Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Eros For Various Voices by Peter Baltensperger

(pb; 2006: erotic story anthology)

Overall review:

The sexually diverse stories in this anthology favor a intellectualized, cosmic mindset that often pushes Nature to the forefront of these romantic, sometimes experimental works.

I read this collection the same way I enjoy any other story anthology: I read a few tales a day, set the book down and mentally digested the works.  Eros is not meant to be read straight through, without breaks - though one clearly can, given its reiterated themes, experimentation and (possible) character links.

The themes of these twenty-four stories run along these lines - there's the Nature-reverent works, many of them scene-sketch pieces (e.g., "Forest Secrets", "Moonrise Over the Ocean", "Woman as a Landscape" and "Nocturne"), woman or man recounts their sex partner-history (e.g., "Just Another Birthday", "Waiting with Julia" and "The Black Widow") and pushing the narrative boundaries (e.g., "Thinking of Breasts", which made me think of Chuck Palahniuk's analytical, page-bound tendencies, or "Bus Stop", which describes an impromptu stranger-bang, without giving any backstory, or what life consequences may have resulted from the encounter).

In the past, these sketch pieces would have caused my editorial sensibilities to recoil, but Baltensperger makes them work - another example of before you break or bend the rules, know the rules. . . which this author clearly does, making said sketch pieces succeed.

This classy anthology - shot through with loving, larger-than-us sentiments - is worth owning, if you, as a reader, are willing to think beyond the usual sex story clichés and limited focus of many of those genre works.

Standout stories:

1.)  "A Matter of Time": A divorced couple (Mick and Sylvia) mentally process their relatively new life changes.  Excellent, in its emotional potency and restraint.

2.)  "Small Favors":  A woman (Rose Miller) blossoms in a sexually diverse way via a succession of lovers, before discovering a less ephemeral, equally carnal veracity to satisfy her.

3.)  "Expectations":  A cautionary tale about two lovers (Bernice and Conrad), whose carnal time together may be supervened by their life choices.  Exemplary story, more emotionally complex than most lustworks I've read in a long while.

4.)  "The Mechanic":  Hank, a repairman-inventor, gets a job at a private mechanized sex club (Ecstasy House) and revels in his work.

5.)  "A Quick and Easy Death":  A death fetishist details another lover's end-of-life cycle, while preparing himself for her gentle physical demise.

While this story will definitely prove squickable - disturbing - to some mainstream erotica readers, Baltensperger imbues this work with a dark, almost Gothic romanticism that makes "Quick" not entirely disturbing for this reader.  Bravo.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Crimson, by Gord Rollo

(pb; 2009)

From the back cover:

"The small town of Dunnville is no stranger to fear.  Evil has stalked its dark streets once before, twenty years ago, leaving in its wake a legacy of blood and madness.  These days, no one in the town likes to talk about it much.  Some folks deny it ever happened. . .

"But four boyhood friends are about to discover the truth, though no one will believe them.  Their parents think they've been listening to too many scary stories.  But what the boys have released from an icy well is no legend.  It's very real indeed, and it will soon terrify Dunnville to its very core.  Unspeakable horror is running free. . . and the nightmares of the past are about to begin again."


Crimson is another solid offering from Rollo, whose chock-full-of-horrific moments initially hews, in improved and abbreviated fashion, closely to those of Stephen King's bloated It

Midway through, the novel's storyline cuts to a more original tale involving prison, monstrous possession and other supernatural, character-based elements, leading to a sequel-friendly finish that is a relatively nuanced and King Diamondesque (à la his 1989 album Conspiracy).

Note that my comparisons of this particular Rollo work to Stephen King or King Diamond's efforts are not lazy compartmentalizations of Rollo's writing, but, rather, a way to suggest his work to fans of King or Diamond.
Worth owning, Crimson.

Weird Al: The Book, by Nathan Rabin with Al Yankovic

(hb; 2012: humor book / comedian biography)

From the inside flap:

"What do you do when someone's sold more comedy recordings than any other artist in history?  How do you commemorate over three decades' worth of live concerts and ground-breaking music videos?  And what's a fitting way to celebrate a slew of Grammy-award-winning albums and singles of brilliant satire?  You write a book - a big, fat, career retrospective book, that's what!

"This comprehensive illustrated tribute to the undisputed king of pop-culture parody, 'Weird Al' Yankovic, covers his songs, videos, performances, and life story in words and pictures, including photo captions, tweets, lists, and an introduction by the man himself."


Weird Al: The Book is a breeze-through, engaging and often laugh-out-loud funny media-mixed book that's worth owning, especially if you're a "Weird Al" fan.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Longarm and the Doomed Beauty by Tabor Evans

(pb; 2011: three hundred and ninety-seventh book in the Longarm series)

From the back cover:

"Babe Younger - cousin to the infamous Cole Younger - has shot his last bank manager.  Thanks to the testimony of eyewitness Josephine Pritchard, the outlaw has been duly executed at the end of a hangman's rope.  But in a touching display of loyalty to their leader, his gang has vowed vengeance against the beautiful Miss Pritchard.

"Now it's up to Deputy U.S. Marshall Custis Long to thwart the gang's ill intentions toward the lovely lady.  If Longarm has his way, every one of them will be reunited with their leader - in a special ring of hell reserved for cutthroats and cowards.  Of course, it is a single man against an entire gang - and if Custis doesn't watch his back he might be the one not getting any older. . ."


Doomed Beauty is a Western, action and sex pulp story that merges the august tone of Louis L'Amour's classic genre works with earthier sentiments.

The Longarm series clearly has a formula, but it's a fun, focused and waste-no-words recipe.  There's enough history and character development to keep the key characters interesting, and the action and pace is swift and blunt, like a genre Western should be.

Doomed Beauty is a good, disposable pulp read, one worth checking out.  I wouldn't buy it for more than the fifty cents I paid for it, but that's me - I only own a few favorite books, as I like too many authors to store all their works.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury

(pb; 1962)

From the back cover:

"What if someone knew your secret dream, that one great wish you would give anything for?

"And what if that person suddenly made your dream come true - before you learn the price you have to pay. . .

"Something Wicked This Way Comes. . . is the story of two boys who encounter the sinister wonders of Cooger & Dark's Pandemonium Shadow Show.  They will soon discover the show's awful mystery - a mystery that will change the life of every person it touches."


The melancholy, affright and exuberance of youth (as embodied by tweens Jim Nightshade and Will Halloway) and being middle-aged, as embodied by Charles Halloway, Jim's father, skeleton, theme and suffuse this fantastic, yet focused novel about a late night carnival whose hidden, twisted rot can be sniffed amidst its otherwise sweet-scent promises. . . this was one of the first novels I read as a child that made my eyes go agog with wonder at the magic of the printed word - an ongoing frisson I continue to believe in, along with Something's PG-rated, sometimes whimsical, sometimes grim core: life itself.

Worth owning, and re-reading at varied annual intervals.


This novel has been filmed twice.

The first movie version, a UK production, was released in the UK in 1972.  It starred Ben Clennell, Mark Ashman, Tony Collins, Jenny Glennell, and others actors.  Who played what role is not listed by  Collin Finbow directed.


The second, more widely known film version was released stateside on April 29, 1983.

Jason Robards played Charles Halloway.  Jonathan Pryce played Mr. Dark.  Vidal Peterson played Will Halloway.  Shawn Carson played Jim Nightshade. 

Royal Dano played Tom Fury.  Pam Grier played Dust Witch.  Mary Grace Canfield played Miss Foley. Ellen Geer played Mrs. Halloway.  Diane Ladd played Mrs. Nightshade. 

Bruce M. Fischer played Mr. Cooger.  Scott De Roy played "Cooger as a Young Man".  Brendan Klinger played "Cooger as a Child".  Richard Davalos played Mr. Crosetti.  Jake Dengel played Mr. Tetley.  Jack Dodson played Dr. Douglas. 

An uncredited Phil Fondacaro played "Demon Clown".  Arthur Hill was the voice of the "Narrator".

Jack Clayton directed the film, from a screenplay by book author Ray Bradbury.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Coming Together: Hungry for Love, edited by Sommer Marsden

(pb; 2012: erotica / zombie anthology.  Foreword by Thomas Roche)

From the back cover:

"Why should the zombie apocalypse be the time to think about romance?  Like flesh for zombies, romance is the stuff of life for the living.  We shamble through life searching desperately for it, and nothing but love fills our need.

"In the pages of Hungry for Love, people find each other and love each other in a world of contagion, consumption and consumerism gone mad.

"Coming Together is about giving. . . and about sex (a powerful combination in any venue).  Each book in the series benefits a different charity.  Join us in doing good while being bad, and celebrate the diversity of life!"

Overall review:

Marsden has fashioned a solid, diverse collection of zombies-and-sex tales.  

A few of the stories didn't grab me - two ran too long (Kiki Howell's "Zombie Factory" and t'Sade's "Love Never Dies") and one of the stories (Erzabet Bishop's "Dark Hunger") was too predictable.

Even these flawed pieces had something to recommend them, as rough-write works - they merely needed to be whittled down slightly, or the author could have thrown an unfamiliar mini-twist into her shambling lust mix, to help distinguish it from other seen-this-before stories.

Hungry for Love is worth owning - for its charitable aims, and its published delivery.

Standout stories:

1.)  "My Name is Brighton" - Alana Noël Voth:  A date rape victim-turned-zombie seeks out one of the men (Paul) who used her - without being aware that he had done so.

More horror story than plot-lite sex work, this excellent, sympathetic and character-veracious tale is one of the best stories in this anthology.

2.)   "Meat" - Bobby Diabolus:  A bite-infected man goes through various stages of evolving desire, while looking for his raw, sexy ex-lover (Honey).

"Meat" is an interesting story that ably balances the emotional and carnal aspects of its lead character, without tipping into unintentional pornoriffic parody, emotive abstraction or zombie clichés.

This original, first person-POV tale vaguely echoes David Cronenberg's "Venereal Horror" films (e.g., Rabid, 1977;  The Brood, 1979; Videodrome, 1983; The Fly, 1986 remake; eXistenZ, 1999).

3.)  "Annie Morgan" - Armand Rosamilia:  Especially good piece about a mercurial, promiscuous woman confronting something more potent than undead attackers.

4.)   "Queer Zombie Disco" - Kirsty Logan:  Offbeat tune-based horror sex tale.

5.)   "Screen Siren" - Annabeth Leong:  Hollywood-skewering, imaginative piece about a Z-grade movie director (Sam) and an undead, sentient actress.

This is one of the best entries in this collection.

Other stories:

"You Make a Dead Man Come" - Sommer Marsden;  "Last Man on Earth" - Blacksilk; "The Tenderest Meat" - Elise Hepner;  "Zombie Goddess" - Sadey Quinn;  "Zombie Apocalypse: First Responder" - Kissa Starling;  "Head Full of Zombie" - Alison Tyler;  "Dead in the Water"- Lynn Townsend;  "Little Deaths" - Cora Zane;  "You Look Better Dead" - Jeffrey L. Shipley

Monday, February 04, 2013

Strange Magic, by Gord Rollo

(pb; 2010)

From the back cover:

“In the dead of night, beside a fading fire deep in the cold woods, a solitary man sits on a magician’s old theatrical trunk. . . planning the hideous death of Wilson Kemp.  The trunk is battered and cracked, its garish paint peeling, but its contents are very special – Wilson Kemp’s worst fear, coming back to haunt him.
“Kemp thought he could escape his past.  As time went by he actually began to hope he could leave the nightmares behind him.  But he is about to discover that some nightmares have no end and no escape.  It’s taken years of patient, inexorable searching, but his past has finally caught up with him.  And only his blood will satisfy it.”


Strange Magic is a mostly solid, fast-paced and entertaining horror novel from a talented author whose ability to streamline moments splatteriffic ooziness and bloodless creepiness into a fun, focused read.

My one nit with the book is that Magic’s ending is too sequel friendly.  In contrast with the intelligence, grace and overall effectiveness of what precedes it, Magic’s clichéd finish might as well been that of a Goosebumps book. 

Magic is worth checking out from the library – perhaps worth owning, if you don’t mind its post-climax wrap up.


For those readers intrigued by one of Magic’s minor characters, Peeler, Rollo has published a story about him: “Peeler".

Catlow by Louis L'Amour

(pb; 1963)

From the back cover:

"Catlow heard the legend of the Mexican gold.  Catlow hijacked the mule train carrying it.  Catlow knew the U.S. Law and the entire Mexican Army was at his backside.  Catlow didn't give a damn.  He knew all the answers - except how to get through Seri Indian country rich and alive."


Lean, rough and exciting, Catlow is a burn-through read, with L'Amour's love of the action loaded Old West, briefly stated cowboy philosophy and worth-liking-or-loathing characters at the forefront.

L'Amour upped the pleasure ante by indirectly linking Catlow to some of his other works: his multibook series The Sacketts and another novel, The Daybreakers (one of Catlow's secondary characters, Rosita Calderon, is cousin to Daybreakers's Druscilla Alvarado).

Excellent, amiable genre novel, this, from one of my favorite Western authors - one worth owning.


Released in stateside theaters on October 1, 1971, the film version was directed by Sam Wanaker, from a screenplay by Scott Finch and James Griffith (billed as J.J. Griffith).

Yul Brunner played Catlow.  Richard Crenna played Cowan.  Leonard Nimoy played Miller.  Daliah Lavi played Rosita.  Jo Ann Pflug played Christina.  Jeff Corey played Merridew. 

Michael Delano played Rio.  Julián Mateos played Recalde.  David Ladd played Caxton.  Robert Logan, billed as Bob Logan, played Oley.  John Clark played Keleher. 


<em>The Letter, the Witch and the Ring</em> by John Bellairs

(pb; 1976: third book in the Lewis Barnavelt mysteries . Drawings by Richard Egielski .) From the back cover “Rose Rita [Pottinger]...