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tales from the Hanging Monkey (Volume 1) Paperback – June 3, 2012
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The Hanging Monkey of the title is a bar, owned by Corky O'Brian, a former boxer from Ireland, which is heralded as, among other things, the first permanent structure on the South Seas island of Motugra. The Monkey serves as the nexus for an assortment of expatriates, rogues, scoundrels, exiles, wanderers, and even the occasional hero and their various adventures and misadventures. Rounding out the Monkey staff are Miko, bartender and Oriental lady of mystery, and Khuna, bouncer and (semi)reformed headhunter. Nick Fortune, skipper of the rum-runner Fortune's Folly, Jimmy Dolan, air cargo pilot, and Grace Thomas, an American reporter, complete the ensemble cast.
The cover by Daniel Ibanez does a marvelous job of attracting and preparing the reader for the exotic adventure that awaits within. Dolan's Loosey Goosey ducks under the logo as it prepares to land. Nick and Grace are side by side at the wheel of his schooner. And in the center is a mysterious redhead who would not look out of place as the nose art on a WW2 bomber. Clayton Hinkle provides equally fetching character sketches and interior illustrations.
Joshua Reynolds gets the action started in a big way with "The Devil's Crater." The lead-off features Jimmy Dolan as he transports a scientific expedition in search of a missing colleague. Island-hopping via seaplane, hacking through the jungle, encountering exotic beasts, fearfully wondering what will be found at journey's end makes for a great introduction to this volume and sets the pace for what is to follow.
Next up is "The Eye of Ka" by series creator Bill Craig. Craig launches his tale with an opening scene that you might find vaguely familiar and keeps the pedal down as he provides some back stories, introduces (recurring?) villains, and lays the groundwork for future plotlines all while delivering an intriguing mystery. The complete ensemble is active in this story with Nick Fortune spending most of the time in the spotlight.
Tommy Hancock serves up "Motugra's Revenge" and this dish is definitely not served cold. A diabolical madman seeks revenge on the Hanging Monkey regulars, but who and why both drive this tale to an explosive conclusion. In an interesting twist, Khuna and Miko, both of whom I would consider more of a supporting character, take center stage and both prove worthy of the attention.
You know what they say happens when you assume something, right? Well, I must admit that I assumed that Derrick Ferguson's "The Knobloch Collection Assignment" would be my least favorite. Nothing against Mr. Ferguson, but I knew going into the story that it was not what I considered a South Seas islands adventure nor did it feature any of the Hanging Monkey regulars in a prominent role. But, boy oh boy, did Ferguson deliver! Meeting the Magician and seeing him in pre-war espionage action was an absolute blast! An exciting new tale and an intriguing new character and both were right at home in Tales of the Hanging Monkey.
My trunk is already packed for a return trip to the Hanging Monkey. I just hope that Airship 27, Bill Craig, and the rest of the crew can arrange for me to travel by something a little faster than a slow boat to Motugra.
Four authors share a handful of well-drawn characters, each writer telling his own tale, in his own unique voice.
The end result is a varied selection of themes and situations, mixing action, adventure, mystery and the supernatural.
Nostalgia is tempered by irony.
Highly satisfying, and a great introduction to the new pulp genre.