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.

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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.

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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.

<em>Phantom</em> by Jo Nesbø

(hb;  2011, 2012: ninth novel in the Inspector Harry Hole series. Translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett .) From the back cover...