I just found this recent review of HUNTING MONSTERS IS MY BUSINESS on Goodreads. It was written by a reader from India. It’s quite a thrill to know that my book reached a reader so far away and that it struck a chord in him strong enough to sit down and pen a really thoughtful review.

He grasped a significant fact. The Slate stories aren’t about the horror, violence and blood they contain, but rather they’re about the impact these things have on the characters. I appreciate the reviewer’s comparison with the work of Joe Lansdale. But my intent has always been to follow Stirling Silliphant’s example and try to write about the characters’ humanity–either their universal humanity or their own special individual humanity. It’s really the only thing worth writing about in my opinion.

Anyway, here’s the review on Goodreads, written by Mr. Riju Ganguly. Thanks Mr. Ganguly.

slateWeird Western is a sub-genre that has straddled across two mainstream genres since
its inception: ‘horror’ and ‘western’. There have been several practitioners, among whom the big daddy would be Joe. R. Lansdale who, with his own take on “Jonah Hex” as well as his unique creation Reverend Jebediah Mercer, practically created the tracks for smooth running of this particular railroad. Lansdale’s works glisten & glow with his unique wit, raucous humour, jaw-dropping action, and horror that originate from supernatural as well as very human atrocities.

The book under discussion is a modest walk along those tracks.

Mordecai Slate is a proper demon-hunter, who can be hired to take care of such business that nobody talks about, forget about anybody dealing with them.
Above all, he is a human being, with strengths & limitations befitting a fit & determined person who knows that, no matter what happens, he must go on.
In that process, he has several adventures, most of which are tragic, but strangely redemptive with their human tone. This book contains almost all of them, except the major saga that has got its own life as a stand-alone novel named “Vampire Siege at Rio Muerto”, to be found elsewhere.

Followed by an authorial introduction, these stories are:
1. The Last Payday of the Killibrew Mine
2. Samurai Blade
3. Little China
4. Rancho Diablo
5. The Shape of a Cage
6. Undead Empire, Gog!
7. The Man Who Had No Soul
8. On the Camino Real (this one is NOT a story, but a vignette that would keep on echoing through the next novella)
9. Hunting Monsters Is My Business

These stories are special because of their gentle and pathos-filled tone, irrespective of all the blood & gore that get spilled in course of action.

So, if you are in the mood for reading some gentle weird western, this book would be good for you.
If you simply want to read a few stories about a character who rides across the fictional landscape of the great American West, then also this book might cater to your needs.

Recommended.

7-days

“Seven Days in May” was on TCM the other night. Unlike the comic book superhero movies of today, which numb you with their violence, Rod Serling’s script had only one mildly violent scene in the whole film, yet it was gripping from beginning to end. That movie has vital lessons for today. It’s about a charismatic general who plans a coup against the president, who signed a nuclear disarmament treaty with Russia. The general thinks he’s weak. He plots with other generals to take over the government.

Near the end of the film, Serling sums the situation up rather nicely in a bit of dialogue uttered by the President. He tells one of his aides that the general isn’t the enemy.

“The enemy’s an age – a nuclear age. It happens to have killed man’s faith in his ability to influence what happens to him. And out of this comes a sickness, and out of sickness a frustration, a feeling of impotence, helplessness, weakness. And from this, this desperation, we look for a champion in red, white, and blue. Every now and then a man on a white horse rides by, and we appoint him to be our personal god for the duration. For some men it was a Senator McCarthy, for others it was a General Walker, and now it’s a General Scott.”

At the very end he says at a press conference exposing the coup:

“There’s been abroad in this land in recent months a whisper that we have somehow lost our greatness, that we do not have the strength to win without war the struggles for liberty throughout the world. This is slander, because our country is strong, strong enough to be a peacemaker. It is proud, proud enough to be patient. The whisperers and the detractors, the violent men are wrong. We will remain strong and proud, peaceful and patient, and we will see a day when on this earth all men will walk out of the long tunnels of tyranny into the bright sunshine of freedom.”

Something to think about as the election nears.

images (6)

In remembrance of this tragic anniversary, I’m republishing this account of my own personal experience that day. 

It’s funny how a day can start out so ordinary and in an instant turn out to be a day where everything changes forever. On Sept. 11, 2001 I was an editor/reporter for a news organization in Washington, D.C.  That particular morning I was driving up I-395 in northern Virginia to my office in the District, listening to WGMS-FM, Washington’s former classical music station (no longer in existence) when a news flash came on about a plane crashing into one of the World Trade Center buildings. It was shocking news, especially when 20 minutes later there was a report of a second crash into the other WTC Tower.

I knew Howard Stern broadcast live from New York so I punched the radio button for his station and heard Howard and Robin and Bababooey talking about it. As they jabbered on, I eased off I-395 onto the off ramp for Washington Blvd., the way I always did every morning. Washington Blvd. runs right alongside the Pentagon. Halfway down the ramp, traffic came to a standstill. Suddenly there was a loud noise over to my left– like a tornado loaded with TNT. I turned and saw a big airliner that was no more than 20 feet off the ground, flying at the speed of a guided missile right toward the Pentagon building. I mean it was unbelievably fast. It was a moment of complete shock. Something like that, you don’t believe you’re really seeing it.

The off ramp I was siting on on cuts under an overpass where I-395 continues on to D.C. There was an embankment in front of me, so  I couldn’t see the Pentagon building directly, but a second later there was an explosion on the other side and a huge ball of orange fire billowed up in the sky.

After listening to the New York attacks, I realized we must be under some kind of siege and the first thing I thought was how many more planes are coming? How big is this? For a moment everyone in their cars sat there stunned, but then some of us got out of our vehicles and climbed up the embankment toward the pillar of smoke that was rising on the other side of the hill. At the top we looked down and saw the Pentagon surrounded in a dense fog of black smoke, orange flames licking the sky. Almost immediately the wind blew the sickening smell of a burning airliner toward us. It was an unbelievable sight and there’s just no way to describe how I felt at that moment.

It took several minutes before I heard any sirens or saw any flashing red lights, but by the time the emergency vehicles arrived we all started back down the embankment to our cars. I got in my car and Howard Stern and gang were still chattering away. I clicked the radio off and sat in silence, my hands shaking, heart pounding in my chest and there was only one thought in my head. “I’ve got to get out of here!” How in the world first responders can charge into situations like that escapes me. The instinct for survival is strong, and when there’s danger your first reaction is to run.

But we couldn’t run, we were stuck on the off ramp, and it was an uncomfortable half hour until police arrived and made everyone turn around and drive back up the wrong way and follow detours that took us away from D.C.  I drove home wondering what in the world is happening? What was it all about? I had just seen something that I never thought I’d see outside of a bad science fiction movie.

It was a day that changed America forever. There’s no denying it. Some things will never be the same. But other things will. The triumph of courage over fear shown by rescue workers, many who lost their lives trying to help others; the readiness of men in uniform to defend and protect the nation and its people; and the hope that someday things will be better, that love can overcome hate, and reason will vanquish ignorance, those things still remain. There’s always hope.

 

badmanriver

Lee Van Cleef, inspiration for my Mordecai Slate character, stars with Gina Lollobrigida in an off-beat spaghetti western comedy, “Bad Man’s River.” My review is up today on Cinema Retro.

 

Hunting Monsters final front

STATIC **** CRACKLE****HUMMM! A GONG SOUNDS.

Sorry, folks, but our transmission is being hijacked. Someone is jamming our frequency. We hope – – –

A sinister voice breaks through the static:

THIS IS KILLER ONE, IMMORTAL OF ASIA SPEAKING.

(Oh, no. Him again!)

It has been some time since my last communication. It has been well for you, minions. I have not felt the need to intrude into your dull, mundane existences in the last 10 months. I know how upsetting it can be for your puny minds to receive message from another world. But there is now a need for me to stir the stagnant waters of your turgid imagination once again in order to  correct a troubling problem.

As you know a book written by one of the few humans whose existence on your feckless planet can be justified, a book called “Hunting Monsters Is My Business,” by John M. Whalen, has been getting excellent critical reviews. The most recent critique by Skelos, the Journal of Weird Fiction and Dark Fantasy, said Robert E. Howard, one of the originators of the weird western genre, would have liked these stories. The reviewer even compared Whalen’s style to some personage named Hemingway.

This is not the only critical kudo this astonishing piece of literature has received. If you look at the Amazon page for “Hunting Monsters Is My Business,” you will note that there has been a total of five reviews written by five reputable, highly respected publications, including Amazing Stories, The Pulp Chronicler, Blood Moon Rising, and Bill Criders Pop Culture Magazine.

The book has been a success, selling well enough to stay in the top 100 Amazon Horror/Western ebooks since it was published in 2014. One must conclude its good critical reception has been a contributing factor to its success. And yet there is one glaring inconsistency to be noted. While the editorial reviews have been coming in, thus far only four readers who obtained a copy of “Hunting Monsters Is My Business,” have bothered to write a customer review. Only four out of the many who have been reading. You puny earthlings are unaware how important these reviews from the publisher’s point of view. The more reviews a book has the more attention it receives from Amazon. And the more attention it gets, the more the public learns about it.

I can only attribute this lack of customer reviews on a book that has sold well to the inherent laziness of the average earth-dweller. It is not enough for you to read the book,  you must tell everyone about it. As for the rest of you, those who have not yet gotten your copy in ebook or paperback, you know what you must do.

And so I’m giving fair warning. My Shadows of Darkness will be observing over the next few days to see if this situation is corrected. Write reviews, buy books, you shallow clods, or feel the wrath of KILLER ONE, IMMORTAL OF ASIA!!

A GONG SOUNDS!

Static * * * * Crackle**** HUMM!

Sorry about that folks.Our engineers our busy  trying to locate the source of that transmission and to find a way to prevent such interruptions in the future.

 

 

 

darkpassage

I review the Bogart/Bacall classic, “Dark Passage,” and give some insight into writer David Goodis’ life, today on Cinema Retro. 

skelos

I just received a print copy of the new magazine, SKELOS, The Journal of Weird Fiction and Dark Fantasy, and I’m blown away by the fantastic review written by Keith West of my book, “Hunting Monsters Is My Business, The Mordecai Slate Stories.” It’s the publication’s first issue, and I’m thrilled to have my work mentioned in what promises to be a serious and significant periodical aimed at presenting new fiction, thoughtful essays, and book reviews.

The review caught me by surprise. I had no idea they were even considering it. “Hunting Monsters Is My Business,” came out in 2014 and is a collection of all the Mordecai Slate short stories published in various zines and anthologies over the last several years, as well as an original novella written especially for the book. It’s been the most popular book I’ve done so far, and has been in the Amazon Top 100 horror westerns continuously since it’s publication.

The reviewer had a lot of good things to say about the individual stories and about Mordecai Slate as a character. For example:

“Mordecai Slate doesn’t have a lot of angst in most of the stories. He’s very much a cool-headed, resourceful man who doesn’t back down easily. I think Robert E. Howard would have enjoyed these stories. Whalen writes with a lean, at times almost Hemingway-esque style.”

He also noted the “insightful meditation on what sort of person courts danger by hunting monsters,” which appears in the collection’s title story. He also thought two stories featuring Asian characters were “two of the most original in the book.”

It’s a long review and I could quote more from it, but better you get a copy of the magazine and read it yourself. You can get your copy here.

Do you know which movie was the first film noir ever made? Read my review up on Cinema Retro today.

You’ll be able to impress your friends at your next cocktail party.

Peter Lorre stars in “Stranger on the Third Floor.”

 

My latest book, THE BIG SHUTDOWN, is a science fiction novel with a definite retro flavor to it. It’s been called a combination of Flash Gordon and Once Upon a time in the West. So I guess that means it’s what they call a Space Western.

The main character, Jack Brand, is a former U.S. Army ranger who lives in the late 23rd Century. He left Earth to take a job as a security officer on the oil-rich planet of Tulon, and was followed there later by his kid-sister Terry. She became a member of his tactical squad but was captured by the Wilkersons, a gang of Tulon Nomads. The story begins after her capture, and follows Brand as he searches for her.

His search takes him to several different locations on the planet, including a domed city in the desert run by alien gangsters, a savage jungle where one of the former members of his squad has crash-landed, the broken down religious community run by a minister who’s lost his faith, an underwater city threatened by a giant Octopod, and others. Along the way he meets up with Christy Jones, an unforgettable woman who runs a casino in Tulon Central. The story of their relationship is an important part of the story of The Big Shutdown, as they meet, and are separated by circumstances.

Brand’s search for Terry is running out of time. The conglomerates back on Earth have found another energy source, and Tulon’s oil deposits are no longer of any value. The planet is being phased out. The energy companies are packing up and the last ships are leaving for Earth. Can Brand find Terry, and reunite with Christy before Tulon faces THE BIG SHUTDOWN? 

Click on the title above to order your copy.

Amazing how far we’ve gone since then from even caring if we have individual identities or are just numbers in a system. How far we’ve drifted into mindless conformity.

The political parties trot out their figureheads, who tell us how they will change the nation. And the news channels explain it all to us, over and over and over until we’ve got it straight.

They tell us what to think. because we no longer know how to think.

And when Election Day comes our fingers, run by remote control from our conditioned brains, press a button and the new leader is elected. There’s no difference who it is. The system is in gridlock and nothing will change. Because that’s the way No. 1 wants it.

Who is No. 1?