Thursday, August 29, 2019

Hold On by Ian Gomm

Hold On
Ian Gomm
August 1979

As author Stephen Davis points out in his biography of Led Zeppelin, Hammer of the Gods (1985), early in 1979 the major record companies in the U.S. succumbed to the wisdom of the rock critics and signed up every 'Punk' or 'New Wave' band they could find.

By May 1979, records from all of these bands began to glut the market. Few people bought them.

According to Davis, the release of the Led Zeppelin album In Through the Out Door on August 15, 1979 'promptly saved the American record industry from bankruptcy'.

That might well be true, but some of the New Wave acts that released songs and albums in that Summer of '79 were actually pretty good (and no, I do not mean The Knack).

Among these worthwhile songs was one from the British singer-songwriter Ian Gomm (b. 1947) whose album Summer Holiday was released in the UK in 1978. A year later it was released in the US as Gomm with the Wind, and the single 'Hold On' got airplay on the FM album-oriented rock stations. 

I remember hearing it in August 1979 and thinking it was one of the better New Wave songs out there.

So here's a grainy clip of Ian Gomm performing 'Hold On'. 

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Book Review: Where Have All the Soldiers Gone

Book Review: 'Where Have All the Soldiers Gone' by Con Sellers

5 / 5 Stars

Connie Leslie Sellers (1921 - 1992) was a WW2 veteran who was discharged from the Army in 1956 (apparently for alcoholism). Sellers turned to writing pulp fiction, and ultimately authored over 230 novels in genres ranging from pornography, to melodramas, to crime, to romance, and even television tie-ins (Dallas). 

'Where Have All the Soldiers Gone' (174 pp) was published by Popular Library in February 1969. This was not an easy book to track down, as it's long been out of print, and copies in good condition have steep asking prices.

The novel is set in an undisclosed area in South Vietnam in the late 60s. Lee Boyd, the protagonist, is newly deployed and, as a conscientious objector, is assigned to be the platoon's medic. Boyd comes to Vietnam with plenty of baggage; back in his hometown of Monterey, California, he was an ardent antiwar protester, and the subject of considerable media attention, when he faced a four-year jail sentence for refusing to be drafted. 

Boyd ultimately chose to serve in Vietnam rather than spend four years in a cell. He arrives in-country filled with bitterness and self-pity over his fate, and determined to expose what he sees as the gross immorality of the U.S. military intervention (author Sellers makes clear that Lee Boyd is the physical embodiment of the antiwar sentiment inherent in the Pete Seeger song that serves as the novel's title).

The opening chapters of the novel detail Boyd's efforts to conduct his antiwar mission in the face of skepticism, even indifference, from his fellow soldiers. But as one combat mission after another unfolds, it becomes harder for Boyd to view the war with the simplified ideology he employed back in 'The World'. 

And as for Boyd's major nemesis in the platoon, the veteran Sergeant Garrick ? Lee Boyd finds that the seemingly brutal actions of the Sergeant must be viewed in a new light, as the platoon finds itself trapped in a ville and surrounded by a large force of VC and NVA regulars........

'Soldiers' is proof that for some 'one-man fiction factories' like Con Sellers, the act of issuing such large quantities of literary 'product' results in the fashioning of a capable writer. The novel is fast-moving and the frequent combat scenes convincing (likely benefiting from  Sellers's own experiences in the Army).

Its political stance is subtle, and incidental to the plot, rather than being a Message that the narrative struggles to accommodate. 

'Soldiers' is not perfect; the segments where Lee Boyd finds solace in the stifling bedroom of a Vietnamese bar girl derive a bit too much from Sellers's craft as a porn paperback writer. And the dialogue issued by the black GIs is more than a little unconvincing (few are the white writers who can keep their renditions of 'Black English' from sounding like unwitting parody).

But summing up, perhaps because of its straightforward narrative, and its treatment of the conflict at a time when the war was actually ongoing, 'Where Have All the Soldiers Gone' stands as one of the better Vietnam War novels. It's unfortunate that its long-out-of-print status makes prevents it from getting the recognition it deserves.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Space Relations, Donald Barr, and Jeffrey Epstein

Space Relations, Donald Barr, and Jeffrey Epstein

It's not often that a PorPor Book makes the contemporary news scene, but over at the Vice website I saw something that had me laughing.

(Vice is a news and commentary website aimed at the 'Millennial Hipster' readership; i.e., sample articles include 'how to make a gravity bong', 'meet the group urging people to stop calling the police', 'the midwest is about to have a weed revolution', 'I deal with grief through extreme makeup to make people look at me', etc.)

Becky Ferreira, a science reporter for Vice, writes that hipsters and news junkies are buying up copies of a 1973 sci-fi novel called 'Space Relations' by one Donald Barr who, it turns out, is the father of our current Attorney General, William Barr.

Ferreira is quite indignant over the content of 'Space Relations' :

By far the most disgusting aspect of the novel is its fixation on sexualizing adolescents, and its depictions of rape. Even the adult characters in the book are constantly infantilized. The novel is also rife with casually unsettling observations such as: “To me, pederasty seems utterly lacking in aesthetic appeal.”

For all its faults, speculators at amazon are offering 'Space Relations' for $998.

Over at eBay, other speculators are not only offering copies for exorbitant prices, but Donald Barr's other sci-fi novel 'A Planet in Arms', also has a steep asking price.

I think I might actually have a copy of 'Space Relations' that I picked up 7 years ago. It may be in a box in my basement. I've never read it. Maybe I will now.

If you have your own copy of 'Space Relations', and you're interested in selling it for a profit, well, you may want to sign up for an account at eBay.............?!

And if you have read 'Space Relations', let us know what you thought of it...........!

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Beauty and the Beast by Chris Achilleos

Beauty and the Beast 
by Chris Achilleos
Paper Tiger (UK) 1978

Every sci-fi fan and every stoner who lived during the 1970s was aware of this book. It was as indispensable as Bruce Pennington's Eschatus, Patrick Woodroffe's Mythopoeikon, or The Art of the Brother Hildebrandt, or any of the trade paperback collections of Frank Frazetta fantasy art you saw on the shelves of Waldenbooks.

I still remember when I first saw 'Beauty and the Beast': my younger brother's friend Mert brought it over with him one dreary Autumn night in '78 and we all agreed that this was outstanding art. Much too cool for Playboy, but just right for Heavy Metal (and Achilleos did indeed provide covers for that magazine).

Chris Achilleos was born on Cyprus of Greek ethnicity. After his father died while Achilleos was a child, his mother moved the family to London. Achilleos attended the Hornsey College of Art, and in the 1970s began a career in commercial art for UK publishers of science fiction and fantasy books, magazines, and record album covers.

Achilleos's skill with the airbrush gave his work a carefully crafted, 'clean' look that was much in demand as publishers began turning away from the more abstract and figurative styles of the New Wave era. 

'Beauty and the Beast' was one of the first books published by the Dean brothers under their Paper Tiger imprint, and one of the most successful. It's hard to imagine nowadays, where you can walk into Barnes and Noble and see a healthy selection of art books in the shelving of the sci-fi section, but back in '78 such things were rare.

These selections from 'Beauty and the Beast' should give you a good idea of how polished Achilleos's artwork was; these pieces could be mistaken for digitally produced compositions (which of course didn't exist in the seventies).

'Beauty and the Beast' features some of the artists' cheescake / softcore porn illustrations; more plentiful examples are provided in the followup volumes Sirens (also 1978) and Amazona (2004). Unlike 'Beauty and the Beast' these other compilations feature commentary text by the artist.

Copies of 'Beauty and the Beast' can be had for about $10 from your usual online retailers, so there's really no excuse for not having this book in your personal library if you are at all a fan of 70s pop culture, 70s sci-fi, 70s stoner art, and 70s fantasy art. And if you're not a fan of those things, but you have a deep nostalgia for that era, then that, too, is a good reason to get a copy.............

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Led Zeppelin at Knebworth

Led Zeppelin
publicity photo for the Knebworth Festival
Knebworth, UK
August 1979
left to right: John Paul Jones, Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, and John Bonham

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Book Review: One Very Hot Day

Book Review: 'One Very Hot Day' by David Halberstam

2 / 5 Stars

'One Very Hot Day' first was published in hardback in 1967. In June 1984, to tap into the burgeoning market for Vietnam War memoirs, Warner Books released this mass market paperback edition (230 pp).

David Halberstam (April 10, 1934 – April 23, 2007) was a U.S. journalist and writer, and among the first reporters to travel to Vietnam in the early 60s.

As a liberal, Halbertsam had no qualms about interjecting his political viewpoints into his fiction and nonfiction books about Vietnam. While an advocate for U.S. military intervention in the early 60s, by the early 70s Halberstam was a vociferous critic of the U.S. involvement, and even went so far as to publish a hagiography of Ho Chi Minh, titled Ho, in 1971.

The novel is set in South Vietnam in 1965, a time when the South Vietnamese government was rapidly losing the war in the countryside to the Vietcong. The lead character is a 38 year-old U.S. Army Captain named Beaupre, who agreed to serve as an Advisor to the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) less from a sense of opportunity, and more from a desire to escape his deteriorating relationship with his wife.

Along with a young, idealistic West Point graduate, Lieutenant Anderson, Beaupre sets out with an ARVN detachment on mission to investigate possible Vietcong redoubts, on the eponymous Very Hot Day. The novel's span, occupying no more than that single day, is understood to serve as a microcosm of the U.S. effort in South Vietnam.

'Hot' is not an easy read. Halberstam employs a prose style reliant on a stream-of-consciousness narrative featuring lots of run-on sentences and lots of commas. Here's one of the book's shorter passages

Of all the Americans he was quite sure that Anderson was the best officer he had seen; brave, intelligent, handling himself well with the Vietnamese soldiers, speaking the language better than any American he'd ever seen; similarly he was sure that Beaupre was the worst, sloppy, careless, indifferent to the troops, contemptuous of the Vietnamese, and worse, he was sure he sensed Beaupre's fear.

With the plot consisting of little more than relating the physical travails of the march in the hot sun, much of the narrative is preoccupied with discourses on the psychological and emotional states of its American and Vietnamese characters. Staples of the Vietnam War narrative are included, such as the obligatory encounters with bar girls while indulging in R & R in Saigon; the segregation between black soldiers and white soldiers; and the deliberate distancing of senior officers from employing a boots-on-the-ground command posture in favor of relating orders, by radio, from the rear.

The closing chapter tries to redeem with novel with a furious bout of life-or-death action, but it comes so late that it ultimately can't save 'One Very Hot Day' from being underwhelming.

The verdict ? While Halberstam's criticisms of the conduct of the war give 'One Very Hot Day' some degree of validity, when taken as yet another Vietnam War novel in a large ecology of such novels, it's not all that powerful or impressive. I really can't recommend this one.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

The Bristol Board reaches 10,000 Posts

The Bristol Board
10,000th Post

The Bristol Board has always had a spot on my Blogroll. They just reached a major milestone with their 10,000th Post, so congratulations are in order to the Bristol Board.

The Bristol Board remains a daily, go-to blog for me. It always has some examples of great graphic art from the past 60 years. More than a few of its posts have led me to some overlooked gems in the fields of comic books, comix, art books, and other media. 

Here's hoping the Bristol Board goes for another 10,000 posts - ?!

Monday, August 12, 2019


by Chris Achilleos
for the album by Whitesnake
October 1979

Even by the politically incorrect standards of the 70s, upon its release in October 1979 this album cover caused quite a bit of controversy.

Achilleos would go on to do other album covers for other bands. As for Whitesnake, Lovehunter, which was the band's second album, was a modest success. The track 'Long Way from Home' made it onto the British charts. 

But it wasn't till lead singer David Coverdale dyed his hair blonde, recast himself as a younger incarnation of Robert Plant, and released the album Whitesnake in 1987 that the band became a household word in the US.  The album went 8X platinum, and its singles were unavoidable on FM radio and MTV all that year.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Book Review: Their Master's War

Book Review: 'Their Master's War' by Mick Farren

4 / 5 Stars

'The Master's War' (295 pp) was published by Del Rey / Ballantine in January 1988. The cover art is by David Schleinkofer.

'Master's' is a loose sequel to Farren's 1985 novel 'Protectorate', which I reviewed here.

For a young man named Hark, a member of the Ashak-ai tribe, life on his un-named planet means nothing more than eating, drinking, fighting, procreating, and dying of old age. Nothing has altered this primitive lifestyle for centuries.

But now, something is going badly wrong. The skies are filled with electrical storms that blow vast clouds of dirt and dust over the drought-stricken landscape. The herbivores upon which the Ashak-ai depend for sustenance have vanished, and parties of hunters from rival tribes are trespassing on the hunting grounds in a desperate search for food. 

The Ashak-ai shaman begins to murmur about the fulfillment of a prophecy: the time is coming for the Gods to once again appear in the land. And in the Valley of the Gods, representatives of the young men and young women of all the tribes will gather, and await whatever fate the Gods have planned for them.

What Hark soon will learn is that he and all of the other tribesmen and tribeswomen seeking the favor of the Gods are nothing more than cannon fodder reared by the omnipotent aliens known as the Therem. Along with an entire ecology of other humans and aliens conscripted from seed planets all over the galaxy, Hark will fight in the war for the Therem against their hereditary enemy, the Yal.

But as one bloody campaign after another unfolds with no sign of victory, Hark and his fellow humans will begin to question why they must die for their masters' aims and ambitions............

'Their Master's War' is an entertaining military sf novel. While it inevitably evokes the same war-is-hell flavor of Haldeman's The Forever War (and what 80s military sci-fi novel wouldn't), it has its own distinctly cynical viewpoint regarding the actions of its hapless human draftees. 

The reason I didn't award it a five-star rating is because the narrative takes its time in establishing its lead characters and settings. As a result, once the forecasted rebellion finally takes place, it has only a few short chapters with which to be accommodated, giving the ending of the novel something of a rushed quality.

Summing up, if you like military sf, or just a good space opera, 'Their Master's War' is a good example of how the subject was dealt with in a shorter-length novel. Copies in good condition can be had for under $10 from your usual online retailers, so it's worth searching out.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Father Shandor in color

Father Shandor, Demon Stalker
'Spawn from Hell's Pit'
from John Bolton's Halls of Horror
No. 2, June 1985, Eclipse Comics

In the mid-80s, Eclipse Comics got the rights to reproduce comics from early 80s UK titles, including Warrior. One memorable Warrior entry was 'Spawn from Hell's Pit', the inaugural episode of 'Father Shandor: Demon Stalker' which debuted in the very first issue of Warrior in 1982. 

You can see the original black and white version of the comic here.

One can question whether reprinting 'Spawn' in color, using the cheap plastic plates common in the mid-80s, is justified. I think Eclipse did a reasonably good job, considering the state of comic book printing back in those days. 

Whether in color or black and white, one thing is clear: John Bolton really could draw.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Luther Arkwright RPG

The Adventures of Luther Arkwright
Role Playing Game

In 1992 Bryan Talbot authorized the publication of a 'Luther Arkwright' role-playing game manual by 23rd Parallel Games, a UK company. In 2012 another RPG firm, Design Mechanism, announced the publication of a revised version of the game. An excerpt of some of the contents of the Design Mechanism RPG is available here.

The reviews I have seen for the Arkwright RPG deem it OK, but not much more than that. It likely will remain a curiosity, of interest to Arkwright fans if no one else. 

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Book Review: The Five Fingers

Book Review: 'The Five Fingers' by Gayle Rivers and James Hudson

4 / 5 Stars

'The Five FIngers' first was published in hardback in 1978. This Bantam paperback edition (339 pp) was published in June 1979; the cover artist is uncredited.

According to a 1985 article in The Los Angeles Times that coincided with the release of a nonfiction book by Rivers, titled 'The Specialist', 'Gayle Rivers' was the pseudonym used by a 37 year-old British man named Raymond Brooks who, in his younger days, had applied for, but failed to join, the SAS. 

According to the Los Angeles Times article, experts in military affairs who reviewed 'The Specialist' were more than a little skeptical of Brooks's qualifications as a special forces veteran and International Man of Mystery. 

Under the 'Gayle Rivers' pseudonym, Brooks published a sequel to 'Fingers' called 'The Teheran Contract' (1982). Other thriller novels penned by Brooks include 'The Killing House' (1985)  and 'Hunter's Run' (1989).

So, if 'The Five Fingers' is fiction, how good of a story is it ? When I first read it back in 1979 I thought it was quite entertaining, and upon re-reading it, I have to hold to this assessment.

The book's premise is simple: in 1969 a team of seven special forces soldiers, code-named the Five FIngers, are given a mission to assassinate the North Vietnamese General Vo Nguyen Giap. The assassination will require the Five Fingers to march north from Thailand, through Laos, into North Vietnam and across the border into China. There, at the village of Ta shu tang, Giap is scheduled to be attend a conference between the two countries. Upon killing Giap, the Five Fingers are to re-trace their route, maintaining strict secrecy all along the way.

Other than access to to caches of supplies hidden along their infiltration route, the Five FIngers will be operating on their own, with no support from the American military. If they are caught, then the U.S. government will deny any knowledge of the FIngers, or their mission.

Needless to say, General Giap never was assassinated, so the mission of the Five Fingers obviously doesn't come to fruition. Without disclosing any spoilers, I'll say that the plot forces our heroes to fight for their survival against overwhelming odds. And the Commies may not be their only adversaries..........

The book's narrative is the first-person viewpoint of co-author Rivers, who, we are told, is a member of the New Zealand SAS. The narrative is simple and unadorned, which makes the book a smooth read. 

'The Five Fingers' also is very much a 'splatterpunk' novel. Author Rivers doesn't shy from providing detailed descriptions of various Vietnam War atrocities he purportedly witnessed, as well as the nuts and bolts of bodily mayhem inflicted on men during firefights.

The verdict ? As an over-the-top 'commando' novel, 'The Five FIngers' presents the Vietnam War in a much different light from other fictional accounts of the war. It's certainly worth seeking out; although copies in mint condition of both the hardbound edition and the Bantam paperback have exorbitant asking prices, it's possible to find 'very good' grade copies for reasonable prices from your usual online vendors.