A double-bill book Review – The Spider’s Web & Carnival of Death, by Tom Johnson
Tom Johnson spent twenty years in the military, and after retirement, he and his wife, Ginger, went into small press publishing for the next 22 years. Tom continues to write and Ginger edits and proofs his work. They also review books from numerous publishers.
Following the author’s social media links immediately below, it is my great pleasure to provide my reviews of just two of Tom Johnson’s extensive library of books …
Click on links below for Tom Johnson’s social media:
Author website: Tom Johnson: author
Blog: The Pulp Hermit
Blog/Books: Fading Shadows Books
The Spider’s Web
This is a super novella-length story from the pulp-fiction author, Tom Johnson. A straightforward ‘good vs bad, hero vs villain,’ type story, one where the reader just sits back, suspends disbelief and enjoys the fun.
For first-time readers of Tom Johnson, this a fine introduction to his stories and style of writing, and indeed to the genre as a whole. What we have in The Spider’s Web is a tale of masked avengers and vigilante-style crime-fighting heroes and villains; yes there’s lots violence, killings etc, but the author doesn’t dwell on explicit descriptive detail in that respect, preferring instead to concentrate on writing more of a gasp out loud roller-coaster of entertainment.
Although of novella length, content-wise there’s as much going on here as in many a longer book; Tom Johnson constructs the background of the ninja-like ‘Spider’ character extremely well and succinctly, wasting no time in incorporating it into the wider story. The other main character here, the mysterious crime-fighting ‘Black Ghost,’ is one that features elsewhere in many of the author’s earlier books so there is less explanation of his origins and character, at least not initially though still enough detail to make for a satisfying stand-alone story; having said that, if you already enjoy this style of writing/genre it might be worth scrolling back through the author’s previous books for a more chronology-based decision as to which one to read first. Related to what I’ve just said, there is a bonus story/material, The Black Widows, at the end that expands on the Black Ghost’s character and youthful origins and background. I must say too say, the bonus story has a somewhat darker feel and tone to it, but every bit as enjoyable and complementary to the first story.
I’ve not read much in this genre and style of writing before, or rather not since I was a boy, so it’s hard to make comparisons with current authors. If I were to make a film or tv analogy, think along the lines of a modern-day Fu-Manchu or Bruse Lee’s Kato character in the Green Hornet for atmosphere and overall feel, though there are several others I could quote too … older readers will know exactly what I mean.
For anyone looking for gritty realism, lashings of sex and/or gratuitous violence, or the sort of plot complexity to rival the De Vinci Code, this certainly won’t fit the bill. For those readers though looking for a romping good read, good fun-filled and escapist storytelling, and where you don’t have to scratch your head every five minutes wondering what’s going on, The Spider’s Web provides exactly that.
Carnival of Death
What a cracker of a wee tale this is – a body count not seen the time of the Black Death, masked crime fighters, ninja assassins, British secret agents, rogue ex-military, and an equally dynamic supporting cast to complete the package. It’s a novella length story, but one that packs in way more content than its 82 pages would suggest. This could easily have filled the pages of a full novel, but Tom Johnson has stripped away every superfluous word or bit of character background building. There is a prequel to Carnival of Death, The Spider’s Web, featuring the same characters and set-up, which is probably why the author allows the story to hit the ground running so to speak; having said that, although this is a sequel to a previous story, it reads surprisingly well as a stand-alone story too, though it will inevitably leave the reader curious to know more about the characters. The ending does leave open the likelihood of further stories in the series I’m pleased to say.
Without spoiling or giving too much away, it’s basically a story of vigilante crime-fighting justice, but more in the style of The Shadow, Doc Savage, and Zorro rather than Michael Winner’s ‘Deathwish’ character. As the author himself says, the main character here, The Black Ghost, is his homage to such characters and the pulp fiction magazines of the 30s and 40s. Another comparison I would add to the author’s own references is to Warren Murphy’s Remo series in which the main crime-fighting character, though not super-human, seemingly borders on it. Unlike those of his literary heroes though, Tom Johnson has set his story in a modern-day setting, combining that pulp-fiction feel with just the right blend of high-tech and reference to the present.
Whilst I would say one has to suspend disbelief to some degree, it’s a fast-paced and action-packed story, one that takes me back to the sort of comic book style stories I enjoyed reading as a boy, but which I once again find myself enjoying as an adult. Overall, a fun, entertaining, and escapist tale of good guys versus bad. Will I be reading more from this author? Absolutely yes!
See HERE for Tom Johnson’s Amazon author page and his fascinating and extensive back-catalogue of books.
More about the author …
Born July 26, 1940, in Seymour, Texas, located in West Texas, US veteran Tom Johnson has been a voracious reader since childhood, beginning with the Golden Age comic books to classic literature. Exciting adventure stories entertained him until he discovered science fiction and hardboiled detective mysteries. By his early twenties, he discovered The Shadow and Doc Savage pulp reprints in paperbacks and was hooked on the fast-paced action novel. This led to collecting and research, which eventually interested him in writing. Today, he still loves an exciting action novel over movies and television. Tom and his wife, Ginger, have received numerous awards in the field for their work in keeping the old stories in the spotlight for new readers seeking escape in a thrilling adventure novel.
Please click HERE for the author’s full biography and writing history/links …
Look out too for Tom’s latest work … NEW PULP HEROES
Click HERE for Amazon US purchase link