Domino Lady: Money Shot by Bobby Nash, Moonstone, p/b, £7.60, Webpage
Reviewed by Dave Brzeski
The prime difficulties for a modern day author writing about a 1930’s character—especially a 1930’s female character—must be how to handle the difference in cultural attitudes towards various issues, such as race and women. Walking the tightrope between retaining the authenticity of the classic character, but not falling into the trap of being seen to endorse archaic beliefs is never easy, but Bobby Nash handles it very well.
In Domino Lady, we have a heroine who smokes, which might possibly annoy some readers, who would rightly point out that this isn’t a great idea for anyone with such an active lifestyle. But the truth is, most people did smoke back then. She goes into action in an outfit that would possibly cause even more of a scandal in the 40’s and 50’s than it would have in the 30’s. She wears high heels, because she likes them and they add to the distraction advantage her outfit gives her. Practice has ensured that she can actually run in them, however, Bobby Nash does have her make concessions when high heels really aren’t going to work.
Other authors have written new Domino Lady stories, but none come as close to capturing the flavour of the originals as Bobby Nash. While her attitude to sex was certainly free in the original pulp stories, it never went beyond suggestion. Bobby Nash ups the ante a little in this area, to reflect modern mores, but he doesn’t ever get explicit, which works much better for the character in this reviewer’s opinion. He also doesn’t soup-up her fighting ability and weaponry much beyond what is shown in the original tales. Both this novella, and his previous Domino Lady prose story (in the collection, ‘Domino Lady: Sex as a Weapon,’ also published by Moonstone) are set in between the original six pulp stories. This is made obvious by the fact that one of the bad guys actually dies in one of the original stories, placing Mr, Nash’s tales earlier in her career than the events of that story.
Bobby Nash has a real talent for this type of story. It would be fair to say that he’s actually a somewhat better writer than Lars Anderson, the creator of Domino Lady, and author of all six of her original pulp appearances. Bobby Nash shows real skill in the way he retains everything that made the original tales what they are, while producing a story that measures up to the demands of a modern readership.
On its own, this should be enough to make this book an appealing prospect, but not only do we get a new Domino Lady novella, we also get a new Golden Amazon novella by the late Howard Hopkins. My only previous exposure to this character was, coincidentally, in the Moonstone one-shot comic book, ‘Domino Lady’s Threesome’, in which Domino Lady teams up with The Golden Amazon and The Veil (an original Howard Hopkins character) to foil a plot involving disappearing girls at a burlesque theatre. Apparently, there were twenty-four original Golden Amazon stories, written by John Russell Fearn, which appeared in the Toronto Star Weekly, between 1945 and 1961. These original tales have been reprinted in paperback and ebook editions by Wildside press.
I managed to curb my usual anal habit of wanting to read the originals first because, well… twenty-four! Reading this new story with no background (there was little real information on the character in the comic I’d read) was interesting. It works fine on it’s own, in fact, knowing nothing about the character may have even made things more interesting. It’s a powerful story. In ‘Ripper, Burning Bright’, an infamous murderer is fleeing the scene of his last crime in Whitechapel, back in November, 1888. He encounters, and is possessed by a mysterious alien entity. He finds himself somehow transported to 1939 New York. Violet Ray Brant, the adopted daughter of a rich, powerful family is ignorant of her origins. All she knows is that she has something powerful inside her. Something she’s not at all sure she can control. Chris Wilson claims to be a Private Investigator, but he’s working for someone who seems to know a lot more about Violet’s origins than she does. Amid a tale of serial killings and mysterious origins, Howard Hopkins also tells us the story of a victim, who can not—will not leave the man who brutally abuses her. By the end of this novella we are left with more questions than answers. Questions that may never be answered, due to the author’s tragic death at the too-young age of fifty. Then again, maybe they have been answered. After all, John Russell Fearn wrote twenty-four Golden Amazon stories, and maybe there are more as yet unpublished Howard Hopkins stories, or another author may pick up this particular ball. All I know is, reading this novella left me wanting more.