Friday, July 29, 2011

LZ-'75: The Lost Chronicles of Led Zeppelin's 1975 American Tour, by Stephen Davis


(hb; 2010: rock 'n' roll memoir)

From the inside flap:

"As a young music journalist in 1975, Stephen Davis got the opportunity of a lifetime: an invitation to cover for a national magazine the sold-out 1975 North American tour of Led Zeppelin, the biggest and most secretive rock band in the world. He received a backstage pass, was granted interviews with band members, and even got a prized seat on the band's luxurious tour jet, the Starship. While on duty, he chronicled the Zeppelin tour in three notebooks, but after writing his article in 1975, he misplaced them. After three decades of searching, in 2005 he finally found the notebooks, on the covers of which he had scribbled the words LZ-'75, and unearthed loads of new information from the tour.

"In LZ-'75, Davis offers an unseen look at a pivotal year in the life of the band that includes lost interviews with canny vocalist Robert Plant and the brilliant guitarist Jimmy Page; information on the rock icon who moonlighted as a heroin dealer; revelations about the identity of the lover Robert Plant sings about in 'What Is and What Should Never Be' and 'Black Country Woman'; a detailed chronicle of each performance from a musical perspective and a vivid account of the band members' extravagant, and often troubled, lives on tour."

Review:

Excellent, near-impossible-to-set-down memoir of life on the road with one of the more hedonistic bands of the Seventies - LZ-'75 is an indispensible companion book to Davis' Hammer of the Gods: The Led Zeppelin Saga.

Worth owning, this, if you're a fan of Led Zeppelin or bands of their ilk.

Bestial, by Ray Garton


(pb; 2009: crossover sequel to Night Life and Ravenous)

From the back cover:

"Something very strange is happening in the coastal California town of Big rock. Several residents have died in unexplained, particularly brutal ways, many torn apart in animal attacks. And there's always that eerie howling late at night. . .

"You might think there's a werewolf in town. But you'd be wrong. It's not just one werewolf, but the whole town that's gradually transforming. Bit by bit, as the infection spreads, the werewolves are becoming more and moe powerful. In fact, humans may soon be the minority, mere prey for their hungry neighbors. Is it too late for the humans to fight back? Did they ever have a chance from the start?"

Review:

Excellent follow-up to Night Life and Ravenous, one that's better than its predecessors.

Karen Moffett and Gavin Keoph, the investigators from Night Life, check out the disappearances and "animal attacks" in Big Rock, at the behest of best-selling horror researcher/author Martin Burgess (also a key character in Night Life).

When they get there, they quickly discover that Big Rock is a bad place to be, if you're not a werewolf.

Garton varies up the plot structure of Bestial, to its benefit: in abandoning the attack/rape/werewolf-out focus-structure of Ravenous (which was a set-up novel), and melding it with the investigative tone of Live Girls and Night Life, he's elevated this 'werewolves in Big Rock' offering to new cinematic, humorous and engrossing heights.

Garton's penchant for reads-like-real-life, open-ended finishes is once again in evidence in Bestial - I have little doubt that another werewolf sequel may find its way to publication soon.

Check this out.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

**Dani Harris' Bugged 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, Bugged, a story about a woman and the curious effect insects have on her.

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

Monday, July 25, 2011

Marlene: A Personal Biography, by Charlotte Chandler


(hb; 2011: biography)

From the inside flap:

"In the mid-1970s Charlotte Chandler spoke with Marlene Dietrich in Dietrich's Paris apartment. The star's career was all but over, but she agreed to meet because Chandler hadn't known Dietrich earlier, 'when I was young and very beautiful.' Dietrich may have been retired, but her appearance and her celebrity - her famous mystique - were as important to her as ever.

"Marlene Dietrich. . . began her career in her native Berlin as a model, then a stage and screen actress during the silent era, becoming a star with the international success of The Blue Angel. Then, under the watchful eye of the director of that film, her mentor Josef von Sternberg, she came to America and became one of the brightest stars in Hollywood. She made a series of acclaimed pictures - Morocco, Shanghai Express, Blonde Venus, Destry Rides Again, among others - that propelled her to international stardom. With the outbreak of World War II, the fiercely anti-Nazi Dietrich became an American citizen and entertained Allied troops on the front lines. After the war she embarked on a new career as a stage performer, and with her young music director, Burt Bacharach - whom Chandler interviewed for the book - Dietrich had an outstanding career.

"Dietrich spoke candidly with Chandler about her unconventional private life: although she never divorced her husband, Rudi Sieber, she had numerous well-publicized affairs with his knowledge (and he had a longtime mistress with her approval). By the late 1970s, plagued by accidents, Dietrich had become a virtual recluse in her Paris apartment, communicating with the outside world almost entirely by telephone.

"Marlene Dietrich lived an extraordinary life, and Marlene relies extensively on the star's own words to reveal how intriguing and fascinating that life really was."

Review:

Solid book, much of it in the subject's own words, about an iconic, at-times tempestuous and brave actress.

Worth checking out, if you're a fan of Dietrich's.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Ravenous, by Ray Garton


(pb; 2008: prequel to Bestial)

From the back cover:

"A corpse gets up and walks out of the hospital morgue. Minutes later, a policeman is killed outside the same hospital... and partially eaten. Something deadly has come to the coastal California town of Big Rock - something that's leaving mangled and devoured bodies in its wake.

"Sheriff Arlin Hurley refursed to believe the wild talk of werewolves. Then a tuft of wolf's fur was found on one of the victims. But there's more than one werewolf on the prowl. It's quickly becoming an epidemic curse passed on not through blood but through sex. As the sheriff and his men set out to stop the spreading terror, they'll learn that many of the old werewolf legends are just myths. The reality is far worse."

Review:

Ravenous is a solid, sprint-paced and entertaining moon, fur & fang work, chock full of Garton's trademark sex, blood and violence, shot through with a streak of macabre humor. The action in this novel is just as brutal as that of his vampire novels (Live Girls, Night Life), but the flesh-ripping is infinitely more savage this time out.

Enjoyable, late night, genre-true werewolf read.

Followed by Bestial.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Last Train to Deadsville: A Cal McDonald Mystery, by Steve Niles & Kelley Jones


(pb; 2004, 2005: graphic novel, which "collects the four-issue series Last Train to Deadsville - A Cal McDonald Mystery, published by Dark Horse Comics." Introduction by Tom Jane)

From the back cover:

"When a demonically possessed teen redneck shows up on his doorstep, detective of the weird Cal McDonald hardly bats an eye. After all, in recent history he's battled a brain-sucking misanthrope, sent a perverted corpse-mangler up the river, and squashed a monster conspiracy to take over the world - all with the help of only his living dead sidekick [Mo'lock!] and an unhealthy appetite for intoxicants.

"Cal knows that the mulleted mook on his porch isn't anything to worry about. But the sex-crazed succubus the poor, horny kid summoned in a love spell gone wrong - she's a problem. Especially now that she's turned the entire male population of the kid's hometown into a throng of murderous monsters who are willing to do whatever the she-beast desires. As if that wasn't enough to deal with for a day, an even greater evil rears its head when Cal's girlfriend starts hinting at commitment. Demonic possession? That Cal can handle. . . but a demanding girlfriend? Cal's definitely over his head this time."

Review:

Niles' humorous, flip-scripting homage to horror and noir is just as exemplary and engrossing, if not more so, than its predecessor, Criminal Macabre: A Cal McDonald Mystery.

The reason for this improvement lies not only with Niles, but also with his change of artists: this time it's Kelley Jones, whose classic-with-new-influences work I prefer to Ben Templesmiths' too-murky/sketchy style, who brings Niles' shadowy, sometimes icky visions to vivid life. Also, I'm an admirer of any writer/artist who avoids a 'sophomoric slump' in their work - Niles has not only done that with Train, but his expansion on his characters' personalities opens up fertile avenues for future Cal McDonald stories.

Wonderfully EC/Creepy-esque and chuckle-worthy read from Niles and Jones; and, again, worth owning.

Followed by a at least five other Cal McDonald graphic novels, as well as three Cal McDonald novels, all penned by Steve Niles.

Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction, by Patricia Highsmith


(pb; 1983: non-fiction)

From the back cover:

"Patricia Highsmith, author of Strangers on a Train, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Found in the Street, and many other books, is known as one of the finest suspense novelists. In this book, she analyzes the key elements of suspense fiction, drawing upon her own experience in four decades as a working writer. Among other topics, she talks about: how to develop a complete story from an idea; what makes a plot gripping; the use (and abuse) of coincidence; characterization and the 'likable criminal'; going from first draft to final draft; and writing the suspense short story.

"Throughout the book, Highsmith illustrates her points with plentiful examples from her own work, and by discussing her own inspirations, false starts, dead ends, successes, and failures, she presents a lively and highly readable picture of the novelist at work..."

Review:

Reading this is like having a practical-focus, friendly chat with an ego-eschewing writer who's had a wide array of writing experiences, good and bad, and is willing to share them with us, the reading audience.

Excellent read, not only for the above qualities, but for the fact that Highsmith, like any smart writer, acknowledges that each author's process and style is individual - a fact that she notes a few times in Plotting.

I'd recommend this book to writers of any genre, because much of the advice Highsmith offers, as far as publishing and preparation is concerned, applies to most, if not all, writing genres.

Worth owning, this.

Criminal Macabre: A Cal McDonald Mystery, by Steve Niles & Ben Templesmith


(pb; 2004: graphic novel, which "collects the five-issues series, Criminal Macabre - A Cal McDonald Mystery, as well as a short story from Drawing Your Nightmares, published by Dark Horse Comics." Introduction by Rob Zombie)

From the back cover:

"Recently relocated to Los Angeles, hard-living investigator of the weird Cal McDonald finds himself in police custody, implicated in a case that's beyond bizarre - even by Cal's standards.

"Cal has seen it all, done it all.. . shot, stabbed, killed, maimed, drank, snorted and smoked it all. Yet nothing he could injure or ingest could prepare this occult private dick for the unimaginable weirdness that confronts him when he's called to investigate a local vampire sighting, and finds himself smack-dab in the middle of a monster summit. Never in the history of the weird have monsters willingly joined forces before, which signals to Cal that something big and nasty is brewing under the sunny skies of Los Angeles. Add a seemingly random rash of murders and institutional break-ins to this mad monster mash, and you've got one of the ballsiest horror stories you'll ever lay eyes on. Lock and load - it's time to see what's up with all this Criminal Macabre, the latest graphic-novel adventure from the creative team that brought you the break-out hit comic of 2002, 30 Days of Night.

Review:

Inventive, noir- and horror-veracious work that playfully flips the script on those genres while paying homage to them.

I love the writing, the pacing, plotting, occasional plot wrinkles and the strong, unintentionally quirky characters (e.g., Mo'lock, a friendly ghoul); the artwork is servicable (aside from the wow-worthy bright red/orange/splash-page-ish action scenes) - I'm not a fan of Templesmith's artwork, though it suits the story (up to a point) and isn't entirely off-putting.

Worth owning, this.

Followed by Last Train to Deadsville: A Cal McDonald Mystery.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

**MorningAJ's Earwig was published on the Microstory A Week site

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

MorningAJ penned this week's story, Earwig, a tale about a prison inmate and his unfortunate habits.

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

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Darker Corners, by Richard Cody


(pb; 2010: horror anthology)

From the back cover:

"In these pages you will meet vampires, murderers, children and others who know where the shadows go.

"This expanded edition of Darker Corners pulls six new tales of dark wonder into the light.

"Read at your own risk. Some things are better left unseen."


OVERALL REVIEW:

This fourteen-story anthology is formed by impressive, taut tales that incorporates clever twists and elements into familiar horror-genre scenarios, with wonderfully nuanced results.

All the microfiction-ish stories in this anthology work. This is a worthwhile purchase.


STANDOUT STORIES:

1.) "A Night at the Games": A stage performer puts on a life-changing show. Short, sharp, effective statement about what constitutes entertainment and humanity.


2.) "Tales of Mercy": The denizens of a small town react differently to a strange "oily rain" that falls from the sky and the equally strange creature that appears in their midst. Odd, spooky, interesting.


3.) "The Language of the Dead": Fun EC/Creepy magazine-evocative piece about a mystical tome, zombies and revenge.


4.) "Newlywed": Marital unease takes on a whole new meaning in this H.P. Lovecraftian story about a culinary accident and its unfortunate, horrifying result. Good, tight write that effortlessly recalls and updates the dread-tones of Lovecraft's work.


5.) "Down By the River, in the Pale Moonlight": Melancholic, clever, effective tale about a birthday reunion that indicates an even more disturbing future.


6.) "Darkness Falls - The River": A post-global apocalypse couple struggle to survive in the wilderness. Excellent, hopeful work.


7.) "Darkness Falls - City Life": Involving, sad story about the further social effects of the forty day-forty night apocalypse that was touched upon in "Darkness Falls - The River".


8. and 9.) "The Interview" & "Idle Hands": The reputedly Satanic history of a youthful rock star, Johnny Moon, is recounted and illustrated from different angles in these character-connected, shuddery and laugh-out-loud bizarre tales.


10.) "The Morning After": A dream-murder turns more surreal when the murderer's regrettable actions and truths are visited upon him. Sly, admirable piece.


OTHER STORIES: "The Homely Child"; "Since the First Day of Our Acquaintance"; "Mary's Place"; "The Black Jelly"

Darker Corners, as well as Richard's two poem anthologies, The Jewel in the Moment and This Is Not My Heart, can be purchased at Lulu.com.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The People of the Black Circle, by Robert E. Howard


(hb; 1977: second book in a four-book fantasy/horror anthology series, edited by Karl Edward Wagner & supervised by Glenn Lord)

From the inside flap:

"The People of the Black Circle is the second volume in the authorized edition of [the] Conan [the Barbarian quadrilogy] edited by Karl Edward Wagner and supervised by Glenn Lord, trustee of Robert E. Howard's estate. The People of the Black Circle assembles. . . Howard's novellas 'The Devil in Iron,' 'The People of the Black Circle,' 'A Witch Shall Be Born,' and 'Jewels of Gwahlur,' which first appeared in Weird Tales [magazine] during the flowering of the pulps in the 1930s.

"In 'The Devil in Iron,' the first novella in The People of the Black Circle, Conan journeys to the kingdom of Turan, where he is betrayed by the king, lured by Octavia, the beautiful slave girl, and forced to flee into an eerie subterranean realm. there he wages deadly battle with Khel, the monster whose human body is made of iron.

"In 'The People of the Black Circle,' Conan battles the mountain-dwelling Seers of the Black Circle, powerful sorcerers who threaten the kingdom of Vendhya. their leader and master, the magician of Yimsha, uses black magic to enslave Conan. In a thrilling climax, Conan's strength and the magician's power are pitted in winged combat.

" 'A Witch Shall Be Born' follows Conan's adventures against the forces of Salome, the witch-queen of Khauran, and the reptilian monster she commands. In 'Jewels of Gwahlur,' Conan's goal is the legendary Teeth of Gwahlur, a cache of gems in the ghost city of Alkmeenon. Man-apes, priests and the forces of evil clash in an epic battle in which Conan must choose between the jewels and a beautiful slave girl."

Review:

This four-book series republished the Conan stories, in the order in which they were originally published in Weird Tales magazine. The four novellas in this second volume were published between 1934 and 1935.

Howard's vivid, brutal, overheated and sexist/xenophobic sword & sorcery fare is on full display here, within the intense and fantastical scope of these Conan tales.

"The Devil in Iron" is a good, engrossing read; the two middle tales, "The People of the Black Circle" and "A Witch Shall Be Born," are the best of these stories, plot-twisty, character- and action-intense and incredibly inspired; the last tale, "Jewels of Gwahlur," is the least-inspired work of the bunch - it reads like a tired retread of Howard's more spirited and freshly imaginative pieces.

Excellent collection of tales, overall.

Followed by Red Nails.

#

"The Devil in Iron" was "freely adapted" into comic book form in issue #15 of The Savage Sword of Conan, by Roy Thomas (writer), John Buscema and Alfredo Alcala. This magazine was published by Marvel Comics in October 1976; it was republished in expanded, graphic novel form (The Savage Sword of Conan Volume Two) by Dark Horse Books in March 2008.

That same graphic novel also featured an adaptation of "The People of the Black Circle". The comic book version of this story originally appeared in issue #16 of The Savage Sword of Conan in December 1976. It was illustrated by Roy Thomas (writer), John Buscema and Alfredo Alcala. (The cover for the 2008 graphic novel, illustrated by Boris Vallejo, follows this review.)

#

Conan, the character, inspired the film Conan the Barbarian, which was released stateside on May 14, 1982.

Arnold Schwarzenegger played Conan. James Earl Jones played Thulsa Doom (a character who's scheduled to be the titular character of a 2012-release film). Sandahl Bergman played Valeria. Max von Sydow played King Osiric.

Ben Davidson played Rexor. Mako played Akiro/"The Wizard/Narrator". Valérie Quennessen played "The Princess". William Smith played "Conan's Father". Jack Taylor played "Priest". Cassandra Gava, billed as Cassandra Gaviola, played "The Witch". Gerry Lopez played Subotai.

An uncredited John Milius, who directed the film, played "Foodseller in the Old City". Milius co-scripted the film with Oliver Stone, from a story by an uncredited Edward Summer.

#

A lackluster, kid-friendly, comedic sequel, Conan the Destroyer, was released stateside on June 29, 1984.

#

A reboot/remake of Conan the Barbarian is scheduled for stateside release on August 19, 2011.

Jason Momoa played Conan. Rachel Nichols played Tamara. Stephen Lang played Khalar Zym. Rose McGowan played Marique. Saïd Taghmaoui played Ela-Shan. Ron Perlman played Corin.

Leo Howard played "Young Conan". Katarzyna Wolejnio played Valeria. An uncredited Shelly Varod played "Student Nun".

Marcus Nispel directed the film, from a screenplay by Thomas Dean Donnelly, Joshua Oppenheimer and Sean Hood.

Night Life, by Ray Garton


(pb; 2005, 2007: sequel to Live Girls)

From the back cover:

"Davey Owen is a man with a death sentence. Nearly twenty years and a lifetime ago, Davey battled a circle of vampires and survived. . . forever changed. many of the vampires were destroyed, but the ones who escaped who have been hunting Davey ever since. Now they've found him. The passing years have only intensified their thirst for revenge, and at last their prey is within sight. They will make sure that this time he does not escape. They will not rest until Davey pays for what he did to them. With his last drop of blood."

Review:

Blunt, sometimes fun but seriously flawed sequel to Live Girls.

There are admirable flashes of wow-that's-brutal horroriffics and fast-paced plotting, but at key points his main characters - Davey and Casey - suffer from repeated Plot Convenient Stupid Moments (aka PCSM), which makes this a so-so read. (These PCSMs weren't particularly plot-twisty or complicated; if Garton wanted to place Davey and Casey in certain situations, a few sentences could've put them there, without the characters coming off as idiots.)

At best, this is made-for-cable C-movie read: not a waste of time, just don't expect much from it.

Planet of the Apes, by Pierre Boulle


(hb; 1963; translated from French by Xan Fielding)

Review:

In the year 2500, human astronaut Ulysse Mérou and his two fellow scientist/astronauts discover and investigate an Earthlike planet at another end of the universe (a "region of space where the supergigantic star Betelgeuse - or Alpha Orionis, as our astronomers called it, reigned supreme. . . about three hundred light-years distant from [Earth]").

What they discover is more than an Earth-turned-on-its-evolutionary-head world - and that's just the beginning of the shocks, many of which are different than the cinematic versions that were spawned from this novel.

Apes is a solid, tightly-written short read that makes its seemingly implausible premise not only plausible, but almost inevitable, within the confines of Boulle's landmark science fiction logic.

Worthwhile read, this.

#

Planet was released stateside as a film on April 3, 1968.

Charlton Heston played Colonel George Taylor [the film equivalent of Ulysse Mérou]. Roddy McDowall played Cornelius. Kim Hunter played Dr. Zira. Linda Harrison played Nova.

Maurice Evans played Dr. Zaius - Minister of Science. James Whitmore played President of the Assembly. Robert Gunner played Landon. Lou Wagner played Lucius.

Franklin J. Schaffner directed the film from a script co-authored by Michael Wilson and Rod Serling.

#

Sequels followed: Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970); Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971); Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972); Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973).

#

In 1974, a fourteen-episode television series, Planet of the Apes aired stateside.

A year later, an animated television series, Return to the Planet of the Apes, aired stateside - it ran for thirteen episodes before getting cancelled.

In 1981, a live-action television movie, Back to the Planet of the Apes - actually two episodes of the 1974 series (Planet of the Apes) edited together - aired on American television.

#

A theatrical remake of the original film, Planet of the Apes, was released stateside on July 27, 2001.

Mark Wahlberg played Captain Leo Davidson. Evan Parke played Gunnar. Helena Bonham Carter played Ari. Estella Warren played Daena. Lisa Marie played Nova.

Tim Roth played Thade. An uncredited Charlton Heston, in a species role reversal, played "Zaius - Thade's Father".

Michael Clarke Duncan played Attar. Paul Giamatti played Limbo. Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa played Krull.

Kris Kristofferson played Karubi. David Warner played Sandar. Erick Avari played Tival. Anne Ramsay played Lt. Col. Grace Alexander. Michael Jace played Major Frank Santos.

Famous cinematic make-up artist Rick Baker played "Old Ape #2". An uncredited Jesse Kristofferson, son of Kris Kristofferson, played a "Starving Human".

Tim Burton directed the film, from a script by William Broyles Jr., Lawrence Konner and Mark Rosenthal.

#

Rise of the Planet of the Apes - a prequel to the original Planet of the Apes - is scheduled for stateside release on August 5, 2011.

James Franco played Will Rodman. Andy Serkis played Caesar. Freida Pinto played Caroline. John Lithgow played Charles Rodman.

Brian Cox played John Landon. Tom Felton played Dodge Landon.

David Hewlett played Hunsiker. Tyler Labine played Franklin. Sonja Bennett played "Woman on Street". Chelah Horsdal played Irena.

Rupert Wyatt directed the film, from a screenplay co-authored by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

**Richard Cody's Lisa was published on the Microstory A Week site

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

Richard Cody penned this week's story, Lisa, a tale about a girl, a dark house and disturbing forces.

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

Monday, July 11, 2011

Saga of the Swamp Thing - Book Two, by Alan Moore, Steve Bissette & John Tottleben


(hb; 2009: graphic novel, which collects Saga of the Swamp Thing, issues #28 - 34, and Swamp Thing Annual 2)

From the inside flap:

"This is the place.

"It breathes. It eats, and, at night, beneath a crawling ground fog with the luster of vaporized pearl, it dreams: dreams white tiny predators stage a nightmare ballet in sharp black grass. It is a living thing. It has a soul. It has a face.

"At night you can almost see it.

"At night you can almost imagine what it might look like if the swamp were boiled down to its essence, and distilled into corporeal form: it fall the muck, all the forgotten muskrat bones, and all the luscious decay would rise up and wade on two legs through the shallows: if the swamp had a spirit and that spirit walked like a man. . ."

Review:

This is just as dark, revelatory and intriguing as Saga of the Swamp Thing.

In this volume, Swamp Thing fights an old enemy (the demonic, voracious White Monkey), who may be more than he seems, and goes into the netherworld - with guides like Deadman, The Phantom Stranger and (once again) The Demon to help him achieve his goal: rescuing Abby Arcane from certain, foul suffering.

Excellent follow-up to the first Swamp Thing graphic novel/anthology.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Not Dead & Not For Sale, by Scott Weiland with David Ritz


(hb; 2011: rock 'n' roll memoir)

From the inside flap:

"In the early 1990s, Stone Temple Pilots. . . [aka STP] toppled such megabands as Aerosmith and Guns N' Roses on MTV and the Billboard charts. Lead singer Scott Weiland became an iconic front man in the tradition of Mick Jagger, David Bowie and Robert Plant.

"Then, when STP imploded, it was Weiland who emerged as the emblem of rock star excess, with his well-publicized drug busts and trips to rehab. Weiland has since made a series of stunning comebacks, fronting the supergroup Velvet Revolver, releasing solo work, and, most recently, reuniting with Stone Temple Pilots. He still struggles with the bottle, but he has prevailed as a loving, dedicated father, as well as a business-savvy artist whose well of creativity is far from empty.

"These earthling papers explore Weiland's early years as an altar boy right along with his first experiences with sex and drugs. Weiland discusses his complex relationships with his parents, stepfather, siblings, and the love of his life, Mary Forsberg Weiland. Readers learn the. .. stories behind his most well-known songs and what it was like to be there at the beginning of the grunge phenomenon, as Rolling Stone proclaimed on its cover: 'the year punk broke.'"

Review:

Barebones, hard-to-set-down memoir about a rock 'n' roller who gives a taut, heartfelt but drama-free presentation of his up-and-down life. He doesn't try to excuse his drug addictions or misbehavior, though he does occasionally, briefly explain his mindset at said life junctures.

Good, entertaining, non-dirt-dishing and often inspiring read about a sincere and creative individual.

Check it out.

Saga of the Swamp Thing, by Alan Moore, Steve Bissette & John Tottleben


(pb; 1987: graphic novel, which collects Saga of the Swamp Thing, issues #21 -27)

From the back cover:

"This is the place.

"It breathes. It eats, and, at night, beneath a crawling ground fog with the luster of vaporized pearl, it dreams: dreams white tiny predators stage a nightmare ballet in sharp black grass. It is a living thing. It has a soul. It has a face.

"At night you can almost see it.

"At night you can almost imagine what it might look like if the swamp were boiled down to its essence, and distilled into corporeal form: it fall the muck, all the forgotten muskrat bones, and all the luscious decay would rise up and wade on two legs through the shallows: if the swamp had a spirit and that spirit walked like a man. . ."

Review:

This second (1983 - 1984) reboot of Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson's 1972 character is at once a continuation of the themes and artwork Wein and Wrightson originally put forth and a solid, refreshing reinvention of the mossy, reborn character whose (literally) earthy awareness gets put to the test when he battles The Floronic Man (aka Jason Woodrue) and a demonic, blood-voracious White Monkey.

Abby Arcane, daughter of the long-dead Dr. Anton Arcane, returns from the two previous series. Also, the Mossy Thing Formerly Known As Alec Holland gets help from an unlikely source, The Demon (aka Jason Blood). Even the JLA (Justice League America) puts in a brief appearance, though they're merely observers to Swamp Thing's struggles with Woodrue.

Good read. Check it out.

Followed by Saga of the Swamp Thing - Book Two.

#

Two films and two television series were inspired by the comic book.

The first film version, Swamp Thing, was scripted and directed by Wes Craven. It was released stateside on February 19, 1982.

Ray Wise played Doctor Alec Holland. Dick Durock played Swamp Thing. Adrienne Barbeau played Alice Cable. Nannette Brown played Dr. Linda Holland.

Louis Jordan played Doctor Anton Arcane. David Hess played Ferret. Ben Bates played "Arcane Monster". Mimi Craven - now the director's ex-wife, and billed as Mimi Meyer -played "Arcane's Secretary".

#

A direct-to-video sequel, Return of Swamp Thing, was released stateside in April 1989.

Dick Durock resumed his role of Swamp Thing. Louis Jordan resumed his role of Doctor Anton Arcane. Heather Locklear played Abby Arcane. Sarah Douglas played Doctor Lana Zurrell. Joe Sagal played Gunn. Ace Mask played Doctor Rochelle.

Jim Wynorski directed the film, from a script by Grant Morris and Neil Cuthbert.

#

An American television series, Swamp Thing aired from July 27, 1990 to May 1, 1993.

Dick Durock resumed his role of Swamp Thing. Mark Lindsay Chapman played Doctor Anton Arcane. Scott Garrison played Will Kipp. Kevin Quigley played Graham.

Various writers and directors worked on the series.

#

An animated series, also titled Swamp Thing aired on American television from April 20, 1991 to May 18, 1991.

Len Carlson voiced Swamp Thing. Don Francks voiced Doctor Anton Arcane. Paulina Gillis voiced Abby. Philip Akin voiced Bayou Jack. Errol Slue voiced Doctor Deemo. Harvey Atkin voiced Tomahawk. Gordon Masten voiced Skin Man. Joe Matheson voiced Weed Killer. Richard Yearwood voiced J.T. Jonathan Potts voiced Delbert.

Various writers and directors worked on the series.

**Anna's Retribution was published on the Microstory A Week site

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

Anna penned this week's story, Retribution, a Hitchcock-esque tale about a nerd and snacking.

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

Monday, July 04, 2011

Smiley's People, by John le Carré


(hb; 1979: fifth novel in the George Smiley series; third novel in the Karla trilogy)

From the inside flap:

"In Paris, a Russian woman is accosted by a Soviet agent, who offers to send her daughter West to join her. In Hamburg, a frightened Estonian emigré performs a secret mission. And in London, George Smiley - once head of British Intelligence - is called from retirement to identify the body of a former British agent. As Smiley gets involved in the tangle of events, all clues lead in one direction - to Karla, Smiley's archenemy and opposite number in Russia. This one time Karla is vulnerable. At last, after all these years, Smiley begins playing Karla's ruthless, relentless game, for that is the only way he can win."

Review:

This wrap-up of the Karla trilogy is more like Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy than The Honourable Schoolboy in its scope: it focuses on a few select locales and thoroughly developed characters, as well as George Smiley's quest to destroy Karla's influence.

Exemplary read, better than Honourable (which is barely referenced in Smiley's), and great finish to the Karla-Smiley chess match.

Check it out.

Followed by The Secret Pilgrim.

#

The resulting television mini-series, bearing the same title, aired in England on September 20, 1982. It first aired stateside on October 25, 1982.

Alec Guinness resumed his role of George Smiley. Bernard Hepton resumed his role of Toby Esterhase. Anthony Bate resumed his role of Sir Oliver Lacon. Michael Byrne played Peter Guillam. Bill Paterson played Lauder Strickland. Andy Bradford played Ferguson. Barry Foster played Saul Enderby.

Eileen Atkins played Madame Ostrakova. Tusse Silberg played Alexandrea Ostrakova. Vladek Sheybal played Otto Leipzig. Ingrid Pitt played Elvira. Curd Jürgens played The General. Michael Lonsdale played Anton Grigoriev. Michael Gough played Mikhel. Paul Herzberg played Villem Craven.

Lucy Fleming played Molly Meakin. Julia McCarthy played Millie McCraig.

An uncredited Alan Rickman played Mr. Brownlow.

Patrick Stewart, this time credited, reprised his role of Karla.

Simon Langton directed the six-episode mini-series, from a screenplay by co-authored by book author John le Carré and John Hopkins.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

100 Bullets: First Shot, Last Call by Brian Azzarello & Eduardo Risso


(pb; 2000: graphic novel, which collects 100 Bullets, issues 1-5, and Winter's Edge 3, the third annual anthology put out by the Vertigo imprint)

From the back cover:

"If a stranger offered you a chance to get away with murder. . . would you take it?"

Review:

Noir- and action-intensive characters and storylines are highlighted in this fresh-angled, plot-twisty take on the vengeance theme. Fans of crime fiction will likely have a dark-hearted ball with this one.

Excellent, landmark comic book series - worth owning.

Followed by 100 Bullets: Split Second Chance.