Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Guardian Angels by Joseph A. Citro a.k.a. Joseph Citro

(1988: sequel to Shadow Child)

From the back cover

"Four years have passed since the slaughter that took place at the old Whitcome house. Four years since the tiny picture-perfect town of Antrim. Vermont was devastated by the ugliest event in the town's history. Now the bloodstained Whitcome walls have been painted over, the broken-down doors repaired. And a new family has moved in.

"Fifteen-year-old Will Crockett could have told his mother and stepfather that the bargain price on the Vermont house was too good to be true. But they never listened to him, anyway. Now weird things were beginning to happen: open doors that he knew he had locked; strange scampering sounds on the porch roof. A sense of being watched. His parents didn't believe him, but Will knew something was wrong -- something so twisted and evil that only a kid's imagination could conceive of its horror."


Guardian is an okay follow-up to Shadow Child. While the characters are well-written, the storyline feels disjointed at times. Citro could have easily streamlined the novel's flow into a more smoothly-told tale by eliminating some of the set-up scenes which read a bit clunky. Not only that, it seems as if the Gentry have more powers than they did in the first book -- at one point, they are almost god-like with their magic.

The novel's saving graces are Citro's superb characterization, his deepening of the Gentry's mythological roots (as well as their collective role in the world) and the last hundred or so pages which explode with supernatural carnage, violence and other sexualized horror.

If you are interested in reading this, I would recommend checking it out from a library before buying it -- unless it is for a bargain-basement price or you are a fan of Citro's writing who must own everything he has published.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Feverish Fiction issue #2 (January 2017) edited by Michael Faun

(2017; dark/horror/speculative fiction magazine. Published by Sleazy Viking Press.)

Overall review:

The second, limited-run issue of Feverish Fiction is even better than the first. The magazine has expanded its works to include an oddball, chuckle-worthy cartoon (by Justin A. Mank), as well as several pin-ups (in various thematic states of undress). And, of course, there are B-movie-esque stories and a poem to further entertain its readers. It is worth owning, if you are an adult fan of small press magazines and bordering-on-bizarre horror and sex works.

Stories, other works:

1.) "Canvasses" - Lucas Mangum: The phrase "living art" becomes a media-strange reality in this short, sexualized work. Good read.

2.) "A Virgin Among the Frankenwitches" - Alex S. Johnson: A woman (Leelah) discovers that being pursued by would-be rapists and murderers is not the worst imaginable fate. This appears to be a fun, fairy tale-esque hybrid-homage to Jess Franco's cinematic works (or at least one of them).

3.) "In the Dungeon" - K.A. Opperman: Lust, skeletons and BDSM highlight this sensory-intense poem.

4.) "Story of Spaceship, 12 Little Men Probed Today" - Joe Dorris: Amusing news story about a strange 1955 occurrence centering around an alien attack.

5.) "Other Me" - C.M. Saunders: The appearance of a man's doppelgänger presages his dark, twisty end.

6.) "The Happiest Place On. . . Well You Know" - S. Nycole Laff: Satirical take on the shambling undead and Disneyland -- funny and hues-close-to-nightmare-reality story. This is my favorite work in this issue.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Shadow Child by Joseph A. Citro

(pb; 1987: prequel to Guardian Angels)

From the back cover

"Eric Nolan is a man already too familiar with death. His brother's disappearance, the loss of his parents, and his wife's recent demise have left him near the edge. In desperation he returns to his boyhood home, his grandparents' farm in rural Vermont, now occupied by his cousin Pamela and her family. But Eric's solace is short-lived. Something terrible is going on in the woods nearby; its center seems to be a mysterious stone structure. The mystery deepens as people begin to vanish. As baffling incidents continue, it becomes harder to deny that a powerful malevolent force is at work in the Green Mountains. Eric must confront a reality he can neither accept not deny."


Shadow Child is an excellent, fast-paced 'horror in a small Vermont town' novel that brings together fairy tale-esque terror, occasional gore and well-written characters. Given its familiar storyline and its other genre limitations, it is not a landmark work. It is, however, a top-notch genre work for its superb writing, mounting sense of menace and entertaining effect.

Fans of Gary Brandner's Howling trilogy and Stephen King's early works may want to check this out.

Followed by Guardian Angels.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Triple by Ken Follett

(pb; 1979)

From the back cover

"EGYPT -- where, hidden deep in the desert, a top secret project to build a nuclear plant that will give the Arabs 'the bomb' nears completion.

"ISRAEL -- where the Mossad's number one agent, Nat Dickstein, the master of disguise and deceit, is given the impossible mission: to beat the Arabs in the nuclear arms race by finding and stealing 200 tons of uranium without any other nation discovering the theft.

"RUSSIA -- where top KGB officials have decided to tip the atomic balance in Egypt's favor.

"ENGLAND -- where Dickstein makes what could be the fatal mistake of his career by falling under the seductive spell of Suza Ashford, the dazzling, dark-haired beauty who may be his dearest ally or deadliest enemy.

"THE HIGH SEAS -- where the Mossad, KGB, Egyptians and Fadayeen terrorists play out the final violent, bloody moves in this devastating game where the price of failure is nuclear holocaust."


Triple is an entertaining and excellent political thriller. Its timeline spans from 1948 to 1968, with interesting [if familiar] characters and a swift-moving plot revolving around its central character, Nat Dickstein, whose key goal is to steal uranium for the Israelis. If you are looking for a deep-thoughts read, Triple is probably not the book you are looking for – however, if you are looking for a slick, well-written novel with a slam-bang James Bond-eseque finish, this is a book worth owning.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Halloween II by Jack Martin

(pb; 1981: sequel to Halloween by Curtis Richards. Based on the screenplay by John Carpenter and Debra Hill.)

From the back cover

"It is Halloween night in Haddonfield, Illinois. Six gunshots pierce the silence of this normally quiet town. Neighborhood kids trick-or-treating on the street stare as a man plunges off a balcony. A doctor from the county mental hospital rushes from the house. He has followed his patient, who escaped from the institution, back to Haddonfield, where fifteen years earlier he brutally murdered his own sister. The demented young man has already killed three teenagers this evening. Tonight's massacre has only begun!"


Halloween II is a well-written, solid slasher novel, based on John Carpenter and Debra Hill's screenplay for the 1981 film. If it lacks the out-of-the-blue shocker feel of its source film/novel, it is not Martin's fault. He does his best to imbue the straightforward slice-and-dice storyline with over-the-top descriptions and gore, while furthering the franchise's tone of spare, chilling thematic savagery.

There are few differences between the film and this movie tie-in book. There is one scene in the book that I do not remember from the film (it involves Michael's dispatch of a television producer) and Martin's writing gives us access to the characters' thoughts, giving them more depth.

(The original Halloween film and novel were meant to be single-shot works. No sequels had been planned. Then it made a lot of money and the producers insisted on a sequel. Therein, perhaps, lies one of this sequel's weaknesses.)

Halloween II, out of print and pricy, is worth reading. It is also worth owning if one's expectations take into account its inherent limitations (sequels rarely live up to the freshness of their source works), or if you are a Halloween completist.

Followed by Halloween III (another movie tie-in work, penned by Martin).

(NoteHalloween III has nothing to do with the Michael Myers-Laurie Strode storyline. . . once John Carpenter and Debra Hill had reconciled themselves with the inevitability of a Halloween-themed franchise, they decided that it should center around the holiday, not the Myers-Strode-Loomis triumvirate. Of course, its producers and its fans -- with their unimaginative expectations -- killed Carpenter's and Hill's ambition multi-vision at the outset.)


The film on which the novel is based was released on October 30, 1981.Rick Rosenthal directed the film, based on John Carpenter and Debra Hill's screenplay.

Jamie Lee Curtis reprised her role of Laurie Strode. Donald Pleasance reprised his role of Dr. Sam Loomis. Charles Cyphers reprised his role of Sheriff Leigh Brackett. Dick Warlock played "The Shape" (a.k.a. Michael Myers) and "Patrolman #3" -- a professional stunt coordinator, Warlock provided that service for the film as well.

Lance Guest played Jimmy. Pamela Susan Shoop played Karen. Leo Rossi played Budd.  Nancy Stephens, wife of the film's director, played Marion. Gloria Gifford played Mrs. Alves. Tawney Moyer played Jill.


Rob Zombie remade Halloween IIThe film, a reworked sequel to Zombie's remake of Halloween (2007), was released stateside on August 28, 2009.

Scout Taylor-Compton reprised her role of Laurie Strode. Malcolm McDowell reprised his role of Dr. Sam Loomis. Tyler Mane reprised his role of Michael Myers. Brad Dourif reprised his role of Sheriff Lee Brackett (the original incarnation of Brackett, played by Charles Cypher, was named Leigh Brackett).

Sheri Moon Zombie reprised her role of Deborah Myers, Michael's mother. Danielle Harris reprised her role of Annie Brackett.

Octavia Spencer played Nurse Daniels. Margot Kidder played Barbara Collier. Mary Birdsong played Nancy McDonald. Howard Hesseman played Uncle Meat.

Mark Boone Junior -- billed as Mark Boone, Jr. -- played Floyd. Duane Whitaker played Sherman Benny. Jeff Daniel Phillips played Howard / Uncle Seymour Coffins. Daniel Roebuck reprised his role of  "Big Lou" Martini.

Chris Hardwick played David Newman. "Weird Al" Yankovic -- billed as Al Yankovic -- played himself.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The EC Archives: Weird Science Volume Two by various authors and artists

(hb; 2007: graphic novel. Foreword by Paul Levitz)

From the back cover

"The second volume of Weird Science features classic stories written by Al Feldstein, and illustrated by such master artists as Wally Wood, Joe Orlando, Jack Kamen, Harvey Kurtzman and Feldstein himself. This stunning collection reprints issues Weird Science #7-12, a total of 24 complete breathtaking EC science fiction stories, originally published in 1951 and 1952."


This graphic novel is a art-nostalgic, wondrous gem of a book. Its space-themed morality tales, which borrow from pulp, horror and Biblical genres, are -- for the most part -- excellent works. There are a few stories whose twists and endings are disappointing, but even they are well-illustrated and entertaining in cheesy/genre-centric ways. It is worth owning.

Followed by The EC Archives: Weird Science Volume Three (by various authors and artists).

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Spike by Arnaud de Borchgrave and Robert Moss

(pb; 1980. First book in the Robert Hockney series.)

From the back cover

"From the jungles of Southeast Asia to the terrorist lairs of Hamburg and Rome, from high society orgies to the discovery of the Russian 'mole' who burrowed his way to he peaks of power in America, The Spike races through international political intrigue with shattering power. . . this. . . thriller unveils the KGB's sinister Directorate A and its 'disinformation' conspiracy -- a Red plot to turn the Western media into an unwitting Communist pawn in the Soviet drive for global supremacy.

"ROBERT HOCKNEY - He's a famous reporter who's covered all the big stories, but this news threatens to ignite the world.

"MICHEL RENARD - He's an ambitious French journalist whose politics -- and lust for money -- sweep him right into the claws of the KGB.

"TESSA TORRANCE - She's a movie star whose radical opinions drive her underground. . . to drugs, terrorism and a new guerrilla identity.

"ASTRID RENARD - She's a beautiful, voluptuous woman -- burning with desire for new clothes and kinky sex."


Spike is a racy, complex and exciting Cold War-era political thriller that spans decades, wars and the globe with multiple characters, whose politics and agendas provide the engine of the storyline.

The authors' writing is excellent for the most part, aside from last hundred pages. At this point, the pace slows and the tale wrap-up begins. It is also at this point that the story runs long and lacks the zing of the writing that precedes it.

I get that the authors are maintaining the realism of Spike by not rushing through the Washington-based proceedings but, given how well they managed the pace and realism of earlier events, it seems that they should have been able -- without much effort -- to match the excellence of the rest of the book.

Spike is still a superb and timely read, one worth owning. Followed by Monimbó.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Gillian's Marsh by Michael Faun

(eBook/print; 2015, 2017: novella)

From the back cover

"Gillian's Marsh 1866

"The treacherous wetlands where a young woman, Louella Lee, ends up after escaping the horrors of her puritanical home in the town of Gillianswick.

"Collapsing in the black woods near the marsh, she is found by Red, a loner woodsman, and their rendezvous sets a nightmarish wheel into motion.

"Whilst their unorthodox relationship blossoms, stakes are burning in Gillianswick after a series of strange disappearances.

"Convinced that the town is in the grip of black magic and deviltry, overzealous Cyrus Reiterman initiates a merciless witch-hunt that eventually draws him to the betraying bog, where baleful forces await."


This tale of witchcraft, lust, familial betrayal and violence, a malevolent tree and other horrors is a burn-through  and superb read, one that is worth owning if you are not squeamish and like your gory thrills raw with a nasty attitude.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

In Matto's Realm by Friedrich Glauser

(pb; 1936, 2005. Second novel in the Sergeant Studer series. Translated from the German by Mike Mitchell.)

From the back cover:

"A child-murderer escapes from a Swiss insane asylum. The stakes get higher when Detective Sergeant Studer discovers the director’s body, neck broken, in the boiler room of the madhouse. The intuitive Studer is drawn into the workings of an institution that darkly mirrors the world outside. Even he cannot escape the pull of the no man’s land between reason and madness where Matto, the spirit of insanity, reigns."


The second Sergeant Studer book is a decent, if overlong read. While Glauser's writing conveys well the sense of insanity in both the world and the institution, he lets a few of his characters ramble on too long about what often amounts to nothing. I understand that he is trying to create an atmosphere where one cannot trust his (or her) senses and that people dance around the veracity of their motives, but when your characters' villainy or better humanity are already somewhat transparent, psychobabble and other unnecessary obfuscations dilute the potential excellence of the story.

Matto's is a worthwhile book for its multilayered themes, mood and characters, just do not expect greatness -- rather, expect a sometimes interesting, flawed work from a fascinating writer.

Followed by Fever.


Two films resulted from this novel.

Matto regiert (English translation: Madness Rules) was released in Germany in 1947. Leopold Lindtberg directed and co-scripted the film. Alfred Neumann co-authored its screenplay.

Heinrich Gretler reprised his role as Wachtmeister Studer/Constable Studer (Gretler also played Studer in the 1939 film Wachtmeister Studer, also directed by Leopold Lindtberg).

Heinz Woester played Dir med Ernst Laduner. Irene Naef played Margrit Laduner.

Hans Gaugler played Leibundgut. Emil Gerber played Pfleger Jutzeler. Max Haufler played Pfleger Weyrauch. Emil Hegetschweiler played Pfleger Gilgen. Hans Kaes played Portier Dreyer.

Olaf Kubler played Herbert Kaplaun. Adolf Manz played Georg Caplaun.Walter Morath played Dr. med Neuveville. Elizabeth Muller played Schwester Irma Wasem.


Matto regiert aired on German television on September 14, 1980. Wolfgang Panzer directed the film, from Helmut Pigge's teleplay.

Hans Heinz Moser played Wachtmeister Studer. Walo Luond played Oberst Caplaun. Peter Leu played Herbert Caplaun.

Sybil Buri played Irma Wasem. Kurt Bigger played Dr. Blumenstein. Franz Lichtenhahn played Dr. Laduner. Carmen Klug played Frau Laduner.

Hans-Joachim Frick played Dreyer. Paul Buhlman played Gilgen. Fritz Nydegger played Schmocker. Franz Matter played Jutzeler.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Americosis Vol 1 by Haydn Wilks

(eBook; 2015: novella)

From the back cover

"A naked man arrives in New Mexico claiming to have traveled through time.
He says that he's America's savior.

"A bizarre sexually-transmitted infection in New York takes control of people's bodies and burns them out in an incessant drive to infect others.

"And a Presidential candidate is conversing with angels.
"His aides think he's crazy.
"The electorate might not agree with them.

"It could all be madness. It might be the apocalypse."


Americosis Vol 1 is a fun, fast-as-slut-sport New York-to-Texas tale containing sex, violence, gore, science fiction and humor. Wilks's work here is entertaining and worth owning, if you enjoy sketched-out characters and are okay with word rush apocalyptic set-ups for longer stories -- set-ups that have not-quite-cliffhanger endings.

Followed by Americosis Vol 2.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Redemption by John Everson

(pb; 2017: third book in The Curburides Chronicles)

From the back cover

"What if you woke up in hell?

Alex hadn't really thought of what would happen after she dragged Ariana through the portal to close the gate between worlds. She hadn't given sacrificing herself a thought, she'd just wanted to end the demonic summoning before it was too late.But when Alex wakes up on the other side, in the world of the Curburide, she has to think fast if she ever wants to see Joe Kieran, or Earth, again. Her only ally is an occult serial killer. Demons are searching for both of them, and there's nothing demons love more than human fear and pain. They feed on it. In the world of the Curburide, demons are everywhere.

And they're


Redemption is an excellent, fun, b-movie of a horror novel, with well-written characters, explicit and hellacious sex, gore and reader-hooking (and fast-moving) storytelling. Like its prequels, Covenant and Sacrifice, it is worth owning, with a finish that leaves this not-for-the-squeamish series open to continuation while successfully closing its immediate tale.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Feverish Fiction issue #1 (December 2016) edited by Michael Faun

(2016; dark/horror/speculative fiction magazine. Published by Sleazy Viking Press.)

Overall review:

This slim-volume magazine, thus far, is an excellent venue for dark and horror fiction works. Its microstories, poems and art are entertaining, humorous, not politically correct and, in some cases, bizarre. It is worth owning, as are the works of its owner/editor, Michael Faun.

Stories, other works:

1.)  "The Prized Bottle" - Justin A. Mank: A man (Leon Jenkins) make questionable choices when confronted by a strange little man in his late-hour kitchen. Fun, good tale.

2.)  "Amelia and the Coffin Plant" - Alex S. Johnson: Goth-, rock 'n' roll- and plant-themed horror piece about a woman (Amelia), her dead sister (Clara) and comforting seeds. Clever, swift-paced and excellent story.

3.)  "Seawitch's Grotto" - Ashley Dioses: A witch enthralls a poet, with dark-hearted results. Rhyming poetry is not my usual reading wont, but Dioses's entertaining visuals made me overlook that pet peeve. Good, worthwhile write.

4.)  "Mrs. Krampen" - Patrick Winters: A lust-impelled blackmail scheme backfires on two men (Carter, Brandon). Good, genre-fun read.

5.)  "Krampus" - K.A. Opperman: Thoughttful, visually rich rhyming poem. Well-written.

6.)  "Mama Lovebeast" - Konstantine Paradias: Solid, cinematic fairy tale-esque piece.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Thumbprint by Friedrich Glauser

(pb; originally published as Wachtmeister Studer in 1936. First book in the Sergeant Struder series.Translated from the German by Mike Mitchell in 1995.)

From the back cover:

"The death of a traveling salesman appears to be an open and shut case. Studer is confronted with an obvious suspect and a confession to the murder. But nothing is what it seems. Envy, hatred, and the corrosive power of money lie just beneath the surface. Studer’s investigation soon splinters the glassy façade of Switzerland’s tidy villages and manicured forests."


Thumbprint is a good, intriguing police procedural, punctuated with its lead character's intuitive flights of logic-driven fantasy -- one of Studer's idiosyncratic traits. It is these traits, along with Studer's patience, empathy and sense of justice, that lead him to flush out the whys of the novel's events and the motivations of the bad guys (who do not pretend to be otherwise). Good, sometimes chatty tale, this -- one worth reading -- from a writer whose personal life is equally (if not more) fascinating.

Followed by In Matto's Realm.


Wachtmeister Studer was released in Germany on October 13, 1939. It was directed by Leopold Lindtberg and scripted by Horst Budjuhn, Kurt Guggenheim and Richard Schweizer.

Heinrich Gretler played Jakob Struder. Adolf Manz played Burgermeister Aeschbacher. Bertha Danegger played Mutter Aeschbacher. Armin Schweizer played Gottlieb Ellenberger.

Ellen Widmann played Anstasis Witschi. Robert Trosch played Armin Witschi. Anne-Marie Blanc played Sonja Witschi. Robert Bichler played Erwin Schlumpf.

Hans Kaes played Polizist Murmann. Zarli Carigiet played Schreier. Rudolf Bernhard played Schwomm. Alfred Lucca played Gerber.


A remake, Kriminalassistent Bloch, was released in Denmark on October 22, 1943. It was co-directed by Poul Bang, from a script by co-director Grete Frisch and Axel Frisch (the film's star).

Axel Frische played Kriminalassistent Bloch. Elith Pio played Kriminalassistent Steffenson. Ellen Margrethe Stein, billed as Ellen Margr. Stein, played Jenny Frank. Sigurd Langberg played Redaktør Philipsen.

Asbjørn Andersen played Frugtplantagejeer Steen.Betty Vølund played Sonja Frank. Jens Asby played Otto Frank. Tove Bang played Berta.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Halloween by Curtis Richards

(pb; 1979: based on the screenplay by John Carpenter and Debra Hill)

From the back cover:

"Tricked by his cunning ... Treated to his savagery ... Annie, Linda and Laurie ... fresh, pretty, ready to be taken ... stalked by a sadistic power who has returned to claim new victims, on this ... the most frightening night of the year."


Halloween is an above average movie tie-in/novelization of John Carpenter's 1978 iconic slasher flick. What elevates the book version in relation to other movie tie-ins is its expansion into the background of why Michael Myers is what he is, as well as some of its characters' motivations (whose logic-challenged actions are sometimes frustrating).

What keeps Halloween from being excellent is its Richards's occasional flirtations with cheesy writing and love of unnecessary adjectives; also, there is the Laurie Strode's weird visualizations of Judith Myers's murder. These visualizations feel forced, unnatural, like Richards felt like he had to keep those sadistic images fresh in his readers' minds.

This out of print and pricy book is worth owning despite these minor nits, not only for its rarity but for its overall suspenseful writing and how it builds on the ideas, characters and horror of its source film.

Followed by Halloween II (by Jack Martin, a.k.a. Dennis Etchison).


Two film versions have been made.

The first film, upon which the book is based, was released stateside on October 25, 1978. John Carpenter directed and co-scripted Halloween. Debra Hill co-scripted the film.

Jamie Lee Curtis played Laurie Strode. Donald Pleasance played Dr. Sam Loomis. Charles Cyphers played Sheriff Leigh Brackett.

Nancy Kyes, billed as Nancy Loomis, played Annie. P.J. Soles played Lynda.Nancy Stephens played Marion. Kyle Richards played Lindsey. Brian Andrews played Tommy.

Mickey Yablans played Richie. John Michael Graham played Bob. Brent Le Page played Lonnie.

Sandy Johnson played Judith Myers. Will Sandin played Michael Myers (age 6). Tony Moran played The Shape/Michael Myers (age 23).


Rob Zombie's remake was released stateside on August 31, 2007. Zombie also wrote the screenplay, based on John Carpenter and Debra Hill's 1978 script.

Daeg Faerch played Michael Myers, age 10. Tyler Mane played Michael Myers, as an adult.

Sheri Moon Zombie played Deborah Myers, Michael's mother. William Forsythe played Ronnie White. Hanna Hall played Judith Myers. Scout Taylor-Compton played Laurie Strode. Dee Wallace played Cynthia Strode. Pat Skipper played Mason Strode.

Malcolm McDowell played Dr. Sam Loomis. Brad Dourif played Sheriff Lee Brackett (the original incarnation of Brackett, played by Charles Cypher, was named Leigh Brackett).

Danielle Harris played Annie Brackett. Richmond Arquette played Deputy Charles.Kristina Klebe played Lynda. Skyler Gisondo played Tommy Doyal. Gregg Stewart played Lindsey Wallace.

Ken Foree played Big Joe Grizzly. Richard Lynch played Principal Chambers. Micky Dolenz played Derek Allen. Sid Haig played Chester Chesterfield.

Udo Kier played Morgan Walker. Clint Howard played Dr. Koplenson. Danny Trejo played Ismael Cruz. Sybil Danning played Nurse Wynn.

Lew Temple played Noel Kluggs. Tom Towles played Larry Redgrave. Bill Moseley played Zach "Z-Man" Garrett. Daniel Roebuck played Lou Martini.


Director/screenwriter David Gordon Green and actor/writer Danny McBride are said to be working on "a [2018] continuation of the original Halloween's sequel." (Quote is from the imdb.com site.)

I will post more about this possible film when more information is forthcoming.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Every Time We Meet at the Dairy Queen Your Whole Fucking Face Explodes by Carlton Mellick III

(pb; 2016)

From the back cover:

"Known for his cute, disturbing, and utterly absurd novels, cult author Carlton Mellick III returns with a tale of childhood love and spontaneous face explosions.

"Ethan is in love with the weird girl in school. The one with the twitchy eyes and spiders in her hair. The one who can't sit still for even a minute and speaks in an odd squeaky voice. The one they call Spiderweb.

"Although she scares all the other kids in school, Ethan thinks Spiderweb is the cutest, sweetest, most perfect girl in the world. But there's a problem. Whenever they go on a date at the Dairy Queen, her whole fucking face explodes. He's not sure why it happens. She just gets so excited that pressure builds under her skin. Then her face bursts, spraying meat and gore across the room, her eyeballs and lips landing in his strawberry sundae.

"At first, Ethan believes he can deal with his girlfriend's face-exploding condition. But the more he gets to know her, the weirder her condition turns out to be. And as their relationship gets serious, Ethan realizes that the only way to make it work is to become just as strange as she is."


This sweet-natured, physically icky, original and fast-moving novella is a joyous, sometimes laugh-out-loud read, an R-rated romance for those with bizarro, flirting-with-horror leanings. Every, a near-impossible-to-set-down work, is one of the best strange books I have read in a long while -- worth owning, this.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

The Kingdom by Fuminori Nakamura

(hb; 2011, 2016: translated from the Japanese by Kaulau Almony)

From the inside flap:

"Yurika is a freelancer in the Tokyo underworld. She poses as a prostitute, carefully targeting potential johns, selecting powerful and high-profile men. When she is alone with them, she drugs them and takes incriminating photos to sell for blackmail purposes. She knows very little about the organization she’s working for, and is perfectly satisfied with the arrangement, as long as it means she doesn’t have to reveal anything about her identity, either. She operates alone and lives a private, solitary life, doing her best to lock away painful memories.

"But when a figure from Yurika’s past resurfaces, she realizes there is someone out there who knows all her secrets: her losses, her motivations, her every move. There are whispers of a crime lord named Kizaki—“a monster,” she is told—and Yurika finds herself trapped in a game of cat and mouse. Is she wily enough to escape one of the most sadistic men in Tokyo?"


Kingdom -- Nakamura's tenth novel -- is a thematic-sister work to The Thief (Nakamura writes this in his "Author's Afterward" at the end of the book). Structurally, it follows the same storyline blueprint as Thief, with several characters from that earlier novel populating Kingdom. While it maintains the same gritty, desperate tone of Thief, it has a different undertone to it: much of this undertone springs from its lead character's personality and her story, told from a first-person perspective. And, like Thief, it is a waste-no-words, pulp-centric and character centered story that is hard to set down.  This is a book worth owning, another perfect offering from Nakamura.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

A Mad Dash by Henry Rollins

(pb; 2009: nonfiction / journal -- full title: A Mad Dash: Introspective Exhortations and Geographical Considerations. Journal sequel to A Preferred Blur.)


Mad, like A Grim Detail, is a blunt, intense and occasionally funny kick-in-the-brain read. Anyone who's familiar with Rollins's media-diverse and prolific work may find themselves thinking I remember him talking about that. Those readers who aren't familiar with his work (and are not angry about his tough-minded, global-political mindset) may find themselves jolted into a new way of thinking.

The journal entries in Mad span from January 1, 2008 to December 31, 2008. This time out his trips and musings center around his visits to Vietnam, Burma, Ireland and other countries, as well as his feelings about Bush II's presidency, the second Iraq war and his ongoing struggle with depression, made worse by a friend's 1991 murder.

This book could have been edited better -- Rollins reiterates his tired-of-people/want-to-do-the-best-shows-I-can feelings a few times too many. That said, this
is a journal and those reiterations, for some readers, may further add to the sense of continuity of Mad.

While Mad is not Rollins's best work, it is still worth owning, because even less-than-perfect Rollins product is often better and more provocative than others' best writing.