When interviewed about her well populated love life, Elizabeth Taylor sought to seize the moral high ground by noting that unlike many of her Hollywood contemporaries, she married most of her lovers.
Harry, the central character of Wife Five, could claim the same. Harry is quick to marry, disposed to divorce, and prefers, as an exercise of ultra modernism, to keep the exes around as a kind of platonic harem. Harry's motive for doing this is related to his aversion to disposing of once-treasured companions. The four wives that are on stage together during most of the play spend a lot of stage time wondering why they are cooperating in Harry's desire to stay in touch. Many readers and/or viewers of the play may share their bemusement and side with Harry's maid Mattie, the Thelma Ritter role, who thinks that the entire thing is ridiculous and psychologically unhealthy. The play gets off to a rollickingly good start with a genuinely and physically comic encounter set, in all places, in an autopsy room. When the action shifts to Harry's Malibu beach house, a fair amount of time is spent with three of the four ex-wives seriously compromising the dramaturge's conventional injunction to "show, donâ€™t tell." The first introduction of current conflict occurs toward the end of Act One with the entrance of a candidate for the play's title role, a highly athletic girl toy who enters the stage doing double flips -- an ability that will certainly limit the number of actors participating in the casting call. This Jungle Jane is, of course, named Kimberly, and is, equally of course, addicted to saying, "awesome" and "cool" at every opportunity. The balance of the play deals with the resolution of those three-sided conflicts among Harry, his marital past, and his possible marital future. Harry himself is a straddle between hero and anti-hero, and as the play delves ever more deeply into his character, the less appealing he becomes. The wives, past and possibly future have their own demerits, leaving this reader and I suspect others to join in a chorus of "We love Mattie." The play is structurally sound -- a 60-40 ratio between the length of Acts One and Two, and scene changes that move quickly, especially in Act Two, when the lighting operator really has to stay on high alert. Playwrights write for three audiences -- the reader, which of course includes potential producers; the talent team (actors, directors and designers); and live audiences who attend performances of the play. In presenting the play on the page, the playwright need not be concerned about stage directions and line indications when it comes to a live audience, which will neither hear nor see them. The talent team may never pay any attention to them, asserting as many do that these represent playwright incursions into their prerogatives. So the presentation of stage directions and line indications are most relevant to readers, and here I think the authors of Wife Five wisely decided to annotate the script more rather than less. In one extreme case, a line indication was even so bold as to tell a character whether or not she was in love. These entirely legitimate suggestions by the playwright as to how the work should be presented on stage are, in this case, set apart from the spoken word solely with parenthesis (line indications) and indentation (stage directions). In reading other scripts, including ones I have written, I have been assisted with the use of italics, and contrasting fonts. The play is nicely bookended with scenes in the autopsy room. I certainly wonâ€™t give away the ending, except to note that the marital history of, again, Elizabeth Taylor provides a clue.
Gordon Osmond, Bookpleasures.com
Bounty hunter Latigo Rawlins was looking to start a whole new life with young Emily Mercer, but Stillman Stadtlander had other plans for him. Latigo had given evidence to prove that Stadtlander had paid to have some rival Mexican ranchers killed, and now Stadtlander intends to see him pay for his betrayal, at the end of a rope. It doesn't matter to Emily that Latigo is wanted for more than a dozen killings of his own. She is in love, and because of that she'll move heaven, earth and everything in between to save the life of the man she plans to marry. She might just do it, too, for she had powerful allies in a man known only as Drifter ... and his gun-swift friend, Ezra Macahan. Then there was a lady marshal named Liberty, who was to influence Emily in a way no one could have foreseen.
I've not read any of Steve Hayes books before, other than a shared authorship title written with David Whitehead, and this story makes me wish I had. Latigo seems to be a continuation of his previous book, El Diablo (not that you need to have read that before this to enjoy it), and further checking seems to point to all his westerns being linked by various characters or places.
Steve Hayes has a background as a screenwriter and has worked on some of the classic TV western series such as How the West was Won, The Westerner, Gunsmoke and High Chaparral. As one would expect from someone with so much experience this story proves to be well structured, moves forwards at a terrific pace, throws in a surprise or two -- for instance the death of one of the main characters that leads to an excellent twist -- and is filled with action. All this written in a very easy to read style.
On finishing this book I was left looking forward to his next, She Wore a Badge, which comes out in July and I'm also eager to dig out the other books by Steve I have in my collection.
Steve Myall, Western Fiction Review
THREE RODE TOGETHER
Jesse Glover was minding his own business when Ulysses S. Grant summoned him to Washington, asking him to quit the life of a cowboy and keep Arizona safe from the likes of Cochise and Geronimo. So Jesse saddled up and headed for Fort Bowie and its Indian-hating commanding officer, Major Nicholas Calloway.
Along the way he saved a beautiful White Mountain Apache girl named Morning Star from a monstrous fate. And when he tangled with a ruthless gang who was determined to start a whole new Indian uprising, he found help in the shape of two unlikely allies -- a Zulu warrior named Sam and a Chiricahua Apache named Goyahkla, who was better known as Geronimo.
Steve Hayes and David Whitehead have written a number of other novels together that have been published by Hale, but this is the first western. Both have had westerns published individually under their own names, and in David Whitehead's case, under a number of pseudonyms too.
The book is well written, as expected, and moves forwards at a great pace. As well as the three main characters, Jesse, Sam, and Geronimo, there are others that are as equally memorable, Morning Star and Cochise being but two of them.
Jesse Glover's mission of peace seems doomed to failure from the start as there are people on both sides who would rather go to war, Geronimo being one of them. This difference of opinion leads to a very visually written fight between Geronimo and Jesse. This isn't the only obstacle they face with each other, for both have strong feelings for Morning Star ...
The story portrays a sense of urgency as time runs out towards the latter part of the tale as the Apaches ride down on the fort intent on wiping it out. This provides some exciting reading as the three men of the title race to halt the impending battle. Are the three successful? Does Jesse or Geronimo win the heart of Morning Star? I guess you'll have to read the book to find out, and I'd suggest you'll be as entertained in finding out as I was.
Steve Myall, Western Fiction Review
SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE QUEEN OF DIAMONDS
Hayes and Whitehead, both authors of western fiction, put a western spin on Victorian London in this entertaining Sherlock Holmes pastiche. When a band of ruffians led by Blackrat Lynch, a notorious gangland figure, attacks Countess Elaina Montague's coach one foggy night in Green Park, a pistol-packing Thomas Howard from "Missoura" comes to her ladyship's rescue. Howard explains that he has come to England in search of his brother, Hank. Anxious to repay him, Elaina takes Howard to see Holmes at Baker Street, but the great detective is at first too busy chasing an audacious jewel thief to take on what appears to be a minor missing persons case. London comes to resemble a western American cattle town with barroom brawling, an impressive lariat display by Howard for Elaina's society guests at Montague Hall, and gun-toting robbers who escape on horseback after hitting a major museum. The story moves at a gallop to an unexpected, if not startling, conclusion.
Amelia Estrich, Publisher's Weekly
When villains hold up Countess Elaina Montague's carriage one night, she thinks robbery and rape are inevitable, but then fellow American Thomas Howard rescues her. He tells her about his missing brother and how he has come to Britain to find him, and she tells him about her friend Sherlock Holmes. Surely this is a way to repay the favor, but Howard is not favorably impressed by what he sees as Holmes' nosiness. Why has Sherlock been frequenting the music halls, and who is stealing jewels from London's society ladies?
The game's afoot! Nobody actually says that in this book, which also manages not to involve Moriarty either, which is refreshing! The two authors have previously been associated with the Western genre and it shows, the result being a nice melding of western and Holmes story and set entirely in London. I would personally have preferred more mystery, as everything in this book is either laid before the reader or is easy to guess, two elements always missing from Conan Doyle's own work. Instead you can expect a fast-paced and intriguing tale with plenty of action and a good feel for the seamy side of Victorian London. It is always good to see what authors come up with to add to the Holmes canon, and this manages to be a bit different.
Rachel A. Hyde, MyShelf
I had my doubts about Sherlock Holmes and the Queen of Diamonds by Steve Hayes and David Whitehead (Robert Hale; www.halebooks.com) as the authors are most noted for their Westerns. In fact it's a rattling good yarn, well-written and thoroughly engaging -- and written in the third person, which is often a wise ploy. A baffling series of jewel robberies is somehow connected with the Music Hall, but Holmes's investigation is interrupted when the beautiful Countess Elaina Montague introduces him to Thomas Howard of Missouri, in London on a deadly mission. Those who know something of the Wild West will easily guess the true identity of 'Mr Howard' ...
Roger Johnson, The Sherlock Holmes Society of London
The two authors of this enjoyable Sherlockian romp are more associated with novels featuring gunslingers, outlaws, saloons and shootouts in OK-type corrals rather than criminal misdemeanours taking place in fog-shrouded Victorian London. However, cunningly, they manage to bring more than a touch of the wild and woolly west to Baker Street. Two of the major characters are from America and one in particular, a gun-toting stranger from 'Missoura' has a surprising and notorious identity.
In a literary scene which is currently awash with Holmes pastiches it is pleasing to encounter one that introduces such interesting and diverting touches as Sherlock Holmes and the Queen of Diamonds. The novel is told in the third person, which benefits the narrative in two ways: we are not lumbered with laboured pseudo Watson reportage which when presented by a modern writer can often ring false and mannered; and it also allows the reader to witness scenes in which Watson and Holmes do not appear, thus adding to the range of drama and suspense. Despite the comparative freshness of this approach, Holmes remains the genius detective of old. While investigating a series of daring and baffling jewel robberies, he is able to dazzle with his remarkable deductions -- some of which do strain credibility.
It has to be said that the characterisation in general is rather sketchy and one dimensional, but the story is told with such dash and verve that this hardly seems to matter. A robbery on horseback on the dark streets of London is just one of the dramatic set pieces. While not by any means a ground-breaking entry into the annals of the Baker Street sleuth, this novel rarely fails to excite and engage attention and as such will more than satisfy the Holmes fans.
David Stuart Davies, SHOTS
Tommy Lightfoot Garrett writes:
Highlight Hollywood took a deep look into two wonderful new books published by Bear Manor Publishing, both written by the legendary Steve Hayes. Children of the Dark comes from the mind of veteran Hollywood television and screenwriter embracing a haunting collection of tales focusing on the darker side of childhood. Stretching from the dark days of World War II to the steamy jungles of the Congo and on to the windswept bluffs overlooking exclusive Del Mar, California, you enter a realm of wicked aunts and uncles, homicidal teenagers and proud but impoverished street urchins.
The book made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. It's a very intriguing number of stories, which brings Hayes's ingenious imagination to the pages of this fictional book, that makes one wonder about horrific abuse and about the plight many children face on a daily basis. The stories Steve tells are woven around with great energy and storytelling style and pace. The prolific author has a way of manufacturing the plots in this book, that lead you to read chapter to chapter in astonishment and amazement.
Children of the Dark tells a very rich, frightening and strangely stark story of fear, abuse and when the reader tries to find avenues to escape from inner fear, Hayes offers a short respite before capturing your attention with the next set of circumstances. It's almost as if he can imagine the reader's fears and imagination, and then he grabs you with a terrific twist, one after another, until finally you reflect and submit to his brilliant genius within. Steve Hayes is one of the most prolific writers of the 20th century, and now a giant in literature in the 21st century, and when you start reading the book, you don't see any of the surprises coming, until they are right there on the page in front of you.
Children of the Dark will stir up one's imagination and offer fear, hope, some redemption, but most of all, offer an almost out-of-this-world dreamlike scenario of life as some live it, and as most of us can never imagine.
Under the Knife is co-written by Steve Hayes and David Whitehead. As the storyline goes; a vicious serial killer is terrifying the bayous of Louisiana, and the only person who can catch him is FBI Agent Kate Palmer. But after years spent thinking like serial killers in order to catch them, Kate is facing burnout. To make matters worse, she's about to rekindle a relationship with the only man she ever loved when the Bayou Butcher strikes again, this time frighteningly close to home.
For Kate, that makes it personal. And it might also be just what it takes to break her completely. Kate is one of the best protagonists ever immortalized in print. The book is scary, but it is also a psychological thriller, one that I haven't read since the original Silence of the Lambs. This book is definitely destined for the Big Screen; if not, then there is no more imagination in Hollywood. Hayes and Whitehead place their brains together in a very mystical and dark place, and as the story plays out, I was shocked by the resolution, an ending no one can see happening, until it's right in your lap. The first time I read the book, I read it overnight, and found myself with my mouth hanging wide-open in astonishment.
Characterizations in this book are clear, there are no gray areas for the imagination. It's concisely written, with nonstop action that continues even when you think you have it all figured out. Trust me, you donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have it figured out, and the second time I read it, I found even more nuances that Hayes and Whitehead capture in their enthralling story.
Children of the Dark and Under the Knife are the new type of fiction, that engages the reader. Whenever you find yourself grinding your teeth and holding yourself in the middle of a story, you know that it's one that is meant to entertain. Steve Hayes has always been one of my favorite writers, and I count him as one of the top 5 of all time, but both of these books really will make great reading gifts for those on your gift list that love intrigue, drama and most of all, one-of-a-kind storytelling as only told by the greats.
Ben Bridges writes:
Mitch Holliday's life is about as unglamorous as it gets. A forty year-old former P.I. ("body by Hummer, face by hard knocks"), he lost his license after being framed for money laundering and is now reduced to helping his partner, Lionel Banks, pick up a missing girl named Lila Hendricks. En route, however, everything goes wrong and Mitch finds himself being drawn into a world of money, murder and double-cross.
For all its opulence, Mitch's new surroundings are as hard and uncompromising as a blood-stained knuckle-duster. At once seduced and repelled by the almost obscene wealth of sexy socialite Claire Dixon and her manipulative, crippled sister Elaina (especially when compared to the hand-to-mouth existence of his widowed neighbour Donna Banks), he is forced -- reluctantly -- to examine his own hitherto rootless existence.
But murder is the name of the game here, the target a wealthy businessman with few if any redeeming features. The question is, will Mitch, as tough and cynical as he is, go ahead and sacrifice what few principles he has left in order to kill for the promise of love and money?
It's a tough call, since Mitch is by his own admission a little on the slow side. Suffice it to say that he emerges at the end as a wholly credible character about whom this particular reviewer would like to read more.
Told at a vigorous pace, Steve Hayes's slick prose is sprinkled with delightful turns of phrase, numerous references to the noir movies of Hollywood's golden age and a crisp line in dialogue that's written exactly the way it's spoken ... all of which make this a vivid, compelling and above all highly satisfying read. 3>
Tommy Lightfoot Garrett writes:
British born author Steve (aka: Ivan) Hayes first arrived in Hollywood in the late 1940s and moved here permanently in 1950. Once an actor, he helped support himself by parking cars at some of Hollywood's most glamorous and well-known hot spots on the Sunset Strip. He became friends during that time with legends such as, Ava Gardner, Lana Turner, Errol Flynn and Marilyn Monroe to name a few. In 1955 the handsome actor started writing and has now completed not only books, but movies and scripts produced and aired on TV.
I recently had the great opportunity to enjoy his latest fictional work, "A Woman To Die For," which was published by the esteemed publishing house Bear Manor. The book's protagonist Mitch Holliday is a down on his luck investigator who after being framed for money laundering is quickly lowered to helping his P.I. partner, Lionel Banks to search for and find a young lady named Lila Hendricks. Mitch soon finds himself lured into even more action and troubles while on the case.
Mitch crosses paths with the rich and famous and the ordinary criminal and is tempted and after years of being in the private investigation business he is not sure where his life and career are going. All the while, Lila Hendricks remains his focus and immediately the story takes a turn once several tragedies culminate into what has become Mitch's dysfunctional life and career.
Whenever Steve Hayes writes a book, you can expect it to move at a warp pace, but not difficult to keep up with. His stories move more like movies and television shows than the ordinary novel. Though Hayes is far from ordinary and this latest page turner entices the reader to take a chance and within a few dozen pages, you won't be able to put the book down.
Being a part of the end of the Hollywood golden age himself, this book as well as all of Steve Hayes's works are peppered with references to the classic noir era of films and unlike many who have to research this era, Hayes lived it, saw it first hand and witnessed some of the very things he writes so eloquently about in this book.
I give this book my approval, it's surely a very concise story filled to the brim and running over with excitement, splendor and all things Hollywood.
Paul Ehrmann writes:
"Viva Gringo" by Steve Hayes takes you back to the movies and stories where a solid, linear structure hung with original characters and a few surprises on the trail kept your attention start to finish.
The places evoked, the events -- largely true I would think -- give "Viva Gringo" a solid foundation on which personal conflicts and story events fit just right.
Tom McNulty writes:
A few years ago Steve Hayes took a break from his successful screenwriting career and began publishing novel-length westerns. I have dutifully purchased each novel upon publication and for good reason -- they're good. Steve's westerns are on par with Zane Grey and Louis L'Amour which is no small accomplishment.
Steve's latest is VIVA GRINGO! and it may be his best yet. Frankly, I wasn't surprised that it was good because Steve is a pro. He knows how to craft a story and make it interesting. I would ask him to bottle his magic formulae and sell it to me so that I might one write one as good as this. But it's not that simple. I think Steve's secret is that he works hard at his craft and his experience serves him well when creating his characters.
And VIVA GRINGO! is loaded with interesting characters, but the centerpiece is a U.S. Marshal named Macahan who carries a model '94 Winchester. It's a new century and there's something called the `Revolucion Mexicana' in its sixth year. For those that know American history, it was Pancho Villa and his troops that committed the first terrorist attack against the United States when they laid siege to the town of Columbus, New Mexico in 1916. This is the backdrop that Steve uses to build his story. But this is still very much a western in the traditional sense. Macahan is tough, perhaps even brittle, and one can easily imagine a stalwart actor like John Wayne playing this role.
VIVA GRINGO! is a western that was written the way westerns were meant to be written. It is at once a fantastic adventure story in the tradition of the grand old pulps, but it's also a mature, unrelenting drama. Steve Hayes is one of those rare talents who can make a western feel like a Shakespearean tragedy while satisfying the demand for action and adventure. His characters may be fictional but they populate the pages with hellfire, brimstone, compassion and insight. You won't find another writer of westerns who can hold your attention, and you won't find another book like VIVA GRINGO!
Steve Hayes is on a roll. I hope the well never goes dry because he keeps topping himself. I don't have a problem hawking this book because it is, quite simply, the best western to be published in the United States this year. If any of us working in the genre today could write one as good as this the "western revival" we've all been demanding would happen a lot sooner. VIVA GRINGO! is the book of the year!
Tommy Lightfoot Garrett writes:
Steve Hayes is one of my favorite authors. His recent tome entitled "Viva Gringo!" caught my interest as it came across my desk recently. Whenever Steve writes, one knows they will not only be thoroughly entertained and engrossed in his words, but also that he only writes about a subject in which he is an expert. The new book, published by Bear Manor, is an amazing story, a wild ride and well worth the time it takes to read the story.
A few years ago Steve Hayes took a break from his very successful career as screenwriter and began publishing novel-length westerns. Many people wondered what this creative genius could come up with next. Wonder no longer.
U.S. Marshal Ezra Macahan picks the wrong time to visit his kid brother, Joshua, a cavalry soldier stationed at Camp Furlong, New Mexico. That night Pancho Villa and his revolutionary forces raid the nearby town of Columbus. The Villistas are defeated but during the battle, one of Villa's ruthless commanders, Manuel "Scar" Acosta, kidnaps Joshua's son, Daniel, and flees to his mountain hideout. Ezra and Joshua are about to pursue him, when they discover that their brother, Lt. Zachary, a recent deserter, was captured while riding with Villistas and now faces execution for treason. Ezra and Joshua visit Zach in jail. He agrees to lead them to Scar's hideout, but only if they break him out. Ezra refuses, forcing Zach to escape on his own. The brothers ride after Scar, accompanied by Joshua's fiery Mexican wife, Celia, who hopes to persuade her people to betray Scar's whereabouts. But unpleasant surprises await them in Mexico, surprises that begin with Zach suddenly showing up and agreeing to lead them to Scar's heavily-guarded hideout and culminate in his violent death and a shocking revelation by Scar that threatens to destroy Joshua's love for Celia. Can Marshal Macahan overcome these adversities, rescue Daniel and save his brother's once-blissful marriage or will they all be killed by Scar?
All of the action that takes place moves amazingly fast, the way we remember westerns in our childhood, but there is an exceptional eye the author possessed that engages his readers in a way that no one expects. The author enthralls his readers with a lot of action, great detail and most of all character building and revelations that are filled with intrigue and masterfully storytelling.
"Viva Gringo!" is going to be one of those great novels that people will want to get dad for Father's Day coming months from now. This is a book that places the reader in a lost genre the way the superb Stone Wallace's western tales lead the readers and this book is a must read for anyone who loves cowboy tales with a more fascinating and contemporary style.