Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Domino Lady: Sex As A Weapon (Moonstone Books), Edited by Lori Gentile
In her straight life, The Domino Lady was Ellen Patrick, affluent socialite and Berkley graduate. He father, Owen Patrick, had been a crusading district attorney until an assassin's bullet had ended his career. Her alter ego was created to avenge his death.
One of her motifs is leaving behind a card which states: "Compliments of the Domino Lady".
Two years ago, Moonstone Books was able to bring out a volume of new Lady Domino stories by 9 different authors. Recently, the kindle edition has hit the Internet (see below). Editor Lori Gentile and illustrator Ver Curtiss have managed to showcase several distinct takes on the character.
In one sense, you have to admire the ability of any writer to create a Domino Lady story. The character was designed for a depression-era erotica magazine (sold under the counter) and styles have changed greatly. The image of the Domino Lady may have sent Bob the Mechanic's pulse racing in 1936, but today you can download far more for free from the Internet (not that I would know a thing about it. No sir, not me). All the authors have kept the action in the same time frame the original stories took place.
The collection kicks off with "Domino Lady and the Crimson Dragon" by K G McAbee. In this story, The Domino Lady becomes mixed up with gangsters who import Chinese women to be sold into sex slavery. The character of Ling Chin, a Chinese woman who battles against her captors, in particularly moving. Bonus points for the character trying to solicit help while singing "Jesus Loves Me".
"Blondes In Chains" by C J Henderson has the best title. The Domino Lady travels to New York City and helps The Black Bat stop a gang kidnapping rich young women. The final scene in the villain's lair was excellent and would make a great grindhouse movie.
Chuck Dixon's "Stealing Joe Crick" is one of the best stories in the anthology. He mixes the largely forgotten aerial ace pulp genre with The Domino Lady by introducing Airboy Davy Nelson. Airboy, who flies a plane with flapping wings, helps the Domino Lady rescues an imprisoned eccentric inventor.
"Target: Domino Lady" by Bobby Nash has The Domino Lady framed for murder. Her enemies have decided to turn the forces of law and order against her by killing a small-time crook and leaving her calling card next to him. Naturally, The Domino Lady triumphs.
Airship 27's Ron Fortier contributes "The Claws of the Cat". Here, cats are being stolen from rich families by a gang of crooks and held for ransom. It's up to The Domino Lady to stop the gang and find out who is behind the scheme. Fortier also mixes in the depression era local politics of the Los Angeles, which reminded me of the Jack Nicholson movie Chinatown.
"The Strange Case of Domino Lady and Mr. Holmes" by Nancy Holder attempts to meld Victorian adventure with the pulp hero. Holmes doesn't put in much of an appearance, which is good because his presence would over-power anything from this era. Holder also drops Mr. Hyde into the story very effectively.
The best story in the collection is The "Devil, You Know" by James Chambers. Not only does Chambers give us a Chinese-American diamond fence named Lee who dresses and talks like a cowboy, but he has The Domino Lady captured by a band of Satanists. Taken to a yacht off the coast, the Domino Lady is recruited by their sinister leader and forced to watch obscene rituals. It has all the sleaze factor you might expect from the shudder pulps, including a naked Amazon whipping men to death. Off course, The Domino Lady is a little too smart for her captors.
Martin Powell's "Masks of Madness" teams The Domino Lady with The Phantom (AKA The Ghost Who Walks). In this story, she's shipwrecked on the coast of Africa and rescued by an African chieftain who takes her to the Phantom's liar. Soon, The Domino Lady swings into action to save a village from the very pirates who marooned her. This story also concludes with her trip back to the US and discovery of the man who ordered her father's execution.
This is a good collection of stories based around a classic, if lesser-known, pulp hero. I might've wished some of the stories to have brought The Domino Lady to the present, but she works best in her depression era scenery. It's truly amazing what contemporary writers can do with a creation from the last century.