Wednesday, December 28, 2011

**Michael A. Kechula's Ugly duckling was published on the Microstory A Week site

A new story is up on the Microstory A Week site.

Michael A. Kechula penned this week's story, Ugly duckling, where a misfit woman's transformation sets into motion of a series of events she could not have foreseen.

Check this short story out, comment on it, if you're so inclined. =)

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod: Ninth Grade Slays, by Heather Brewer


(hb; 2008: second book in The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod)

From the inside flap:

"If middle school stunk for Vladimir Tod, high school is a real drain. Besides being a punching bag for bullies, he's still stalled with dream girl Meredith, and he's being tailed by a photographer from the school paper. Needless to say, practicing his vampire skills hasn't exactly been a priority for Vlad - until now. A monumental trip to Siberia with Uncle Otis is Vlad's crash course in Vampire 101. Training alongside the most gifted vampires is exactly what Vlad needs to sharpen those mind-control skills. . ."

Review:

Good, reader-hooking, story- and character-expanding follow-up to The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod: Eighth Grade Bites.

Worth reading, this.

Followed by The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod: Tenth Grade Bleeds.

**Jim Harrington published an interview with me on his Six Questions For. . . site

Jim Harrington, whose story, The good lie, graced the Microstory A Week site, published an interview with me on his Six Questions For. . . site on December 26, 2011.

The interview was in regards to my Microstory A Week site (which publishes a different author every week).

Here's the link for the interview.

Jim's site is a great resource for working authors. Check it out, if you're inclined and have the time!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod: Eighth Grade Bites, by Heather Brewer


(hb; 2007: first book in The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod)

From the inside flap:

"Junior high really sucks for thirteen year old Vladimir Tod. Bullies harass him, the principal is dogging him, and the girl he likes prefers his best friend. Oh, and Vladimir has a secret: his mother was human but his father was a vampire. With no idea of the extent of his powers and no one to teach him, Vlad struggles daily with his blood cravings and his enlarged fangs. When a strange substitute teacher begins to question him a little too closely, Vlad worries that his cover is about to be blown. But then he realizes he has a much bigger problem: he's being hunted by a vampire killer who is closing in. . . fast!"

Review:

Eighth Grade Bites is a fun, waste-no-words take on vampirism and high school with plenty of humorous and respectful nods at other fang-themed works and legends (e.g., Buffy the Vampire Slayer), while maintaining its own distinctive elements.

Adult or well-read readers will no doubt spot the twists long before they happen, but, bearing in mind that this is a tween book, these twists are effective foreshadowings of what is likely to happen in future Vladimir Tod books.

Worth reading, this.

Followed by The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod: Ninth Grade Slays.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

**Rayna Bright's Meat, spuds and turnips was published on the Microstory A Week site

A new story is up on the Microstory A Week site.

Rayna Bright penned this week's story, Meat, spuds and turnips, where a family meal takes on new significance.

Check this short story out, comment on it, if you're so inclined. =)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Deflowered: My Life in Pansy Division, by Jon Ginoli


(pb; 2009: rock 'n' roll memoir)

From the back cover:

"Deflowered is Jon Ginoli's journey of self-discovery, musical passion, and drive to become the founding member of Pansy Division, the first out and proud punk rock band to make the national scene. We follow the band from their inception in the early '90s in San Francisco, to their search for a music label, and their current status as indie rock icons. We see the highs - touring with Green Day - and the lows - homophobic fans - of striving for acceptance and success in the world of rock. Featuring behind-the-scenes photographs and replete with the requisite tales of sex, drugs, groupies, band fights and label battles, this rollicking memoir is also an impassioned account of staying true to their artistic vision of queer rock 'n' roll."

Review:

Engaging, humorous, and fast-burn read that's more focused than most rock memoirs. More than another self-absorbed "sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll" make-cash book, this has progressive political passion to it, lending itself to a bigger, necessary movement.

Fun, thoughtful, important work - worth owning if you're a rock/pop punk memoir collector, a proponent of the LGBT movement or a Bay Area resident.

If you're a California resident, and interested in seeing the band live, they're playing two California shows next month - one in Berkeley (Friday, January 27, 2012) and another in Los Angeles (Sunday, January 29).

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Draining Lake, by Arnaldur Indriđason


(hb; 2004, 2007: sixth book in the Reykjavik Thriller series. Translated from the Icelandic by Bernard Scudder)


From the inside flap:

"Following an earthquake, the water level of an Icelandic lake suddenly falls, revealing a skeleton that is weighed down by a heavy radio device bearing inscriptions in Russian. Inspectors Erlendur, Elinborg, and Sigurdur Oli's investigation takes them back to the Cold War era, when bright, left-wing students in Iceland were sent to study in the 'heavenly state' of Communist East Germany.

"But one of the students went missing, and her friends suspected that her 'heavenly state' was all too real. Erlendur follows a long cold trail that leads back to Iceland, international espionage, and murder."


Review:

Absorbing, fast-paced and worthwhile entry in the Reykjavik Thriller series. The mystery isn't so much who the killer is, but how the pieces fit together, made even more interesting by its settings, past and present, and its series-progressive characters (ongoing and new).

Worth owning, this series.

Followed by Arctic Chill.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Broken Mirrors/Broken Minds: The Dark Dreams of Dario Argento, by Maitland McDonagh


(pb; 1991, 1994, 2010: non-fiction)

From the back cover:

"The horror films of Italian filmmaker Dario Argento have been described as a blend of Alfred Hitchcock and George Romero - psychologically rich, colorful, and at times garish, taking the best elements of the splatter and exploitation genres and laying them over a dark undercurrent of human emotions and psyches. Broken Mirrors/Broken Minds, which dissects such Argento cult films as Two Evil Eyes, The Bird with the Crystal Plummage, Suspiria, and Deep Red, includes a new introduction discussing Argento's most recent films, from The Stendahl Syndrome to Mother of Tears; an updated filmography; and an interview with Argento.

Review:

Excellent and interesting analytical study of Argento's oeuvre - his great, not so great and in-between works: a must-read for Argento fans.

Worth owning, this.

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Argento's influence found its way into this poem I wrote and published in 2010: Rotten tooth blues (Dario Argento mix).

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

**Thomas Michael McDade's Weber-o-lantern was published on the Microstory A Week site

A new story is up on the Microstory A Week site.

Thomas Michael McDade penned this week's story, Weber-o-lantern, where war, guilt and other life-dark elements are the topic of a profanity-laden, heated jailhouse conversation.

Check this short story out, comment on it, if you're so inclined. =)

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I am in need of new stories for the Microstory site, if you or anyone you know is looking to get published somewhere other than their blogs.

I'm a big fan of speculative fiction/horror/anything that mixes genres (particularly Ray Bradbury, Chuck Palahniuk, Douglas Adams, Richard Matheson, Clive Barker, Harlan Ellison), but I'm also open to other mainstream elements.

Here's the guidelines.

Monday, December 12, 2011

No Beast So Fierce by Edward Bunker

(hb; 1973)

Review

Excellent, straightforward, no-frills crime drama-tale about an ex-con (Max Denbo), who, out on parole, works hard to stay "straight" (out of prison), only to be pushed back into his shady, sometimes violent ways by the very people who are supposed to be helping him become a better man.

The author, Edward Bunker, was himself a longtime prison inmate who discovered the pragmatic catharsis of writing while in the joint. He turned this into a lucrative post-joint career and had a few of his novels turned into good films (e.g., The Animal Factory). The upshot? Bunker knows what he's writing about.

Worth owning, this.

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The resulting film, Straight Time, was released stateside on July 14, 1978.

Dustin Hoffman played Max Denbo. Theresa Russell played Jenny Mercer. Gary Busey played Willy Darin. Kathy Bates played Selma Darin. Jake Busey, billed as Jacob Busey, played Henry Darin (Jake is the real-life son of Gary Busey - in the film he plays his father's character's son).

Harry Dean Stanton played Jerry Schue. M. Emmet Walsh played Earl Frank (the cinematic equivalent of the novel's Joseph Rosenthal). Rita Taggart played Carol Schue. Sandy Baron played Manny.

Source novel author and co-screenwriter Edward Bunker played Mickey.

The film was co-directed by Ulu Grosbard and an uncredited Dustin Hoffman, from a script penned by Edward Bunker (as mentioned before), Jeffrey Boam, Michael Mann (uncredited) and Nancy Dowd (uncredited), which itself was based on Alvin Sargent's story/adaptation.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Batman: Tales of the Demon, by various writers and artists


(pb; 1991: graphic novel; "Introduction" by Sam Hamm; "Afterword" by Dennis O'Neil)

From the back cover:

" 'There was no doubt that Batman needed a worthy opponent. We set out consciously and deliberately to create a villain in a grand manner, a villain who was so exotic and mysterious that neither we nor Batman were sure what to expect.

'Hence, Rā's al Ghūl - "the demon's head."' - from the introduction by Sam Hamm"

Review:

This graphic novel brings together several Batman-related comic book series: Batman, issues #242-244; Detective, issues #411, 485, 489, 490; and DC Special. They were published in 1971, 1972, 1978, 1979 and 1980.

I owned an earlier, slightly shorter version of this graphic novel when I was kid, in the mid-Seventies - it was a slender, 11x17" affair, its cover showing Batman screaming over a seemingly dead Robin, while Rā's al Ghūl and his sexy daughter, Talia, look on from the background.

It was the first graphic novel that I owned, purchased by one of my aunts - thanks, Ant K! - who knew what a Batman fan I was. (Sadly, I no longer own that comic book - I don't know what happened to it.)

Reading the more recent/retitled effort as an adult, I encountered similar, continual frissons that I'd first felt as a kid, while memorizing the older version - though this time my excitement was mixed with nostalgia.

Rā's al Ghūl was - is - just as dangerous, "exotic and mysterious" (to use the back cover description) as he was when I was a pre-teen; Talia, his seductive daughter, even wilder and more tastefully amatoric, and Batman darker, rougher and more ambiguous in his hero/outlaw identity. This, no doubt, was an intentional, opposite reaction to the entertaining cheesiness of the late Sixties television show, on the part of those who wrote and drew these comics.

Excellent, sensational, visually dramatic and macabre as it was thirty-plus years ago, this graphic novel is book-ended by an "Introduction" (by Sam Hamm) and "Afterword" (by Dennis O'Neil), which provide further, illuminating behind-the-scenes context regarding the tales contained therein.

Worth owning, this.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

**Baird Nuckolls' Scarred was published on the Microstory A Week site

A new story is up on the Microstory A Week site.

Baird Nuckolls penned this week's story, Scarred, where a young girl and her brother learn about how tricky pumpkin carving can be.

Check this short story out, comment on it, if you're so inclined. =)

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Shivers III, edited by Richard Chizmar


(pb; 2004: horror anthology - prequel anthology to Shivers IV)

Overall review:

Warning: (possible) - necessary - spoilers in this review.

Shivers III is a decent, but disappointing anthology, considering the talent involved in this endeavor.

Stories that disappointed: "Itsy Bitsy Spider. . ." - Meggan C. Wilson & F. Paul Wilson (with its lazy, Amateur Hour it was all a dream but not really finish); "Hedges" - Al Sarrantonio and "This, and That's the End of It" - Tom Piccirilli (which hinge on odd, intriguing Twilight Zone-esque concepts, only to spin their plot wheels, without going anywhere); "End of the Line" - Michael Laimo (solid tale, at least until its lazy, dogsh*t finish).

The rest of the stories are either standout endeavors (see below) or not quite solid pieces that feel generic, rushed or overly long (see the bottom of this review).

Shivers III is worth checking out from the library. Don't buy it without reading it first.


Standout stories:

1.) "Underneath" - Kealan Patrick Burke: Good, entertaining tale about a nerd (Dean Lovell), a bully (Freddy Kelly) and an ugly girl (Stephanie Watts).

I saw one of the key twists coming straightaway, but it didn't ruin the story for me, as the twist could have, with a few altered lines, gone in way different direction.


2.) "Horn of Plenty" - Thomas F. Monteleone: A mid-level jazz band leader (George Thurston) recounts the story of his trumpet player - or "Horn Man" in jazz parlance - and a strange midnight blue horn.

Good, entertaining story.


3.) "Becoming Men" - Douglas Clegg: In a rehabilitation camp for juvenile delinquents, inmates are spurred to action when of their own is murdered. The twist isn't unexpected, but the story is solid, attention-keeping.


4.) "Flip Flap" - Elizabeth Massie: A carny midget (Mattie) and her lover, Edward, look for - and possibly uncover - a way to unsaddle Mattie of her abusive, drunken slave-master of a boyfriend.

Noiresque, succinct revenge and love story. One of the best entries in this collection.


5.) "A Question of Doves: A Brackard's Point Story" - Geoff Cooper: Intriguing tale about a malevolent little girl, birds and strange disappearances.

Excellent piece.


6.) "Panteon Version 2.0" - Brian Keene & Michael T. Huyck Jr.: When dead celebrities return from the dead - not as zombies, but as cognizant beings - it's the first event in a series of dark, often humorous events.

Solid, entertaining work.


7.) "Celebrate With Us" - Paul Melniczek: The presence of spectral trick-or-treaters reminds a man (Jim) of a recent tragedy - and its belated correction.

Good, engaging piece, with an effective plot wrinkle.


8.) "The Lingering Scent of Brimstone" - J.F. Gonzalez: A little girl (Amy Doyle) is kidnapped, and when her captor is gorily dispatched, and Emily recovered unharmed, the questions begin: who killed Amy's attacker, and why do Amy and her parents (Emily and Jeff) have missing pinkie fingers?

The twisty, relatable explanation isn't unexpected, but it's well written and well-foreshadowed. Good read.


9.) "Run Away" - Wrath James White: A former drug addict/dealer confronts literal people-eating demons.

Solid, character-interesting read.


10.) "Please Let Me Out" - Edward Lee: Joyce Lipnick, a wealthy businesswoman, tries to reign in her straying pretty-boy lover (Scott), with interesting results.

Effective, distinctive, twisty tale. One of the best entries in this collection.


Other stories:

"Initiation" - David G. Barnett; "What They Left Behind" - Brian Freeman; "The Hole" - John Maclay; "This House is Not My Home" - Robert Morrish

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

**Eric Svehaug's A hint of wind was published on the Microstory A Week site

A new story is up on the Microstory A Week site.

Eric Svehaug penned this week's story, A hint of wind, about a contemplative priest riding out doubtful tides.

Check this short story out, comment on it, if you're so inclined. =)

Macho Sluts, by Pat Califia


(pb; 1988: erotic/BDSM story anthology)


From the back cover:

"Macho Sluts showcases the best erotic fiction from Pat Califia. Here she explores S/M fantasy in previously taboo territory: a lesbian's encounter with three gay male cops, a leatherman who loves to dominate other topmen, an incestuous Victorian triangle, a lucky girl who gets to take on eight topwomen, and more - even a dash of vanilla."


Overall review:

This is one of the best BDSM anthologies I've read because Califia's writing reflects his (she had a sex change operation) mission to not only produce hot wank writing, but to educate his audience about the politics and social/personal dynamics that shape the lives of LGBT people, in and out of the sack.

The blurb on the front cover isn't hyperbolic salesmanship: this is a "landmark erotic" work - for those readers/writers who want to go beyond the usual pornoriffic/romantica/vanilla fluffiness that often suffuses erotic anthologies.

Macho Sluts is worth owning for sex writers and readers, not only for its diverse, intriguing tale-telling, but for its educational and assuredly subversive tone.


Review, story by story:

1.) "Introduction" is exactly that: a non-fiction passionate, mostly positive piece that honestly shows what sexual freedom (including BDSM) entails, and how restricting those freedoms is a dangerous, life-negative practice and mindset.

This is an informative, wonderful, logical article that ably refutes the venomous, small-minded emotionalism of those who would deny others the right to seek what makes more open-minded folk happy in the bedroom.



2.) "Jessie" - Liz, a lesbian, hooks up with a BDSM aficionado (Jessie) for an overnight session that yields more than the usual dominative/submissive orgasms.

Excellent, romantic, engaging story with characters that are relatable (on key levels) and also worth rooting for.



3.) "The Finishing School" - Boundary-widening tale about a family of women - Berenice, her daughter (Clarissa) and Clarissa's aunt (Elise) - and their incestuous love-play and history.

While "Finishing" initially squicked me out, I respect that the story keeps with the spirit of Califia's oeuvre - that is, brazenly and intelligently pushing the erotica envelope. His writing ranks among his best writing, so, for me, it (mostly) dispels my discomfort with the subject matter.



4.) "The Calyx of Isis" (novella) - Alex, a dyke, vigorously tests the sincerity of her lover's love via sexual punishment by a dozen BDSM lesbians hired at a club.

This 92-word tale incorporates a variety of sex play, characters, and their attitudes. Occasionally, with so many characters, the story threatens to become a dramatic plug-the-orifices-by-numbers catalogue, but for the most part, Califia avoids that, pulling off a piece of work that shows different levels of domination, love and respect, with Califia's inherent gender and political messages intact.

Excellent, ambitious novella.


5.) "The Hustler" - A cross-dressing butch woman (Noh Mann) revisits her socio-sexual history as she angles to get ahead in a dystopian hellscape of pain and fleeting bliss.

Intense, succinct-in-its-descriptions, stand-out work that bristles with natural, raw urban energy.


6.) "The Surprise Party" - Solid, relatively light-toned piece about a dyke's secret fantasy of getting kidnapped and rough trade f**ked by three gay men finds real-life, good-natured expression.


7.) "The Vampire" - So-so, chatty entry about about a bloodsucker (Kerry) and her adoring stalker (Iduna).


8.) "The Spoiler" - An emotionally out-of-touch Dom discovers that ignorance regarding his long-term effect on others may become the reason for his downfall.

Interesting, effective, educational blend of gamic/subgenre philosophy, drama and sex-play.


9.) "A Dash of Vanilla" - Exemplary, melancholic roller coaster of a cunnilingus story, about a lesbian with low self-esteem, who's in a relationship with a selfish lover.


10.) "A Note on Lesbians, AIDS, and Safer Sex" - Non-fiction, practical/educational piece about the titular subjects. Excellent for its informational writing.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Succulent Prey, by Wrath James White


(pb; 2008)

From the back cover:

"Could serial killers be victims of a communicable disease? Fifteen years ago, Joseph Miles was attacked by a serial child murderer. He was the only one of the madman's victims to survive. Now he himself is slowly turning into a killer. he can feel the urges, the burning needs, getting harder and harder to resist. Can anything stop him - or cure him - before he kills the only woman he's ever loved? Or before he infects someone else?"

Review:

Succulent Prey is a blunt, sexually- and cannibal-direful novel that reminds me of Jack Ketchum's earlier work (specifically Off Season) in its ugly, unrelenting ferocity.

White's over-the-top tale pushes that rawness into unique and genre blending (and blasting) territory, gouging new ideas out of familiar flesh-rending. Fans of graphic sexual and gut-roiling horror will likely enjoy this unsettling, milestone work.

Worth owning, this.

Monday, November 28, 2011

**Richard Cody’s poem, Haunted, was republished on the Phantom Kangaroo site

Richard Cody, whose microstories – Alice and Lisa - appeared on the Microstory A Week site, has republished another powerful poem, Haunted, in issue 13 of Phantom Kangaroo.

This poem was originally published in one of Richard's poetry anthologies, This is Not My Heart.

Check out his work, and these sites, if you’re so inclined and have the time!

Voices, by Arnaldur Indriđason


(hb; 2003, 2006: fifth book in the Reykjavik Thriller series. Translated from the Icelandic by Bernard Scudder)


From the inside flap:

"The Christmas rush is at its peak in a grand Reykjavik hotel when Inspector Erlendur Sveinsson is called in to investigate a murder. The hotel Santa has been stabbed, and Erlendur and his detective colleagues have no shortage of suspects between hotel staff and the international travelers staying for the holidays.

"But then a shocking secret surfaces. As Christmas day approaches, Erlendur must deal with his difficult daughter, pursue a possible romantic interest, and untangle a long-buried web of malice and greed to find the murderer."


Review:

Voices, like its predecessor novels - Jar City and Silence of the Grave - is a fantabulous, focused police procedural with engaging (and succinctly drawn) characters, wry humor, riveting writing, and equally riveting case-based revelations.

Worth owning, this.

Followed by The Draining Lake.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

V is for Vengeance by Sue Grafton


(hb; 2011: twenty-second book in the Kinsey Millhone mysteries)

From the inside flap

"A woman with a murky past who kills herself - or was it murder? A spoiled kid awash in gambling debt who thinks he can beat the system. A lovely woman whose life is about to splinter into a thousand fragments. A professional shoplifting ring working for the Mob, racking up millions from stolen goods. A wandering husband, rich and ruthless. A dirty cop so entrenched on the force he is imune to exposure. A sinister gangster, conscienceless and brutal. A lonely widower mourning the death of his lover, desperate for answers, which may be worse than the pain of his loss. A private detective, Kinsey Millhone, whose thirty-eighth birthday gift is a punch in the face that leaves her with two black eyes and a busted nose.

"And an elegant and powerful businessman whose dealings are definitely outside the law: the magus at the center of the web."

Review

Good, entertaining, fast-read book - the Kinsey tale is a crime novel, not a who-done-it. The mystery element, if there is one, lies in how the facts, events and characters fit together (and will end), not who the murderer is.

V is for Vengeance comes together in satisfactory fashion, with deft foreshadowings of possible sequel events.

Worthy entry in the Kinsey Millhone series.  Followed by W is for Wasted.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

**Matthew Dexter's The wizard of the airport was published on the Microstory A Week site

A new story is up on the Microstory A Week site.

Matthew Dexter penned this week's story, The wizard of the airport, which takes readers on a disturbing tour of an airline employee’s mind.


Check this short story out, comment on it, if you're so inclined. =)

Friday, November 18, 2011

**John Flynn’s poem, “Olneyville,” was published on the Gutter Eloquence site, November 2011

John Flynn, aka Basil Rosa, had one of his poems, Olneyville, published in issue #18 of Gutter Eloquence. (Great job, John!)

John, by-lined as Basil Rosa, also published a story, He held on and she kept saying time to go, on the Microstory A Week site in October 2011.

If you have a moment, and are so inclined, check out John’s work!

Them Or Us, by David Moody


(hb; 2011: Book Three of the Hater trilogy)

From the inside flap:

"The war that has torn the human race apart is finally nearing its end. With most towns and cities now uninhabitable, and with the country in the grip of a savage nuclear winter, both Hater and Unchanged alike struggle to survive.

"Hundreds of Hater fighters have settled on the East Coast in the abandoned remains of a relatively undamaged town under the commandof Hinchcliffe - who'll stop at nothing to eradicate the last few Unchanged and consolidate his position at the top of this new world order. This fledgling society is harsh and unforgiving - your place in the ranks is decided by how long and how hard you're prepared to fight.

"Danny McCoyne is the exception to the rule. His ability to hold the Hate and to use it to hunt out the remaining Unchanged has given him a unique position in Hinchcliffe's army of fighters. As the enemy's numbers reduce, so the pressure on McCoyne increases, until he finds himself at the very center of a pivotal confrontation, the outcome of which will have repercussions on the future of everyone who is alive."

Review:

Like the first two Hater books, Hater and Dog Blood, this wrap-up novel is - for the most part - a hard-to-set-down, emotionally trepadatious and ferine read that deftly eschews and reworks zombie-work bromides into something bracing and worthwhile.

My only nit about Them Or Us is that near novel's end Moody has his main character, the melancholic and sick Danny McCoyne, uncharacteristically engage in two Plot Convenient Stupid Moments (aka PCSMs), in order to set up the novel's otherwise edge-of-your-seat finale.

I expect these PCSMs from The Walking Dead (hello, Clichéville!) - that is to say, Moody could have, with a few sentence trims, just as easily set up his homicidal conclusion without McCoyne acting wildly out of character.

That minor nit aside, Them Or Us is still a worthwhile and satisfactory wrap-up to this landmark series, and its end-image, nuanced but honest, is appropiately disturbing.

Worth owning, this.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

**Walter Campbell's Big cats was published on the Microstory A Week site

A new story is up on the Microstory A Week site.

Walter Campbell penned this week's story, Big cats, where two hikers are confronted bythe wild.

Check this short story out, comment on it, if you're so inclined. =)

In the Flesh, by Clive Barker


(pb; 1986: story anthology)

From the back cover:

"In the depths of an abandoned steam bath, strangely beautiful women seduce two businessmen into a ritual of macabre sexuality; in a Greek asylum, wise men race frogs to decide the fate of the world; a petty convict's cellmate reveals to him the gruesome birth of evil; a young woman's slum research leads her into the hook-handed grip of The Candyman, a vicious supernatural killer."


Overall review:

This is one of the few perfect anthologies I've read. Barker's writing is word-tight, character-memorable and idea-wild, its themes relevant and relatable, with many of its lines quotable.

In the Flesh is easily one of my all-time favorite anthologies, as well as one of my favorite Barker reads.

Worth owning, this.


Review, story by story:


1.) "In the Flesh" - Cleve Smith, an incarcerated felon, gets a new cellie (Billy Tait), a young man whose quiet manners conceal a harsher, gorier world.

Perfect, gripping, exemplary read that references one of Barker's other stories, "The Books of Blood" (collected in the anthology Clive Barker's Books of Blood, Volume One).


2.) "The Forbidden" - A woman (Helen), writing a sociological theme paper, happens upon a shadowy urban legend that may be far more relevant than she ever imagined.

Thought-provoking, wise (in its roots-of-fear way), exciting and unique - not to mention (again), perfect.

Two directly-linked films resulted from this story.

The first, a 36-minute short titled after the story, was released in 1978.

Peter Atkins played Faust. Doug Bradley, Julia Blake, Phil Rimmer and Lyn Darnell also acted in the short, though their roles aren't named on imdb.com.

Clive Barker, who scripted and directed the film, also acted in it.

#

The second version, Candyman - this one a full-length work - was released stateside on October 16, 1992.

Virginia Madsen played Helen Lyle. Tony Todd played The Candyman (aka Daniel Robitaille). Xander Berkeley played Trevor Lyle. Kasi Lemmons played Bernadette 'Bernie' Walsh. Vanessa Williams played Anne-Marie McCoy. Ted Raimi played Billy. Rusty Schwimmer played "Policewoman".

Bernard Rose scripted and directed the film.

Two sequels, both of them starring Tony Todd, followed: Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh (1995) and the direct-to-video Candyman: Day of the Dead (1999).


3.) "The Madonna" - An abandoned bathhouse is the site of damnation or salvation for two men, a wealthy thug (Ezra Garvey) and his business partner (Jerry Coloqhoun).

Gripping, distinctive and science fiction-wild take on the themes of masculinity/femininity, religion and motherhood, with a story finish that is reader-resonant.

In 1989, Eclipse Books published a comic book mini-series, Tapping The Vein, that is based on Barker's writings.

Fred Burke adapted, and Stan Woch, Fred Von Tobel and Mark Farmer illustrated "The Madonna" in issue #4 (its front cover is seen below). This same issue contains an adaptation of one of Barker's other stories, "Hell's Event" (published in Clive Barker's Books of Blood, Volume Two).




4.) "Babel's Children" - Vanessa Jape, an insatiably curious, roadtripping woman, stumbles upon a long-held, world- and life-changing secret on a backroad.

Fun, relatively light work, that's as fascinating and relatably weird as the other stories in this anthology.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

**Natalie McNabb's August at the Fair was published on the Microstory A Week site

A new story is up on the Microstory A Week site.

Natalie McNabb penned this week's story, August at the Fair, where an perspicacious girl visits a carnival.

Check this short story out, comment on it, if you're so inclined. =)

Monday, November 07, 2011

**Several of Dani Harris' pieces will be published on the Spark site, November 8 - 29, 2011

Dani Harris, whose prose-poetic stories have graced the Microstory A Week site, has had two poems, moonlight sonata and passionflower, published on the Spark site recently.

Her verses work in conjunction with Ainsley Allmark's colorful photographs.

If you're inclined, and have the time, check them, and dani's website out!

The Looking-Glass War, by John le Carré

(hb; 1965)

From the inside flap:

"Vital films of Soviet troop movements in the Eastern Zone of Germany are lost and the courier killed. A small intelligence unit is authorized to put an agent over the frontier. . ."

Review:

This is a decent read. It has interesting characters, intradepartmental intrigue and edge-of-your-seat action, particularly when British agent (Fred Leiser) finds himself pursued by German troops on foreign soil, cut off from any support his agency (the Department) might offer him.

As an added treat for le Carré's regular readers, George Smiley and his boss, Control, get in on the spy-play, as well.

The element that mars this book is some of the transitional segments, where le Carré shows the workings of the agencies as Department agents, long out of the field, analyze their information and train Leiser for his secret border crossing; while some of the character chatter is necessary, these parts run a bit long - perhaps, as they might, in real life: to the novel's minor detriment, it sometimes bogs down the storyline.

So-so book, with some great characters and intriguing bits.

#

The resulting film, The Looking Glass War, was released in the UK in September 1969. It was released stateside on February 4, 1970.

Timothy West played Taylor. Ralph Richardson played LeClerc. Paul Rogers played Haldane. Ray McAnally played "Undersecretary of State". Anthony Hopkins played John Avery. Christopher Jones played Leiser.

Maxine Audley played Mrs. LeClerc. Anna Massey played "Avery's Wife". Pia Degermark played "The Girl".

Frank Pierson, billed as Frank R. Pierson, scripted and directed the film.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

**Jim Harrington's The good lie was published on the Microstory A Week site

A new story is up on the Microstory A Week site.

Jim Harrington penned this week's story, The good lie, where a potentially painful mother-adult child conversation is negociated.

Be sure to check this short story out, comment on it, if you're so inclined. =)

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Damned, by Chuck Palahniuk


(hb; 2011: prequel to Doomed)

From the inside flap:

" 'Are you there, Satan? It's me, Madison,' declares the whip-tongued thirteen-year-old narrator of Damned. . . The daughter of a narcissistic film star and billionaire, Madison is abandoned at her Swiss boarding school over Christmas while her parents are off touting their new projects and adopting more orphans. She dies over the holiday of a marijuana overdose - and the next thing she knows, she's in Hell. Madison shares her cell with a motley crew of young sinners that is almost too good to be true: a cheerleader, a jock, a nerd, and a punk rocker, united by fate to form the six-feet-under version of everyone's favorite detention movie. Madison and her pals must trek across the Dandruff Desert and cross the Valley of Used Disposable Diapers to confront Satan in his citadel, and all the popcorn balls and wax lips that serve as the currency of Hell won't buy them off."

Review:

Damned is a sly, snarky, voice-true, twisty and reader-addictive novel that ably melds YA fiction, dark hilarity and Dante's The Inferno.

Worth owning, this.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Silence of the Grave, by Arnaldur Indriđason


(hb; 2002, 2005: fourth book in the Reykjavik Thriller series. Translated from the Icelandic by Bernard Scudder)

From the inside flap:

". . . a corpse is found on a hill outside the city, and Detective Inspector Erlendur Sveinsson and his team think the body may have been buried for some years.

"While Erlendur struggles to hold together the crumbling fragments of his own family, slowly but surely he finds out the truth about another unhappy family. Few people are still alive who can tell the tale, but even secrets taken to the grave cannot remain hidden forever."


Review:

Silence of the Grave is a high-quality, pins-and-needles Jar City follow-up that balances the warm, succinct humanity and humor of the characters and the wince-evincing facts and action relating to the mysterious bones.

Worth owning, this.

Followed by Voices.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

**Michael A. Kechula's Let's trade was published on the Microstory A Week site

A new story is up on the Microstory A Week site.

Michael A. Kechula penned this week's story, Let's trade, about a deal that may or may not be ideal for the two species involved.

Be sure to check this short story out, comment on it, if you're so inclined. =)

Modesty Blaise: The Black Pearl, by Peter O'Donnell & Jim Holdaway


(pb - graphic novel; compiled and republished in 2004. Fourth book in the Modesty Blaise graphic novel series)

From the back cover:

"She's beautiful with a bullet! Modesty Blaise - cult creation of best-selling author Peter O'Donnell - returns for another searing slice of '60s chic thrills set in the shadowy underworld of espionage and mystery.

"In the wilds of Tibet, Modesty must repay the debt she owes an ancient mystic who once saved her life, by finding the mysterious Black Pearl. Before her stand marauding bandits, the might of the Himalayas and the power of Red China! This. . . volume also includes The Magnified Man, The Jericho Caper and The Killing Ground."

Review:

The continuous-story comic strips (with the exception of "The Killing Ground") ran in the London Evening Standard newspaper, from December 1966 to April 1967. ("The Killing Ground" ran in a Scottish paper, from April 1967 to May 1967.)


"The Black Pearl" - Modesty and her knife-wielding, lady-killer sidekick Willie Garvin are pursued by the Red Chinese army in the Himalayas, when they locate and take a mysterious item, the Black Pearl, to its new, rightful owners.


"The Magnified Man" - When Willie accidentally blows the cover of a Deuxieme Bureau agent and old flame (Denise Rouelle), he and Modesty tangle with a shady criminal (Herr Bilke) and a returned enemy, Jules, who are setting up a huge train heist, via a bizarre contraption.


"The Jericho Caper" - A village, threatened by woman-stealing bandits, is protected by Modesty, Willie, and a group of men led by an old friend, Flynn.


"The Killing Ground" - Modesty and Willie, kidnapped by an old foe (Bellman), are placed on an island, where they're hunted by three professional killers. Despite echoing Richard Connell's distinctive, famous storyline (from "The Most Dangerous Game"), it's still fun, with our heroes quickly turning the tables on the hired assassins.

This story - "The Killing Ground" - was later adapted into a novella by author O'Donnell, in the final Modesty Blaise book, Cobra Trap.


The stand-out story strips in this collection are "The Black Pearl" and "The Magnified Man," with their cleverness, twists and wild-card elements; "The Jericho Caper" and "The Killing Ground" are enjoyable, too.

Followed by Modesty Blaise: Bad Suki.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Double Dexter, by Jeff Lindsay


(hb; 2011: sixth book in the Dexter series)

From the inside flap:

"A witness. Such a simple concept - and yet for Dexter Morgan, the perfectly well-disguised monster, the possibility of a witness is unthinkable. But when Dexter is on a very private, very satisfying excursion one evening with a wretchedly deserving playmate, the unthinkable happens: someone sees him.

"Dexter is not at all pleased. As an upstanding blood-spatter analyst for the Miami Police Department, he has always managed to keep the darker side of his life out of the spotlight. . . the fun part, where he finds truly bad people - murderers who have escaped the reach of the justice system - and quietly gives them his very special attentions. But now that he's been seen and identified by his witness, Dexter must launch himself into a different kind of hunt.

"Making matters worse, a brutal cop killer is targeting Miami's police detectives, leaving behind bodies that are battered beyond recognition. . . and completely bloodless. As the department grows more fearful of the psychotic killer in their midst, Dexter must handle his own crisis and come to terms with the fact that his witness is not only circling him but determined to expose him. Dexter is being followed, manipulated, and mimicked. . . leading him to realize that no one likes to have a double, especially when his double's goal is to kill him."


Review:

Dexter and his inside-his-head Dark Passenger negociate their particular brand of justice amidst wild familial moods and threatening events, career- and literal.

Double Dexter is another burn-through-it, often hair-raising and hilariously subversive take on American life, with an effective wraps-it-up-for-now, sequel-friendly finish.

Worth owning, this.

Followed by Dexter's Final Cut.

Monday, October 24, 2011

**One of my poems, Our City of Darkness, was published on the Every Day Poets site

One of my mainstream (but bleak-humored) poems, Our City of Darkness, was published on the Every Day Poets site.

Check it out and leave a comment/star rating, if you're so inclined and have the time. =)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

**Cath Barton's Nothing to be afraid of was published on the Microstory A Week site

A new story is up on the Microstory A Week site.

Cath Barton penned this week's story, Nothing to be afraid of, a tale about two girls and a cliff.

Be sure to check this short story out, comment on it, if you're so inclined. =)

Monday, October 17, 2011

**One of Basil Rosa's stories, "Boss Visa," was published in new anthology, A Small Key Opens Big Doors

One of Basil Rosa's stories, "Boss Visa," was published in a new anthology, A Small Key Opens Big Doors - Volume Three: The Heart of Eurasia.

According to Basil, the anthology, edited by Jay Chen, "focuses on Eurasia, and is one of a four-volume series, with each volume focused on a different part of the globe, all of them celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps. Sales of the book go to help fund the work of the Peace Corps in developing nations."

Check it out, if you're so inclined and/or have the time!

If you're interested in more of Basil's work, also check out his website and his haunting story, He held on and she kept saying time to go, published on the Microstory A Week site on October 5, 2011.

That Was Then, This Is Now, by S.E. Hinton


(pb; 1971: YA novel)

From the back cover:

"Bryon and Mark have been as close as brothers for as long as they can remember. Now things are changing. Bryon's growing up, and thinking seriously about who he wants to be. Mark still just lives for the thrill of the moment. The two are growing apart - but holding on - until Bryon makes a shocking discovery about Mark. Then Bryon faces a terrible decision. . ."

Review:

Lean, immediately engrossing, for-mature-kids novel that straddles the gritty worlds of adulthood and "childhood." Hinton's fast-paced, (mostly) dead-on writing rings true on all levels - emotional, story- and action-wise - at least until the end, which feels rushed and tacked on.

Worth checking out from the library, this.

#

This was released stateside as a movie on November 8, 1985.

Craig Sheffer played Bryon Douglas. Emilio Estevez, who scripted the film, played Mark Jennings. Kim Delaney played Cathy Carlson. Larry B. Scott played Terry Jones. Frank Howard played M&M Carlson. Jill Schoelen played Angela Shepard.

Barbara Babcock played Mrs. Douglas. Morgan Freeman played Charlie Woods. Emilio Estevez's real-life brother, Ramon Estevez, billed as Ramon Sheen, played Mike Chambers. Sharon Thomas Cain, wife of the film's director, played a "Doctor".

Christopher Cain directed the film.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Hellbound Heart, by Clive Barker


(pb; 1986: novella)

From the back cover:

"Frank Cotton's insatiable appetite for the dark pleasures of pain led him to the puzzle of Lemarchand's box, and from there, to a death only a sick-minded soul could invent. But his brother's love-crazed wife, Julia, has discovered a way to bring Frank back - though the price will be bloody and terrible. . . and there will certainly be hell to pay."

Review:

The Hellbound Heart is an intense, excellent, horrific (in a good way) blast of a read. The story in this 164-page novella is notably different than that of the 1987 film (retitled Hellraiser) - e.g., in the book, The Engineer is the head Cenobite in the "Order of the Gash"; Pinhead doesn't exist. In the film, The Engineer was replaced by the physically dissimilar Pinhead. That said, both versions work.

Worth owning, this.

#

The resulting film, Hellraiser, was released stateside September 18, 1987.

Andrew Robinson played Larry Cotton ("Rory Cotton" in the novella). Claire Higgins played Julia Cotton. Ashley Laurence played Kirsty Cotton. Sean Chapman played Frank Cotton. Robert Hines played Steve. Oliver Smith played "Frank the Monster".

Doug Bradley played Pinhead/Captain Elliot Spenser. Nicholas Vince played "Chattering Cenobite". Simon Bamford played "Butterball Cenobite". Grace Kirby played "Female Cenobite".

Novella author Clive Barker directed and wrote the screenplay for the movie.

#

A theatrical remake has been greenlit, with Barker's vocal support, but filming hasn't begun on it.

#

Eight sequels, many of them direct-to-video, have followed the original film. The latest, Hellraiser: Revelations, is supposed to be coming out sometime this year. This ninth Hellraiser film, a DVD/Blu Ray release, will be the first where Doug Bradley doesn't play Pinhead. (This does not bode well for the film.)

#

In 1989, Epic Comics published an anthology comic book, Hellraiser, with various authors and illustrators - including Bernie Wrightson, John Bolton and Ted McKeever - creating their own short stories about the Cenobites, their victims and their universe(s). I don't know how long this series was published, but I know it ran for at least eighteen issues. (The first comic book image seen below is the cover of issue #1).



In 2011, Boom! Studios revived the series, with the same name (Hellraiser) with new Cenobite stories, written by different writers and artists - Clive Barker has been co-writing the series' ongoing storyline.

Seen below is one of the three alternate covers of issue #1, illustrated by Tim Bradstreet. Leonardo Manco provided the interior art.

The First Book of Ghost Stories: Widdershins, by Oliver Onions


(pb; 1911, 1935, 1971, 1978: ghost anthology)

From the back cover:

"Oliver Onions (1873-1961) held a particular view about ghosts. In his 'Credo' he wrote that ghosts are like stars in the daytime. They cannot be seen, but if all the senses are put to work and all clues are followed up, they can be detected. Onions, known as well for his psychological and detective stories as he was for his stories about ghosts, was one of the best to do the detecting. From a few apparently innocent clues and a few actions which otherwise seem ordinary, you are on the scent or perhaps the feel of a ghost who wants to say something to you. These ghosts are intricately reacting to you as well as to situations of which you have no comprehension. . ."


Overall review:

Widdershin is an uneven, but okay ghost anthology. Onions employs varied structures and settings for these mostly mood-effective tales, which keeps them sharp and distinctive from each other.

The stories that don't work still show flashes of what an excellent writer Onions can be; they fail, in comparison to the other stories, because: they're predictable ("Benlian"); or needed to be trimmed and simplified, word choice-wise, to make the story flow better ("Hic Jacet").

Because of the stories that do work, Widdershins is worth checking out from the library.


Review, story by story:


1.) "The Beckoning Fair One" - A writer (Paul Oleron), seeking to communicate with his haunted flat, becomes obsessed with it, even as his potential fiancée, Elsie Bengough, tries to save him from himself and his murderous abode.

Elegant, engaging (if occasionally chatty) mounting-mood read.

This story became an episode of the television show Journey to the Unknown, which aired on December 12, 1968.

Robert Lansing played Jon Holden. Gabrielle Drake played Kit Beaumont. John Fraser played Derek Wilson. Larry Noble played Mr. Barrett. Gretchen Franklin played Mrs. Barrett. Clive Francis played Crichton.

Don Chaffey directed the episode, from a teleplay by John Gould and William Woods.



2.) "Phantas" - Abel Keeling, a sailor on a slowly sinking ship, reflects on his past life and impending death, when - out of the dead water mists - another ship appears: are its crew members rescuers, or harbingers of demise?

Solid, atmospheric work.



3.) "Rooum" - A talented and frazzled co-worker, Rooum, proves to have good reason for being so, according to this tale's narrator.

Intriguing, unique piece.



4.) "Benlian" - Predictable, overly long story about the titular character, a sculptor who gets too much into his work.

Skip this piece.



5.) "The Accident" - Romarin and Marsden, estranged friends, sup together four decades after a terrible brawl.

Good - again, intriguing - read.



6.) "The Lost Thyrsus" - Entertaining, dramatic-finish story about a woman (Bess), whose wild dreams have changed her, distressing her fiancé.



7.) "Hic Jacet" - I couldn't get through this one; "Hic Jacet" is confusing and is filled with artsy-fartsy/obscure verbiage, as if Onions, while writing this tale, caught an exaggerated case of Lovecraftitus - which usually works for Lovecraft, but not for other authors. There's a glean of a good story here, but it's buried under obfuscatory language.



8.) "The Cigarette Case" - A casual comment about a lost (and oddly found) cigarette case leads to a story about a memorable night with some odd English ladies.

Solid, fun, if (again) chatty, piece.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Modesty Blaise: Top Traitor, by Peter O'Donnell & Jim Holdaway


(pb - graphic novel; compiled and republished in 2004. Third book in the Modesty Blaise graphic novel series)


From the back cover:

"With a mind as sharp as her fashion sense and fighting skills worthy of any she-samurai, Modesty Blaise - cult creation of best-selling author Peter O'Donnell - is back in another classic collector's edition from Titan!

"In three thrilling, nerve-shattering stories - Top Traitor, The Vikings and The Head Girls - Modesty must rip deeply through her own organisation to uncover a spy, do battle with homicidal Norsemen and cross claws with a pride of she-kittens led by an old adversary!"

Review:

The three-frame, continuous-story comic strips in this collection ran in the London Evening Standard newspaper, from February 1966 to November 1966.

Modesty Blaise and her sidekick, Willie Garvin, retired Syndicate operatives, thrice again help - not as employees, but free agents - the British government foil nefarious and bizarre foes.

In "Top Traitor," Sir Gerald Tarrant - Blaise and Garvin's close friend and main government contact - is kidnapped, and made to look like a Kim Philby-esque spy. Of course, those who have worked with Tarrant (namely Blaise and Garvin) know better, and set out to not only rescue him, but prove his innocence.


The second story cycle, "The Vikings," reunites Blaise and Garvin with a former, blundering Syndicate employee, Olaf, now working under a retro-minded robber (Magnus), who favors ancient Norse attitudes and violent, money-minded raids.


"The Head Girls" finds Blaise and Garvin figuring out, and thwarting an old enemy's blackmail scheme to steal a new formula that could irrevocably alter the government's military strategy - fans of the "The Gabriel Set-Up" will likely, particularly, enjoy this one.


These strip story-cycles are just as exciting, charming, clever and cliff-hanger-ish as the ones that preceded them in Modesty Blaise: The Gabriel Set-Up. (I haven't read the second Modesty graphic novel, Modesty Blaise: Mister Sun, because I don't own it - yet.)

Fans of Sixties spy films, television series and books (Ian Fleming's fourteen-book 007/James Bond series, the Flint films, etc.) will likely appreciate the thoughtful, stylish stories contained in these Modesty volumes.

Followed by Modesty Blaise: The Black Pearl.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

**dani harris' guardian angel {sorta} was published on the Microstory A Week site

A new story is up on the Microstory A Week site.

dani harris penned this week's story, guardian angel {sorta}, a partly poetic, playful tale about an angel who goes her own way.

Be sure to check this short story out, comment on it, if you're so inclined. =)

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Mermaid Drowns in the Midnight Lounge, by Will Viharo


(pb; 2010)

From the back cover:

"A Mermaid Drowns in the Midnight Lounge is a lushly, lurid, exotically exploitative, sensationally sensual pulp-noir potpourri where star-crossed lovers, sea sirens, monster men, gangsters, porno filmmakers, jazz standards, and an Elvis-spawned zombie apocalypse all intermingle across several parallel dimensions in time and space. This story is unlike anything you've ever read."

Review:

Another neo-noir genre-blender from the wonderful Will Viharo, whose work, this time out, updates a David Lynchesque (specifically: Lost Highway) template, traversing three alternate realities - actually levels - that are grindhouse violent, retro-revering, and over-the-top horrific and pornographic.

When the levels begin to meld, the characters' degeneration, the werewolfery, the zombies (which read like cognizied versions of Lucio Fulci's putrefied undead) and the dizzying swirl-cycle of bloodthirstiness, sex, skewed humor and desperation acelerate into a satisfying come-together finish.

If you're fan of grindhouse, neo-noir, retro-culture horror or science fiction-ish work, you should own this novel, which can be purchased here or on Amazon.com.

Or you can talk to him when he hosts Thrillville, once a month, and buy it from him directly (after he orders it for you).

#

Actual Rafiq composed an "original book score" for Mermaid, titled Music for a Drowning Mermaid. This exhilarating four-song instrumental CD, which reflects and complements the mood of the book that inspired it, is on sale at Lulu.com for $8.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

**Basil Rosa's He held on and she kept saying time to go was published on the Microstory A Week site

A new story is up on the Microstory A Week site.

Basil Rosa penned this week's story, He held on and she kept saying time to go, an emotive, bordering-on-poetic tale about a hunter and his prey.

Be sure to check this short story out, comment on it, if you're so inclined. =)

Monday, October 03, 2011

Cain His Brother, by Anne Perry


(hb; 1995: sixth book in the William Monk series)

From the inside flap:

"Victoria's London was the queen of the universe, a dazzling metropolis from whose magnificent mansions and discreetly luxurious clubs flowed the strategies that built the greatest empire ever known. Meanwhile, the city's poor suffered and died in hopeless obscurity. Inspector William Monk knows his city's best and its worst - or so he believes, until the day when charming Genevieve Stonefield comes to plead with him to find her missing husband.

"In his family life, Angus Stonefield had been gentle and loving; in business a man of probity; and in his relationship with his twin brother, Caleb, a virtual saint. Now he is missing, and it appears more than possible that Caleb - a creature long since abandoned to depravity - has murdered him.

"And so Monk puts himself into the missing man's shoes, searching Stonefield's comfortable home, his prospering business, his favorite haunts, and, finally, the city's dangerous, fever-ridden slums for clues to Angus's fate and his vicious brother's whereabouts. Slowly, Monk inches toward the truth - and, also, unwittingly toward the destruction of his good name and livelihood."

Review:

Clever, mostly gripping read. The mystery portions of the novel are excellent, though I did see the end-twist coming from a ways off. (That may be due to my distrust of anybody who claims to virtuous; I believe everybody is guilty of at least one big evil.)

What flawed this book - and, thus far, this series - is Perry's insistence of keeping Monk and Latterly at each other's throats: after all they've been through - life and death situations, even a shocked kiss - the author hasn't let the characters progress to a more believable semi-acceptance of each others' foibles. I don't expect Monk and Latterly to not disagree, given their wildly divergent personalities, but the antagonism/frustration level between them feels ramped up, forced, writerly, considering that six books have passed since they've met.

I've ignored this Monk/Latterly incongruity in previous William Monk books because I hoped they would, realistically, progress in their mystery-solving relationship. Perry has, in many other books, shown that she can do realistic, interesting characters when she chooses to, so her ability to progress Monk and Latterly (as a mystery-solving, non-romantic duo) wasn't initially in doubt.

Read the Charlotte & Thomas Pitt series instead, if you're interested in realistic and interesting characters, and often excellent mysteries.

Followed by Weighed in the Balance, though I'm not sure if I'm going to read any more books in this series.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

**Jenny Catlin's Socks was published on the Microstory A Week site

A new story is up on the Microstory A Week site.

Jenny Catlin penned this week's story, Socks, a tale about a quirky serial killer.

Be sure to check this short story out, comment on it, if you're so inclined. =)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Clive Barker's Books of Blood, Volume Three, by Clive Barker


(hb; 1984: story anthology)

Overall review:

Stunning, classic anthology, this -- wow-worthy as Clive Barker's Books of Blood, Volumes One and Two. Worth owning, and re-reading a few years after your initial perusal of it.


Review, story by story:


1.) "Son of Celluloid" - Restless, collective ghosts in an old movie theater literally turn cancerous when the theater is reopened after a few decades.

Imaginative, focused and truly horrific, in a sick, film iconic way.

In 1991, Eclipse Books published a graphic novel version of this story. Steve Niles adapted Barker's story to comic book form, while Les Edwards illustrated it (the front cover is below).




2.) "Rawhead Rex" - An ancient earthbound monster, accidentally freed from its centuries-long prison, vents its divine, slaughteramic outrage on the modern day villagers of Zeal.

Grisly, nobody-is-spared, gripping piece.

The film version debuted in Italy in October 1986. It was released in the United States on April 17, 1987.

Donal McCann played Tom Garron. Kelly Piper played Elaine Hallenbeck. David Dukes played Howard Hallenbeck. Niall Toibin played Reverend Coot. Ronan Wilmot played Declan O'Brien. Niall O'Brien played Det. Insp. Isaac Gissing. Hugh O'Conor played Robbie Hallenbeck. Eleanor Feely played Jenny Nicholson. A costumed Heinrich von Schellendorf played Rawhead Rex.

George Pavlou directed the film, from a screenplay by story author Clive Barker. (Barker was reportedly unhappy with how the film turned out.)


3.) "Confessions of a (Pornographer's) Shroud" - A murdered man, now a vengeful spirit, hunts and kills those who wronged him.

Clever, quirky, imaginative, entertaining tale.


4.) "Scape-goats" - Two couples on an island-crashed sailboat quickly cognize that there's something wrong about the rocky mass their boat is abutting.

Atmospheric, solid read with an interesting island backstory.


5.) "Human Remains" - An apathetic gigolo (Gavin) rediscovers his humanity, via violence and physical detachment, when a trick goes weird.

One of the most original, genre-transcendant and unpredictable stories I've read in a long while, and perhaps the best story in this collection.

In 1989, Eclipse Books published a comic book mini-series, Tapping The Vein, that is based on Barker's writings.

P. Craig Russell adapted and illustrated "Human Remains" in issue #1 (its front cover is seen below). This issue also contains an adaptation of one of Barker's other stories, "Pig Blood Blues" (published in Clive Barker's Books of Blood, Volume One).

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

**Kyle Hemmings' Simple sister was published on the Microstory A Week site

A new story is up on the Microstory A Week site.

Kyle Hemmings penned this week's story, Simple sister, where a child's life takes dark and tragic turns.

Be sure to check this short story out, comment on it, if you're so inclined. =)

Jar City, by Arnaldur Indriđason


(hb; 2000, 2004: third* book in the Reykjavik Thriller series. Translated from the Icelandic by Bernard Scudder. . . *The first two books, Sons of Dust [1997] and Silent Kill [1998], haven't been translated from the Icelandic to English yet.)


From the inside flap:

"When a lonely old man is found murdered in his Reykjavik flat, the only clues are a cryptic note left by the killer and a photograph of a young girl's grave. Inspector Erlendur, who heads the investigation team, discovers that many years ago the victim was accused, though not convicted, of an unsolved crime. Did the old man's past come back to haunt him?

"As the team of detectives reopen this very cold case, Inspector Erlendur uncovers secrets that are much larger than the murder of one old man - secrets that have been carefully guarded by many people for many years. As he follows a fascinating trail of unusual forensic evidence, Erlendur also confronts stubborn personal conflicts that reveal his own depth and complexity of character."


Review:

Jar City is an excellent, focused police procedural with engaging (and succinctly drawn) characters, riveting action and equally riveting case-based revelations.

Comparisons between Indriđason's Reykjavik Thrillers and the ten-book Martin Beck Mysteries have been repeatedly made, and rightly so: both are reader-grabbing-from-the-git-go, character-progressive and humane reads.

Worth owning, this.

Followed by Silence of the Grave.

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The first film version was released in Iceland on October 20, 2006.

Ingvar Eggert Sigurðson, billed as Ingvar E. Sigurðson, played Erlendur. Áugústa Eva Erlendóttir played Eva Lind. Björn Hlynir Haraldsson played Sigurður Óli. Ólafía Hrönn Jónsdóttir played Elínborg. Þorstenn Gunnarsson played Holberg. Theodór Júlíusson played Elliði. Kristbjörg Kjeld played Katrín. Þórunn Magnea Magnúsdóttir played Elín. Guðmunda Elíasdóttir played Theodóra.

Baltasar Komákur directed and scripted the film.

#

An American remake is scheduled to hit theatrical screens sometime in 2012. Michael Ross is set to script the film.

When more remake information becomes available, I'll update this book review.