Monday, September 27, 2010


The second part of "The Hunger with the Heart of Ice" is online here. The third and final part is online here. Be sure to check out Adventure! for much more about your favorite writers of thrilling stories.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


The first part of a three part story is online at Adventure! It's a Northern featuring Sub-Inspector Gatewood of the Mounted Police, a character that debuted in Dark Worlds #3. "The Hunger With the Heart of Ice" is a psychological thriller set in on the Canadian frontier of the 1880s. Check is out here.  The next two parts will appear on successive Mondays. Thanks! -Dave Hardy

Sunday, September 12, 2010


By Herbert Asbury

Subtitled “An informal history of the underworld” this is Herbert Asbury’s best-known and perhaps most important work. Asbury made his career by writing the secret history of America’s big cities, the scandalous underbelly you never get to see in the official, "chamber of commerce approved" version.

If you’ve seen the movie by Martin Scorsese (with stellar performances by Daniel Day Lewis, Leo DiCaprio, and Cameron Diaz) here is a chance to see what that was based on. Asbury begins with the grim and dangerous slums of the Five-Points (and especially the Old Brewery) in the pre-Civil War era. This is legendary country where Paul Bunyon-like characters mingle with real life ward heelers. The life and death of Bill the Butcher Poole is recounted along with the bloody draft riots.

Asbury follows the nexus of street gangs and politics through the post war decades when Jewish and Italian immigrants began to displace the Irish and Germans. The fearsome confederacy of outlaws called the Whyos dominated New York in the 1870s from their hangout at a saloon called the Morgue. Asbury fills us in on the river pirates and the brothels. He tells of the day in August 1903 when hundreds of gangsters from the Monk Eastman gang shot it out with the Italians from the Five Points. Baboon Riley, Gyp the Blood, Hell-Cat Maggie, Gallus Mag, Humpty Jackson, Yoski Nigger, and Kid Twist are just a few of the strange and colorful characters who drifted through Old New York’s streets. The Daybreak Boys, the Gophers, the Dead Rabbits, the Roach Guards and Plug Uglies were once as powerful and deadly as the Crips, Latin Kings, or the Cosa Nostra.

Asbury’s work ends before the rise of the Syndicate as an interstate combination of organized crime (he originally published this in 1927). For anyone trying to understand the origins of modern organized crime this is essential reading. Even if you aren’t, it is still the fascinating story of the dark side of a great American city.
-Dave Hardy

Saturday, September 11, 2010


By A.E.W. Mason

Two excellent movies have been made from AEW Mason’s The Four Feathers, a 1901 novel which is considered a classic of adventure stories. For the life of me I can’t figure out why, because The Four Feathers is as dull as an Al Gore lecture on deforestation in New Jersey.

Harry Feversham is a young subaltern who resigns his commission for fear that he will prove a coward when his regiment ships out for the Sudan. Three of his fellow officers give him white feathers as a mark of disdain. Harry’s fiancée, Ethne, adds a fourth. So Harry sets out for the Sudan to prove ‘em wrong. It’s a capital idea, but Mason leaves us with Ethne having tea parties and reading letters for about 100 or so pages.

Meanwhile, Capt. Durrance, Harry’s friend goes blind, is sent back from the Sudan to Merrie England where he gets hot in the underwear parts for Ethne. No, actually he behaves like an insipid caricature of an effete Englishman, while Mason treats the reader to loads of contrived “if I feel this way she’ll feel that way” treacle that would embarrass Barbara Cartland.

God knows I enjoy some real crap, but at least people in those stories DO THINGS. I was really wishing Harry would tell Ethne “kiss my grits, bee-yotch, I’m shacking up with a native,” or maybe a Dervish warrior would charge the damn tea party and start killing the polite limeys with a big ol’ pig-sticker or something would just please happen, and not happen off-stage and get reported at yet another, freaking, stinking tea-party!

Eventually, Harry redeems himself and returns to London to claim the great-white girlfriend. Me, I’d a told Ethne where she could put her feather.

-Dave Hardy

Friday, September 10, 2010


By Paul Cain

Fast One is Paul Cain’s novel of corruption and underworld warfare. Like other hard-boiled novels of the era it is set in the grit and glory of LA, but instead of a PI dedicated to bringing a criminal to justice, this is a tale of an outlaw’s struggle to survive. Gerry Kells is a war-hero, junkie, gambler, and gangster who just wants to leave the rackets behind for a little peace and quiet. But it doesn’t work that way in LA. He is drawn into a spiral of violence as rival underworld factions use him as a pawn. Unfortunately for them Kells is nobody’s fool and mayhem ensues.

Cain had a good grasp of the loose structure of the LA syndicate. As in the real LA-LA land the cops and the crooks are mostly indistinguishable (look up LAPD Lt. Guy “Whistler” McAfee sometime). Gamblers skirt the law by putting their casinos on freighters anchored just off-shore (again a fact the LA scene). Rivals use scandal-sheet newspapers as weapons in the war for City Hall and control of the rackets (much like “Gray-Wolf” Charlie Crawford did until he was shot by a candidate for judgeship).

This is a dark tale, more in the spirit of Cornell Woolrich’s noir than some of the more obvious comparisons to Cain's fellow Black Mask writers Hammett and Chandler. Fast One is a hard-boiled gangster story that deserves to be better known.

-Dave Hardy

Thursday, September 09, 2010


By Patrick O’Brian

If you have seen Master and Commander and expect more of the same from Patrick O’Brian’s novel, I must warn you the film really has nothing to do with the book, except so far as they have the same characters. Not that either one is any bit less than excellent, they just do different things and tell different stories.

Peter Weir’s film is about action. But the nature of war at sea in the Age of Sail, meant that inaction was the norm. One spent months at sea going somewhere, looking for someone, and at the end they might shoot a cannon at you, or not as the case may be. While most writers just skip that whole “sail across the world bit”, O’Brian made it his specialty. His novels are about the closed-in life of sailors and their brief glimpses of intensely varied cultures ashore. Some reviewers compare O’Brian to Jane Austen, I tend to think of Jack Kerouac.

If Far Side of the World is Jane Austen, it’s Austen with the occasional flogging and amputation. Captain Jack Aubrey has to work to get the HMS Surprise across the world. And the local cultures aren’t just window dressing, Aubrey and his good friend Dr. Maturin find themselves in the right church, but wrong pew, as uncomprehending observers of somebody else’s nautical adventure when they meet a band of sea-going Polynesian Amazons. The seas are full of adventure.

The talk isn’t bad either. O’Brian fills the book with dry wit and absurd humor. His characters speak a distinctive early 19th century dialect that is fresh, without being a strain. There are vast amounts of nautical jargon, but when something critical needs to be conveyed to the reader, a lubberly landsman is on hand to ask the captain what’s going on.

So if you want the taste of salt horse and weevil biscuit without having to stray too far from Jack in the Box, you could ship out with the HMS Surprise.

-Dave Hardy

Wednesday, September 08, 2010


By Rene Grousset

This masterful history by one of France’s most distinguished scholars piqued my youthful interest with its tales of wild tribes in remote places of Asia. I still keep The Empire of the Steppes on my shelf as a reference work and simply as an interesting read.

Rene Grousset was what used to be called an Orientalist, before Edward Said made that a dirty word. His specialty was Asian history. Here he tackles no less than 3,000 years of Central Asian history. He sketches the ongoing clash of Nomad Hordes vs. Civilization (Skythians vs. Assyria, Huns vs. Rome, Persia, India & China, Mongols vs The World) with special attention to the notable conquerors. Attila, Jenghis Khan, and Tamerlane all get close attention. But Grousset also looks at how nomad groups such as the Magyars, Turks, Moguls, and Manchu changed from hostile marauders to members of the civilizations they once attacked and even the defenders of civilization against other waves of barbarian invaders.

Though often dry, and forced to compress vast amounts of history into small packages, Grousset still allows himself flourishes. You can read Empire of the Steppes and see for yourself why Harold Lamb and Robert E. Howard were fascinated the turbulent, destructive, warlike, and creative peoples of the Central Asian Steppes.

-Dave Hardy

Tuesday, September 07, 2010


Edited by Karl Edward Wagner

This is a set of fantasy and adventure tales by various pulp authors. The lead tale is "Shadow of the Vulture" by Robert E Howard. It is one of his best historical adventure tales and feature Sonya of Rogatino, the Cossack sword-woman who was the precursor of Red Sonja of the comics. It’s a ripping story set at the siege of Vienna in 1529.

There is a marvelous Jack Williamson yarn, "Wolves of Darkness", with a brilliant mix of science-fiction a horror that pre-figures the novel Darker than You Think.

While there are some decent tales by Manly Wade Wellman and Henry Kuttner, the real discovery here is Nictzin Dyalhis. Now nearly forgotten, Dyalhis was a regular contributor to Weird Tales. His work has a true sense of wonder with stories that could almost be fairy tales, gentle and dark at the same time.

Echoes of Valor III is definitely worth adding to one’s collection.
-Dave Hardy

Monday, September 06, 2010


By Edmond Hamilton

Edmond Hamilton is one of the forgotten pioneers of science fiction. His career began in the pulps back in the 1920s and carried on for over fifty years. This 1977 anthology, edited by Hamilton's wife, the multi-talented Leigh Brackett, brought his best short stories between one set of covers.

It seems Hamilton was at his peak in the 1930s and 1940s since that’s when most of these stories date from. In truth that’s an illusion since by the ‘50s the pulp markets for short stories had greatly diminished and Hamilton was concentrating on novels. For me it’s a bonus that this anthology focuses on the early stuff since I find that naïve and sometimes crude sf can pack more of a punch than much more polished recent work.

Some real standouts here are "The Monster-God of Mamurth", a story about an explorer trapped in an invisible city and stalked by an invisible monster (it's an interesting example of the influence of The Arabian Nights on early sf), and "Exile", a very simple short-short about a writer and the imaginary world he is trapped in. "A Conquest of Two Worlds" tells of an earthman so disgusted with the hypocrisy and cruelty of Earth’s conquest of the backward races of Venus and Mars, that he throws in his lot with the rebellious BEMs of Jupiter. This is very much an upside-down version of the typical “alien conquest” tale. "Thundering Worlds" is Hamilton at his wide-screen planet-smashing best, a trick he was pulling off well before Doc Smith got in on the act. "He That Hath Wings" is a take on bad boys, the girls who love them, and what happens when they try to pull them back to earth.

As I said, in many ways this is NOT the most polished work of Hamilton, but perhaps it is the most representative. As a time capsule of early pulp sf, it hits the spot.

-Dave Hardy

Saturday, September 04, 2010


Issue five of Dark Worlds is out. It features a new wrap-around cover & lots of stories.

"Of Kings and Servants" by C. J. Burch (Sword & Sorcery)
"The Hook" by J. F. Gonzalez (Horror)
"The Black Grave of Deception" by Peter J. Welmerink (Sword & Sorcery)
"Body of Work' (Mythos Horror) -- A Book Collector story!
"The Cryo Game" by Jack Mackenzie (Space Adventure)
"Black Destiny of Ys" by David A. Hardy (Historical Fantasy)
"Against the Gathering Darkness" by Joel Jenkins (Historical Horror/Adventure)
"An Interview with C. J. Burch: A Chuck the Barbarian Cartoon"

You can order a copy of Dark Worlds 5 here!

Also new is Thrill of Adventure, a blog for and about writers of, well, thrilling tales of adventure. There's covers & links for writers like Robert E. Howard, Jack London, James Oliver Curwood, Rex Beach, Robert Service, Agnes Laut, John Buchan. W.A Fraser and a lot more. Check out classic stories like "The Lord of Samarkand" by Robert E. Howard and "Cedartown Court House" by Theodore Roosevelt.

And last, but by no means least, my story "Code of the Pahlavan" is up on Static Movement. Static Movement is an online 'zine for a great of speculative fiction appearing monthly. You can find two of my other stories there such as  Dies Ater Draconis and The Bunyip Sea

That's all for now. Enjoy your Labor Day weekend! -Dave 


By Frank Belknap Long

I’ve always been a sucker for collections like this. Anthologies of tales from the pulps are the lands I go prospecting for fiction gold. Sometimes I strike pay dirt and sometimes I find rocks. There is a bit of both in The Early Long.

Although he is often recalled as HP Lovecraft’s friend, Frank Belknap Long had a very long career in science fiction and fantasy writing. This collection begins with some of his earliest sales to Weird Tales in the 1920s and winds up with stories he sold to Unknown in the mid-1940s.

It’s an interesting set, particularly regards the aspect of watching a writer develop. While never a Lovecraft clone, his early work shows some affinities with HPL’s style and preoccupations. The "Hounds of Tindalos" is one of Long’s best known tales and is generally considered a part of the larger Mythos cycle of stories. It is a good example of cosmic horror deployed effectively, although Long was still polishing his writing style. It’s not everyday one finds a tale in which a character writes his death-scream.

Later tales manage to combine science fiction with fantasy to create a modern type of horror story (much as HPL’s critical theory called for) but on a human scale. Long’s tales from the ‘40s are memorable and polished. "Grab Bags are Dangerous" is a fine exercise in dark-fantasy leavened with humor and "Step into my Garden" mixes fantasy, myth and fear for a memorable tale.

If you come across this one, it’s well worth a read.

-Dave Hardy