Category Archives: Adventure

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Speed Week Plus: The Road Warrior

 Mad Max cannonballs through the wasteland in a world devolving back to the Iron Age.

Mad Max cannonballs through the wasteland in a world devolving back to the Iron Age.

 

You think you’ve seen road rage before? Let’s cruise on over to post-apocalyptic Australia for a high octane killing spree!

Mad Max was such a cult action-adventure hit, the film makers came back with a bigger budget for the sequel. In addition to launching a young actor named Mel Gibson into superstardom, it also inspired too many doomsday visionaries to count…including another film maker who would produce a time travel thriller a couple years later about a killer cyborg sent back from a future similar to this one, to assassinate the mother of a resistance movement’s leader. You may have heard of that flick. It’s called The Terminator.

In the roar of an engine he lost everything…

 

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In the first movie, Australia was on the verge of societal collapse. As this story begins, that collapse is a done deal. Max, once a good cop and happy family man, is now a lone drifter with no ambition beyond surviving in the New Dark Ages.

What we have here is actually a sort of post-apocalyptic western. Max is the jaded gunfighter who is numb to death and has nothing to lose.

The vermin of the wasteland (I guess I’ll call them VOTL for short) have tried to bushwhack him before, but he’s a little too much for them to handle. The prize they’re really lusting after, though, is a strange outpost of civilization in the wilderness.

A small community which still clings to the mores and values of non-barbaric society occupies an oil refinery, defending it with flamethrowers and pneumatic dart guns from the perverse savages who rape and murder any who attempt to break through the siege and run for freedom.

After defeating (then taking captive) a snake-charming gyrocopter pilot, Max encounters this situation just as two would-be escapees meet their gruesome fate.

The alpha-dog ruling over the VOTL barbarians is a buff baddie called Humongous. Don’t ask me where he finds his vitamins, energy drinks and steroids out there in the post-apocalyptic desert. And though he probably has plenty of time on his hands, where he finds a gym to work out in is also a mystery.

Humongous’ go-to lieutenant is an acrobatic Sodomite who puts his crosshairs on our hero early when he gets wounded during road combat with Max. Later he comes totally unglued when his butt-boy is killed by a razor-edged boomerang that belongs to “the Feral Kid.”

The R rating is strictly for the violence…plus some brief non-titillating nudity. I don’t believe there’s any cussing at all. But the violence is on an epic scale for 1981–dished out with a mixture of Medieval weapons, improvised munitions and fast machines. There are only two firearms in the film–one owned by the hero; one by the villain. The ammo supply for both is extremely limited.

 

Those fast machines are what makes this movie required viewing for Speed Week Plus. Not only is Max’s Falcon Interceptor back (with the Hollywood clutched blower) but there are other Australian musclecars and some vehicles that look like hybrid dune buggies or sand rails.

The Lord Humongous…the Ayatolah of RocknRollah!

One of the suicide machines has two engines. One of them has a crude nitrous system (“noss” for those of you who acquired all your automotive knowledge from watching the Fast and Furious flicks). Add to all that horsepower the added boost of camera undercranking , and the result is insane speed for the chase sequences.

The Road Warrior has its flaws, which become more obvious over time and repeated viewing, but it’s still a great action adventure movie that requires no more suspension of disbelief than most of the CGI/green screen enhanced claptrap Hollywood’s been churning out in the new Millennium.

This is perhaps my favorite post-apocalyptic movie. What’s yours?

Speed Week Plus: A Classic Gearhead Novel, Reviewed

I first read this book even before the speed bug bit me, and enjoyed it then. As I did become obsessed with horsepower, my affection and appreciation only grew.

Larry Cook is, superficially speaking, a stereotypical high school nerd–glasses, braces, and a talent for playing the piano. (But even before his epiphany, he shows signs of a rebellious, independent spirit via secret jam sessions covering jazz numbers by Fats Waller and other niche legends.)

Then one day Larry sees a photo of a street rod on the cover of a magazine, and his inner rebel blossoms. With the help of a teacher (an exceptionally cool teacher the likes of which I never had) he rebuilds an old Ford (a Model A, I think) into a decent performer. Then, after graduating high school (and losing the braces), he is hired as the dining hall pianist at a snooty resort hotel (kinda’ like the resort in Dirty Dancing).

Larry’s summer promises interesting developments when he meets the spoiled, gorgeous debutante Barbara Wells, her filthy-rich grandfather, and her would-be suitor: Roger the Rednecked Romeo.

But the story really takes off when Larry becomes friends with the local mechanic and drag racer Finnegan. Finnegan’s 392 Hemi-powered Green Ghost is the title vehicle. When Finnegan breaks his leg packing chutes for the Ghost, Larry must step in to drive in the upcoming drags, but without letting his hoity-toity employer…or any of the resort guests…catch wise to it.

The character interaction between Finnegan and just about everyone else is priceless (he’s an incurable wiseacre), and Williams generates a feeling that something important is at stake concerning Larry and Barbara, without ever getting even close to mushy.

BTW: Internet research has led me to believe that “Patrick Williams” is a pseudonym of none other than W.E.B. Griffin–the author of all those bulky military potboilers.

This was written for a YA audience, but I would recommend it for anyone of any age who likes street rods and drag racing. It was written in the ’60s and out of print now, but if you find it used somewhere, do pick it up!

Fantastic book for a teenage boy, especially one with an interest in fast cars, and a highly enjoyable book for men of any age, in fact.

Speed Week Plus is visiting another hemisphere next time. Wanna hint?

“Two dyes ago I sar a vehicle that could haul that tankah. You wanna get outa’ heh? You tawk ta me.”

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Cobra (1986)–a Review

The centerpiece of NASCAR’s Speed Week–the Daytona 500–just took place. We’re considering a Speed Week of our own right here. Or maybe a Speed Month, anyway.

I have been informed that Virtual Pulp is lacking a review of Cobra, and this simply will not do. So without further ado…here it is:

I would call this action movie a “guilty pleasure”…but I’m really not all that guilty about liking it. When it first hit theaters in 1986 I watched it for every weekend pass while it was still showing at the Cross Creek Mall in Fayetteville. As soon as it came to video I bought a copy, too.

Cobra has a lot in common with the prototype renegade cop flick Dirty Harry. Obviously they’re both about cops who teeter on the edge of vigilantism, ridding civilization of scum that the inept “justice” bureaucracy lets terrorize decent people. But it goes even further than that. Both Harry Callahan and Marion Cobretti have the same partner…at least he’s played by the same actor. Last name is Gonzales in one, Garcia in the other. Remember the villain from Dirty Harry? Same actor plays Cobretti’s nemesis inside the police force in Cobra.

And now for what, more than anything else, made me a fan of this classic action adventure cop movie: Cobra’s ride–a chopped and channeled ’50 Merc lead sled. This is my kind of cop.

“I know what you’re thinkin’: ‘Did he drop two gears or only one?’ Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kinda’ lost track myself. But seein’ as how this is an American V8, the most powerful engine in the world, and would blow your doors clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya, punk?”

Okay, we can all pick this scene apart if we choose to. There are continuity errors throughout–bulletholes in the trunk that disappear in the next shot; cars doing over 110 MPH on the freeway in one shot, doing 15 on a back street in the next… Obliteration of the laws of physics: a burst from a submachinegun causes a pickup truck to flip bed-over-cab and explode… And in typical Hollywood fashion the best car in the movie is needlessly destroyed. But it’s still fun while it lasts. (Despite some continuity problems of its own, the best car chase ever filmed is probably in another cop flick called Bullitt.)

Another similarity to Dirty Harry is in the blatant attempt to generate memorable lines. Cobra has a few of them, but not all of them are as bad as its reputation suggests.

Now, I agree that “I don’t like lousy shots” isn’t terribly noteworthy (and there is some even worse dialog at the end). But “Go ahead–I don’t shop here,” is hilarious. Stallone even pulled off “You’re a disease, and I’m the cure.” It’s when the marketing people decided to put it on the posters that it became groan-worthy. “Crime is a disease. He’s the cure.” Ugh. Puke.

Did you catch that Sly said, “Drop it!” right before ventilating the ugly psycho at the grocery store? Me neither, the first time. Bang! Bang! Bang! “Stop, or I’ll shoot!”

Trivia note: When Sly Stallone began working on the treatment that was later developed into the Cobra script, the title was Beverly Hills Cop. The suits wanted a comedy though, and the ideas diverged from that point.

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Razorfist Rants on a 1980s Action Classic

We’ve only recently discovered Razorfist AKA the Rageaholic. Not only are his epic rants impressive simply for lung capacity and linguistic aplomb, but a whole lot of his observations are savvy, too.

I can’t believe this, but there is no review of Cobra posted here or at the Two-Fisted Blog. How can this be? I was sure Hank had posted one years ago…

Well, that just means we have to do one, and soon. Stay tuned.

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Marvel Comics Regains its Senses?

Probably not. This is more likely economic reality putting the temporary kibosh on their agenda.

Comic book fans are among the most loyal fans. Few things run them off of their favorite books. For some reason, Marvel decided to do three of the most likely things to cost them fans: remove their favorite characters, tarnish the histories of those characters, and insult the fans who complained. The latter proved most insidious because the insults accused fans of racism, sexism, homophobia, and bizarrely resorted to stereotypes about comic book fans.

As Marvel did this, their new politically correct fan base proved not to be fans at all. As Marvel published book after pandering book, the books enjoyed initial high or good sales only to drop most of their audience within the first quarter. The prime example of this is the recent Black Panther book, which lost 70% of its audience in one month.

As far as I’m concerned, they have permanently lost me as a reader. Both DC and Marvel have gone too far off the deep end to ever get me back. They may dial it down a little bit for a while but I don’t believe for a second that they’re going to abandon trying to push The Narrative.

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The Magnificent Seven 3.1

The grandfather of this latest Magnificent Seven movie was Akira Kurosawa’s classic The Seven Samurai.

Set toward the end of the feudal period in Japan, the plot blossoms out of a small village ravaged by “brigands.” The villagers’ livelihoods are being progressively wiped out by succeeding raids, and their very existence will soon be threatened. A wise villager proposes a plan to pool what remaining resources they have, and use it to hire samurai to protect the village. Seven alienatied warriors, for various reasons, answer the call. What follows is, in effect, a suicide mission, in which the samurai face overwhelming odds with inferior weapons and equipment (the brigands have horses, armor, and even firearms while the samurai have nothing but their swords and the clothes on their back.

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In 1960 the story was transposed into the Old West, in a film directed by John Sturges, starring Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, Robert Vaughn and Eli Wallach. The samurai are replaced by gunfighters, of course. The remake is not without its flaws, but certainly has some memorable lines.

In 2016 the latest update hit the screen. I was not even aware of it, due to how hectic personal life has been lately…until a few days ago.

Some character types have survived the evolution of the story, and the core of the plot remains the same. But the SJWs in Hollywood just could not help but conform it to The Narrative.

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The Japanese original suffered no obligation to ethnic diversity; but the new Seven is composed of mostly minorities (one each: black; Asian; Mexican; native American), and none of the white ones survive. (OMG! Is this a metaphor of WHITE GENOCIDE?!?!?!?!?) Denzel Washington is a great actor, who has been believable in every role I’ve seen him play. Furthermore, there were some black cowboys and soldiers on the frontier. But the Chisolm character is the de facto leader of the Seven and nobody (even among the bad guys) so much as mutters under their breath about it. Granted, 19th Century America was not the racist holocaust SJWs tell us it was (when they’re not trying to convince us that the USA was founded as the secular welfare state it is now, where illegal aliens are treated better than our veterans/citizens; it’s “legal” and even mandatory in some cases to discriminate against straight white males; and the only people with inalienable rights are sexual deviants). But there certainly were bigots who weren’t afraid to speak and act on their prejudices.

As if the suspension of disbelief weren’t strained enough, the film makers just had to insert a Brave Womyn Warrior into the message film. She is the de facto leader of the townsfolk during the war against the cutthroat army (led by an Evil White Male, of course).

Yeah, okay…

Despite all the social engineering, Magnificent Seven 2016 is an entertaining 133 minutes. There are plenty of dramatic scenes and fun action sequences to keep your attention. Technically the acting and direction is Grade A.

If you have the time and inclination for a movie marathon, you could do worse than watching this one back-to-back with the 1960 film and the original (and best, IMHO) Seven Samurai.

False Flag Is On Sale

The third book in The Retreads series is now on sale for 99 cents at Amazon.

False Flag is a near-future SHTF speculative saga of economic collapse and civil war, in which the specops-veterans-turned-military-contractors from Hell & Gone and Tier Zero face catastrophes on the home front.

“Henry Brown takes down some very dark paths in this cautionary tale of the near future USA. Using lots of story straight from today’s headlines (and back page articles…) we see a very nefarious plan against the citizenry…..and the Retreads spring into action putting their mettle to the test….” – J.G. Scott

“Henry Brown is a talented author, a man with a mastery of dialogue and pacing that knows his craft intimately. This book, I can tell, was his attempt to try something a bit…uncomfortable. A challenge. And he pulled it off with the same dexterity I’ve come to expect from him.” – Nate Granzow (Author of Hekura, The Scorpion’s Nest,  the Cogar series)

“Henry Brown has crafted an action-packed romp that is both enjoyable and terrifying.” – R.A. Matthis (Author of The Homeland series, Ghosts of Babylon)

“This book keeps you wanting to know what happens next – and really makes you wait to find out. The divergent story lines of regular Americans eventually tie together to culminate in a larger story of a nation in crisis.” – Amazon review

What an exceptional story.” – Amazon review

Third book in the series,. Could stand alone but you don’t want to miss the first two. So go back and purchase Hell and Gone (one of the best military thrillers ever written) and then Tier Zero. You won’t be disappointed.” – Benjamin Drayton

 

 

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Bam! Hell & Gone is a Bestseller

Recently I organized a little media blitz for my debut shoot-’em-up, and ran a 99 cent promotion. The results have been encouraging.

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I’m not a full-time author (I still work a “real” job, drat the luck), so I’m not able to sit at a computer all day and track rankings. The best I saw was that Hell & Gone hit #1 bestseller in war, pulp, and men’s adventure, and reached #70 on the top “paid in Kindle store” on Tuesday night. It was inside the top 50 in some other categories, too, but I don’t know where it peaked. Could a healthy number of reviews/increased visibility be forthcoming? You can bet I’ll be paying attention, when I can.

I’m not sure how many sales I’m getting on Kobo, Apple and Barnes & Noble, where it’s also on sale for 99 cents. (BTW both Hell & Gone and Tier Zero are also available as Audible audio books.)

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I also have a 99 cent promotion scheduled to start Saturday (November 5) for False Flag, the third book in The Retreads series. I don’t have the same level of media blitz lined up, and it’s a darker/more controversial storyline, so I don’t expect the same caliber of spike. However, Election Day happens right in the middle of the promo, and approximately 40% of those who go to the polls will be voting to make this speculative dystopia a reality. So it’s kinda’ fitting.

UPDATE: The sales reports are trickling in from other stores, starting with Barnes & Noble. Don’t know where it put me on their algorithm, but I see a boatload of sales. I need to do this again.

High Couch of Silistra by Janet Morris

Guest Post by Jim Morris

High Couch is a classic. It is also, so far as I know, sui generis. In a long life of writing and editing in which I have written nine books, edited more than two hundred and read thousands I do not know of another book like it, not even remotely. On one level it is an exciting sci-fi adventure. On another it is a sword and sorcery epic, and on yet a third it answers Freud’s famous question, “What do women want?”

A brilliant woman has decided to give the game away, and guess what? Feminists have attacked her for it.

The writing style is heroic, but readable and fun. The characters are recognizable, the plot is satisfying, and the world it creates is like nothing you have seen before, but is still believable. It also contains what I consider the most erotic single sentence in all the thousands of books I have read:

“Flesh toy, come here!”

If that doesn’t set up a scene in your mind then you have no business reading fiction.

I’m not going to give the plot away. I’m just going to recommend it. Highly.

Janet Morris began writing in 1976 and has since published more than 30 novels, many co-authored with her husband Chris or others. She has contributed short fiction to the shared universe fantasy series Thieves World, in which she created the Sacred Band of Stepsons, a mythical unit of ancient fighters modeled on the Sacred Band of Thebes. She created, orchestrated, and edited the fantasy series Heroes in Hell, writing stories for the series as well as co-writing the related novel, The Little Helliad, with Chris Morris. She wrote the bestselling Silistra Quartet in the 1970s, including High Couch of Silistra, The Golden Sword, Wind from the Abyss, and The Carnelian Throne.

This quartet had more than four million copies in Bantam print alone, and was translated into German, French, Italian, Russian and other languages.

In the 1980s, Baen Books released a second edition. The third edition is the Author’s Cut edition, newly revised by the author for Perseid Press.

Selling Books is Like Alchemy

…Which is to say, I may never figure it out.

But, sometimes advertising in the right way can give you a bump. For months Shadow Hand Blues has been buried on about page # umpteen zillion or so at Amazon. Nobody bought it, because nobody knew it existed.

Virtual Pulp took advantage of an advertising special on Kindle Nation Daily. (It’s unlikely we’ll ever use Book Bub unless their prices get a whole lot less ridiculous.)

Then on May 29 SHB reached #60 in Mysteries>Private Investigators; #76 in Suspense>Political; # 68 in Historical/Suspense; and # 8,755 paid in the Kindle Store. (The rankings were actually a little better than that before I thought to take a screenshot.) Not bestseller status, of course, but it at least moved the book up out of the enormous slush pile for a hot second where browsing readers might actually find it.

And a few did. Sales spiked for one day. What’s nice is, since the promotion ended, it hasn’t slipped completely back into obscurity. Some E-Book sales are still trickling in, and it’s accumulating some KENP (Kindle Edition Normalized Pages) read, along with its prequel, Fast Cars and Rock & Roll, which is targeted at a much narrower niche audience. Maybe one or both will pick up some reviews, as well.