Storyhack Action & Adventure Issue Five (e-magazine review).

May 2, 2020 | By | 1 Reply More

The coronavirus lockdown has led many publishers and authors to peddle their works at big discounts or even free. Such was the case with Storyhack Action & Adventure Issue Five.

It’s a magazine I always meant to read one day and I even have issue 3, bought and paid for, tucked away on my kindle. However, issue five is more current so we’ll go with that. ‘Storyhack’ is advertised as ‘a modern short fiction magazine in the tradition of the great pulps of yesteryear’ which sounds good to me. To the stories, then.

‘The Last Word’ by H.A. Titus is one of those private investigator yarns where the Fae live among us and the P.I. has some of their heritage. Giselle is fae, too, and she’s the owner of the Howler, a nightclub on Main Street that is never raided despite prohibition. One of her barmaids, a beautiful redhead named Roe Gillam, is being hassled by a guy and she wants our hero, Owan, to lean on him a little. It seems an odd request but Owan can’t resist Giselle so does the required leaning and ends up in a whole heap of trouble. Good plot. Author H.A. Titus gets the lingo right and his style is readable with that leavening of humour which Chandler has led us to expect.

‘The Singer’s Tale’ by John Mollison is another one about gangster nightclubs but this time the protagonist is a scheming singer hoping to double-cross everyone she knows and make it to the big time. The convoluted plot was clever in the noir manner and the writing was fine but I think my dislike of the singer put me off it.

‘The Lair Of The Old Ones’ by Stanley W. Wagenaar is an over the top Robert E. Howard pastiche in which a northern barbarian encounters a wicked nobleman and his beautiful daughter in a haunted castle with trolls. The writing was so madly old-fashioned it bordered on clumsy in places but the gigantic gusto of the whole thing just carries you along. Great entertainment of its kind.

In ‘Acme Denton: Out Of Time’ by Michael Haynes, the private eye hero is worried about bills and not having enough money to give his wife and kid a decent Christmas when he’s suddenly snatched through time and space to a magical version of the wild west. His kidnapper, Ezekiel, needs his help. I was never quite sure where this was going or where it ended up but by the last line, I was surprised and satisfied. I think we shall hear of Acme Denton again.

‘The Last Contract’ by Dominika Lein has a deadly assassin and his beautiful green alien assistant transport to a deserted colony station to kill his last target for Ms. Netai, ruthless head of an empire of intergalactic companies. Can even his sophisticated weaponry and biomech suit protect him from a horde of deadly robots, though? A quality ripping yarn with bits of information cleverly drip-fed as the non-stop action rolls along. It’s full of inventive technology and the complex background would be good for more stories.

‘Makani And The Vulture God’ by Paul R. McNamee starts with a sled race between Lono and Hunapo, a great warrior and one of the chief’s favourites. Using magic, Hunapo cheats but only the ka-man Makani sees it and he has no proof. Point of view switches are not usual in a short story but who cares if it works? A clever and entertaining yarn.

I’m hoping to upload to an android body before my failing flesh gives out but technology isn’t moving fast enough. Arthur Polaris has already done it in ‘Night Of A Thousand Eyes’ by Deborah L. Davitt and now he’s investigating the disappearance of several other GalSec operatives on Vanth V, a corporation world forty-two light-years from Earth where indentured workers are being exploited by Severstal Heavy Industries. Arthur manages some self-discovery along with his investigations. This was terrific and would not have been out of place in a big-name magazine.

‘Black Dog Bend’ by J. D. Cowan is a good old noir story about a musician on a lonely road looking for the nearest garage. Out of gas. A black dog chases him to a lonely motel where a damsel in distress is hunted by a mobster and the hotel clerk is helpless. Mixed in are elements of magic and a confusing sense of déjà vu. This will keep you guessing until the satisfying climax.

‘Swimming With The Devil’ by William Eckman is about a poor exploited pearl diver who is fed up with getting pennies for his work and making merchants rich. His cunning plan to cut out the middleman lands him in a whole heap of trouble. A nice little fantasy by the man behind the Planetary Defence Command blog.

Each story is preceded by a dramatic black and white drawing which hints at the adventure to come. I reckon pulp fiction benefits from illustration and it’s a pity there’s not more of it. I must say, I enjoyed ‘Storyhack’ more than I’ve enjoyed any magazine for a long time. A steady diet of pure entertainment wouldn’t do, one doesn’t want to miss out completely on those stories with something serious to say, but hell, it’s fun for a while. Recommended to all lovers of action-adventure pulp fiction. Does what it says on the tin and I just paid actual real money for issue six.

Eamonn Murphy

May 2020

(pub: Story Hack. 216 page ebook. Price: FREE! 12015kB. ASIN: B083MXMW37)

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Category: Books, Spy-Fy

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