The Bloody White Baron

Baron Ungern-Sternberg has held a fascination for me since encountering him in Mark Samuels’ story “A Call to Greatness”, so I picked up a biography of him.

Review: The Bloody White Baron: The Extraordinary Story of the Russian Nobleman Who Became the Last Khan of Mongolia, James Palmer, 2008.61KdS6fLnuL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

In 1921, Baron Ungern-Sternberg, convinced by oracles that he had 130 days to live, issued, as the “Incarnated God of War, Khan of grateful Mongolia”, his notorious General Order 15. (Numbered “15” for superstitious reasons. It was actually the first order issued by the paperwork-averse man born Freiherr Roman Nikolai Maximilian von Ungern-Sternberg.)

It stated, among other things:

‘Truth and mercy’ are no longer admissible. Henceforth there can only be ‘truth and merciless hardness.’ The evil which has fallen upon the land, with the object of destroying the divine principle in the human soul, must be extirpated root and branch. Fury against the heads of the revolution, its devoted followers, must know no boundaries.

Chilling words, anathema to civilized values. Yet, being of a dark and pessimistic turn of mind, I wonder if we will, under some circumstance in the not-so-distant future, have to ponder its application. Continue reading “The Bloody White Baron”

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“The Arcade”

It’s time for this week’s bit of weird fiction.

(Why, you ask, isn’t there one every week. Mostly because I’ve either already blogged about the current story under discussion at LibraryThing’s Deep Ones group or I didn’t get my hands on the story under discussion).

Review: “The Arcade”, Will Murray, 2012.

Worlds of Cthulhu
Cover by Gahan WIlson

You may not recognize the name of Will Murray. He writes a lot, but most of his work is in pulp fiction both as a practioner and historian. For instance, he does a lot of historical background for Sanctum Books reprints of Doc Savage novels (which I read but don’t regularly review here) and has new adventures with that hero.

Among his other interests is H. P. Lovecraft. In addition to critical work on Lovecraft, he’s written some Lovecraftian stories including “The Sothis Radiant”.

As Robert M. Price, the editor of Worlds of Cthulhu where this story first appeared, this is a Lovecraftian story that does not “depend upon a check list of unpronounceable names and magical grimoires”.

It uses Lovecraft’s Arkham locales, specifically the town of Foxfield. That was a location Lovecraft invented but never used.

This is one of those weird tales whose charm would be broken by a plot synopsis, not that it’s particularly complex. Continue reading ““The Arcade””

The Condemnation of Crow

Review: The Condemnation of Crow, ed. Joel Jenkins, 2017.

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Cover by Damon Orrell

From the days right after Civil War to 1925 and from New Orleans to England, Jenkins continues the saga of Lone Crow.

In eight stories and a couple of pieces of flash fiction, Jenkins adds to Crow’s legend. Wyatt Earp shows up again, this time joined by noted Old West attorney Temple Houston and gunslinger Luke Short.

Jenkins’ author’s note frankly admits he doesn’t feel obliged to follow the actual timeline of his historical characters. Morgan and Warren Earp meet different ends here than in history, and a story in The Coming of Crow implies Crow first met Wyatt years later than here.

Sherlock Holmes and Watson show up here, the former insisting on a rational reason for one of the supernatural menaces Crow is always encountering.

To the group of Crow’s former enemies and bounties turned allies is added Isidro Acevedo. It’s from him Crow gets his signature Colt Peacemaker though we still don’t get the details about that night when it was blessed by a Prophet and the dead rose from the earth. Continue reading “The Condemnation of Crow”

The Coming of Crow

Review: The Coming of Crow,  ed. Joel Jenkins, 2014.The Coming of Crow

Armed with a Colt Peacemaker blessed by a prophet on a night in the desert when the dead rose from the earth, the lone survivor of his tribe after they are wiped out by other Indians, raised by white Mormons, an ex-Army Scout turned bounty hunter, Lone Crow roams the west.

But it’s not just bad men he’ll encounter. His gun and tomahawk and bow will deal death to Cthulhoidish entities, shapeshifters, sorcerers, and Chinese demons from Alaska to Costa Rica, California to Colorado, Oklahoma to Arkham and New York City.

Jenkins’ Lone Crow is the literary descendant of Robert E. Howard’s Solomon Kane and Aaron B. Larson’s Haakon Jones and the finest weird western series I’ve encountered next to Larson’s. Truth be told, he may be better than Larson, and I’m just biased towards Larson because of his extensive use of my native South Dakota for many of his stories.

I’m not going to summarize the 14 stories here. That would give a false sense of tedium since many of the stories use a plot where Crow is after some bounty, encounters and defeats some supernatural menace, and then still has to deal with the normal dangers of capturing or killing bad men. However, if your interested in specifics, you’ll find a bit more on individual Crow stories elsewhere on the blog. Continue reading “The Coming of Crow”

“Jackpot for Julie”

The James Gunn series continues with a look at another of his unpublished stories.

Review: “Jackpot for Julie”, James Gunn, 1996.c87e19c4f9c12b7596945497167434f414f4141

In the early 1950s, bolstered by the number of stories he’s sold, Gunn decided to crack the slick magazine market. He decided, after analysis, a “light romantic story” was his best bet, and the result was this, his 35th story.

It doesn’t have any fantasy element, but I think it’s a successful story. I’m surprised it was not accepted. Perhaps the competition was just better. I could see this as a light hearted tv drama from the era.

The story is set in Las Vegas and is full of coincidences appropriate to a story centering on gambling. The style is quite different and more humorous than Gunn’s usual. Continue reading ““Jackpot for Julie””

“The Whip”

The James Gunn series continues, and I’m starting my look at The Unpublished Gunn, Part Two.

Review: “The Whip”, James Gunn, 1996.c87e19c4f9c12b7596945497167434f414f4141

Seemingly, from the introduction in The Unpublished Gunn, Part One, this story was written in late 1952 or early 1953.

Gunn said, in that volume, that he thought this story might have been rejected by editors because it was too depressing. It’s a near miss, but I think the story suffers from the same problem many other unpublished Gunn stories do: too obscure. This one also has some loose ends I would have liked wrapped up.

It’s a fairly long story, the 23rd that Gunn wrote. It takes up 20 pages of a 68 chapbook. Continue reading ““The Whip””

Science Fiction Trails #12

Lately, I’ve been thinking about narrowing the scope of this blog and, as I put it, reading more like a normal person. In other words, reviewing less of what I read.

I’ll probably continue to do the weird western stuff though. It gets a moderate amount of interest, and it’s an area not a lot of other people cover

Review: Science Fiction Trails #12, ed. David B. Riley, 2017.Science Fiction Trails #12

In 2017, David B. Riley gathered the posse for another ride in Science Fiction Trails.

That magazine’s successors, Steampunk Trails and Story Emporium, didn’t generate a lot of interest, and Riley wanted to still provide an outlet for writers of weird westerns.

Counter to that was Riley’s perennial problem in even getting enough submissions for the magazine.

So, it’s no surprise that all the members of the posse are old reliables from previous issues.

Not only this is a shorter issue than regular, but it’s even got a couple of reprints.

First up is “Belfrey’s in Your Bats!” from Aaron B. Larson. There is nothing wrong with the story. It gives a hat tip to probably one of the most popular weird westerns of all time, the tv show The Wild Wild West (the other being, perhaps, the Clint Eastwood film High Plains Drifter). But it’s not the best of the stories collected in that powerful parcel of weird western fiction: The Weird Western Adventures of Haakon Jones which I’ve reviewed at length elsewhere. Continue reading “Science Fiction Trails #12”