Friday, March 08, 2019

Dune: The Battle of Corrin by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson

(pb; 2004: third book in the Legends of Dune trilogy)

From the back cover

“It has been fifty-six hard years since the events of the Machine Crusade. Following the death of Serena Butler, Synchronized Worlds and  and Unallied Planet are liberated one by one, and at long last, the human worlds begin to hope that the end of the centuries-long conflict is finally in sight.

“Unfortunately, Omnius have one last, deadly card to play. Virulent plagues are let loose throughout the galaxy, decimating the populations of whole planets. . .and once again, the tide of the titanic struggle shifts against the human race. At last, the war that has lasted many lifetimes will be decided in the apocalyptic Battle of Corrin.”


Battle is an okay-occasionally-intriguing-and-excellent conclusion to the Legends trilogy. While it is not terrible─there are meaningful moments where seemingly small decisions are made by certain characters, decisions will have huge impacts on future generations within the Dune universe. Not only that, there is Herbert and Anderson’s sometimes engaging, action-oriented writing that makes this almost worth reading. That could be said about all the books in the unnecessary Legends trilogy. If you must read this series, borrow them from the library or pay as little as possible for them.

Saturday, March 02, 2019

One of my stories, Three days after the heist, was published on the ERWA site

One of my mainstream and pulp-brutal microstories, Three days after the heist, was published on the Erotica Readers & Writers Association website. (This following link goes directly to my 200-word tale, so you won’t encounter smut.)

This story is an homage to one of my all-time favorite writers, Richard Stark (a.k.a. Donald E. Westlake)--particularly his twenty-four-book “Parker” series.

Three will be up on the site until the end of March 2019. If you’re so inclined, check it out!

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Pop. 1280 by Jim Thompson

(pb; 1964)

From the back cover

“Nick Corey is a terrible sheriff. He doesn’t solve problems, enforce rules, or arrest criminals. He knows that nobody in Potts County actually wants to follow the law, and he is perfectly content lazing about, eating five meals a day, and sleeping with all the eligible women.

“Still, Nick has some very complex situations to deal with. Two local pimps have been sassing him, ruining his already tattered reputation. His girlfriend, Rose, is being terrorized by her husband. And then there’s his wife and her brother Lennie, who won’t stop troubling Nick’s already stressed mind. Are they a little too close for a brother and sister?

“With an election coming up, Nick needs to fix his problems and fast. Because the one thing Nick does know is that he will do anything to stay sheriff. And, as it turns out, Sheriff Nick Corey is not nearly as dumb as he seems.”


Pop. 1280 is one of my favorite Thompson novels─it is sly, darkly hilarious and reworks the Southern, moralistic crime and punishment set-up by smashing it and putting it back together again in a twisted patchwork fashion. This is a masterful book, one of my favorite reads of 2019.

Dune: The Machine Crusade by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson

(hb; 2003: second book in the Legends of Dune series)

From the back cover

“More than two decades have passed since the events chronicled in Dune: The Butlerian Jihad. The crusade against thinking robots has ground on for years; the human worlds have grown weary of war, of the bloody inconclusive swing from victory to defeat.

“The fearsome cymeks, led by Agamemnon, hatch new plots to regain their lost power from Omnius. Aurelius Venport and Norma Cenva are on the verge of the most important discovery in human history─a way to ‘fold’ space and travel instantaneously to any place in the galaxy.

“And on the faraway, nearby worthless planet of Arrakis, Selim Wormrider and his band of outlaws take the first steps toward making themselves the feared fighters who will change the course of mankind: the Fremen.”


Crusade, like its prequel Butlerian, is a good, action-packed read by sometimes-excellent authors, a solid─if unnecessary and overlong─addition to the extended Dune series. Set twenty years after the events of Butlerian, this is a more reader-involving work, largely because Machine is not a set-up novel. Rather, it is a deepening-of-characters work. The authors sometimes overwrite, especially when they repeatedly and unnecessarily recap characters’ histories. That said, it is worth reading, though not a vital-to-the-Dune-storyline offering. Pick up an inexpensive copy or borrow it from the library before committing serious cash to it.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Shadow Boxer by Eddie Muller

(hb; 2003: second book in the Billy Nichols series)

From the inside flap

“. . .in Shadow Boxer, Billy is back on the beat for the San Francisco Inquirer. But his problems are hardly behind him. A man’s in jail, accused of murder. But did he do it? By aiding a beguiling woman, Billy stumbles on evidence that could exonerate the defendant, who only months before was one of the town’s top fight promoters. One big problem─the victim was Billy’s secret lover, and he has not desire to help set her killer free.

“But once his reporter’s instincts kick in, Billy can’t let go of a twisting trail of suspense  that stetches from Tenderloin fight clubs to Marina district mansions, from mountain retreats to the Hall of Justice. He squares off with an intriguing cast of characters: a bombastic novelties promoter, a former colleague turned muckraking lawyer, a society doyenne on the skids, a crooked booze distributor, a shifty deputy DA, an opera-crooning pugilist, a homespun abortionist, a crafty and celebrated defense attorney, a murderous stalker─and the unfathomable Virginia Wagner, a leggy legal secretary with many more secrets than just the gun in her handbag.”


Shadow, like its prequel The Distance, is a vivid, immersive and distinctly-San Francisco novel that brings together the best pulp elements, character archetypes with its quick-twist plotting. What is especially joyous and masterful about this work is its well-foreshadowed and sequel friendly twist-finish. Shadow is a darker-in-tone, worthy continuation of one of my all-time favorite set-in-1940s pulp tales.

Additional note: The author, in a June 8, 2017 Facebook post wrote: “Little known tidbit: The character Gloria Grahame plays in [the 1947] film Crossfire was the basis for Virginia Wagner in my novel Shadow Boxer. Actually, the character is an amalgation of Grahame’s onscreen roles, why I chose ‘Ginny Wagner’ as her name because I like to think that character moved to San Francisco and left Paul Kelly far behind.”

Monday, January 21, 2019

Piercing by Ryû Murakami

(2007; translated from the Japanese by Ralph McCarthy)

From the back cover

“Kawashima Masayuki is a successful graphic designer who lives with his loving wife, Yoko, and their baby girl. Outwardly, their lives the picture of happiness and contentment, but every night while his wife sleeps Kawashima creeps from his bed and watches over the baby’s crib with an ice pick in his hand an almost visceral desire to use it.

“One particular night, as this struggle unfolds once more, Kawashima makes a decision to confront his demons, and sets into motion an uncontrollable chain of events seeming to lead inexorably to murder.”


Piercing is an immediately immersive, disturbing and sometimes brutal tale of two disturbed individuals and how they─in their strange, violent and otherwise frelled-up ways─seek redemption from their twist-the-knife demons. This is an excellent and perfect read, one of the best books I have read in a long time.


An American film version is scheduled to be released stateside on February 1, 2019. Nicolas Pesce scripted and directed it.

Christopher Abbott played Reed (the Americanized version of Kawashima Masayuki). Mia Wasikowska played Jackie (the Americanized version of Sanada Chiaki). Laia Costa played Mona.

Marin Ireland played Chevonne. Wendell Pierce played Doctor.

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

(pb; 1940: previously titled Ten Little Indians)

From the back cover

“Ten strangers are lured to an isolated island mansion off the Devon coast by a mysterious ‘U.N. Owen.’

“At dinner, a recorded message accuses each of them in turn of having a guilty secret, and by the end of the night one of the guests is dead.

“Stranded by a violent storm, and haunted by a nursery rhyme counting down one by one. . .as one by one. . .they begin to die.

“Which among them is the killer and will any of them survive?”


 None is one of my all-time-favorite murder mysteries. It is a classic English waste-no-words and clever trapped-on-an-island work, one that thrills from the first word to the last. Worth owning, this.

This novel has inspired several movies under both titles.

Friday, January 11, 2019

The Distance by Eddie Muller

(hb; 2002: first book in the Billy Nichols series)

From the inside flap

“It’s 1948, an era when newspapermen were stars─and San Francisco sportswriter Billy Nichols is no exception. Known as Mr. Boxing throughout the city, he is the West coast’s answer to Damon Runyon─an insider’s insider who plucks and polishes his pearlike stories from the nonstop hustle of the city’s nightclubs, gambling dens, and ringside seats.

“Billy Nichols is right where he wants to be, until he stumbles onto a shocking crime scene. Heavyweight boxer Hack Escalante has killed his manager, and for reasons Billy doesn’t fully understand, he makes a spur-of-the-moment decision to protect the prizefighter. Soon Billy’s in too deep, caught in a conspiracy of desire, deceit, and betrayal, and he sets off a chain of events whose consequences may cost him his beloved career─and his life. . .”


Distance is a vivid, reader-immersive and distinctly-San Francisco novel that brings together the best pulp elements, character archetypes with its fast-paced, quick-twist plot and action. It is a perfect, reader-immersive read, one of my all-time-favorite, set-in-1940s pulp tales. Followed by Shadow Boxer.

Dune: The Butlerian Jihad by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson

(pb; 2002: first book in the Legends of Dune trilogy)

From the back cover

“. . .Throughout the Dune novels, Frank Herbert frequently referred to the war in which humans wrested their freedom from ‘thinking machines.’ In Dune: The Butlerian Jihad, Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson bring to life the story of that war, a tale previously seen only in tantalizing hints and clues. Finally, we see how Serena Butler’s passionate grief ignites the struggle that will liberate humans from their machine masters: here is the amazing tale of the Zensunni Wanderers, who escape bondage to flee to the desert world where they will declare themselves the Free Men of Dune. And here is the backward, nearly forgotten planet of Arrakis, where traders have discovered the remarkable properties of the spice melange.”


Butlerian is a good, action-packed read by sometimes-excellent authors, a solid─if unnecessary─addition to the extended Dune series. Set 10,000 years before Frank Herbert’s original novel, this trilogy set-up book has many characters (e.g., Serena Butler, Omnius, etc.) mentioned in Hunters of Dune and Sandworms of Dune. It is worth reading, but it is not an absolutely-vital-to-the-Dune-storyline offering─pick it up for cheap, or borrow it from the library before committing serious cash to it. Followed by Dune: The Machine Crusade.

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

The Scarecrow by Michael Connelly

(pb; 2008: second book in the Jack McEvoy series)

From the back cover

“Once a hotshot in the newsroom, crime reporter Jack McEvoy is now about to be laid off at the Los Angeles Times. Deciding to use his final work days to write the definitive murder story of his career, he focuses on Alonzo Winslow, an imprisoned sixteen-year-old drug dealer who confessed to the murder of a young woman found strangled in the trunk of her car. But as Jack delves into the story, he realizes that Winslow’s so-called confession is bogus. The kid might actually be innocent. When Jack connects the L.A. trunk killing to an earlier murder in Las Vegas, he is on the biggest story he’s had since the Poet crossed his path years before. But Jack doesn’t know that his investigation has set off a digital trip wire. The killer knows Jack is coming. . .and he’s ready.”


Scarecrow is a slick, burn-through and dark thriller, a worthwhile and equally twist-punctuated follow-up to the excellent beach read novel, The Poet. Be sure to look for the blink-and-miss-it mention of Michael Haller, "the Lincoln lawyer," another Connelly character with his own novel. Scarecrow is worth picking up for a few bucks or borrowing from the library.

Fascination: The Celluloid Dreams of Jean Rollin by David Hind

(pb; 2016: nonfiction)

From the back cover

“May 1968. Paris is awash with violence and public unrest. In a small cinema, where a surreal film is showing, another riot is taking place. Here, the enraged audience smashes up the auditorium, tear out the seats, and chase the film’s director out onto the street. This is the premiere of Jean Rollin’s feature debut, The Rape of the Vampire.

“As an outsider of French cinema, Rollin’s films are unique and dreamlike. They offer tales of mystery and nostalgia, obsolescence and seductive female vampires with a thirst for blood and sex. It is a cinema at once strange, evocative and deeply personal.

“Funding his own projects, Rollin defiantly made the films he wanted to make and in so doing created a fantastique genre unlike any other. The Nude Vampire, The Living Dead Girl and The Grapes of Death are among those films now celebrated as the work of an auteur, one who confounds preconceived notions of ‘Eurotrash’ cinema.

“This book is devoted to the director and all his work, across all genres, including a nascent French hardcore pornographic film industry. Written with full co-operation from Jean Rollin, shortly before his death in 2010, it contains exclusive interviews and archive material.”


Fascination is one of my all-time favorite nonfiction reads about filmmakers. Hind concisely and honestly recounts─in a creativity-focused overview─the events and works of Rollin’s life, as well as cataloging Rollin’s mostly distinctive cinematic output.

By financial necessity, Rollin’s films had female nudity: his producers required it. That said, the writer/director and his faithful crew members imbued many of his better, not-quite-mainstream films with poetic, haunting, playful and often elegiac moods, mixing sex with simply-stated Gothic romanticism, as well as thought-provoking themes of science fiction, horror and other elements that stick in one’s mind long after seeing said films. 

Love or hate his non-hardcore and low-budget work, most of his non-pornographic films are distinctive, not easily dismissed as outright, brainless─if sometimes scene-meandering─Eurosleaze pieces. (To dismiss them as such suggests a lazy-minded, prudish stubbornness.)

This is a must-own book for any Rollin fan, or anybody who might be curious about him. Rollin is an underrated and worthwhile auteur (in the truest sense, as in: he wrote and co-produced most of his films).

<em>Dune: The Battle of Corrin</em> by <a href="">Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson</a>

(pb; 2004: third book in the Legends of Dune trilogy) From the back cover “It has been fifty-six hard years since the events o...