Saturday, January 19, 2013

My Fourth Visit to Baker Street

I'm pleased to announce the release of SHERLOCK HOLMES CONSULTING DETECTIVE Volume 4, which includes work by writers I.A. Watson, Andrew Salmon, Bradley H. Sinor, Bill Thinnes, and my story, "The Problem of the Coincidental Glance." Here's the official press release and the cover!


Airship 27 Productions proudly announces the release of the fourth volume in its most successful anthology series to date; SHERLOCK HOLMES – CONSULTING DETECTIVE.  “These are the books our fans keeping demanding more of,” reported Ron Fortier, Managing Editor of Airship 27.  “Readers around the world just can’t seem to get enough of the Great Detective.  Considering the popularity of shows such as SHERLOCK on BBC and ELEMENTARY on NBC, it’s clearly obvious that the crime solving team of Holmes and Dr. Watson are still as popular as ever.”

The time and place, Victorian England on the cusp of a new century where the marvels of science will spur the Industrial Revolution to new heights of cultural wonder. And yet amidst this societal upheaval, the dark elements of human kind continue to worm their way through the streets of London and its surrounding countryside.  Murder and mayhem remain and thus the work of Sherlock Holmes continues; his powers of deductive reasoning the crucial bulwark to stem this tide of villainy.

Here are five new adventures of Holmes and Dr.Watson written in the traditional style of his creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  Writers I.A. Watson, Aaron Smith, Bradley H. Sinor, Bill Thinnes and Andrew Salmon deliver a quintet of truly memorable cases to challenge the famous crime fighting duo.  From the murder of a man who collects clockwork automatons to the theft of a valued Japanese sword, our heroes are once again called into action confronting a diverse set of mysteries guaranteed to entice the world’s greatest Consulting Detective.

Fortier relishes the debut of this new volume considering the overwhelming acclaim of the first three in the series.  “Amongst those books were four Pulp Factory Award winners,” he recalls happily.  “Two for Best Pulp Short Story of the Year, one for Best Pulp Cover and another for Best Interior Artwork.  The literary and artistic bars for this series have been set extremely high and we would have it no other way.”

The Pulp Factory Awards denoting the best pulp story and art from the previous year are voted on by the members of the Pulp Factory Yahoo Group and presented to the winners each year at the Windy City Paper & Pulp Show.

Sporting a cover by Chad Hardin with interior illustrations and design by Rob Davis, the
fourth volume in this bestselling series also features a fascinating essay, “The Mystery of
Mr. Holmes,” by I.A. Watson.  Here is grand adventure as Sherlock Homes fans around
the world have come to expect from Airship 27 Productions.


Now Available at Create Space – (
Then at Indy Planet (

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Here There Be Marsh-kins!

Today I'm doing something I've never done before on this blog. I'm reviewing a comic book. The reason I don't do this more often is very simple: I don't read many of them anymore. I grew up reading comics. I loved them. For much of my childhood, my dream was to draw or write them someday. I have, in fact, done some work writing comics (though not drawing them, as my artistic skills have atrophied to rust-covered clumsiness after many years without practice). I'll always love the medium of comics, but the entertainment form and its industry, once so wonderful, has fallen far in recent years. Readership has shrunk to a portion of what it used to be, the great old characters are often written in mangled, off-model versions that bear little resemblance to what made them great to begin with, and it's almost impossible to get a complete story in one issue anymore so that it often feels like buying a comic book is like paying for a piece of a puzzle instead of a whole experience in story and art. I still think of comics as a great art form, but any time I spend reading them now usually involves reprints of older material that was impossible to find when I was younger. In many ways, it breaks my heart to see what's become of one of my favorite forms of storytelling.

But then, once in a while, something comes along that makes me feel like comics used to make me feel: entertained, thrilled, nostalgic, appreciative of both art and storyline, and happy that I spent the $3.99 it costs for a comic book nowadays (that part of it makes me feel old! They were 65 cents when I got my first one!).

When I heard that IDW Publishing, one of the better of the current comic book companies, had announced MARS ATTACKS POPEYE! I burst out laughing. What an awesome idea for a crossover! Brilliant.

Everyone knows who Popeye is (or should), so I won't explain that here. For those who aren't familiar with Mars Attacks, it was a series of luridly illustrated trading cards, released in 1962, that told the story of Martians invading Earth. The images on the cards were bizarre, violent, often shocking. Mars Attacks was adapted into a movie, directed by Tim Burton, in 1993.

Anyway, hearing of the upcoming MARS ATTACKS POPEYE comic book, I decided right then and there that I'd have to read it when it came out. It was too outrageously ridiculous an idea to ignore. And when I heard who would be creating it, I was even more interested. I was familiar with writer Martin Powell because of his work on many pulp-related characters and concepts. Terry Beatty, the artist, I knew from his 1980s comic book series Ms. Tree, among other things.

So, with the background done with, I can get to the meat of this review. I'll start with one simple statement:

This was as close as you'll ever find to a perfect comic book.

Popeye and his entire cast, including familiar characters like Olive Oyl, Wimpy, Eugene the Jeep, Alice the Goon, The Sea Hag, and Poopdeck Pappy, are portrayed just as you'd expect them to be. These are the classic comic strip and cartoon characters brought back in a way that is a load of fun whether you've been a fan of Popeye for decades or are just discovering him now. This is very much a Popeye story that includes the Mars Attacks martians. The story moves quickly, has a few moments and bits of dialogue that will make you laugh out loud, and contains the action you'd expect to see in a classic Popeye cartoon. Regarding the dialogue I just mentioned, Martin Powell does a wonderful job of making Popeye talk like he always has (Looky what we got! The Marsh-kins is gonna get th' tar whupped outta dem! I sez they is!). My only complaint about the story is that I sincerely wish it was longer. The fun was over too soon.

As for the art, Terry Beatty demonstrates his adaptability as a cartoonist by depicting Popeye and cast perfectly, making them look like they'd just walked out of one of EC Segar's classic comic strips. He also adapts the Mars Attacks martians in such a way that they remain recognizable as the aliens created by Wally Wood, Bob Powell, and Norman Saunders, but also seem to blend seamlessly into the style of Popeye's world. To mesh two very different styles of art into one story and make it work is an impressive accomplishment and Mr. Beatty deserves a lot of credit for that.
To rave about the art some more, not only do the characters look the way I hoped they would, but the panel layouts and pacing of the story tell the tale in basic, old-fashioned comic book style without trying to rely on any unnecessary tricks. These are simple 4 to 5 panels pages until the one glorious and perfectly timed double-page spread that comes out of nowhere and accomplishes just what I assume it was trying
 to do.
I was also impressed by the book's coloring and lettering, both of which are also the work of Terry Beatty. The color, unlike the overly flashy, computer-generated glare you find in many modern comics, is old-fashioned here and looks like it would fit in on any comics-bearing newsstand of the last 70 years. In other words, this comic book looks like a comic book, not like it's trying to masquerade as something else. And the lettering too is appropriate for the nostalgic style of the story.

As I said when I began this review, it's very rare that a newly released comic book can make me feel any of the magic that the comics medium is capable of in its best moments. But there are exceptions. Today I found one of those exceptions. Well blow me down, that was a good read!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Going Holmes Again

I spent much of my day today working on my next Sherlock Holmes story. This will be my fifth tale of the great detective. I'm a decent amount of the way into it, but still have a while to go.

When I was done for the day, it hit me! The feeling I get at some point in writing each new Holmes story. There are moments in the process when I suddenly feel like one of the luckiest writers in the world. How many writers can say they've had a chance to write their absolute favorite character in the world and see that work published? I consider myself very fortunate to have had that opportunity.

Back in 2008, I was thinking about trying to get into the business of writing. I was looking around online and came across an ad that said, "Pulp writers wanted."  I didn't know too much about pulp back then, just that it was a style of fiction, particularly in magazines, that was a popular form of entertainment in the first half of the twentieth century. Of course I'd heard of the major pulp characters like The Shadow and Doc Savage, but that was mostly because I'd read their later incarnations in comic books. Looking back to those times, I'm amazed at what a pulp virgin I was! I knew Conan also from the comics, but hadn't yet read Robert E. Howard's other characters like Kull and Solomon Kane. I had yet to discover one of my now favorite writers, the unmistakably unique HP Lovecraft. There was so much material that I know love that I hadn't yet encountered then. It seems longer, in many ways, than 5 years ago.

But one character who I already knew very well and who is at least related to the pulp world if not, in some opinions, purely a part of it, was Sherlock Holmes. Holmes had been my favorite character for years. I'd first read his adventures as a boy of maybe 9 or 10. I've read all of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Holmes mysteries at least once and many of them multiple times. I've seen as many Holmes movies and TV series as I've been able to find, enjoying the work of actors like Arthur Wontner, Basil Rathbone, Ronald Howard, Peter Cushing, Nicol Williamson, Christopher Plummer, Jeremy Brett, and now Benedict Cumberbatch in the role.

Yes, Holmes has been with me for a long time, but I never thought I'd get a chance to really write him and see that work published.

So I responded to that ad, fully expecting to be told to get lost, considering my lack of writing experience at the time. But, to my surprise and delight, Ron Fortier, editor for Airship 27 Productions, answered my email and asked me for a short writing sample. I came up with something quick (it involved a vampire punching Adolph Hitler!) and sent it in. He liked it! I was stunned when Ron got back to me and told me he wanted me to write for his company! And I only got more excited when I realized why his name sounded so familiar. Ron had written some of the Green Hornet comics I'd enjoyed as a kid. Of course, I no longer think of Ron as "The Green Hornet Writer." Yes, that was great work and I'll always be happy I read it, but Ron is now a good friend and a man who's given me more encouragement and great advice over the years than anyone else I know. He's much more to me than the guy who wrote the Green Hornet!  Thanks, Ron!

So I was in with Airship 27 and ready to get started. Then the almost unthinkable (in a good way) happened. Ron asked if I'd be interested in contributing to a Sherlock Holmes anthology they were planning. How could I possibly say no? My first writing assignment fulfilled a childhood dream! It doesn't get any better than that!

So now we're in 2013 and I've had more than one Holmes story published. There was "The Massachusetts Affair" in SHERLOCK HOLMES CONSULTING DETECTIVE Volume 1; two stories: "The Adventure of the Injured Inspector" and "The Adventure of the Mummy's Rib" in SHERLOCK HOLMES CONSULTING DETECTIVE Volume 3; and the novel SEASON OF MADNESS in which I got to do a full story starring Dr. John Watson, Holmes' friend and assistant and quite possibly my second favorite fictional character!

And now, very soon, my fourth Holmes story will be available. I won't reveal the title of it here, but you can be sure I'll blog about it when it's available. So I thought it was time to start working on the next one. It won't end there either, because I have ideas for at least two more after that.

In closing tonight's blog entry, I'd like to thank Ron Fortier again for allowing me to do everything I've done when it comes to writing Sherlock Holmes. I also want to sincerely thank Rob Davis, who illustrated all my Holmes stories; Mark Maddox, Brian McCulloch, and Shane Evans, who worked on the covers; Pedro Cruz, who illustrated the Dr. Watson novel; and the other writers whose work was included in those books.

Finally, here are the covers from the books I just mentioned, along with Amazon links for anyone who hasn't read them yet!