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.

#

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. =)

#

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.

#

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

<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...