The Rook is a new hero pulp created by Barry Reese. The Rook fights crime and evil in the 30s and 40s (and later). Barry mixes in pulp hero, comic book & comic strip characters, along with occult horror/weird menace, and does a good job. He also adds in a love interest who will marry him (pulp heroes never do that, which is different). The Rook goes up against traditional villians, pulp superfoes, and occult horrors, and has the assistance of characters based on pulp heroes and comic book/comic strip characters, some created by Reese (Leonid Kaslov, the ‘russian doc savage’), and other from the pulps (Doctor Satan and his opponent, Black Bat, etc).
The Rook is also a generational story, as Barry gives a timeline of the Rook universe, showing that the Rook’s son and daughter will later take up the mantle, as will another individual in the near future. It also helps those who want to know where the stories fit in this timeline.
This volume is a collection of short stories, all set in the 30s and 40s, and its also marks a move from his old publisher, Wild Cat Books, to the recently formed Pro Se Productions. The quality hasn’t slipped. In fact, one thing that frustated me with WCB was the problems with typsetting and proofreading, which seems absent in this volume.
Also included is the lastes “Rook Timeline”, that shows were all the stories in the “Rook Universe” fall that have been published so far (or soon will be), including the ones in this volume.
This collection has 3 stories: first is a very long one, then a very brief one, then a sort of medium length one.
The first story has The Rook go up against Sun Koh. Sun Koh is an actual, real, German ‘pulp’ hero, a sort of ‘nazi Doc Savage’. He has been recently revised in the US by Art Sippo, and Barry is used him with Art’s permission. Barry does come up with a way to explain how Sun Koh could exist in the world of the Rook that doesn’t upset things, as well as explain what happened to Sun Koh between the cancellation of his pulp series in 1938 and his appearance in this story set in 1942. Also introduced in this story are a trio of Axis female warriers. Another character who makes an apparance is Rush Randall. Many may not be aware of Rush, but he’s actually a very short-lived Doc clone. He only appeared in one story, written by Doc author William Bogart from a rejected Doc novel. Black Dog Books has reprinted this in their “The Adventures” collection. Maybe this will lead to Rush’s use by others. Also making an apperance is Ascott Keane, who battles Doctor Satan and has appeared before in Rook stories.
Next is a short story with the Rook dealing with a vengeful ghost.
The final story also serves as an introduction to Barry’s new character, Lazarus Gray. I think this is his first appearance. There are already 2 Lazarus Gray books planned (a short story collection and a novel), so hopefully they will appear soon.
Overall, this is a great book. If you like the Rook, you will like this one.