The Imaginary Realms of
Gilbert M. Stack



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Review: The Night the Bear Ate Goombaw by Patrick McManus

Posted by Gilbert Stack on July 26, 2021 at 8:35 AM

The Night the Bear Ate Goombaw by Patrick McManus

I rarely remember the specifics of a Patrick McManus essay because I’m too busy laughing for my long-term memory to catch hold of the contents of each story. And honestly, that’s all you really need to know about Patrick McManus. He’s really funny. And he tells his stories in a folksy manner in which he makes himself the butt of every joke with his certainty that he is an absolute expert on all matters—especially the great outdoors—and then goes on to show that he’s not without ever admitting that. He is utterly hilarious.


Executioner 276 Leviathan by Don Pendleton

Posted by Gilbert Stack on July 25, 2021 at 9:05 AM

The Executioner 276 Leviathan by Don Pendleton (Gerald Montgomery)

For several years around the turn of the millennium, I read a large number of Executioner novels and the associated books like Stony Man and Super Bolan and ended up getting rid of almost all of them when I moved. Leviathan was one of two that I kept and it is the only one whose individual plot I remembered. That’s because it was an absolutely awesome idea—Mack Bolan goes head-to-head against Cthulhu.


The plot actually holds together very well. On the one hand, there is the Cult of Cthulhu who thinks their time has come now that an avatar of that elder god has appeared in the oceans of the world. On the other hand, the CIA in its ongoing quest to separate itself from Congressional oversight by developing dark sources of funding has gone into business with the mob to manufacture drugs on an abandoned oil platform in the Atlantic Ocean. The CIA also sees this as an opportunity to rid itself of Mack Bolan who has been a serious thorn in their side. So they set a trap for Bolan and entice him and two covert government agents out to their platform where they turn on him and attempt to torture, interrogate and kill him. Unfortunately for them, Cthulhu is making its move at the same time.


This is a fascinating mixture of action adventure and horror with a U.S. submarine thrown in for good measure. If you like the Executioner or you like Cthulhu, you’ll want to read this book.


Review: Medical Mysteries across History by Roy Benaroch

Posted by Gilbert Stack on July 24, 2021 at 8:50 AM

Medical Mysteries across History by Roy Benaroch

This is a great idea for a Great Courses book. Roy Benaroch presents ten sets of medical symptoms, each taken from a different historical figure, then slowly fills in details that doctors would seek out regarding the patients’ lives on his way to making a diagnosis. In addition, the reader also gets to guess who the historical figure is. (I got 7 out of 10, which naturally made me feel good, especially when I had never heard of one of the three I missed.)


So this book teaches you a bit about modern medicine, historical medical practice, and a bit of history on top of everything else. A very pleasant way to spend your afternoon.


Last Call by Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir

Posted by Gilbert Stack on July 23, 2021 at 9:45 PM

Destroyer 35 Last Call by Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir

Murphy and Sapir definitely did not like the CIA in the 1970s. Several of their books have plot elements that stress the incompetence of the organization and its failure to prioritize national security. In Last Call, a Carter appointee gets rid of a program he knows nothing about in order to save money—and in so doing, accidentally triggers a doomsday scenario. The program was designed to assassinate key Soviet figures if they launched a nuclear strike on the U.S. but it is set in motion not by a nuclear strike but by a failure to file a report which can’t be filed when the program is shut down.


This is a fun novel and let’s Harold Smith get some time in the limelight. Smith set up this program during the Eisenhower Administration when he was still in the CIA. Now Smith has to use Remo and Chiun to try and stop the leader of the Soviet Union from being assassinated.


Ruby Gonzalez reappears for the third time in this novel and while she certainly continues to be a sharp and capable operative, I did not think that the banter between her and Remo and Chiun was as effective this time around.


Review: The Black Abbot of Puthuum by Clark Ashton Smith

Posted by Gilbert Stack on July 22, 2021 at 9:30 AM

The Black Abbot of Puthuum by Clark Ashton Smith

This is the first story by Clark Ashton Smith that I have read in which there were good guys to cheer for—good guys—not nice guys. The heroes reminded me considerably of Conan the Barbarian. They’re mercenaries and thieves, but they also have a definite moral code and it does not involve letting evil spirits get away with beautiful women. As one would expect from Smith, the tone is vividly dark, but what I found most refreshing about it was that my enjoyment came from caring about the two heroes and wanting them to survive—not from wondering what horrific death Smith had in store for them. This is a very fine adventure tale brought to glorious life by the talents of narrator, William L. Hahn who has picked and collected these classic Clark Ashton Smith tales for modern audiences. I’m looking forward to the next one.


Review: Don't Know Jack by Diane Capri

Posted by Gilbert Stack on July 21, 2021 at 8:15 AM

Don’t Know Jack by Diane Capri

This book is founded on a great idea. Two FBI agents are given a secret mission to find Jack Reacher and the information they’re given to start their search with is the location of his first novel, The Killing Floor, which happened fifteen years earlier than the novel Don’t Know Jack. If you like Lee Child’s famous series, this would appear to be a wonderful chance to relive that first novel through the eyes of law enforcement. Unfortunately, nothing about the novel really works. These two FBI agents find dead bodies and leave them without reporting them. They shoot at people—and hit them—without reporting it. They basically violate the law and FBI regulations with incredible frequency and never suffer any consequences or even seem to worry that they are committing crimes. Oh, but they’re sure that Jack Reacher is a no-good violent individual whom they assume is abusing people right and left—maybe they should look in the mirror. I don’t understand why Lee Child approved this book, much less a whole series.



Review: Chained Reaction by Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir

Posted by Gilbert Stack on July 19, 2021 at 7:50 AM

Destroyer 34 Chained Reaction by Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir

Ruby Gonzalez appears again but she’s not enough to rescue this very weak Destroyer novel. A descendant of southern slave holders has decided to re-enslave African Americans—at least until he runs into Remo, Chiun, and Ruby. The only really good thing about this novel is Smith’s interaction with Ruby in which he correctly deduces that she has figured out what CURE is. He wants Remo and Chiun to kill her and they refuse. Chiun, in fact, has decided that Ruby would make an excellent mother for Remo’s children (Remo has not been consulted) and thus the next generation of the House of Sinanju. Unfortunately, the small bits of fun this circumstance brings about were not enough to save the novel.


The Fire Islands Hits 3000 Sales

Posted by Gilbert Stack on July 18, 2021 at 7:40 AM

This morning, I sold my 3000th copy of The Fire Islands, the opening book in my Legionnaire series. That's a truly exciting number, far more than I realistically thought I would sell of any single one of my novels. And the series is doing quite well too. If you're looking for a good military fantasy set on the borders of an analog of Rome where magic is one of the dangers, give this short book a try. You can find it on Amazon or free on Kindle Unlimited. Here's the blurb:

Lesser Tribune Marcus Venandus, Legion officer exemplar, was exiled to the disease-ridden hell hole known as the Fire Islands as punishment for the failed political machinations of his father. While the days of the powerful witchdoctor kings throwing skeletal armies against the shields of the legion have faded into history, all is not right at the edge of the world. Unrest is boiling once again as long dead darkness seeps back into the islands. With the legion more concerned with its personal rivalries than with its duty, it will fall to Marcus and his small, highly disciplined, command to put the horrors of the past back in their graves and literally save Aquila from a fate worse than death.

And here's the link to the book on Amazon and KU:

Review: The Death of Malygris by Clark Ashton Smith

Posted by Gilbert Stack on July 17, 2021 at 8:30 AM

The Death of Malygris by Clark Ashton Smith

One of the things that stands out about Clark Ashton Smith’s short stories is that there are often no good guys to be found in the pages. In this excellent story, a great necromancer has died—or has he? As other magical powers seek to confirm Malygris’ demise and to profit from it, they continue to run afoul of his nefarious preparations to punish people who try to do precisely that. This is a story about watching bad things happen to bad people. On its own, it’s quite creepy, but with William L. Hahn’s narrative talents, it is far more insidious than that—so much so that you’ll be looking twice next time you drive past a cemetery.


Review: Voodoo Die by Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir

Posted by Gilbert Stack on July 16, 2021 at 4:50 PM

Destroyer 33 Voodoo Die by Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir

The plot of Voodoo Die is fairly weak. A fictitious Caribbean nation has discovered a new superweapon that disintegrates people and the nations of the world are trying to make a deal with them to obtain it. Their dictatorial leader is erratic at best and there is a parody of spies racing around trying to find the weapon and obtain it. In fact, just about every nation in the world has sent their spies except the U.S. because the CIA of Jimmy Carter’s Administration is so terrified of Congressional investigations that they don’t do their job anymore—at least not until Carter twists their arms and they agree to send a part-time untrained woman named Ruby Gonzalez to pacify the president.


Ruby is the highlight of the novel. She’s smart, practical, competent, and funny and her interactions with Remo and Chiun are often hilarious. She lifts a mediocre plot into something much better, and because she is going to appear in at least the next two novels, that is a very good thing.