Greetings from The Raven!

Feb. 15, 2018

Sherlock Holmes before Baker Street edited by David Marcum

My thanks go out to Derrick Belanger of Belanger Books for my copy of this volume of Holmes stories.

Some of these tales involve Holmes when he had rooms in Montague Street. Some of them take place during travels before Holmes settled in Baker Street. One even purports to be Holmes’ first case! In any advent, all of these stories predate Watson…

I could not make a decision on which story I liked the least because all of them are well thought out and expertly written! There simply isn’t a bad tale in the lot! I will name a “Best in Book” when we get there. On to the tales themselves:

In “The Adventure of the Bloody Roses” by Jayantika Ganguly—which may be Holmes’ first solving of a real case—a person has been murdered in Holmes’ childhood home! Kudos for the Oscar Wilde reference!

In “The Vingt-un Confession” by Derrick Belanger, the story is told in a confession booth by a man Holmes has aided. Kudos for a truly unique way to tell a story! Nice!

In “The Adventure of the Gloria Scott” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the father of one of Holmes’ college friends is highly upset at Holmes’ reading of his person! Kudos for including the original artwork by Sidney Pagent!

In “The Affair of the Aluminum Crutch” by S Subramanian, we have a very good version of the tale mentioned in passing in “The Musgrave Ritual!” Loved the take on this story!

In “The Adventure of the Dead Ringer” by Robert Perret, a suspect visits a grave where the “dead man’s bell” to prevent premature burial is ringing… Kudos for the double meaning of the title! “

In “The Devil of the Deverills” by SF Bennett, a village Vicar seems obsessed with a local lady and talks of seeing the Devil in various places about the town… Kudos for the reveal of what’s happening! Very good!

In “The Painting in the Parlour” by David Marcum, the author has taken an actual painting he admired in an actual room in Montague Street and wrote his story around it! This gets “Best in Book” for taking an inspiration and writing a solid story! I might get accused of being a sycophant, but most who read my reviews know nothing could be further from the truth. This story is deserving, believe me!

 In “The Incident of the Absent Thieves” by Arthur Hall, art thieves strike the same home twice and then vanish without a trace. Kudos for an excellent twist in the story!

In “Mr. Chen’s Lesson” by Derrick Belanger, we meet one of the three men Holmes admits to being beaten by. (There was also a woman, of course, Irene Adler—The Woman!) Kudos for the unusual Mr. Chen!

In “The Adventure of the Amateur Emigrant,” Holmes encounters Robert Louis Stevenson while acting in a play in New York. Kudos for all the Treasure Island references!

In “The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Holmes solves a family riddle for another friend from college. Again kudos for the original illustrations from the Strand Magazine!

“A Day at the Races” by Mark Mower features something very like hell freezing over! Holmes takes a case that involves affairs of the heart! Will wonders never cease!

In “The Strange Case of the Necropolis Railway” by Geri Schear, we have the case Holmes was working on the day he met Doctor Watson! I cannot think of a better way to wrap up what has been one of the best anthologies ever! Encore!

I give this exciting volume five stars plus!

Quoth the Raven…

Buy It Here>

Feb. 13, 2018

The Complete Adventures of the Moon Man Volume 7 by Frederick C Davis

This is volume 7 of the Complete Adventures of the Moon Man. The Moon Man, in reality, Detective Steve Thatcher, first appeared in Ten Detectives Magazine, June 1933. He stole from the rich who were involved in crooked politics, landowners who cheated their tenants, and racketeers in Great City. Every dime he took was distributed to impoverished families by his associate Ned “Angel” Dargan. Dargan and Thatcher’s fiancé Sue McEwen are the only two that know his secret.

At police headquarters, his father is the Chief of Police. Sue’s father, Gil McEwen is hellbent on taking the Moon Man down. He is joined by perhaps a more fanatical policeman in Detective Mark Keanan. Where McEwen is simply motivated by the law, Keanan isn’t above framing the Moon Man for more crimes.

This has been about the best volume of the Moon Man. All of the stories in this book are really good! Let’s look at the stories:

In “Preview to Murder,” a nasty trio is blackmailing Steve Thatcher with a film that catches both Steve and Sue in compromising circumstances!

In “Ghoul’s Carnival,” Angel is taken by the police, then seized by crooks, then apparently killed in a gunfight… BEST IN BOOK!

In “Skeleton Snare,” the Moon Man is expertly framed for murder        

In “Murder for Pastime,” a crook tails Angel then captures Sue. He will turn her over to the police as the “Moon Man’s Woman” unless the Moon Man pays a very high ransom. McEwen thinks The Moon Man is a policeman when he finds blood on the Moon Man’s costume—when has been locked in the safe at HQ! And this time, Steve Thatcher knows he didn’t take it…

In “Blackjack Jury,” Police Chief Thatcher is threatened with dismissal. The Chief goes on his own hunt for the Moon Man to prove he still has it…

And here the stories from the old magazines end. The Moon Man has appeared in at least one cameo, this one coming in the Peregrine stories by Barry Reese. Hopefully, more stories are yet to come!

I give this final volume of the Complete Adventures of the Moon Man five stars!

Quoth the Raven…

Buy It Here>


Feb. 13, 2018

The Domino Lady Sex as a Weapon edited by Lori Gentile

A slinky white dress, a black cape, and a domino mask…

The Domino Lady originally appeared in the May 1036 issue of Saucy Romantic Adventures. She had just six adventures in the pulp magazines, all attributed to house name “Lars Anderson.” The frisky adventuress was considered racy in those days, while today her original stories would not make a Priest blush.

She is Ellen Patrick, daughter of DA Owen Patrick. Her father was gunned down for refusing to knuckle under to organized crime. Ellen decided to take matters into her own hands, becoming the Domino Lady. She stole from rich people with shady interests and donated the bulk of her takings to various charities. The rest funded her lavish lifestyle, as her inheritance could not support the lifestyle she was accustomed to.

She played the part of a slightly loose-morals society girl. She knew she was beautiful and sexy, and it became part of her war on crooks, every bit as much as her small automatic and her hypodermic with its powerful knockout drug.

These are eight new stories by some of the best in the new pulp world:

“The Domino Lady and the Red Dragon” by KG McAee is the story of the escape of an Oriental girl from human traffickers. The Domino Lady seeks the person behind the kidnapping…

“Blondes in Chains” by CJ Henderson explores another kidnapping. This time several high-class blonde women have vanished without a trace… Kudos for the Black Bat cameo!

“Target: Domino Lady” by Bobby Nash finds the Domino Lady rather expertly framed for murder…

“Stealing Joe Chick” by Chuck Dixon gets “BEST IN BOOK!” from me. Kudos for the Airboy and Birdy appearance as the Domino Lady’s friend eccentric inventor Joe Chick is kidnapped…

“The Claws of the Cat” by Ron Fortier is a kidnapping with a twist—the kidnap victims are all feline… To tell the truth, I liked this one the least. Sorry, Ron!

“The Strange Case of the Domino Lady and Mr. Holmes” by Nancy Holder features a cameo by the Great Detective when someone steals Doctor Jekyll’s Hyde Formula…This is great!

“The Devil, You Know” by James Chambers finds the Domino Lady kidnapped by the Cult of Asmodeus…

“Masks of Madness” by Martin Powell finds the Domino Lady shipwrecked on the coast of Bangalla. She now teams with The Phantom against pirates! Kudos for the great description of the Skull Cave!

Eight stories, eight authors, and eight totally unique stories make for a wonderful read for lovers of pulp fiction. I give the book five stars…

Quoth the Raven…  

Buy It Here>

Feb. 10, 2018

The Shadow: The Death of Margo Lane by Matt Wagner

On the radio, the Shadow had a girlfriend named Margo Lane. It took a long time for Margo to become an agent/girlfriend in the pulp magazine, but she eventually became part of the legend of the Master of Darkness.

In this graphic novel, the Shadow is up against an implacable foe known as the Red Empress. Her control over the tongs of Chinatown is vast, but her identity is a carefully controlled secret.

Thus Margo and the Shadow travel to the Orient seeking answers to the problem of who lurks behind the nom-de-plume of the Red Empress. Upon their return to New York, Margo disobeys orders and follows the Shadow into a warehouse that explodes with her still inside. The Shadow has to be restrained from dashing into the fiery ruins. A woman’s body is found in several burned pieces, and Margo’s funeral makes the Shadow even more determined to ferret out this femme fatal…

Both the artwork and story are excellent. There is the feel of one of the old pulp novels, and the big bad very plausible. The inevitable showdown has a number of surprises that I will not spoil. All I will say is I didn’t really see this one coming!

Matt Wagner seems to have a firm grasp on how the Shadow should look. I really liked the statement by the Shadow that his invisibility relies on “stillness,” focusing the mind and body so that people will not see him. Excellent! A touch of the mystical aligned with physical control makes a great explanation of the Shadow’s abilities!

Wagner shows in this graphic novel that he has respect for the Shadow’s origins in pulp fiction. He has made this book one that could have walked out of the Shadow Magazine. I was impressed. Good show, Matt!

I give this addition to the Shadow mythos five stars!

Quoth the Raven…

Buy It Here>

Feb. 10, 2018

Sleepy Hollow and Beyond: Colonial Horrors by Graeme Davis

My thanks to my contacts at Pegasus Books, Iris Blasi, Katie McGuire, Maia Larson, and Bowen Dunnan for my review copy of this book. You guys rock!

These are stories and essays from early America. I found it incredible that stories by Washington Irving, Edgar Alan Poe, and Henry James are sharing a book with essays written by Increase and Cotton Mather! While the supernatural elements of Irving, Poe, and James are products of imagination, the Mathers, father, and son, were deadly serious in their writings. On the words of Increase and Cotton Mather people could lose their freedom and even their life!

My favorite story in this volume is the story of “The Devil and Tom Walker” by Washington Irving. There are several stories by Irving in the book, with “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” given the honor of starting the volume. But it is the tale of Tom Walker’s deal with the devil that tops my list of favorite Irving tales!

The historical supernatural essays of the Mathers was chilling. No doubt these words were read by the ones presiding at the infamous Salem Witch Trials. The essays delve into the ideas of the time that condemned people f pacts with Satan on very little evidence. It makes the blood run cold in a man’s veins to think of innocent people who died because of these men…

Other authors featured in this volume are Nathaniel Hawthorn, Charles Brockton Brown, an entire novel by John Neal, Rachel Dyer; James Fennimore Cooper, WF Mayer, Howard Pyle, and ends with an excerpt from “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward” by horror legend HP Lovecraft.

The book also contains the true account of the infamous Bell Witch of Adams, TN.

What I liked least in this volume was the poem “Moll Pitcher” by John Greenleaf Whittier. Whitter is known for his mastery of foot and meter, but in this case, he doesn’t hesitate to express in 15 words what he might have said in 6. The poem is extremely long winded and it just doesn’t excite me enough to enjoy plowing through 22 pages of stuffy poetry.

There is certainly more here to read that can grasp a reader’s attention and pull him or her straight into the story as it unfolds. I recommend this book! I give it four stars…

Quoth the Raven…

Buy It Here>