Late June Updates

Currently working on the fifteenth volume of the Lazarus Gray series – it’s about 20% complete at the moment. I think it fits in well with what’s come before while also taking us in a slightly new direction. As the series goes on, it becomes harder and harder to find subject matter that I haven’t already mined in one novel or another.

I spend a lot of of time looking at occult artifacts, legends, conspiracies, etc. and it seems like I’m running out of plot ideas at times. I haven’t really dealt with the major cryptids, I suppose – Bigfoot, Nessie, etc. You’ll know I’m getting desperate when you see Assistance Unlimited visiting Scotland and Lazarus starts wrestling with sea serpents.

Hmm. Actually, those don’t seem like such bad ideas…

Murder Unlimited! (Updated 6/17/2022)

One of the great tropes of modern heroic fiction is the “dark reflection,” where we get to see a villain that’s very similar to our hero – so much so, that they’re practically two sides of the same coin. Lazarus Gray has clashed several times with a man known as Nemesis, whose very existence is due to a spell to turn him into Gray’s equal.

But what about Assistance Unlimited, the group that Lazarus leads? Do they have an opposite number?

Actually, the answer is yes – and they’re known as Murder Unlimited!

Be warned if you read further, however… because spoilers lie ahead.

The first version of Murder Unlimited made their debut in 1936 when a scarred woman named Constance Majestros brought together a team based out of 666 Holder Way – a brownstone located in one of Sovereign City’s worst neighborhoods (“Murder Unlimited,” Lazarus Gray Volume 3). Despite its surroundings, the interior was quite lush and well-suited to its evil membership. The initial members were:

  • Dr. Melvin Pemberley – A doctor that had been discredited for his awful experiments and a frequent foe of Assistance Unlimited in its early days.
  • Prince Femi – The resurrected Egyptian sorceress that has fought Assistance Unlimited more than any other villain has.
  • Abraham Klee – The son of the notorious Adolphus Klee, this madman has a bald head and a terrible scar around it — surgeries have allowed him to utilize 90% of his brain capability.
  • Stanley Davis – A heavyset man gifted with clairvoyance.
  • Constance Majestros – Scarred after a battle with Lazarus Gray, she was fixated on gaining revenge.

The team was defeated and for several years, the Murder Unlimited name was unused. It was revived in 1940 when a new version was formed (“As Above, So Below” – Lazarus Gray Volume 8). This team consisted of:

  • Nemesis – Agent of both The Illuminati and the Occult Forces Project, Nemesis was magically enhanced to be Lazarus Gray’s equal.
  • Bushido – A Japanese warrior, she is a female samurai and is fiercely loyal to Nemesis. The two are lovers and partners.
  • Vixen – Caroline Berber wears a black catsuit and is skilled at seducing men — in fact, she managed to trick Morgan Watts into marrying her.
  • Brick — Larry Carter was Caroline’s boyfriend and a thug of the highest order.
  • Alloy – Mario Gallo had suffered a terrible injury but was repaired by Italian doctors that used an experimental substance called Material-X to strengthen his shattered bones.

A third incarnation was formed in 1941 (Lazarus Gray Volume 9). This time, the group was once again led by Nemesis and Bushido but its final two members were quite surprising and featured betrayals of trust for Assistance Unlimited… that’s right: for the first time, a former member of Assistance Unlimited was now a member of Murder Unlimited! The roster this time consisted of:

  • Nemesis
  • Bushido
  • Eidolon
  • The Golden Amazon

This foursome nearly flooded the world and probably came the closest to victory for any Murder Unlimited grouping to this point. In the end, Eidolon betrayed the villains and returned to the side of Assistance Unlimited while the Golden Amazon also decided that she was no longer interested in working alongside Nemesis and Bushido. Nemesis died on this adventure, seemingly putting an end to this incarnation of the team.

Three years later (1944), another version came together. This one was led by one of the most infamous criminal masterminds of all time: Fantômas! This sadistic criminal was obsessed with destroying the very idea of Assistance Unlimited and was willing to go to incredible lengths to do so. The full roster of this group was:

  • Fantômas – A French super-criminal, this madman became obsessed with Lazarus Gray after a chance meeting in Gray’s youth. With his own death approaching, Fantômas decides that he wishes to seal his legacy by destroying Assistance Unlimited.
  • Black Diamond – A cunning woman with dozens of identities, she is a longtime associate of Fantômas.
  • Count Orlok – An ancient vampire recruited from a decrepit castle in Romania, Orlok is enticed by the promise of receiving the potent blood of such unusual beings as the witch Abby Cross and the metahuman Blue Fire.
  • Randolph Winthrop – Lazarus Gray’s uncle, recruited for his knowledge of his nephew. A career grifter, Randolph quickly finds himself in over his head.

This group manages to kill a member of Assistance Unlimited, badly wound multiple members, and assassinate a support member of the team — as well as seize control of 6196 Robeson Avenue!

It seems likely that the horrible legacy of Murder Unlimited will continue…

A Quiet Review

ChickJ, who has reviewed quite a few books from Reese Unlimited over the years, is back with a look at Nightveil: The Quiet Girls, a novel I wrote a few years back starring AC Comics’ Nightveil character. He gave the book 4 stars out of 5 on and titled his review A simple but enjoyable book. Here’s the rest of his review:

A very good old time pulp book. (It is really new but it feels like a pulp from the 40’s.) The side characters are more interesting then the heroine. Alonzo, Charlotte, Elizabeth, and Ghoulie really made the book. I wonder if they will show up in other of his books. Recommended for all pulp fans.

First off, thanks for saying that it felt like an old-school pulp novel. That was definitely the feel that I was going for! As for the characters you mention, I had a lot of writing them but I haven’t really thought about bringing any of them back… Now that you’ve put the idea into my head, I’ll see what I can do.

Thanks again!

The image accompanying this post is by Will Meugniot, an old friend of mine that’s worked with me on a handful of projects in the past. I’ve always loved his version of Nightveil!

The Pulp Super-Fan Looks at Lazarus 11-13!

Michael Brown, aka The Pulp Super-Fan is back with a massive look at Lazarus Gray Volumes 11-13. You can read his words by clicking here. As always, I appreciate Michael taking the time to look over the books and his insightful analysis of each. He had a few questions so I’ll try to answer them here:

  1. The Puzzler is an actual Golden Age enemy of the Black Terror. He first appeared in America’s Best Comics #30 (April 1949). As is usual when I use public domain characters, I took a few liberties with his backstory.
  2. L’ Homme Fantastique is a brand-new character that I created just for Volume 12. He’s proven popular with readers so he may pop up again in the future.
  3. The “Silver Age” Assistance Unlimited will definitely return. I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback about their first adventure. I’m currently writing Lazarus Gray 15 but I plan to work on the second Silver Age book next.

While you’re there looking over Michael’s review, check out all of his other posts as well!

A Minor Update

Sorry for the lack of posts lately – I’ve begun work on the fifteenth volume of Lazarus Gray and I’ve actually written a few poems over the last week, which is pretty rare for me. I’m still waiting on Omnium Gatherum to move forward in the publishing queue, as well, so maybe there will be an update on that front soon.

Been playing some of the Marvel Multiverse Roleplaying Game Playtest. Has a few significant flaws but I also think it has a ton of potential. Hopefully the full version will come out next year and repair some of those problematic areas.

I’ll be back soon with more details about my various projects.

A Trio of Reviews

We have three small reviews that have been posted recently on Amazon. Let’s look at them in the order they were posted, shall we?

First up, is one by a user named Green Dragon. He reviewed Restless: An Anthology of Mummy Horror and gave the book five stars. Here’s what he said: “A great collection of new stories! I enjoyed every one of them!”

Next up was a review by thefuntony of The Sword of Hel. He gave it 5 stars and said: “Loved this and really would like to see a few follow up stories with these characters. Had been putting off reading as I am not a huge fan of Viking stories but loved this! Hoping we see much more of the Sword of Hel!”

Finally, Tony posted another review a few days later, this time of The Adventures of Lazarus Gray Volume Nine. It was another 5 star review: “So very happy to see more books in the LG timeline. I had to go back and catch up so it was a bit of a wait to get to 9 but definitely worth it. Starting 10 now and the fun continues. No spoilers for you but I will say he throws in so many plot twists and turns, it was fun to get to the end to see how it all worked out. Even with the new characters and newer characters he keeps you on the edge of your seat with all the action. Can’t wait to get thru the next few.”

Thanks for the reviews, guys!

Lazarus Volume 12 Review

Ray Bara, who recently reviewed volume 11 on Amazon, is back with his views on the follow-up. He gave the book five stars and titled the review “Lazarus Gray Resurrects Himself Again!” Here’s the rest of his review: “How does he do it? Barry Reese keeps kicking it up a notch with each addition to his Lazarus Gray series. This one adds the usual heaping helping of action. He then adds some new characters like Blue Fire and L’Homme Fantastique, whom I absolutely loved. LHF is enigmatic, ambiguous, and intriguing all at the same time, and is a great addition to the Sovereign landscape. Speaking of landscape, Lazarus has to return to Dread Carcosa, the unforgiving landscape where he has some unfinished business from a few volumes ago. Reese also closed up the plot twist from the last volume, thankfully allowing me to pick my jaw off the proverbial floor by explaining Lazarus’ bizarre behavior in that previous story. I also enjoyed how Kelly Gray has become a more pivotal part of Assistance Unlimited, not just a background character anymore. Reese put together an epic plot in Volume 12, with a great story, a huge cast of wonderful characters, and plenty of excitement all the way through. I’m looking forward to Volume 13 to see where he takes Assistance Unlimited next. What a great read!”

Thanks, Ray! Volume 12 was a real challenge to write – I knew the secret behind the eleventh book’s twist, of course, but I knew that revealing it had to be done just right… and I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to pull it off. I’m glad you liked the way it turned out. L’Homme Fantastique doesn’t appear in volumes 13 or 14 but I do have more ideas for him so maybe in 15…? We’ll have to see!

Thanks again, Ray!

Laz 11 Gets Reviewed

Ray Bara posted a 5-star review of The Adventures of Lazarus Gray Volume 11. Let’s see what he had to say:

“Barry Reese and Lazarus Gray are like fine wines! Yet another killer installment in the Lazarus Gray series. Barry Reese is at the top of his game. He brings a darker tone to this one, which makes sense during the height of WWII. I love the regular and recurring characters, and I enjoyed the introduction of Lilith and her group of loyal assistants. Reese pulls out all of the stops on this one. The ending, which is more of an epilogue, is a tad disturbing, from a plot point of view, but I’ll get over it. Especially since I already have the next two volumes in the series queued up. Great job, Barry. This series keeps getting better!”

Thanks, Ray! I’m so glad that you enjoyed it — you’re definitely right that the ending was meant to be unsettling. Hopefully you’ll find the payoff for it in 12 to be worth it.

Busy Little Bee

Sorry for the long pause between blog postings – it’s the end of the school year and that means testing, special events, and lots more. As a result, I’ve been exhausted most evenings when I get home. I have been writing, though, and I approved edits on Omnium Gatherum so hopefully that novel will see the light of day at some point.

Reading-wise, I recently completed Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill and was blown away. Seriously, one of the best books I’ve ever read. I’ll be finishing Diablo Mesa by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child today and it’s been a fun addition to the Pendergast Universe (it’s part of the spinoff series starring Corrie Swanson and Nora Kelly).

In terms of my writing, I’m currently working on the final story for the third volume in the Straw-Man series. In volume two, I did one story that featured the supporting characters, without the Straw-Man even showing up and this story for volume 3 is much the same. It features a ‘stealth crossover’ with one of my favorite fictional characters but I can’t really name him. It’ll make sense when you read it.

Writing Updates

So things have been busy around the Reese Unlimited headquarters — we’re approaching the end of the school year so in my “day job,” there’s been testing galore, of course, but on the writing front, I’ve recently approved edits on OMNIUM GATHERUM and I’ve been working hard on volume three of the Straw-Man series. OMNIUM GATHERUM is a really odd novel but my editor seemed to enjoy it and the parts of it I’ve shared with various friends have been met with equal parts hilarity and acceptance so maybe my faithful readers will get a kick out of it. I can say that it’s an homage to BATTLE OF THE PLANETS, the films of Michael York, and that it also features the public domain heroes Nature Boy and Nature Girl!

Yeah, it’s strange.

The Straw-Man book is going well – just wrapped up a big story and now I’m moving on to what should be the final short story in volume three. As with the first two volumes, I’m trying really hard to create lots of new concepts rather than going back to the well of previously established characters and locations. In this volume alone, I’ve introduced an all-new heroine, debuted the new 21st century Catalyst, brought the American Crusader into the universe, and created a good half-dozen new villains.

Once I’m done with the Straw-Man book… I don’t know what I’ll be working on. It feels too soon to dive into Lazarus Gray Volume 15, I don’t have any immediate ideas for Straw-Man volume 4, and I haven’t stumbled onto a new concept, either. Of course, typing these words means I’m likely to come up with the ideas for two or three different novels later today lol