Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Rogues of Edomia by J.M. Kind


(pb; 2023: third novel in the Edomia series; aka Rogues of Edomia: Tales from the Edomian Mythos (Book 3))

From the back cover

“Forced against his will to take a risky job with scant hope of reward, diminutive swindler Drogn the Magnificent has little to rely on save his own uniquely twisted set of wits. Drawing on a shallow wellspring of dubious talent, the fast-talking dwarf must find a way to convince a brazen would-be queen to give up her most cherished ambitions: It’s either that or Drogn’s head when Svrosh, the ruthless Serpent-Prince, demands his pound of flesh.

“Architect of the coup that marked the falloff Taugwadeth, the traitorous Stethine k’ Flerion is holed up with her henchmen in the fortress-like Library of Rvnshrah. Now Drogn and his companions must find a way to infiltrate the citadel, discover the location of a priceless book of ancient lore, and get close enough to Stethine to administer a dose of numbing spider venom, the better to deliver her into the vile Prince-Regent’s clutches. Along with Vasto the giant (Svrosh’s musclebound enforcer), stolid farmboy Bymno, two-headed scholar-bird Klevix-Wrder, and lovely outworlder Gemma (a refugee from Medieval Scotland where she was once accused of witchcraft), Drogn will face more than his share of hardships and horrors, wonders, perils, and galling inconvenience in pursuit of liberty, respect, and his own dreamed-of life of ease.”


Rogues, a relatively short and light Edomia novel, is an entertaining, erudite and straightforward tale, a side-work that serves as a bridge to the forthcoming Empires of EdomiaRogues maintains the themes, engaging characters and feel of the previous Edomia books while being less plot- and character-intricate (it helps that the first two books did the heavy lifting of being full-on world-builders), making Rogues lighter on its story-telling feet. Excellent series for those who like fantasy genre brains, brawn, humor and a touch of sex, a book worth owning and revisiting (re-reading) at a later date, when all the books are published.

Saturday, August 26, 2023

The Successful Novelist by David Morrell


(pb; 2008: nonfiction)

From the back cover

“David Morrell, bestselling author of First Blood, The Brotherhood of the Rose and The Fifth Profession, distlls four decades of writing experience and publishing experience into this single masterwork of advice and instruction for fiction writers looking to make it big in the publishing world.

“With advice proven to create successful novels, Morrell teaches you everything you need to know about: Plot, Character, Research, Structure, Viewpoint, Description, Dialogue, The business of publishing, and much more.”



Successful is one of the best books I’ve read on novel writing, branding one’s work,  juggling life and work, and the financial end of one’s work after it’s reached a multimedia platform-level. Whether or not your writing habits and notions gel with Morrell’s, Successful is a worthwhile (and excellent) read for the author’s hard-won common sense/dealing-with-rights-and-finances. Great writer’s resource book, one of my all-time favorites in the business-of-writing genre.

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Killing Moon by Jo Nesbø


(hb; 2022: thirteenth book in the Harry Hole series. Translated from the Norwegian by Seán Kinsella)

From the inside flap

“Two young women are missing, and the only connection is a party they both attended, hosted by a notorious real-estate magnate. When one of the women is found murdered, the police discover an unusual signature left by the killer, giving them reason to suspect he will strike again.

“They’re facing a killer unlike any other. And exposing the killer calls for a detective like no other. But the legendary Harry Hole is gone—fired from the force, drinking himself to oblivion in Los Angeles. It seems that nothing can entice him back to Oslo. Until the woman who saved Harry’s life is put in grave danger, and he has no choice but to return to the city that haunts him and track down the murderer.

“Catching him will push Harry to the limit. He’ll need to bring together a misfit team of former operatives to prevent another killing. But as the evidence mounts, it becomes clear that there is more to the case than meets the eye.”



Killing Moon, like Nesbø’s previous Harry Hole novels, is a near-impossible-to-set-down thriller, with effectively foreshadowed twists and shocks, and an ending that introduces a new (possible) deadly player in Hole’s life, a dark-hearted somebody who may pop up in future Hole books—not the first time Nesbø has done this.

Many of Hole’s Oslo-based (ex-)lovers, friends, and frenemies are, again, essential characters in Killing’s wild-ride storyline, spiced with plenty of red herrings (some easily spotted, others not). Part of the attraction of Nesbø’s Hole series is the author’s willingness to irrevocably turn his characters’ worlds upside down and the bordering-on-quirky inclusion of science-based elements as well as a love of music (especially rock ‘n’ roll, particularly David Bowie, Keith Richards, and even, in Katrine Bratt’s case, death metal [hello, early-in-their-career Carcass!]).

This is one of my favorite reads this year, one worth seeking out. Looking forward to the next Hole thriller.

Monday, August 07, 2023

"Morbius the Living Vampire" Omnibus by various artists and writers (Part 2 of 2)


(oversized hb; 2019; graphic novel)

Overall review

Caveat: (possible) minor spoilers in this review. Part 1 of the review is here.

Morbius is a fun, distinctive (he’s a living vampire!), and overall good read, although the artwork, between its various illustrators, varies in quality (mostly it’s good). Its main characters (despite the era-familiar/sexist damsel-in-distress female players) are mostly consistent and generally interesting—in this second half of original-run Morbius-featuring issues, the living vampire is (for the most part) a more consistently humane (relatable) character, making for better overall writing, between the adult-oriented Fear and Vampire Tales magazines and kid-friendly mainstream comics. Worth reading and owning, this sometimes-melodramatic omnibus.

The original run of the Morbius stories ran from October 1971 and January 1981.


Review, issue by issue

Fear: “Night of the Vampire Stalker” (#27): While Martine and Morbius hole in up the supposedly haunted Mason Mansion near Boston, Massachusetts, an ex-CIA agent and monster hunter (Simon Stroud) looks for Morbius, thinking the living vampire is responsible for a string of bloodletting.


Fear: “The Doorway Screaming into Hell!” (#28): Boston, Massachusetts. While Morbius recovers from the events of the previous Fear issue, Police Chief Warner (introduced in the previous issue) tells Martine and Simon Stroud about Letitia Mason, former owner of the Mason Mansion, who told the police about strange supernatural happenings at her residence. This information compels Stroud to interview Letitia.

Later, Morbius and Stroud are thrust into a bizarre realm where furry eyeball, fanged creatures torment Morbius while they say the name of their master (Helleyes).


Fear: “Through a Helleyes Darkly” (#29): Escaping an ocean of blood they were cast into, Morbius and Simon Stroud—still at violent odds—try to survive bizarre-world oddities like singing, pinching crabs and the eyeball-covered Helleyes.


Fear: “The Vampires of Mason Manor!” (#30): Returned to Mason Mansion, Simon Stroud and Morbius wage war on a mini-army of undead vampires (as opposed to the science-experiment vampire Morbius is). Stroud and Morbius’s battle takes them to the Boston Police station, where Martine might be in danger as well.


Fear: “The End of a Vampire!” (#31): Martine, now a vampire, fights Morbius and Simon Stroud, even as the latter two try to give her a shot to cure her unnatural vampirism.


Vampire Tales: “A Taste of Crimson Life!” (#10): Painesville, Pennsylvania (Pop. 93). In a separate-from-Fear storyline, Morbius takes revenge on this mining town after his kind boardinghouse landlady (Alicia Twain) is attacked.

Again, it’s worth noting that many of the Vampire Tales stories are more complex, darker, and for mature audiences.


Vampire Tales: “Death Kiss” (#11): With help from a mysterious wealthy woman (Morgana), Morbius confronts the London-based upper class Brotherhood of Judas, who seek to fill the political and religious seats of power with bloodsuckers like themselves. Morbius being who he is, he makes melodramatic declarations at key moments.


Marvel Preview – The Legion of Monsters: “The Madman of Mansion Slade” (#8): In this Hound of the Baskervilles-esque story, Morbius visits Cupar Fife, Scotland, to see an old scientist friend (Ronson Slade), again to find a cure for Morbius’s unique vampirism. Ronson is distracted by problems of his own, though—specifically his “insane” son (Jeremiah), who might have something to do with recent grisly deaths in the nearby Fenwick Moor.

The events of this relatively gory, black-and-white read aren’t shocking, but it’s effectively atmospheric, solid.


Marvel Premiere: “There’s a Mountain on Sunset Boulevard!” (#28): After a mountain rips through Sunset Boulevard, Jack Russell (moon-transformed, from the Werewolf By Night comics), Ghost Rider, Morbius,  and the Man-Thing find themselves fighting for or against a golden alien warrior (Starseed), in a conflict that’ll cost them plenty. Palpable sense of comic book-y heartbreak in this excellent issue.


Marvel Two-in-One: “The Return of the Living Eraser!” (#15):  The Living Eraser, last seen in Tales to Astonish #49 (where he battled Henry Pym, aka Giant Man, and the Wasp) returns to Earth to conquer it by making more people vanish into thin air. Fortunately, Ben Grimm (aka The Thing) and Morbius are there to stop him.

Also, Morbius meets a green-skinned princess from The Living Eraser’s homeworld—a princess grateful and attracted to Morbius, who is drawn to her too. This is a curious development, as there’s no mention of Martine (Morbius’s fiancée), last seen in the final issue of Fear (#31), and still engaged to the living vampire.


The Spectacular Spider-Man: “Cry Mayhem—Cry Morbius!” (#7): Morbius, under the control of The Empathoid, kidnaps Glory Grant (Peter Parker’s co-worker and friend), compelling Spider-Man to rescue her—sans the ability to shoot webbing.


The Spectacular Spider-Man: “. . . And Only One Will Survive!” (#8): The Empathoid, a bodiless parasite, attaches himself to Spider-Man, with surprising results. Meanwhile, Flash Thompson (a returned-home Vietnam vet) gets a rude shock when he tries to rescue Shan-Shan, a woman he loved during the war, from a seemingly cruel man.


The Spectacular Spider-Man: “Curse of the Living Vampire!” (#38): A stressed-out Peter Parker attends a big party hosted by one of Peter’s fellow college students (Chip Martin, who manifests alarming powers), and more importantly, a party crashed by a blood-thirst-crazed Morbius, headed for a big life-change.


The Savage She-Hulk: “The Power of the Word” (#9): Jen Walters, struggling more than usual to control her She-Hulk rage-transformations, infiltrates a Los Angeles-based cult run by The Word (an assertive ex-editor of dictionaries) and his jealous, superhuman-strength daughter (Ultima).

Jen tries to help Randolph Harrison, a young ex-hippie, escape from the cult, at her clients’ request (Randolph’s parents).

Meanwhile, Jen’s friend (Zapper, crushing on her) consults Michael Morbius, humanized after being struck by lightning in The Spectacular Spider-Man (#38), about Jen’s bloodwork, possibly the source of her rage/She-Hulk health issues.


The Savage She-Hulk: “The War—of the Word!” (#10): Jen, addled by her life-threatening, mysterious bloodborne illness, is railroaded by The Word into an immediate, day-after-last-issue’s-events legal trial, for which she is ill-prepared. Later, She-Hulk fights a violently jealous superhuman Ultima, The Word’s daughter, who mistakenly thinks Jen is trying to steal a brainwashed Chip Harrison from her.

Dr. Michael Morbius is mentioned but not shown in this issue.

Bearing in mind that this is a children’s mainstream comic book (not a lot of nuance in this genre) and The Word has strong manipulation/persuasion power (he gets an immediate, per his behest, legal trial), this issue might read as too comic book-y, unrealistic in writing/editorial and real-world ways. (Younger readers probably wouldn’t notice, but reading it as an adult, with writing/editing experience, I couldn’t help noticing this.)


The Savage She-Hulk: “In the Shadow of Death!” (#11):  Post-court debacle (see previous issue), a seriously ill She-Hulk is arrested by and imprisoned by LAPD, where her alter-ego’s father (Sheriff Morris Walters, unaware of Jen’s dual nature) rails at She-Hulk.

Meanwhile, at a UCLA “neuro-radiology center”, a pre-legal trial Dr. Michael Morbius creates a cure for himself and She-Hulk while students protest the former vampire’s presence. They’re not the only ones angry at Morbius—he’s stalked by a vengeance-seeking father of one of Morbius’s “dozens of” victims. Worsening these situations, can Morbius resist the urge to drink the small beaker of serum that can save She-Hulk’s exponentially declining life (and turn him fully human)?

This especially exciting, rings-realistic (within its genre) issue is excellent, a great entry in the She-Hulk series, a well-written turning point for its titular character.


The Savage She-Hulk: “Reason and Rage” (#12): Jen Walters, recovered from her life-threatening sickness, defends Michael Morbius, in serious need of the “stabilization serum” of the one he made for Jen, in legal court even as many around her revile her and her “mass murderer” client. 

Post-trial, the parents of one of Morbius’s “dozens of” victims (Helen LeClerc, his attack/her death not shown in the series), go Paul Kersey/Death Wish (1974) after Gemini (an identity-cognizant/dual-natured android)** accidentally gets pulled into Angela and Thomas LeClerc’s retribution-seeking. During this tripartite deliberation/conflict, Jen struggles to learn how to transform into She-Hulk (something that was impulse-instant prior to her drinking the serum; now that it takes conscious effort, it’s a challenge).

[** = Created by Scorpio, a foe of The Defenders (The Defenders, issues #48—50), he was later “almost deactivated” by Nick Fury, agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. Scorpio recounts this in She-Hulk #12, continuing with “But it wasn’t that easy. . . I was alive! The good guy all put in a kind word for me. . . I was finally released on my own recognizance.”)]


This issue is a satisfying wrap-up to the original-run, almost-forty-issue Morbius storyline, one that doesn’t white-wash the living vampire and his unchronicled fate (he is suitably but humanely punished for his actions and hubris)—and it’s as close to a realistic happy ending as one might get, and one that rings true, character- and otherwise.

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Angel's Inferno by William Hjortsberg


(pb; 2018: sequel to Falling Angel)

From the back cover

“Private investigator Harry Angel is in a jam. Handcuffed in his apartment along with the cops and a corpse, he stands accused of violently murdering three people. The good news is he knows who did it. But in order to exonerate himself, Harry must first make his escape—and figure out his own identity.

“With the authorities hot on his heels, Harry travels from New York and Boston to Paris and the Vatican in search of an elusive stage magician. Eventually piecing together his mysterious past, he descends into the dark world of the occult. And very soon he will have vengeance upon the devil himself.”



Angel’s Inferno picks up in the same scene where its prequel, Falling Angel, ends—if you’ve read Falling Angel, or seen its resulting 1987 film Angel Heart, you know what that scene looks like. After Angel escapes from police custody, accused of murders he may or may not have committed, he goes down another dark, increasingly ambitious rabbit hole littered with more death, voodoo, music, regret, and famous, real-life personalities (Ada “Bricktop” Smith, William S. Burroughs, Kenny Clarke, others).This time out, though, Angel’s head isn’t the only one on the main chopping block.

Angel’s is an excellent, more-intense-than-its-source-novel read, one with—like its prequel—full of effectively foreshadowed, character-based twists and not-quite-revelations. Great book, one of my favorite reads this year.

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Knight Owl by Christopher Denise


(hb; 2022: children’s picture book)

From the inside flap

“Since the day he hatched, Owl dreamed of becoming a real knight. He may not be the biggest or the strongest, but his sharp nocturnal instincts can help protect the castle, especially since many knights have recently gone missing. While holding guard during Knight Night Watch, Owl is faced with the ultimate trial—a frightening intruder. It’s a daunting duel by any measure. . .”



Knight is a delightful children’s picture book, with excellent illustrations and a fun twist at the end—while it would’ve been especially nice for Denise to visually foreshadow that twist (something he could’ve easily done)*, Knight (still) works, making for a good read. Worth checking out.

(*I understand and respect that most readers, especially children, won’t care about foreshadowing in a children’s picture book. That said, for some of us who write, edit, etc. text, it’s something worth noting.)

From Dusk Till Dawn by Quentin Tarantino and Robert Kurtzman


(pb; 1995: screenplay)

From the back cover

“You’d better hope you don’t cross paths with the infamous Gecko brothers—Richie and Seth. They’re fond of banks—robbing them, that is. They’re tough. In From Dusk Till Dawn, we follow them as they tear a path through the heartland of America on their way to the border. It is there, near El Paso, that they will meet up with their Mexican partners-in-crime to divvy up the loot they’ve acquired.

“Along the way, though, an innocent family will enter their lives—an ex-Baptist preacher, his teenage son, and sexy daughter. We watch as Richie and Seth enlist the family’s help in getting them safely across the border in the family’s Winnebago. When they arrive at their dreamed-about world south of the border, they are met with a terrifying twist.”



Tarantino and Kurtzman’s down-and-dirty exploitation screenplay hits all its marks while creating a multi-subgenre stew that incorporates Blaxploitation, Mexploitation, vampires, 1970s road movies, sexploitation, and a lot of other -ploitations. Its well-sketched, sometimes -fleshed characters spout snappy dialogue, as rapid-fire as their wild what-the-hell situations and resulting, improvised re/actions. This is a landmark screenplay (and later, film) that truly felt down and dirty, nostalgic, yet distinctly 1990s direct-to-video sleazy and unique in its elements. Great read and great film, one worth reading, it you like sleazy genre works and swift, twisty action and characters.


The resulting film was released stateside on January 19, 1996. Robert Rodriguez directed it, with a lot of notable—most of them great—players.

Monday, July 10, 2023

"Morbius the Living Vampire" Omnibus by various artists and writers (Part 1 of 2)


(oversized hb; 2019; graphic novel)

Overall review

Caveat: (possible) minor spoilers in this review. Part 2 of the review is here.

Morbius is a fun, distinctive (he’s a living vampire!), and overall good read, although the artwork, between its various illustrators, varies in quality (mostly it’s good though). Its main characters (despite the era-familiar/sexist damsel-in-distress female players) are mostly consistent and generally interesting—bearing in mind that, depending on the title, situations and the writers, Morbius veers sometimes from bloodthirsty maniacal to sympathetic anti-hero. Worth reading and owning, this.

These are the first twenty issues of the forty-one original issue run. 


Review, issue by issue

The Amazing Spider-Man: “A Monster Called. . . Morbius!” (#101): While hiding out in Dr. Curtis Connors’s (aka the Lizard) summer house (so Peter Parker/Spider-Man can undo an unsuccessful experiment), Spider-Man is thrust into combat with Morbius the Living Vampire for the first time, a situation that compounds into something worse when another unexpected guest shows up.


The Amazing Spider-Man: “Vampire at Large!” (#102): Spider-Man, caught between the Lizard (a transformed Dr. Curtis Connors) and Morbius, tries to fend them off, secure a serum for his additional four spider-arms, and transform Connors back into his human self, while subduing (but not seriously harming) Morbius.


Marvel Team-Up featuring Spider-Man and the Human Torch: “The Power to Purge” (#3): Martine (Dr. Michael Morbius’s distressed fiancée) contacts the Fantastic Four, seeking help in locating her transformed, missing fiancé. One of the four, Johnny Blaze (aka the Human Torch), with help from a combative Spider-Man, locates Morbius and tries to subdue the desperate, blood-deprived vampire—who’s also created another bloodsucker (Jefferson, a political radical, brother of the more even-tempered Jacob).

As one might expect, Blaze and Spider-Man’s efforts are thwarted by unforeseen complications.


Marvel Team-Up featuring Spider-Man and the X-Men (#4): Morbius kidnaps Hans Jorgensen, his former scientific partner, and kills some people. Spider-Man, suffering from the effects of the Morbius-based cure for his extra four arms (The Amazing Spider-Man #101-102), tries to stop Morbius, but runs afoul of the X-Men while doing so. Especially cram-packed with characters and action, this issue.


Vampire Tales: “Morbius” (#1): This black-and-white illustrated magazine chapter-story shows a guilt-tormented Morbius—recently escaped from the X-men—in Los Angeles, looking for his erstwhile love (Martine). After making accidental friends with a “Children of Satan” cultist “or just a carnie” (Carolyn), she takes him to Madame Laera, a no-frills spiritualist, who also tries to help him locate Martine. While with Madame Laera, they’re attacked by a kill-happy demon (Nilrac).

Especially fun Morbius micro-tale chapter, more bloodthirsty and fearsome than its color-cousin/younger audience mainstream run.


Giant-Size Superheroes: “Man-Wolf at Midnight” (#1): In another effort to procure a cure for his vampirism, Michael Morbius—less maniacal than usual—takes control of the Man-Wolf (John Jameson’s lycanthropic self) with the Moon-Stone, recovered from the East River in New York.

Morbius’s plan also includes Dr. Harold Ward, a hematologist working on an experimental cure for leukemia, and only Spider-Man can save Ward and possibly, Jameson/Man Wolf. This simple clever, self-contained story is fun, above average in its written and visual execution.


Fear: “Morbius the Living Vampire” (#20): The titular bloodsucker is strangely calmed by two men religious faith and science (Rabbi Krause, Reverend Daemond) is again experimented upon to see if Michael Morbius can be cured of his need for blood. Unfortunately, the situation goes awry (as it often does), and Morbius, cognizant of his humane aspects, is forced to stalk a new victim.


Fear: “Project: Second Genesis” (#21): After Morbius’s reluctant attack on Tara (a child who is more than she appears to be), the “man-bat” and the girl are drawn to the Caretakers, ancient, science-smart beings who compel Morbius to confront the traitorous, satanic Daemond, his mysterious female companion and a supernatural “jungle cat” (Balkatar). Another cliffhanger finish, with at least one shocking (for Morbius) twist.

This issue, like the previous Fear issue, casts Morbius in a consistent, well-meaning anti-hero light. This shift (also hinted at Marvel Tearm-Up #3 and 4 as well as Vampire Tales #1) is  a promising character- and series-expansive take on Morbius, a sea-change for the character.


Fear: “—This Vampire Must Die!” (#22): Morbius’s slashing fisticuffs with Balkatar, the intelligent and English-speaking jungle cat, are interrupted by a summoning by Balkatar’s also-biped/feline king (Gerark). Gerark has a terrible but seemingly necessary mission for Morbius, one that means life or death for Gerark’s subjects inside the mysterious land-prison of “within”—a place Gerark and his people are unable to escape.


Fear: “Alone Against Arcticus” (#23): In a land bordering the “within”, Morbius meets the denizens of Arcturus, a mix of cyborgs, a mutated super-race, and occasional humans—all of whom were subjugated by Gerark the wild-cat king and his ilk long ago, and all of whom seek to free themselves.


Fear: “Return to Terror!” (#24): Lord I (eye-faced, telepathic “potentate of Arcturus”) and Morbius return to our terrestrial realm where, surreptitiously espied by the Caretakers, the living vampire tangles with a bewildered Blade the Vampire Slayer.


Vampire Tales: “The Blood Sacrifice of Amanda Saint” (#2): In the more adult-oriented Vampire Tales chapter-tale, Morbius confronts another satanic cult, that of Demon-Fire, led by high priestess Poison Lark and her monstrous lieutenant (Katabolik), so that Morbius might save the virginal Amanda Saint from their “Triad of Solomon” sacrifice that would leave Saint dead. Cliffhanger finish to this fun, fast-moving (if stock-Morbius) microtale.


Vampire Tales: “Demon-Fire” (#3): Morbius interrupts Poison Lark (Amanda Saint’s murderous sister Catherine) and Katabolik’s mausoleum sacrifice of Amanda Saint to the spider demon Arachne, while “sweet, silly Justin”—Amanda’s love interest—reveals hidden depths. Also mentioned by Poison Lark: “the arcane text of Lemegeton”.


Vampire Tales: “Lighthouse of the Possessed” (#4): Amanda Saint and Morbius, having dismembered the San Francisco-based cult of Demon-Fire, head to Lovecraftian eerie Malevolence, Maine, to find Amanda’s mother and father, the former of whom (like Catherine/Poison Lark) joined Demon-Fire’s cult.

Shortly after their arrival in Malevolence, Morbius and Amanda are attacked by its citizens, most of whom are possessed by a skeletal-clawed hell fiend (Bloodtide), summoned by Amanda’s mother. At least one Scooby-Doo-esque end-twist makes this Vampire Tale especially fun.


Vampire Tales: “Blood Tide” (#5): Morbius and Amanda Saint continue to fend off attacks by the Bloodtide-possessed citizens of Malevolence, Maine—this time with help from locals Brock Killbride (a naïve political optimist) and the more cynical Arlene Randolph, while Monte Harris, a shady political consultant for Mayor Duke Mannery, skulks around the eerie town. Then Bloodtide shows up! Mayhem ensues.

Multi-POV storytelling issue highlights this issue, cutting between the story’s core characters.


Vampire Tales: “Where is Gallows Bend” (#7): In Gallows Bend, Nevada, Amanda Saint and Morbius, continue looking for Saint’s long-disappeared father. More minions of the Demonfire cult—notably Death-Flame—torture Morbius and Amanda with hallucinatory horrors in the Old West-style town. Appropriately melodramatic, crazy story with jarring POV shifts, something that highlights the rest of the Demonfire storyline.


Vampire Tales: “High Midnight” (#8): Howie Rivers (owner of the Old West town Gallows Bend, Nevada), his caretaker (Sagebrush Robbins), Morbius and Amanda Saint face off against Apocalypse and his hench-creatures (griffins, Reaper, Phineas T. Coroner, others) in the mostly satisfying conclusion to Morbius’s Demonfire story arc.

Like the previous six Vampire Tales entries, the characters and atmosphere are laid on thick, the writing’s locquacious  and for “mature audiences”, and there’s multiple POVs throughout (this time these POVs effectively gel).

Amanda Saint, self-aware heroine, gets short-shrifted in the Demonfire arc, often little more than a damsel in distress (especially by today’s standards) despite her intelligence and willingness to fight villainy.


Fear: “And What of a Vampire’s Blood. . .?” (#25): Picking up from Fear #24, separate from the Vampire Tales storyline: Caught between the 10,000-year-old Caretakers and the demon-priest Daemond, whose long war threatens all, Morbius and the psychically powerful girl-child Tara confront Daemond anew—a conflict Daemond seems likely to win.


Fear: “A Stillborn Genesis!” (#26): Character-based twists abound as the war between Daemond and the Caretakers comes to a head. Fun, wild wrap-up to the Caretakers/Daemond storyline.


Werewolf By Night: “Giant-Size Werewolf” (#4) – “A Meeting of BloodMichael Morbius (“the living vampire”) is reunited with his amnesiac fiancée, Martine, who may lead him to more than love, when a wolf-mode Jack Russell crosses their path and attacks them, possibly undoing Morbius and Martine’s shot at a sweet new life.

Wednesday, July 05, 2023

The Face-Changers by Thomas Perry


(pb; 1998: fourth book in the Jane Whitefield series)

From the back cover

“Jane Whitefield, legendary half-Indian shadow guide who spirits hunted people away from certain death, has never had a client like Dr. Richard Dahlman. A famous plastic surgeon who has dedicated his life to healing, the good doctor hasn’t a clue why stalkers are out for his blood. But he knows Jane Whitefield’s name—and that she iss his only hope. Once again Jane performs her magic, leading Dahlman in a nightmare flight across America, only a heartbeat ahead of pursuers whose leader is a dead ringer for Jane: a raven-haired beauty who was stolen her name, reputation, and techniques—not to save lives, but to destroy them.”



Caveat: (possible) not-quite-spoiler series notes in this review.

A year after the events of Shadow Woman (1997), Jane Whitefield, retired from her guide business, is drawn back into intrigue and danger when her husband, Carey McKinnon, asks her to help his surgical/experimental-researcher mentor (Dr. Richard Dahlman) disappear after he’s framed for the murder of his co-researcher. Complicating Jane’s task is a woman who’s operating as Jane’s doppelgãnger, with a money-flush, murder-leaning organization backing the faux-Jane. Also in the violent mix: Alvin Jardine, a low-life, Jane-loathing bounty hunter, who might make an appearance (or a few) in future Jane Whitefield entries.

As with earlier books in the series, there’s an element/mention of Seneca/Native American mythology (in this case the titular “face-changers”, Creator-Punishment beings), a measured-pace, snappy writing, character-driven set-up with plenty of action, twists, fresh takes on familiar situations, and a satisfying resolution that rings true, as well as mentions from previous Whitefield novels (in this case, Vanishing Act, 1995, specifically: John Felker, duplicitous and sociopathic former client of Jane’s; Lewis Feng, a documents forger Jane worked with, later killed by Felker, as was another former Jane client, Harry in Santa Barbara).

Worth owning, this. Followed by Blood Money.

Monday, June 26, 2023

The Movie: "Barfly" by Charles Bukowski


(pb; 1987, 2006: screenplay)


Bukowski’s character-driven, sometimes (suitably) booze-setting-chaotic screenplay maintains the warm, fisticuffs-brave tone of Bukowski’s other written work, a successful, charming genre-transitional effort that paid off with a truly independent, frak-Hollywood film with stellar, lots-o’-heart and distinctive characters. Worth seeking out, excellent.


The resulting film, directed by Barbet Schroeder, was released stateside on October 16, 1987.

Mickey Rourke played Henry Chinaski, Bukowski’s fictionalized self. Faye Dunaway played Wanda Wilcox. J.C.Quinn played Jim, daytime bartender for the Golden Horn Bar. Frank Stallone played Eddie, the Golden Horn’s nighttime bartender.

Sandy Martin played Janice, one of the Golden Horn’s barflies. Roberta Bassin played Lilly, another Golden Horn barfly. Gloria LeRoy, billed as Gloria Leroy, played Grandma Moses, an elderly oral-sex-leaning prostitute. Pruitt Taylor Vince played Joe. Book and screenplay author Charles Bukowski played an uncredited Bar Patron.

Alice Krige played Tully, a publisher. Jack Nance played Tully’s “Detective”.  

Friday, June 09, 2023

Burnt Offerings by Robert Marasco


(pb; 1973)

From the back cover

“Marian Rolfe, her husband Ben and their 12-year-old son David find a neglected mansion that can be theirs for the summer. It all seems absolutely perfect, but there is one hitch. . .”



Marasco’s slow-build, low-key horror tale about a malevolent house slowly tearing a family apart is good, its relatable characters, descriptions of the house falling somewhere between a then-modern (early Seventies) feel with a touch of late nineteenth-century/early twentieth century nostalgia and atmosphere—this latter element is subtle but  effective in giving Burnt an especially classic spookhouse feel, much like novels like James Herbert’s David Ash series (Haunted; The Ghosts of Sleath; and Ash) and especially Richard Matheson’s Hell House, 1971). The ending is open-ended (and possibly disappointing for some readers), with an equally low-key and notably-different-than-the-1976-film finish, but the film ending (more striking and effective) lacks the sense of blissful revelation that one of key characters experiences in those moments. Highly recommended read for those who appreciate quiet character-explorations, an emphasis on atmosphere, and sometimes-subtle-shift thrills.


The film version, true to the book's atmosphere and characters, was released stateside on October 18, 1976. It was directed by Dan Curtis, who co-wrote the screenplay with William F. Nolan.

Karen Black played Marian Rolf (an alteration of the book-version surname Rolfe). Oliver Reed played Ben Rolf. Lee Montgomery, billed as Lee H. Montgomery, played David Rolf. Bette Davis, who found Reed “loathsome” in real life, played Aunt Elizabeth.

Eileen Heckart played Roz Allardyce. Burgess Meredith played Arnold “Brother” Allardyce. Dub Taylor played Walker, the Allardyces’ surly handyman. Anthony James played the creepy Chauffeur.