Monday, July 27, 2015

Book Review: The Lost Traveller

Book Review: 'The Lost Traveller' by Steve Wilson

3 / 5 Stars

‘The Lost Traveller’ was first published in the UK in 1976; this Ace Books paperback (308 pp) was released in the US in October 1978,with cover artwork by Robert Adragna. Steve Wilson wrote another biker-centered novel, ‘13’, which was published in the UK in 1985. He also has written a number of nonfiction books about British motorcycles.

‘Traveller’ set in the US, some two hundred years after WWIII erupted in 1993. While large tracts of the country remain uninhabitable wastelands, Southern California is more or less intact, and a civilization of sorts – called the Fief - has grown up around the San Jaquin Valley. The Hells Angel’s motorcycle gang, having had the right genetic characteristics to survive the collapse of civilization, have emerged as a potent entity in their own right, and they exist in an uneasy tolerance with the technocrats of the Fief.



Having emerged from the war in reasonably fine style, the Angels would be content to pass their days whoring, riding, partying, singing, and committing various acts of mayhem against their rivals, the Gypsies. However, word has reached Eliot, the Fief elder, that a scientist has discovered a way to make plants grow in contaminated soil – and thus, holds the key to the survival of mankind.

But the scientist, named Sangria, is being kept in isolation in a compound in the Ozarks; a compound belonging to the Easterners, a bloc that is intent on subduing what remains of the US into a fascist New Order.

Eliot comes up with a desperate plan, one that requires the help of the Angels to succeed. A team of Angels are to ride out to the compound, free Sangria, and transport him back to the Fief. This entails a dangerous journey over the so-called ‘Juice Route’, the sole remaining stretch of interstate highway across the southern US.

Long Range John, a softspoken, contemplative Angel, is teamed with the ready-for-anything Milo, and the sadistic, self-centered Belial, for the mission. With the fate of the freedom of California and the Fief resting on their shoulder, the three Angels set out…..but all too soon, they discover that the best-laid of plans can be fatally flawed……

I found ‘The Lost Traveller’ to be a middling read. The idea of Hells Angels bikers set loose in postapocalyptia certainly is an interesting premise for a sf novel, one with the right measures of ‘Mad Max’ and ‘Fallout 3’.

However, too many chunks of the narrative feature stilted dialogue, and rambling expositions on existential angst and the Meaning of Life. It doesn’t help matters that in his Acknowledgements, author Wilson mentions ‘Black Elk Speaks’, the 1932 book that purported to be a recitation of Sioux Indian wisdom and knowledge; reprintings of the book in 1961 and 1979 triggered a craze for all things Sioux (or ‘Lakota’ as they were renamed).

And indeed, Indian mysticism pervades much of ‘Traveller’, subjecting the reader to overwritten passages in which Long Range undergoes Vision Quests and other spiritual experiences that only come to those blessed with an admiration for the Wisdoms of Native Peoples and the trite, vague aphorisms that accompany such Wisdoms………..

What makes ‘Traveller’ worth reading are the action sequences, which, although confusingly written at times, have a gritty authenticity - and uncertain outcomes - for our heroes. When combined with some well-timed surprise plot twists, the action segments impart sufficient momentum to the narrative to make up for its more meandering segments.

Summing up, ‘The Lost Traveller’ is a mid-70s sf novel that tried to do something novel to the post-apocalyptic narrative; it succeeds sufficiently to be worth picking up if you happen to see it on the shelves of a used bookstore.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Jeff Hawke: Survival Part Two

Jeff Hawke: 'Survival', Part Two
from Jeff Hawke: Overlord, Titan Books, 2007










Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Jeff Hawke: Survival Part One

Jeff Hawke: 'Survival', Part One
from Jeff Hawke: Overlord, Titan Books, 2007



Jeff Hawke was a daily science fiction comic strip that artist Sydney Jordan debuted in the UK newspaper The Daily Express in February, 1954. The strip provided to be very popular and ran for twenty years until April, 1974. 

Starting in 1956, Jordan's friend Willie Patterson began contributing to the writing of the strip; as well, at times various uncredited artists did the majority of the artwork.

The strip also appeared in some European newspapers, being particularly well received in Italy.


Jeff Hawke was printed in only one newspaper in the US, the Deseret News, and remains unknown to all but a small part of the American sf readership.

In 2008, UK publisher Titan Books reprinted a selection of Hawke strips: Overlord and The Ambassadors

I'm posting the story 'Survival', from the Overlord compilation, as a two-part posting. The strip originally ran from June to September, 1960. The Titan Books editions apparently relied on scans of the original black and white artwork, which, despite their age, reproduce quite well.   

Reading these strips is like stepping into a time machine, and travelling to an era when comic strips, even those printed in black and white, had an intrinsic artistry and were considered major factors in pulling in, and maintaining, newspaper circulation. 

Despite the limitations on content that came with newspaper publishing, Jordan and Patterson were able to provide reasonably interesting plots, mainly by placing their characters in situations in which deliberation and careful action were required, a stance that was in keeping with the idea of Jeff Hawke as the embodiment of British restraint and rectitude.

Despite having to adhere to the size and format limitations of a comic strip panel, and the drawbacks of reproducing pen-and-ink drawings onto newsprint, Jordan and his assistants produced some memorable artwork. 

They relied on a variety of techniques, such as meticulous cross-hatching, shading and stippling, to provide their images with a depth and sophistication that has long since vanished from cramped, dwindling pages of the comics in today's newspapers.....











Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Bus

'The Bus' by Paul Kirchner
from the July 1985 issue of Heavy Metal



Thursday, July 16, 2015

Book Review: The Missing Persons League

Book Review: 'The Missing Persons League' by Frank Bonham


1 / 5 Stars

‘The Missing Persons League’ (236 pp) was published by Scholastic Books in 1976. The cover artist is uncredited.

I don’t usually review ‘young adult’ novels or short story collections here at the PorPor Books Blog, but I made an exception for this novel, mainly because Frank Bonham’s ‘Durango Street’ (1965) remains a classic of the Ghetto Action genre.

As well, ‘Persons’ is set in the sort of dystopian near-future USA that was part and parcel of the Eco-Disaster subgenre of 70s sf.

The protagonist of ‘Persons’ is Brian Foster, a high-school student living in San Diego, ca. the mid -1990s. The USA is in the grip of an ongoing Eco-catastrophe, accompanied by economic collapse. Its citizens rely on synthetic food; inhale air so baldy polluted that they regularly use oxygen –dispensing ‘breath’ stations; and routinely take a variety of anti-anxiety pills (one brand is termed ‘Lullaby’).

As the novel opens, Brian is submitting a message to the Personals column of his local newspaper. It seems that a year ago, while on an outing to the Torrey Pines seashore park, Brian’s mother and sister….disappeared. Vanished. No calls, no ransom notes, nothing. Brian’s father, an absent-minded eccentric who refers to Brian as ‘old man’ and ‘Champ’, doesn’t seem unduly perturbed by the absence of his wife and daughter.

As Brian embarks on his own investigation of the disappearance of his mother and sister, he meets an enigmatic new girl at school: Heather Morse. Soon Heather and Brian are good friends, working together to discover the truth behind the rumors that there has been a steady increase in the numbers of people reported as ‘missing’ in Southern California.

Is there a conspiracy taking place under the noses of the authorities ? And does it involve plans to relocate the human race to another solar system before the Earth becomes uninhabitable from the abuse Man has subjected it to ? For Brian and Heather, time to find the answers to these questions is running out – for Lieutenant Atticus, the cruel and callous neighborhood Environmental Police officer, suspects that they know something about the conspiracy ……

Even making allowances for being a Young Adult novel, ‘The Missing Persons League’ is a mediocre book. Bonham’s plot has a meandering, improvised quality that relies heavily on contrivances and willfully dumb behavior by many of the adult characters. The dialogue has the stilted tenor of a first-draft manuscript; this was a surprise to me, since Bonham’s dialogue in ‘Durango Street’ is particularly good.

Where ‘Persons’ does succeed is in its depiction of a near-future USA in the grip of Eco-catastrophe; there is a distinctly ‘70s’ styling to this aspect of the novel that will undoubtedly trigger nostalgia in those readers who were Baby Boomers and remember seeing ‘Soylent Green’ and ‘Logan’s Run’ as children / teenagers.

But, taken as a whole, ‘Persons’ is one of Bonham’s less impressive efforts. Given his profligate output as a writer, it was perhaps inevitable that some of his books would be sub-par. Hardcore fans of 70s SF may want to give this book a try; all others can pass on it without penalty.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Heavy Metal magazine July 1985

'Heavy Metal' magazine July 1985


July, 1985......on the radio and on MTV, Sting's single If You Love Somebody, Set Them Free is in heavy rotation.



The July issue of Heavy Metal magazine is out, with a cheesecake cover titled 'Tattoo Two' by Olivia DeBerardinis.

The Dossier section for this issue is filled with quintessential 80s pop culture features. 

Foremost is an interview with Australian director George Miller, whose third film in the 'Mad Max' trilogy, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, is being released in theatres in the US. 

Also of interest is an interview with the well-known artist Howard Chaykin.






Articles on print media deal with new books from Jack Vance and Richard Bachman (Stephen King).



In his 'rok' music reviews, Lou Stathis indicates that he is suffering from something called 'vinyl fatigue'.........brought on by his feelings of 'boredom and disgust with the music scene.' Those of us not gifted with his degree of hipster-ness are left to wonder why, despite his existential angst and creative despair, Stathis covers bands named Bongos, Death Comet Crew, and.....Cabaret Voltaire ? Maybe for Stathis, it's a case of ......Too many Synth bands, not enough Time....


The video section has some real obscure titles...by all means, drop a Comment if you've ever seen S. S. Experiment Love Camp.....!?


As far as the comic / graphic content goes, the best singleton entry is the striking 'Metropolis', by someone named 'Sesar'. 

I suspect that 'Sesar' is a pseudonym used by regular Heavy Metal contributor Jean Michel Nicollet, but I could be wrong.....anyways, 'Metropolis' is posted below.....








Saturday, July 11, 2015

Bob Larkin: Doc Savage paintings

Bob Larkin: Doc Savage paintings
from The Savage Art of Bob Larkin, S. Q. Productions, 2009

In 1977 artist Bob Larkin took over the cover illustration assignments for Bantam's Doc Savage paperbacks, beginning novel No. 89, 'The Magic Island', in July of that year. 



Larkin's work recalled the amazing illustrations that James Bama had provided for the series (in fact, Larkin used the same model - Steve Holland - as Bama had used).

Doc Savage Omnibus No. 9 (July 1989)

Larkin provided covers for much of the remaining books in the series, finishing up with Doc Savage Omnibus No. 13 in October 1990.

Larkin pulled off the difficult feat of evoking the realistic painting style of James Bama, while providing his own unique take on the illustrations.

Additional Doc Savage illustrations can be viewed at Larkin's website.

left: The Fiery  Menace (October 1984), top: Death Had Yellow Eyes (January 1982), bottom, The Goblins (March 1985)


specially commissioned painting for a limited edition print from Graphitti Studios


Doc Savage Omnibus No. 12 (June 1990)


top left: The Pharaoh's Ghost (January 1981), bottom left: The Time Terror (January 1981), right, The All-White Elf (unused)

specially commissioned painting for Terry Allen


 left: The Running Skeletons (unpublished), top: Hell Below, (October 1980), bottom, The Golden Man (February 1984)