Earl Norman

The Earl Norman books are becoming extremely rare, and publishers don’t seem to be interested in reprinting the series. The only way some of us may ever have all the stories is for collectors to scan and type the stories into PDF to swap with other collectors. I have already completed PDFs of HANG ME IN HONG KONG and KILL ME IN ROPPONGI. I am working on KILL ME IN YOKOSUKA. If other collectors would do the same for some of the other books, we could eventually have PDFs of all ten books. Why not help? I can be contacted at fadingshadows40@gmail.com

Monday, July 22, 2019

A Piece of Something Big

“A Piece of Something Big” by Harry Reed: Curtis Kruger is locked up in an Arizona jail when a mob lawyer bails him out and brings him to California where he’s to do a job for the mob capo B.J. Baldoni. Baldoni claims that his daughter is enamored with a black boxer, and he wants Kruger to beat the boxer up. Kruger may be small, but he has a kung fu iron fist. While serving in the Navy in Japan Kruger had boxed, but after discharge remained in Japan to study karate, eventually calcifying one of his hands into a deadly weapon. He does beat up the black boxer, but that gentleman ends up dead from the strike of an iron fist, and Kruger is tagged with his murder. There is a lot of mystery behind what is going on. Thankfully, Kruger has a buddy in the police department who knew him in the Navy, and believes he is being set up. In fact, there is a Japanese karate expert with an iron hand in the background who wants Kruger dead, and he’s waiting around to do the killing himself. There is quite a bit of karate in the action, and even the background reminds the reader of Burns Bannion, an ex Army Ranger who stayed in Japan to study karate. I’m sure the Bannion novels were a model for this novel, and it is a good story. The book was published in 1972, shortly after the Bannion run, and copyright by Josephine Reed, which may mean Harry was dead by the time the book was released. That, or Josephine Reed wrote the book, which I highly doubt. The writing is too masculine. It is a very good read.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

The Toksido Road

The Tokaido Road by Lucia St Clair Robson. Promoted as a Japanese erotica and martial arts novel, I would question the claim of erotica, as it just wasn’t there. However, martial arts fans will enjoy all the action. This is feudal Japan, probably in the 1400s. When her father fails to bribe the official, Lord Kira correctly, he is removed and his name pulled from record. He commits suicide, which is the only thing left for him to do. However, his daughter wants his named revenged. Kinume Asano, known as Cat, and her mother have no way to survive, so Cat sells herself to a pleasure house. But Lord Kira is keeping an eye on her, and serves her a blowfish not properly prepared. Her client eats the fish and dies, but she knows it was meant for her. She changes clothes with the dead man and escapes. Now she must travel the Takaido Road to reach her sensei, Lord Asano’s samurai, and her master.  The story is Lady Asano’s journey down this long and dangerous road, the adventures she has, and the friends she meets along the way. Of course, Lord Kira has his samurai harassing her along the way, but they don’t know that Cat is a master samurai also, and she makes them look like fools. However, the journey is hard and dangerous, and the companions she meet teaches her many things, like how to be humble, and trust in others. Even love comes hard for her, until she discovers how others see her, and are willing to suffer hardships for her. This was an exciting read, and I felt there could be only one ending to the journey. I kept dreading the final page, knowing it could only end one way. I will say no more, as I would give the end away, but I encourage readers to read this yarn to the last page. The action and adventure will keep you turning the pages. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019


Fate (Mystery)
By Ian Hamilton
House of Anansi Press
ISBN #978-1487003869
Price $15.95 (Paperback)
Price $9.99 (Kindle
304 Pages
Rating 3-Stars


This is the story of Chow Tung, known to friends as “Uncle”, a form of respect, though he’s still a fairly young man in his thirties.  His position in the Fanling triads is that of White Paper Fan because he’s good with numbers. It chronicles his escape from communist China to Hong Kong, then jumps ahead a decade when the Mountain Master of the Fanling triads is killed by a hit & run driver, leaving their leadership vacant. Basically the story follows the trouble of electing a new leader. How boring can you get?

Readers of Ian Hamilton have been familiar with Uncle through the Ava Lee series, about a Chinese/Canadian girl who follows the money in crooked deals leaving someone needing her help. One of her cases came to the attention of Uncle, and he uses his power to assist her. The early stories of Ava Lee were topnotch and interesting mysteries. But the last couple of Ava Lee stories were below par for the author, and left the reader less satisfied in her, and for some reason the author has decided to feature Uncle in his own stories. Unfortunately, this first entry was boring. We’re talking triads, and criminal gangs in Hong Kong, so you would think there’d be lots of action. There isn’t.  When there is action, there’s really no tension in the setting. We do learn the command structure of the triads, and even an overly long funeral for one of the leaders. We know from the beginning that Uncle will end up as the new Mountain Master, even though he’s trying to put someone else in the office. It’s Uncle that sees the problems and sets things on the right course, so he’s already performing as their leader. If you’re interested in the structure of the triad gangsters, this book will help you. Although I would suggest you read the early Ava Lee stories for that. If you’re looking for a good action novel, it isn’t here. Again, those early Ava Lee entries are your best bet.

Tom Johnson


Sunday, February 10, 2019


When four US and Canadian forward air controllers were taken hostage by an Islamic terrorist organization during a blistering seesaw battle in Iraq, CANUS-ETF (Canada United States Expeditionary Targeting Force) knew they had to act fast. A hundred million dollars was demanded and everyone knew there was no way the ransom would be paid.
The best chance for rescue was to deploy a small team of elite combat rescuers. American Navy Seal Captain Jonathan Rogers was chosen to head the mission. His Canadian counterpart was twenty-six-year-old Rayna Tan, the first woman to ever lead a Special Forces operation in the Middle East. She had proven herself as a warrior leader but this mission had exceptional potential perils.

Recruited (Thriller)
By Wesley Robert Lowe
Independent Publishing Platform
Price Free (Kindle)
97 Pages
Rating 3-Stars

Rayna Tan, born in China, adopted by Harry and Vivien Chang of Honk Kong, then moved to the US and Canada, having dual citizenship. Rayne is highly educated, a black belt in Judo, Wushu, and Tae-Kwan-do, joins the Canadian Joint Task Force 2 (JTF2), where she rises to the rank of captain, and leader of an assault team. Her counterpart in the SEALS is captain Jonathan Rogers, who sacrifices his life to save others. When her boyfriend, Tanner, is gunned down by a drug gang just when she accepts his marriage proposal, she tries to disappear, but finds the gang can easily find her. She contacts Jonathan’s father, one of the guiding members of Fidelitas, an assassin group better trained than the Navy SEALS and Army Special Forces, where she goes through vigorous training before going after the Pablo Escobar drug cartel in South America.

This was a short story, prequel to the series mainly to introduce Rayna Tan and the other main players in the future series. With all her training, she seemed more like a green trainee than a professional soldier when she’s placed in training with Fidelitas, and I had a hard time visualizing her as Chinese. The author doesn’t capture that oriental mystique in Rayna Tan, and it makes her appear just as another Caucasian heroine. Recruited doesn’t give much promise for the future series unless the author can retool his main character enough to make her real to the reader.

Tom Johnson


Sunday, January 27, 2019

MIAO-Shan: The Awakening

Chow Lei is a ten-year-old girl on Hong Kong Island in 1896, who sees her parents murdered. This is the beginning of a sequence of events that leads to her becoming, Miao-Shan, the living Goddess of Justice! 'Miao Shan' book 2, 'Justice For All!', is set to be released for Christmas 2019.

MIAO SHAN: The Awakening (Superhero Fiction)
By G. AM Morris
Independent Publishing Platform
ISBN #978-0620924330
Price $14.99 (Paperback)
Price $2.99 (Kindle)
346 Pages
Rating 4-Stars

Ten-year-old Chow Lei watched as her parents are murdered by the Celestial Body Society Triads, then she went to live with her grandmother Po Po. She dreams of vengeance against the triads, and joins a local kung fu school in Hong Kong, but her quick learning impresses Master Sung and he suggest she should train at the Shaolin Temple in China. So with heavy heart, her grandmother sends her to China and the Shaolin Temple. There she trains until she’s 18, mastering the 18 kung fu fighting styles. She then returns to Hong Kong only to find that the Celestial Body Society Triads have killed her grandmother. Chow Lei now goes by the name of Miao-Shan, the Goddess Guan Yin. She inherits millions of dollars and becomes one of the richest women in Hong Kong, but she is a master of kung fu and wants revenge against the triads. A student of Master Sung tells her where she can purchase a mighty sword and she meets elderly Wang Deshi, a sword maker, and Shaolin Monk, who tells her she is the one they have waited for to bring compassion and judgment to evil men. She must refrain from killing if possible. Miao Shan becomes a beautiful young woman by day, and a black-clad vengeful goddess by night, offering compassion or death to the triads.

The writing flows well, and keeps the reader entertained. This was a multiple faceted novel, however, the first 150 pages being juvenile, especially the dialogue. Thankfully, the rest of the book moves into comic book superhero prose, and a little more mature dialogue. The mighty sword, Whispering Wind gives her immortality, eternal youth, superhuman speed and strength; in other words, she can now leap tall buildings and is faster than a speeding bullet, and has superhuman strength. It also has some similarities to Warren Murphy’s The Destroyer at this point.  In fact, one of the Triad leaders hires a mysterious personage to protect him that reminds the reader of Chiun from that series. Shen has moves like the Korean assassin and trainer of Remo. Shen does kill all her family and friends, but we know he will lose the fight against Miao-Shan. The juvenile dialogue was hard to read at times, but my main complaint is we don’t see good fight scenes. She goes into a Black Fist stance, then a few seconds later two dozen triad warriors lie dead on the floor. She moves so fast you don’t see her kill her foes. And then she just gives the evil eye to a dozen more and they run off in fear. The author is working on the second volume, and I certainly want to read it when it’s ready, but I hope there is more realistic fight scenes, and better dialogue. As it is, I highly recommend this first novel because it introduces a very interesting character in Miao-Shan.

Tom Johnson


Thursday, November 15, 2018

Angkor Cloth Angkor Gold

Cambodia, An ancient Kingdom of Wonder. After the devastation of the Khmer Rouge regime, hundreds of thousands of refugees – victims and Khmer Rouge soldiers – flee into Thailand as the Vietnamese invade Cambodian in 1979. In the disorder of one refugee camp, a killer targets young women. But with so much chaos in the camps, nothing is done and no one seems to care. With many refugees expatriated to France, the killer is among them, and continues to strike, in Paris and across Europe. Three decades later, and two murders in Phnom Penh have the same modus operandi as those previous deaths. Could it be the same killer? Can Brigadier General Chamreun and Lieutenant Sophie Chang discover the murderer's identity before they claim another victim?

Angkor Cloth Angkor Gold (Murder Mystery)
By Steven W. Palmer
Saraswati Publishing Cambodia
Price $5.99 (Kindle)
196 Pages
Rating 5-Stars

Cambodia, 2017: The Minister calls in Brigadier General Hoen Chamreun, a young military man, and introduces him to young police officer, Sopheak Chang. They are being assigned to a recent murder case that may involve the killer of the Minister’s sister four decades earlier. The killer is targeting young Khmer prostitutes, and the modus operandi matches murders committed in Cambodia, Thailand refugee camps, France, and Italy. The minister’s sister was not a prostitute, but also killed by the same person. And he wants closure, and the murderer brought to justice.

This was an interesting case, both a current homicide and a cold case investigation, and the investigators dig into the background of the old murders, hoping to find some clue that will tie the person to the current murders. Chamreun is an experienced soldier who has made a name for himself and his unit, and now working with Sophie, a Cambodian that was raised in America and trained as a homicide detective before returning to Cambodia. Both are experienced and want to bring the case to a close.

Readers are cautioned to pay attention to the dates. I didn’t and was confused through half the story until I decided to go back and look at the dates. The investigators bring in Sue Chapman from Interpol, plus use a computer hacker to help uncover records not easily obtainable, and correlate lists of names into a possible list of suspects. The narrative has two main POVs, that of the murderer, and that of Chamreun, but head hop a few times to Sophie and Sue Chapman. I’ve read numerous murder stories set in Cambodia and Thailand, all set in the sex industry, but this novel is more in-depth than mere sex. It goes deeper into the criminal mind and why the killer is targeting prostitutes. The title gives us a clue, but I won’t go into that. Too much detail could give the story away. There is a nice twist at the end of the story. Highly recommended.

Tom Johnson


Sunday, October 7, 2018

No Shelter

Holly Lin is living two lives. To her friends and family, she's a pleasant, hardworking nanny. To her boss and colleagues, she's one of the best non-sanctioned government assassins in the world. 
But when a recent mission goes wrong causing one of her team members to die, she realizes she might no longer be cut out for the work — except the mission, as it turns out, is only half over, and to complete it will take her halfway across the world and bring her face to face with a ghost from her past. 
Things are about to get personal. And as Holly Lin's enemies are about to find out, she is not a nanny they want to piss off.

No Shelter (Spy/Assassin)
By Robert Swartwood
RMS Press
Price $15.00 (Paperback)
Price $      (Kindle)
338 Pages
Rating 4-Stars

In this first novel featuring Asian-American Holly Lin, we learn her background and that she works as an assassin for the government, her boss is Lieutenant-General (3 stars) Walter Hadden; she also is employed as his family’s nanny, which gives her total access to the general. She is the daughter of a Japanese mother and Chinese father. She had joined the Army after high school, and while overseas her friend was raped and beaten by a soldier. She took it on herself to get even when her friend committed suicide, and she was arrested for murder. General Walters got her out of jail and brought her to work for his assassin unit. This is a complicated plot in which her task originally was to retrieve a flash drive from an arms dealer and take him out. There was a party with prostitutes that night and she is brought in as one of them. After killing the arms dealer and his guards, she gets the flash drive and rescues one of the girls. The Mexican girl tells her there is a ranch holding thirty or more illegal Mexican girls slaves for prostitution, and she takes it on herself to rescue them. Naturally, this upsets a cartel and they want her dead. And so does terrorists who were after the flash drive that is now in the hands of the American government. People who are supposed to be dead show up very much alive, which complicates the plot – and her life – even more.

This is a good story with plenty of action, and Holly Lin takes a lot of beatings before it comes to an end. My one big complaint with the story concerns the character of Holly Lin. The author does everything right with her, but he fails making her a female Asian assassin, instead she comes across more as one of the boys. As good as this story is, I’m hoping the sequels bring out both her femininity and Asian background. There are male authors who write feminine leads quite well. For instance, Ian Hamilton’s Ava Lee; Thatcher Robinson’s Bai Jiang; The Black Stiletto by Raymond Benson; and K.W. Jeter’s Kim Oh. However, Holly Lin is highly recommended for its great plotting and action.

Tom Johnson