Editors: Joe Gentile, Win Scott Eckert
Publisher: Moonstone
ISBN-10: 1933076747:  ISBN-13: 978-1933076744

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What makes The Green Hornet such a, ah, everGreen in popular culture? After all, his first appearance was back in January 1936 on Detroit’s WXYZ, and he remained a radio staple until December 1952. Well, at least in terms of original scripts—the radio version of The Hornet was re-broadcast for decades ever after. He’s still a fixture on many online OTR (Old Time Radio) stations. Then there were the movie serials, comic books, and the 1966 Van Williams/Bruce Li TV incarnation. Come 2011, The Green Hornet will ride again in 3D with Seth Rogen as the newest face and voice of Britt Reid, newspaper publisher by day, masked crime-fighter by night.

The formula that has kept The Green Hornet patrolling the streets of Detroit all these years is evident again and again in a new collection of short stories, The Green Hornet Chronicles, one of two new books devoted to the character this year. (The other is the March 2010 The Green Hornet: A History of Radio, Motion Pictures, Comics, and Television by Martin Grams.) The historical study is exhaustive; the anthology of new stories is also quite a ride. All the gadgets are here—the gas gun, the “Stinger,” the fireplace that slides away to reveal the hidden door leading to the secret garage where the Black Beauty awaits each new adventure. Like the radio, TV, and comic book versions of the myth, each story shows how a handsome, wealthy, and clever publisher becomes a masked detective investigating criminal kingpins, gang lords, smugglers, kidnappers, and those out to thwart the Hornet as all but a handful of confidantes think he’s a criminal mastermind himself. The Hornet is no slouch with fisticuffs. Few nights go by without Reid and his faithful valet, Kato, demonstrating what the martial arts can do in the dens of Detroit’s wickedest nasties. Returning supporting characters include employees of Reid’s “Daily Sentinel” newspaper, a cooperative District Attorney, and the Black Beauty itself—far more than a third wheel in the nightly duels with one city’s underworld.

Each contributor to this collection showcases this formula with only slightly different perspectives. They include established fiction writers like Harlan Ellison, Robert Greenberger, Mark Ellis, James Chambers, Win Scott Eckert as well as relative newcomers or simply fans like Terry Alexander, Matthew Baugh, and Tom Brannon.

But sticking to the formula does limit what readers might expect. It’s hard to believe that, night after night, the police force of one city can’t spot, track, chase, or catch the Black Beauty. While Britt Reid is allowed to flirt and be attractive to women, he can’t do much with any such relationship. Likewise, Kato is a loyal, resourceful, quick-on-his feet fighting machine, but we don’t get many insights into his background or motives beyond Richard Dean Starr’s intriguing “Nothing Gold Can Stay: An Origin Story of Kato.” Then again, when authors write in the first person, we do get to hear yarns with fresh voices, as with Patricia Wheakley’s “Stormy Weather” in which a female P.I. keeps trying to handcuff the Hornet and “The Inside Man” by Matthew Baugh in which a Vietnam vet thinks he can deliver the Hornet to his crime boss.

But such analysis is beside the point—we’re back in the ‘60s again (made clear by references to Kennedy, hippies, and the Vietnam War), so we’re being transported to a time and place before detectives needed computers, DNA analysis, or sophisticated surveillance technology. True, in some stories, the Hornet is on the cutting edge with devices like his flying camera drone and “infra-green” headlights, but mostly it’s his brains, fists, gas-gun and Stinger that do the work. If you’re a Hornet fan, it’s a lot of fun—just as it was when Britt Reid’s great-uncle also returned us to those thrilling days of yesteryear.

But, wait, there’s more! Special features include an introduction from TV’s Hornet Van Williams, an interview with Black Beauty designer Dean Jeffries, Harlan Ellison's "liner notes" on his Green Hornet-Phantom team up story, and preliminary drawings of the cover art. Should you pick up the hardcover edition, there’s an adaptation of an original Hornet radio script by the legendary Dennis O’Neill. It’s a romp well worth, ah, a good buzz . . .

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Listen To Dr.Wes Britton’s audio interview with contributor Greg Cox for the “Dave White Presents” radio program  posted HERE: