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.