Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Intruders, by Michael Marshall

(hb; 2007)

From the inside flap:

"For Jack Whalen, it all starts with a visit from a childhood friend, now a lawyer, who asks for his help on an odd case.  The family members of a scientist have been brutally murdered and the scientist - who may have had something to hide - is nowhere to be found.

"But Jack has more pressing matters on his mind.  His wife has told him that she's on a routine business trip to Seattle, yet she hasn't checked into her hotel.  Calls to her cell phone go unanswered, and when Jack travels to Seattle to investigate, she's vanished.

"And in Oregon a little girl goes missing.  She's found miles away, but it soon becomes clear that she's not an innocent victim, and is far from defenseless.

"Unusual events, all leading to the same place.  As a former patrol cop who left the force under difficult circumstances, Jack is determined to find some answers.  Yet the more he digs, the more the intrigue grows.  Searching into the dark secrets of a past that still haunts him, Jack discovers the truth has roots deeper and far more evil than he ever feared."


Review:

Intruders is a mostly solid, intimate conspiracy thriller - slick, (often) nuanced in its tone and insinuations, entertaining (in a mainstream way) and lots of plot-pertinent action in this one. 

What kept this novel from getting higher marks with me was that its action and plot points, for the most part, were predictable.  Also, its ending, while obvious, wasn't effectively foreshadowed (when compared to the nuanced tone of the rest of the book) - its last "twist" was clumsy at best, forced.  

Marshall is a talented genre writer, no doubt about that.  That said, check this one out from the library or pick it up for a few bucks (at most).



The resulting BBC America television series, Intruders, began airing on August 23, 2014. 

John Simm played Jack Whalen.  Mira Sorvino played Amy Whalen.  Tory Kittles played Gary Fischer.  Millie Bobby Brown played Madison O'Donnell.  Sonya Salomaa played Allison O'Donnell.  

James Frain played Richard Shepherd.  Robert Forster played Frank Shepherd.  Daryl Shuttleworth played Detective Ron Blanchard.   Tom Butler played Brud Zimmerman.  Karin Konoval played Bobbi Zimmerman. 

Andrew Airlie played Todd Crane.  Shanae Tomasevich played Paige Crane.  David Dalmalchian played Oz Turner.  Alex Diakun played Marcus Fox.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Rubyfruit Jungle, by Rita Mae Brown


(pb; 1973)

Review:

Bawdy, milestone, blunt and well-written, Rubyfruit is a mainstream-ish coming-of-lesbian-age tale about a Southern girl (Molly Bolt) who realizes early on that her urges - often not considered "lady-like" - don't gibe with the repressive societal elements of the Fifties and Sixties.  It's emotional without being overly so; its points, plot and otherwise, cut across different social territories; its characters feel real and familiar.

Rubyfruit is an excellent, occasionally chatty read, one worth owning.

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This book provided the basis for the 1989 four-minute short film Me and RubyfruitIt was directed by Sadie Benning, who may have written the screenplay as well (the above film link doesn't say who did).

Random side note:  Brown also wrote the screenplay for the 1982 slasher film The Slumber Party Massacre (and other films).

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Black Ice Score, by Richard Stark


(pb; 1965, 2010: eleventh novel in the Parker series.  Foreword by Dennis Lehane.)


From the back cover:

"A corrupt African colonel has converted his country's wealth into diamonds and smuggled them to a Manhattan safe house.  Four upstanding citizens plan to rescue their new nation by stealing the diamonds back with the help of a 'specialist' - Parker, that is.  He has the best references in town.  Will Parker break his rule against working with amateurs and help them because his woman would be disappointed if he doesn't?  Or because three hired morons have threatened to kill him and his woman if he does?  They thought they were buying an advantage, but what they get is a predated death certificate."


Review:

Black is another lean, blunt and excellent crime-noirish entry in the Parker series, with a foreign intrigue/political edge thrown into the mix. 

Followed by The Sour Lemon Score.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

**Six of my mainstream poems were published in the second issue of Stormcloud Poets


Six of my poems, a mix of old and new works, were published in the second issue of Storm Cloud Poets magazine.  These poems are:

-Appetite for construction, a versework about a poet writing his way toward his best self;

-Loneliness (suburban 03 mix), about a restless, couch-surfing young man seeking some sense of "home" in a Pacific Northwest city;

-Orphan Andy's, a heartfelt and briefly flirty piece about two exes - now time-tested friends - hanging out in the poem-titular San Francisco diner;

-Pens, I - III*, a poem that brings together three writing-impetus microverses, penned in successive decades, 1990s - present;

-Products*, in which an adolescent combusts at the thought of submitting to his parents' ways (as well as corporatized adulthood);

and

-Shaking the northern spheres*, a work that recalls a Gothic-themed road trip with a restless friend in the early 1990s.

Not only that, this issue features superb verses by Richard Cody ("Sprite," The Job of the Poet").

Thanks, once again, to editor/author E.S. Wynn (a.k.a. Earl S. Wynn) for including my (and others') works in this poetry collection - it's an honor to work with such an accomplished and inspiring word-conjurer. 

If you have the time and are so inclined, pick up a copy of Stormcloud Poets #2 now!

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*Pens, I - III and Shaking the northern spheres were also published in the 2014 single-author anthology Mondo febrifuge: omnibus poems.



Sunday, August 17, 2014

Images of America: San Francisco's Marina District, by Dr. William Lipsky


(pb; 2004: nonfiction)


From the back cover:

"When driving into San Francisco across the Golden Gate Bridge, the sweeping vistas and greenery gradually give way to the city's charming and inviting Marina District.  This area is. . . one of San Francisco's most picturesque and best-known neighborhoods and is famous for its aesthetic and historic appeal.  Adjacent to the Presidio, the Golden Gate, and Chrissy Fields, the Marina hosts a large number of Art Deco structures and the famed Palace of Fine Arts, a resplendent collection of buildings originally designed for the Panama Pacific International Exposition of 1915 [a.k.a. PPIE].  The exposition was held to celebrate the opening of the Panama Canal, but also to show the world that San Francisco had recovered from the 1906 earthquake.  The Marina rose from the site of the Pan Pacific to become one of the city's most desirable and recognizable districts, known for its architecture, culture and dramatic waterfront settings.

"Only a short time ago, much of the Marina was again damaged by the 1989 earthquake.  This. . . collection of 200 vintage photos and other visual memorabilia celebrates the district's history, beauty and resilience.  Compiled by city historian Dr. William Lipsky, these images show a neighborhood that is worthy of the recognition it has garnered through the years as a unique showcase of San Francisco."


Review:

When I checked Marina out from my local library, I was going to read it, not read and review it.  It was meant as a quick-break read from my usual itinerary of fiction and more serious-minded books.  However, Marina's historical facts, previously unseen images, to-the-point-not-tourist-guide-giddy writing and my love of this city made me want to share this with fellow readers and fellow Californians.  This is a worthwhile book to read - and own, if purchased used - if you especially appreciate San Francisco or like books of this genre.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Green Eagle Score, by Richard Stark


(pb; 1967, 2010: tenth novel in the Parker series.  Foreword by Dennis Lehane.)


From the back cover:

"Here’s Parker—planning to steal the entire payroll of an Air Force base in upstate New York, with help from Marty Fusco, fresh out of the pen, and a smart aleck finance clerk named Devers. Holed up with family in a scrappy little town, the hoisters prepare for the risky job by trying to shorten the odds. But the ice is thinner than Parker likes to think—and Marty’s ex-wife is much more complicated."


Review:

Green is another lean, machine-precise and entertaining entry in the Parker series.  This time out, the spanner in the works is one of Parker's crew members' ex-wives (Ellen Fusco) and her psychiatrist (Fred Godden) who provide the spanner elements in Parker's otherwise clockwork endeavors.  Great, burn-through read, followed by The Black Ice Score.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Fear the Reaper, edited by Joe Mynhardt


(eBook; 2013: horror anthology)


Overall review:

Good mainstream horror anthology, worth owning.


Standout stories:

1.)  "Stumps" - Jeff Strand:  Darkly funny story about a man who seeks immortality and finds it.


2.)   "Death Squared" - Rena Mason: Two boys' friendship is tested when they visit a death site and encounter something more than ghosts.  The scenes will be familiar to those well-versed in ghost works, but the writing is fun and solid.


3.)   "The Death Catcher" - Robert S. Wilson:  Especially well-written and real-world plausible (within the context of this work) tale about a man whose ability to resurrect the dying brings heartache as well as relief.


4.)   "Cedo Looked Like People" - E.C. McMullen Jr.:  A boy's strange next door night- and day-divided neighbors make for equally strange - and later disturbing - friendships.  This Ray Bradbury-esque is one of the most memorable and one of the more original stories I've read in a long time.


5.)   "The Tubes" - Jeremy C. Shipp:  This is one of my favorite works in this anthology.  In a not-quite-bizarro science fictional world, death's dominion is political.  Like the preceding story, this one is memorable.


6.)   "A Life in Five Objects" - Ross Warren:  An interview involving the titular five objects takes a surprising turn.  Good read, entertaining.


7.)   "The Last Resort" - Sam Stone: Solid, plot-twisty piece about a man (Charlie), dying of cancer, whose eyes are opened to certain untimely revelations.


8.)   "Der Engel der Liebe" - Dean M Drinkel:  This story reads like a mid-Sixties to early Seventies Hammer film, with its ritualistic murder, sadism and blasphemous-religious elements.  It's predictable, aside from a Hammer-esque tale-expansive twist at the end, but this well-written work is all about enjoying the ride not the destination.


9.)   "The Final Peace" - Gary Fry:  A man, mourning his recently deceased wife and fearful for their offspring, goes to the fair with his too-curious-for-his-comfort children.  Well-written tale, with an effective, grief-realistic tone and a finish that made me smile.


10.)   "Do No Harm" - Joe C. McKinney:  Provocative, memorable work about a doctor (Turner) who's forced to help a group of creatures - who prey on mankind - conquer a disease that's held them in check.  One of my favorite stories in this collection.


Thursday, August 07, 2014

The Chariots of Ra, by Kenneth Bulmer


(pb; 1972)

From the description page:

"The chariots came on at great speed and there was no mistaking their purpose.  Tulley wondered if they were using this place as a base. . .  Then an arrow plunked into the parapet of his chariot.  Oolou lashed the reins.  The nageres sprang forward.  With suicidal speed the two chariot groups closed in on each other.

"Tulley swallowed down, feeling the dryness in his throat, loosed a shaft at the oncoming mass.  There must be twenty chariots out there. . .

"He glanced at Oolou, shouting.  She stared back at him with a ghastly grin, the blood pouring from her neck above the corselet where an arrow stood, stark and brutal."


Review:

Chariots is a solid, exotic and action-relentless science fiction novella that recalls the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs for its blunt physical action and many of John Wayne's films for its masculine/man's gotta do. . . tone.  In it, two friends (Graham Pike and Roy Tulley) are kidnapped and shuttled (via portals) into other worlds, where they encounter strange creatures, slavers, warriors, queens and other bristling characters.  Will they be able to return to Earth, whence they came?  That question is secondary when survival is a moment-to-moment challenge.

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Chariots was packaged as a reverse-bound "Ace Double" novel, which means that if readers flip the book upside down and over, there was another science fiction novel, penned by another author, on the other side. (Considering that these books sold for 95 cents a pop, this seems like a great deal, even back in that less-expensive, Seventies economy.)

In this case, the flipside novel is John Rackham's Earthstrings.


Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Before the Chop: LA Weekly Articles 2011 - 2012 by Henry Rollins


(pb; 2013: nonfiction)

From the back cover:

"The writer, now a but a shell of his former self, sits down at his desk.  He swipes the empty cough syrup bottles, subpoenas, rejection letters and other detritus to the floor to make space.  He frisks himself and finds a pen.  It is time to work.  There is a deadline.  An editor waiting.  One thousand words must be evicted from this ransacked mind and committed to the page.  One thousand words!  The weight of the Damoclean sword hanging over the writer's head tests the strength of the single horse hair that keeps the blade heeding the demands of gravity.  The writer picks up the pen. . . and puts it down again.  The blank page stares back silently screaming for content.  The writer picks up the pen one more time. . . it feels like it weighs ten pounds.  In his younger days the writer effortlessly grabbed all the low hanging fruit and filled composition notebooks with oceans of ink  As the years passed, the writer ascended to the higher branches until one day, all the fruit was gone.  The writer was now at the very top of the tree. . . with nothing.  It was around this time, the writer got a job at the L.A. Weekly.  One thousand words a week?  No problem!  Actually, a big problem.  Yet somehow, the forces of desperation, a fear of failure and a pathetic desire to somehow "stay in the game" drives him on!  The writer rips it from his guts and other places, week after week.  How does the writer do it?  Simple.  The writer has nothing else going on.  Read this book and you will discover just how obvious this is.  I am so glad to be done.

"- Name withheld by request"


Review:

The collected articles in Chop read like tightly edited versions of Rollins' spoken word shows: blunt, provocative, smart, self-effacing, humorous and enthusiastic about stuff he likes (music, especially listening to vinyl; touring as often as possible; etc.).  Mixed in with Rollins' recollections - musical, personal and sometimes political - is a sense of upbeat wisdom regarding and stemming from restraint and knowing one's place in the world, which we share with others who disagree with us (as individuals).

Excellent read, worth owning. Followed by Before the Chop II: LA Weekly Articles 2013 - 2014.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: Firestorm, by Greg Keyes


(pb; 2014: book sequel to the 2011 film Rise of the Planet of the Apes and prequel to the movie tie-in novel Dawn of the Planet of Apes, by Alex Irvine)


From the back cover:

"Caesar and his followers have escaped the clutches of man, fighting their way across the Golden Gate Bridge and taking refuge in the vast redwood forest known as Muir Woods.  There they hope to establish a home, far from the humans who so horribly abused them.

"But mankind has far worse things to worry about.

"The 'Simian Flu' has begun to strike down unsuspecting innocents throughout San Francisco.  What began as isolated cases quickly become a full-on epidemic.  There are those who blame the apes, and would like to take revenge, while others hunt Caesar and his troop for their own insidious reasons.  Either way the result will be the same. . ."


Review:

Firestorm is a cinematically streamlined, smart, humane and entertaining novel that links Rise and Dawn.  Its pace never lags, it shares two main characters (Gary Oldman's Dreyfus and Andy Serkis's Caesar) with Dawn (as well as other supporting characters), while making plot-pertinent mentions of James Franco's Will Rodman from Rise.  Not only that, its tone is consistent with its bookending films and its ending is satisfactory.

Good summer blockbuster read, this.