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Book Review: Emerald Death by Bill Craig

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In Emerald Death Bill Craig spins a rip-roaring adventure story worthy of the old pulps. Mike "Hardluck" Hannigan arrives in Africa in search of adventure and finds it when he is caught up in the search for the kingdom of the fabled Prester John and the Emerald of Eternity, a jewel that grants eternal life. Along the way Hannigan encounters colorful characters, narrow escapes, bad guys galore and, oh yeah, he meets and falls for a beautiful girl.

Readers familiar with the genre will find many archetypes: the adventurer, the priest who knows a little more than he lets on, the Nazis, the stranger with the map, pirates, thugs, the strong-willed woman, and the guy with the obligatory Biblical/mystical connection. Some might mistakenly think this story is derivative of the Indiana Jones adventures, but those movies were, in fact, modern-day cinematic treatments of the old pulp stories. It would be more accurate to say that both those movies and Emerald Death are built on the same foundation.

Craig's strengths are his snappy dialogue and fast-pacing. The story zips along, with Hannigan escaping one predicament only to fall into another, all the while keeping up a witty repartee with his cohorts. Craig also sews subtle seeds of foreshadowing that take root in the reader's mind and keep the pages turning. Some of these will frustrate the reader at the end, as many story arcs are left hanging until the sequel. Emerald Death is an entertaining read that adventure fans will devour in short order.

The downside of a fast-paced story is that sometimes things happen too fast. Molly moves from friendly to in-love with Hannigan too rapidly for believability, even in a pulp story. The concluding scenes, though well-crafted, left me wanting more: more detailed descriptions of the wonders the characters were seeing, a more drawn-out final fight scene, and more of a wrap-up than the reader is given. Of course, the frustrating cliffhanger is another of those pulp traditions that come with the genre.

Fans of pulp adventure stories will find Emerald Death a fun way to spend a weekend or a few late evenings. The book is available as an e-book from the Lost Continent Library.

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