Saturday, August 19, 2017

Doctor Who and the Face of Evil by Terrance Dicks

(1978: twenty-fifth book in the Doctor Who series. Based on Chris Boucher's teleplay.)

From the back cover

"Setting the controls for Earth, the Fourth Doctor is surprised when the Tardis lands in a primeval forest. Has the Tracer gone wrong or has some impulse deep in the unconscious mind directed him to this alien planet? In investigating the forest, the Doctor meets and assists Leela, a warrior banished from her tribe, the Sevateem. Through Leela, it gradually becomes apparent that the constant war between the Sevateem and the Tesh has been instigated by the god they both worship, Xoanon.

"Xoanon, an all-powerful computer, is possessed by a desperate madness – a madness that is directly related to Doctor Who, that causes Xoanon to assume the voice and form of the Doctor, a madness that is partly caused by the Doctor and that only the Doctor himself can rectify!

"The Doctor must not only do battle with Xoanon, but also must escape from the savage practices of the Sevateem, and the technically mind-controlling destructive impulses of the Tesh."
 



Review

Face is an entertaining, word-lean, plot-swift and sometimes humorous science fiction novel that reflects its source television episodes. It is an excellent adaptation, one worth owning.

#

The four-part television serial this novel is based on aired on the BBC channel between January 1st and 22nd, 1977. Pennant Roberts directed it, from Chris Boucher's teleplay. 

Tom Baker played The Doctor. Louise Jameson played Leela. Brendan Price played Tomas. 

Leslie Schofield played Calib. David Garfield played Neeva. Leon Eagles played Jabel. Mike Elles played Gentek. Peter Baldock played "Acolyte". Roy Herrick provided the voice of Xoanon.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

In the Miso Soup by Ryû Murakami

(pb; 1997, 2003. Translated from Japanese to English by Ralph McCarthy.)

From the back cover

"It is just before New Year's. Frank, an overweight American tourist, has hired Kenji to take him on a guided tour of Tokyo's sleazy nightlife on three successive evenings. But Frank's behavior is so strange that Kenji begins to entertain a horrible suspicion: that his new client is in fact the serial killer currently terrorizing the city. It isn't until later, however, that Kenji learns exactly how much he has to fear and how irrevocably his encounter with this great white whale of an American will change his life."


Review

Miso is an unsettling, excellent and off-beat take on the serial killer theme, with an oddball villain (of sorts), personal and provocative notions of politics and culture, darkly engaging and repulsive points of views, with occasional displays of Grand Guignol splatter. This book is one of my all-time favorite serial killer reads, unafraid to break established horror structures.

Friday, August 11, 2017

The Drowning Pool by Ross Macdonald

(1950; second book in the Lew Archer series)

From the back cover

"When a millionaire matriarch is found floating face-down in the family pool, the prime suspects are her good-for-nothing son and his seductive teenage daughter. . . Lew Archer takes this case in the L.A. suburbs and encounters a moral wasteland of corporate greed and family hatred--and sufficient motive for a dozen murders."

Review

Drowning, like its predecessor (The Moving Target), is a tightly plotted and fast-moving P.I. novel. In this case, Archer finds himself in a tangled web of twisted family dynamics, greed and disturbing violence. As he separates and figures out the skeins of these elements of human darkness, his empathy, philosophical and sharply stated, provides a sense of justice in an otherwise tragic chain of events. It is excellent, worth owning.

Followed by The Way Some People Die.

#

The resulting film was released stateside on July 18, 1975. It was directed by Stuart Rosenberg, from a screenplay by Tracy Keenan Wynn, Lorenzo Semple Jr., Walter Hill and an uncredited Eric Roth.(Rosenberg also directed Paul Newman in the 1967 film Cool Hand Luke.)

Paul Newman reprised his role of Lew Harper, the cinematic version of Lew Archer. Joanne Woodward, Newman's real life wife, played Iris Devereaux. Melanie Griffith played Schuyler Devereaux. Andrew Robinson, billed as Andy Robinson, played Paul Reavis. Coral Browne played Olivia Devereaux. 

Murray Hamilton played J.J. Kilbourne. Gail Strickland played Mavis Kilbourne. Anthony Franciosa, billed as Tony Franciosa, played Broussard. Richard Jaeckel played Franks. Paul Koslo played Candy. Helena Kallianiotes played Elaine Reavis.


Friday, August 04, 2017

Feverish Fiction issue #5 (April 2017) edited by Michael Faun

(2017; dark/horror/speculative fiction magazine. Published by Sleazy Viking Press.)

Overall review

The fifth limited-run issue of Feverish continues in the pulpy, speculative vein of its previous periodicals. Of course, there are the usual female pin-ups in various states of undress, whose themes often reflect the works of the authors. It is worth owning, if you are an adult fan of small press magazines and bordering-on-bizarre sex works.


Stories, other works

Orlock’s Mirror” – Adam Millard: A Nosferatu-esque showman welcomes a fresh guest to his home. Fun, reader-as-said-guest story.

Blood Fetishist” – Lee Clark Zumpe: Bloodplay graces another versework – solid poem, some especially good word pairings.

Aleena the Pitiful She-DevilPart One” – Lucas Mangum: Action-impelled, exciting tale about a barbarian warrior [Aleena] fighting a horde of graveyard creatures.

Cosmic Auto-Trauma” – S.C. Burke: Stream-of-consciousness apocalypse work.

Beauties in Black” – K.A. Opperman: Solid, rhyming BDSM poem.

Monday, July 31, 2017

The Moving Target by Ross MacDonald

(pb; 1949: first book in the Lew Archer series)

From the back cover

"Like many Southern California millionaires, Ralph Sampson keeps odd company. There's the sun-worshipping holy man whom Sampson once gave his very own mountain; the fading actress with sidelines in astrology and S&M. Now one of Sampson's friends may have arranged his kidnapping.

"As Lew Archer follows the clues from the canyon sanctuaries of the megarich to jazz joints where you get beaten up between sets, The Moving Target blends sex, greed, and family hatred into an explosively readable crime novel."



Review

Moving is a lean, tightly plotted and fast-moving P.I. novel with snappy dialogue, underlying sexual tension and quick-sketch, sketchy characters. It is excellent, dark and worth owning. Followed by The Drowning Pool.

#

The resulting film, Harper, was released stateside on April 9, 1966. It was directed by Jack Smight, from a screenplay by William Goldman.

Paul Newman played Lew Harper, the cinematic counterpart to Lew Archer. Lauren Bacall played Mrs. Sampson. Arthur Hill played Albert Graves. Janet Leigh played Susan Harper.

Pamela Tiffin played Miranda Sampson. Robert Wagner played Allan Taggert. Julie Harris played Betty Fraley. Tom Steele played Eddie Fraley. 

Robert Webber played Dwight Troy. Shelley Winters played Fay Estabrook. Roy Jenson played Puddler. Strother Martin played Claude.

Eugene Inglesias played Felix. Richard Carlyle played Fred Platt. Harold Gould played "Sheriff".

Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Man From St. Petersburg by Ken Follett

(pb; 1982)

From the back cover

"His name was Feliks.  He came to London to commit a murder that would change history.  A master manipulator, he had many weapons at his command, but against him were ranged the whole of the English police, a brilliant and powerful lord, and the young Winston Churchill himself.  These odds would have stopped any man in the world-except the man from St. Petersburg."


Review

Petersburg is a good political thriller, with romance, political and social upheaval, history and assassination. It is set in England in the summer of 1914. Its beginning is solid, with a lot of character and story set-up. About the middle it becomes more fast-paced and exciting, with an ending that does not disappoint. Worthwhile read, this – it would not be a bad way to spend an afternoon at the beach (or wherever).

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Things I Do When I'm Awake by Will Viharo

(pb; 2016. Published by Thrillville Press.)

From the back cover

"Things I Do When I’m Awake is erotic horror noir distilled into a surrealistic mood piece, a series of confessional prose poems that are psychologically complex, sensually stimulating, and emotionally challenging, collectively conveying a seductive nightmare. . ."

Review

The back cover blurb is a good description of this short, intense work, which takes on bold themes of fractured-but-well-meant maternal instincts, rape (emotional and otherwise) and other forms of violence, while maintaining a plot pushing is-this-a-dream-state feel. Things is an experimental and more personal than usual novella (for the author), meaning this will not appeal to readers looking for something light and formulaic.(Viharo's works are not formulaic.) 

If you are willing to enter this distinctive darkness, and appreciate short, sharp and troubling kicks to the brain (entertainment-wise), chances are this would be a worthwhile purchase for you.