Monday, November 24, 2014

Feral by Berton Roueché


(pb; 1974, 1983: novella)

From the back cover:

"Jack and Amy's fear was turning to primal terror. Like cornered prey, they cowered in their house, the dark woods howling with shrieks out of hell. From every side. . . came the eyes. Hundreds and hundreds of fixed, glaring eyes gone wild with ravenous hunger. . .

"Jack and Amy had loved the isolation of their cedar-shingled home by the ocean. Far from their city, they had found the peace and quiet of unspoiled nature. Not a neighbor in sight.

"Now they were watching the death throes of the policeman sent out to rescue them. Watching, transfixed by horror, as the writhing mass of shredded human flesh sank screaming into a snarling frenzy of dripping teeth and claws."


Review:

Bland and predictable 124-page entry in the nature-gone-wild horror genre. Feral isn't badly written, but there's nothing in this novella that you haven't read before in better versions of this storyline. The characters are cardboard, the author's slow-build-into-terror runs too long and lengthwise, this should have been a short story.

Near the end, there are a few suspenseful moments, which made Feral an almost-worthwhile fast-moving afternoon read (I read it in forty-five minutes), but not quite. Don't even borrow this from the library.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Comeback by Richard Stark


(hb; 1997: seventeenth novel in the Parker series)

From the back cover:

"The heist went down while the people prayed. An angel walked with sagging shoulders - he was Parker's inside man, dressed in wings and robes and destined to be a problem. An hour later, Parker, [George] Liss, and [Ed] Mackey were out in the shimmering heat of a stadium parking lot with four duffel bags full of cash. Then the double cross began.

"Now the half-million-dollar robbery of a Christian crusade is drawing a crowd of cops, crooks and the evangelist's own unrelenting security man, a tough ex-Marine who trusts nobody and nothing. What began at a gathering of the faithful has moved into the realm of night. Here every move has a countermove, every man is on his own, and every lie leads to the deadliest moments of truth."


Review:

Comeback is an excellent, hard-to-set-down crime thriller with lots of action, plot twists, colorful characters and lean 'n' mean writing that is Stark's trademark style. Great series, all of the books in this series thus far are worth owning.

Followed by Backflash.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

**Peter Baltensperger's microstory All For The Pain was published in Black Heart Magazine

Peter Baltensperger, whose Nocturnal Tableaux* graced the Microstory A Week site in October 2012, has had another microstory published: All For The Pain, on the Black Heart Magazine site.

Pain details the emotions and sensations of a writer (Silas Connor) in the future and his struggles to deal with the burdens technological improvement has wrought upon him and those around him. Fans of Baltensperger's past works and speculative fiction should check out this gem of a microstory.

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*Nocturnal Tableaux also appears in Baltensperger's story/vignette anthology Inside from the Outside.


Saturday, November 15, 2014

Splatterpunks II: Over the Edge edited by Paul M. Sammon


(pb; 1995: horror anthology)


Overall review:

Excellent, gory horror anthology. Of course, in a work featuring twenty-eight stories, there are bound to be a few stories I don't care for, but that is due to personal preferences regarding writing tenses, overwriting and other (relatively minor) issues. If you're a horror/gore fan, get this collection.


Standout stories:

1.)  "Accident d'Amour" - Wildy Petoud: Excellent, witty, cut-to-it tale about a woman's literally sick vengeance against an ex-lover. Memorable, vivid.



2.)  "Impermanent Mercies" - Kathe Koja:  A callous photographer (Ellis) witnesses an accident involving a little boy (Andy) and his unlucky dog (True). Bizarre, disturbing (for animal lovers) and excellent work.



3.)  "One Flesh: A Cautionary Tale" - Robert Devereaux:  Multi-layered, horrific and laugh-out-loud clever story about the conjoined reincarnation of a son and father and all the tragedies that stem from it. Great work, with a chuckle-worthy finish.



4.)  "Rant" - Nancy A. Collins:  A divine white supremacist being with conspiratorial leanings tells the tale of his undoing. Darkly hilarious and chilling (his rhetoric is disturbingly media realistic) piece.



5.)  "Heels" - Lucy Taylor:  A shoe fetishist-turned-serial killer (Theo) meets a woman (Jules) whose sexual predilections impact his own. Blunt read with concise and masterful explanations for why Theo and Jules are the way they are.

The resulting film short was released stateside on August 2, 2014. Jeremy Jantz scripted and directed it. Brian Adrian Koch played Theo. Julia Angelo played Felicia.



6.)  "Scape-Goats" - Clive Barker:  Two couples on an island-crashed sailboat quickly recognize that there's something wrong about the rocky mass their boat is abutting.

Atmospheric, solid read with an interesting island backstory.


"Scape-Goats" also appeared in the single-author anthology Clive Barker's Books of Blood, Volume Three.



7.)  "Cannibal Cats Come Out At Night" - Nancy Holder:  Two cannibals (Dwight and Angelo) who are also best friends approach a crossroads event which may undo their bond of amity. While the event itself isn't surprising, there is a well-foreshadowed twist to it, making this exemplary, fast-moving story even better.



8.)  "Embers" - Brian Hodge:  Entertaining, good read about an arsonist-for-hire (Mykel) whose reaction to a shocking, personal tragedy drives him to revenge.



9.)  "Xenophobia" - Poppy Z. Brite: Two Goths roaming through Chinatown find themselves working an unexpected, morbid job. Brite's deft writing keeps this dark-hued morality tale humorous and fresh.



10.)  "Calling Dr. Satan: An Interview with Anton Szandor LaVey"  - Jim Goad: Interesting, philosophical and provocative (in a productive way) conversation between Anton and Bianca LaVey and the author.



11.)  "Within You, Without You" - Paul M. Sammon:  A post-gig campfire hang-out with her favorite industrial-noise band (Detour) leads Reba down heady and dangerous by-ways.

The direction and ending of the story aren't surprising (nor are they meant to be). Sammon's worthwhile writing - with its theme-appropriate media-savvy references - renders the destination less important. This one is about experience.

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Please note that there are authors whose names are labelled at the bottom of this post but they are not actually mentioned in the review. This is because they have work published in this anthology but their work (in this instance), for one reason or another, didn't stand out for me. (This is not necessarily a criticism of their works.)

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Story of the Eye by Georges Bataille


(pb; 1928, 1977, 1987: erotic novella. Translated by Joachim Neugroschel.)


From the back cover:

"In 1928, Georges Bataille published under a pseudonym [Lord Auch] this first novel. . . [which] uncovers the dark side of the erotic by means of forbidden, obsessive fantasies of excess and sexual extremes. . . Story of the Eye finds parallels in Sade and Nietzsche and in the investigations of contemporary psychology; it also forecasts Bataille's own theories of ecstasy, death and transgression which he developed in later work."


Review:

Fearless, giddy, lust- and death-surreal 85-page novella that is one of the most vivid and cinematically visual works I have read in a long time. Obviously, those with sensitive and religious sensibilities and/or an aversion to violent writing should not even consider picking this book up. Excellent, landmark sex-and-death psychological work - worth owning, this.

Monday, November 10, 2014

NightWhere by John Everson


(pb; 2012)

From the back cover:

"When Rae broached the idea of visiting an underground sex club, Mark didn't blink. He should have. Because NightWhere is not your usual swingers club. Where it's held on any given night. . . only those who receive invitations know. Soon Rae is indulging her lust for pain. And Mark is warned by a beautiful stranger to take his wife away before it's too late.

"But it's already too late. Because Rae hasn't come home. Now Mark is in a race against time - to find NightWhere again and save his wife from the mysterious Watchers who run the club. To stop her from taking that last step through the degradations of The Red into the ultimate BDSM promise of The Black. More than just their marriage and her life is at stake: Rae is in danger of losing her soul."


Review:

Everson seamlessly melds agony and pleasure in this ultra-vivid, sex- and horror-graphic work. I had one minor nit with NightWhere at Chapter 26 where one of the main characters abruptly goes from being smart to becoming Plot Convenient Stupid by reversing a wise decision - a declaration - he had made a few pages prior. This forced set-up is a minor nit, one Everson to his credit tries to explain as a foible of human nature.

Most readers (I'm an editor and writer) probably won't be bothered by my aforementioned nit and Everson's writing is, as always, worth reading - and, in this case, worth owning.

Friday, November 07, 2014

The Blunderer by Patricia Highsmith


(hb; 1954)

From the back cover:

"For two years, Walter Stackhouse has been a faithful and supportive husband to his wife, Clara. She is distant and neurotic, and Walter finds himself harboring gruesome fantasies about her demise. When Clara's dead body turns up at the bottom of a cliff in a manner uncannily resembling the recent death of a woman named Helen Kimmel who was murdered by her husband, Walter finds himself under intense scrutiny. He commits several blunders that claim his career and his reputation, cost him his friends and eventually threaten his life. . ."


Review:

Blunderer is a good, intense thriller where Highsmith's trademark panicky murder suspect (a spineless Walter Stackhouse) encounters a self-assured killer (Melchior Kimmel), as well as a blunt, relentless cop (Detective Corby) who is bent on breaking both of them even - especially - if it kills them. Worth owning, this.

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One film has resulted from this novel; another is forthcoming.

The first cinematic version is titled Enough Rope. It was filmed in 1963 and released stateside on July 14, 1966. Claude Autant-Lara directed it, from a screenplay by Jean Aurenche and Pierre Bost.

Maurice Ronet played Walter Saccard (cinematic stand-in for Walter Stackhouse). Yvonne Furneaux played Clara Saccard (cinematic stand-in for Clara Stackhouse). Gert Fröbe played Melchior Kimmel. Marina Vlady played Ellie. Robert Hossein played Corbie. Harry Meyen played Tony.

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The forthcoming second film, titled The Blunderer, is being directed by Andy Godard. Susan Boyd wrote the script.

These actors - whose roles are not listed on imdb.com - appear in the film: Imogen Poots, Jessica Biel, Patrick Wilson, Toby Jones, Haley Bennett and Eddie Marsan.

Jennifer Enskat plays Mrs. Philpott.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

A Vision of Fire by Gillian Anderson and Jeff Rovin


(hb; 2014: Book One of the Earthend Saga)

From the inside flap:

"The daughter of India's ambassador to the United Nations starts speaking in tongues and having violent visions. A young Haitian girl claws at her throat, apparently drowning on dry land.  An Iranian boy suddenly sets himself on fire.

"Called to treat the ambassador's daughter, renown child psychologist Caitlin O'Hara is sure that Maanik's fits have something to do with the recent assassination attempt on her father - a shooting that has escalated nuclear tensions between India and Pakistan - but when teenagers around the world start having similar outbursts, Caitlin is forced to consider that a more sinister force is at work.

"Caitlin must now race across the globe to identify the links connecting these bizarre incidents in order to save Maanik - whose soul might be in peril - and perhaps the world."


Review:

Vision is a solid, well-written - if slow-build - set-up novel for Anderson and Rovin's science and speculative- iction storyline. The writing is concise, vivid and highly visualized (making it television miniseries-friendly, should someone decide to adapt it), and the characters and the concepts are interesting. This is a promising start to Anderson and Rovin's future serial work.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Butcher's Moon by Richard Stark


(pb; 1974, 2011: sixteenth novel in the Parker series.  Introduction by Lawrence Block.)

From the back cover:

"Parker's back in town where he lost his money, and nearly his life, in Slayground. He wants his money back and he's willing to call in a career's worth of favors - and drop a career's worth of bodies - to get it. Even if it means starting a gang war."


Review:

Butcher's is the wrap-up novel of the "first cycle" of Stark's Parker novels (he wouldn't publish another one until 1997, twenty-five years later).  It is a great early summary work that not only recalls the structure and storyline of the first Parker novel (The Hunter) but updates it by reworking and updating those elements with characters Parker has met throughout the previous fifteen books - particularly Slayground, Plunder Squad, The Green Eagle Score, The Outfit and The Score, among others.

This series is easily one of the best series - in any genre - that I have read in my forty-plus years as a reader. Do yourself a favor (if you're a fan of taut, waste-no-words crime writing) and read these books, preferably in order.

Followed by Comeback.

<em>Star Wars: Phasma</em> by <a href="http://www.whimsydark.com/">Delilah S. Dawson</a>

(hb; 2017: loosely linked prequel to the 2015 film Star Wars -- Episode VII: The Force Awakens ) From the back cover " Discover ...