Friday, December 28, 2012

A Taste for Sin, by Gil Brewer

(pb; 1961)


From the inside cover:

"Jim Phalen is obsessed with Felice.  He can't get enough of her wild ways, her wicked charms.  She is hot like no other woman he has ever met before.  They're quite a pair.  Unfortunately, Felice is married to bank manager George Anderson.  But Felice has a plan - to kill her husband one night while he works at the bank and steal all the money. 

"Jim thinks the idea is crazy.  But the more he figures it, the more he thinks that it just might work.  He knows he has to have Felice.  Just the thought of her drives him nuts.  But can he create the perfect plan to possess her, and steal the money, too?  It's crazy alright - but it just might work."


Review:

A Taste for Sin is an entertaining, dark-humored work  that plot pretzels perversity, multifaceted lusts and murder in this Brewer-distinctive, short-&-sharp novel about an illicit couple (Phalen and Felice) whose plans - when compared to those of other Brewer protagonists - are feasible, at least initially.

Worth owning, this. 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Ash, by James Herbert

(hb; 2012: third book in the David Ash series)


From the inside flap:

"Set high on a craggy cliff top on the wind-battered western coast of Scotland is a remote, secluded ancient castle.  A castle that holds secrets that would shake the world if they were ever revealed.

"David Ash, ghost hunter and parapsychologist, is sent there to investigate a series of bizarre hauntings that have grown gradually more menacing and horrific: unaccountable noises, inexplicable putrid smells, the dimming of lights, deathly chills, and objects mysteriously flying across rooms.

"When a resident is found in his room, dead, pinned to the wall, with only his viscous blood holding him in place, the investigator is all too aware that a powerful and dark force lurks within the castle's ancient walls - an incorporeal power ignited by a long-ago curse and fed by the evil of those who inhabit the sanctuary called Comraich Castle.

"There are others, miscreants with black souls, who roam the corridors and passageways, infamous people thought long deceased by the outside world.  Yet their hour of retribution is at hand. . ."


Review:

Ash is a fun, reader-hooking "Old School" spookhouse novel that's full of humorous and truly scary - not to mention often icky - characters, moments and scenes. 

Set two years after the events of The Ghosts of Sleath, this third entry in the David Ash  series is the best one yet: it has none of the plot lag that marred Sleath, and it has all of the Hammer filmesque charms of Haunted - Ash even sports a nice mention of actress Ingrid Pitt, a Hammer flick "regular", that made me smile. 

(Hammer films should make this character- and plot-exciting horror/action novel into a theatrical film, or, at the very least, a cable television miniseries.)

Worth owning, this.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

This Book is Full of Spiders, by David Wong (aka Jason Pargin)

(hb; 2012: sequel to John Dies at the End)


From the inside flap:

"Warning: You have a huge, invisible spider living in your skull.  THIS IS NOT A METAPHOR.

"You will dismiss this as ridiculous fearmongering.  DISMISSING things as ridiculous is, in fact, the first symptom of parasitic spider infection - the creature secretes a chemical into the brain to stimulate skepticism, in order to prevent you from seeking a cure.  That's just as well, since the "CURE" involves learning what a chainsaw tastes like.

"You can't feel the spider, because it controls your nerve endings.  You can't see it, because it decides what you see.  You won't even feel it WHEN IT BREEDS.  And it will breed.  So what happens when your family, friends and neighbors get mind-controlling skull spiders?  We're all about to find out.

"Just stay calm, and remember that telling you about the spider situation is not the same as having caused it.  I'm just the messenger.  Even if I did sort of cause it.

"Either way, I won't hold it against you if you're upset.  I know, that's just the spider talking."



Review:

Excellent, genre-twisty, gory, zinger line-laden apocalyptic and imaginatively funny novel with a tight, clever storyline, whose often-bizarre thrills are fresh and quietly landmark in its multigenres. 

Worth owning, this.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Wild to Possess, by Gil Brewer

(pb; 1959)


From the inside flap:

"Lew Brookbank is running away from his grief.   His wife had left him for another man, and he had discovered them together - murdered.  Drowning himself in gin, one night he stumbles across a parked car where a man and a woman are plotting the kidnapping and murder of the man's wife.  At first he thinks he should turn them in, but there is some real money involved here, and he makes the liquor-fueled decision to follow them and work a double-cross of his own.  But Lew doesn't figure on Clarkson, brother of his dead wife's lover.  Clarkson wants to bring him back to pay for the death of his brother.  But there's no turning back on the plan now - Lew has got to see this one through to the end."


Review:

Sex, violence and human darkness suffuse every word in this fast-moving, addictive and aggressive noir novel, with Brewer's trademark twistiness livening up the disturbing and potent work.

Worth owning, this.

#

This novel was adapted into a film, Three Way, in 2004, and released stateside the same year.

Dominic Purcell played Lewis "Lew" Brookbank.  Joy Bryant played Rita Caswell.  Ali Larter played Isobel Delano.  Desmond Harrington played Ralph Hagen.  Dwight Yoakam played Herbert Claremont/Clarkson.  Gina Gershon played Florence DeCroix Hagen.  Roxana Zal played Janice Brookbank. 

Scott Ziehl directed the film, from Russell P. Marleau's screenplay.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

**Cath Barton published her second book, Candyfloss II

Cath Barton, whose Nothing to be afraid of graced Microstory A Week in October 2011, has published her second anthology, Candyfloss II, a follow-up to Candyfloss, also co-authored with Oliver Barton.

Candyfloss is, according to the book's Lulu page, "[A quirky anthology where] things are not always what they seem, in this collection of short stories and photographs by Cath and Oliver Barton. For one thing, there are quite a number of angels popping up, and some of them are not very angelic. And what about the gnome and the soup?

"After reading them, you might feel it’s better to stay away from trains and bendy buses — but are you on any safer ground in the pub or at home? As with the first volume of Candyfloss, these are stories to tease you, like a quirky box of chocolates. We’ve really enjoyed writing them — all you have to do is bite into them and see what surprises are inside!"

If you've enjoyed - or are curious about - Cath's earlier published, shorter works (The Nun and I, published on FlashFlood; The Edible Woman in the Cinema Box - currently not available - on Leodegraunce, etc.) make sure to check out Cath and Oliver's Candyfloss anthologies, available here!

Little Star, by John Ajvide Lindqvist

(hb; 2012: translated from Swedish by Marlaine Delargy)


From the inside flap:

"A man finds a baby in the woods, left for dead.  He brings the baby home, and he and his wife raise the girl in their basement.  When a shocking and catastrophic incident occurs, the couple's son, Jerry, whisks the girl away to Stockholm to start a new life.  There, he enters her in a nationwide singing competition.  Another young girl who's never fit in sees the performance on TV, and a spark is struck that will ignite the most terrifying duo in modern fiction."


Review:

Excellent, hard-to-set-down and distinctive thriller from the author of the also-exemplary Let Me In and Handling the Undead (as well as the lesser-but-okay Harbor).

Worth owning, this. 

Fans of Stephen King, particularly top-shelf King (that is, pre-1985 King works), and Joe Hill should check Lindqvist's oeuvre out.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Convergent Series, by Larry Niven

(pb; 1979: science fiction anthology)


Overall review:

All of the twenty-one stories in this collection are worthwhile reads.  More thoughtful and quirky than your usual action-and-laser-beams science fiction anthology, Convergent Series is largely a talk-oriented anthology, with its tightly-edited stories revolving around a few core themes (communication between divergent cultures, time travel, etc.).  Most of the stories build on ideas, characters and places from previous pieces, especially the Draco's Tavern entries.

Worth owning, this.


Standout stories:

1.)   "The Meddler":  Quirky, imaginative genre blend of noir and science fiction, about a private detective (Bruce Cheseborough, Junior) going after a crime lord (Lester Dunhaven Sinclair III) with the help of a strange alien.


2.)   "Convergent Series": Especially clever, light-hearted piece about a man who matches wits with a demon.


3. )  "Singularities Make Me Nervous":  Intriguing story about a time traveler whose conundrums increase unexpectedly.


4.)   "The Schumann Computer":  This story, the first in the Draco's Tavern series, is a darkly funny piece about a tavern owner (Rick Schumann) who builds a supercomputer (Baby), based on alien - "chirpsithtra" - technology, which has unexpected personality quirks.


5.)    "Assimilating Our Culture, That's What They're Doing!":  Rick Schumann learns disturbing facts about one of the alien races [the "Gligstith(click)tcharf"] who patronize his tavern.  Laugh out loud funny, excellent tale.  One of my favorites in this collection.


6.)   "Cruel and Unusual":  An intergalactic crime cause Rick Schumann to close Draco's Tavern, an establishment he founded/ran for twenty-two years; it also, in relation to the aforementioned crime, raises reader-haunting questions about what defines "cruel and unusual".

One of my favorite stories in this anthology.


7.)   "Transfer of Power":  Good, fantasy-themed piece about a post-bloodless coup conversation between a deposed king (Sarol) and the country's new leader (Guppry) - a conversation that may or may not herald disastrous events for the fledgling, magic-based society.


8.)   "Night on Mispec Moor":  On a low-gravity planet (Sereda) in the year 2731, a soldier (Tomas Vatch) is besieged by doubt and legendary undead men ("night walkers").  Good, action-oriented story.


Other stories:

"Wrong Way Street"; "Bordered in Black"; "One Face"; "Like Banquo's Ghost"; "Dry Run"; "The Deadlier Weapon"; "The Nonesuch"; "Grammar Lesson"; "The Subject is Closed"; "Cautionary Tales"; "Rotating Cylinders and the Possibility of Global Causality Violation"; "Plaything"; "Mistake"


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Sex and Violence in Hollywood by Ray Garton


(hb; 2001)

From the inside flap:

"Adam Julian, son of a Hollywood screenwriter has a life would kill for - and some would kill to keep.  He's tangled in a web of forced sex and coerced robbery where killing becomes the only free choice he can make. . ."


Review:

There's plenty of the titular elements - as well healthy doses of gory, tar black humor - in this entertaining neo-noir rollercoaster writ large and ultra-sleazy, with some fresh twists thrown into the mix.

Worth owning, this.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

The Shining, by Stephen King

(pb; 1977: prequel to Doctor Sleep)


From the back cover:

"This tale of a troubled man hired to care for a remote mountain resort over the winter, his loyal wife, and their uniquely gifted son slowly but steadily unfolds as secrets from the Overlook Hotel's past are revealed, and the hotel itself attempts to claim the very souls of the Torrance family. . ."


Review:

Gripping, vivid and emotionally raw-throbbing from the get-go, this is one of my all-time favorite horror reads - and one of King's best novels.

The Shining is worth owning - and re-reading every few years, this last bit something I say about few novels.

#

This novel has resulted in two films.

The first film, a theatrical flick, was released stateside on May 23, 1980.

Jack Nicholson played Jack Torrance.  Shelley Duvall played Wendy Torrance.  Danny Lloyd played Danny Torrance.  Scatman Crothers played Dick Hallorann. 

Barry Nelson played Stuart Ullman.  Philip Stone played Delbert Grady.  Joe Turkel played "Lloyd the Bartender".  Lisa and Louise Burns played "Grady's Daughters".  Vivian Kubrick, daughter of the film's director, played an uncredited "Smoking Guest on Ballroom Couch".

Stanley Kubrick directed the film, from a screenplay by Diane Johnson.

#

The second film, a television miniseries, aired in three parts, on April 27th and 28th, and May 1st, in 1997.

Steven Weber played John Torrance.  Rebecca De Mornay played Wendy Torrance.  Courtland Mead played Daniel Anthony Torrance.  Will Horneff played Tony.  Melvin Van Peebles played Richard Halloran.

Cynthia Garris played "217 Woman".  Shawnee Smith played a "Waitress".  Sam Raimi played "Gas Station Howie".  Christina Faust played "Screaming Female Ghost".  Richard Christian Matheson played "1st Hitman".  David J. Schow played "1st Ghost in Playhouse".  Preston Sturges Jr. played "2nd Ghost in Playhouse".

Mick Garris directed the miniseries, from a teleplay by source novel author Stephen King.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Majorettes, by John Russo

(pb; 1979)


From the back cover:

"They are young.  They are beautiful.  And they are terrified.

"Already two of the girls have been raped and murdered, victims of a brutal knife and a psychotic mind that kills with no apparent pattern and no apparent provocation.

"At least, that's what the police say.

"But, behind the veil of a murderous psychosis, there works a cold, cruel, calculating logic, with an ultimate goal so obvious the police should have seen it all coming.

"Long before it got this far.

"But they didn't, and they missed him - and he's still out there."


Review:

Fans of Jack Ketchum's novels may especially enjoy this word-lean, plot-taut slasher on the loose work from the co-screenwriter of the 1968 seminal zombie flick Night of the Living Dead.

In Majorettes, a slow-build book in its opening chapters, Russo takes an obvious set-up and genre-blends it with other elements (action, noir) and creates a clever, hard-to-set-down horror offering that sports some wow-that's-sick-sh*t scenes that are all the more unsettling because they read like real life.

This isn't a flashy book, but it is gut-wrenching (in a few parts) and smart, a quiet, assured stand-out read, in a genre that's glutted with gratuitous sex and violence, stupid characters, sloppy plotting and other flaws.

Worth owning, this, with an ending that made me hope that Russo would pen a follow-up story.

#

The film version was released in England, on video, in March 1987.  It was released in stateside video stores on August 17, 1988.

Kevin Kindlin played Jeff Halloway.  Terrie Godfrey played Vicky McAllister.  Mark V. Jevicky played Sheriff Braden.  Carl Hetrick played Roland Martell.  Mary Jo Limpert played Marie Morgan.

Jacqueline Bowman played Nicole Hendricks.  Colin Martin played Tommy Harvack.  Sueanne Seamens played Judy Marino.  Tom E. Desrocher played Mace Jackson.  William R. Mott played Bart.  Tammy Petruska played Margaret.  Gina Cotton played Angel.

Denise Huot played Helga Schuler.  Harold K. Keller played Harry Schuler.  Tom Madden played Teela (who, in the source novel, is the same character as Harry Schuler). 

Edna Kleitz played Elvira.   M. Therian played Hank.  Bonnie Hinzman, real-life wife of the film's director, played a "Teacher".

John Russo scripted the film from his novel; he also played Dr. Gibson (aka "Coroner").  S. William Hinzman, who directed the film, played Sergeant Sanders.  (He also played a "Zombie" in the original Night of the Living Dead.)

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Loveliest Dead by Ray Garton

(pb; 2006)


From the back cover

"To most people it's just a large house, old and a bit run-down.  To the Kellar family it's a new start, a chance to wipe out the painful past and begin again.  But soon it will become a living nightmare.  The terrors begin before the Kellars have even finished unpacking.  They hear things, see things, shadowy glimpses into the impossible, things that are there - and then gone.

"Who are the mysterious children playing on the rusty, vine-covered swing set in the backyard?  Who is the figure sitting in the dark corner of the bedroom at night?  Who - or what - waits in the basement?  They are the dead and they cannot rest.  Horror stalks the halls of the Kellar house.  And the secrets of the past are reaching from beyond the grave to destroy the living."


Review:

Loveliest is a plot-familiar, good read with some truly creepy moments and consistently reader-hooking writing, with an ending that deftly avoids the usual expect-a-sequel bullsh*t.

Check this novel out.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Confessions of a Yakuza, by Junichi Saga

(pb; 1989, 1991: nonfiction.  Previously published under the title A Gambler's Tale.  Illustrated by Susumu Saga.  Translated by John Bester.)


Review:

Confessions is a real-life tale told to the author, by an old school yakuza (Ijichi Eiji) who, by age 73 ,had experienced some of the twentieth century's more interesting and sometimes darker events - three wars, prison, military service, shifts in early yakuza mentality and morality, and his relationships with fellow yakuza and women, which were influenced by ever-shifting Japanese cultural mores.

Eiji's recollections, intertwined with Saga's, emanate from a bygone time, when the yakuza was more interested in honor and getting along with one's non-yakuza's neighbors (so as to keep their gambling joints full and smooth-running), not drugs and the exaggerated violence we often see in films, and, on Saga's end, what it was like to hear these stories.

Eiji also provides a picaresque, relatable historical context for how things ran - e.g., how yakuza and (sometimes) political financing was structured, what winter-hellish prisons (military and civilian) were like, and other intriguing, often personable stories.

Worth owning, this, whether you're reading it for the yakuza angle, the Japanese angle or the historical/interesting character angle (or all three, like myself).

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Vengeful Virgin, by Gil Brewer

(hb; 1958, 2007: republished by Hard Case Crime.  Cover artist: Gregory Manchess)


From the back cover:

"Her wealthy stepfather was dying - but not quickly enough.

"What beautiful 18-year-old would want to spend her life taking care of an invalid?  Not Shirley Angela.  But that's the life she was trapped in - until she met Jack.

"Now Shirley and Jack have a plan to put the old man out of his misery and walk away with a suitcase full of cash.  But there's nothing like money to come between lovers - money, and other women."


Review:

Hot-blooded (non-explicit) sex and violence, sharp dialogue, taut writing, noircentric characters and effective plot-twistiness make this one of the best noir novels I've ever read.  The unrelenting, end-of-chapters cliffhanger heat of the characters and their doomed-from-the-git-go actions is addictive.

Worth owning, this.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Artemis Fowl: The Last Guardian, by Eoin Colfer

(hb; 2012: eighth book in the Artemis Fowl series)


From the inside flap:

"Artemis Fowl's archenemy Opal Kobai has masterminded a way to simultaneously secure her release from prison and bring the human and fairy worlds to their knees.  And, unless Artemis can stop her, the evil pixie's next move will destroy all human life on Earth.

"Ground Zero is the Fowl Estate, where Opal has reanimated fairy warriors who were buried there thousands of years ago.  Their spirits have possessed any vessels they can find - corpses, Artemis's little brothers, assorted wildlife - and they are bound to obey Opal's every command.  Defeating the motley troops and their diabolical leader will require all of Artemis's cleverness - as well as Butler's bravery, Holly's skill, and Foaly's gadgetry.  But if their best efforts aren't enough, Armageddon will surely follow."


Review:

The Last Guardian advances the thrills and chills adventure, plot twists, laugh-out-loud humor and semi-quirky characters of the previous seven Artemis Fowl novels. If you liked those books, chances are you'll like this one, too.

This is one of my favorite entries in this highly entertaining series.

Check it out.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A Book of Horrors, edited by Stephen Jones

(pb; 2011: horror anthology)


Overall review:

This is an excellent collection of Old School/classic horror-style stories, intended for non-Twilight readers, who bristle at the idea of defanged "sparkling vampires".  (Editor Stephen Jones states this, in different words, in his Introduction ["Whatever Happened to Horror?"].)

As such, A Book of Horrors is an impressive endeavor, one worth owning.


Standout stories:

1.)  "The Little Green God of Agony" - Stephen King:   Good story about a wealthy man (Andrew Newsom) whose post-accident pain has taken on excruciating proportions.


2.)  "Roots and All" - Brian Hodge:  A war-hardened corrections officer (Dylan) and his cousin (Gina) return to their recently deceased grandmother's backwoods house to pack up her things, only to discover that the surrounding woods, heavy with a legendary monster - the Woodwalker - and troubling memories, has become a "meth haven".

Excellent, perfect work, this: a seamless entertaining fusion of old horror elements and modern realities, charged with a sense of mission.

One of my favorite stories in this anthology.


3.)  "The Music of Bengt Karlsson, Murderer" - John Ajvide Lindqvist [translated by Marlaine Delargy]:  A boy's piano lessons provide the possibility for ghosts to re-enter the natural world.

Creepy and unsettling, with a finish that's at once familiar and refreshing.


4.)  "Getting It Wrong" - Ramsey Campbell:  An asocial, disgruntled  cineaste (Eric Edgeworth) finds himself participating in a dark, strange game show where providing wrong answers can prove agonizing.

Solid, interesting piece.


5.)  "The Man in the Ditch" - Lisa Tuttle:  Linzi, a woman with marital issues and uncomfortable in her new country home, sees a dead man on the side of the road.

Good, mood-effective work.


6.)  "A Child's Problem" - Reggie Oliver1811.  Tankerton Abbey, in Suffolk, England.  A boy (George St. Maur), left in the cold-hearted care of his uncle (Sir Augustus St. Maur, Baronet), uncovers a dark, multi-layered mystery surrounding his uncle, his uncle's deceased wife (Lady Circe) and other fatalities.

Wonderful story, replete with classical, philosophical and other elements of particularly human shadiness and light.

One of my favorite entries in this anthology.


7.)  "Sad, Dark Thing" - Michael Marshall Smith:  Miller, an "aimless" man reeling from a divorce, sees an unexpected sign on a backwoods road, and is irrevocably altered by it.

Mood- and theme-efficacious piece, inspired by the author's real-life drive through the Santa Cruz mountains (in California).


8.)  "Near Zennor" - Elizabeth Hand:  A widower (Jeffrey), while sorting through his wife's belongings, discovers some mysterious letters which pull him into even bigger mysteries.

Good, unpredictable, atmospheric read.


9.)  "Last Words" - Richard Christian Matheson:  A serial killer waxes philosophical on the nature of the last moments of one's death.

Creepy, intriguing, vicious, memorable.


Other stories:

"Charcloth, Firesteel and Flint" - Caitlin R. Kiernan;  "Ghost with Teeth" - Peter Crowther; "The Coffin-Maker's Daughter" - Angela Slatter; "Tell Me I'll See You Again" - Dennis Etchison;  "Alice Through the Plastic Sheet" - Robert Shearman

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Red Rain, by R.L. Stine

(hb; 2012)


From the back cover:

". . . Travel writer Lea Sutter finds herself on a small island off the coast of South Carolina, the wrong place at the wrong time.  A merciless, unanticipated hurricane cuts a path of destruction through the island and Lea barely escapes her life.

"In the storm's aftermath, she discovers two orphaned boys - twins.  Filled with a desire to do something to help, to make something good  of all she witnessed, Lea impulsively decides to adopt them.  The boys, Samuel and Daniel, seem amiable and immensely grateful; Lea's family back on Long Island - husband Mark, a chld psychologist, and their two children, Ira and Elena - aren't quite so pleased.  But even they can't anticipate their true nature - or predict that, within a few weeks' time, Mark will wind up implicated in two brutal murders, with the police narrowing in."


Review:

Red Rain, Stine's first adult horror novel, is a solid read that has plenty of chills and thrills (the kind that films like Village of the Damned*, its sequel Children of the Damned and Who Can Kill a Child?  [a.k.a.  Island of the Damned] deliver).

Those who have read Stine's many children/YA horror novels should make no mistake: this is a 'for mature audiences' novel.  It is not for children.

I enjoyed this plot-tight, genre-revering novel until its ending, which marred this otherwise worthwhile endeavor with a cheesy, Amateur Hour finish "twist" that cravenly apes the last-minute twists of lesser, often crappy movies and books.

Red Rain is worth reading, if you can overlook Stine's lapse in good judgment.  These Amateur Hour end-twists may work in children's/YA books, but in adult fiction, not so much.

Check this out from the library, if you're interested in reading it.


[*Village of the Damned is based on John Wyndam's novel The Midwich Cuckoos.]

Friday, November 02, 2012

Cogan's Trade, by George V. Higgins

(hb; 1974: republished as Killing Them Softly)


From the inside flap:

"Jackie Cogan's trade is central to [the underworld].  He is an enforcer.  He can be depended upon to 'handle' a problem before it gets out of control.  And when a high-stakes card game under the protection of the New England mob is heisted by unknown hoodlums, Cogan is called in.  Expert, businesslike, a shrewd detector of other people's weaknesses, he moves in ruthless and efficient ways among a variety of hoods, hangers-on, and big-timers: a compulsive gambler with a dangerous bad-luck streak, a thug who steals dogs, a once successful out-of-town hitman, a cunning lawyer representing the regional don, and a young punk whose 'professional' career as at a crossroads.  Until, finally, in an almost empty parking lot, with five consecutive shots from a Smith and Wesson thirty-eight Police Special, the situation is handled, and 'law and order' is restored."


Review:

Overly chatty crime novel with interesting characters, noir-veracious mood and genre-inevitable murders.

Cogan's Trade (or Killing Them Softly, its new title) is an okay read by a talented writer who  revels in giving his characters plenty of milieu-centric "voice(s)".  If  this novel were edited down to its plot-core dialogue and storyline, this would be an excellent novella.

#

The resulting movie, Killing Them Softly, is scheduled for stateside theatrical release on November 30, 2012.

Brad Pitt played Jackie Cogan.  Scoot McNairy played Frankie.  Ben Mendelsohn played Russell.  James Gandolfini played Mickey.  Vincent Curatola played Johnny Amato.  Richard Jenkins played "Driver".   Ray Liotta played Markie Trattman. 

Trevor Long played Steve Caprio.  Max Casella played Barry Caprio.  Sam Shepard played Dillon.  Slaine played Kenny.

Andrew Dominik scripted and directed the film.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

**Peter Baltensperger's Nocturnal Tableaux was published on Microstory A Week

Peter Baltensperger's atmospheric, character-rich story, Nocturnal Tableaux, was published on the Microstory A Week site.

This is the final fiction piece that Microstory will publish.  Note that I'll continue publishing updates regarding Microstory authors' new elsewhere-published pieces (e.g., stories, poems, books and other writings).

Big thanks to everyone who supported this brief online venture - writers, readers and others.

Check out Peter's Nocturnal Tableaux!

#

*Update, 2013: Nocturnal Tableaux also appears in Baltensperger's story/vignette anthology Inside from the Outside.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Kelley Jones' The Hammer: The Outsider, by Kelley Jones




(pb; 1999: three-issue comic book series.  Loosely connected sequel to Kelley Jones' The Hammer: Uncle Alex)


Review:

WARNING: possible spoilers in this review.

The plot:  Alaric Malleus (a.k.a. "The Hammer"), with the help of a legal researcher (Russell Boone), hunts an alien creature who's on a killing spree.  Clark, the aforementioned alien, it turns out, isn't nearly as bad or terrifying as the three cruel wizards who had held him prisoner, or - even worse - the demonic being they mean to resurrect (Zahak, making a series return).

#

The Outsider has all the humor, ickiness and pulp-horror charm of the previous Hammer stories.  If you have liked Jones's Hammer work thus far, chances are that you'll enjoy this three-issue miniseries.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Stranger with My Face, by Lois Duncan

(pb; 1981)


From the back cover:

"How can she be in two places at one time?

"Laurie was at home, but her boyfriend swears he saw her on the beach with another guy.  Her family insists they see her coming and going when she's been out of the house for hours.  Who - or what - is taking over Laurie's life?"


Review:

Stranger is a good, plot- and writing-tight young adult novel.  There aren't a lot of twists in this engaging thriller, but it's a solid read by an author who's consistently worthwhile.

#

The television movie version aired stateside on August 29, 2009.

Alexz Jones played Laurie Stratton/Lia Abbott.  Andrew Francis played Jeff Rankin.  Emile Hirst played Alexis Stratton.    Bruce Dawson played James Stratton.  Grace Sherman played Helen Tuttle.  Beau Mirchoff played Gordon Lambert.  Nhi Do played Darlene.

Catherine Hicks played Shelley Stratton.  Bill Marchant played Bill Abbot.  Joanne Wilson played Ellie Abbot.

Jeff Renfroe directed the film from a teleplay by Jamie Pachino and Eric Tuchman.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

**dani harris's Dream Catcher was published on Microstory A Week

dani harris’s cosmic love story, Dream Catcher, was published on the Microstory A Week site.

Check it out!

Black Easter and The Day After Judgment, by James Blish

(hb; 1968, 1971: combined, these two books are considered the second part in the theme-linked After Such Knowledge trilogy.  Theme-linked sequel to Doctor Mirabilis; theme-linked prequel to A Case of Conscience)


Review:

The plot - Black Easter: Theron Ware, a black magick practitioner-for-hire, has been contracted by a mega-wealthy weapons dealer/CEO (Baines) to a series of magickal actions, not the least of which is the unrestrained, mass unleashing of demons.

The "Grand Covenant," which maintains a tetchy détente between white and black magicians, demands that a white magic practitioner ( in this case, Father Domenico) be there to witness - and, if need be, help the black magician (Ware) - rein in the demons at the agreed-upon time.

Of course things go wrong. . .

#

The plot - The Day After Judgment:  The survivors of Black Easter, as well as select military personnel, deal with the global, hellish conflict and chaos set into motion by Ware, Baines, Domenico and others in Black.

#

These two novels are entertaining, sly-humored, character- and idea-interesting novels, works that take surprising, often quirky turns - filmed as one theatrical release, they would make a fun Seventies-esque b-movie.

Black and Day are worth checking out.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Drift, by Rachel Maddow

(hb; 2012: nonfiction)


From the inside flaps:

" 'One of my favorite ideas is, never to keep an unnecessary soldier,' Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1792.  Neither Jefferson nor the other founding fathers could ever have envisioned the modern national security state, with its tens of thousands of 'privateers'; its bloated Department of Homeland Security; its rusting nuclear weapons, ill-maintained and difficult to dismantle; and its strange fascination with an overproven counterinsurgency doctrine.

". . . Drift argues that we've drifted away from America's original ideals and become a nation weirdly at peace with perpetual war, with all the financial and human costs that entails.  To understand how we've arrived at such a dangerous place, Maddow takes us from the Vietnam War to today's war in Afghanistan, along the way exploring the disturbing ise of executive authority, the gradual outsourcing of our war-making capabilities to private companies, the plummeting percentage of American families whose children fight our constant wars for us, and even the changing fortunes of G.I. Joe.  She offers up a fresh, unsparing appraisal of Reagan's radical presidency.  Ultimately, she shows us just how much we stand to lose by allowing the priorities of the national security state to overpower our political discourse."


Review:

Sometimes humorous, often disturbing and provocative, yet logic-based/non-alarmist and streamlined read that I found near-impossible to set down (eventually, drowsiness, born of a long working day compelled me to do so). 

If you're interested in the state of our military, past and/or present, this is a must-read.  Even if you disagree with Maddow's reasoning and take on her meticulously researched facts, you should check this out - Drift is that great.

Not only is this book worth owning, it's worth re-reading (which I intend to - hope to - do in the next year or so).

Scary Godmother, by Jill Thompson

(hb; 1997: children's picture book)


Review:

Funny, sweet, spooky (in a kid friendly way) picture book, this.  Great illustrations, as well.

Scary Godmother is worth owning, especially if you have kids.

Followed by four sequels, the first of which is Scary Godmother: The Revenge of Jimmy.

(Big thanks to Stranger for recommending the series.)

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky

(hb; 1999: YA novel)


From the back cover:

"Standing on  the fringes of life offers a unique perspective.  But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor.

"The Perks of Being  A Wallflower is a story about what it's like to travel that strange course through the uncharted territory of high school, the world of first dates, family dramas, and new friends,  of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, of those wild and poignant roller-coaster days known as growing up."


Review:

Relatable, pure-in-its-sweetness and voice-true novel of youth that made me laugh and get teary-eyed in a few key parts.

For those not put off by Rocky and PG-13 mentions of sex and drugs, check it out.  This is one of the best YA novels I've read in a long while.

#

The resulting film was released stateside on October 12, 2012.

Logan Lerman played Charlie.  Emma Watson played Sam.  Ezra Miller played Patrick.  Mae Whitman played Elizabeth Mary.

Dylan McDermott played "Father".   Kate Walsh played "Mother"  Melanie Lynskey played Aunt Helen..  Tom Savini played Mr. Callahan.  Paul Rudd played Mr. Anderson.    Joan Cusack played Dr. Burton.

Stephen Chbosky, author of the book, scripted and directed the film.

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Friends of Eddie Coyle, by George V. Higgins

(hb; 1970, 1971)


From the inside flap:

"Eddie Coyle and the 'friends' of Eddie Coyle - the people he can trade in for his own safety and who can kill him for theirs - are hoods.  If the 'wise guys' - the syndicate wheels who occasionally surface in Eddie's world to give an order or punish a mistake - are the underworld equivalents of tycoons and executives, then stocky, henpecked, worried Eddie Coyle is the working stiff of crime.  He is fearful of being sent up for a second time (for hijacking a truck); he is trying to better himself by providing guns for a Boston-area gang whose bank robbery technique is proof against almost every contingency - if nobody talks.

"This is how an old hand, Eddie, goes about his business; how a young punk, Jackie Brown, gets his education in being a stand-up guy; how Dillon, bartender and occasional contract killer who knows everything, keeps the boys in line.  This is how the hoods - the gunmen, armorers, drivers, heisters and executioners - see themselves.  This is how they deal with each other and talk to each other in the authentic, elaborately oblique language born of the paradox of the underworld. . ."


Review:

Full of snappy, tough-guy dialogue and blunt, sudden action, Friends is a good, entertaining crime read, with its colorful characters and few-frills writing.

Worth checking out, this.

#

The resulting film was released stateside on June 27, 1973.

Robert Mitchum played Eddie Coyle.  Peter Boyle played Dillon.  Richard Jordan played Dave Foley.  Steven Keats played Jackie Brown.  Joe Santos played Artie Van.   Alex Rocco played Jimmy Scalise.  Mitch Ryan, billed as Mitchell Ryan, played Waters.  James Tolkan played "The Man's contact man".

Peter Yates directed the film, from a screenplay by Paul Monash.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Kelley Jones' The Hammer: Uncle Alex, by Kelley Jones

(pb; 1998: single-shot comic book.  Loosely connected follow-up to Kelley Jones' The Hammer and Jones's story "The World in Which We Live," published in Dark Horse Presents, issue 129)


The plot:

A new infernal threat presents itself, in the form of the worm-like Alexander Eastman - a.k.a. "Uncle Alex."  When Eastman was a human sorcerer, he "defiled women and corrupt[ed] men"; now, as a transformed being, he devours townsfolk within his backwoods hell-portal.

Alaric Malleus - "The Hammer," in modern English - and his human associate (Carl, also from the first Hammer miniseries) become aware of Alex's earthly presence via Malleus's quirky food version of reading tea leaves, and off they go, to take down this loathsome man-worm.


Review:

Uncle Alex has all the humor, ickiness and pulp-horror charm of its source miniseries.  If you liked that miniseries, chances are that you'll enjoy this single-shot comic book.

Malleus's next appearance, also created by Jones, was in a two-page installment miniseries, "The Sticky-Fingered Homunculus," which ran in several issues of Dark Horse's Diamond Previews magazine.  Malleus later appeared in the three-issue miniseries Kelley Jones' The Hammer: The Outsider.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Kicking & Dreaming: A Story of Heart, Soul, and Rock & Roll, by Ann & Nancy Wilson with Charles R. Cross

(hb; 2012: rock 'n' roll memoir/autobiography)


From the inside flap:

"The mystery of 'Magic Man.'  The wicked riff of 'Barracuda.'  The sadness and beauty of 'Alone.'  The raw energy of 'Crazy On You.'  These songs, and so many others, are part of the fabric of American music.  Heart, fronted by Ann and Nancy Wilson, has given fans everywhere classic, raw and pure badass rock and roll for more than three decades.  As the only sisters in rock who write their own music and play their own instruments, Ann and Nancy have always stood apart - certainly from their male counterparts but also from their female peers.  By refusing to let themselves and their music be defined by their gender, and by never allowing their sexuality to overshadow their talent, the Wilson sisters have made their mark, and in the process paved the way for many of today's female artists.

"In Kicking & Dreaming, Ann and Nancy, with the help of. . . music biographer Charles R. Cross, recount a journey that has taken them from a gypsy-like life as the children of a globe-trotting Marine to the frozen back roads of Vancouver, where they got their start as a band, to the pinnacle of success - and sometimes excess.  In these pages,  readers will learn the truth about the relationship that inspired 'Magic Man' and 'Crazy On You,' the turmoil of inter-band romances gone awry, the reality of life on the road as single women and then as mothers of small children, and the thrill of perfoming and in some cases partying with the likes of the Rolling Stones, Stevie Nicks, Van Halen, Def Leppard, and other rock legends.  It has not always been an easy path.  Ann struggled with and triumphed over a childhood stutter, body image, and alcoholism; Nancy suffered the pain and disappointment of fertility issues and a failed marriage but ultimately found love again and happiness as a mom.  Through it all, the sisters drew from the strength of a family bond that trumps everything else, as told in this intimate, honest and uniquely female take on the rock and roll life."


Review:

Different, fun, lovesome page-turner - what sets Kicking & Dreaming apart from other rock bios is its focus on women's issues and the importance of family (blood kin and chosen), without sacrificing the rock 'n' roll vibe of the book. 

Worth checking out, this.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

**One of my erotic poems, baise moi: San Francisco, was recently published on the Pink Litter site

Baise moi: San Francisco, a trashy poem about two road-tripping, homicidal lesbian wrestlers, was published in the fourth issue of Pink Litter. It is, as you probably guessed, a “for mature readers only” read.

Adding to my above delight is the fact that Baise is sharing space with two writing friends, whose works consistently wow me – Richard Cody, who penned another sweet, brief  poem (“I enter”) and Peter Baltensperger, who authored the sensual, balance-themed microstory “For the Sake of Symmetry”.

Check these works out, if you're so inclined!

Kelley Jones' The Hammer, by Kelley Jones


(pb; 1997-1998: four-issue comic book series)


The plot:

1977. When two short-sighted teens in Pawtuxet, Rhode Island resurrect the decades-dead “Witch of Aberdeen,” Isobel Grierson, they set into motion a Lovecraftian battle of cataclysmic wills between Grierson and Alaric Malleus, a warrior who loathes evil – a battle that will take place twenty years later.

1997. Alaric Malleus, “roughly translated, The Hammer,” is a cocoon-like alien creature that attaches itself to the head of a human host (as it does with Professor Wilcox, a willing flesh partner). It imbues its host with preternatural powers, an über-muscular body and other properties, all the while incorporating its flesh partners’ tastes – in Wilcox’s case, a yen for Charlie Parker’s music and greasy fast food.

What has woken Alaric, currently residing in Briggstown, Massachussetts, is the near-fruition threat of Isobel Grierson. In the twenty years since her physical rebirth, the scantily-clad, sexually promiscuous cannibal witch has become a celebrity psychotherapist whose “advice” (embrace, act on one’s anger) is preparing the world for the arrival of the Lovecraftian demons Grierson means to bring into our world.

Now, chauffeured and battle-aided by Carl (an ex-student of Professor Wilcox/The Hammer) and Alex Maybridge (a cranky medical intern), The Hammer is slicing, smashing and spell-casting his way toward Grierson, who’s well aware of her approaching nemeses. . .


Review:

Kelley Jones writes and illustrates this wonderfully dark, meaningful and hilarious comic book mini-series, which mixes satire (e.g., Grierson’s slutty outfits), uncomfortable veracities about humanity, H.P. Lovecraft's atmospheric horror and Robert E. Howard-eseque/pulpish action.

Take into account Jones’s effective, character-centric plot twists and his penchant for having The Hammer utter straight-faced one-liners (e.g., “Thankfully, I can count on your human capacity to commit genocide when the time comes.”), and readers like myself get a character and a comic book that delivers landmark thrills, laughter and chills.

Worth owning, this.

The Hammer made his next appearance in a comic book short, “The World in Which We Live”. This story was published in Dark Horse Presents, issue 129 [February 1998]. Regrettably, I don’t own this, though I do own The Hammer: Uncle Alex [1998, a single-issue comic book], the third comic book appearance of Malleus/The Hammer.

Jones's four-issue/original miniseries, as well as the story "The World in Which We Live," was later brought together in graphic novel form: this graphic novel is called Kelley Jones' The Hammer: One Big Lie.

<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...