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."


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. . ."


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."


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."


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."


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. . ."


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. . ."


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.

<em>The Freak</em> by Eleanor Robinson

(pb; 1980 ─ a.k.a. The Silverleaf Syndrome ) From the back cover “He was born monstrously deformed, a freak of nature. Possessed of ...