Thursday, August 07, 2014

The Chariots of Ra, by Kenneth Bulmer

(pb; 1972)

From the description page:

"The chariots came on at great speed and there was no mistaking their purpose.  Tulley wondered if they were using this place as a base. . .  Then an arrow plunked into the parapet of his chariot.  Oolou lashed the reins.  The nageres sprang forward.  With suicidal speed the two chariot groups closed in on each other.

"Tulley swallowed down, feeling the dryness in his throat, loosed a shaft at the oncoming mass.  There must be twenty chariots out there. . .

"He glanced at Oolou, shouting.  She stared back at him with a ghastly grin, the blood pouring from her neck above the corselet where an arrow stood, stark and brutal."


Chariots is a solid, exotic and action-relentless science fiction novella that recalls the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs for its blunt physical action and many of John Wayne's films for its masculine/man's gotta do. . . tone.  In it, two friends (Graham Pike and Roy Tulley) are kidnapped and shuttled (via portals) into other worlds, where they encounter strange creatures, slavers, warriors, queens and other bristling characters.  Will they be able to return to Earth, whence they came?  That question is secondary when survival is a moment-to-moment challenge.


Chariots was packaged as a reverse-bound "Ace Double" novel, which means that if readers flip the book upside down and over, there was another science fiction novel, penned by another author, on the other side. (Considering that these books sold for 95 cents a pop, this seems like a great deal, even back in that less-expensive, Seventies economy.)

In this case, the flipside novel is John Rackham's Earthstrings.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Before the Chop: LA Weekly Articles 2011 - 2012, by Henry Rollins

(pb; 2013: nonfiction)

From the back cover:

"The writer, now a but a shell of his former self, sits down at his desk.  He swipes the empty cough syrup bottles, subpoenas, rejection letters and other detritus to the floor to make space.  He frisks himself and finds a pen.  It is time to work.  There is a deadline.  An editor waiting.  One thousand words must be evicted from this ransacked mind and committed to the page.  One thousand words!  The weight of the Damoclean sword hanging over the writer's head tests the strength of the single horse hair that keeps the blade heeding the demands of gravity.  The writer picks up the pen. . . and puts it down again.  The blank page stares back silently screaming for content.  The writer picks up the pen one more time. . . it feels like it weighs ten pounds.  In his younger days the writer effortlessly grabbed all the low hanging fruit and filled composition notebooks with oceans of ink  As the years passed, the writer ascended to the higher branches until one day, all the fruit was gone.  The writer was now at the very top of the tree. . . with nothing.  It was around this time, the writer got a job at the L.A. Weekly.  One thousand words a week?  No problem!  Actually, a big problem.  Yet somehow, the forces of desperation, a fear of failure and a pathetic desire to somehow "stay in the game" drives him on!  The writer rips it from his guts and other places, week after week.  How does the writer do it?  Simple.  The writer has nothing else going on.  Read this book and you will discover just how obvious this is.  I am so glad to be done.

"- Name withheld by request"


The collected articles in Chop read like tightly edited versions of Rollins' spoken word shows: blunt, provocative, smart, self-effacing, humorous and enthusiastic about stuff he likes (music, especially listening to vinyl; touring as often as possible; etc.).  Mixed in with Rollins' recollections - musical, personal and sometimes political - is a sense of upbeat wisdom regarding and stemming from restraint and knowing one's place in the world, which we share with others who disagree with us (as individuals).

Excellent read, worth owning.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: Firestorm, by Greg Keyes

(pb; 2014: book sequel to the 2011 film Rise of the Planet of the Apes and prequel to the movie tie-in novel Dawn of the Planet of Apes, by Alex Irvine)

From the back cover:

"Caesar and his followers have escaped the clutches of man, fighting their way across the Golden Gate Bridge and taking refuge in the vast redwood forest known as Muir Woods.  There they hope to establish a home, far from the humans who so horribly abused them.

"But mankind has far worse things to worry about.

"The 'Simian Flu' has begun to strike down unsuspecting innocents throughout San Francisco.  What began as isolated cases quickly become a full-on epidemic.  There are those who blame the apes, and would like to take revenge, while others hunt Caesar and his troop for their own insidious reasons.  Either way the result will be the same. . ."


Firestorm is a cinematically streamlined, smart, humane and entertaining novel that links Rise and Dawn.  Its pace never lags, it shares two main characters (Gary Oldman's Dreyfus and Andy Serkis's Caesar) with Dawn (as well as other supporting characters), while making plot-pertinent mentions of James Franco's Will Rodman from Rise.  Not only that, its tone is consistent with its bookending films and its ending is satisfactory.

Good summer blockbuster read, this. 

Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Rare Coin Score, by Richard Stark (a.k.a. Donald E. Westlake)

(1967, 2009: ninth novel in the Parker series.  Foreword by Luc Sante.)

From the back cover:

"When it comes to heists, Parker believes in some cardinal rules.  On this job, he breaks two of them: never bring a dame along - especially not one you like - and never, ever, work with amateurs.  Nevertheless, with the help of a creep named Billy, and the lure of a classy widow, he agrees to set up a heist of a coin convention.  But Billy's a rookie with no idea how to pull off a score, and the lady soon becomes a major distraction.  The Rare Coin Score marks the first appearance of Claire, who will steal Parker's heister's heart - while together they steal two million dollars worth of coins."


This is an especially outstanding Parker novel - all of the books in this series thus far are excellent -  not only for its introduction of Claire, but also for Parker's evolution as a person (an evolution that's noteworthy and natural at the same time).  As with past Parker works, there is suspense, complications and a betrayal or two, along with a few other wild card elements.

Great read, followed by The Green Eagle Score.

Monday, July 28, 2014

**One of my poems, Eleanor Goolsbie: Domme & sculptress, was published in Pink Litter e-zine

One of my darkly playful and (briefly) sexually explicit poems, Eleanor Goolsbie: Domme & sculptress, was published in Pink Litter e-zine. (Big thanks to Misty Rampart, who published it!)

Please note that Pink Litter is a for-mature-readers site, so if you're under the age of eighteen you may want to skip this one.

However, if you are a legal adult who appreciates Addams Family -esque humor
, sensuality and poetry, check this out (it's on page 13)!

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Handle, by Richard Stark (a.k.a. Donald E. Westlake)

(pb; 1966, 2009: eighth novel in the Parker series.  Also published under the title Run LethalForeword by Luc Sante.)

From the back cover:

"In The Handle, Parker is enlisted by the mob to knock off an island casino guarded by speedboats and heavies, forty miles from the Texas coast."  Not only that, he must shake of the Feds, who have been monitoring that island casino.


Six weeks after the bloody craziness of The Seventh, Parker is back in business, plotting an island heist job at the request of Walter Karns, the Outfit boss who indirectly helped Parker in The OutfitOne of Parker's active associates in his current endeavor is Alan Grofeld (last seen in The Score), happily married to that Mary, that "telephone girl" who forsook her Nebraska hometown to run off with one of the bandits who robbed it.

Like the preceding Parker novels, Handle is short, sharp, lean and pulp-icy in tone.  Also, like the aforementioned works, it's excellent in its execution - that is to say, worth owning. 

Followed by The Rare Coin Score.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Rebel Without a Crew, by Robert Rodriguez

(hb; 1995: nonfiction / filmmaking book)

From the back cover:

"No one landed on the cinematic map with more explosive force than Robert Rodriguez, director of El Mariachi.  Just how did this amateur filmmaker from Texas - with only one camera, no crew, and a budget largely raised by subjecting himself to medical experimentation - manage to complete a feature film for $7,000 and get himself wined and dined by Hollywood's biggest movie moguls?  Now, in his own. . . shooting style, [he] discloses all the unique strategies and innovative techniques he used to make El Mariachi on the cheap.  You'll see firsthand Rodriguez's whirlwind 'Mariachi-style' filmmaking, where creativity - not money - is used to solve problems.  Culminating in his 'Ten Minute Film School,' this book may render conventional film-school programs obsolete."


This is one of the best books I've read on filmmaking - it shows, in practical and often humorous terms, how practically anyone with a lot of energy, planning and focus can make a worthwhile entertaining film in a relatively short period of time (when compared to time- and finance-bloated Hollywood blockbusters whose entertainment returns are less than one would hope). 

Yes, making a film can be a lot of work, but it's probably less work (and more worthwhile) than Grumbling Gusses think - and, most importantly, it's easily doable, a feat that isn't limited to those who already have money, fame and powerful connections.

Inspirational, practical and (potentially) life-changing, this should be read by anyone who's even flirted with the idea of going into filmmaking.  Own this already. =)
Steve Isaak has published two hundred stories and poems, and is the author of three anthologies: Behind the wheel: selected poems, Shinjuku sex cheese holocaust: poems and the forthcoming Horrorsex County: stories (which are, or will be, available at Lulu and Amazon).