Sensor Sweep: Spears of Clontarf, Mech, Max Brand, Melee, Dresden Files

Monday , 3, June 2019 7 Comments

Robert E. Howard (Jeffro Johnson): This is a great story, a fascinating piece.

In the first place, it shows us up close the sort of peoples, Christian and pagan, that produced the bedrock of the myth and legends that would define our base concepts of fantasy and heroism. But it also presents the notion that we are descended from people that were every bit as heroic as Conan and Solomon Kane. And being written by Robert E. Howard, you can’t help but end up being persuaded!

So many good lines here:

My lords, it may be God’s will I fall in the first onset– but the scars of slavery burn deep in my back this night, and may the dogs eat my bones if I am backward when the spears are splintering.


Fiction (Rawle Nyanzi): It’s finally here. The project that myself, Brian Niemeier, and Bradford C. Walker set out to complete is under way. Three mech books — two currently released, one in pre-orders — can finally be purchased on Amazon. One even has a sequel out. These stories are very different from one another. Xseed is military sci-fi in the Gundam mold, very grounded in realism; Reavers is “Christian knights in space,” strongly modeled off of both chivalric romances and classic Star Wars. My own book is based strongly on Japanese-style superhero shows, specifically Power Rangers, while also taking place in an alternate history.




Authors (DMR Books): Frederick Faust, better known to millions of fans over the last hundred years as “Max Brand,” was born on this date in 1892. Awhile back, I wrote a post on H. Bedford-Jones where I called him “King of the Pulps.” I may need to change my mind on that one. I was following the opinion of Darrell C. Richardson–whose opinions and erudition I esteem greatly–in that instance. I think I’ll have to belatedly disagree with Darrell this time.

While Bedford-Jones is calculated to have written about twenty-five million words for the pulps in his career, Faust wrote at least that many in a shorter career–Faust died five years before Bedford-Jones, almost to the day. Both men wrote in various genres, but Faust appears to have made better money doing so.


Fiction (HiLo Brow): Ernest Hemingway‘s WWI adventure A Farewell to Arms. A hardboiled account — by a disillusioned American, Frederic Henry, serving as a paramedic in the ambulance corps of the Italian Army — of the horrors of WWI. “I was always embarrassed by the words sacredglorious, and sacrifice and the expression in vain,” Henry recounts. “I had seen nothing sacred, and the things that were glorious had no glory and the sacrifices were like the stockyards at Chicago if nothing was done with the meat except to bury it…” Our narrator is introduced to Catherine Barkley, an English nurse, whom he indifferently attempts to seduce; he gets to know Catherine better as he recuperates under her care, after being wounded on the Italian front; he is sent back to the front — leaving a pregnant Catherine behind in Milan.




Fiction (Eldtrich Paths): Grave Peril is the third book of the Dresden Files. I had no major problems with the first two books in the series, but I can see why many readers say the series picks up with this book. A lot happens. Harry Dresden has to deal with more characters, more problems, and more enemies are. The author really puts Harry through the grinder with this one, making it a great chapter in the series.


Fiction (DMR Books): The second installment in the serialized version of Tros of Samothrace is titled “The Enemy of Romeand consists of what would become chapters 15 – 26 of the novel published in 1934. Set in the late summer/early fall of the year 55 B.C., this story tells of the aftermath of Julius Caesar’s first invasion of Britain and was first published in the April 10, 1925 issue of Adventure magazine.

Tros has won his first skirmish with Caesar and Rome: he has Caesar’s ship, his pay chests, his seal of office and all of his correspondence (not just military intelligence but much of his foe’s schemes and ongoing plans).



History (Don Herron): Recently I read A Splendid Savage: The Restless Life of Frederick Russell

Burnham by Steve Kemper. Here’s a paragraph from the book:

Apaches inspired terror for good reason. They were as harsh and pitiless as the landscape they roamed. For non-Apaches, the worst imaginable fate was to be taken alive by them. Captured children and young women were occasionally integrated into the tribe, but men were doomed to torments. Captives were often turned over to Apache women whose male relatives had recently been killed. 




Fiction (Black Gate): The Wrath of Fantomas is a book I approached with extreme prejudice. It’s a graphic novel that seeks to present a new version of Pierre Souvestre and Marcel Allain’s Fantomas series, which proved so successful when it was introduced a scant 108 years ago. As a rule, I dislike the concept of rebooting a series.

When first discovering a book series as a kid, continuity was key. It made a property more meaningful if there were numerous volumes to find and devour. Scouring used bookstores for dogeared copies of the missing pieces in the narrative puzzle made such books far more valuable to me.


Fiction (Hillbilly Highway): You can imagine my interest then, when I discovered that an Appendix N and Weird Tales stalwart, Manly Wade Wellman, wrote an entire series of short stories very much rooted in the lore of my people.  About John.  At least that’s the only way his name is given in the stories.  He is more usually known as John the Balladeer or Silver John.  He may also be a parallel universe Johnny Cash.  Or maybe John the Baptist.  Or maybe both.


Games (Jeffro Johnson): This game is so rad.

I get it out to show it to people, as if to just explain what it is and show off the components…. But then, if you have time to explain it, you pretty much have time to play it. And once you play it, you gotta play it again!

The sample character cards from the recent Fantasy Trip “Monster” Set make this even easier. Just pick a card. Pick one at random, even. Man, it’s just so easy.


Games and Popular Culture (Wasteland and Sky): I’m unconvinced there is a Millennial who knows what an actual homage is. They should, but for some reason have discarded this definition from their minds. A “homage” is clearly not swiping passages of another writer’s work and not transforming it to a new form, such as comedy or parody, or attributing the original when doing so. But that aside there is a another quote that gives the game away.


Cinema (Sacnoth’s Scriptorium): So, the organizers of Tolkien Day in Kalamazoo arranged for a special showing of the new TOLKIEN biopic to a room full of Tolkien scholars. We were on the whole a skeptical bunch as to whether the filmmakers cd pull it off, but willing to see how it had come out.

The first thing that struck me was the trees. Tolkien famously said you can’t get much about trees into a play, one reason he considered drama inferior to fiction, but the filmmakers showed this is not necessarily the case for film.


Fiction (Classic Mysteries): I’m pretty sure that readers who enjoy some of the great classics of science fiction are already familiar with the name of Fredric Brown. I have particularly fond memories of several of his SF classics, such as Martians, Go Home. But I’m also fond of Brown as a mystery author. And, as a fan of Lewis Carroll, and the Alice in Wonderland books in general, I generally try to re-read one of my favorite Fredric Brown mysteries, Night of the Jabberwock, every few years. It’s funny, medium-to-hard-boiled, and I think its plot is both unique and brilliant. It’s not always available in the marketplace, but – as of May, 2019 – it looks like it’s out there at least as an e-book. So here’s what I had to say about Night of the Jabberwock when I reviewed it on the Classic Mysteries podcast several years ago. I’ve updated the information about the book’s availability, but otherwise it’s pretty much as I first wrote and recorded it.

Pulp Science Fiction (SF Magazine): The Debt by E. Mayne Hull is the third of her ‘Artur Blord’ series, and sees the return of the alien Skal from the previous story. This one starts with Blord coming upon a ravaged spaceship, where all the men are dead and there is only one hidden survivor, Ellen Reith. All the other women have been taken by the Skal’s henchmen to the Castle of Pleasure. Blord realises that they will soon deduce from the manifest that Reith is missing, and that they will return for her. He calls his office to organise a cover up.


Fiction(Paperback Warrior): Author Paul Bishop is a 35-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department. Receiving “Detective of the Year” accolades twice, Bishop starred as the lead interrogator on the ABC reality show “Take the Money and Run” developed by marquee name producer Jerry Bruckheimer. Along with his 15 published works, Bishop also is the writer and editor of the essential reference work “52 Weeks 52 Western Novels – A Guide to Six-Gun Favorites and New Discoveries”.

  • Salvatore Parrino says:

    Hi there,

    I was wondering if you could recommend a good fiction novel about the Crusades where, gasp, the Crusaders are portrayed as the good guys.


    -Sal Parrino

    • Morgan says:

      Robert E. Howard Crusader stories in the collections SOWERS OF THE THUNDER and THE ROAD OF AZRAEL. F. van Wyck Mason’s SILVER LEOPARD is set in the First Crusade and totally unapologetic. Get Harold Lamb’s SWORDS FROM THE WEST (U. of Nebraska Bison Books). That collection is killer. Lots of Crusader stories contained therein.

    • Cromagnon Man says:

      Graham Shelby’s crusader novels are terrfic reads and commendably even handed. They don’t shy away from addressing the divisions between the competing warlords but don’t demonise the entire enterprise. And THE KINGS OF VAIN INTENT has a far more laudatory depiction of Richard 1 than one would likely find published today. Would heartily recommend this book, the prequel KNIGHTS OF DARK RENOWN, and the standalone novel THE EDGE OF THE BLADE.

      Also recommend Alfred Duggan’s KNIGHT WITH ARMOUR and COUNT BOHEMOND.

      • andy bow says:

        “Angels In Iron” by Nicholas Prata is an exciting, action-packed telling of the defense of the 2 islands of Malta (just south of Sicily) by the Hospitaller Knights in 1565. The Turks were planning on using Malta as a jumping-off point to conquer Sicily, then on to Rome and Italy, and finally into central Europe itself. The Knights were drastically outnumbered, which meant that they had to fight harder and smarter than the invading Turks, which was no small feat.

  • JD Cowan says:

    Thank you for the link! Great selection, as usual.

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