A New Broken Empire Review!

broken_empireRaven’s Reviews recently took a look at the first Assistance Unlimited: The Silver Age novel, Broken Empire. Here’s what they had to say:

Assistance Unlimited, the next generation!

Lazarus Gray is now 59, still active, but not as involved in the daily affairs of Assistance Unlimited as he used to be. These are the adventures of Emily Grace, daughter of Samantha Grace, one of the original members of Lazarus Gray’s organization. Emily is getting a new partner, Benjamin Falk. Falk was on President Kennedy’s team in Dallas and blames himself for the assassination. But Gray referred to here as “the old man” sees something in Falk.

There are two interconnected stories in this volume.

Book One: The Rise of Helios

Marvin Levin and his crew of clones endeavor to reestablish the Fourth Reich. To accomplish the madman’s goal they seek supernatural objects either under lock and key in Assistance Unlimited headquarters or being actively pursued by them. But Levin has a rival… or is it more than one…

Book Two: Roll the Bones

Otto Darling, the current leader of SIGIL (Supreme International Group for Illicit Liaisons) is after the Chalice of Madness. Allying himself with Helios from Book One, he seeks knowledge that drinking from the chalice is said to bring. Or was that insanity and chaos?

I found the book exciting. The only complaint I have is that according to information at the end of this book, it is slightly out of sequence. Things that take place here are direct results of events in Lazarus Gray volume 8 which I am reliably informed will be out later this year.

That said, it does not really affect the story all that much since the focus is on the characters. The exact events of Emily’s birth and parentage being forthcoming does not stop the reader from enjoying what a kickass character she is. The character is 100% pure smashmouth pulp hero and the action never stops. There are over-the-top villains, world-shaking weapons, Nazis, the supernatural—what’s not to love? Encore! I say!

I give the book a resounding five stars plus!

The Immortal Princess Femi

lg03_femi_smallA good villain can make all the difference.

With The Peregrine, most of his enemies were dead and buried by the end of each adventure, though he had a few (The Warlike Manchu, for instance) who made return appearances. When I created Lazarus Gray, I knew that one of the things I wanted to do with the series was to create a series of recurring villains. I wanted him to have a vibrant rogue’s gallery that could return again and again.

But which of his enemies stands above the rest? If our hero is defined by his villains, which of those foes is his dark mirror?

Obviously, Lazarus Gray has Walther Lunt, his former mentor. Lunt was a major force in Volumes One and Two but his death in 1936 (“Die Glocke”) has left him as a shadow looming over the series. He did return to battle Lazarus in a winner-returns-to-life battle but his defeat there has seemingly ended his threat forever.

And then there’s Nemesis, whose very name suggests that he should be Lazarus Gray’s arch-foe. He plays a key role in volumes 7-9.

Bur are either of them really Gray’s arch-enemy? Or should that honor go to the equally-deserving immortal known as Femi?

Continue reading → The Immortal Princess Femi

Writing Update

cfstillsnowtoastBreezing along on the 13th volume of Lazarus Gray – I’m over 25,000 words into the book and the plot is a real humdinger with multiple threats, the return of an old friend, and some new romances. I’ve heard from more of you expressing frustration at the slow releases in the Lazarus Gray series and all I can say is that the eighth volume should be out in the next couple of months and that I’ve been told we’ll have a more regular schedule after that.

The blog’s recent focus on writeups for the Icons roleplaying game have seen the site getting a lot more hits than usual – I know that if you’re not a fan of the game system, you might not have much interest in them but I’d encourage you to check out the game. It’s definitely my favorite system that I’ve come across in many years.

Recently read “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes,” which tells the story of President Coriolanus Snow’s rise to power as a young man. It wasn’t a book without flaws but overall it was a pleasant read with some intriguing philosophical questions. I’m not normally a fan of prequels centered around the villains (I’m looking at you, Star Wars prequels) but this one was better than most. If you were a fan of the Hunger Games series, I recommend it!

 

Broken Empire Gets Another Review!

barry reese 3 bAssistance Unlimited: The Silver Age – Broken Empire was examined over at Max Reads Comics in a special edition that’s dubbed “Max Reads Other Things.” You can click on the link to read the review in full and also check out the many wonderful columns and reviews that Max has posted. I follow his blog and always enjoy it. Here’s some of the highlights of what he had to say:

As you can see by the sub-title, this is the latest in the “Assistance Unlimited” series by the author, named after an organization founded by one of Reese‘s most iconic characters, “Lazarus Gray.”

The “Silver Age” part of that same sub-title is kind of a comic book reference, as the story takes place in the 1960s, and us comic book folks know that the 60s was prime “Silver Age” time.

Normally, the Assistance Unlimited (“AU” from here on) stories are set many years before this swingin’ decade, and this book marks a kind of experiment by Mr. Reese. Specifically, he’s decided to jump two decades into his characters’ futures, potentially “spoiling” certain things along the way. Continue reading → Broken Empire Gets Another Review!

Broken Empire gets reviewed!

thumbsupRay Bara has been a longtime supporter of the Reese Unlimited universe so it’s no surprise that his is the first Amazon.com review for Broken Empire. Ray gave the book 5 stars and titled his review “Loved the next wave of Assistance Unlimited” – here’s what he had to say in full:

I’ve been a big fan of Barry Reese’s Lazarus Gray series. It’s been a long time since the last novel (the publisher has inexplicably delayed publishing Reese’s already-written Gray novels), and this one is not a straight Lazarus Gray novel, but it is a great one nonetheless. Reese has skipped ahead a few years in this one, placing the story in 1964 instead of the 1930s. Assistance Unlimited, Gray’s group of heroes, has expanded and moved out of Sovereign City, Reese’s setting for his fictional universe. We see more focus on Emily Grace (the daughter of Samantha Grace) and Ezekiel Gray (Lazarus’ son). While the focus is not on Lazarus Gray, all the elements of a classic Barry Reese novel are there: lots of action, a great “pulp” feel, plenty of occult references, and great characterization. Reese also did a great job of moving Assistance Unlimited into the future; it’s great to see something “pulpy” that’s not in the 1930. I would love to see an actual new Lazarus Gray novel soon (I know they are ready to go), but Broken Empire is a wonderful way to spend the time while waiting. Go get this one!

Thanks, Ray! I’m really glad that you enjoyed the book. When I originally came up with the idea for the novel, I thought it would be fun to see Assistance Unlimited grow into a SHIELD or UNCLE type of organization – and since we’d established that some of the old crew were becoming parents, it just seemed natural for those kids to lead the future version of Assistance Unlimited.

As for the release of the other Lazarus books, I’m hopeful that you’ll see volume 8 before too long. I’ve written books 8-12 and am currently working on number 13. I sympathize with your impatience – it’s been three years since volume 7 was released! Pro Se is a big company, though, and they sometimes have to put their focus where they think it’s best. Our time will come.

Thanks again, my friend!

The Occult Forces Project

br8smallOne of the background elements that has featured in a lot of my pulp adventure stories is the Geheimnisvolles Kraft-Projekt, also dubbed The Occult Forces Project or OFP. Founded in the late 1930s, the OFP was dedicated to utilizing super-science and magic in the name of The Reich and was a subset of The Ahnenerbe. The group had several notable successes when it came to creating larger-than-life figures who spread the Nazi ideals across the globe. Thankfully, they were defeated at every turn by heroes like The Peregrine and Lazarus Gray. A division of the OFP was known as the Department of Occult Armaments (D.O.O.M.) and was headed by Dr. Meer.

Here are some of the more notable agents of the OFP that we’ve seen thus far:

Silver Wolf – This werewolf agent of the SS named Karl Raider battled Lazarus Gray and The Darkling in 1937 during the events of “Eidolon” (The Adventures of Lazarus Gray Volume Three). He was enslaved by Princess Femi before he had a fatal encounter with The Darkling.

Geist – General Luther Strauss was a graduate of the OFP who encountered Assistance Unlimited in 1937. An accident in Tibet left him with the ability to manifest ghostly powers. Blackmailed by The Darkling, Geist worked as a double agent until his skills were no longer needed and The Darkling killed him. His story is told in “Eidolon” (The Adventures of Lazarus Gray Volume Three).

Continue reading → The Occult Forces Project

The Black Terror (Reese Unlimited Version)

BLACK TERROR_col_smallerThe Black Terror is a character that dates all the way back to Exciting Comics # 9, published in January 1941 by Nedor Comics. His secret identity was pharmacist Bob Benton, who formulated a chemical he called “formic ethers”, which gave him various superpowers. He used these powers to fight crime with his sidekick, Tim Roland, together known as the “Terror Twins”. The character proved popular enough to survive until 1949 and his distinctive costume made for some truly memorable covers. After the Golden Age, the character eventually fell into the public domain – which led to a whole host of publishers reviving him for various projects. Over the years, he’s appeared in books published by AC, Eclipse, Wild Cat, Image, Moonstone and, of course, the Reese Unlimited imprint of Pro Se Press. I first wrote the character for Wild Cat back in 2008 as part of a book called Legends of the Golden Age and later used him in a couple of stories for The Peregrine. More recently, I’ve gone further back into his continuity to incorporate him into my Lazarus Gray stuff. Because his “later” appearances were written first there are a few discrepancies in how he’s portrayed.

In my universe, we first see The Black Terror in 1934 and learn that he’s the creation of a United States military operation overseen by General Arbogast and a scientist named Kenneth Butler. The Black Terror was, in fact, a plant-human hybrid — he had literally been grown in a tube. His memories (all the “facts” from the Golden Age comics) were implants designed to create a backstory that would make him a better soldier for the United States government — Jean Starr was there to give him a woman to fight to get back to and Tim gave him a sense of family. Neither actually existed, except in his own mind. When Bob found out the truth, he broke free and went rogue — but his programming was strong enough that he decided to continue fighting as The Black Terror. In 1936, this led him to Sovereign City in search of a man named Maxwell Schmidt. The German was running Omega Solutions. In conjunction with another product of the same government program that created The Black Terror — a man named McIness that was codenamed Titan – Schmidt hoped to transform himself into an entity dubbed Prometheus. In the end, Schmidt died for his hubris and The Black Terror was forced to kill Titan, the only other entity like him in the world. When all was said and done, The Black Terror used the technology that had created him to grow versions of Jean and Tim — he implanted similar memories into their minds and gave them life. All of this was recounted in “Making of a Hero” from Lazarus Gray Volume Two.

Continue reading → The Black Terror (Reese Unlimited Version)

Spending Time in Sovereign

aidra_fox2Spent much of the past week in Sovereign City, revising and adding to the twelfth volume of Lazarus Gray. I know that some of you have gotten mighty impatient waiting for these books to be released (the seventh book was released three years ago) but I think they will be on the way relatively soon. Until then you do have Broken Empire to tide you over – it’s an Assistance Unlimited book set in 1964.

Once all twelve of the Lazarus books are out, I think I’ll be able to sit back and feel pretty proud of them. While it may not get too much (read: any) attention from the Pulp Factory Awards and it’s not considered as groundbreaking as Derrick Ferguson’s rightfully-beloved Dillon series, I think there’s a place for Lazarus and his friends in the New Pulp landscape. Besides, not many series in the New Pulp landscape reach 12 books (plus spinoffs!).

Whenever I’m feeling down, I always end up starting a new Lazarus story – so it’s unlikely that I’ll stop at 12 books. I was worried that selling the property (along with the rest of the Reese Unlimited catalog) might result in less enthusiasm but whatever doubts I had were lifted when I wrote the Lilith novel, which was the most fun I’d had writing in a couple of years. When I returned to the twelfth Lazarus book, I found that I was able to add about 3,000 words to it and really thought they were good ones.

Our Icons writeups continue to get major traffic for the site, which is an unexpected pleasure. Hopefully some of our visitors will check out my writing, as well! I’ve had a few requests to do stats for Lazarus, Gravedigger, etc. and I’m sure I’ll get around to that eventually.

Press Release: Broken Empire

broken_empireTHE LEGACY OF LAZARUS GRAY CONTINUES-

BROKEN EMPIRE-ASSISTANCE UNLIMITED: THE SILVER AGE Debuts

A Fallen Agent…A Faceless Legion…A Fearless Female Fury…It’s 1964. Do You know who your heroes are? Award winning author Barry Reese does and brings them to readers just in the nick of time in BROKEN EMPIRE-ASSISTANCE UNLIMITED: THE SILVER AGE, now available in print and digital formats from Reese Unlimited and Pro Se Productions.

Benjamin Falk thought his life and career were over. Still grappling with his greatest failure, Falk is thrust into the secretive world of Assistance Unlimited. Together they must face a bizarre foe with a deadly agenda that threatens the world! Barry Reese presents the next generation to carry on the legacy of Lazarus Gray in BROKEN EMPIRE-ASSISTANCE UNLIMITED: THE SILVER AGE. From Reese Unlimited and Pro Se Productions.

Featuring an atmospheric cover and logo design by Steven Novak, interior illustrations by Chris Batista,  and print formatting by Sean Ali, BROKEN EMPIRE-ASSISTANCE UNLIMITED: THE SILVER AGE is available in print at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B086Y5P9V3/ref=sr_1_2?dchild=1&keywords=broken+empire+assistance&qid=1586744063&sr=8-2 for $9.99.

This new chapter for Assistance Unlimited is also available as an eBook formatted by Antonino lo Iacono and Marzia Marina for the Kindle at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0871MP6DR/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=broken+empire+assistance&qid=1586744129&sr=8-1 for only $2.99. The book is also available to Kindle Unlimited members for free.

For more information on this title, interviews with the author, or digital copies for review, email editorinchief@prose-press.com.

To learn more about Pro Se Productions, go to www.prose-press.com. Like Pro Se on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ProSeProductions.

Timeline of My Pulp Adventure Universe (updated 4/1/20)

gravediggerMajor Events specific to certain stories and novels are included in brackets. Some of this information contains SPOILERS for The Peregrine, Lazarus Gray, Gravedigger and other stories.

~ 800 Viking warrior Grimarr dies of disease but is resurrected as the Sword of Hel. He adventures for some time as Hel’s agent on Earth. [“Dogs of War” and “In the Name of Hel,” Tales of the Norse Gods].

1748 – Johann Adam Weishaupt is born.

1750 – Guan-Yin embarks on a quest to find her lost father, which takes her to Skull Island [Guan-Yin and the Horrors of Skull Island].

1776 – Johann Adam Weishaupt forms The Illuminati. He adopts the guise of the original Lazarus Gray in group meetings, reflecting his “rebirth” and the “moral ambiguity” of the group. In Sovereign City, a Hessian soldier dies in battle, his spirit resurrected as a headless warrior.

Continue reading → Timeline of My Pulp Adventure Universe (updated 4/1/20)