Tuesday, February 28, 2012

**Sandra Davies' In days of olde. . . when knights were absent was published on the Microstory A Week site

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

Sandra Davies penned this week's story, In days of olde. . . when knights were absent, a medieval tale about chastity, keeping one's wits and hope.

Check this short story out. =)

Women's Barracks, by Tereska Torres


(hb; 1950, 2003, 2005. Afterword by Judith Mayne; Interview with the author by Joan Schenkar.)

From the back cover:

"When a group of French women collect in a London barracks during World War II, their khaki uniforms cannot conceal their sexual desire - often for each other. Touchingly written from the point of view of one of the younger and more innocent 'girl soldiers,' Women's Barracks reflects Tereska Torres' experiences in the Free French forces assembled under General Charles de Gaulle. Condemned in 1952 for its 'artful appeal to sensuality, immorality, filth, perversion and degeneracy' by the House Select Committee on Current Pornographic Materials, Torres' novel was an underground phenomenon, selling four million copies in the United States and many more abroad. The first 'lesbian pulp,' it remains relevant and intensely readable today."

Review:

Women's Barracks is an engaging pulp that mixes World War II events, mostly-female characters who read like real people - they were, though they were renamed - and those characters' romantic/idealistic pursuits.

The women who signed up for the Free French Forces under de Gaulle were looking for wartime battles; instead, they got sent to London to become file clerks, hostesses, maids and other support-related jobs that kept them from the front lines. Their romantic (and sometimes cynical) notions progressed, a few of them into Sapphic embraces (shown in brief gestures, passionate kisses and, for the 1940s/1950s, suggestive dialogue), some of them into heterosexual embraces - and some, like the narrator, who places moral judgments on the women she's observing.

[In the 2004 Interview with Torres that follows the novel, Torres said that the moral judgments were insisted upon by the publishers, who wanted to avoid prosecution by the House Select Committee on Current Pornographic Materials, and other like-minded groups. Also, Torres said, if any character represented her, it was Ursula, who falls for an older, cynical dyke (Claude), not the friendly-but-morally-pristine narrator (Tereska, in name only).]

Excellent read, this, one that meshes familiar, terrifying wartime concerns (e.g., the London bombardments, friends and lovers geting killed in battles or bombings) with, as Torres insisted in the Interview, real attachments (romantic and otherwise), and what resulted from the war and those attachments.

Women's Barracks is worth owning, for pulp and history readers, who don't mind a bit of genrification in their spicy word soup.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Two Fables, by Roald Dahl


(hb; 1986: story anthology. Illustrations by Graham Dean.)

From the inside flap:

"In these two new fables, Roald Dahl has once again written startlingly original stories that, while owing something to the clarity of his writing for children, are firmly intended for adults. In 'The Princess and the Poacher,' the beastially ugly Hengist is granted a dark wish, but cannot bring himself to fulfill it. In 'Princess Mammalia,' Mammalia is driven to attempt murder when her beauty dazzles every man in the kingdom except the one she truly wants."

Review:

These two fables ("The Princess and the Poacher" and "Princess Mammalia") exhibit everything a fable should: a fast-moving story that effectively sketches out and defines its characters' motivations; a tale that's light on the surface, with undercurrents of twisty, character-based darkness, as well as a finish that, without seeming too obvious, sums up its shown moral(s).

Graham Dean's ink-blot, character-centric illustrations suit the tone of Dahl's tales: salient and sublime work that cuts to the core.

Two Fables is a perfect, short read - worth owning, and memorable.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Vincent Price Presents, by various writers and artists


(graphic novel; 2010. Introduction by Roger Corman)

From the back cover:

"The Gothic horror tradition of film icon Vincent Price is revived in these twisted comic book one-shots that transplant the best of the horror genre into innovative and bizarre landscapes for a new generation of Vincent Price fans. Vincent Price serves as iconic host and muse for these unforgettable stories, which include horrific transformations, twisting plots, perversions of science, labyrinthine castles, Gothic dread, surreal revelations, and a little unexpected genre-bending. With an introduction by film legend and Vincent Price collaborator, Roger Corman.


Overall review:

This graphic novel, put out by Blue Water Comics, is an okay quadrilogy of Price-referencing stories, with mostly-good artwork and a pleasant, brief introduction by Roger Corman.

Though Vincent Price Presents isn't worth its cover price ($17.99), it may prove a fun, second-hand read for Price and horror fans for a buck or two.



Review, story by story:

1.) "Canus" - Darren G. Davis & Chad Helder: A tween boy's birthday brings new anxieties - in the form of the titular cyborg dog - and, along with it, new opportunities.

Good tale and artwork here, excellent ending.


2.) "Road Rage" - Darren F. Davis, Paul Salamoff & Patrick Broderick: An arrogant advertising executive (Glen Manning) causes a car accident, then flees the scene of it, setting in motion further violence. This otherwise solid morality tale is ruined by a gotcha/forced "twist". Sloppily constructed hack work, at best, with good artwork.


3.) "Here To There" - Scott Davis and Rey Armenteros: Casey Morrow, a celebrated writer with a decade-long case of writer's block - born of unrealistic expectations - goes through another day of driving his cab, and discovers a secret undercurrent to his life.

Solid story with some quotable lines and okay artwork, this.


4.) "Rue Morgue High" - Chad Helder and Derliz Santacruz: An insane, malevolent nerd with wild psychic abilities (Edwin) torments his more popular step-brother (Fred) with visions and killings drawn from Edgar Allan Poe's "first tale of ratiocination", Murder in the Rue Morgue.

Interesting, mostly good story with good artwork and a meh finish.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Harbor, by John Ajvide Lindqvist


(hb; 2008, 2011: translated from Swedish by Marlaine Delargy)


From the inside flap:

"One ordinary winter afternoon on a snowy island, Anders and Cecilia take their six-year-old daughter Maja across the ice to visit the lighthouse in the middle of the frozen channel. While they are exploring the lighthouse, Maja disappears - either into thin air or under thin ice - leaving not even a bloody footprint in the snow.

"Two years later, Anders, a broken man, moves back to his family's abandoned house on the island. He soon realizes that Maja's disappearance is only one of the many strange occurences, and that his fellow islanders, including his own grandmother, know a lot more than they're telling. As he digs deeper, Anders begins to unearth a dark and deadly secret at the heart of this small, seemingly placid town."


Review:

Fans of Stephen King will likely appreciate this milieu- (and leisurely-)paced novel that recalls King's pre-It novels, before his propensity for word bloat set in.

Harbor is a good book by an excellent author, one that ably juggles character and larger-element histories, pervasive mood and description, as well as occasional, familiar-with-a-Swedish-flavor horror scenes.

Check Harbor out from the library, no need to own it, if you already own King's pre-It novels and story/novella anthologies.

If you're interested in Lindqvist's better, worth-owning works, check out Let Me In and Handling the Undead.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Caliban and Other Tales, by Robert Devereaux


(pb; 2002: horror anthology)

From the back cover:

"His mother was a sorceress, and his master is a powerful magician. His home is a dark, wild island of enchantment, spells. . . and evil. He is Caliban. Is he human, spirit or demon? Who can say? All he knows is that he burns with a lust for revenge and his growing powers may soon make it possible. But even he cannot predict the nightmarish shape his vengeance will take. . . or the tempest of terror it will unleash."


Overall review:

Most of the stories in Caliban and Other Tales sports the same audacious, carnal and maleficent spirit of Devereaux's genre milestone, Santa Steps Out.

This gleefully debauched and sometimes sublimely horrific anthology isn't for those who find Stephen King or Dean Koontz "too scary or gory" - those readers should not read this ferociously graphic and often-funny work; Caliban is for true, unrepentant, sex-and-gore horror fans.

Worth owning, for the aforementioned latter group.


Review, story by story:


1.) "Bucky Goes to Church": A shooting spree takes an even more disturbing plot detour.

Excellent, vivid, with its colorful and sometimes laugh-out-loud language: fans of a certain 1970's Larry Cohen film will probably enjoy this.




2.) "Ridi Bobo": Hilarious, ultra-violent, clown-centric piece about a cuckolded clown (Bobo) who takes revenge on his wife (Koko).

Clever, greasepaint-with-noir horror story.



3.) "Clap If You Believe": A young, philosophical man (Alex) tries to impress the parents of his fairy diminutive girlfriend, Titania Jones, at a get-to-know-you family dinner.

Solid, amusing, sometimes raunchy - like the other stories in this anthology - work.



4.) "The Slobbering Tongue That Ate the Frightfully Huge Woman": A back-office molestation of a female pharmacy employee (Sally Holmes) by her employer (Baxter) leads to a grotesque, lascivious and kaiju-eiga-esque confrontation.

Slobbering is a hilarious and ferociously anti-P.C.story that takes a morally icky subject and turns it into a gloriously salacious b-movie.



5.) "A Slow Red Whisper of Sand": Lust-, death- and greed-constant story about Los Angeles bloodsuckers. Solid, orgiastic and intense/emotive piece.



6.) "Caliban" (novella): Caliban, an ugly supernatural being, plots against Prospero, a magician who murdered Caliban's witch mother, as he grows in power and age.

The lead-in to this Shakespearean-sourced tale feels comparatively long to the other pieces in this anthology - logical, considering it's a novella, not a short story - but in the last quarter of its two hundred and twenty-two pages, it gets intriguing, its slow-build plots/motivations and character-based twists coming to devious, understandable and surprisingly sympathetic finishes.

Good piece, for those who appreciate a well-written, slow-burn work.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Alice Cooper: The Last Temptation, by Neil Gaiman & Michael Zulli


(pb; 1994: 3-issue comic book miniseries, based on Alice Cooper's album of the same name, which was released in July 1994. Dave McKean did the cover art on both the album and the comic books.)

The plot: Steven - a scared teenager Alice Cooper wrote about in his 1975 album, Welcome to My Nightmare, and its more experimental, 2011 sequel album, Welcome 2 My Nightmare - is drawn to a mysterious theatre that appears to be a ghost building, its staged, icky horrors hosted and promoted by the equally mysterious, unnamed Showman (embodied as Alice Cooper).

The Showman's revealed horrors are based in creepshow rot and failed adulthood, something the Showman promises he can spare Steven from.

The Last Temptation is best read as a fun, s/light accompaniment to Cooper's fun, pop-catchy album: a lightweight, rock 'n' roll (and Alice Cooper-ized) work that mines many of the same themes Ray Bradbury utilized in his 1962 novel Something Wicked This Way Comes.

I wasn't impressed by Michael Zulli's (interior) artwork, but it wasn't off-putting, either. It works, for what it is, but it isn't nearly as impressive as Dave McKean's visual presence, as seen on the three comic book covers and Temptation's album cover.

The Last Temptation is worth reading, if you're a fan of Alice Cooper, or looking for mildly horrific/childhood-themed comic book amusement(s).

#

This miniseries was later compiled in two different-cover graphic novels, a 1996 paperback version (The Compleat Alice Cooper: Incorporating the Three Acts of Alice Cooper: The Last Temptation) and, later, a hard cover version (The Last Temptation).





Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Way We Die Now by Charles Willeford


(pb; 1988: fourth/final book in the Hoke Moseley series. Introduction by Donald E. Westlake)

From the back cover:

"When Miami homicide detective Hoke Moseley receives an unexplained order to let his beard grow, he doesn't think much about it. He has too much going on at home, especially with a man he helped convict ten years before moving in across the street. Hoke immediately assumes the worst, and considering he has his former partner, who happens to be nursing a newborn, and his two teenage daughters living with him, he doesn't like the situation one bit. It doesn't help matters when he is suddenly assigned to work undercover, miles away, outside of his jurisdiction and without his badge, his gun, or his teeth. Soon he is impersonating a drifter and trying to infiltrate a farm operation suspected of murdering migrant workers. But when he gets there for his job interview, the last thing he is offered is work."


Review:

Excellent finale in the Hoke Moseley series. The novel's ending heavily hints at future Moseley books, but I'm guessing that Willeford's death, which came shortly after Way's publication, cut the series short.

Way naturally, seamlessly builds off of, and incorporates, elements and events from previous Moseley novels, and, for this reader, its recurring characters are practically real people, whose in-novel actions made me unconsciously nod and think Yeah, that's what they'd do, as if they were old friends, not page-bound characters.

Low-key and amiable in tone, even with its brief, spine-tingling violence, this is one of my favorite reads this year.

The Way We Die Now is worth owning - just like the rest of the Hoke Moseley quadrilogy: Miami Blues, New Hope for the Dead and Sideswipe.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Quentin Tarantino: The Man, The Myths and His Movies, by Wensley Clarkson


(hb; 2007: biography)

From the inside flap:

"Quentin Tarantino is the most exciting and fascinating film director of recent years. Since he exploded on the screen with the release of Resevoir Dogs, he is one of the few film movie makers to combine critical success and box office clout. With more than a hundred interviews with colleagues, close friends and family, author Wensley Clarkson explores the enigmatic cinematic legend in depth.

"Born in 1963, Tarantino was a film buff from an early age and determined to join the industry, he studied, wrote scripts and polished his already geeky vast knowledge of all things cinematic by working in a video store. True Romance's screenplay was sold early on, but it was the dazzling Resevoir Dogs that was to be his debut and a movie which stunned the world. The hits kept coming with Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown and Kill Bill."

Review:

Solid, engaging, needs-to-be-updated biography - there's not a lot that's new here for Tarantino fans who have followed his press, but it's a good read, with occasional, interesting tidbits (e.g., Christopher Walken, not Michael Madsen, was Tarantino's first choice for Mr. Blonde, the ear-slicing cop-hater in Resevoir Dogs).

Worth checking out from the library, if you're looking for something light and entertaining to read.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

**Morning AJ's story, Helen's dilemma, was published on the Microstory A Week site

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

Morning AJ penned this week's story, Helen's dilemma, a light-hearted piece about a woman and her husband wrangling over marital issues.

Check this short story out and comment on it, if you have the time. =)

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith


(hb; 2010: loosely linked prequel to The Last American Vampire)

From the inside flap:

"Indiana 1818. Moonlight falls through the dense woods that surround a one-room cabin, where a nine-year-old Abraham Lincoln kneels at his suffering mother's bedside. She's been stricken with something the old-timers call 'Milk Sickness.'

" 'My baby boy. . .' she whispers before dying.

"Only later will the grieving Abe learn that his mother's fatal affliction was actually the work of a vampire.

"When the truth becomes known to young Lincoln, he writes in his journal, 'Henceforth, my life shall be one of rigorous study and devotion. I shall become a master of mind and body. And this mastery shall have but one purpose. . .' Gifted with his legendary height, strength, and skill with an ax, Abe sets out on a path of vengeance that will lead him all the way to the White House.

"While Abraham Lincoln is widely lauded for saving the Union and freeing millions of slaves, his valiant fight against the forces of the undead has remained in the shadows for hundreds of years. That is, until Seth Grahame-Smith stumbled upon The Secret Journal of Abraham Lincoln and became the first living person to lay eyes on it in more than 140 years.

"Using the journal as his guide and writing in the grand biographical style of Doris Kearns Goodwin and David McCullough, Seth has reconstructed the true life story of our greatest president for the first time - all while revealing the hidden history behind the Civil War and uncovering the role vampires played in the birth, growth, and near-death of our nation."


Review:

Landmark horror novel, when one considers how Grahame-Smith seamlessly, cleverly melds faux-historical and horror fiction: fictions that simultaneously manage to be mainstream and horrific, for those of us who like our inked terrors to be bloody and graphic (which Abraham Lincoln is, in effective, short bursts).

Not only that, but Grahame-Smith made this reader care about his characters, with their interwoven, character-centric, vivid-but-fast-tracked histories - when Lincoln is shot, I actually felt sad, as if Lincoln had been a real, warm-individual President in my lifetime.

Exemplary read, this. Worth reading and owning for both mainstream readers and gorehounds.

Followed by The Last American Vampire.

#

The resulting film is scheduled for stateside release on June 22, 2012.

Benjamin Walker played Abraham Lincoln. Dominic Cooper played Henry Sturgess. Robin McLeavy played Nancy Hanks Lincoln. Mary Elizabeth Winstead played Mary Todd Lincoln. Lux Hany-Jardine played "Young Abraham Lincoln".

Alan Tudyk played Stephen A. Douglas. Rufus Sewell played Adam. Anthony Mackie played William Johnson. John Rothman played Jefferson Davis. Jaqueline Fleming played Harriet Tubman. Jimmi Simpson played Joshua Speed.

Timur Bekmambetov directed the film, from a screenplay by book author Seth Grahame-Smith and Simon Kinberg.


Monday, February 06, 2012

Planetary Agent X, by Mack Reynolds


(pb; 1965: this novella originally appeared in Analog Science Fiction and Fact magazine in two parts under the titles Ultima Thule and Pistolero)

From the front page:

"Newly accepted as a Special Agent of the star-spanning United Planets organization, Ronny Bronston found that his first assignment was one which had taken the lives of dozens of agents before him: he was to track down a man named Tommy Paine.

"'We've been trying to catch him for twenty years,' said Ronny's section chief. 'How long before that he was active, we have no way of knowing. It was some time before we became aware that half the revolts, coups d'états and assassinations that occur in the United Planets have his dirty finger stirring around in them.'

" 'But what motivates him?' Ronny asked. 'What's he get out of all the war and killing he stirs up?'

"'Nobody seems to know. But the best guess is that he's insane - a homicidal maniac on an intergalactic scale. He's dangerous, Ronny, and you've got to get him!' "

Review:

Fun, clever science fiction adventure novella with interesting, succinctly sketched characters; this novella is split into two storylines. The first: Ronny Bronston is sent out on his first mission as a United Planets agent, a mission that inspires more questions than answers; the second: Bronston's manhunt for a young, sharp assassin with impressive skills and a big vendetta takes on a whole new dimension when Bronston gets sneaky.

Planetary Agent X is an entertaining and fast-moving read that was much better than I thought it would be.

Worth owning, if you enjoy Sixties science fiction that's mildly provocative and wastes no words.

#

Planetary Agent X is packaged as a reverse-bound "Ace Double" novel, which means that if readers flip the book upside down and over, there is another science fiction novel, penned by another author, on the other side. (Considering that these books sold for 45 cents a pop, this seems like a great deal, even back in that less-expensive, Sixties economy.)

The cover for the flipside novel, Behold the Stars, by Kenneth Bulmer, follows this sentence.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Remainder of a Thursday Afternoon by John Eivaz


(pb; 2007: poetry chapbook/anthology)

Review:

John Eivaz is one of my all-time favorite poets: his love-it-or-hate-it work reads like intuitive-flow versifying, littered with look-away-&-you-miss-it sly wordplay, truly original (sometimes startling) line-crafting, and a regular emotive potency that eludes so many poets - myself included.

Being a more literal person, I don't always know what he's specifically writing about (his natural veers into abstraction sometimes blur the layers between concrete visuals/ideas and an impressed wow!), but the words he utilizes are sharply realized, and the mood(s) of his verses are effective, pervasive.

Eivaz, a poet's poet, is what I want to be, when I become the best poet I can be - a writer whose voice works, is distinctive, even if the (occasional) poem is merely okay, not great.

All of the nineteen poems in this mainstream anthology drew me in, some more than others, e.g., "Exodus" (a great anthology exit poem):

". . . where breath thins and bodies become beautifully hollow

"where this journey is a mourn against our stars
no more our fall slows until finally we drop
in on the next world
young again the light hurts our eyes
"


Other standout poems include: "sunday drive"; "the railroad follows the river"; "My Home Town" and "Sonnet" (with their auras of abstraction and romance); "implied mantis foma" (with its strong visual metaphors); "Moth"; "poem found in an imaginary sort-of flemish painting" and "the first few minutes of mahler's ninth first movement".

Remainders of a Thursday Afternoon doesn't include many of my favorite works by him - multi-genre, lust and love transcendant work that I've been reading over the course of twelve years within a mutual writing group, Erotica Readers & Writers Association - but it is a solid worth-purchasing mainstream introduction to his consistently amazing, inked visions.


Wednesday, February 01, 2012

One for the Money, by Janet Evanovich


(pb; 1994: first book in the Stephanie Plum series)

From the back cover:

"Trenton native Stephanie Plum is out of work, out of money, and her car's in repo-hell. So who does a hardly working girl turn to when the going gets tough? Meet cousin Vinnie, bail bondsman. Stephanie figures it's nice work if you can get it - shagging bail jumpers for $10,000 a pop. So she joins up.

"Her first assignment: nail Joe Morelli, a former vice cop on the run from a charge of murder one. There's also a cranky ex-prize fighter dogging her and a nasty habit she has of leaping first and looking later. If Stephanie doesn't wise up fast, the first dead body she sees could be her own."

Review:

One for the Money is a funny, flirty, sometime nasty-minded and fast-moving novel that, once I picked it up, I didn't want to set it down - it works as chick-lit and an action flick read.

Excellent pop mystery genre novel. Check it out!

Followed by Two for the Dough.

#

This novel has been filmed twice.

The first film version aired on television in 2002.

Lynn Collins played Stephanie Plum. Tyler Christopher played Joe Morelli. Tim Burd and Tamara Levitt co-starred, though their roles aren't listed - and neither are any other actors who might've been in this teleflick.

David Grossman directed the film, from an uncredited author script.

#

The second version was released stateside on January 27, 2012.

Katherine Heigl played Stephanie Plum. Jason O'Mara played Joe Morelli. Daniel Sunjata played Ranger. Ana Reeder played Connie. Nate Mooney played Eddie Gazarra.

John Leguizamo played Jimmy Alpha. Sherri Shepherd played Lula. Ryan Michelle Bathe played Jackie. Fisher Stevens played Morty Beyers. Adam Paul played Bernie Kuntz.

Debbie Reynolds played Grandma Mazur. Debra Monk played Mrs. Plum. Patrick Fischler played Vinnie Plum. Rex the hamster played "Rex the Hamster".

Julie Ann Robinson directed the film from a script by Stacy Sherman, Karen Ray and Liz Brixius.

**Otis B. Driftwooed's Beautify was published on the Microstory A Week site

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

Otis B. Driftwooed penned this week's story, Beautify, about a rock singer whose classic movie star looks add to her decades-charted mystique.

Check this short story out, comment on it, if you have the time and are so inclined!

<em>The Thirst</em> by Jo Nesbø

(hb; 2017:  eleventh novel in the Inspector Harry Hole series – Translated from the Norwegian by Neil Smith.) From the inside flap ...