Showing posts with label Robert Silverberg. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Robert Silverberg. Show all posts

Monday, September 18, 2023

Exotic Adventures of Robert Silverberg

Robert Silverberg is one of the most popular science-fiction authors of all time. He has won numerous honors for his literary work, including Hugo and Nebula Awards as well as induction into the prestigious Science-Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame. Just as he gained a tremendous foothold on the science-fiction and fantasy genres in the 1950s, the publishing industry began to become stagnant with many magazines, digests, and paperback publishers ceasing production. One of those magazines was a Men's Action-Adventure offering called Exotic Adventures. It lasted only six total issues, but Silverberg contributed over 20 stories to the run using a variety of pseudonyms. 

Esteemed MAM historians Robert Deis and Wyatt Doyle have collected these stories into a mammoth volume aptly titled Exotic Adventures of Robert Silverberg. It is part of the duo's The Men's Adventure Library published by New Texture. The book features an informative introduction regarding both Silverberg and his contributions to MAMs, as well as the publication history on the short-lived Exotic Adventures magazine. 

In this intro, I thoroughly enjoyed the education on Silverberg's paperback sleaze novels. The author penned many genre novels for the sleaze publishers like Beacon, Regency, Midnight Reader, and Nightstand. There's an excellent backstory here on William Hamling, who played a prominent role in Silverberg's early success as a writer, including the sex novels and sexology articles that the author wrote. There is also information on Silverberg joining Scott Meredith's agency. Meredith was the premier literary agent of that era, and Deis and Doyle point out that Meredith sold excerpts from Silverberg's sex books to the MAMs to use for their shorts. This was the same thing that was happening with Lawrence Block during that time as well. 

I really enjoy adventure stories, and this volume is packed with some really good Silverberg stories that feature promiscuous women, admirable heroes, and exotic locations. Most of the themes are sex-oriented, with adventurers pushed to the brink of death by some folly they made with a vivacious woman. Nothing showcases that theme more than “Safari of Death”, a short story originally featured in the magazine's third issue with Silverberg using the pseudonym Leon Kaiser. Like many of these MAM stories, the author is the main character and the presentation is first-person. In this story, Kaiser (a married man) relays an affair he had with a married woman on a safari hunt in the French Cameroons. Before the hunt is through, Kaiser learns more about this woman's character and the extreme nature of her lust. Needless to say, “Safari of Death” ends with a grisly scene.

The best story in this volume is “Trapped by Mau Mau Terror”, a short originally published in issue four using a Silverberg pseudonym of Norman Reynolds. The story is set in Kenya during a time when the Kikuyu tribe was on a violent rise to power under the name Mau Mau. The protagonist explains in the first-person how he came to manage a farm in Nairobi. At 30 years of age, with Korean War experience, this young man finds himself in the arms of a woman on a night of horrifying bloodshed. Inside a farm house, the man and his lover fight off hordes of blood-crazed savages over the course of a very violent evening. This was a high-intensity, large body-count as Silverberg and his heroes methodically clear the house of intruders. In some ways, this reminded me of another MAM story called “Night Visit”, which was published in Adam in October 1976 (author and artist unknown). 

It wouldn't be a true MAM omnibus without at least one killer-crab story. The book gives the readers what they want with “Attacked by Monster Crabs”, featured in the magazine's third issue under the pseudonym Dave Callahan. This is a fun, rather meaningless story about a guy and his lover attacked by pinching monstrosities near Belize. Another highlight of the book is a more serious entry called “I Escaped from the Soviet Slave Camp”, featured in the sixth issue under the name Anna Lukacs. In first-person, Lukacs details the horrific invasion of Hungary by the Soviets and her enslavement as a sex-slave. While certainly not the same overtones, the violence and sadistic savagery of this story was similar to a 1967 book I recently read and reviewed called Tortured for Christ, however the focus was on the Soviet's invasion and atrocities committed in Romania. Silverberg's story is excellent and provided a harsh look at the historic horrors perpetrated by the notorious Soviet empire. 

Exotic Adventures of Robert Silverberg is worth its weight in gold and contains some fantastic stories. While this author will forever be ingrained in science-fiction and fantasy, his other literary work was just as exceptional and memorable. I'm glad that Robert Deis and Wyatt Doyle recognized the need to bring these stories to light. They continue to impress with each and every volume. Highly recommended! 

Buy a copy of this book HERE.

Wednesday, April 5, 2023

Gutter Road

Many authors have shied away from their early work in the sleaze/soft-core paperback market, but science-fiction royalty Robert Silverberg has made peace with his checkered past allowing Stark House Press to reprint his steamy crime-fiction-adjacent works. The latest vintage reprint is a double, including his 1964 novel Gutter Road, originally released under his Don Elliott pseudonym.

The paperback begins with 38 year-old, married accountant Fred Bauman picking up a stacked female hitchhiker (Reviewer Note: Silverberg is totally a breast man). The young babe is Joanne, and she strikes Fred as a sex-positive kinda gal with an aggressively flirtatious streak. In fact, she teases Fred into such a sexual lather that he forces himself upon her in what we’d call a date-rape by today’s standards.

After their car-bang is fully consummated, Joanne shifts gears and blackmails Fred. She wants $5,000 or she’s going to the cops with a load of his DNA to report his suburban ass for sexual assault. She gives him a couple days to pull the money together before disappearing into the night.

We quickly learn that this isn’t Joanne's first rodeo. In fact, the date-rape-blackmail game is her go-to source of income. Previously, she worked as a prostitute and a dominatrix, but the fake-rape business just pays better. She also has a vibrant, consensual sex life with a hoodlum named Buddy, and Silverberg certainly knows his way around a good 1960s-style sex scene.

There are a handful of side characters and family members in the novel, and Silverberg gives us a peek into each of their secret sex lives. Some of this felt like filler, but it was always well written and compelling. The problem with Gutter Road is that there’s not much of a story arc throughout the novel other than the beginning and the resolution. Otherwise, it’s really just a cycle of sex scenes among the cast of dysfunctional characters.

I will add that the last part of the book finally becomes a crime novel once Fred decides to deal with the problem of Joanne the blackmailer head-on. The climactic sequences are pretty great and in total keeping with the dark, violent, twisty conclusions of the best Manhunt stories from the same era.

Overall, I enjoyed Gutter Road. It was an interesting glimpse into societal norms and taboos from 60 years ago. Even with his early sex books, Silverberg could deliver interesting characters and some damn fine prose with a violent conclusion. I’m glad he and Stark House are making these old novels available.

Buy a copy of this book HERE.

Monday, October 3, 2022

Paperback Warrior Episode 101 - Steve Frazee

It's a new era as Paperback Warrior storms into the next 100 episodes. #101 features a look at western and action-adventure author Steve Frazee's life and career in the pulps and paperbacks. Tom explains to listeners his cash-grab scheme using his local library and Eric discusses his recent western paperback acquisitions. Additionally, horror author Ronald Malfi, crime-fiction author Lionel White, and sci-fi writer Robert Silverberg. Watch the show's video HERE, stream audio and video below, or download the audio directly HERE.

Listen to "Episode 101 - Steve Frazee" on Spreaker.



Friday, April 22, 2022

Killer

Before he was science-fiction royalty, Robert Silverberg was a cranking out cheap genre paperbacks to make ends meet. His output included sleaze novels like 1965’s Passion Killer — originally released under the pseudonym of Don Elliott when the author was 29. After discovering that the book is actually a tidy bit of crime noir fiction, Stark House Press imprint Black Gat books has re-released the paperback under the name Killer.

Lee Floyd has just arrived in Manhattan after being hired to kill Howard Gorman’s wife, Ethyl. You see, Howard has recently met a girl named Marie and has decided to upgrade. As such, he needs Hitman Lee’s help in disposing of this Ethyl situation.

For her part, Marie is happy to allow a wealthy sucker like Howard to cover her living expenses, but she finds her benefactor rather repugnant. Nevertheless, having one client paying her bills is easier than working full-time as a call girl. All things being equal, Marie enjoys lesbian sex and Silverberg pulls no 1965 punches in his erotic writing. This is definitely a sex book, and those graphic scenes comprise probably half the novel. You can decide if that’s good news or bad news.

There are some interesting crime noir manipulations and double-crosses among the sex scenes that made Killer a lot of fun to read. It’s not the top-tier hitman fiction we periodically receive from Max Allan Collins and Lawrence Block, but it’s light-years better than most 1960s sleaze fiction. Many authors aren’t proud of their output in this genre, but I’m glad Silverberg has made peace with his past because Killer is a winner. Not a masterpiece, but certainly worth your time. 

Get the book HERE.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Meg

At the beginning of his writing career, Robert Silverberg wrote several sleaze paperbacks for Midwood using the pseudonym Loren Beauchamp. Stark House Press has reprinted two of these early classics in one volume including his 1960 paperback, Meg.

As the novel opens, teenage Meg Tandler is losing her virginity in the backseat of a car with a sexually unremarkable local boy who plied her with beer before going all the way. Meg is a bombshell with full breasts and sensuous hips - a Marilyn Monroe type - and she knows she wants more from life than Idaho could ever offer. So, it’s off to New York to find her fortune in show business.

On Broadway, Meg visits a low-end theatrical agent named Max Bonaventura seeking representation. Max talks a good game and Meg signs with him in exchange for 25% of her future earnings. You see exactly where this is headed when Max has Meg get stark naked at their first meeting, so he can inspect the merchandise. After seeing what she has to offer, Max lays it out like this:

"I'll tell you what to dress and how to look. I'll teach you to sing and act and dance. I’ll tell you when to take your clothes off and when to put them on. I'll tell you when to go to bed with people. You're going to have to do some sleeping around, get me? Nobody gets to the top without paying for it. But you don't let anybody touch you who can’t do you some good."

Driven by ambition, Meg makes peace with Max’s plan to leverage her sex appeal and sleep her way into show business and up the ladder of fame. Despite his cynical amorality, Max is a delightfully colorful character and the main reason I kept turning the pages in this unlikely compelling paperback. The novel’s plot pretty much follows the ups and downs (and ins and outs) of Meg’s career as a sexpot. Because it’s a 1960 paperback, the sex scenes aren’t graphic at all, but Silverberg treats the reader to pages and pages on the allures of Meg’s impossible-to-ignore rack. The writing is predictably solid and Silverberg really knows how to make breasts come alive as central characters of a novel.

Meg rises through the ranks of show business thanks to Max’s never ending supply of publicity stunts, and this makes for a fun and quick read. It’s a predictable cautionary tale about the cost of uninhibited ambition and a pleasant way to kill a couple hours in the summer sun.

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Friday, April 3, 2020

I Watched Them Eat Me Alive

I was born in 1976 and grew up in the 80s watching horror movies from the 60s and 70s on Cable networks like TBS, WGN and USA. One of my favorite sub-genres was the killer creature features that were incredibly popular in the mid to late-1970s. Films like “Grizzly” (1976), “Empire of the Ants” (1977), “Willard” (1971) and “Day of the Animals” (1977) were popular selections for weekend television and brick and mortar video rental stores.

Perhaps the most successful of the genre was 1975's blockbuster shark flick “Jaws”, leading to three sequels and a slew of similar aquatic horror movies like “Piranha” (1978) and “Orca” (1977). There were even a number of paperback titles like “Croc” (David Hagberg; 1976) and “The Long Dark Night” (David Fisher; 1976) that ran the gamut from deadly subway crocodiles to packs of rabid dogs. When it came to deadly animal attacks, nothing was off the table.

Until most recently, I had assumed that the killer animal/creature sensation was simply a product of the 1970s. However, Men's Adventure Library's 2017 book “I Watched Them Eat Me Alive” (New Texture), edited by adventure magazine scholars Robert Deis and Wyatt Doyle, showcases a myriad of horrific stories and grizzly paintings that dominated “most of the 160 different pulp magazines between the 1940s-1970s”. While skirting the line between horror and adventure (and even science-fiction), there are no boundaries in terms of savage, bloody action.

In 120+ pages, Robert and Wyatt present hundreds of magazine covers and panels, complete with issue dates and artist and author credits. The two historians also present separate essays compiled as “Funny as Hell: Killer Creatures in Men's Adventure Mags”. These essays not only explain the origins of the literary phenomenon, but also who the publisher's target audiences were. In thought provoking analysis, Wyatt metaphorically links the violent animals attacks to blue collar men's struggles with “life's hassles, adjustments, responsibilities and the uncertainties of life”. By connecting the two, it's easy to envision the tired, blue-collar working man finding enjoyment and similarities with each claw mark and animal bite.

The book begins with stories by Stan Smith and Robert Silverberg and focus on the killer or monster crab sensation. I found both of these enjoyable and was fond of Silverberg's inclusion as I enjoyed his crime-noir novel “Blood On the Mink” (reviewed HERE). After the brief “Flying Rodents Ripped My Flesh” story by Lloyd Parker (the only Sugar Glider horror story I know of), the sensational deadly gorilla short “Terror Safari” by Lester Hutton was presented from the January 1961 issue of Rage. The book finished with terror in two American locales - “Strange Revenge of Wyoming's Most Hunted Giant Puma”, by Robert F. Dorr and “Trapped in the Bayou's Pit of a Million Snakes” by Walter Kaylin, the best stories in the compilation.

From vivid, horrifying paintings and illustrations to genre analysis, “I Watched Them Eat Me Alive” was an eye-opening (and sometimes eye-closing) reading experience. Like the duo's other historic chronicles of pulp adventure magazines, this is a mandatory inclusion for any vintage action-adventure or pulp collector. As I've mentioned in an earlier review of their “Barbarians on Bikes”, the idea of actually owning these antiquarian, vintage magazines is a fool's errand. It's an expensive hobby considering the secondhand market pricing combined with product shortage. Robert and Wyatt have ultimately paid the price for all of us by compiling hundreds and hundreds of high quality scans for future generations to enjoy. It's a labor of love that's appreciated by all. Godspeed ahead!

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Blood on the Mink

Robert Silverberg is a successful science-fiction and fantasy author. His novellas “Nightwings” and “Born with the Dead” are among five works that gained industry acclaim as Hugo award winners. However, Silverberg cut his teeth on “non-fiction” fantasies and crime noir in his youth. These stories, penned under names like Dan Malcolm and Ray McKensie, were published by zines like “Guilty” and “Trapped”. One of those, the novella length “Blood on the Mink” (1960), was reprinted by Hard Case Crime in 2012 along with the shorts “One Night of Violence” and “Dangerous Doll”.

“Blood on the Mink” is a well-crafted peek at the inner-workings of the Philadelphia syndicate. The book, written in first-person,  introduces us to a federal agent who's donned the disguise of Vic Lowney, a successful California mob boss who's traveling to Philly to meet with a mobster named Klaus. Lowney, who's never met Klaus before, has an agenda of infiltrating Klaus' ring and nabbing a counterfeiter. Klaus' agenda is to pitch the counterfeiting idea to Lowney in hopes of selling him the fake currency for a quarter on a dollar. Easy, right? 

Things get rather complicated quickly. First, Lowney is approached by a rival New York mobster named Litwhiler. He wants Lowney to cooperate with him and steal the counterfeiter with the promise that he'll sell currency to Lowney at a reduced rate. Further, Lowney is then approached by Klaus' stacked lover with a pitch to kill Klaus, steal the counterfeiter and make a fast break. Lowney, while carefully balancing his government work with pleasure, navigates a series of twists and turns that soon incorporates another rival mobster named Chavez and the counterfeiter's beautiful daughter, Szekely. 

With all of these intricate allegiances and deceivers, is the book too dense to enjoy? No. Definitely not. Typically I struggle with a cast this robust with multiple threads. At 157-pages of large font, Silverberg takes it easy on his reader (and himself) by sticking to the facts and creating a brisk, easy read. “Blood on the Mink” shines with just enough action, dialogue and babes. In fact, I liked it so much that I read it in one sitting. While not the literary value of a Keene, Whittington or Brewer, this author sticks to the basics and delivers an excellent crime paperback. Nothing more, nothing less. Recommended. 

Buy a copy of the book HERE