Category: Books

BULLET TRAIN: The ART and MAKING of the FILM is Coming!

Bullet Train: The Art and Making of the Film is coming on August 2nd.  Here’s what will be in it…

The official companion to the film Bullet Train from Deadpool 2 and Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw director David Leitch, starring Brad Pitt. Screenplay by Zak Olkewicz.

Assassin-for-hire Ladybug (Brad Pitt) is filling in for a colleague and just wants an easy in-and-out mission for once. What he gets is far from it. There are four other assassins on this Japanese bullet train (Joey King, Brian Tyree Henry, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, and Zazie Beetz) and when each assassin’s mission impedes the others’, it leads to disastrous consequences.

Go behind the scenes of this action-packed film in exclusive detail. This beautiful coffee-table book is full to the brim with concept art, behind-the-scenes photography, and storyboards, accompanied by exclusive interviews with the cast and crew, including David Leitch, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Brian Tyree Henry, and Hiroyuki Sanada.

If Bullet Train: The Art and Making of the Film sounds like something you’d like, click on the link since pre-orders are now available!

Murder in Greasepaint: A Rock Cobbler Case by Whiskey Leavins / Z-View


Murder in Greasepaint: A Rock Cobbler Case by Whiskey Leavins

Trade Paperback: 242 pages
Publisher: Independently published (March 30, 2022)

First sentences…

“STOP IT! We’re not clowning around here. Just put it down, why don’t you?”  I used my best cop voice.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

The first thing you notice with Murder in Greasepaint is another very cool painted cover by Rafael Andres.  Andres also did the cover to Leavins’ first book, The Devil’s Own Piss.  I’m happy to see this partnership continue.

Rock Cobbler is a detective with the Santa Lacrimosa PD.  An apparent suicide at the local clown college, gets Cobbler’s number called.  What looks to be an open and shut case turns out to be murder.  Rob Sofritas aka Mr. Rubadubdub was tortured, stabbed and then thrown from his dorm window.

Sofritas was well-liked and had a bright future in clowning.  Did jealousy lead to Sofritas’ murder?   He also came from money.  Blackmail gone wrong? Then there’s the nasty rumor about Sofritas’ affiliation with a clown faction and their legendary fights to gain control of an artifact that supposedly gives power to those who posses it. Did Softitas have the item?

With so many leads, Cobbler seeks the assistance of Professor Wiggles aka Corine D’Ambrosia.  From their first encounter, Cobbler finds himself attracted to her.  She’s beautiful, smart and also a suspect.  D’Ambrosia may have nothing to do with the murder, or she may be setting Cobbler up for a fatal pratfall.  One thing’s for sure, clowning ain’t no joke.

Hat’s off to Whiskey Leavins for finding the perfect balance of suspense and humor.  While we meet many colorful characters, they’re believable because of the way Leavins presents them.  The situations are humorous and sometimes silly, but we never lose sight that the danger is real.  I was especially impressed with the exchanges between Cobber and D’Ambrosia.  They reminded me of the flirting patter we’d get in an old Bogart/Bacall film.  Also kudos to Leavins for bringing back three characters from The Devil’s Own Piss.

Whiskey Leavins has another winner.  This is his second novel in a row that has earned my top rating.  I hope he goes for a trifecta.    Murder in Greasepaint earns 5 of 5 stars.

Rating:

Murder in Greasepaint Trade Paperback

Murder in Greasepaint Kindle

Tarzan of the Apes (1918) / Z-View

Tarzan of the Apes (1918)

Director: Scott Sidney

Screenplay:  Fred Miller and Lois Weber based on the novel Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Starring:  Elmo Lincoln, Enid Markey and Gordon Griffith.

Tagline:  Tarzan did not know why he caressed her… He had never seen a white woman before!

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Tarzan of the Apes is the first movie appearance of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ iconic character.  The film’s popularity led to three sequels:  The Romance of Tarzan (1918), The Son of Tarzan (1920), and The Adventures of Tarzan (1921).

Tarzan of the Apes is a fairly straightforward retelling of the novel.  After a mutiny, John and Alice Clayton are marooned in Africa.  Soon Alice gives birth to a son. Both parents die shortly after the child is born.  Kayla, an ape, raises the baby as her own.  The boy grows to adulthood among the apes. 

Years later another survivor of the mutiny spreads word that the Claytons survived.  An expedition is sent to Africa to locate them, but instead they find Tarzan of the Apes!  When Jane, a member of the expedition, is captured by natives, it is up to Tarzan to save her.

Tarzan of the Apes consists of iconic scenes from the novel which covers decades,  Gordon Griffith plays Tarzan as a young boy.  So technically, Griffith is the first person to play Tarzan!  Take that, trivia buffs.  Elmo Lincoln plays the adult Tarzan.  His Tarzan is a strongman with a headband.  Having only seen stills from the movie before, I was surprised at how quickly I adjusted to Lincoln’s portrayal of the Ape Man.   Although Enid Markey had a long acting career, she doesn’t have much to do here but scream, faint and look lovingly at Tarzan.

Tarzan of the Apes suffers from the actors in (poorly designed) monkey suits playing the apes.  The lion that Tarzan fights doesn’t look overly threatening.  Keep in mind that audiences of the day had never experienced better effects.  With that said, I’ve always enjoyed the different adaptations of Tarzan – movies, tv shows, comics, cartoons, etc.  I’m glad I finally got to see the 1918 Tarzan of the Apes.  It gets 3 of 5 stars.

HELL CHOSE ME by Angel Luis Colón / Z-View

Hell Chose Me by Angel Luis Colón

240 pages
Publisher: ‎ Down & Out Books (February 2, 2019)

First sentence…

Charlie Ryan’s head cracks against the bar top with a satisfying thud and snaps back up like a rubber ball – blood gushing from the shiny new gash at the bridge of his nose.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Bryan Walsh is a hit man.  Which is a strange profession for someone with a conscience.  Walsh justifies his kills by saying, “The bad choices his targets made put them in his sights.”  Walsh uses the contract money to provide life support for his comatose brother.  The medical bills are crushing.

Each hit pushes Walsh further to the edge,  After each kill, Walsh is visited by his victim’s ghost.  The ghosts fade in and out, haunting Walsh.  Is his mind playing tricks or are the ghosts are real?

When his contact for a hit lowballs him,  Walsh thinks something’s up… or maybe he’s just paranoid.  Then he’s immediately offered another job (violating the rule to never work back to back hits).  Walsh is sure something’s not right,  but he needs the money so…  

It was a simple hit until someone unexpected showed up.  Now Walsh is on the run with the knowledge that he and his brother are marked for death.  Unsure of who he can trust, Walsh must figure out why things went south and who he needs to kill to fix them.

Angel Luis Colón has created an interesting character in Bryan Walsh.  He’s far from the genre hitman.  I liked the supernatural aspect of Walsh interacting with the ghosts of those he’s killed.  Was it his mind playing tricks?  Walsh has an interesting backstory and we see how his decisions led to his current situation (just as he blamed his targets for their decisions putting them in his path).  This was my first book by Angel Luis Colón, but it won’t be my last.

Hell Chose Me rates 4 of 5 stars.


Hell Chose Me Trade Paperback
Hell Chose Me Kindle

IQ by Joe Ide / Z-View

IQ by Joe Ide

Trade Paperback: ‎ 352 pages
Publisher: ‎Mulholland Books

First sentence…

Isaiah’s crib looked like every other house on the block except the lawn was cut even, the pain was fresh, and the entrance was a little unusual.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Isaiah Quintabe is a quiet kid with a superior intellect.  While IQ is still in high school, his older brother and guardian, is killed in a hit-and-run accident.  Alone and afraid he will be sent to a home, IQ begins to earn money from neighborhood folks needing help.  When IQ finds a runaway daughter word spreads.  Soon he is getting requests for assistance with “cases the police can’t or won’t touch.”  The cases don’t pay much and sometimes the reward is food or tires for his car.  Because money is tight, IQ takes in a roommate.  Dodson is a low-level drug dealer that IQ knows from the ‘hood.  Both IQ and Dodson hope the arrangement is temporary.

When Dodson brings IQ a case offering real money, there’s an understanding that Dodson will assist. The potential reward is too good to pass, so IQ agrees.  That’s how they begin working for a big time rapper whose life was threatened.  Soon IQ and Dodson find themselves up against a cold-blooded killer with an attack dog the size of a small bear, and a large list of suspects who’d benefit from the rapper’s death.  Before it’s over IQ and Dodson are on the killer’s list.  Identifying the killer and who hired him will save the rapper’s life as well as their own.  If they can.

Joe Ide has created a unique character with Isaiah Quintabe.  It’s impressive how Ide sets up the first IQ book.  Ide gets in background information, early cases, and IQ’s unlikely partnership with Dodson while at the same time keeping the story moving.  Everything, the settings, the characters and the dialogue, all ring true. Because of this, when Ide introduces the killer and his beast-dog, we buy it.  Ide has created memorable characters and a great first story for our modern day Sherlock Holmes.  I loved IQ and look forward to more of his adventures.

IQ rates 5 of 5 stars.

IQ Hardcover
IQ Trade Paperback
IQ Kindle

PAYBACK is FOREVER by Nick Kolakowski / Z-View

Payback is Forever by Nick Kolakowski

Trade Paperback: ‎ 170 pages
Publisher: ‎ Shotgun Honey Books (March 24, 2022)

First sentence…

While the shootout paused so everybody could reload, Miller wondered whether the clown was still alive.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Miller is a successful thief and a not so successful gambler.  This causes him to take a job with a couple of crooks he doesn’t know.  The job goes sideways, the mooks attempt to double cross Miller, and several civilians are killed.  Not all is lost since Miller gets away with the loot.

Now Miller’s on the run.  When he’s offered a job to provide protection for a “simple” transaction, Miller knows there’s no such thing as simple in his line of work.  But the money is too good to pass. Miller needs the payoff to get away and lay low.  Of course nothing is as it seems (boy, it that true!) and Miller is going to learn that Payback is Forever.

Kolakowski has created a great throwback to the Gold Medal paperbacks my grandpa and I used to read.  I blazed through it, enjoying every page.  Payback is Forever is full of interesting characters – crooked crooks, midget hitmen, a ventriloquist with a wise-ass dummy, a sexy love interest and more.

Payback is Forever rates 4 of 5 stars.  If this sounds like something you’d dig, what are you waiting for?

Payback is Forever Trade Paperback
Payback is Forever Kindle

Rating:

RIP: Ron Galella

Ron Galella, one of the world’s most famous photographers, died on April 30, 2022, as a result of congestive heart failure.  Mr. Galella was 91.

Ron Galella was an Air Force photographer in the early 1950s.  After leaving the Air Force, Mr. Galella received a degree in photojournalism from the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles.  Ron Galella always enjoyed snapping photos of celebrities and would often find a market for those pictures at publications like The National Enquirer or in movie magazines.  As Mr. Galella’s photos became more in demand, he began selling to better publications such as Time, The New York Times, Vogue, Vanity Fair and many, many others.

Ron Galella become one of the first and best known paparazzi.  Mr. Galella’s style was to take candid photos of celebrities by approaching them at very close range.  Often he would hide or surprise the celebrities, catching them off-guard.  Several celebs took exception to Ron Galella’s methods:

  • Jackie Onassis won a restraining order that Mr. Galella couldn’t get within 25 feet of her. (Mrs. Onassis also ordered her bodyguards to smash his camera!)
  • Marlon Brando broke Ron Galella’s jaw and knocked out 5 of his teeth!  Mr. Galella sued and won $40,000.  The next time Mr. Galella approached Marlon Brando for photos,  Galella wore a football helmet!
  • Richard Burton’s bodyguards badly beat Ron Galella.  Mr. Galella unsuccessfully sued Mr. Burton.
  • Ron Galella was spit on and punched (Sean Penn), had his tires slashed (Elvis’ bodyguards), was sprayed with a hose (Bridget Bardot’s security) and more.

The negative publicity created a greater demand for Ron Galella’s photos.  His run-ins with celebrities continually made news.  Remember, these events took place when most celebrity photos were planned shots used to put the celeb in the best light and promote their latest movie, book or show. Ron Galella’s photos were to show celebs in in a light that they couldn’t control.

Ultimately Ron Galella had several books dedicated to his pictures, and his photos have been shown in museums!

Ron Galella became a celebrity because of his photos of celebrities.  He also inspired a generation of photographers in an era where there was no internet or TMZ.   Mr. Galella really leaned into his bad-boy image and it helped make him famous. Still, it is important to remember that if his photos were terrible, none of that other stuff would have mattered.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Ron Galella’s family, friends and fans.

SAFE AND SOUND by J.D. Rhoades / Z-View

Safe and Sound by J.D. Rhoades

Hardcover: ‎ 288 pages
Publisher: ‎ Minotaur Books; First Edition (July 10, 2007)

First sentence…

“You’re lucky one way, you know,” the man said.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Jack Keller is in his girlfriend Marie’s office as she is talking to a potential client.  A young girl is missing and presumed to be kidnapped by her divorced father who happens to be AWOL from the Special Forces.  When the client learns that Keller is also former military she asks Marie to bring him on to assist.  Marie and Keller reluctantly agree.  Soon enough Keller and Marie find themselves at odds with a group of AWOL Special Forces soldiers, the FBI and a sadistic mercenary named DeGroot who is putting together a team of his own.  Keller has no idea what they’re all after but knows that even if he figures it out, all his training may not be enough to keep Marie and her son alive.

J.D. Rhoades has created a fast paced action thriller.  A hero is only as good as the villain he is up against and DeGroot is one of the best (meaning he is one of the worst).  Safe and Sound rates 4 of 5 stars.

Safe and Sound Hardcover

Safe and Sound Kindle

Safe and Sound Mass Market Paperback

Rating:

“Death on the Nile” (2020) / Z-View

Death on the Nile (2020)

Director:  Kenneth Branagh

Writers:  Michael Green (screenplay) based on the novel by Agatha Christie

Starring: Kenneth Branagh, Tom Bateman, Annette Bening, Russell Brand, Armie Hammer, Gal Gadot, Ali Fazal, Dawn French, Rose Leslie, Emma Mackey, Sophie Okonedo, Jennifer Saunders and Leticia Wright.

Tagline:  The Funk don’t Quit.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Death on the Nile is a throwback film, and it should be since it is based on the Agatha Christie classic novel.  While traveling down the Nile in a huge riverboat, a newlywed bride is murdered.  Who would want to kill her is a mystery.   Other than the boat employees the only people on board are invited members of the wedding party.  Hercule Poirot will sort through the few clues and use his superior powers of deduction to bring the guests together in a locked room and identify the killer!

Branagh is excellent as Hercule Poirot.  He is supported by a wonderful cast.  Standouts include Gal Godot, Emma Mackey, Leticia Wright and Sophie Okonedo.  It’s fun to play along and try to come up with the murderer before Poirot announces him/her.  If you’ve read the book, be aware that there are some changes.  I also enjoyed that Death on the Nile shows Poirot before he became a detective and why he wears such an unusual mustache.

Death on the Nile was a fun trip and rates 3 of 5 stars.

Death on the Nile Blu-ray
Death on the Nile DVD
Death on the Nile 4K
Death on the Nile Prime Video

FMP: Frank Miller Presents – New Independent Publishing Company – New SIN CITY and RONIN Coming!

Frank Miller fans rejoice!  Frank Miller is starting a new publishing company called Frank Miller Presents.  Check out the cool logo above.  FMP plans two to four titles a year.  Among the first up are Sin City 1858 a western set in Miller’s mythical city and a tale that Miller has hinted at for years. Ronin Book Two will be the sequel to Miller’s futuristic tale of a reincarnated samurai warrior.  Sign me up now!

Miller will be joined by Dan DiDio (co-publisher at DC from 2010-2020) who will serve as publisher of FMP.   Silenn Thomas (CEO of Frank Miller Ink.) will serve as the Chief Operating Officer of FMP.

For full details check out The Hollywood Reporter‘s Frank Miller Launches Independent Publishing Company, New ‘Sin City, ‘Ronin’ Comics in the Works (Exclusive).

This is the best news I’ve heard in weeks.  I couldn’t be more excited about this.

AT THEIR OWN GAME by Frank Zafiro / Z-View

At Their Own Game by Frank Zafiro

Trade Paperback: ‎ 282 pages
Publisher: ‎ Code 4 Press

First sentence…

So far, I’ve been to jail three different ways.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Jake Stankovic should have known better.  After all, Jake was a cop.  He knew the trouble sleeping with another man’s wife could cause.  But Helen was worth the risk.  She was sexy, seductive and Jake was in over his head before he found out Helen was married to Kyle Faulkner, a hard-case detective from his precinct.  When Helen stops seeing Jake, divorces her husband and leaves town without a goodbye, Jake plans to move on with his life.  Detective Faulkner has other plans.

When Jake gets into an off-duty fight, Faulkner uses his pull to get the charges trumped up.  Jake’s forced to take a plea that costs him his job and jail time.

But that was a few years ago.  Since then Jake has run a two-man crew dealing in stolen goods.  Matt and Brent look to Jake for jobs and have agreed to his rules.  They work only with Jake.  They don’t deal in drugs. They don’t do anything on or off a job that would draw attention.  They keep a low profile.  Things have worked out well for the three… until recently.  With the country in an economic downturn, folks aren’t buying their goods.  Jake and his crew need money, and when a great opportunity falls into their lap, they agree to break their rules.  Just one time… for a big drug deal.

The drug deal goes sideways and the crew’s money is taken. Getting the cash back will mean going up against a motorcycle gang.  Then Detective Faulkner makes it clear he has Jake in his sights again.  Jake fears one of his crew might have turned rat.  Any one of these things would be trouble enough.  Could it get any worse?

And that’s when Helen returns with a simple favor…

At Their Own Game is one of my all-time favorite books.  It totally resonated with me.  Zafiro has created realistic characters and placed them in a story that moves.  The plot takes unexpected twists while still following the tropes expected in a classic noir.  The dialogue is realistic.  I flew through the story both wanting to see how it would end and not wanting it to end.  At Their Own Game is a novel that I will want to read again.  It’s that good.

At Their Own Game rates 5 of 5 stars.

At Their Own Game Trade Paperback

At Their Own Game Kindle

Rating:

DEAD DOGS by Manny Torres / Z-View

Dead Dogs by Manny Torres

Trade Paperback: ‎ 200 pages
Publisher: Moonshine Cove Publishing, LLC (August 14, 2020)

First sentence…

Phobos sat like a derelict Buddha on top of the broken newspaper machine, dusty, a little greasy, a little crusty around the edges. .

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Phobos and Chuck are buddies living on periphery of civilized society.  They’re the guys we see (or look away from) hanging outside the 7-11 or your local bank if the free coffee is better there.  They’ve chosen this life and move through it partying with friends when times are good and finding a way when times are lean.

Phobos and Chuck are in debt to a local crime boss wannabe.  Boots Tumbler’s empire includes dog fighting, drugs, stolen goods and he’s looking to expand.  Tumbler has Phobos and Chuck cleaning up after dog fights and sometimes the bodies they dispose aren’t canine.  When Tumbler orders Phobos and Chuck to drive a couple of Tumbler’s associates on a cross-country trip, it puts them on a collision course with hired killers looking for their own payback.

Torres takes us into a world few of us would want to live in, yet we know exists not far from where we sit.  Where other writers romanticize life below the poverty line, Torres has us experience it without rose colored glasses.  We see, smell and feel what it means to be Phobos and Chuck.  Neither are heroes in the traditional sense, but we pull for them because they come across as real human beings.  Which, perhaps surprisingly, makes the crazy characters they meet more believable.

I wouldn’t want to live the life of Phobos or Chuck, but I enjoyed riding along with them in the Great White.  Torres has created (or perhaps just expertly described) a world where larger than life personalities look to get ahead no matter the cost to others, while some folks just look to get by.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Phobos and Chuck have future adventures (or we learn about some in their past).  El Alacran is ripe for a tale or two as well!

Dead Dogs rates 4 of 5 stars.

Dead Dogs Trade Paperback

Dead Dogs Kindle

Rating:

THE BIG BLOWDOWN by George P. Pelecanos / Z-View

The Big Blowdown by George P. Pelecanos

Trade Paperback: ‎ 314 pages
Publisher: ‎ Minotaur Books; First Edition (first (September 24, 1999)

First sentence…

Pete Karras dreamed.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Peter Karras, Joe Recevo, Jimmy Boyle and Perry Angelos are four kids growing up together in Washington, D.C. in the 1930s.  Their lives will separate and then come back together in ways none of them could imagine.  Boyle will become a cop and Angelos an accountant.  Karras and Recevo will become collectors for a loan shark named Burke.

When Burke becomes upset with Karras’ disrespectful attitude and unwillingness to come down hard on some families struggling to repay their high interest loans, Burke orders Recevo to betray Karras.  Recevo sets up his childhood friend and lures him into an alley where another of Burke’s goons is waiting with a baseball bat.  Karras is badly beaten and left to survive or not.

Karras, Recevo and Burke along with Jimmy Boyle and Perry Angelos will cross paths again in bloody confrontation that will leave many of them dead.  Pelecanos creates a story that has layers and substance.  None of his characters are without flaws.  They come across as real people.  The “good” guys don’t always win or survive.  If you’ve read other of Pelecanos’ novels you may recognize some characters which adds to the realism of the universe he’s created.

The Big Blowdown is another winner from George P. Pelecanos.  It rates 4 of 5 stars.

The Big Blowdown Hardcover
The Big Blowdown Trade Paperback

Rating:

ICE STATION by Matthew J. Reilly / Z-View

Ice Station by Matthew Reilly

Hardcover: ‎ 390 pages
Publisher: St. Martins Press (September 1, 1999)

First sentence…

It had been three hours since they had lost radio contact with the two divers.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

When a team of American scientists at a remote Antarctic ice station send a radio message that they have discovered a metal ship buried deep in the ice, the race is on.  Military units from several countries are quickly dispatched to claim the discovery.  Lieutenant Shane Schofield and his small team of marines are the US’ closest squad so they are sent to secure the discovery at all costs until reinforcements arrive.

When they arrive at the ice station they discover the three divers who went down to the ship are missing. To make matters worse, a hostile military force is quickly approaching.  Soon Schofield and his team are fighting against military units from two countries, unknown creatures from below and the possibility of a traitor on their team!

If you’re a fan of non-stop action that would tire Indiana Jones, then Ice Station is for you.  Once Reilly gets the ball rolling (and he does quickly), the action never lets up.  Reilly puts in his characters in crazy situations and they survive by skill, wit or luck… that is, if they survive.

I kid you not when I say after reading a Matthew Reilly book, you’ll feel like you’ve been put through the ringer.  But if you’re a fan of non-stop over-the-top action (and from time to time I am), then you cannot go wrong with Ice Station.  It earns 5 of 5 stars.

Ice Station Hardcover

Ice Station Paperback

Ice Station Kindle

Ice Station Mass Market Paperback

Rating:

JACK REACHER: NO PLAN B by Lee Child and Andrew Child is Coming!

Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novel are already best seller and with the popularity of the Reacher television series, they should sell even more.  We’ll find out this October 25th, when No Plan B, the new Jack Reacher novel premieres.

The gripping new Jack Reacher thriller from the #1 New York Times bestselling authors Lee Child and Andrew Child. The plan: It’s coming Fall 2022. No Plan B.

In Gerrardsville, Colorado, two witnesses to the same tragedy give two different accounts. One guy sees a woman throw herself in front of a bus in what authorities will call a suicide. The other witness is Jack Reacher. And he sees what actually happened: A man in a gray hoodie and jeans, moving like a shadow, pushed the victim to her death—before swiftly grabbing the dead woman’s purse and strolling away.

Reacher follows the killer on foot, not knowing that he is part of something much bigger and far-reaching . . . a secret conspiracy with many moving parts, with powerful people on the take, all involved in an undertaking that leaves no room for error. If any step is compromised, the threat will have to be quickly and quietly and permanently removed.

Because when the threat is Reacher, there is No Plan B….