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The Czar of Fear (Doc Savage #22)

This is the ninth story originally published by Street and Smith.czaroffear

The Czar of Fear has one of the least exotic locales of any Doc Savage story. Following chronologically after The Lost Oasis and The Sargasso Ogre (which are fun reads because the story line connects and the locales are unique and well-imagined) The Czar of Fear is a let-down.

Prosper City is being terrorized by The Green Bell, an unknown whose makes his enemies insane with the tolling of a bell (the green comes from his hirelings strange uniforms). Three citizens escape to track down Doc in NYC; one of them is murdered, and this is pinned on Doc. He eludes the police and the Green Bell’s thugs and, with the team of five (plus the two surviving citizens and one hanger on) in tow, heads for Prosper City. The citizens are starving, the mines have all been shutdown by the Green Bell’s minions. Here, Doc demonstrates his business and psychological sense: her puts money in the bank, offers to buy all of the shutdown mines, and provides food and wages for the citizens. In this way, he attacks the Green Bell financially and sociologically. The Green Bell frames him for another murder, but Doc eludes capture while putting the pieces together of who the Green Bell is.

This story features yet another beautiful female smitten with Doc, the man who refuses female companionship (for their own safety of course).

My sortable table of Doc Savage books is here.

  • Written by: Lester Dent
  • Villain: The Green Bell
  • Doc Gadget: portable movie camera to record when bad guys sneak into his room (really cool in 1933)
  • Doc Feat: using tobacco smoke to track where underground pipes go (it doesn’t work as expected as the pipes go straight down to a mine, but a nice trick).
  • Exotic locale: none really. The plot takes place in New York City and the thriving metropolis of Prosper City
  • By the numbers: originally published November 1933; Bantam #22 published March 1968; Philip Jose Farmer dated October 1931
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Houston Half-Marathon 2010: an adventure in heat and humidity

After three gorgeous weeks of low temps and low humidity, the img00089-20101024-0910Houston weather returned to its norm: humidity off the Gulf and temperatures above average.

Just in time for my first attempt to run the Houston Half-Marathon, an adventure in the making. Bottom line: I did not beat my PR but I did finish in under two hours, not bad considering the weather (results are here).

The Lead Up (driving the Texas triangle is not the best warm up). After training for most of the summer, including my first ever 100 mile month (hey, I’m a late starter into this running thing), the week before the run found me driving the Texas triangle for work. Wednesday – Houston to DFW. Friday – DFW to San Antonio. Saturday – San Antonio to Houston. Driving is not the best activity to keep your legs relaxed and loose, but you gotta do what you gotta do. The other challenge was that my running buddy Bert had “kiddies interruptus” and could not run with me. Bert was big on motivational techniques like telling me he was going to put lipstick on me if I started walking (which I am sure that he didn’t mean as an insult to all those female runners that habitually blow by us). So I was going to need to motivate myself by the thought of a couple of cold ones at the finish line.

The Course (I preordered a path in the shade). (more…)

The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan (The Heroes of Olympus #1)

The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan (The Heroes of Olympus #1)

How do you continue a series that has ended, without making it droll, repetitive, unimaginative? (See the twelfth SF Signal podcast for a discussion on series that have gone on too long).

You simply follow history, as with Rick Riordan’s new series The Heroes of Olympus, the follow-up to his excellent Percy Jackson series). The Percy Jackson series has the Greek Gods of Olympus being challenged by the Titans they dethroned long ago. This new series combines Roman mythology with another set of ancients (no spoilers) set on revenge against the gods, following the stories of mythology again. This book, like the first series, not only provides a great family read (we will all pass this book around) but really invests the reader into the tales of mythology in a greatly entertaining way.

The first book, The Lost Hero, starts where the Percy Jackson series ended, with Rachael Dare making her first prophecy:

Seven half-bloods shall answer the call.

To storm or fire, the world must fall

An oath to keep with a final breath,

And foes bear arms to the Doors of Death.

The Lost Hero opens with Jason, Leo and Piper, three misfits at a camp for wayward kids who are obviously (if you read the first series) demi-gods.  But Jason has no memory of anything before that moment. (more…)

Alumni Booksigning at Trinity U. this Saturday

For the fifth year in a row, I’ll be attending the Trinity University Alumni book signing on the beautiful campus in San Antonio. The event is Saturday, October 23 at 11 am.

The Alumni Book signing is in the Dicke/Smith Foyer of the Ruth Taylor Fine Arts Center Lobby, and once again I will be sharing a table with Robert Flynn (mainly because he buys me beer, but also because he has an excellent new novel titled Jade: Outlaw out on Kindle, a follow-up to his Silver Spur award winner Echoes of Glory). The Trinity Bookstore will have copies of my novels Software by the Kilo and Dusk Before the Dawn as well as the collection of stories written for my mom and dad entitled Voices in my Head.

For those of you with adventuresome streaks (and yes, Lou, this means you) we will adjourn afterward to the Bulverde Chili Cook-off where a friend of ours is judging. Then, thanks to a gauntlet thrown down by running buddy Bert, I’ll drive back to Houston for the Houston Half-Marathon.

Books, chili and beer. Any questions? The obvious question everybody seems to ask (making me echo Ryan in the classic “what about me?” query) is whether or not my lovely wife will be attending. Sadly, if that is why you are considering coming, you should abandon all hope, as she is representing us at our son’s college’s parents weekend.

Hope to see you in SA.

Review of Blade Dancer by S.L. Viehl on SFSignal

Review of Blade Dancer by S.L. Viehl on SFSignal

My review of Blade Dancer by S. L. Viehl, a stand-alone novel of the Stardoc universe, has been posted on SFSignal.com. An excerpt:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: The death of her mother exposes Jory as a half-human/half-alien. She is expelled from Earth, charged by her mother to find six similar creatures who were conceived through violence. Gathering the six, Jory goes to assassin school to become a “Blade Dancer” to seek revenge on the one responsible.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Fast-paced action; believable depictions of racial prejudice; and a military school reminiscent of the Orson Scott Card classic Ender’s Game.
CONS: Minor difficulties jumping into a world without the background of the Stardoc novels and their universe.
BOTTOM LINE: An action packed story in a socially complex universe that has me adding the Stardoc novels to my reading list.

A History of the French Legation in Texas by Kenneth Hafertepe

A History of the French Legation in Texas by Kenneth Hafertepe

Driving south on I-35 through Austin, Texas, I often wonder two things:

  • why didn’t I take the tollway so I wouldn’t be stuck in traffic?
  • what is The French Legation, pointed towards by sign tempting one in the direction opposite 6th Street?

A History of the French Legation in Texas by Kenneth Hafertepe answers at least the second question, describing “the oldest remaining structure in Austin”, starting with the building of the Legation in 1840 and 1841, when Austin was a year old. This is the 4th book in TSHA’s (Texas State Historical Association) Fred Rider Cotten Popular History Series (list of the series here). Early in the book, he explains what a Legation is:

Today all nations send ambassadors to each other and set up embassies, but in the nineteenth century, only the great powers sent and received ambassadors. In dealing with lesser states a great power like France would send and receive a minister, who operate a legation. Fledgling states – like Texas – were entitled to a legation, but without a minister. Instead, an officer of lower rank was left in charge – a charge d’affaires. (more…)

Re-reading MSandT

Re-reading Tad William's Memory, Sorrow and Thorn

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Dusk Before the Dawn

Dusk Before the Dawn

Software By the Kilo

Software by the Kilo

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