Monday, February 29, 2016

Hard-Boiled Heart by Will Viharo

(hb; 2015: sixth book in the Vic Valentine series)

From the back cover:

"Older but hardly wiser, Vic Valentine finds himself in hot water again when he becomes embroiled with a movie star. Hollywood bad boy Charlie wants to make a film about the anachronistic private eye's tumultuous life. But when the alcoholic actor becomes a murder suspect, both Charlie's career and Vic's dreams are put on hold, forcing the duo to flee the fog of San Francisco for the rainy Pacific Northwest. There, Vic becomes erotically entangled with Raven, a voluptuous but vicious burlesque dancer, and is driven to despair by a supernatural stalker, a mysterious sailor statue named Ivar.

"Follow Vic through the mean streets of Seattle as he copes with middle-aged melancholia and confronts the demons from his past that threaten the guardian angels of his future."


The especially sharp editing and lightning-quick pacing in Hard-Boiled makes it one of my favorite Viharo books. On top of that -- keeping with his trademark style -- there are a lot of clever quips, real-life locale settings, as well as neo-pulp-worthy characters, deceit, mystery, violence and, of course, Valentine's horn-dog focus, even when confronted with the probability of pernicious death.

Like the rest of the Vic Valentine series, Hard-Boiled is a great read, own it already. Followed by Vic Valentine: International Man of Misery.


The first two chapters of Hard-Boiled were originally published in Bachelor Pad magazine, a burlesque-, tiki- and hybrid genre-themed periodical. "Private Dick, Public Enemy" appeared in its Summer 2012 "Nightcap Edition" issue. "Space Needle Fix" appeared in its Summer 2013 "Nightcap Edition #2" issue.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Moju: The Blind Beast by Edogawa Rampo

(pb; 1932)

From the back cover:

"In Edogawa Rampo's Moju: The Blind Beast, a deranged, scarred and sightless sculptor kidnaps a model and imprisons her in a psychedelic labyrinth of giant sculpted eyes and other outlandish body parts, before dismembering her in a fearful blood-orgy. Her limbs, head and torso are later found scattered throughout Tokyo. The blind killer continues his sexually-charged spree of amputation and decapitation, claiming several more victims before finally presenting his work at an acclaimed art exhibition in which the sculptures are a little too life-like for comfort...

"The most disturbing of Rampo's novels, Moju: The Blind Beast is a classic of grinding horror and weird sex, tainted with a virulent black humour. It represents one of the earliest literary examples of the Japanese "erotic-grotesque" genre, in which such subjects as dismemberment, mutilation, coprophilia and cannibalism are presented in a perverse sexual context. This first-ever English translation of Rampo's classic is illustrated throughout and also includes an introduction by Jack Hunter, author of Eros In Hell."


Sensual, creepy, strange and hilarious in its skewering of human nature (particularly the art world and societal reactions to the macabre), this -- for this reader, anyway -- is the closest a book can come to perfection (for an 'erotic-grotesque' novel). Every scene is sharp, brutal and striking in its sensorial aspects, every word contributing to Moju's satirical dead-on effect. This is worth owning, if you are not a prude and are open to Rampo's acute, fetishistic violence and weirdness.


The resulting film, Blind Beast, which focuses on the first part of its source novel, was released in Japan on January 25, 1969. Its stateside release was in April 1969.
Yasuzô Masamura directed it, from a screenplay by Yoshio Shirasaka.

Eiji Funakoshi played Michio. Mako Midori played Aki. Noriko Sengoku played Mother.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

The Open Curtain by Brian Evenson

(pb; 2006)

From the back cover:

"When Rudd, a troubled teenager, embarks on a school project, he runs across a series of articles from the 1902 New York Times chronicling a vicious murder committed by the grandson of Brigham Young. Delving deeply into the Mormon ritual of blood sacrifice used in the murders, Rudd, along with his newly discovered half-brother, Lael, becomes swept up in the psychological and atavistic effects of this violent, antique ritual.

"As the past and the present become an increasingly tangled knot, Rudd is found at the scene of a multiple murder at a remote campsite with minor injuries and few memories. Lyndi, the daughter of the victims, tries to help Rudd recover his memory and, together, they find a strength unique to survivors of terrible tragedies. But Rudd, desperate to protect Lyndi and unable to let the past be still, tries to manipulate their Mormon wedding ceremony to trick the priests (and God) by giving himself and Lyndi new secret names—names that match the killer and the victim in the one hundred-year-old murder. The nightmare has just begun."

Open is a slow-build, mostly well-edited psychological horror novel that is more suggestive than gory, steeped in Mormon history -- a history that most Mormons would deny or uncomfortably skim over. But not Rudd, whose dark investigations take a more modern, obsessive turn.

I write "mostly well-edited" because Open builds too slowly: some scenes could have been edited out, without creating a plot-hiccup in the largely predictable storyline, which dissolves into an overused haze of dream-twisty madness. The fact that Open is predictable is not a criticism -- Evenson is well aware of its predictability -- but the journey, for the most part, is interesting in its creeping-in, ritual-born insanity.

This is an overall-solid read from an author of talent and mainstream-ish leanings. If you like Dean Koontz or Stephen King's early writing style, you may like Evenson's Open as well.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Savage Season by Joe R. Lansdale

(audiobook; 1990: first book in the Hap and Leonard series)

From the back cover:

"Start with two best friends who practice martial arts in their free time: one a straight white guy, the other a black gay guy. Add a conniving ex-wife in a blue-jean miniskirt. Throw in half a million in a muddy creekbed somewhere near the Sabine River in East Texas. Add an ex-radical from the '60s and two naive idealists who want to save the world. Mix them all together in a half-assed plan, season with double-crosses, and then top it off with a hilarious and chilling drug dealer named Soldier. Bloody mayhem à la Lansdale."


Savage is an excellent, all-around entertaining and hard-to-put-down book. The novel's neo-pulpish, Texas-based drama and action of the storyline and its characters is made memorable by its lead characters, Hap Collins and Leonard Pine, whose laugh-out-loud rude banter provides an especially heartfelt core to Savage's proceedings. This is worth owning, and a promising start to the (thus far) fourteen-book series.

Followed by Mucho Mojo.


The resulting television series, Hap and Leonard, debuted on the Sundance Channel on March 2, 2016. Its first season is based on Savage Season.

James Purefoy plays Hap Collins. Michael Kenneth Williams plays Leonard Pine. Christina Hendricks plays Trudy Fawst. Ron Roggé plays Bud Collins.

Bill Sage plays Howard. Neil Sandilands plays Paco. Jeff Pope plays Chub.

Jimi Simpson plays Soldier. Pollyanna McIntosh plays Angel. Trace Cheramie plays Softboy McCall.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Black Heart Metal Monster by Michael Faun

(pb; 2013: horror novella)

Storyline: When Throatbutcher, the lead singer of the black metal band Obscura Mortis, dies in an onstage accident, the remaining members of the band -- bassist Ateranimus, guitarist Nex and "batterist" (drummer) Skinreaper, as well as their manager, Tabitha -- commemorate his passing with a Satanic ritual. What they may (or may not know) is that while the surviving band members record their post-ritual record, a David Cronenberg-esque nightmare has begun inserting itself into their -- our -- world.


This black metal-immersive short horror work is an entertaining romp of ick, creeping horror (for the characters) and humor. Black metal aficionados may spot some real world events and elements in Monster, which further injects believability and impressive focus into this worth-owning novella.

<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...