Bitter Steel by Charles Allen Gramlich

David J. West—writing as James Alderdice—is the author of the heroic fantasy novels The Slayer, Brutal, and Sowing Dragon Teeth. Other fiction published under his own name includes Whispers Out of the Dust and Cold Slither. He has an affinity for history, action-adventure, fantasy, westerns and pulp fiction horror blended with a sharp knife and served in a dirty glass—he writes what he knows.


Bitter Steel, by Charles Allen Gramlich, is one of my favorite short fiction reads by someone who is still alive and kicking. This is a collection of previously released short stories and poems, and listen up! Bitter Steel throws down a gauntlet of both action and tribute to the pulp fantasy masters of yesteryear.

From the back cover~
"So come! Gather with me around the fire where the smoke stings our eyes. We’ll listen to the drums beat in time with our hearts. We’ll drink from the common bowl as it passes among us. The darkness whispers outside our camp, but we have no fear. There are heroes among us. Let us hear their tales."

Charles' prose and poetry throughout the collection is visceral and enticing. With the first paragraph of the first tale,"A Gathering of Ravens," I found myself taken away, wandering the battlefields beside his heroes. It granted that magical feeling that I suppose most writers feel at one time or another of "I want to write something like this..."

The next half dozen tales of Thal Kyrin (and Jys) were even better. I especially enjoyed the climactic fight of "Dark Wind,” the resonance of “The Evening Rider” and the originality of "Wine and Swords," because as Charles mentions, he wanted to write a Sword & Sorcery tale without any sorcery in it. The twists and encounters were well drawn and felt real. I found myself hoping Charles would write more tales of the Earth that has become the planet known as Thanos.

Three humorous stories followed, and while I didn't really care for "Worms in the Earth" (great ending however) and “Mirthgar,” I loved "Slugger's Holiday,” a pastiche based on Robert E. Howard's brawling sailor, Steve Costigan. Sailor Steve is on holiday in Hawaii. Mayhem ensues. As far as pastiches go, I thought it was spot on--a real gem. The voice and story would make REH proud.

I'm glad Charles included a little about each tale and poem, I like to know about the inspiration for and genesis of short stories whenever I like them as much as I did these. You can get a copy HERE.