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I’ve written before about cult-film director Budd Boetticher and the seven films he made with Randolph Scott that are universally recognized as some of the greatest westerns ever made. His film “Comanche Station” is in my opinion the best of the bunch, and was the inspiration for my novel “The Big Shut Down.” Before he helmed the Scott westerns he had worked many years at several studios on low budget pictures, until securing a two-year, nine-picture deal with Universal-International. Among the films he made for UI were “The Man from the Alamo” starring Glenn Ford, and “Wings of the Hawk,” starring Van Heflin and Julia Adams.

“Wings of the Hawk” is noteworthy for being only the second film to be shot in 3-D. Made just a few years before the Randolph Scott films you can see glimmers of the thematic elements that would later become the hallmarks of his best work: the idea that there are “some things a man can’t ride around;” that men must face the truth about who they are and what they would and would not do; that who you are is determined by the choices you make. Boetticher’s heroes are all men of stature. “Wings of the Hawk” shows Boetticher’s ideas still in their gestation period before coming to full flower just a few yeas later.

You can read my full review of “Wings of the Hawk” on the Cinema Retro website.

Vampire Siege at Rio Muerto by [John M. Whalen]

In my Cinema Retro review of CURSE OF THE UNDEAD, which was the first weird western movie about a vampire in the Old West, I noted that so far no one has given us the kind of weird western vampire movie we are all waiting for.

There’s one coming up that could have possibilities. Chloe Zhao, director of NOMADLAND, has been hired to write and direct a Dracula movie set in the Old West. It will also have some sci-fi elements in it. Sounds promising except Chloe intends to focus on portraying the Blood Sucker as one of society’s poor unfortunate outsiders. The outsider is one of the consistent themes in her work.

Not the Dracula I know. Certainly not like Kord Manion, the evil vamp in my VAMPIRE SIEGE AT RIO MUERTO. Why keep glamorizing or sympathizing with these evil fiends? Why not make a movie about a hired gun who makes a living blasting these monsters to kingdom come? No mercy. Get with it, Hollywood.

I’ve got a new movie review up today on Cinema Retro. TAZA, SON OF COCHISE, starring that great Native American actor Rock Hudson in the title role. This was one of those movies that aimed to show American Indians in a favorable light, yet somehow, could not manage to hire one Native American to play any of the major roles. You can read the review by clicking here.

Check out my review of CURSE OF THE UNDEAD over on Cinema Retro, in which I name check some of the usual suspects, including myself in a shameless self promotion.

Gal Gadot as Diana flipping her lasso of truth in Wonder Woman 1984, on a blue, red, and purple background

Saw Wonder Woman 1984 on HBO-Max. It’s a long two and a half hour slog through a plot built around the hardly original idea: BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR. The weirdest part of the movie is how Steve Trevor makes a comeback after being dead sixty years, after Diana Prince comes in contact with a magic wishing stone and wishes Steve was still around. Low and behold she bumps into a stranger who suddenly morphs into Steve.

I presume Steve took possession of the stranger’s body and tried to take up where he and Diana left off after WW I. Question: What became of the stranger originally in that body? Did Steve kill him? Did he die of COVID-19? How moral is it for a superhero’s boyfriend to do away with the soul of a stranger just to make her wish come true? Or am I going to deep?

Best part of the film came after the opening where little Diana got ripped off at Wonder Woman Olympics, and the grown up Wonder Woman foils a robbery at a rare gems store. The entire action sequence was very well done, and for me it struck a nostalgic chord. It was filmed at the now abandoned Landmark Mall in Alexandria, Va.

In my younger years, it’s the mall where I ate the best steak and cheese sandwiches, outside of Philadelphia. My kids were mall rats at Landmark. It shut down years ago, going the way of many of the retail malls in the U.S. It’s been closed probably about 10 years now, slowly crumbling into dust. But director Pattie Jenkins had it refurbished to look like new.

I felt twinge of melancholy seeing it the way it used to be. In it’s final years, before Macy’s closed, I used to take my mother there after her heart attack and walk around with her just to give her some exercise. She’d would have cheered as WW kicked the jewel thieves asses.

In honor of the season, once again, here is a re-post of an excerpt from “Hunting Monsters Is My Business.”  After the harrowing climax that took place in “Vampire Siege at Rio Muerto,” Mordecai Slate and the survivors of that battle come upon a strange, almost mystical scene out on The Camino Real.  Happy Holidays, everyone. May the coming year bring peace and healing.

* * * * *

Mordecai Slate, Doc Washburn, and the Reverend Powell rode on through the snow, the memory of what had occurred in Rio Muerto still blazing in their minds. The thick New Mexican snowflakes stung Slate’s cheek as he kept Dutch, his buckskin horse, set on course due north on the Camino Real. The doctor and the reverend followed in the wagon.

An hour later — the snow heavier, visibility almost zero — a dark shape loomed up ahead. As they approached, Slate saw it was a small lean-to built on the side of the road–a dilapidated relay station. There was someone inside. Two small figures huddled together, hidden in the dark interior of the lean to. They were behind a feed trough filled with straw. Two homeless Mexicans caught in the storm. Slate saw a baby wrapped in a blanket, lying in the straw.

He dismounted and the other two men climbed down from the wagon. Slate saw that the Mexicans, a man and a woman, were very young, and the baby was newborn.

Slate and his companions stared down at them in silence. As poor and desperate as they were, there was something about them. Some kind of peaceful feeling seemed to surround the lean-to. After all that they, Slate and the others, had experienced in Rio Muerto, it was like a soothing balm that healed.

Slate took some of the gold coins Don Pedro had given him for hunting down Kord Manion and dropped them in the woman’s lap. Doc Washburn opened his bag and examined the child. He gave the woman some medicine for colic.

Reverend Powell stood over them, making a sign of the cross. The wind and snow howled mercilessly outside all around them.

Dylan and others selling the rights to their music.

Movie studios streaming feature films same time they are released to theaters.

Is it all because of COVID or is the real reason just pure and simple GREED! Let’s see who else sells out.

David Crosby says he’s got a mortgage to pay and he can’t perform in concerts because of COVID. Well, it’s not going to last forever. Do you really want Long Time Gone used in a toilet paper commercial? We are all being digitized, indexed, briefed, debriefed and numbered. We are confined to living in The Village.

No 2 is just a flunky. Who is No. 1?

Christmas is coming and though we’re all hunkered down in our homes, trying to avoid the Great Killer Pandemic, isn’t it great to know that you can still get some serious Christmas shopping done without even leaving the house? Cyber shopping! That’s right! Amazon has all my books available in either Kindle or paperback. Some of the best in weird western, space western, sci-fi noir and sword and sorcery. These books have been very well received over the last couple of years by fans and critics alike. They manage to stay popular, proving that the American reading public knows a good story when it reads it.

Let’s start with THE BIG SHUTDOWN, the story of Jack Brand, a 24th century Army Ranger searching the desolate terrain of Tulon, a dying planet, for his sister, who was kidnapped by a gang of Nomads, the outlaw

The Big Shutdown by [John Whalen]

gangs that now populate the planet as it is being forced into obsolescence by the big Energy companies of Earth who know longer need the oil the planet provided. I know it’s a run-on sentence, but the book itself is one breathless run-on sentence, as the reader follows Brand on his harrowing adventures in the Tulon desert, deep in the Inland Sea, busted oil towns where the remnants of civilization are crumbling, and a domed city run by space gangsters. Despite all the frenetic activity Brand manages to meet Christy Jones, a woman as adventurous as she is beautiful. The Midwest Book Review said The Big Shutdown is “an exciting adventure not to be missed.” Amazing Stories Magazine said it has “a good story and a strong character to keep you wanting more.”

VAMPIRE SIEGE AT RIO MUERTO. One of the novels that set the pace early for the biggest trend in pulp fiction–the Weird Western. Mordecai Slate, a taciturn, no-nonsense bounty hunter who specializes in hunting

Vampire Siege at Rio Muerto by [John M. Whalen]

down a particularly peculiar type of outlaw– the kind that only come out at night. The kind that grow hair all over their bodies when the moon is full and bright, or that find the only way to slake their thirst is by sinking their fangs into your jugular. In this novel, Slate is hired to capture a vampire outlaw alive and bring him back to a man whose daughter the evil fiend ravished. The conclusion rivals THE WILD BUNCH in its sheer ferocity as Slate and a rag tag group of ghost town dwellers battle 100 vampire night riders. Author James Reasoner said: “Whalen has created a fine protagonist in Mordecai Slate.” Blackgate Magazine said: “. . .an interesting plot with plenty of twists and action to keep your attention.” “It’s a good monster action book.” Amazing Stories Magazine.

HUNTING MONSTERS IS MY BUSINESS. This collection of stories featuring Mordecai Slate first appeared in various western and horror publications over several years. Put together in one volume, the tales follow Slate as he roams from the Yukon down to Mexico and even travels into the future in an amazing Steampunk

Hunting Monsters Is My Business: The Mordecai Slate Stories by [John Whalen]

adventure. Critics raved when this volume appeared. The Pulp Chronicler said: “As far as I’m concerned there are three names at the top of the weird western pile . . .Robert E. Howard, Joe Lonsdale, and Heath Lowrance. Well, know its time to add another name to the list– John Whalen. . . .” Blood Moon Rising magazine said: “Whalen’s writing keeps you enthralled in the story and makes you want to know more about the mystery man Mordecai Slate.” Skelos Magazine: “I thinnk Robert E. Howard would have enjoyed these stories.”

THIS RAY GUN FOR HIRE. Who is Frank Carson? A paid assassin? A killer for hire? Or just a tough trouble shooter for rent? Hero or villain? You decide. Some say he’s the

This Ray Gun for Hire . . . and Other Tales by [John Whalen]

kind of guy you call for a job so dirty or so dangerous nobody else will touch it. He knows danger and what can happen to people in the noir world of Tulon in the 22nd Century. There’s nobody tougher or smarter. Frank Carson.

In addition to the five sci-fi noir stories featuring Frank Carson, this collection includes four tales about some of the other characters who lived in the Tulon universe Whalen first created for the novel, THE BIG SHUTDOWN. There’s plenty of space opera action and sci-fi noir intrigue in THIS RAY GUN FOR HIRE …AND OTHER TALES. Amazing Stories Magazine said: “If Quentn Tarantino wrote western space opera, you would end up with something like . . . This Ray Gun for Hire . . . and other tales.”

TRAGON OF RAMURA. My sword and sorcery masterpiece, if I may say so.

A book that’s been compared to the works of Robert E. Howard and Edgar Rice Burroughs. A dream starts Tragon of Ramura and Yusef Ahmed on a search for an amulet said to be the source of the most powerful magic in the universe, Their search leads them to the lost city of Caiphar and the beautiful and mysterious Sai-Ul-San, high priestess of the cult of Zoth-Amin. Tragon finds the Crimson Eye of Caiphar, but the city holds dark secrets of an evil a thousand years old that threaten to unleash a demon intent on destroying the world. Can Tragon defeat the ancient forces that rule Caiphar, or will he remain trapped forever in the Tower of Lost Souls? Author James Reasoner dubbed TRAGON OF RAMURA “an honorary front porch book”– recommending it if you’re a fan or sword and sorcery action.” Amazing Stories said: “. . . a swashbuckling story set in a jungle with mythological elements of epic proportions.”

There you are, folks. Five excellent ways to spend your Christmas money this year. Order one or more for yourself and some for your friends. Show them you care enough to send the very best. HAPPY CHRISTMAS!


Happy Thanksgiving, ladies and gentlemen. Hope you’re all making the best of the first Pandemic Turkey Day. It’s been a rough year. Some of us may have had it rougher than others and given everything that happened in 2020 it might be hard to feel the need to give thanks. But there are some things we can be grateful for. For me, one of those things is the fact that once on this planet there lived a man who has become something of an urban legend. A jazz musician. A trumpet player to be exact.

You’ve heard of Miles Davis, and Maynard Ferguson. But, man, they just don’t compare to Gabe Johnson, a man who blew a “horn full of helium.” A cat so in tune with something that none of us can ever touch. It was like he was a being from some other world. He said when he got the tempo right and found the right combination of notes he went “out there.” (“Man, that’s a place to go!”)

Some people say he never existed. That he’s a myth. The fact is he never made any recordings. There are no tapes. He believed an artist should work and live in the moment. His music was written on the wind. That’s the way he wanted it. They made a TV show about him once, years after he disappeared, but they got the story all wrong. This writer, Stirling Silliphant, tried to make him out to be some kind of jealous neurotic. A modern day Bluebeard. But nothing was further from the truth. Gabe was too far out, in touch with too many of the Good Spirits, to be caught up in something like jealousy. He lived his own life, his own way. He was never married, never had any kids. One day after a gig in California he just sort of walked off and was never heard from again. Just disappeared like a puff of smoke.

The closest thing to any memento of his life and art is this video recording of the TV show they did on him. Despite the bad rap they hung on him about trying to kill his wife, the scene of Gabe on the bandstand at the Carousel Club captures in some small measure, the kind of hypnotic spell he cast with his music. The tune he plays is said to be a close approximation of what one of the producers of the show remembered hearing him play.

So here in the midst of Turkey Day 2020, in the crowning peak of the COVID-19 Pandemic, I give thanks for Gabe Johnson

US Election: Twitter hides Trump tweet about 'disappearing' lead - BBC News

Most people these days have little faith in the ancient art of astrology. It’s mostly viewed as something “woo-woo,” some kind of superstitious a nonsense. I won’t try to make a case for or against it, but I will say that as someone who has studied the subject for 40 years, and done some “hands on” work in the field, I’ve seen enough to be convinced that, while it may not be hard science, there is some validity to it, at least enough to consider it a “soft science,” a system that within certain limitations contains a useful body of information.

As we approach the end of 2020 we are coming to the climax of an era. — surely a period of time that will be remembered as a scar across the face of the planet, and particularly the U.S. Astrologers believe this is the result of the interactions of the planets Jupiter, Saturn and Pluto, gathered together in the sign of Capricorn, bringing about “the end of the world as we know it.” The effects of the outer planets take years to accomplish. But at some point, a crisis is reached when it becomes apparent things must change. And they will be changed, whether as the result of deliberate, decisive action, or explosively as the forces at play make the changes for us.

Among the phenomena astrologers use to make forecasts are the eclipses. Eclipses are powerful astrological events. Lunar eclipses, which occur when the shadow of the Earth falls over the moon, signaling an emotional end of something. Solar eclipses, when the moon blocks the light of the sun, signify the beginning of something new (although that also implies destruction of the old). Eclipses are often the astrological events that trigger the decisive action required to end the crisis, or the explosion that will occur if no action is taken.

Currently the United States is facing possibly the most dangerous set of circumstances it has faced in its history. A pandemic is killing people by the thousands per day, the economy is teetering on a precipice, and politically the country is paralyzed to do anything about it. An election was held and a slim majority of Americans voted to install former Vice President Joe Biden as the new president to replace Donald Trump. Normally there would be a smooth transition of power, but not in this case. Trump refuses to go, claiming, so far without sufficient evidence, that the election was fraudulent. He has stopped communicating with the populace, except for occasional tweets reiterating his claim of fraud at the polls. Since the election, there has been no action taken by his Administration regarding COVID-19. The only significant action he’s taken was his firing of his Secretary of Defense replacing him with a Trump loyalist, causing some to wonder what that means, defense-wise. Biden, a determined Scorpio (11/20/1942), is trying to get his Administration on its feet, without any cooperation from the incumbent. This weekend Trump supporters will gather in the nation’s capital to hold a “Million MAGA March,” in support of Trump. Protesters from Black Lives Matter, and others opposed to Trump will also be in town.

The major question in everyone’s mind is how long will this stalemate situation last? Maybe astrology has the answer. As noted eclipses mark the time when stagnant situations break lose. In the next 30 days there will be both a solar and a lunar eclipse and both of them have significant impact on Donald Trump, the one individual at the center of everything.. There will be a lunar eclipse on November 30, occurring in the Zodiacal sign of Gemini. Trump was born under the Sign of Gemini in his horoscope (6/14/1944). The eclipse occurs in his 10th house of public office, public status, career. This could indicate that Trump will finally realize he has no choice but to concede the election to Biden.

Whether he will or not is another question. And in the end it won’t matter. He’ll have no say about it. Because on Dec. 14 there will be a solar eclipse of the Sun, falling precisely on the moon on his birth chart, and exactly opposite his Gemini Sun. (He was born under a full moon). It’s total disempowerment. The Sun (his ego) will be under attack.

I can’t say what Trump will do , only point out the dates when action is likely to occur. Either he will accede to the results of the election or make some desperate attempt to stay in power. More than likely, he may simply leave the White House in December and begin his campaign for 2024. Let’s watch those dates, and see what happens.