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Docks and warehouses dotted the East River, with occasional drinking establishments within a couple of blocks for the employees who made their living on the river. Freeman parked his car near one of the bars, figuring it would be more secure in the busier neighborhood. As he walked past one of the joints, the door opened and a drunk staggered out, bumping into the reporter.
“Hey, watch where you’re going bub!” the drunk snarled.
Freeman merely shoved the man aside and walked on down the street, hearing some colorful language behind him. He’d spent enough time around these places while in the Army to know that you didn’t stand around and argue with a drunk. The booze always made them talk big. When two men stepped out of the shadows of a doorway further down the block, George let them get a glimpse of the automatic he carried in a shoulder holster, and the would-be muggers disappeared back to their alcove. He heard the cork pop in a wine bottle they must have been sharing.
The river district was quiet, except for the sound of floating objects crashing against the wooden docks as the currents carried them downstream. He noticed a few large cabin boats anchored at the piers, and knew the water was deep at this point in the stream.
The glow of a distant streetlight illuminated the name and numbers on the warehouse when he came to the address he was looking for. There appeared to be a dim light in a room high above, indicating the presence of someone in the building. This had been a hotel at the turn of the previous century, and was now old, with decaying wood. He wondered at its possible history for a minute, then shrugged his shoulders, and reached for the door. In a way, he wasn’t surprised that it was not locked.
He was expected.
The bottom floors were dark, and vacant. He took out a flashlight in one hand and his heavy automatic in the other. He flashed the beam around the room, paying particular attention to hidden corners. He had searched houses like this in Iraq, but there had always been soldiers behind him, weapons at the ready. This time, he was alone and in unknown territory.
There was nothing on the first floor but rubble where winos had slept off their stupors in days past. He wondered where they were tonight. Had something frightened them away? A rat scurried from his path on the second floor, vanishing through one of many holes in the crumbling walls. The third and fourth floors also revealed nothing but trash and littered remains of dead mice. Perhaps it was these that the rats were feeding on.
The fifth floor appeared to be an open bay, dark at this end. But a dim light glowed at the far end, and Freeman thought he observed a figure sitting at a small desk. As he started forward, his foot struck something large and soft. At first, he thought it was a dead rat, but shining his light on the object, he grunted in dismay.
It’s a body! flashed through his thoughts. Dropping on one knee, the reporter turned the corpse over and gasped. The face was so swollen and bruised, he couldn’t make a positive identification, but he had a sudden suspicion. His neck must have broken from a severe beating, he thought.
“Come forward, George Freeman!” a voice demanded from the other end of the room. At the same time, an overhead light flashed on, throwing the room into sudden brilliance.
The Spider’s Web by Tom Johnson
Night to Dawn Books
Cost: $13.95 Pages: 165
Contemporary Pulp Thriller
In 1980, a young Chinese girl becomes involved with a young man connected to the Italian mob. When she becomes pregnant, her father allows the marriage between his daughter and young man, but secretly conspires to separate them as soon as the baby is born. Throwing a big party for his son-in-law, the Tong places his daughter on a ship for China, while the baby is left under the care of the Chinese.
Thirty years later, the young man now runs his own mob, coming under the scrutiny of the city’s paladin, a mysterious crime fighter called The Black Ghost. In a deadly gun battle between the hero and gangsters, the mob is wiped out, the mob leader killed during the fight. Seeking revenge, the child, now thirty years old, gathers a new gang to go up against the Black Ghost. Trained in the martial arts from childhood, the new mob leader dons the regalia of a ninja and begins robbing banks and killing citizens randomly, hoping to bring the nemesis to them.
With the city streets running red in blood, The Black Ghost and his aides mount a campaign to stop the ninja’s mob. The action is furious, and sometimes quite violent as the Black Ghost matches guns with the gangsters. In a final encounter between The Black Ghost and the ninja, a martial arts battle between the foes ends with only one victor!
When I was asked to review this novel, at first I hesitated. I wasn’t that familiar with “Pulp Thriller” as a genre, just remembering the movie, PULP FICTION from a decade ago. I wasn’t a fan of the movie, and feared “The Spider’s Web” might be a reflection of the movie. However, I had read this author in the past, and have been a big fan of his work for several years, so I promised to look at the book without making a commitment. I was pleasantly surprised by the plot and mystery elements of the story, and the writing style of the author. Plus, I discovered that The Black Ghost was modeled after the Bat Man and The Shadow; I vaguely remembered the Shadow from radio, but I grew up reading Bat Man comics, and was quickly drawn into the story. The characters came alive, and I was not disappointed in the story telling ability of the author. Even with the violence, this story was top notch!
Terry Roberts, Reviewer (SF/Etc At A Glance)