Saturday, September 29, 2012

Unmasked, by Kane Hodder and Michael Aloisi

(hb; 2011: biography/nonfiction.  "Foreword" by Adam Green)

From the inside flap:

"Kane Hodder.  To fans, this name is synonymous with horror, an icon on the level of Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff and Vincent Price.  Kane has appeared as a stunt man and actor in more than two hundred television shows and movies, in a career spanning over thirty years.  His role as Jason Voorhees in four consecutive films of the Friday the 13th series came to define the character feared by millions of fans the world over.  The man behind the hockey mask would seal his fate as horror royalty years later by starring as the monster Victor Crowley in the Hatchet series.

"Unmasked documents the unlikely true story of a boy who was taunted and beaten relentlessly by bullies throughout his childhood.  Kane only escaped his tormentors when he moved to a tiny island in the South Pacific where he lived for all of his teen years.  After living shirtless in a jungle for  awhile, he headed back to America where he fell in love with doing stunts. . . only to have his love burn him, literally.  For the first time ever, Kane tells the true story of the horrific burn injury that nearly killed him at the start of his career.  The entire. . . story of his recovery, the emotional and physical damage it caused and his fight to break back into the industry that almost killed him. . . and triumphant rise to become a film legend are told in Kane's own. . . voice."


Fun, interesting, warm and blunt read that may disturb readers who aren't into horror films (particularly slasher films) or are afraid of their own darkness - it may, however, prove engrossing for those who are into Kane's oeuvre, gore and monster flicks, and behind-the-scenes takes on cinematic stunt work. 

Worth owning, this.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Cabal, by Clive Barker

(hb; 1985, 1988: horror anthology)

From the inside flap:

"Cabal. . . is the story of a young woman willing to cross the borders of the human to be with the man she loves.

"That man is [Aaron] Boone, a beautiful, tortured soul who believes himself responsible for atrocious crimes.  He has taken refuge in a necropolis situated in the wilds of Canada, beneath which all the last great monsters of the world - the nightbreed - are in hiding.  They are possessed of extraordinary powers; so is Boone.  And in the hunt for Boone, they, too, will be hunted.  Can they survive when the colder, deadlier monsters of the twentieth century are on their heels?  And can Lori's love withstand the extraordinary truth of Boone's soul?"

Overall review:

Above-average novella/story anthology that showcases Barker's trademark, sometimes eloquent, sometimes gory meld of the beauty and darkness.

Worth owning, this.


1.)  "Cabal": See "inside flap" description.  Good, entertaining read.

The resulting film, retitled Nightbreed, was released stateside on February 16, 1990.

Clive Barker directed the film from his screenplay.

Craig Sheffer played Aaron Boone/Cabal.  Anne Bobby played Lori.  David Cronenberg played Dr. Phillip K. Decker.  Debora Weston played Sheryl.  Charles Haid played Captain Eigerman. 

Hugh Ross played Narcisse.  Doug Bradley played Dirk Lylesberg.  Catherine Chevalier played Rachel.    Kim Robertson played Babette.  Malcolm Smith played Ashberry.  Bob Sessions played Pettine.  Oliver Parker played Peloquin. 

John Agar played "Decker's Victim".

2.)  "The Life of Death":  A woman's brush with mortality during surgery portends her further, more complex association with that irrevocable element. 

Excellent, gripping story, with a stunning and darkly hilarious finish.

3.)   "How Spoilers Bleed":  Three European imperalist men, in contentious negotiations with an Indian tribe over land rights, find themselves on the business end of a terrifying and relentless curse.

Good, moralistic tale.

4.)  "Twilight at the Towers":   The possible defection of a high-ranking KGB agent (Mironenko) sparks a cycle of deceit, bloodshed and revelations.

Good, twist-pretzeled story that melds the milieus of John le Carré's spy world and grisly violence.

5.)  "The Last Illusion":  A private detective (Harry D'Amour) discovers that his gig babysitting a famous magician's corpse is more difficult and hellish than he thought it would be.

Entertaining, distinctive mix of noir, humor and the supernatural.

The film version, retitled Lord of Illusions, was released stateside on August 25, 1995.

Clive Barker directed the film from his screenplay.

Scott Bakula played Harry D'Amour.  Kevin J. O'Connor played Philip Swann.  Famke Janssen played Dorothea Swann.  Barry Del Sherman played Butterfield. 

Daniel von Bargen played Nix.  Vincent Shiavelli played Vinovich.  Wayne Grace played Loomis. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Solo, by Jack Higgins

(hb; 1980)

From the inside flap:

"John Mikali, the central character of Solo, has three superior talents. He is a world famous concert pianist. He is a lover of remarkable accomplishments, who plays at lovemaking with the same brilliance with which he dominates an enthralled audience. And unknown to anyone except a lawyer named DeVille, he has become the perfect assassin, who at first killed only for revenge and now has become the ultimate international hit man.

"Of the many women who come fleetingly within Mikali's embrace, only one attracts his continued attention, perhaps because she is beautiful, or intelligent, or possibly because Dr. Katherine Riley is America's foremost authority on the terrorist killer mentality.

"As Solo opens, Mikhail shoots at point blank range. . . a Londoner named Maxwell Joseph Cohen, chairman of the largest clothing manufacturing firm in the world. As Mikhail makes his escape by car, the police in pursuit, he finds himself in a long, narrow tunnel, and what happens in that tunnel clinches Mikali's fate for it brings Colonel Asa Morgan after him.

"Morgan is a soldier's soldier, a magnificent fighter. . . What Asa Morgan wants now more than anything else on earth, is the life of the man whom the police know only as the Cretan Lover. Morgan has few clues to the Cretan's identity, but his relentless pursuit brings him to the expert on terrorists, Dr. Katherine Riley, who finds him as attractive as he does her. Thus begins. . . a triangle [in which] a woman finds herself in love with two men determined to destroy each other. . ."


Solo is a lean, gripping, waste-no-words, near-impossible-to-set-down thriller. One of my all-time favorite reads.

Worth owning, this.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Carrie, by Stephen King

(pb; 1974)

From the back cover:

"Carrie may be picked on by her classmates, but she has a gift. She can move things with her mind. Doors lock. Candles fall. This is her power and her problem. Then, an act of kindness, as spontaneous as the vicious taunts of her classmates, offers Carrie a chance to be normal. . . until an unexpected cruelty turns her gift into a weapon of horror and destruction that no one will ever forget."


Carrie, King's first published novel, is raw (in comparison to his later novels) and ambitious for a first effort.

More than a well-written - if jump cut-laden - story of a telekinetic teen lashing out at her tormentors (her classmates, and her religious nutjob mother), Carrie is also a cut n' paste tale of a town (Chamberlain) undone by a shocking horrific event.

Parts of this novel are pre-mid Eighties Stephen King amazing (with proper editing, the man is an excellent writer), showing the cinematic verve that King would later display in his more accomplished, but no less worthy, works.

Worth checking out, this.


Carrie has inspired three film versions, and one cinematic sequel.

The first version was released stateside on November 3, 1976.

Sissy Spacek played Carrie White. Piper Laurie played Margaret White. Amy Irving played Sue Snell. William Katt played Tommy Ross. Nancy Allen played Chris Hargensen. John Travolta played Billy Nolan.

Betty Buckley played Miss Collins. P.J. Soles played Norma. Edie McClurg played Helen. Priscilla Pointer, Amy Irving's real-life mother, played Mrs. Snell.

Brian DePalma directed the film, from Lawrence D. Cohen's screenplay.


The Rage: Carrie 2 was released stateside on March 12, 1999.

Emily Bergl played Rachel Lang. Jason London played Jesse Ryan. Dylan Bruno played Mark. J. Smith-Cameron played Barbara Lang.

Amy Irving, who co-starred in the original film, reprised her role of Sue Snell.

Mena Suvari played Lisa. Eddie Kaye Thomas played Arnie. Zachery Ty Bryan played Eric. Gordon Clapp played "Eric's Father". John Doe played Boyd.

Katt Shea, who also directed the film, played "Deputy D.A." Rafael Moreu wrote the screenplay.


The second version of Carrie, a telepic, aired on American television on November 4, 2002.

Angela Bettis played Carrietta "Carrie" White. Patricia Clarkson played Margaret White. Emilie de Ravin played Chris Hargensen. Rena Sofer played Miss Desjarden. Kandyse McClure played Sue Snell.

Tobias Mehler played Tommy Ross. Jesse Cadotte played Billy Nolan. Meghan Black played Norma Watson. Chelan Simmons played Helen Shyres.

David Keith played John Mulchaey. Laurie Murdoch played Principal Morton. Michael Kopsa played John Hargensen. Jodelle Ferland, billed as Jodelle Micah Ferland, played "Little Carrie" [Carrie as a young child].

David Carson directed the film, from a teleplay by Bryan Fuller.


The third version, now in post-production, is scheduled for stateside release on March 15, 2013.

Chloë Grace Moretz played Carrie White. Julianne Moore played Margaret White. Judy Greer played Miss Desjardin. Portia Doubleday played Chris Hargensen. Gabrielle Wilde played Sue Snell. Ansel Elgort played Tommy Ross. Alex Russell played Billy Nolan.

Skyler Wexler played "Young Carrie". Cynthia Preston played Eleanor Snell.

Kimberly Peirce directed the film, from a screenplay by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Gustav Gloom and the People Taker by Adam-Troy Castro

(hb; 2012: first book in the Gustav Gloom series. Cover and interior illustrations by Kristen Margiotta)

From the back cover:

"Gustav Gloom's neighbors think he is the unhappiest little boy in the world. But what they don't know is that the strange, dark house Gustav lives in is filled with more wonders and mysteries than could ever be explained. But explain is exactly what Gustav needs to do when Fernie What moves in across the street. And that's when the adventure really begins. . .

"When her cat chases his own shadow into the Gloom mansion, not only does Fernie get lost in Gustav's house full of shadows, but she also finds herself being chased by the mysterious People Taker. With Gustav's help, Fernie must save herself, her cat, and ultimately her family from what lurks in the Gloom mansion."


This is one of the most fun, imaginative and offbeat kid's books I've read in a long while, with something for both children and adults.

One of my favorite lines in the book: "This struck Fernie as the worst thing he had done yet. Taking people and throwing them into a bottomless pit to become slaves of a guy named Lord Obsidian was evil enough, but promising them pancakes first and not giving them any added an entirely different level of cruelty."

If my girlfriend and I had a child, this would be one of the first books I'd include in his/her library (for when he/she was old enough to understand/read it).

Fans of Tim Burton, Roald Dahl, Henry Selick and the film ParaNorman may especially enjoy this shadow-themed and ultimately heartwarming (sans sappiness) treat.

Wonderful work, this, between the dark, kid-friendly charm of Adam-Troy Castro 's story and characters, and Kristen Margiotta's perfect-for-the-book illustrations.

Followed by Gustav Gloom and the Nightmare Vault.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

The Ghosts of Sleath, by James Herbert

(hb; 1994: second book in the David Ash series)

From the inside flap:

"Sleath. Quiet, peaceful. A small village hidden away in the Chiltern Hills, almost forgotten by the modern world. Nothing much seems to happen here, little disturbs the centuries-old tranquility.

"Until the ghosts begin to appear. And frighteningly bizarre events begin to occur.

"Psychic investigator David Ash, a man burdened by the dark secret of his own past, is sent to Sleath to investigate the phenomenona and his discoveries there drive him to the very edge of sanity. The incidents grow worse, until, in a final night of horror, awesome and malign forces are unleashed in a supernatural storm that threatens to consume the village itself.

"For Sleath is not what it seems. And the dead have returned for a reason."


Sleath is a solid, if initially slow-moving, sequel to Haunted. As he did in that first David Ash novel, Herbert favors a classic - read: slow character- and tension-build - approach to his tale, perhaps prompting readers used to quick thrills/fast action to get impatient with Sleath (I did) or drop the novel for another book.

What made Sleath worth reading, for me, is that, along the way - even during the slow-build parts - Herbert's interesting variations on the ghost genre, as well as his variations on his first book, stood out. Sleath's characters were like those out of one of the better Hammer films, and the explicitly laid out horrors were intense, cinematic and creative in their unveilings.

The ending is borderline apocalyptic for those in the village, simultaneous terror, gore and violence for all involved - that is to say, while familiar, it's a satisfying finale to an "Old School" horror tale.

Decent read from an excellent author; worth checking out, this. If you purchase it, make sure you don't pay full price.

Followed by Ash.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

The Kings of Cool, by Don Winslow

(hb; 2012: prequel to Savages)

From the inside flap:

"In Savages, Don Winslow introduced Ben and Chon, twentysomething best friends who risk everything to save the girl they both love, O. . .

"Now,. . . Winslow reaches back in time to tell the story of how Ben, Chon and O became the people they are.  Spanning from 1960s Southern California to the recent past. . .  As the trio at the center of the book does battle with a cabal of drug dealers and crooked cops, they come to learn that their future is inextricably linked with their parents' history.  A series of breakneck twists and turns puts the two generations on a collision course culminating in a. . . showdown that will force Ben, Chon, and O to choose between their real families and their loyalty to one another."


Kings is an entertaining and clever prequel that effectively sets up the characters, storylines and action of Savages, while adding previously hidden nuances to Savages' characters' relationships.  As a bonus for Winslow's regular readers, Bobby Z. (from The Death and Life of Bobby Z.) shows up to add crossover spice to Kings.

If you like Savages, there's a strong chance you'll like Kings.

Good read, worth checking out.

<em>Mother Night</em> by Kurt Vonnegut

(pb; 1961) From the back cover “ Mother Night is a daring challenge to our moral sense. American Howard W. Campbell, Jr., a spy du...