The Big Weird is the fifth in a series of novels by Christopher G. Moore about an ex-pat American private eye walking the mean streets of Bangkok Dangerous. It’s a place where dreams are for sale and the dream merchants and the buyers alike end up with what’s left of their souls in hock. The boulevards and alleys of Philip Marlowe’s Los Angeles in the 30’s and 40’s seem like Disneyland by comparison. In Chandler’s noir world there was always the hope of redemption for at least some of the characters, but in Moore’s Big Town the people have given up hope. They’ve succumbed to The Sickness.

The Sickness is Moore’s term for the fatal attraction for the city’s prostitutes and b-girls felt most acutely by ex-patriots seeking a more exciting life than they had back home. Bangkok is painted as a city corrupted by vice and money, a moral corrosion as thick as the air pollution that is slowly killing everyone.

Perhaps the saddest victim of The Sickness is a famous Hollywood screenwriter who left Tinseltown to start over creatively. In an expository sequence at the beginning of the novel we learn that the writer had several years previously hired PI Vinnie Calvino to investigate a Thai woman he was living with. She turned out to already have a husband and a couple of kids. Another dream shattered. Now in the present, Quentin Stuart is seemingly no wiser (he’s got a new hot Thai chick), but he is dying, presumably of cancer. This time he calls on Calvino to find out if another lover, a blonde American named Samantha McNeal, really committed suicide by putting a gun to her head or was murdered.

The tale features a number of interesting characters, including a Chinese anti-porn feminist, a police lieutenant who is a regular character in the series, the Japanese lover of the dead woman, assorted members of Bangkok’s wild night life, and a couple of would be screenwriters trying to score with Mister Hollywood Big Shot and get a movie made. There’s another subplot concerning the then just beginning cyber porn industry.

But it’s the screenwriter who is the most fascinating character in the book. Loosely based on the legendary Stirling Silliphant, who expatriated to Bangkok in 1988. Moore’s portrayal of one of Hollywood’s brightest writing talents in his last years of decline, is both fascinating and heart breaking. Moore shows us, as Silliphant often did in his scripts, that a well-constructed sentence means more to a writer than a happy life. (“It’s the curse of a writing man to wonder if his fingers are as true when they touch paper as when they touch his daughter’s tears,” Silliphant once wrote.) A writer is an observer of life, sometimes finding himself on the outside looking in, always jotting down things in a notebook. Like Quentin Stuart, Silliphant never stopped observing and writing.

A central image in the book is a huge aquarium built in a nightclub for patrons to ogle nude “mermaids” swimming in the water. The mermaid symbolism reminded me of a script Silliphant wrote for TV about a young man who encounters a real life mermaid, but his critically intelligent mind cannot accept her as a reality. When he realizes the truth, he stands on the shore of the Gulf of Mexico calling for her, but it’s too late. The dream has gone.

The final image in the novel is of one of the female characters in the aquarium tank, looking out through the glass, crying. A dream frozen in horror. It’s an unforgettable image and a terrific novel, highly recommended. You can order it here.



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Chuck Connors in Branded

Been watching episodes of Branded the sixties TV series with Chuck Connors. It’s a good series but it only lasted two seasons (1965-1966). The reason it flopped must have been the crazy premise writer Larry Cohen came up with. Chuck is branded a coward for being the only survivor  of the Battle of Bitter Creek. He actually covered up for General Reed, who probably had Alzheimers’.

So they kick Chuck out of the Army and all the shows are about people who know the truth, that he isn’t a coward, who want to clear his name, but he stops them because it would hurt the general’s reputation and might ruin the peace treaties the general made with the Indians. Every week it was “Hey, You aint a coward. Let me set the record straight.” Chuck: “Shut up. Yes I am. Go away.” Meanwhile he takes all kinds of abuse from people who don’t know any better. There are a lot of fight scenes every week and it appears Chuck did most of his own stunt work.

It’s definitely a different concept for a western, sort of a western for masochists. After one season it started to get more and more unbelievable. At the end of the run they brought Lola Albright in as a newspaper editor,and possible love interest, but she’s only in a couple shows, before they pulled the plug.

Hats off to Larry Cohen for trying something different. It’s a concept that probably would have made a great feature film, but, of course, TV series can’t help beating a good idea into the ground. It’s the nature of the beast. It’s on at 8 a.m. every morning on the Heroes and Icons cable channel. Worth checking out, if you’d like to see something as far removed from today’s narcissistic TV fare as you can get. It’s got a great theme song too.

big shutdown 2The video trailer for “The Big Shutdown” is now available for viewing on Youtube. Escape the madness of the world for a minute and 16 seconds and enter a universe of science fiction adventure.

Jack Brand searches the planet Tulon, a planet in chaos, for his missing sister, Terry. In his search he meets the unforgettable Christy Jones, a woman of adventure. But love will have to wait until Brand finds his sister, and soon the last rocket ship will leave for Earth.

Experience the thrills and excitement you thought were missing from science fiction.  Follow ex-Army Ranger Jack Brand as he travels from domed cities in the desert, through tropical jungles, and down to the depths of the sea to save an underwater city from extinction.

It’s a science fiction tale like no other, with characters that will linger in your memory long after you’ve finished THE BIG SHUTDOWN.

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Capt. Jack Brand, U.S. Army Ranger (2287-2292) salutes all veterans living and dead for their unselfish service to their country. May the spirit of the fighting man never die.

big shutdown 2When people ask me to explain what The Big Shutdown is, I tell them: “It’s like Flash Gordon meets Randolph Scott and Sam Peckinpah out on Route 66, but on another planet, a few hundred years in the future.” They sort of look at me and go “huh?” I can’t blame them. It sounds like an overly complicated answer to a simple question, but it isn’t, really, because, even though The Big Shutdown seems like a simple little space opera, it’s more complicated than that. It came about in an unusual way.

It originated as a story for the fondly remembered Ray Gun Revival ezine. RGR was basically a labor of love undertaken by three people, “Overlords” Johne Cook, L.S. King, and Paul Christian Glenn.  It was dedicated to presenting the kind of Space Opera stories you couldn’t find back in 2006. When I found out they were open to submissions, I sent them a story that I had previously had published in the now dormant http://www.pulpanddaggerfiction.com. It was called “Tulon Station.”

What it was, was a rewrite of my favorite western of all time, “Comanche Station,” a Randolph Scott film directed by Budd Boetticher. I took the basic comanchestation3idea of Burt Kennedy’s script and redid it as a science fiction story. Not the first time this has been done. John Sayles rewrote Akira Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurai”, and John Sturges’ “The Magnificent Seven” as the sci fi flick “Battle Beyond the Stars” (And we all know Fistful of Dollars was a rewrite of Yojimbo). I wanted to see if I could do the same thing. I set Boetticher’s story a couple hundred years in the future and invented a planet called Tulon, that was rich in oil and had been a boom planet, like a boom town in the old west. But times had changed. The need for oil became a thing of the past as alternative fuels were developed, and Tulon became the victim of “The Big Shutdown” by the oil companies that had exploited it.

Against this backdrop I set my character, Jack Brand, an ex-Army Ranger and former officer of the Trans-Exxon Security Force.  In “Commanche Station,” Randolph Scott was looking for a wife kidnapped by Indians. In my story, Brand is searching for his sister, a fellow member of the security force, who got captured by Nomads, the dregs of what was left of Tulon society during the Shutdown.

The folks at Ray Gun liked the tale, and were set to publish it, when I suggested they hold up. The story, like the film, left unanswered the question of whether the hero ever finds what he’s looking for. So I wrote another story that resolved that question (no spoilers here). The Ray Gunners, being the cool people that they are, dug it and were ready to run the two stories consecutively.

Then I got the bright idea that there was a lot more story to tell concerning events that happened between the first and last story. I suggested writing more tales to fill the gap. It just so happened that the Overlords needed material. At the time there weren’ too many people writing the kind of story that fit their unique space opera/space western requirements. So I started writing and over 18 months came up with a dozen stories. Each story was a stand alone, but had the overriding through line of Brand’s search for his missing kid sister.

I wrote it like a telvision series. Each story was basically like an hour long show. Some of tales have interesting origins. Aside from the

Screenwriter, producer Stirling Silliphant

Screenwriter, Producer Stirling Silliphant (1918-1996)

Boetticher/Kennedy/Scott influence, the stories were also an homage to a TV series that ran in the 1960s. “Route 66” (1960-1964 on CBS) ran for 116 episodes. It was created and written for the most part by Stirling Silliphant, the writer who later would get an Oscar for “In the Heat of the Night,” and was hugely successful for years in Hollywood. He wrote 70 of those hour long shows. The man was a genius. So many of the scripts were so good, Washington Post TV critic Tom Shales called it “one of the best written shows of its day, maybe any day.”

The stories are like nothing on TV now. They had interesting characters with unique problems. There weren’t any plots. Silliphant said he favored continuity over plot. But his scripts kept you riveted to the screen week after week. The characters he wrote about, in a phrase now out of fashion, “hit you where you live.” You could get hung up on people searching for their identities, the meaning of life, searching for love, a place to belong, all that type of stuff.

I could go on and on about this show, but let’s get back to “The Big Shutdown.” In putting the Jack Brand stories together month by month, I dug back in my psyche for memories of the “route 66” shows for inspiration. Characters such as Calystra, the psychic plagued by the visions that invade her mind, Cassidy, a former security team member and friend of Brand who crash lands in the jungle, and Rev. Thomas, the minister of a religious cult who lost his faith in himself and his religion, all were inspired by the kinds of off-center characters who showed up on “route 66.”

There were other influences. The story “Tulip,” was inspired by a Sam Peckinpah script that he wrote for The Westerner TV series in 1960. I wasn’t the only one to rip that story off. Robert Culp rewrote it as “The Loser” episode Annex%20-%20Crabbe,%20Buster%20(Flash%20Gordon)_03of I Spy, starring Eartha Kitt. “The Secret Treasure of Dar Zul,” was actually inspired by a Hopalong Cassidy flick that had Hoppy leading explorers to some Mayan ruins. Another of the stories, “The Eight Arms of Death,” is my homage to the Buster Crabbe Flash Gordon serials.

The key ingredient throughout is that although it’s a science fiction tale, it’s written as a western. It’s set on a planet that greatly resembles the American Southwest of the 1880s, give or take a domed city or two. The Jack Brand character is modeled on Randolph Scott and the dialog is in the tradition of pulp westerns. The action scenes play, I hope, like some of Peckinpah’s gritty set pieces.

When the series ran its course, I did some editing and rewriting later to turn the stories into an episodic novel. It was published by a small press that has since shut its doors. The book has been out of print since 2013.  When I discovered that used copies of “Jack Brand” were being sold on the Internet, and after a publisher offered to reprint it, I decided instead to put it out under my own Flying W Press.

Space opera is having a resurgence these days, and there are even some that are called space westerns, including Star Wars. But examples of real space westerns are actually few and far between. “The Big Shutdown,” written almost 10 years ago, is what I like to think of as one of the purest examples of the genre.

So that’s the whole story of how this book came about. Like I said, it’s like Flash Gordon meets Randolph Scott and Sam Peckinpah out on Route 66, only on another planet, a few hundred years in the future.

You can order “The Big Shutdown” from amazon.com in paperback or Kindle.

big shutdown 2


Nov. 6 – Flying W Press announces the return of a space western classic. ‘’THE BIG SHUTDOWN.” First published as a series in the famed Ray Gun Revival e-zine in 2006-2007, and in 2010 as a paperback and e-book novel under the title “Jack Brand,” this space western saga is back in a revised edition, under a new title – “THE BIG SHUTDOWN.”

An entire planet is about to be shutdown. Once exploited by Earth’s conglomerates for its rich oil resources, the planet Tulon has become obsolete due to the rise of alternative fuel technologies. The powers that be are ready to pull the plug. Chaos rules as Nomad gangs terrorize what’s left of Tulon’s cities. Jack Brand, ex-Army Ranger, semi-retired Tulon Security Officer, searches for his missing sister, Terry. His journey takes him from desert wasteland, to a domed city, through savage jungles, and down into a kingdom below the sea. Along the way he meets the unforgettable Christy Jones, but love will have to wait until Brand finds his sister, and soon the last ship will leave for Earth.

The new edition includes an introduction by Ray Gun Revival Overlord, Johne Cook, and a bonus story from Whalen’s This Ray Gun for Hire series.

Don’t miss this exciting space western adventure, which some have said combines the Space Opera thrills of Flash Gordon and the gritty feeling of a Sam Peckinpah western. Available now on Amazon.com in paperback or Kindle.

Star_WarsThere’s been a lot of comment on the Star Wars trailer. It should get an Oscar for best movie trailer of all time. How the movie will be is still an unanswered question

.But there’s no doubt that what made the trailer so good was Harrison Ford saying, “It’s real. It’s all real.” You couldn’t have said anything that would thrill the hearts and stir the souls of Star Wars fans more.

“Of course it’s real, you doubting Thomases out there. The Force, the Jedis. It’s all freakin’ real. So knock off the negativity.”

The fans want it to be real and they want to get their tickets now, in advance. It’s like buying a ticket for the last train leaving for Paradise, and you don’t want to miss that. I don’t either. But, please, while I’m enjoying the ride, just let me enjoy it, and don’t try to keep selling me stuff.

They said Marlowe was a knight in shining armor walking the mean streets, something of a soft touch, but Sheriff Jesse Stone oughta be nominated for sainthood. In last night’s Hallmark Channel movie Jesse MV5BMTcyMzk1NjE0MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNDIzMjI4Nw@@._V1_SY317_CR4,0,214,317_AL_Stone: Lost in Paradise, Jesse not only solved a murder, he rescued a dog about to be zapped in an animal shelter, found an abused teenager a homeless shelter, paid for the teen’s alcoholic mother’s treatment in a rehab center, and proved that a serial killer suspected of a fourth gruesome murder of a prostitute, was innocent of that particular killing.

Turned out the fourth murder was done by a cop and in the only action in the story, Jesse shoots him dead a couple of times, but only after Jesse pleads with him to put his gun down and let his former hooker hostage go.

The script by Selleck and director Robert Harmon, was decent enough and after all it’s the Hallmark Channel, so you gotta keep it all family friendly. It captured a mood. And you could relax while you watched it. Nice music and plenty of pretty sunsets and water. But it requires a real suspension of disbelief to buy Tom Selleck as a guy who has trouble getting women. Two and half stars.

coverupMy review of COVER UP a film co-written by and starring Dennis O’Keefe and with William Bendix appears today on the Cinema Retro web site. A strange little holiday noir.

>A gong sounds<


It is well that you have heeded my warnings, subservient ones.The Shadows of Darkness have finished the first phase of their surveillance work and have found that a sufficient number of you have purchased ebook Hunting Monsters final frontcopies of “Hunting Monsters Is My Business” to forestall blasting any of you into the Void. For now. They report also that one of the wiser among you purchased a paperback copy of “Vampire Siege at Rio Muerto.” This pleases the Immortal of Asia very much.

“Hunting Monsters” was #6 in Amazon’s Top 100 horror/western ebooks a day ago but has already dropped to #15, More needs to be done. Ebook sales of “Rio Muerto” have been slowing down. This cannot persist. It is important for you to remember this is TwoSeige at Rio Muerto ebook for Tuesday. You can obtain copies of both books without spending a penny of your paltry income if you are a member of Kindle Unlimited. And even if not, spending $3.99 on one of these mystical tomes may be the best investment of your insignificant lives.

Killer One, Immortal of Asia has spoken!

>The gong sounds again<


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