Saturday, April 30, 2011

Down A Dark Alley, by Will Viharo


(pb; 1992, 2010)

From the back cover:

"Down A Dark Alley is a torrid tale exploding with raw romance, savage sex, voluptuous violence, mirthful mayhem and delirious decadence as a sorry sap takes a breathless cross-country walk on the wild side with a ferocious femme fatale, desperately trying to escape a chaotic past and facing an uncertain future. This is hardboiled but heartfelt neo-pulp fiction for fearless dreamers."

Review:

The novel's back-cover description (seen above) is dead-on: this fast, loose and joyously dirty shoot-'em-up neo-noir work both updates and honors the noir genre while infusing it with classic cinematic elements and our current political climate.

If you're a fan of sex, noir, crime or action writing, this, like his first book (Love Stories Are Too Violent For Me), is a book worth owning - and turning into a film.

Will has other books out, too - you can check them out at Lulu.com and Amazon.com.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Jesus' Son, by Denis Johnson



(pb; 1992: story anthology)

From the back cover:

"Jesus' Son, the first collection of stories by Denis Johnson, presents a unique, hallucinatory vision of contemporary American life unmatched in power and immediacy and marks a new level of achievement for this acclaimed writer. In their intensity of perception, their neon-lit evocation of a strange world brought uncomfortably close to our own, the stories in Jesus' Son offer a disturbing yet eerily beautiful portrayal of American loneliness and hope."

Review:

Jesus's Son is a raw-nerve, febrile-intense "fractured novel" anthology that takes place during the early 1970s, where a heroin addict (nicknamed "F**khead") narrates his largely-unfortunate relationships (which often result in overdoses, gunshot wounds, pregnancy and car crashes), as well as his eventual attempts to "get clean."

Beautiful, situationally harsh, darkly funny, sensitive and stunning work.

One of the best story anthologies I've ever read, this. Worth owning, if you like elegiac, poetic and gritty writing.



The film version, bearing the same title as its source anthology, was released stateside on June 16, 2000.

Billy Crudup played FH (aka "F**khead"). Robert Michael Kelly played "Salesman". Samantha Morton played Michelle. Steve Buck played Richard. Brooke Rachel Shive, billed as Brooke Shive, played Beatle. Mark Webber played Jack Hotel. Michael Shannon, billed as Mike Shannon, played Dundun. Ben Shenkman played Tom. Scott Oster played Stan. John Ventimiglia played McInnes.

Jack Black played Georgie. Denis Leary played Wayne. Will Patton played John Smith. Greg Germann played Dr. Shanis. Miranda July played "Black-Eyed Nurse". Dennis Hopper played Bill. Holly Hunter played Mira. Alan Davidson played Snakeskin.

Alison Maclean directed the film, from a script by David Urrutia, Oren Moverman and Elizabeth Cuthrell (who also played a "Diner Waitress" in the film).

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

**Nick Nicholson's Santiago published on the Microstory A Week site

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

Nick Nicholson penned this week's story, Santiago, the sixth part of his multi-character, loosely-linked eight-part series that traverses various themes and continents.

Be sure to check this 200-word story out, maybe even comment on it, if you're so inclined. =)



I am in serious need of new story for the Microstory site, if you or anyone you know is looking to get published. Here's the guidelines.

Oktoberfest, by Frank De Felitta



(pb; 1973)

From the back cover:

"This was no ordinary Oktoberfest.

"The 16-day Munich celebration was usually a time of hedonistic abandon and sexual reverlry. But his year was different. This year there was a deranged killer on the loose, hacking his victims to death with a meat cleaver.

"Fear and terror were spreading like wildfire through the city when Police Inspector Bauer tackled the case. As he followed the murderer's bloody trail. Bauer developed a very bizarre theory, one he had to pursue, even if it took him to Paris, to Israel. . . and to Hell."

Review:

Compelling, fast-moving, grim (largely because of its haunted-by-Nazi-history setting) and straight-forward crime thriller. There's no frivolity in this novel, only horror, history and, for some of the characters, small semblances of redemption.

Good read, worth your time. Check it out.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Unfamiliar Fishes, by Sarah Vowell

(hb; 2011: non-fiction)

From the inside flap:

"Many think of 1776 as the most defining year of American history, the year we became a nation devoted to the pursuit of happiness through self-government. In Unfamiliar Fishes, Sarah Vowell argues that 1898 might be a year just as crucial to our nation's identity, when, in an orgy of imperialism, the United States annexed Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Guam, and invaded Cuba, and then the Phillipines, becoming a meddling, self-serving, militaristic international superpower practically overnight.

"Of all the countries the United States invaded or colonized in 1898, Vowell considers the story of the Americanization of Hawaii to be the most intriguing. From the arrival of the New England missionaries in 1820, who came to Christianize the local heathen, to the coup d'état led by the missionaries' sons in 1893, overthrowing the Hawaiian queen, the events leading up to American annexation feature a cast of beguiling if often appalling or tragic characters. Whalers who will fire cannons at the Bible-thumpers denying them their god-given right to whores. An incestuous princess pulled between her new god and her brother-husband. Sugar barons, con men, Theodore Roosevelt, and the last Hawaiian queen, a songwriter whose sentimental ode 'Aloha 'Oe' serenaded the first Hawaiian-born president of the United States during his 2009 inaugural parade.

"With Vowell's trademark wry insights and reporting, she lights out to discover the odd, emblematic, and exceptional history of the fiftieth state. In examining the place where Manifest Destiny got a sunburn, she finds America again, warts and all."


Review:

Sad, informative and theme-familiar (for Vowell's return readers) non-fiction book about how con men, American patriots, corporations and missionaries illegally forced Hawaii into the American statehood, in the process stripping the islands' denizens of their rich, long-standing culture.

Vowell's writing, moving quickly through events, personalities and their long-term consequences, educates, amuses, infuriates and astounds.

Excellent read, this: it's heavier, stylistically and subject-wise, than The Partly Cloudy Patriot and Assassination Vacation.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

**Richard Cody's story, The Thing on the Beach, published in Eclectic Flash magazine

Richard Cody, an all-around excellent writer/poet, just had one of his stories, The Thing on the Beach, published in the latest issue of Eclectic Flash magazine - it's on pages 104 - 106.

The story's a mix of H.P. Lovecraft, sea monstrousness and oceanic/environmental concern, lensed through a G-rated filter.

Loved this piece!

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

**Nick Nicholson's Rotterdam published on the Microstory A Week site

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

Nick Nicholson penned this week's story, Rotterdam, the fifth part of his multi-character, loosely-linked eight-part series that traverses various themes and continents.

Be sure to check this 200-word story out, maybe even comment on it, if you're so inclined. =)



I am in serious need of new story for the Microstory site, if you or anyone you know is looking to get published. Here's the guidelines.

Monday, April 04, 2011

The Black Train, by Edward Lee


(pb; 2009)

From the back cover:

"Welcome to the Gast House.

"A historic bed and breakfast. . . or a monument to evil and obscenity? Justin Collier didn't know the house's lurid, shocking history when he arrived for a relaxing stay. He knew nothing about the train tracks that run behind the house, or that they once led to a place worse then hell. But he's learning. . .

"At night he can hear the mansion whisper. He hears little girls giggling where they are no little girls. And if he listens closely he can hear the haunting whistle of the train and the cries of the things chained in its prison cars. Each room of the house holds another appalling secret, but the great secret of all rides the Black Train."

Review:

When Justin Collier comes to Gast, Tennessee, a town with an especially violent and sick past, he has no idea what he's in for. He checks into a landmark, immediately creepy hotel (Branch Landing Inn, haunted by its previous owner, Harwood Gast, a Civil War-era plantation owner with a penchant for depravity, cruelty and slaughter, and his slightly less depraved family - a rapacious nymphomaniac wife and her two like-minded teenage daughters.

Lee's works joyously, unabashedly traffic - heck, revel - in b-movie grue, lust and other social taboos, and The Black Train is no exception. Those who find Stephen King or Dean Koontz "shocking" (as one of my friends claims they are) probably won't enjoy this gleefully gory, sometimes sexually explicit work: this is not a read for the faint of heart.

There's not a lot of plot twists here, but this is a fun, nasty and twisted blast of a b-movie novel (which screams to be shot as a film), that put me in the mindset of Herschell Gordon Lewis' Two Thousand Maniacs! - only with (slightly) smarter characters and a more salacious tone.

Good read, this, if you're a b-movie buff, looking for a grisly demonic thrill ride.



There is one film out right now, based on Lee's work: a lower-budget, above-average Header (2006).

Header is a hillbillies-from-Hell sexually nasty work that's liable to put off anybody who cringes at brutal meldings of libido, revenge and humanity-based horrors.

If you see it, make sure to watch for Edward Lee's cameo as "State Trooper #1", as well as a cameo by Lee's real-life friend and fellow horror writer, Jack Ketchum, as "State Trooper #2".