Monday, September 25, 2017

Gun Crazy: The Origin of American Outlaw Cinema by Eddie Muller

(pb; 2014: nonfiction)

From the back cover

"Gun Crazy caused barely a ripple in public consciousness when it hit movie screens in 1950. Yet over time it would prove to be the most innovative and provocative motion picture of its era—a simple genre film, but packed with so much cinematic bravura and timeless symbolism, its power has spanned decades, crossed oceans, and influenced countless filmmakers.

"It's no stretch to declare Gun Crazy one of the essential American films—as well as a cornerstone of the auteur theory that's dominated cinema discourse since the 1960s. Its larger-than-life reputation among cinephiles has mainly been based on the recollections—also larger-than-life—of its director, Joseph H. Lewis, whose intriguing yet surprisingly short career never again reached the level of this bona-fide classic.

"In this thoroughly researched and vividly told tale, Eddie Muller explodes many of the entrenched myths about Gun Crazy—and the auteur theory itself. He subverts the film's legend with the fascinating story of its actual creation, a six-year struggle that involved an array of exceptional collaborators.

"Packed with never-before-seen ephemera —original script pages (some never filmed), production notes, on-set photos—Gun Crazy: The Origin of American Outlaw Cinema is available for sale online exclusively from Black Pool Productions."


Review

Gun is an informative, entertaining and hard-to-set-down read about the story, different personalities and behind-the-scenes events that brought about the realization of the 1950 film Gun Crazy, originally titled Deadly is the Female. This film would influence the tone and structure of later films, perhaps most famously, Bonnie and Clyde (1967). This is an excellent, glossy-paged book with lots of behind-the-scene photos and addictive text, penned by an expert in the noir genre.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye by David Lagercrantz

(hb; 2017: fifth novel in the Millennium series. Translated from the Swedish by George Goulding.)

From the inside flap

"Lisbeth Salander is an unstoppable force: Sentenced to two months in Flodberga women's prison for saving a young boy's life by any means necessary, Salander refuses to say anything in her own defence. She has more important things on her mind.

"Mikael Blomkvist makes the long trip to visit every week - and receives a lead to follow for his pains. For him, it looks to be an important expose for Millennium. For her, it could unlock the facts of her childhood.

"Even from a corrupt prison system run largely by the inmates, Salander will stand up for what she believes in, whatever the cost. And she will seek the truth that is somehow connected with her childhood memory, of a woman with a blazing birthmark on her neck - that looked as if it had been burned by a dragon's fire."



Review

Takes is an excellent, entertaining addition to the Millennium series that expands the themes, characters, action, conspiracies and cliffhanger-ish feel of its predecessor books. Of course, everything ties – directly or indirectly – to Lisbeth Salander’s past, a thrilling read that is worth owning, one that promises a sequel. If you are new to the series and interested in reading Takes, I would suggest reading its prequel, The Girl in the Spider's Web, otherwise you might not enjoy it as much.

Monday, September 18, 2017

The Sucking Pit by Guy N. Smith

(pb; 1975, 1989: prequel to The Walking Dead)

From the back cover

"Hopwas Wood is a place of mystery and for generations, tales have been told about an ancient gypsy burial site deep within.

"Jenny Lawson always knew she had Romany blood flowing through her veins and when given a secret book by her dying Uncle can't resist the urge to mix the ancient potions described inside. In a matter of hours the virginal jenny is transformed into a knife wielding nymphomaniac.

"Entranced by the mysterious Cornelius, Jenny uses all her womanly charms to persuade the wood's owner to let the gypsy's set up camp on their holy ground. Ex-boyfriend Chris, an investigative reporter, is horrified by the changes in the girl he once loved and embarks on a quest for the truth only to discover the terror that lies deep within The Sucking Pit!"



Review

Sucking is a solid, fun pulp novel with stock characters, salacious flirtations (its sex scenes are R-rated, not X-rated), blood and horror. Its plot moves lightning quick, sometimes too fast – e.g., when Jenny is possessed it is little more than an awkward eyeblink transition; also, when Chris and Pat fall in love, seconds after meeting, it feels forced and rushed. If you do not take it seriously, Sucking is a worthwhile guilty, sometimes awkward-sentence read, best borrowed from a local library or purchased for a bargain bin price. Followed by The Walking Dead.

Friday, September 15, 2017

The Redbreast by Jo Nesbø

(pb; 2000, 2006: third book in the Inspector Harry Hole series. Translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett.)

From the back cover

"1944: Daniel, a soldier, legendary among the Norwegians fighting the advance of Bolshevism on the Russian front, is killed. Two years later, a wounded soldier wakes up in a Vienna hospital. He becomes involved with a young nurse, the consequences of which will ripple forward to the turn of the next century.

"1999: Harry Hole, alone again after having caused an embarrassment in the line of duty, has been promoted to inspector and is lumbered with surveillance duties. He is assigned the task of monitoring neo-Nazi activities; fairly mundane until a report of a rare and unusual gun being fired sparks his interest. Ellen Gjelten, his partner, makes a startling discovery. Then a former soldier is found with his throat cut. In a quest that takes him to South Africa and Vienna, Harry finds himself perpetually one step behind the killer."


Review

Redbreast is a slow-build thriller that runs long in parts but is ultimately worth reading. Its setting is less exotic than the settings of previous books (Redbreast takes place in Hole’s native Norway). Despite that, it is still a mostly interesting book that digs into Norway’s Nazi past and brings it to the eve of the twenty-first century. When the plot and character strands come together, between the middle and the last quarter of Redbreast, the novel becomes a hard-to-set-down read, with its cliff hanger-ish chapter endings. I would not purchase this for full price but it is worth borrowing from a friend or the library. Followed by Nemesis.

Feverish Fiction issue #6 (May 2017) edited by Michael Faun

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

Overall review

The sixth and final issue of Feverish continues in the pulpy, speculative vein of its previous periodicals. Of course, there are the usual female pin-ups in various states of undress, whose themes often reflect the works of the authors. (Terry Bizarro’s six erotic and elemental-themed paintings are superb and eye-catching.) It is worth owning, if you are an adult fan of small press magazines and out-there sex works.


Stories, other works

The Lich-Queen” – Scott Couturier: Sex-, death- and supernatural-themed versework. Solid read.

Last House on Splattergore Avenue” – Alex S. Johnson: Atmospheric, fear-adrenalized, gory and hilarious tale about a high school senior’s walk home from school. Excellent, perverse.

Aleena, the Pitiful She-Devil – Part Two” – Lucas Mangum: Aleena’s bloody, barbaric quest for vengeance continues. Fun read.

Fire Sprite” – Ashley Dioses: Fire and sex amount to the same thing in this four-line poem. Entertaining and concise.

Don’t Go in There” – John Wayne Comunale: Blood and a bar are dominate this microtale.

Winter Baskets” – Zeb Carter: Macabre, tender story about dead babies being taken to a surprising place. Excellent, one of my favorite reads in this issue.

To His Anything-But-Coy Mistress” – Frank Coffman: Lust-focused sonnet “with a couple triplets thrown in”.

Absolution” – M.F. Wahl: A young girl, trapped in a basement, investigates her grim environs. Solid read.

Marvel Essential: The Amazing Spider-Man Volume 2 by “Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, John Romita & Friends”

(pb; 1965, 1966 and 2005: Collects The Amazing Spider-Man #21-43 and Annual issues #2-3)

From the back cover

"The bite of an irradiated spider granted high-school student Peter Parker incredible, arachnid-like powers. When a burglar killed his beloved Uncle Ben, a grief-stricken Peter vowed to use his amazing abilities to protect his fellow man. He had learned an invaluable lesson: With great power, there must also come great responsibility! Through all his trials, Spider-Man remains steadfast in his determination to use his gifts for the benefit of all!"


Review

The artwork in this comic book omnibus is excellent and realistic (particularly the figure work), the action is visually exciting and fun. My only criticism of Volume 2 is that the comic’s good-natured chatty narrative and dialogue can, at times, can be melodramatic, even for tales centering around an adolescent, emotionally muddled protagonist. This is a minor nit, though – after all, the writers and artists did this with their target audience in mind. Volume 2 is worth owning, if you are okay with the latter criticism and appreciate excellent, classic artwork.

Followed by Marvel Essential: The AmazingSpider-Man Volume 3.

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Hap and Leonard: Blood and Lemonade by Joe R. Lansdale

(hb; 2017: story anthology. Fifteenth book in the Hap and Leonard series.)

From the back cover

"Hap Collins is a complicated man. He looks like a good ‘ol boy, but his politics don’t match. After way too many jobs, Hap has discovered what he’s best at: kicking ass. Vietnam veteran Leonard Pine is even more complicated: black, Republican, gay—and an occasional arsonist. As childhood friends and business associates, Hap and Leonard have a gift for the worst kind of trouble: East Texan trouble.

"Joe R. Lansdale’s popular Texan crime-fighting duo are immortalized in this collection of new Hap and Leonard short stories and tall tales. Hap and Leonard: Blood and Lemonade follows the exploits of the early years of these beloved characters. Many of these intertwined stories appear for the first time."


Overall review

Excellent, entertaining, timely and darkly hilarious anthology that fills in a lot of tales about Hap Collins’s youth, many of which feature Leonard Pine, his longtime friend. Many of the stories are above average – even haunting, in some cases – and all are worth reading.


Story by story review

1.)  Parable of the Stick”: Hap and Leonard discuss the pros and cons of Old School schoolyard rules, over-parenting and schoolyard scuffles.

2.) “Tire Fire”: Hap tells the tale of the first time he met Leonard at a late night, backwoods fighting ring.

3.) “Not Our Kind”: In 1968, a young Hap and Leonard encounter racist, homophobic bullies. They also glimpse a scene from their possible future. This story also appeared in the 2016 anthology Hap and Leonard.

4.) “Down By the Riverside”: Hap recalls the day he discovered a childhood friend was less than honorable – a day that has tragic echoes. This is one of my favorite entries in this collection.

5.) “Short Night”: Hap and a friend with a secret hang out.

6.) “The Boy Who Became Invisible”: Originally published in the Hyenas novella and the Hap and Leonard anthology, “Boy” is told from Hap’s first-person perspective. In it, he looks back on an unfortunate childhood friend (Jesse) whose hard life leads to some brutal choices. The interaction between Hap and Jesse provide an effective heart punch to this timely, you-can-guess-where-it’s-going piece.

7.) “Blood and Lemonade”: During Hap’s boyhood, he and his mother help a black boy (Nathan) find his family – it proves to be an unexpected lesson for Hap. This is one of my favorite entries in this collection.

8.) “In the River of the Dead”: Hap and Leonard – seventeen and fishing at the time of this tale – are menaced by torture-dispensing rednecks. This is one of my favorite entries in this collection.

9.) “Stopping for Coffee”: An adolescent Hap goes to a coffee shop where a sudden conflict between older racists and youthful liberals takes place. The ending to this is disturbing and effective because of what is not shown.

10.) “Apollo Red”: Hap’s father stands up to a rich arrogant man and – in doing so – stirs up trouble.

11.) “Coach Whip”: Wise work about snakes and people.

12.) “The Bottom of the World”: In 1960, Hap’s father tells his ten year-old son a spooky story about the Water Witch, an undead river woman.

13.) “Squirrel Hunt”: Twelve year-old Hap and his father discover a dead body in the woods. Good tale about justice.

14.) “The Oak and the Pond”: Hap reminisces with Leonard about one of his old hangout places, a site since razed. This is a nostalgic and melancholic piece.

Friday, September 08, 2017

Warlock by Ray Garton

(pb; 1989: movie tie-in novel. Based on the screenplay by David Twohy, billed as D.T. Twohy.)

From the back cover

"Snatched by Satan himself from the fiery stake of a Salem witch-burning, a warlock lands right in the middle of a 20th-century Los Angeles. His age-old quest to bring about the reign of ultimate evil leaves a trail of blood and terror across America. Only one man can stop a witch hunter who has come from the past to stop the warlock and prevent the ultimate horror that will change the fate of the world."


Review

Warlock is a sexually explicit, (sometimes) darkly funny and gory B-movie novel that expands on David Twohy’s fast-moving barebones screenplay by adding a more perverse sexual element, altering key characters’ physiques and personalities and a savagery that is hinted at in the film version. It is entertaining and worth owning, if you are a fan of the film and do not mind barebones plotting.

#

The film version was released stateside on January 11, 1991. It was directed by Steve Miner by a screenplay by David Twohy, billed as D.T. Twohy.

Julian Sands played "Warlock". Lori Singer played Kassandra. Richard E. Grant played Giles Redferne. Kevin O'Brien played Chas.

Mary Woronov played "Channeler". Richard Kuss played "Mennonite". David Carpenter played "Pastor". Anna Levine played "Pastor's Wife".