tragonWant a free copy of my latest book? I’m giving Tragon of Ramura away free today and tomorrow only. Reviews have been very good, but sales have been sluggish. This is my way of getting Tragon and his sidekick Yusef on everyone’s radar screen. One reviewer said it’s sword and sorcery “in the classic mold.” True as far as it goes. But there are a lot of new elements and ideas that haven’t been done before in traditional sword and sorcery.

What do I mean by that? Well, you’ll have to see for yourself. I’ll just say there are dimensions in terms of plot and character that haven’t been seen before, that you might find interesting.

At any rate, click this link to go to the two-day free book offer. If you get a copy please consider writing an Amazon customer review. It helps. Thanks.

 

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On January 10 we said goodbye to my 95-year-young mother, Emily Rose Whalen (Feb. 25, 1923– Jan. 2, 2019).

I remember a bright sunny day in North Philadelphia when I was five or six. I was with my mother, going into a shoe store to get a new pair of Buster Browns for school. The guy that worked in the store gave us a big smile and welcomed us in. He made a big fuss over my mom. “You know, you’re lucky you got such a swell mom, you know that?” I got a little suspicious. Seemed too friendly. I think about it now, maybe he had a crush on her. She didn’t pay him any attention. Anyway it was one of those stores in those days that had an X-Ray machine where you could stick your feet in and look down through a visor and see how the shoes fit. You could actually see the bones in your feet.

Those were different times. People didn’t worry about things like bone cancer from too many X-rays in shoe stores. There was a world war going on. People were different then. My mom was a child of the depression. She knew tough times. Raised in foster homes as a little girl, she learned to keep her head up and keep smiling no matter what. She was a real Shirley Temple kid. No matter what happened she had determination, and optimism, always holding on to hope. Somehow she made it to young adult hood and met my dad, and got married. I came into the picture pretty soon, but she had to carry on alone when my dad got shipped over to Japan. I remember staying with a nice old lady named Josie. I think my mom must have had a job part time, and Josie was a neighbor who watched me while she worked. She always made sure I was taken care of.

After the war, my dad came home and we moved into the Northeast Village, which they sometimes called “the projects,” made especially for returning GIs and their families. I had a hell of a good time there. There were tons of kids and lots of space to play in. My mom and dad seemed happy too.

Five years after I was born my sister came along and we were a pretty close family. My dad worked hard at the Franklin Arsenal and soon made enough money to move us into a row home in Northeast Philly. My mom loved to read and she read a lot of stories to me. I distinctly remember her reading me the Song of Roland, and teaching me how to read parts of it. Roland was one of the knights of King Charlemagne and it’s all about honor, betrayal, and self-sacrifice—something that’s pretty much out of fashion these days. A pretty heavy and complicated tale if you’ve ever read it. But it filled my imagination with that crazy sense of wonder you get when you enter into an imaginary world that shines and glimmers the way the real world never does. She read me about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, and I pictured myself as Sir Galahad. I guess that’s how I ended up being a writer. Listening to those stories before I went to sleep.

Time went on. My sister and I grew up and became teenagers then young adults. Mom was always there with her encouragements to do the best we can, be the best we could be. Later my mom and dad broke up and she found herself having to carve out an independent life down here in Virgina/DC area. She worked at Garfinckles, First Va. Bank. Always managed to support herself and, when my sister and I went out on our own, she lived independently in her own apartment. She was fiercely independent and never let anyone tell her what to do. She took up poetry writing and had a couple of them published. They were good poems.

Ninety five years is a long time to live. She saw a lot and experienced a lot. She saw nothing but good in her children, whether it was true or not. She always encouraged us to do what made us happy. Now that she’s gone I feel that energy, a source of power, is gone with her. Sometimes I want to pick up the phone and give her a call like I always did. No more.

There are times when I remember that Sunny day in Philly, walking with her out of that shoe store on Fifth Street in my new Buster Brown shoes, remembering what that shoe salesman said. “You’re lucky you got such a swell mom. You know that?”  It makes me happy to remember that. He was right. She was swell. And in a way it’s like she’s not gone at all.

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My sword and sorcery novel got a great review from Amazing Stories critic Ricky L. Brown. “It’s John M. Whalen. It’s different.”

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I’ve got a new review of a classic western up today on Cinema Retro. THE LAST HUNT is Richard Brooks’ searing indictment of greedy buffalo hunters and Indian haters who nearly brought the buffalo to extinction. Stars Robert Taylor and Stewart Granger present the light and dark side of the nature of man. Click here to read the review.

 

 

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When Joseph and Mary traveled to Bethlehem to register for the census they couldn’t find a place to stay and ended up in a stable. It was probably cold and miserable but at least three people came and gave them gifts. Today a caravan of travelers trying to reach the promised land and escape horrors at home are told there’s no room for them here either. The only gifts they’re given are barbed wire and tear gas. Happy Holidays!

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Is it a love story or is it a comedy? Whatever it is “The Ballad of Cable Hogue is 100 percent Sam  Peckinpah. Read my review over at Cinema Retro.

trumpIn the long run, Trump will probably be the only one from our time who will be remembered. When archaeologists 20,000 years from now dig up the rubble of what was once American civilization. all they may find are pieces of the buildings he built that have his name on them. They may ponder who was this great man who had his name on so many edifices?

And what were those buildings? Churches? Were these structures holy places, temples, where they worshipped the Great God Trump? Was he some sort of ancient deity? They may stand there in awe, like that traveler from an antique land, who looked on the statue of Ozymandias, and read the ancient words: “Look on my works ye mighty, and despair!”

A sobering thought, isn’t it?

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Just want to remind everyone that Flying W Press is my own little self-publishing outlet. We’ve been around several years now. So far I’ve put out five books, all in different genres, but all in the category of what I’ve been calling neo-pulp. I’ve seen that term pop up in various places. I don’t know if I invented it, but I first used it in an essay that appeared in Amazing Stories years ago about the Neo-pulp Electronic Revolution.

I’ve got titles that fall into the weird western, space opera, space-noir, and now sword and sorcery genres. They’ve all been critically well-received and continue to sell. Here’s a list of the titles. You can check out the descriptions and reviews as they appear on Amazon.

First, Vampire Siege at Rio Muerto, the Mordecai Slate novel: https://www.amazon.com/Vampire-Siege-at-Rio-M…/…/B00FQYIZY8/

Next, Hunting Monsters Is My Business: The Mordecai Slate Stories: https://www.amazon.com/Hunting-Monsters-My-Bus…/…/B00PWQ8TBY

The Big Shutdown, a space opera serial novel, https://www.amazon.com/Big-Shutdown-John-Whal…/…/B017ME7YXC/

This Ray Gun for Hire, space opera with a darker tone. https://www.amazon.com/This-Ray-Hire-Other-Ta…/…/B06XNP3TSS/

and the newest offering,

Tragon of Ramura, a sword and sorcery novel. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07FF6J8QW/

Check them out when you get the chance. You might find something you like.

John M. Whalen
Springfield, Va

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Happy Halloween!

In the spirit of the season I offer the latest Mordecai Slate short, short story, as it appears in A Dark and Stormy Night, the fabulous collection that Scott Harris published earlier this year. 52 writers contributed stories all beginning with the prompt “It was a dark and stormy night.” If you like westerns this is one you shouldn’t miss. I sent in this eerie little tale, which I personally think, as short as it is (500 words), contains the essence of all the Slate stories that have been published so far. It’s pretty representative of the world of Mordecai Slate. Enjoy.

 

The Relay Station

It was a dark and stormy night. Rainwater cascaded off the brim of Mordecai Slate’s hat and poured down on Dutch’s neck. The buckskin nickered irritably but plodded steadily along the muddy trail. Up ahead were the dark outlines of a couple of unlit buildings, barely visible in the rain. One of the buildings was a barn. There was an empty corral next to it. The other building was little more than a shack. A relay station for an abandoned stage line, Slate figured. There were no lights.

He rode past a well set a hundred yards from the buildings. Dutch’s ears twitched and Slate thought he heard something. The horse stopped and Slate waited but heard no sound other than the rain. The barn door was open ahead and they went in.

Slate unsaddled the horse and found him some left over hay. He kept his slicker on and went over to the shack, carrying his saddlebags. When he got to the door he heard a sound again. He was sure it came from the well this time. Like a child moaning. He dropped the saddle bags and strode over to it.

Down inside it there was only black.

“Hey!” he yelled. “Anybody down there?”

“Help, mister,” a young voice cried.

There was a bucket on the end of a rope and Slate lowered it.

“Can you climb out?” he asked.

“Yeah,” the voice said. “But hurry. It’s in the house.”

“What do you mean?”

“My Pap threw me down here,” the voice said. “He didn’t want it to get me.”

There was a bright flash of lightning and loud thunder rattled Slate’s teeth.

“Stay there,” he said and ran back over to the shack. He opened the door and found a room with a table, benches, and a wood stove. Rain hammered the tin roof. There was a man spread-eagle on his back across the table. His chest was ripped open wide. There was blood everywhere. Slate heard something eating over in a dark corner.

He turned. Large, dark leathery wings spread out wide. Talon-like hands held a human heart up to red dripping fangs. Slate drew his Peacemaker. The thing flapped its wings once and flew across the room at him. Slate fired but the force of the impact knocked him off his feet, spoiled his aim. The revolver flew out of his hand.

The thing reared up over him.

Slate reached for his boot. He pulled a silver-plated stiletto and plunged it into the thing’s abdomen.

There was a terrible, inhuman screech and the room filled with a sickening odor. But it was no good. It had him, hovering over him raging. Then five shots flashed and roared. Five silver bullets tore into the thing and it fell. A young boy about 10, soaking wet, stood there holding his smoking Peacemaker, his eyes flooded with tears. The hammer kept clicking down on an empty cylinder.

“Pap?”

Slate got to his feet. “Come outside, boy,” he said.

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If you liked that one you might want to try some of the other Mordecai Slate stories. Vampire Siege at Rio Muerto is a full length novel. Hunting Monsters Is My Business is a collections of stories of varying length from short-short to novella. Click on the titles to order. Have a happy and safe Halloween.

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Some of Rod Serling’s closing narrations on “The Twilight Zone” seem to have more relevance today than they did some 60 years ago. This one from the episode “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street” seems like it could have been written today.

“The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs and explosions and fallout,” Serling wrote. “There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes, prejudices to be found only in the minds of men. For the record, prejudices can kill, and suspicion can destroy, and a thoughtless frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all of its own for the children, and the children yet unborn. And the pity of it is that these things cannot be confined to the Twilight Zone.”

Hatred, scapegoating, persecution of people because they are different are nothing new. We’ve seen it before. We saw it in Europe in the 1930s, along with the rise of nationalism. We’ve seen sporadic outbursts of it here over the years. There have been lynchings and bombings, and mass murders before. But we’ve never seen it so widespread. We’ve never felt the kind of hostility, never felt the threat of violence hanging in the air the way we feel it now. We’re becoming nervous about turning on the television and seeing a report on the latest atrocity committed by some deranged individual, inspired by some even more deranged ideology. Hate is on the rise.

Serling named the current malady in few lines at the close of another “Twilight Zone” episode called, “I am the Night. Color Me Black.” It was the story about a morning in a small town where an execution was scheduled to take place but for some reason the sun didn’t rise. The execution had to be performed in darkness. According to Serling, the problem was caused by a sickness, a sickness that soon spread over other parts of the world.

“A sickness known as hate;” Serling wrote, “not a virus, not a microbe, not a germ – but a sickness nonetheless, highly contagious, deadly in its effects. Don’t look for it in the Twilight Zone – look for it in a mirror. Look for it before the light goes out altogether.”