Category: Books

RIP: Lanny Poffo

Lanny Poffo died today at the age of 68.  No cause of death was given.

Lanny Poffo was the son of Angelo and Judy Poffo,  Angelo was a professional wrestler and promoter.  It was only natural that Lanny follow his father and older brother, Randy aka Randy “The Macho Man” Savage into the sport.

Mr. Poffo began his career in 1974.  He would go on to wrestle professionally for the All-South Wrestling Alliance, National Wrestling Alliance, Atlantic Grand Prix Wrestling, International Championship Wrestling, Mid-South Wrestling, Continental Wrestling Association and the World Wrestling Federation.  It would have been easy to capitalize on his brother’s fame, but Lanny wanted to make it on his own.  In the WWE he was known as Leaping Lanny and then later, The Genius.  It was as The Genius that Lanny Poffo generated the most heat.

I met Lanny Poffo at a small convention in 2009.  Mr. Poffo was very approachable.  I spoke to him about how when my sons were younger we loved to watch he and his brother wrestle.  I went on to say that when I was a kid I saw Lanny’s dad wrestle many times.  Lanny loved that I remembered his dad.  As we talked about wrestling and his career, Lanny would always steer it back to his brother and father.  What a humble man he was.  Lanny also wanted folks to know that his brother, Randy, was an amazing baseball player and all-around athlete.

Lanny Poffo had written a poetry book about the dangers of smoking.  He autographed a copy and gifted it to me.   Most people, when they think of Lanny Poffo, think of The Genius.  Lanny Poffo made a great heel which attests to his acting ability since he was such a generous kindhearted man outside the ring.  That’s who I think of first.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Lanny Poffo’s family, friends and fans.

DIG TWO GRAVES by Mickey Spillane & Max Allan Collins!

A new Mike Hammer yarn, Dig Two Graves is coming from Mickey Spillane & Max Allan Collins!  Here’s the lowdown…

Mike Hammer, the iconic PI created by the master of noir Mickey Spillane, takes on the mob in the first of two gripping final novels for the deadly private eye.

Winter 1969. After a hit-and-run accident nearly kills her mother, Velda learns her father is not who she thought he is. Seeking to uncover her true heritage, Velda and Mike Hammer travel to sunny Dreamland Park, where retired law enforcement officers keep an eye on notorious criminals held under the Witness Protection Act.

Just as Velda and Mike’s search leads to a dead end, a brutal attempt on their lives and a missing fortune in mob money leads them to a deadly midnight confrontation in a cemetery where secrets are buried and open graves await.

 Dig Two Graves drops August 22, 2023.

Dig Two Graves  Hardcover

Dig Two Graves Kindle

Lawrence Block, S.A. Cosby, Joe R. Lansdale, David Morrell & 13 Others are PLAYING GAMES!

What would you call a book with stories by Lawrence Block, S.A. Cosby, Joe R. Lansdale, David Morrell and 13 others?  Must Buy?  It is actually called Playing Games.  Here’s the lowdown…


Whether it’s child’s play or for the highest stakes, whether we stick to the rules or cheat, we all play games — for fun, for thrills, for love or money, to prove we’re the best or make an opponent knuckle under. And the games we play, with cards or dice or nothing but our wits, reveal something deeply personal about the players.

In this powerful new anthology, Mystery Writers of America Grandmaster Lawrence Block has assembled an all-star team for the ultimate game night. Sit down at the checkerboard with S.A. Cosby, assemble jigsaw puzzles with David Morrell, or play marbles for the fate of the world with Joe R. Lansdale. In Jeffery Deaver’s hands, an innocent game of Candyland takes twists the Parker Brothers could never have imagined. Science-fiction grandmaster Robert Silverberg uncovers painful truths about destiny while betting on the turtle races in a Caribbean resort. And Lawrence Block himself out-Hitchcocks Hitchcock with his classic story of murder victims swapped by strangers on a handball court.

From hide-and-seek to Russian roulette, from mahjong to Mouse Trap, it’s a game lover’s dream — but beware: your turn is coming, and while winning isn’t everything, sometimes losing can be deadly…

And here’s the starred review from Publishers Weekly:

One of the most impressive of the 17 crime stories involving games in this stellar anthology from MWA Grand Master Block (In Sunlight or in Shadow: Stories Inspired by the Paintings of Edward Hopper) is Block’s own “Strangers on a Handball Court.” It riffs on Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train, as the title suggests, and provides a wholly fair plot with a gut-wrenching surprise. Even knowing that multiple twists are coming doesn’t negate their impact in Jeffery Deaver’s devious “The Babysitter,” which opens with a classic trope: the innocent everyperson who stumbles on a deadly secret. When the charges of 17-year-old Kelli Lambert get bored playing Candy Land, Kelli’s search for another board game leads her into peril after the parents of the kids she’s watching suspect she’s spotted their secret plans to torch a casino so they can establish their own casino. David Morrell shines with the subtle and creepy “The Puzzle Master,” in which a couple become addicted to jigsaw puzzles by a particular artist, only to find potentially ominous clues linking disparate bucolic scenes. The wide range of stories and games in them begs for a sequel.

Playing Games is available now.

Playing Games Paperback

Playing Games Kindle

SPILLANE: KING OF PULP FICTION by Max Allan Collins and James L. Traylor

SPILLANE: KING OF PULP FICTION by Max Allan Collins and James L. Traylor is coming!

The first-ever biography of the most popular and most influential pulp writer of all time, written by the collaborator who knew him best

There has never been a full-length biography of Mickey Spillane, the most popular and influential mystery writer of his era―until now.

Beginning in 1947 with I, the Jury, and continuing with his next six novels, Spillane quickly amassed a readership in the tens of millions, becoming the bestselling novelist in the history of American publishing. Surrounded by controversy for the overt violence and suggestive sexual content of his iconic Mike Hammer private eye novels, Spillane was loathed by critics but beloved by his readers.

There is, however, more to Spillane’s life than the books. He also starred as Hammer in a movie, was a circus performer, worked with the FBI in capturing a notorious criminal, and starred in Miller Light beer commercials that were so popular they ran for a quarter of a century.

Max Allan Collins became Spillane’s friend and collaborator, continuing the Mike Hammer series for years after the author’s death, building upon unfinished manuscripts the writer left behind. Now, with co-author James Traylor, Collins has produced the first comprehensive and authoritative profile of the Mystery Writers of America Grand Master. It is a must-read for any fan of the author―or of the generations of crime writers that were influenced by his work.



CAVE 13: A JOE LEDGER & ROGUE TEAM INTERNATIONAL by Jonathan Maberry is Coming!

Jonathan Maberry’s Joe Ledger and Rogue Team International will be back in a new adventure titled CAVE 13.  Here’s the synopsis…

After years of searching, a new cave filled with Dead Sea Scrolls is found, and among them are bizarre books of actual magic. Terrorist groups and multinational corporations scramble to acquire these treasures in the hopes that magic is the true WMD of the 21st Century. But everyone who goes near those scrolls goes insane. The fabric of reality is shredding. Is this the result of ancient magic, or is it a new bioweapon that fractures the mind of anyone exposed?

Joe Ledger and Rogue Team International plunge into mortal peril as this new and deadly arms race threatens to ignite new wars throughout the Middle East.

Cave 13 pits Joe Ledger against warring factions of ideological terrorism, corporate greed, and massive international crime syndicates in what might well become a new Age of Miracles.

Jonathan Maberry like Joe Ledger never disappoints.  Pre-orders for CAVE 13 are available now for the August 29, 2023 release.

Cave 13 Paperback

Cave 13 Kindle


Things Get Ugly: The Best Crime Stories of Joe R. Lansdale will be available August 15, 2023!  352 pages of Lansdale goodness.  Here’s the preview…

Edgar Award winner and bestselling author Joe R. Lansdale (the Hap and Leonard series), one of America’s most essential crime writers, heads back to the dangerous woods of East Texas. In his first crime career-retrospective, including previously uncollected work, Lansdale shows exactly why critics continue to compare him to Elmore Leonard, Donald Westlake, Flannery O’Connor, and William Faulkner.

“Pulpy, blackly humorous, compulsively readable, and somehow both wildly surreal and down-to-earth. Lansdale is a national fucking treasure.”
―Christa Faust, author of Money Shot

In the 1950s, a young small-town projectionist mixes it up with a violent gang. When Mr. Bear is not alerting us to the dangers of forest fires, he lives a life of debauchery and murder. A brother and sister travel to Oklahoma to recover the dead body of their uncle. A lonely man engages in dubious acts while pining for his rubber duckie.

In this collection of nineteen unforgettable crime tales, Joe R. Lansdale brings his legendary mojo and gritty, dark humor to harrowing heists, revenge, homicide, and mayhem. No matter how they begin, things are bound to get ugly―and fast.

Pre-orders are available now.

Things Get Ugly  Paperback
Things Get Ugly  Kindle

BLACKULA: RETURN OF THE KING by Rodney Barnes and Jason Shawn Alexander is Coming Soon!

Blacula: Return of the King by Rodney Barnes and Jason Shawn Alexander will be released later this month.  Here’s the lowdown…

Los Angeles – the City of Angels. Two souls, one is looking for vengeance and one is looking for the truth. They share one thing in common, they are both searching for the legendary vampire Blacula. Tina Thomas is a reporter for the blog Dark Knights, which chronicles all things unnatural, uneasy, and undead. She meets a young man named Kross whose family was forever changed by the vampire. Kross asks Tina to help him kill Blacula.

Blacula too is on a mission, he is searching for the one who forever changed his life centuries ago. His name is Count Dracula.

“Marlowe” starring Liam Neeson, Diane Kruger & Jessica Lange – The Poster and Trailer are Here!

Liam Neeson as Marlowe.  This looks like it could work.

MARLOWE, a gripping noir crime thriller set in late 1930’s Los Angeles, centers around a street-wise, down on his luck detective; Philip Marlowe, played by Liam Neeson, who is hired to find the ex-lover of a glamorous heiress (Diane Kruger), daughter of a well-known movie star (Jessica Lange). The disappearance unearths a web of lies, and soon Marlowe is involved in a dangerous, deadly investigation where everyone involved has something to hide.

“The Invitation” (2022) starring Nathalie Emmanuel & Thomas Doherty / Z-View

The Invitation (2022)

Director:  Jessica M. Thompson

Screenplay:  Blair Butler

Stars: Nathalie Emmanuel, Thomas Doherty, Sean Pertwee, Hugh Skinner and Scott Alexander Young

Tagline: You are cordially invited to a nightmare generations in the making.

The Plot…

“Evie” Jackson (Emmanuel) is a struggling artist who, after a DNA test, learns she has relatives in England.  One of them, Oliver (Skinner) reaches out to Evie.  They meet and hit it off. Oliver informs Evie that her great-grandmother had a secret child with one of the family’s African-American servants.  It was quite the scandal at the time!  Oliver invites Evie to attend an up-coming wedding in England – all expenses paid.  Although hesitant at first, Evie accepts.

When Evie arrives at New Carfax Abbey, she meets Walter De Ville (Doherty) lord of the manor, and host of the wedding.  Evie is shocked at the opulence on display, but has to admit she’s attracted to De Ville.  It’s obvious he feels the same towards her.  But something isn’t right.  Everything feels a bit off.  Evie will find out too late why.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

I liked the slow buildup to the reveal the wedding.  It’s not much of a spoiler to say that there are quite a few Dracula Easter eggs throughout the film – everything from character names to locations.  If you’re not a Dracula fan and miss them, it won’t take away from the film.  If you do recognize them, they should enhance your viewing.

Nathalie Emmanuel is best known for her role in Game of Thrones.  I first saw her in Furious 7 and thought she had star power then.  She’s excellent as Evie.  I look forward to her future projects. Thomas Doherty is well cast as De Ville.  I’d never see Doherty before.  He has charisma and at times reminded me of a young Sean Connery.  Perhaps he could be the next 007.

The Invitation begins with the feel of a love story, then morphs into psychological horror and ends as a pedal to the floor vampire flick.  I liked it better than most so your mileage may vary.  For me…

The Invitation earns 4 of 5 stars.

TO BRING MY SHADOW by Matt Phillips

Anthony Neil Smith posted The Independent Fiction Alliance’s choices for the best books of 2022 published by small independent presses or independent writers.

To Bring My Shadow by Matt Phillips is one of them.  Here’s the lowdown…

This haunting, hardboiled tale follows detective Frank “Slim Fat” Pinson and his partner as they try to unravel the vexing mystery surrounding a who-done-it drug murder in San Diego.

Frank “Slim Fat” Pinson is your regular hardboiled murder cop—hell, Frank’s a cliché. His wife is dead after jumping from a bridge and he’s a mal-practicing Catholic. He’s tough as nails. Hard as sin. Except not.

When Frank and his partner, “Skinny” Slade Ryerson, catch a cartel murder case, they’re sucked into a black hell of political corruption with ties to Santa Muerte. And Frank—a man who knows himself so well—spins into an epic crisis of faith.

The first detective novel from acclaimed pulp writer Matt Phillips introduces readers to a fascinating character of indefensible fault, immense morality, and incalculable demise.

To Bring My Shadow Paperback
To Bring My Shadow Kindle

CANARY IN THE COAL MINE by Charles Salzberg

Anthony Neil Smith posted The Independent Fiction Alliance’s choices for the best books of 2022 published by small independent presses or independent writers.

Canary In The Coal Mine by Charles Salzberg is one of them.  Here’s the lowdown…

PI Pete Fortunato, half-Italian, half-Jewish, who suffers from anger management issues and insomnia, wakes up one morning with a bad taste in his mouth. This is never a good sign. Working out of a friend’s downtown real estate office, Fortunato, who spent a mysteriously short, forgettable stint as a cop in a small upstate New York town, lives from paycheck to paycheck. So, when a beautiful woman wants to hire him to find her husband, he doesn’t hesitate to say yes. Within a day, Fortunato finds the husband in the apartment of his client’s young, stud lover. He’s been shot once in the head. Case closed. But when his client’s check bounces, and a couple of Albanian gangsters show up outside his building and kidnap him, hoping he’ll lead them to a large sum of money supposedly stolen by the dead man, he begins to realize there’s a good chance he’s been set up to take the fall for the murder and the theft of the money.

In an attempt to get himself out of a jam, Fortunato winds up on a wild ride that takes him down to Texas where he searches for his client’s lover who he suspects has the money and holds the key to solving the murder.

Canary In The Coal Mine Paperback
Canary In The Coal Mine Kindle

BELOW THE LINE by Steven Jankowski

Anthony Neil Smith posted The Independent Fiction Alliance’s choices for the best books of 2022 published by small independent presses or independent writers.

Below The Line by Steven Jankowski is one of them.  Here’s the lowdown…

In between gigs as a Hollywood movie Teamster, self-proclaimed sailing bum Mike Millek moonlights as a freelance, armed chauffeur to the stars. When Mike arrives one night to pick up his deadbeat client, rap music producer Pays Lee, at his private jet Mike finds him freshly murdered with a satchel full of cash. Mike makes the critical decision to take what is owed him before reporting anything to the police.

More money than he ever expected, this turns out to be Mike’s biggest payday in his life, but not without consequences. Opening this Pandora’s box not only costs him his best friend’s life and leads him down a road of deception with his newly found love Molly, but thrusts them both into a dangerous conspiracy entrenched in the sordid underbelly of the Hollywood power elite.

Below The Line Paperback
Below The Line Kindle

MIDNIGHT DRIVE Drive by Kenneth Price

Anthony Neil Smith posted The Independent Fiction Alliance’s choices for the best books of 2022 published by small independent presses or independent writers.  This is one of them…

Midnight Drive by Kenneth Price is the first novel in the Logan Claybourne series.  Here’ the lowdown…

Kenny Prince enjoyed the finer things in life – namely cocaine, strippers, and a 1976 Corvette Stingray. But Kenny wound up dead on his couch with two bullet holes in him and a QR code slapped onto the wall above his body. So now it’s up to Logan Claybourne to find who did it. Not that Logan gives a rat’s ass. He’s not a detective. He’s a repo man. And if he wants money to fund his unhinged gambling addiction, he’s going to have to find the Stingray before the police do. The mystery will take him around the cold and unforgiving streets of Edmonton, Canada’s northernmost city, where everyone seems to know Logan’s secrets and answers can only be found in the middle of the night.

Midnight Drive is the first book in the Logan Claybourne series by Kenneth Price. Set in a world of pawn shops, casinos, and hardscrabble people trying to get by, this novel peeks down the dark alleys we instinctively look away from. Questions around fate and the gears operating in the background of our lives weave through its pages while throughout the rough and tumble streets of Edmonton are tooled into a tale of high-octane crime fiction.

This is noir with a V8 engine under the hood.

So get in. Shut up. And hold on!

Midnight Drive Paperback
Midnight Drive Kindle 

CALIFORNIA BEAR by Duane Swierczynski is Coming!

Duane Swierczynski’s new novel California Bear sounds like a must-buy.  Here’s the synopsis…

A cinematic new mystery from an award-winning crime writer, California Bear follows two unlikely vigilantes whose decision to take justice into their own hands pits them against the villains behind California’s coldest cases—and their own twisted histories.

California Bear drops on September 5, 2023.  Pre-orders are available now.

California Bear Hardcover
California Bear Kindle