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."


Review:

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.

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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."


Review:

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).

Additional note: A Wikipedia article relating to Dennis Etchison claims he also wrote under the name Curtis Richards, an assertion I have not yet confirmed.





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."





Review:

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?"



Review:

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.)

Review:

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.