Wednesday, May 25, 2011

**Anna's Industry got published on the Microstory A Week site

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

Anna - no last name given - penned this week's story, Industry, a dark, speculative-fiction tale about preserved humans and a teenager.

Be sure to check this story out, maybe even 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. Here's the guidelines.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Phoenix Without Ashes by Edward Bryant & Harlan Ellison


(pb; 1975)

From the back cover:

"The Starlost: 2785 A.D.

"They had banished Devon from the world of Cypress Corners because he dared to challenge the Elders. And when he defied them again, they hunted him like an animal.

"Then Devon stumbled on a secret passage in the hills. His whole life changed in that moment. For Devon had accidentally discovered the giant ark that was ferrying not only Cypress Corners but all other Earth cultures to another planet.

"What Devon did not know was that there had been a terrible accident aboard the spaceship. The gear had been damaged, the crew dead. And the ark and all its worlds were now headed straight for destruction. . ."


Review:

Phoenix is a quick-paced, no-frills, good read. Between Bryant's straightforward, engaging writing and Ellison's genre-familiar, religious-bashing storyline, this works as a fun afternoon book, with a surprising, memorable-image finish that hinted at sequel Starlost novels (which never saw publication).

This novel is worth checking out from the library or owning, if it's a cheap buy.

#

Prior to the novel, this was a 16-episode low budget television series, originally airing stateside from September 22, 1973 to January 5, 1974.

Keir Dullea played Devon. Gay Rowan played Rachel. Robin Ward played Garth. William Osler played "Host". Jim Barron played "Garth's Father". Sterling Hayden played Old Jeremiah. John Colicos played The Governor. Gillie Fenwick played Old Abraham.

Walter Koenig played Oro (in two 1973 episodes).

Harlan Ellison created the storyline, which, to Ellison's horror, went from being an eight-segment mini-series to an overblown, chintzy television series. That's why he used his pseudonym Cordwainer Bird on the series and television film credits: he didn't want his name attached to the series after executives and other show personnel had reworked the series into something shoddy, wildly different than his original vision.

This novel was Ellison's attempt to redeem, and expose his readers to, his original concept/vision.

(For more details on this, read Ellison's "Introduction: Somehow, I Don't Think We're In Kansas, Toto", which is included in the novel - it's an acerbic cautionary tale, worth your time.)

#

In 1980, The Starlost: The Beginning, aired on American television. (The first half of this film is actually the first episode of the earlier series; the rest of this film is made up of other footage from other series episodes.)

Later that year, two sequel television films, The Starlost: The Alien Oro and The Starlost: Deception, aired stateside. Like their repackaged prequel, these two films were actually re-edited/combined episodes of the original 1973 series.

#

In 2010, Phoenix Without Ashes was published as an Ellison-penned comic book series. Alan Robinson illustrated the IDW-published series.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, by John le Carré


(hb; 1974: third novel in the George Smiley series; first novel in the Karla trilogy)

From the inside flap:

"London. It has become evident beyond all question that somewhere at the very highest levels of British Intelligence there stands a double agent -- a 'mole' implanted deep in its fabric, perhaps decades ago, by Moscow Centre. And it is evident as well that he can be one of five men -- brilliant, complicated men, proven in action, men who have worked closely together through the years, respecting each other, depending on each other, despite abrasive clashes of temperament and painful differences of caste and sensibility, despite the central imperative of their profession to trust no one. . .

"It is George Smiley, one of the five, perhaps the most brilliant and complicated of them all, who is tapped to dig out the mole and destroy him. 'You'll take the job, clean the stables?' the man from Whitehall says to him. 'Go backwards, go forwards, do whatever is necessary?' And so Smiley embarks on his blind night walk, retracing path after path into his own past -- its aliases, covers, sleights of hand -- burrowing into the dust of unresolved episodes, among them the 'mad' twilight of his old chief, Control; the two Czech bullets in Jim Prideaux's back; the dissensions that have torn apart the Circus (as Intelligence Headquarters is ambivalently called); the vagaries of his own so beautiful, so well-connected wife. . ."

Review:

The shooting of a 'Circus' agent, Jim Prideaux, in Czechoslavakia exposes the existence of a high-level Russian mole inside the British agency. As he did with the murders of the previous Smiley novels, George Smiley must sift through varied and often duplicitous personalities, recorded and current conversations, and secret paperwork spanning four decades to unearth who that agent is.

And he must do it without official government approval, without alarming the mole, or his Russian controller, Karla.

Tinker is an improvement over A Murder of Quality in that le Carré's material this time out is less ponderous (i.e., not set in a stuffy English school), with larger ramifications if Smiley, reeling from multiple personal betrayals, fails.

Excellent read, worth checking out: a great set-up for the next Smiley novel, The Honourable Schoolboy.

#

The resulting television mini-series, bearing the same title, aired in England on September 10, 1979. It first aired stateside on September 29, 1980.

Alec Guinness played George Smiley. Michael Jayston played Peter Guillam. Anthony Bate played Sir Oliver Lacon. George Sewell played Mendel. Ian Richardson played Bill Haydon.

Bernard Hepton played Toby Esterhase. Hywel Bennett played Ricki Tarr. Terence Rigby played Roy Bland. Ian Bannen played Jim Prideaux. Michael Aldridge played Percy Alleline.

Alec Sabin played Fawn. Alexander Knox played Control. Duncan Jones played Roach. Daniel Beecher played Spikely.

An uncredited Patrick Stewart played Karla (aka "Gastman").

John Irvin directed the seven-episode mini-series, from a screenplay by Arthur Hopcraft.

#

A theatrical remake of the 1979 mini-series is scheduled for stateside release on November 18, 2011.

Gary Oldman played George Smiley. Mark Strong played Jim Prideaux. Tom Hardy played Ricki Tarr. Benedict Cumberbatch played Peter Guillam. Kathy Burke played Connie Sachs. David Dencik played Esterhase.

Katrina Vasilieva played Ann Smiley.

Colin Firth is listed in the film credits, but there's no character name attached to his role. Such is the case for Ciarán Hinds, also.

The film was directed by Tomas Alfredson, from a script by Bridget O'Connor and Peter Straughan.

Monday, May 16, 2011

**Several of Dani Harris' pieces were published on the Photo Prose site, March - May 2011

Dani Harris, whose prose-poetic story, Camellia, graced the Microstory A Week site last week, has had several other pieces - two stories and a poem - published on the Photograph Prose site recently.

Here's the links:

A Member of the Family

Promises

Please Exit

Sirens, by Eric Van Lustbader


(pb; 1981)

From the back cover:

"Daina Whitney is on the verge of winning an Oscar for her role in a controversial terror film. Suddenly, she finds her private life invaded by a nightmare that matches the script.

"From the shadowy corners of Manhattan to the glitter of Beverly Hills, Sirens unfolds a world of sex, passion and drugs -- a world where violence is the very essence of life, and power is the ultimate aphrodisiac."

Review:

Sirens is a noir-propulsive pot-boiler of a novel, with its hyper-intense descriptions, emotionally-agitative, perpetually sexual tone and its manipulative, often relatable characters.

Sleazy, violent, masterfully convoluted read from an excellent writer - worth checking out.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Modesty Blaise: The Gabriel Set-Up, by Peter O'Donnell & Jim Holdaway


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

From the back cover:

"Adventurer, spy, smuggler, racketeer and all-around bad girl -- that's Modesty Blaise! The cult creation of best-selling author Peter O'Donnell returns in this fantastic collection of rare and classic newspaper strips from the Evening Standard, the first volume in a new Modesty Blaise library!

"With her trusted right-hand man Willie Garvin and the underworld resources of the 'The Network' on tap, Modesty takes on the skilled killers of La Machine and battles to destroy a coven of blackmailers, proving once and for all that the female of the species is deadlier than the male."

Review:

The comic strip, which ran from 1963 to 1986 in various global newspapers, and spawned fourteen novels and two movies gets republished for the first time in many years: each chapter was written, illustrated and published as a three-frame newspaper comic strip, making this at once an enjoyably archaic and fresh read, separating it from most other graphic novels out there.

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 plot-twisty, action-packed stories contained in these Modesty volumes.

This well-drawn, well-written volume contains two thoughtful, well-researched introductions ("Blaise of Glory" by Mike Paterson and "Girl Walking", where Modesty creator/author Peter O'Donnell explains where the real-life impetus for Modesty originated); it also contains the stories: "La Machine", "The Long Lever" and The Gabriel Set-Up". Each story also gets a brief, half-page introduction from O'Donnell, where he reveals tidbits about the creation of each story.

Worth owning, this.

Followed by Modesty Blaise: Mister Sun.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

**Dani Harris' Camellia 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, Camellia, a sensual, mood-suffusive, prose-poetic work.

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



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

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Adventures of Lord Iffy Boatrace, by Bruce Dickinson


(pb; 1990, 1992: prequel to The Missionary Position)

From the back cover:

"When the ancestral fortune dries up, there's only one solution for Lord Iffy Boatrace, destitute, transvestite Laird of Findidnann, and his faithful butler, Butler. A wheeze to squeeze every last drop of cash out of those old school chums who'd done everything they could to forget him. . .

"Come in Brian Taylor and your voluptuous, insatiable wife; yucky yuppy perfect couple Mark and Cynthia; bumbling beefcake bozo Roderick Morte D' Arthur Tennison!

"Upper class twits, the lot of them. Ripe for the picking. And drawn by the short and curlies to Findidnann Hall. . ."

Review:

This manic-paced, audaciously lusty and zany-literate sex romp is one of the funniest books I've ever read; there are so many off-color quotable lines that I was laughing at pretty much every page of this 150-page novel.

Politically correct folk will want to avoid this out of print book, which sports a Sir Arthur Conan Doyle/The Hound of the Baskervilles plot structure: Boatrace unabashedly and pithily skewers music critics, English aristocracy, feminists, racial stereotypes, vegetarianism, and other social elements.

While reading this, I imagined this as A Shot in the Dark-era Blake Edwards film (whose screenplay was co-authored by William Peter Blatty): this book is that erudite and uproarious.

Worth owning, if you appreciate raunchy, quick-witted and -plotted humor, and/or Dickinson's heavy metal endeavors.

Followed by The Missionary Position.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Batman: Gotham After Midnight, by Steve Niles & Kelley Jones


(pb - graphic novel; 2008)

"Gotham City after dark is a dangerous place.

"Gotham City after Midnight is Hell on Earth.

"There's a new kind of madman loose in Gotham and he's out to steal the city's heart. The monstrosity named Midnight is convinced he's doing Batman's job, only better than Batman ever could.

"As the city descends into madness, it's Batman's duty to stop Midnight, but the newcomer has manipulated an exceptionally unstable Joker, a giant Clayface and others into destroying the Dark Knight for him!

"Can Batman restore peace to a city that's growing colder and more heartless by the minute? Or have the people forsaken their patron protector to live in the shadow of Midnight's perpetual terror?

"Masters of the macabre Steve Niles (30 Days of Night, Simon Dark) and Kelley Jones (Batman and Dracula: Red Rain) bring you a heart-stopping mystery beating within the darkest corners of Gotham City."

Review:

This efficacious blend of computer-style art, 1930s pulp and 1970s EC/Creepy-style gothic-schlock atmosphere may appeal to afficionados of the aforementioned elements.

Between Niles' off-beat, quick-moving, horror-veracious writing and Jones' equally off-beat, Creepy-recalling stylings, this is a fun, cheesy-villainous, fresh take on Batman, one that's familiar enough to not alienate longtime Batman traditionalists, and different enough to be its own metropolis-of-darkness beast.

Worth owning, this.

(Quick note: if you're a fan of Jones' artwork, check out his 1997-1998 comic book mini-series and one-shots, The Hammer, which simultaneously, over the course of countless re-reads, sent chills down my spine and made me laugh. . . Inconveniently, the 9-single issue comics that comprise these four stories haven't been anthologized into a single graphic novel.)

This is the first-ever issue of The Hammer:

Friday, May 06, 2011

A Murder of Quality, by John le Carré

(hb; 1962, 1963: second novel in the George Smiley series)

From the inside flap:

"George Smiley reveals that behind his 'breathtakingly ordinary' exterior there lies a razor-sharp mind as he tackles this bizarre case: a murder has taken place in one of England's leading public schools - a murder that was forecast by the victim."

Review:

Smiley, clever as ever, puzzles out the vicious murder of an unpopular woman in a stuffy British school where gossip and hinted-at resentments run unchecked.

Chatty, sometimes frustrating, lead-up - given its milieu and characters, it's appropriate - with a stunning, sly wrap-up.

Worthwhile read, if you don't mind characters who are full of themselves, and hung up on rigid class distinctions.

Followed, in a loosely-connected fashion, by Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, the first novel of the Karla Trilogy.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

**Nick Nicholson's Sydney 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, Sydney, the seventh 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 somewhere other than their blogs. Here's the guidelines.

Monday, May 02, 2011

The Cry of the Owl, by Patricia Highsmith

(hb; 1962)

From the back cover:

"[The Cry of the Owl] begins with an act of naïve voyeurism. Robert Forester, a depressed but fundamentally decent man, liked to watch Jenny through her kitchen window -- a harmless palliative, as he saw it, to his lonely life and failed marriage. As he is drawn into her life, however, recriminations of his simple pleasure shatter the deceptive calm of this small Pennsylvania town. With striking clarity and horrible inevitability, Forester is caught up in a series of deaths in which he is the innocent bystander, presumed guilty. . ."


Review:

This plot- and writing-taut, unsettling thriller about a socially maladaptive man who gets bound up in an ever-worsening - and increasingly violent - cycle of paranoia, isolation and murders is near-impossible to set down. Highsmith's masterful trademark elements - oddball/unpopular protagonists, mounting unease and social violence, and, often, resulting corpses - is on full display here, making this an excellent read.

Sad, memorable, echoes-real-life work. Worth checking out.



Three film versions have resulted from this novel.

The first version, Der Shrei der Eule, aired on German television in 1987.

Matthias Habich played Robert. Birgit Doll played Johanna. Jacques Breuer played Karl. Fritz Lichtenhahn played Lippenholtz. Doris Kunstmann played Vicky. Roger Fritz played Ralph. Gernot Endeman played Jakob. Hans Christian Blech played Dr. Knapp.

Tom Toelle directed the film, from a screenplay by Peter Märthesheimer and Pea Fröhlich.



The second version, bearing the same title as the novel, was released in France on October 28, 1987. It was released stateside on October 16, 1991.

Claude Chabrol directed the film, from a script he co-authored with Odile Barski.

Christophe Malavoy played Robert. Mathilde May played Juliette. Jacque Penot played Patrick. Jean-Pierre Kalfon played "Police Commissioner". Virginie Thévenet played Véronique. Patrice Kerbrat played Marcello. Jean-Claude Lecas played Jacques. Agnès Denèfle played Suzie. Isabelle Charraix played Mme Tessier. Gille Dreu played M. Tessier.



The third version, also bearing its source novel's title, was released in Germany on February 7, 2009. It was released stateside on March 12, 2010.

Paddy Considine played Robert Forester. Julia Stiles played Jenny Thierolf. James Gilbert played Greg Wyncoop. Caroline Dhavernas played Nickie Grace. Gord Rand played Jack Nielson. Charlotte Sullivan played Sally Nielson.

Jennifer Kydd played Susie Escham. Karl Pruner played Mr. Jaffe. R.D. Reid played Mr. Kolbe. Marcia Laskowski played "Nickie's Lawyer". Phillip Mackenzie played "Lavigne Client".

Jamie Thraves scripted and directed the film.