Monday, August 31, 2015

My top ten favorite writers of all time

A regular reader of these pages and self-described “Caitlin Star” fan Gene Atkins wrote, “I have been digging your top ten series so far, but was wondering if you could do a list of your top writers of all time?”

Gene has a good point. I have done top ten lists of movies, TV shows, soundtracks, actors, actresses, books, even songs, and have yet to make an official top ten list of writers. And since I am a writer, it is time to correct this oversight. So here it is, a list of my top ten favorite writers of all time. All genres, media, and formats are included.

Robert Silverberg

There is a wonderful article written by Silverberg in the outstanding pulp retrospective book “Sin-O-Rama” where he talks about cranking out a new 50,000 word erotic pulp novel—every two weeks! And you know what? I have read many of them and they are damn good reads.

How good is Silverberg? One of my favorite books ever was this scanner-type science fiction romantic thriller I picked up in the ‘70s. It was a reprint and when he was asked to write a new forward Silverberg confessed it was something he had cranked out just to pay the bills and had forgotten about it. This novel would have been anyone else’s masterpiece, but for him it was just something spit out to pay the heating bill and forgotten about.

Of course, nobody but me even remembers any of these old pulps and today Robert Silverberg is best known for his artful, poetic prose and award-winning, intelligent science fiction and fantasy novels.
"The World Inside" is highly recommended for fans of the recent best-seller "Divergent".

What to check out:
“Lord Valentine’s Castle” and “The World Inside”

Joan Ellis

I am a huge fan of vintage pulp fiction from the early and mid ‘60s known as “the sleazy pulps”, especially those published by a company called Midwood. Most stories were set in Manhattan and have a very “Mad Men” quality to them. Often the characters even worked in advertising.

Joan Ellis was the all-time best at this sub-genre of fiction. Do not let the term sleazy pulps fool you. Her books are rich, expertly crafted, romantic, noir-ish works of wonder. Ellis has a real knack for creating vivid, young female characters dealing with teen angst and blossoming sexuality. Today these books would be called racy “Young Adult”.

What to check out:
Just about anything she wrote at Midwood Publishing. Personal favorites include “In The Shadows” (actually available on Kindle!), “Sooner or Later”, “Gang Girl”, and "Reluctant Nympho".

John Jakes

John Jakes may be the best writer of epic historical fiction ever—certainly of American history. There are many writers—and many of them quite successful—where you can feel the strain of the work the author put into it. As a result these books often do not make for a smooth read. In a John Jakes novel this is never an issue. He is just a gifted storyteller and a natural writer who delivers impeccable craftsmanship and flowing narratives you will get lost in. Most of his historical fiction is truly epic in scope and length—I am talking telephone book thick door stopper novels. Yet, they read fast and smooth.

Like Robert Silverberg, Jakes started out in pulp fiction doing everything from sleazy romance to science fiction to a “Conan” inspired Sword & Sorcery series, “Brak the Barbarian”. All of it is great!

What to check out:
“The Bastard”, “North and South”, and his novelization to “Conquest of the Planet of the Apes”.

Robert E. Howard

I recall Harlan Ellison once saying something like, “Howard was better than any of us because he was crazier than a bedbug.”

There is a raw physicality to Howard’s writing style and colorful action sequences that was ingeniously captured by the legendary cover paintings of Frank Frazetta. Although his “Conan” stories are classified as Sword & Sorcery (Howard practically created the genre), Howard creates real, naturalistic worlds and writes stories that feel like they may have actually happened sometime during the mythical lost history “between the years the ocean drank Atlantis and the gleaming cities…”

What to check out:
Almost any “Conan” book (or comic book) but the best collection (because it is contains the fully restored and unedited text of Howard) is “The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian” (Conan the Cimmerian #1), as well as part 2 and 3 of this collection.

Harlan Ellison

Speaking of Harlan Ellison…

Harlan Ellison is a writer. And I mean that term in the most profound, artistic sense of the word. Very few authors are writers, nor can they ever hope to be. I know I am not. I am a storyteller, a confident (and hopefully competent) one who strives to get better and deeper and more effective with every piece of work. But Harlan Ellison is a writer. His words sing and soar and shake you to the core and along the way he will tell you one hell of a story.

What to check out:

This list would take forever because Ellison is as prolific as he is brilliant, and has written everything imaginable including scores of television scripts, comics, and sleazy sex pulps and hundreds upon hundreds of short stories.

A good place to start world be his short story collection, “Trouble Makers”, which includes two of the greatest, “‘Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman” and “Deeper Than the Darkness.”
“Honorable Whoredom at a Penny a Word” is a glorious collection of his early crime/pulp/noir stuff. And his two classic “Outer Limits” episodes “Demon with a Glass Hand” and “Soldier” are a must see and are available streaming at Hulu and Amazon.

Richard Matheson

Like Harlan Ellison, this guy is the real deal. Richard Matheson is a writer! And one hell of a storyteller too. Also like Ellison, he was wildly prolific, but on an even bigger scale in a sense since his focus was primarily novels (as well as countless feature film screenplays and television scripts).

His influence and imprint are perhaps unequaled among the grand masters of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. He literally created both the modern zombie and vampire apocalypse genres with his 1954 classic novel “I am Legend”. His 1975 time travel fantasy masterpiece “Bid Time Return” was adapted into the beloved 1980 cult film “Somewhere in Time”, one of the most heartfelt and romantic movies of all time.

He penned multiple classic “Twilight Zone” episodes, many classic 70s horror telefilms including “Kolchak the Night Stalker” and “Trilogy of Terror”, and wrote “Duel”, the 1971 television movie that propelled a very young Steven Spielberg onto big screen stardom.  Among his many masterpieces are the action-packed nightmare adventure “The Shrinking Man”, the creepy “Stir of Echoes” (made into a 1999 film starring Kevin Bacon), and the deep and moving “What Dreams May Come” (made into a gorgeous looking 1998 movie starring Robin Williams).

Where to start:

“The Shrinking Man” and “Bid Time Return” showcase the action suspense, and the romantic imagination of this master writer.

D.C. Fontana

Okay, I know this one will be unfamiliar to most people. D.C. Fontana (a.k.a Dorothy Fontana) is a television writer who started out as Gene Roddenberry’s secretary then went on to write several of the greatest episodes of classic “Star Trek”. 

She served as story editor for “Star Trek” and several other shows including the Emmy Award winning animated “Star Trek”, “The Sixth Sense”, “The Fantastic Journey” and “Logan’s Run”. The list of outstanding episodes she penned over the last five decades are too numerous to list here but include scripts for “Circle of Fear”, “Land of the Lost”, “The Six Million Dollar Man”, “Kung Fu”, “Buck Rogers in the 25th Century”, “Star Trek: The Nest Generation”, “Babylon 5”, “Deep Space Nine”, and “Earth: The Final Conflict”.

What to check out:
“This Side of Paradise” and “The Enterprise Incident” from classic “Star Trek”.
“Eslewhen” from “Land of the Lost”.

Glen Morgan and James Wong

It is staggering how many outstanding television scripts this writing team delivered in the ‘90s, including the majority of the best stuff from Chis Carter’s brooding tandem of “The X-Files” and “Millennium”.

Everything these guys write is exciting, witty, imaginative, and more often than not, groundbreaking.  In addition to their work for Carter, the duo created, produced, and wrote their own series—a barely seen gem of a show “Space Above and Beyond”.  “Space Above and Beyond” was an addictive, beautifully produced, intelligently written and acted show that should have become the “Battlestar Galactica” of the ‘90’s, but was poorly handled by FOX who kept pre-empting it and barely bothered with any promotion.

What to checkout:
“Space Above and Beyond” and the “X-Files” episodes “Home”, “Ice”, “E.B.E.”, “Squeeze”, “Little Green Men”, “The Field Where I Died” and “Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man”. Also just about the entire second season of “Millenium”.

James Cameron
He is primarily known as a visionary director who creates revolutionary new technology to bring his vision to the screen. But all of those movies begin with a blank page. James Cameron writes all his own material and he is one hell of writer.

When I was studying screenwriting I read his scripts for “Rambo: First Blood part II”, “Aliens”, and “The Abyss” non-stop. His story-telling instincts are razor sharp, his expertly paced screenplays rich with vivid writing and memorable characters.

What to check out:
Anything with his name on it of course, but from a reading the screenplay point of view, “Aliens” and “The Abyss” read like great science fiction action-adventure novels.

Edgar Rice Burroughs

When your work is still being read, adapted, and inspiring other artists over a century later, that about says it all. The works of ERB had a profound influence on so many, from anthropologist Jane Goodall to filmmaker James Cameron (the director has said “Avatar” was inspired by “Princess of Mars”).

When read today, sometimes the language can be problematic, as can the “God’s eye” omniscient writing style in vogue at the time. But still, Burrough’s rich, imaginative storytelling skills are unparalleled in the world of pulp fiction and his works are full of bold action, riveting action set pieces, and wondrous lost cities.

Where to start:

Book 3 in the Tarzan series “The Beasts of Tarzan” is the best in the entire series and one my all-time favorite books. “Princess of Mars” is an outstanding entry into ERB universe and the sub-genre of “planetary romance”.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

'V.R. 5', the series

Perhaps no two buzz words sum up the technology of the 1990s better than “virtual reality”. Despite the exotic sound of that term, the inherent coolness of the technology associated with it, and the exponential explosion of the real life internet at the time—Hollywood failed miserably whenever they tried to capitalize on the trend.

Actually there were there were three brilliant virtual reality films in the early 1980s, long before anyone knew what the hell the term meant. “Tron” (1982), “Videodrome” (1983), and “Brainstorm” (1983). These movies were years (even decades) ahead of their time.

But in the 90s, “The Lawnmower Man” (1992), “Hackers” (1995), and the “The Net” (1995) were average efforts at best.  It wasn’t until the end of the decade with “Dark City” (1998) and “The Matrix” (1999) that someone finally seemed to get a cinematic handling on the whole virtual reality/internet thing.

In the midst of all of that there was an ambitious new science fiction television series that premiered in the spring of 1995 on FOX called “V.R. 5”.

“V.R. 5” is the story of a brooding, brilliant (and beautiful!) computer geek named Sidney Bloom (Lori Singer) who discovers she has an ability to enter a virtual reality world and interact with real people with real world consequences. This unique skill attracts the attention of computer scientist and virtual reality pioneer Frank Morgan (Will Patton) who represents a shadowy organization known only as “The Committee”.

“V.R. 5” is strong on several fronts.

The show has a wonderful, unique visual style that merges music video aesthetics with film noir techniques. The result is a very cinematic look. No doubt this is influenced by the unparalleled success of another genre show that was taking the world by storm in 1995, “The X-Files”. But series cinematographer Anthony R. Palmieri and production designer Nina Ruscio give “V.R. 5” a singular look all its own, especially when it comes to the virtual reality sequences.

When Sidney jacks in (to use the vernacular of the day) and enters a virtual reality world, it is very effectively realized. The effect was achieved by shooting on black and white 35 mm film and then individually hand-painting the colors frame by frame. A pain-staking (and expensive!) process to be sure, but it pays off big time. Unlike so many other bland-looking CGI oriented 90s science fiction shows (“ST-TNG”, “The Outer Limits”, “Babylon 5”, etc.”), “V.R. 5” looks fantastic and very cinematic. The style might be described as gothic music video noir.

And speaking of music. The haunting score by John Frizzle is ethereal, suspenseful, and moving. It works here every bit as effectively as Mark Snow’s music does in the “X-Files”.

Of course, because this is a post-“The X-Files” show, there is an over-arching conspiracy story, and it is a good one. What especially works here are the flashbacks to Sidney’s past. Like Maulder in “The X-Files”, she is haunted, obsessed, and driven by a childhood tragedy—the loss of her twin sister in a drowning accident after a car crash. What really happened the night of that accident, is at the heart of the show’s mystery.

Cool visuals, haunting music and a solid story are all nice and good, but meaningless unless you have a strong lead to carry a show like this, and “V.R. 5” has a great one. Today Lori Singer is better known as a world-renowned cellist than as an actress. The statuesque blonde has the just right mixture of awkward geekiness and restrained, luminous beauty. She is outstanding as Sidney Bloom. She is believable as someone super smart. She is beautifully understated in her performance and the character is sympathetic. We sense her sadness and her demons. We root for her and we care about her.

But sadly, FOX was not so sympathetic and did not care for the character nor the show. Despite being the Friday night lead in for “The X-Files”, the network never promoted the series and abruptly canceled it after ten episodes (not even bothering to broadcast two of the three remaining). “V.R. 5” vanished from reality before anyone actually knew it was on the air. The show has been all but forgotten for the last 20 years. It is not on DVD and cannot be found streaming at Hulu, Netflix, Amazon, or anywhere else. The show is “The Fantastic Journey” of the 90s.

Thanks to a gracious fan, several of the episodes can be found on YouTube and the videos are still up there as of this writing. It is all we have and the only evidence that a show called “V.R. 5” once existed. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

'Opening Credits'

The following is an excerpt from the novel "Caitlin Star and the The Rise of the Barbarians", Caitlin Star book 3 by James J. Caterino.

Copyright 2015  James J. Caterino All Rights Reserved

Chapter 1 – Opening Credits

The room was dark and scary. An antique television console sat on the floor, the screen flashing as it hummed to life. A blinding, fuzzy, static roared across the monitor, growing brighter until a loud series of beeps screamed out from the tiny television speakers.

“This is a message from the Emergency Broadcast System. Please pay attention. This may the last broadcast possible,” the authoritative voice-over said.

The static on the screen morphed into a studio setting. It was a news broadcast and everyone on the set looked panicked—shuffling papers, rushing about, and running for the exits. The people looked distraught—in a state of grief. Many of them could be seen crying and hugging each other in the background. A stressed out man in a disheveled suit with several days’ worth of beard stubble growth moved toward the camera. He sat down at the anchor desk and read from his notes as he spoke.

“Washington D.C. and the surrounding tri-state area extending out for a minimum of a two hundred mile radius has been declared a dead zone. Please do not go near the area. The radiation levels will sear human skin causing instant lethal burns. Radiation sickness will remain a threat to the area extending as far out…”

The newscaster stopped reading and put his head in his hands to compose himself. Then he looked back up into the camera.

“The A.P. report ends right there…” the newscaster paused again, shook his head in despair, and then looked back into the camera.

“We can only assume that they have lost their satellite—just as we shall too when the EMP bursts and the viruses they unleash finish off the last of whatever is left up their functioning. We may in fact be the last remaining broadcast anywhere. The final vestige of a crumbling infrastructure to a civilization—a civilization that had been sowing the seeds of its destruction for an awful long time. 

After the Ukraine and the Middle East, everything else seemed to happen all at once. Israel and Iran exchanged missiles. The U.N. forces stepped in to protect Eastern Europe. The wars in Syria and Iraq became a war between North America and China and Russia. North Korea launched its nuclear arsenal on Japan and attacked South Korea with chemical weapons. Then the new era war technology, created by cyber and bio defense contractors such as L.L. Capital Enterprises, were unleashed.”

The newscaster stopped again and looked off in the distance as if he were still struggling to fully grasp all that had happened in such a short period of time.

“Anthrax bombs, phantom cyber-attacks, a synthesized airborne version of a modified super virus that spread faster than any flu and killed anyone who contracted it in forty-eight hours. And then—the final nail in the coffin—EMP bombs. There was once a Twilight Zone—or something like that—where aliens came to earth to destroy humanity. All they had to do was cut the power and people turned on each other as fear and insecurity ruled and hatred exploded. That is exactly what happened. Ironically, by time the nuclear bombs hit Moscow and China and Washington D.C., it was already over—just a final exclamation point to underline mankind’s innate desire to destroy anything and everything—including itself.”

The newscaster gave an empty stare into the camera. The screen turned to static.

Caitlin pulled the focus of her vision backward and could see the screen was part of an old-fashioned floor console television set. The kind they had not made in many decades. She looked around and could not believe it. This was the home she grew up in, and right there on the couch next to her were her foster parents, Joe and Rada.

Caitlin cried. She had missed them so much. But they looked sad. The broadcast had upset them.

“Mom. Dad. I am so sorry,” Caitlin cried. “I could have stopped this. I tried but I wasn’t good enough. If I could have got to Zahn faster….maybe…”

“Oh honey,” Rada hugged her. “It’s not your fault. This had to be.”
Through the tears, a horrible panic came to Caitlin.

“I need to make sure Sheeba is okay! And what about Gunner and Aunt Dianne and Tyrone? Pittsburgh is so close to D.C.”

The panic and sadness became so intense. Caitlin felt it smothering her—choking the life out of her. She began to hyperventilate until could not breathe.

All around her the room warped and morphed into a buzzing static of white noise. Loud, smothering, choking, blinding static—louder and louder and louder.

None of this could be true. Joe and Rada were taken from her before the wars—before the Moral Authority.  And this room—that old TV—it was the cottage at Yellowstone the way it was when she was a child. Did she go back? Was she in her bed about to wake up with Rada waiting for her with breakfast? Running away to Pittsburgh, Gunner, the training, the civil war, Zahn and the apocalypse—was it all an epic dream? Maybe if she woke herself up she could make sense of her nightmares—these endless horrors of heartbreak and of battles and wars and fights to the death.

Then it began to hit her. What was real—and what was the dream. She ached for Rada and Joe, the only parents she ever knew. She wanted to see Sheeba, the loving and loyal wolf she raised from a pup. If only she could find a way to stay here—in this world—in the past before it all went so wrong. 

Maybe if she jumped into the static and kept moving.

Caitlin felt herself falling and falling until—smack.

She opened her eyes and found herself lying on a cold rocky floor inside a dark cave—inside her real home—in the present.

Read on and experience the dramatic action and unforgettable characters of "Caitlin Star and the Rise of the Barbarians"!

Friday, August 7, 2015

Fantasy Island blogging: 'Nona/One Million B.C.'

“Nona/One Million B.C.”
Season 3, episode 20
Directed by Earl Bellamy
Music by Charles Albertine         
“Nona” (****) written by Steve Fisher
“One Million B.C.” (*1/2) written by Don Ingalls

“Nona” has an irresistible story hook. A detective is trying to find a famous actress who has dropped off the grid.  He is haunted by the memory of the one time he met her and develops feelings for her while reading through a diary provided to him by her family. But before he can locate her, the detective is struck by permanent blindness. His fantasy is to be able to see again in order to finish the search for what has become his lost love. Mr. Roarke is able to give the detective his sight back, but only for 48 hours and his vision will gradually begin to fade as that bewitching deadline approaches.

The blind detective is played by the always outstanding Peter Graves and the broken actress in hiding is the luminous real life screen legend Joanna Pettit. This is “Fantasy Island” at its absolute best! Both Graves and the beautiful Joanna Pettit are wonderful. Everything about this moving love story
works. I vividly recall seeing the original on-air broadcast back on March 1st 1980. It must have affected me because I see elements of my novel “She” here.

The other segment in this episode, “One Million B.C.”, is as lazy and uninspired as this show gets. It tries to rip off the famous Raquel Welch film of the same name as two modern woman want to go back in time to when “men were men and women were women”. This silly and scientifically preposterous premise (umm dinosaurs and humans missed each other by like 65 million years) did work in the aforementioned film, as well as Hammer’s “When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth” with Victoria Vetri. But those movies focused on eroticism and actually had good production values and decent scripts (“When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth” was written by acclaimed author J.G. Ballard and had cool stop motion dinos). “Fantasy Island” regular Phyllis Davis is a pretty lady, but does not have the star power of Raquel Welch or the primal sexual charisma of Victoria Vetri. And even if she did, it could not be displayed in the sanitized world of network television in 1980.

Bottom line: The moving and romantic “Mona” is a beautifully acted, well-written segment and more than makes up for the lazy “One Million B.C.” it is paired with.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Fantasy Island blogging: 'Jungle Man/Mary Ann and Miss Sophisticate'

“Jungle Man/Mary Ann and Miss Sophisticate”
Season 3, Episode 21
Directed by Mike Vejar
Music by Lance Rubin

"Mary Ann and Miss Sophisticate" (****) written by Herman Groves
"Jungle Man" (**1/2) written by Don Ingalls story by Tim Maschler

“Fantasy Island” sometimes ventured into flat out supernatural horror. This was strongly discouraged by the suits at ABC who wanted to keep things light and frothy to fit right alongside their lead-in show, “The Love Boat” (a show that came complete with a canned laugh track!”)

But by the third season the writers were beginning to push back and several darker storylines began to appear including "Mary Ann and Miss Sophisticate" written by Herman Groves, starring a very effective Annette Funicello as a ventriloquist who fears she is losing her personality to her dummy “co-star”, and a stunning Maren Jensen (Athena from “Battlestar Galactica” classic) as the vengeful doll come to life. This intense, scary segment is every bit as good as any other television show’s version of this often-used idea. Seeing this segment the other night on COZI, I was very surprised (and pleased) by the intensity and sexuality of this gem of a story.

Well, at least they did not pair “Mary Ann and Miss Sophisticate" with some wretched attempt at so-called comedy as is usually the case with the great, serious segments.

Truth be told “Jungle Man” is a pleasant segment featuring a really cool idea. Late 70s TV stud Dennis Cole plays an out of work actor who starred in a “Tarzan” type series that ran for twelve years. Now he wants to go back to the fictional world of the show—but have the danger be real. This really is a cool idea and the casting is superb including the beautiful France Nuyen (“Elaan of Troyius” from classic Trek) and NFL legend Dick Butkus as a villainous henchman. Unfortunately this ambitious storyline is sabotaged by a paltry budget and sub-sitcom production values.

Bottom line: Taken as a whole one of the better episodes with “Mary Ann and Miss Sophisticate” ranking as one of the best individual segments in the entire series run. Excellent music by Lance Rubin.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Caitlin Star vs. The Trophy Hunters

The following is an excerpt from the novel "Caitlin Star and the Guardian of Forever" Caitlin Star book 2 by James J. Caterino.

Copyright 2014, 2015  James J. Caterino All Rights Reserved

Chapter 21 - Crossing the Continent 

Caitlin felt energized and alive.

It was as if the trees and the sounds and all of the life teeming around in every direction was infusing her with new purpose. She was in her element because deep in the equatorial rain forest of Africa, she felt like she was a part of something larger than herself.  She had often felt the same spiritual energy back in the great mountain forests of Yellowstone, but here and now that feeling was more intense than ever.

Intense because Caitlin knew that all of this—every creature, every tree, every drop of water—was in grave danger unless she could win in her battle to save it. She had to win. She would win—just as she had in Yellowstone.

She found a forest elephant trail—and a fresh trail at that—and took advantage. The trail ran parallel to the river so she stayed on the course Azrael had instructed. Every kilometer or so she stopped and ascended to the heights of tree tops to get a full view of the river valley all around her.

She thought about Azrael and Naza and began to worry they may have come across trouble in the form of Zahn’s men or even the White Hand. Swanson was supposed be in Uganda by now teaming up with Mustafa’s storm troopers as they prepared to invade Virunga. But the White Hand network was extensive and there could me militia men out here. Bottom line, the sooner she hooked back up with Azrael and Naza, the better she would feel.

On her third look-out climb Caitlin spotted something on the trail up ahead. No, not something, someone. Could it be Azrael and Naza?

No, there were too many of them. It was a group and they had lots of equipment and—fuck me, she cursed to herself. They were poachers. Hunters. Here to murder for fun and were right on the trail of a family of forest elephants.

No way! Not a chance! Not on my watch you cowardice piece of shits!

Caitlin felt her blood boil with primal rage as she snapped up the rope cord, whipped it out to loop onto a tree branch up ahead, and swung into hot action.

Ahead and down at ten o’clock Caitlin spotted a human figure in safari gear crouched down on the shoulder of the trail. It was a woman and cocked on her shoulder was a high-powered AR-15 rifle with a scope. The would-be murdering woman was waiting for the family of elephants to round the corner of the trail so she could slaughter them and show her buddies at the gun club back home how tough she was to her fellow butchers.

Caitlin landed on the branch, recoiled the rope-cord and whipped it out to latch onto the next tree. She placed her bare feet on the core of the branch, squatted down, the pushed off hard, thrusting her form airborne.

She reached the apex of the swing, reached back and grabbed her fight stick. As she descended down to the a lower branch on the next tree—Caitlin used her powerful, deadly accurate left arm and whipped the fight stick down at the woman just as the poacher prepared to senselessly destroy innocent, intelligent life.

The fight stick sizzled across the air javelin style, like a rocketed projectile.

The poacher woman took aim at the female elephant guiding her baby along the trail. Just as she was about to squeeze the trigger—the sound of flesh and cartilage being ripped as Caitlin’s projectile fight stick pierced the poacher's right shoulder—tearing it open as the would-be murderer dropped the weapon and screamed out.

Two male poachers and their guide jumped out in front of the elephants, their rifles raised and cocked.

The family of elephants stopped, became spooked, and frantically charged about looking for an escape route. And Caitlin was happy to oblige.

She recoiled the rope cord back to her, the snapped it out, lassoing the two hunters. Before the two butchers knew what hit them, Caitlin yanked hard on the rope-cord, sending her two captured enemies reeling hard into the dirt. Then Caitlin turned and sprinted, dragging the cowards off of the trail and into a thorny patch of brush. She secured the other end of the rope-cord around a tree trunk, hog tying them while she dealt with the guide. The woman stayed put on the ground holding her shoulder.

“Doesn’t feel too good when you are the one being hunted, does it?” Caitlin said to her before moving toward the guide.

The guide had his rifle pointed at Caitlin.

“Inglais?” Caitlin asked.

The guide nodded yes.

“Shame on you,” Caitlin said. “You can make more money showing off the beauty of this land and its creatures. You should be doing that—not killing them.”

“And now I will kill you,” the guide said.

“Oh yeah?” Caitlin asked. “I don’t think so tough guy. Do you know who I am?”

The guide nodded no.

“I am Caitlin Star of the Bull Mongoni,” she said. “The Bantu forest people call me Nashee Ah. I saved the wolves of North America from people like these murderers—and people like you. And now I am here to save the creatures of this great forest.”

“I am not impressed,” the guide snapped. “Because I have the gun. And you are just a girl.”

Caitlin almost laughed out loud.

“Buddy, you have no idea what I am capable of,” she said. “Now, put the rifle down on the ground. Step back and walk away. Then leave this place and do not ever come back. If you do that, I will let you live.”

The guide did not move.

“I will not ask again,” Caitlin said.

She zoomed in her focus on him and could sense his tension on the trigger, his eyes narrowing. He was about to fire on her.

In a blur of a motion, far too quick for the naked eye to see, Caitlin snatched a bayonet from her utility belt and with a snap of her left wrist, sent it whizzing straight into the skull of the guide. As the blade impaled his brain, a sweet spurting of crimson erupted, spraying out into the air. It made for a perfect impression for the three poachers who watched on in shock.

“Anybody else want to try me on for size?” Caitlin asked as she walked about collecting all their rifles.

“Now, as you just saw, I don’t like to repeat myself, so listen up,” Caitlin said. “You heard what I said to that stupid dead fuck over there. And if you or anyone else with a gun ever sets foot in this forest again, I will do far worse than put a blade in your skull and kill you quickly.”

Caitlin took out her cutlass and paced about. She was still raging. Still feeling the primal savage desire to make these murderers pay. But sometimes leaving survivors can be an even stronger deterrent than corpses.

“Go back the way you came,” Caitlin roared. “Now! Get the fuck out of here and don’t you dare ever, ever, ever comeback. I am Caitlin Star of the Bull Mongoni. Tell all your murdering pals that the jungles of Africa are now mine.”

Caitlin Star did have to repeat herself.