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)


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?"


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)


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."


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)


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."


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. . ."


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.


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."


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. . .


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.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

The Lovers by Vendela Vida

(hb; 2010)

From the inside flap:

"Twenty-eight years ago, Peter and Yvonnne honeymooned in the beautiful coastal village of Datça, Turkey.  Now Yvonne is a widow, her twin children grown.  Hoping to immerse herself in memories of a happier time - as well as sand and sea - Yvonne returns to Datça.  But her plans for a restorative week in Turkey are quickly complicated.  Instead of comforting her, her memories begin to trouble her.  Her vacation rental's landlord and his bold, intriguing wife - who share a cruious marital arrangement - become constant uninvited visitors, in and out of the house.

"Overwhelmed by the past and unexpected dislocated by the environment, Yvonne clings to a newfound friendship with Ahmet, a local boy who makes his living as a shell collector.  With Ahmet as her guide, Yvonne gains new insight into the lives of her own adult children, and she finally begins to enjoy the shimmering sea and relaxed pace of the Turkish coast.  But a devastating accident upends her delicate peace and throws her life into chaos - and her sense of self into turmoil. . ."


A dreamy vibe suffuses Vida's emotional (but not bathetic) tale about a woman who's adjusting to her new life and evolving outlook regarding her family, and situations, past and present.  Many of Yvonne's clarifying moments are brought into sharper focus by her quiet revelatons, as well as external, surreal events and elements (I particularly appreciated Vida's inclusion of the owl and the fairy chimneys  in this wise, humane and exotic tale).

Worth owning, this.

<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...