I kidded during the long months of production that we had everything pulp save for a romance story,” quips Fortier. “Then in the final days of story submissions, we were sent a romance. No lie!”

LEGENDS OF NEW PULP FICTION is now available at Amazon.com in both hard copy and on Kindle. All profits earned by this amazing book are going to Tommy Hancock and his family. Sure to become a valued collector’s item, LEGENDS OF NEW PULP FICTION is a one of a kind title pulp fans young and old, will cherish in years to come.

AIRSHIP 27 PRODUCTIONS – PULP FICTION FOR A NEW GENERATION!

Available now from Amazon and on Kindle.

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The Curse of the Sphinx (2008)

Curse of the SphinxAKA: Riddles of the Sphinx
Country: UK | Canada
Director: George Mendeluk
Starring: Dina Meyer | Lochlyn Munro | Mackenzie Gray | Donnelly Rhodes | Emily Tennant | Dario Delacio
Writers: Brook Durham | Kevin Leeson
Music: Michael Richard Plowman

The front cover for The Curse of the Sphinx DVD features the Sphinx coming angrily to life, a skeletal mummy dragging itself out of the earth, and a bi-plane fleeing from an explosion. The back cover has a lightning bolt – possibly the power of God – striking the top of a pyramid. Unfortunately none of these cliches are in the movie. However, another set of adventure movie cliches are present in their stead.

The movie begins with Thomas (Donnelly Rhodes), an aged archaeologist, discovering two parts of a key that will open a legendary secret chamber beneath the Sphinx, which houses the lost library of Alexandria. Accompanying him to the site is Jessica (Dina Meyer), who is armed and outfitted very much like Lara Croft from Tomb Raider. Thomas inserts the key and opens the chamber, however, a Sphinx – that is a head of a demon, body of a lion, and wings – bounds out of the temple and mauls everyone in its path. Jessica unloads her weapons at the beast but to no effect. In the end, Thomas sacrifices himself giving her time to escape.

She heads to America to notify Thomas’s son, Robert (Lochlyn Munro) of his father’s death. Robert wants to live a simple life. He is a history teacher at a high school, and has a teenage daughter, Karen (Emily Tennant), who he is bringing up on his own. He doesn’t want any part of his father’s globe trotting archaeological adventures. He soon finds out he has little choice when the Sphinx arrives at his home – having followed Jessica. Legend says the Sphinx must be killed in three days or a great plague will sweep the world. With the Sphinx trying to kill them, Robert, Jessica and Karen flee and reluctantly embark on a quest to solve a series of riddles – leading to the sites of several of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Their they will learn how to kill the Sphinx – and save the world from the plague. Before long, Robert is dressed in a leather jacket, wearing a battered fedora – looking every inch a cut-rate Indiana Jones.

The biggest problem with this film – ignoring the crappy CGI – is that doesn’t know if it’s a kid’s film (appropriate for 8-10 year olds) or a horror film. It probably works better as a kid’s film, as the horror moments (which are gory, rather than scary) appeared to be shoe-horned into the story.

At the end of the day, The Curse of the Sphinx is a harmless diversion, buoyed by the presence of Dina Meyer pretending she is Lara Croft – firing two pistols at the same time – which isn’t a bad thing.

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One Down, Two To Go (1982)

One DownCountry: USA
Director: Fred Williamson
Starring: Fred Williamson | Jim Brown | Richard Roundtree | Jim Kelly | Paula Sills | Laura Loftus | Joe Spinnell
Written by: Fred Williamson
Music: Herb Hetzer | Joe Trunzo

Featuring four of the biggest and baddest blaxploitation stars of the 1970s, Jim Brown, Richard Roundtree, Fred Williamson, and Jim Kelly, One Down, Two To Go is a kick-ass action adventure, written and directed by Fred “The Hammer” Williamson.

Watching movies is such a subjective thing. Reaction to, and appreciation for a film can be affected by so many factors. Where you alone or in packed cinema? Was the film viewed on a worn VHS tape, DVD, or Blu-ray disk? Did you see it at the cinema? Or did you see it on the big screen at 5:00 o’clock in the morning, the fifth film in an all-night Fred Williamson marathon? I ask these questions because they can truly change your perception of a film.

I have read some negative reviews of One Down, Two To Go that criticize the prolonged opening of the film, in which two of the film’s stars, Jim Brown and Fred Williamson, don’t appear for the first half hour or so. I understand that frustration. However, my experience, which was at a Fred Williamson marathon, is that the tension generated in that lead up is pivotal to enjoyment of this film. It is perfect timing. There was almost a tangible sense of electricity in the air, waiting for Jim and Fred to tun up on screen. I knew, when they stepped out of their cars – looking sharp and ready for business – ass was going to be kicked and the rulebook thrown out the window. I had to restrain myself from punching my fist into the air and whooping for joy. But I am getting ahead of myself. Let’s have a look at the story.

The film opens at the L.A. Tournament of Champions – a karate competition – and the two final teams are competing for the grand prize, four hundred thousand dollars. One of the teams is run by Chuck (Jim Kelly – Enter The Dragon), and as the first bout takes place, he notices his fighter is taking a lot more punishment than he should. He becomes suspicious – believing something fishy is going on. Chuck leaves his team in the care of his good friend, and promoter, Ralph (Richard Roundtree – Shaft), and heads back to the changerooms to investigate. There he discovers the opposition is loading their gloves with pieces of iron. It appears the manager of the opposition team, who has ties to a mobster, Rossi (Peter Dane) is looking to ensure he collects the grand prize.

However, before Chuck can report his discovery to the match referee, he is spotted and set upon by thugs working for Rossi. Chuck fights his way clear, but in the carpark, one of the thugs draws a pistol and shoots him in the shoulder. Though bleeding and in pain, Chuck manages to avoid capture and goes into hiding.

Meanwhile in the auditorium, when Chuck doesn’t return, Ralph realizes something has gone amiss. He searches for Chuck but cannot find him anywhere. Hiding in the shadows, Chuck makes his way to a bar, where his girlfriend, Trei (Paula Sills – who appeared in No Way Back with Williamson) works. Chuck knows mafia hoods will be watching and waiting for him, so he hides out back. When Trei steps outside to empty the trash, he asks her to contact Ralph, to arrange transport, so he can slip away. He also asks her to make two other phone calls. He has two friends (guess who?), whose help he is going to need if he is going to get out of this alive.

Trei makes the calls, and Ralph collects Chuck and Trei, and spirits them away to a safehouse on the edge of town. Unfortunately, that night, Ralph’s car is spotted by informers, and a cadre of goons is sent to the location to silence Chuck for good. When they arrive, Ralph is knocked unconscious, and Trei is sexually assaulted, but Chuck, once again, manages to escape disappearing into the woods.

But the hoods don’t intend to let up. They know Chuck will show up sooner or later. But what the hoods don’t count on is the arrival of Jay (Jim Brown – The Dirty Dozen) and Cal (Fred Williamson – Black Caesar). Jay and Cal don’t know what’s goin’ down, but know their friend is missing and needs help. They intend to get to the bottom of the mystery in their own unique way. Fists and bullets fly. Cars explode. General mayhem ensues.

As I mentioned at the top, sometimes One Down, Two To Go gets a bad rap. I thought it was an absolute blast from first frame to last – but I did watch it under different circumstances to most, and I am sure that colours my perception. My perception may also be clouded by the fact that so many of the current breed of action heroes are aided and abetted by CGI and special effects. I find it enjoyable, almost refreshing, watching a film such as One Down, Two To Go, where I see old school heroes doing their thing without the aid of visual trickery.

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The Land of the Pharaohs (1955)

LandofPharaohs3Country: USA
Director: Howard Hawks
Starring: Jack Hawkins | Joan Collins | Dewey Martin | James Robertson Justice | Alexis Minotis | Luisella Boni | Sydney Chaplin
Writers: William Faulkner | Harry Kurnitz | Harold Jack Bloom
Music: Dimitri Tiomkin

The Land of the Pharaohs is a film I have been trying to track down for years. Not that it was particularly hard to find, but I didn’t know its name. It’s one of those films I saw as a youngster on Saturday or Sunday afternoon television – and the ending has remained indelibly burnt into my brain ever since. I am relieved to have finally tracked it down, and I am pleased to say the film didn’t disappoint.

The Land of the Pharaohs is a big sprawling epic – with a cast of thousands – as they used to say. It is directed by the legendary Howard Hawks – although it is a very different type of movie to his usual output. Jack Hawkins stars as Khufu, the Pharaoh – the living god – the ruler of Egypt. As the film begins, he returns to Thebes, having won a war in Kush. It is an occasion of great pomp and ceremony. People line the streets as the Pharaoh and his men make their way into the city. Trumpets and horns blare and rose petals are thrown into the air. It is a celebration.

Not only has Pharaoh won the war, but he has increased his wealth – plundering riches and acquiring many slaves. It is revealed that Khufu is obsessed with acquiring gold. He believes it will serve him well in the afterlife (or second life as it is referred to in the film).

Leading the slaves brought to Thebes is a man named Vashtar (James Robertson Justice). Khufu has kept Vashtar alive because he is a master architect and wishes for him to construct a thief proof pyramid. If Vashtar does this, Pharaoh will let the slaves go free. Vashtar’s idea is simple – seal the corridors to the tomb with stone blocks. The stone blocks are engineered to hydraulically move into place (but rather than fluid to move the blocks, dessert sand is used).

LandofPharaohs1

Work on the great pyramid begins, and for fifteen years workers toil away constructing the great stone edifice. Pharaoh becomes frustrated at the slow progress. He is told for the work to be completed faster, they will require more workers and more food to feed them. Pharaoh vows to get both – calling upon the surrounding kingdoms to pay tribute.

One kingdom doesn’t have the food to spare, and send Princess Nellifer (Joan Collins) instead. Pharaoh has a choice – he can either insist on tribute being paid (resulting in famine and starvation) or he can have Nellifer. Nellifer is spirited and defiant, but he chooses to keep her. That night, when he calls for her, she bites him. So much anger and hatred can only lead to one thing. Marriage. Yes, she becomes his second wife.

LandofPharaohs2

However, Nellifer soon learns of the vast amount of treasure Khufu has accumulated and begins to plot and scheme to acquire it for herself. Aided of Treneh, the Captain of the Guard (Sydney Chaplin), a man infatuated with Nellifer, she puts in motion a chain of deadly events – moving her from number two wife, to number one.

The Land of the Pharaohs is a flawed film to be sure, some stilted dialogue, poor acting etc., but it is a big Hollywood spectacle that delivers on most fronts. It looks great, the score by Dimitri Tiomkin is rousing, and the climax… the climax to the film is just perfect, exactly the way I remembered it from all those years ago.

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Atomic Eden (2015)

Atomic EdenCountry: Germany | USA | Ukraine
Director: Nico Sentner
Starring: Fred Williamson | Mike Möller | Hazuki Kato | Lorenzo Lamas | Wolfgang Riehm | Nico Sentner | Everett Ray Aponte | Dominik Starck | Josephine Hies
Written by: Nico Sentner | Dominik Starck

Last Friday, I was lucky enough to attend the world premier of the thriller Atomic Eden at the Lido Cinema in Hawthorn. The movie was proceeded by an introduction by action superstar Fred Williamson, and a Q & A afterward. While many of Williamson’s contemporaries are in mothballs, at 78, he proves he still has the charisma and charm to entertain a crowd, and carry an action movie of this kind.

The plot for Atomic Eden asks more questions than it delivers, but it is pretty straight forward. It appears that at the end of the Second World War, the Nazis had a secret underground bunker in Chernobyl, where they were building a doomsday weapon called Eden. It is suggested nuclear accident at Chernobyl in 1986, was to cover-up the Eden device’s location, so no-one would go looking for it. But now almost 30 years later, people can enter the site for short periods of time. The worry is, that someone may now try to retrieve the weapon. Of course the weapon can not fall into the wrong hands. An international team of mercenaries is sent in to retrieve it.

The team consists of Stoker (Fred Williamson) – the Team Leader, David (Mike Möller) – The Fighter, Reiko (Hazuki Kato) – The Samurai, Heinrich (Wolfgang Riehm) – The Priest, John (Nico Sentner) – The Sniper, Darwin (Everett Ray Aponte) – The Texan, Brenner (Dominik Starck) – The Blade, and Laurie (Josephine Hies) – The Rookie. The characters themselves are little more than broad stereotypes – but this works in keeping the story moving forward. In many respects, viewers already know the characters – for example Heinrich, the fighting priest is cut from the same cloth as Friar Tuck, and Darwin, the Texan gets to mouth ‘Don’t mess with Texas!’ after blowing someone away.

As the team head into the bunker to retrieve the weapon, they are set upon by an army of faceless killers – all wearing radiation suits and masks. The film then becomes a battle – eight against eight-hundred. Despite the modern trappings, this story is essentially a western – like The Alamo, a small desperate band trapped inside a building, trying to fight off a much larger force outside. Bullets and bombs fly. Blood is splattered. Ass is kicked.

The film is a low budget B-grade actioner, and knows it, so it works within its limits. The script doesn’t try to be more than it ever can be, simply pushing the story on. In it’s favour, it features no (or little) CGI. Filmed in ruins in East Germany, the crew were allowed to blow a lot of shit up – giving it a layer of authenticity not found in most modern action films.

But most of all, this film is fun. Great art, it aint – but as a low-budget kick-ass adventure film, it punches above its weight.

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The Ark of the Sun God (1984)

SunGodOriginal Title: I sopravvissuti della città morta
Country: Italy | Turkey
Director: Antonio Margheriti (as Anthony M. Dawson)
Starring: David Warbeck | John Steiner | Susie Sudlow | Ricardo Palacios | Luciano Piggozzi | Achille Brugnini | Aytekin Akkaya
Writers: Giovanni Paolucci | Giovanni Simonelli (AIP DVD lists Tito Capri | Gianfranco Couyoumdjian)
Music: Aldo Tamborelli (AIP DVD lists Carlo Savina)

Made by the same team that made Hunters of the Golden Cobra (original title: I cacciatori del cobra d’oro) in 1982, The Ark of the Sun God, as you may have guessed from the title, is another Raiders of the Lost Ark knockoff – but it is not without its own unique B-grade charm. Directed by the legendary Antonio Margheriti – you can find my review of Margheriti’s Eurospy classic, Lightning Bolt hereSun God is a fast-paced treasure hunting romp.

The film begins with our suitably square jawed hero, Rick Spear (David Warbeck) arriving in Istanbul with his girlfriend, Carol (Susie Ludlow). As they check into the hotel, Spear is told the suite has been paid for. He doesn’t question this, instead he goes about his job – he happens to be a master thief. While Carol sleeps, Spear heads out to a lavish villa. He fires a zip line over the wall, and glides down into the yard. Next he’s up the wall, in through the window and cracking open the safe. As he pries open the door and retrieves an unusual stone tablet from within, the light flicker on, and he finds himself in the company of five men. They applaud his efforts. The break in was a test of Spear’s skills – one he has passed.

His soon to be ‘new’ employer, is Lord Dean (John Steiner), an old acquaintance, who is willing to put up $25,000 for Spear’s next job. Dean explains the tablet in the safe is the key to the Temple of the Sun God – which is the sacred resting place of Gilgamesh – an ancient ruler who was supposed to be half man and half demon. The temple also houses Gilgamesh’s septre – a relic of in-estimable worth – and of course, great power! If it should fall into the wrong hands, the consequences would change the face of the modern world.

As an adjunct here, I will quote a section from the back of the DVD cover.

He has been tricked by an old friend who is need of Rick’s skills in his quest for the legendary lost treasure of Semiramis, Queen of Babylonia, and the most coveted artifact of all – the Ark of the Sun God.

I post this snippet of the synopsis because, as a foreign film, there may be other versions out there. However, my sneaking suspicion is, whoever wrote the DVD spiel, did not bother to watch the movie and made up the details. But of course, I could be wrong.

But either way, Rick is on a quest to find … something. And other nefarious parties are willing to do anything to get their hands on it. Much adventure and mayhem ensues. As I mentioned at the top, the film has a modicum of charm, and features all the genre tropes – snake pits, big furry spiders, lava pools and booby-traps. Also, the miniatures and modelwork are of a reasonable standard – and aren’t too distracting. All-in-all, The Ark of the Sun God is a harmless old-fashioned pulp adventure that will entertain undemanding viewers.

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‘And Then… The Great Big Book of Awesome Adventure Stories’

Lost Loot

Last week saw the launch of the IndieGoGo campaign for ‘And Then… The Great Big Book of Awesome Adventure Tales’, which features my story ‘The Lost Loot of Lima’. While the story is fiction, I tried to – at least – ground it in a little reality. That is to say, many people believe ‘The Lost Loot of Lima’ exists and could well be buried in Australia. For the Indiana Jones types, I have uploaded a few newspaper articles – and other snippets of information – I stumbled upon while doing my research… they are fascinating reading (with a grateful tip of the hat to the Queenscliff Maritime Museum). Click on the images for an expanded view.

Advertiser Sat 20 Aug 1938Advocate Tues 2 Aug 1938

Kerosene JackPirate Gold

Swan BaySyndicate

The Ark has been Raided, and the Stone has been Romanced, now get ready for ‘And Then… the Great Big Book of Awesome Adventure Tales’. But first we need the funds to get this mammoth project off the ground [more details – and some sweet perks can be found on the IndieGoGo page – click on the image below]. If rollicking High Adventure is your thing – check it out and consider offering your support.

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Under the Spotlight: Paul Bishop

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Recently, I had a chance to throw a few tough questions at my friend and mentor, Paul Bishop, about his latest novel, Lie Catchers, which has just been released by Pro Se Productions. From my hollowed out volcano, I grilled him on the story, and his writing career.

David Foster: Firstly, Paul, welcome to P2K, and congratulations on the publication of Lie Catchers. It’s a sensational story, and readers are in for a real treat. Before we talk about your book, I thought we should begin with your influences. Who are the authors that inspired you to become a novelist?

Paul Bishop: Dick Francis taught me about plot and pace. At one point early in my writing career, I tore all the pages out of a Dick Francis paperback, laid them out on the floor of my office, and painstakingly charted the development and resolution of his plot.

Robert Parker showed me a lot about character and dialogue. He taught me to strip down my writing to the skeleton and then to add back on just what is needed.

However, when I joined the LAPD in 1977, Joseph Wambaugh was my writing idol. He was and continues to be the gold standard against which all other police writers are judged. Wambaugh’s early novels, including The New Centurions, The Onion Field, and The Blue Knight, influenced both my writing and my police career. Wambaugh is a great storyteller. He also tells stories in a complex, layered, provoking manner which elevates his prose into the stratosphere of literature. Wambaugh knows cops at a primal level. He also knows how to capture them on the page in all their flawed glory. I was already on track from an early age to pursue both of my chosen professions, LAPD detective and writer, but Wambaugh’s books were the light in the window guiding me home.

DF: Many readers will be familiar with your police procedurals, such as the Fey Croaker, and the Calico Jack Walker-Tina Tamiko series, but some would not know about the young pulp writer who cut his teeth writing stories for adventure magazines. Can you tell us some of your memories of your early writing career?

PB: There were more rejections than acceptances in those days. I was very derivative as I was trying to find my voice. When I stopped copying others and just wrote, the voice was there. It wasn’t developed yet, but it was strong enough for me to sell stories to Mike Shayne’s Mystery Magazine and some of the other digest sized pulps that were the last of their kind.

I’ve always been proud of the fact I started out in the pulps. I admired the guys from back in the day who wrote prodigiously for the pulps. They could be at a party, realize they had a story deadline, go off in a corner with a battered typewriter, rip through a 3,000 to 5,000 word story, and be back to the party before they were missed.

DF: What is your writing process? Is it organic, or do you outline the plot in advance?

PB: Went I first started writing novels, I outlined heavily. I needed to have a map to where I was going. I might change the destination as the story opened up, but I needed an outline for the confidence to begin.

Eventually, I moved away from outlining and would start writing if I had the characters, two or three turning point scenes, and the climax in my head. I worked that way until Lie Catchers, which I started with just a deep understanding of the characters and the decision that interrogation was going to drive the plot. I just started writing and let the story unfold as I went. The process was both frightening and exhilarating at the same time.

DF: Do you do any rewriting?

PB: I’m a firm believer in the Robert Graves quote, there is no such thing as good writing only good rewriting. I have a tendency to rewrite as I go along – if I write five pages, I go over those first the next day. By the time I type the end on the manuscript, I’ve already gone over it two or three times, so one last polish is all it takes before the copyeditor tears it apart.

DF: Let’s move on to the here and now. Tell us about your latest novel, Lie Catchers, and the lead characters.

Lie Catchers Cover imagePB: Lie Catchers features two top LAPD interrogators, Ray Pagan and Calamity Jane Randall. A few years earlier, Pagan has made a bad mistake in the box. As a result he banished himself to handling only deep freeze case – cases so frigid even the Cold Case Squad won’t go near them. Calamity Jane Randall is a Robbery-Homicide detective trying to come back after a gunfight, in which she killed the suspect, but got a chunk taken out of her leg by returned fire.

The LAPD chief wants Pagan back working his magic in the interrogation room and he wants Jane to get him there and work with him. Unbeknown to Jane, Pagan has singled her out. He has been waiting for a long time for somebody with her special gift – a gift she doesn’t even know she has.

When two five-year-olds – one with serious special needs – disappear on the same night in different parts of the city, Pagan and Randall have to hit the ground running to solve what appears to be two unconnected and impossible cries.

I didn’t want Pagan and Randall to be a riff on Holmes and Watson. I wanted the Pagan/Randall dynamic to be a symbiotic, equal partnership. Randall wasn’t just there to assist and marvel at Pagan’s brilliance – a foil used to listen while Pagan explained his cleverness. Randall is her own woman with her own strengths. Yes, sometimes Pagan acts as a mentor, but I wanted there to be an equal number of times when Randall’s actions saved the day. Jane couldn’t just follow, she also needed to lead sometimes.

In the end, this novel I started with no solution unfolded in the hands of these two characters who I came to admire and trust.

DF: The old adage is ‘write what you know’, and your thirty-five year career in the LAPD, and more recently presenting interrogation seminars, clearly influence this novel. But how much truth is in Lie Catchers? 

PB: Everything Pagan and Randall do in Lie Catchers, I have either done or know somebody who has. I’ve never read a novel that gets interrogations right. TV certainly doesn’t get interrogations right – not even reality cop shows like 48 Hours (I usually pull my hair out when watching). With my background, I wanted to write a novel that would be as close to what an interrogator really does as fiction would allow. Lie Catchers is the result.

DF: Lie Catchers is written from the perspective of ‘Calamity’ Jane Randall. Do you find it difficult writing from a woman’s perspective?

PB: I’d written the Fey Croaker novels in the third person. Those books obviously featured a strong female character, but I was once removed from her by perspective. However, Fey and Jane are very different characters and I needed to approach them differently.

I knew Lie Catchers needed to be told in the first person because of the intense intimacy between characters and readers the story demanded. Telling the story from Ray Pagan’s perspective just didn’t feel right. One of Pagan’s qualities is the unusual ways in which he approaches situations. This was best experienced from the point of view of another character who would come to understand Pagan along with the reader. That put me, as the writer, inside the head of Calamity Jane Randall – a very good detective, but still a woman who doesn’t truly understand herself. To become a great detective, a great interrogator, she needs Pagan to lead her on the path to self-discovery. But he also needs her to save him from himself.

As a male, writing in the third person about a female main character like Fey Croaker was one thing. Actually getting inside Jane Randall’s head to tell the story from her perspective as a woman was entirely another.

DF: Do you have any more interrogations planned for Ray Pagan and Jane Randall?

PB: The second novel in the series, tentatively titled Lie Killers, is moving along, and I have the glimmer of an idea for the third.

DF: What’s coming up next from the battered keyboard of Paul Bishop?

PB: I’m working hard on Lie Killers and have three or four short stories for anthologies I have to jump on. I’ve also been caught up in some non-fiction work with article appearing in the Huffington Post and elsewhere.

DF: Thank you for your time, Paul, and best of luck with Lie Catchers. I’m sure it will be a big success.

BIOGRAPHY: Novelist, screenwriter, and television personality, Paul Bishop spent 35 years with the Los Angeles Police Department, where he was twice honored as Detective of the Year. He continues to work privately as a deception expert. His fifteen novels include five in his LAPD Homicide Detective Fey Croaker series. His latest novel, Lie Catchers, begins a new series featuring top LAPD interrogators Ray Pagan and Calamity Jane Randall.

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Vengeance: Cutter’s Law

G’day folks. Here’s the press release for my latest story – Cutter’s Law, which was released about a week ago. It is part of the Single Shot series, which are short, sharp stories that can be read in one sitting, such as on a plane, train, during your lunch break, or sitting in a waiting room.

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Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 7.54.59 amPro Se Productions, a leader in Genre Fiction, announces the debut of yet another action packed series as a part of its Pro Se Single Shot Signature imprint. The Single Shot Signatures are recurring series or writers’ imprints that focus on digitl single short stories released on a set schedule. Author James Hopwood takes readers back to the adrenaline fueled, pulpy tales of adventure and danger with his series, Vengeance and the debut tale- Cutter’s Law!

Scribed by James Hopwood (pen name of rising pulp adventure writer David J. Foster), the series features Nathan Cutter, an Australian soldier whose life is turned upside down when his family become innocent victims in a gangland war. Written in the style of the men’s action-adventure stories of the 1970s and ’80s, such as The Executioner, these fast-paced stories ratchet mayhem and excitement to new levels.

“The Men’s Adventure novels of the 1970s and ’80s have a special place in my heart,” Hopwood said from Melbourne, Australia. “I know some of the imprints were verging on ultra right-ring fanaticism, but in their favor, they were always fast-paced with over-the-top situations and characters. Where else could you find stories about gun-toting heroes battling dirty Commies who plan to bring the west to its knees by firing atomic missiles from the turrets of 16th century European castles?”

“Of course, times have changed – enemies have changed (or have they?) – and story-telling has changed. Consequently the Men’s Adventure novels have waned in popularity. But I don’t think the genre has to go the way of the dodo bird. As a reader, the appeal for me was always traveling along with a hero who would never say die – no matter how heavily the odds were stacked against him. I think that trait is something that today’s readers can relate to. That’s where Nathan Cutter come in – he’s from that old-school tradition of never giving in.”

Cutter was first launched on the unsuspecting public in Matt Hilton’s Action: Pulse Pounding Tales in 2012 and 2013. Now he is back, in new expanded editions of the original tales, plus an explosive new story – never before published.

“I am excited to be able to re-invent these stories for a new audience, packed with new twists and turns and overflowing with gun-smoking action.”

“The Pro Se Single Shot series is a fantastic vehicle for stories such as this, and I am proud to be a part of the initiative. Before it came along, short stories such as these only existed in anthologies. And hey, that’s great too – I mean, that’s where I got my start, but now there’s an opportunity to expand on the universe created in those shorts. Readers can now follow a series, or a character like Cutter, and can be updated with regular instalments. It’s great from writers, and great for readers.”

Vengeance: Cutter’s Law features an exhilarating cover and logo design by Jeff Hayes and ebook formatting by Russ Anderson. The story is available for only 99 cents for the Kindle at http://tinyurl.com/qd8ndns and for most other formats via Smashwords at http://tinyurl.com/omcbscp.

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