Thursday, February 26, 2009


By Billy Jaynes Chandler

The Old West of gunslingers, outlaws, scheming politicos, and ruthless land barons was not confined to the 19th century, nor was it confined to the West or even the USA. One of the most fearsome backwoods outlaws of the Western Hemisphere flourished in 20th century Brazil.

Chandler recounts the life and times of Virgulino Ferreira (1897-1938), better known as Lampião. Ferreira was an ordinary young man, a cowboy on his father’s ranch in Alagoas, Brazil. This was the sertão, the arid backlands of Northeast Brazil. If you didn’t want to join the impoverished masses you guarded your rights zealously. Moreover society was formed into webs of alliance and hostility between political rivals and their clients. The Ferreiras got mixed up in a feud with a neighboring clan. While the elder Ferreira tried to make peace, his sons were more mettlesome. They joined the cangaçeiros, freebooting outlaw gangs that acted as enforcers for politicians who weren’t successful enough to get their gunmen appointed to the police. Virgulino, now known as Lampião, “the lamp”, became the most feared of these outlaws. His father was unceremoniously gunned down by the police.

For over a decade Lampião rampaged across the backlands. He became powerful enough to make the politicians dance to his tune. At one point Lampião’s men were deputized to battle marauding communist rebels. At other times he held cites and even whole states to ransom. Eventually a new regime seized power in Brazil. The dictator Getulio Vargas gave special impetus to the hunt for the outlaw. Lampião came to a grisly end in an ambush at Angicos, an end not only for Lampião, but for the free-wheeling days of the cangaçeiro lifestyle.

Bandit King is an absolutely fascinating account of a savage frontier in its last days and the outlaw of epic proportions who dominated it.

-Dave Hardy

Sunday, February 15, 2009


I have recently learned that Leo Grin’s The Cimmerian, the premier journal of Robert E. Howard fandom, is ceasing publication. While The Cimmerian blog is still going strong under the direction of Steve Tompkins, the print journal’s last issue was December 2008, volume 5 number 6. The sad news was so low-key that I missed it until last week (though rumor had reached me a while back).

That’s maybe my biggest regret. Had I taken more time to engage in TC I would have known sooner. The past year has seen me put my efforts elsewhere, all to often saying to myself that the moment’s indulgence in sloth would not prejudice future good intentions. Well, the future, as they say, is now.

Editor Leo Grin published my first efforts at writing commentary and criticism on REH’s works. Leo is great to work with, he is the kind of editor who shows an author how to be his best, and demands it too. He demanded it of himself too. Leo pulled off a stunning achievement in producing a full twelve issues during the REH centenary of 2006.

The Cimmerian was always a pleasure. From its Gothic covers to the parchment pages it had a unique style that set it apart from other fanzines. I make the comparison to fanzines a bit deliberately. Leo was the driving will, the fantastic visionary of The Cimmerian. He had a vision of how good a home-made magazine could be and he lived up to that vision and beyond. The Cimmerian is not a slick, mass-produced article, but a remarkable series of little books that have a hand-made feel as if the monks of some Irish Abbey had become Conan fans. They are truly one-of-a-kind artifacts.

Farewell Cimmerian!

-Dave Hardy

Friday, February 13, 2009


From over at Dark Worlds HQ, word comes of issue number 3 of the acclaimed anything-goes-fantasy-sci-fi-mystery-adventure mag.

The third issue of the Pulp-Descended magazine of Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, Mystery and other genres. This issue features the Fantasy "The Tomb of the Amazon Queen" by Michael Ehart. Also included are "Roadblock", a space opera adventure by Jack Mackenzie, "The Storming of Big Spree" an historical adventure by David A. Hardy, "Bayou Mirage" a Dark Fantasy by E. P. Berglund, "Let Sleeping Dogs Lie", a detective Mystery by Nick Andreychuk, "Laocoon" a Weird Western by G. W. Thomas, "Communications Delay, SF by Lee Beavington, and a Pirate Fantasy "Immortals of the Cannibal Coast" by Joel Jenkins and Martin Edward Stephenson. Our review/Interview is for BURY ME DEEP by Joshua Reynolds. Also includes a Dark Worlds Club section. Cover by Aaron Siddall. Illustrations by M. D. Jackson, Aaron Siddall, Sam deGraff and G. W. Thomas.

Sunday, February 08, 2009


By Edgar Rice Burroughs

When he wanted to take a break from Tarzan and Barsoom, ERB would occasionally try a Western. The Bandit of Hell’s Bend is one such. The theme is the classic one of stuffed shirt Easterners vs. Robust Westerners (a theme that I daresay underlies much if not most of ERB’s fiction). The foreman of the Slash Y ranch is Bull, a laconic and steady cowpoke in the traditional mode. But the Slash Y and its heiress, Diana Henders, must endure quite a bit before Bull’s finer characteristics are fully manifest. The dashing young cowpoke Colby seems to be the kind of vigorous man to save the ranch as outlaws and Apaches besiege it. Waiting in the wings to take over the Slash Y are a bumptious Yankee industrialist and Diana’s Eastern relations.

Hell’s Bend falls into the typical ERB silent hero, sterling heroine, & big misunderstanding plot category. While nowhere near as innovative as the pair of Apache Westerns ERB wrote (Apache Devil and The War Chief), Hell’s Bend is a decent old-school horse opera.

-Dave Hardy

Sunday, February 01, 2009


By Maurice Shadbolt

Novels about the Maori Wars are perhaps uncommon, but the ones I’ve read are uncommon good. Season of the Jew is part farce, part Western shoot-‘em-up, and part Journey to Hell. The Maori Wars were an odd kind of conflict. They were essentially an Indian war, but fought in the temperate rain forests of New Zealand. They involved as much trench warfare as they did guerrilla warfare, for the Maori were advanced practitioners of both.

George Fairweather is a British officer who survives enough war to claim a homestead at Poverty Bay. He befriends Coats, a Maori who served on the side of the “pakeha”, as the natives call the whites. But persecution, exile, escape, and pursuit transforms Coates from a genially atheistic rum—runner into Kooti, a prophet of war seeking to purge his Zion of the gentiles. Fairweather pays dearly for lost friendship, and pays even dearer for simple humanity. Season of the Jew builds to one of the grimmest denouements I have ever read.

Shadbolt is an unusual writer, at times he is more at home with a sort of 19th century banter that seems to some by way of a 1940s Hollywood movie. At other times he depicts waking nightmares of wanton cruelty. It never comes across as mere shock either, man’s best is never far from his worst. While not a great stylist, Shadbolt was unflinching in his indictment of baseness and created memorable work from it.

-Dave Hardy