Monday, August 31, 2015

Conan Meets Hellboy



   Been a while since I added any new art to my eclectic Conan team-up collection. This new one, by Red Sonja artist Walter Geovani, isn’t a commission like the others, but instead was something I spotted on Ebay and decided to bid on. And I won. I would like to get a commission from Geovani at some point.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

A Few Words About J.A. Konrath

As I mentioned in my post about VIRGIN ZOMBIE, my foray into the J.A. Konrath's JACK DANIELS AND ASSOCIATES Kindle World, my initial exposure to the work of author J.A Konrath was as a fan. Nowadays he is an example and inspiration when I'm working on self publishing, but originally I just liked his Jack Daniels mystery/thrillers. I was rereading one of them last night, WHISKEY SOUR, and something occurred to me.
These days when I hear people talk about Konrath, it's mostly about his business savvy or his position as a guru for Ebook self publishing, or his stance against the anti-Amazon crowd, and such. People talk about his sales numbers, which he shares on his blog. They talk about how he's making a killing.
What they don't talk about is perhaps one of the most important aspects of Konrath's novels. That they're good books. They're fun to read. They're well written. They have snappy dialog, great plots and relentless narrative drive. We're not talking about widgets here, but books. Last night, as I was reading a funny scene between police Lieutenant Jack Daniels and sleazy PI, Harry McGlade, I was literally laughing out loud. Three pages later something truly horrible happened to a supporting character. Konrath is the king of the roller coaster ride of a book.
I was talking to someone about what some of my favorite reads for the last couple of years were and several of them were by Konrath, both on his own, and with some of his collaborators. The Jack Daniels books of course, but also SUCKERS, written with Jeff Strand, a book that made me laugh so much I almost hurt myself. And then there's FIX, written with Ann Voss Peterson and F. Paul Wilson, which I reviewed here at the blog, and which is just about my favorite read this year. And DRACULAS, written with Jeff Strand, F. Paul Wilson, and Blake Crouch, which is one of my absolute favorite vampire novels. I reviewed that one here too.
I guess my point, in saying nice things about J.A. Konrath's work, is that people seem to want to give all kinds of reasons as to why the man is a success. That he caught the Ebook wave when it was starting. That he had an 'in' to the publishing world. That (and this he has refuted many times) he is only popular because he had success as a traditionally published author before he turned to self publishing. What they don't seem to want to admit is that the man can write. That he tells a good story. That his books are hard to put down. Easier to make excuses as to why he's outselling you I guess, than to just say, hey the guy can write a mean thriller.
So go buy some of his books and see what I'm talking about. 

His website is here:  

 

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Where We Live and Die by Brian Keene

   I have long been fascinated by Meta-Fiction, that place where fiction meets reality, and the things that occur there. In WHERE WE LIVE AND DIE, author Brian Keene goes to that nexus point and gazes into the abyss with an unflinching eye. A large part of this book is autobiographical fiction, told through the eyes of a man who often makes a living writing about terrible things.
   The center piece is THE GIRL ON THE GLIDER, which Keene describes in the book's afterword as 'ninety nine point nine percent true'. In the story Keene delves into the life of a middle aged horror writer and examines the affect his lifestyle has on the people in his life, all the while telling a ghost story that also is mostly true.
   THE REVOLUTION HAPPENED WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING is a beat poem history of the horror genre and all the beats are just right. If you know the material Keene is talking about, you'll get every bit of it. If not, you'll learn something.
   Probably my favorite story is MUSINGS, which once again looks at the writer's life and adds a nice bit of creepiness that I think Karl Edward Wagner would have appreciated. There are more stories in this collection and they are all worth your time. Like I said, Brian Keene doesn't pull any punches in these stories and he doesn't look away when many people would. Highly recommended.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Conan/Murder She Wrote

This is what happens when I get bored on a Sunday afternoon. I draw improbable team-ups.

Friday, August 07, 2015

Red Sonja/Conan Issue #1



   A little earlier this year, Dark Horse Comics and Dynamite Comics got together and teamed up Conan the Barbarian and Red Sonja. Because of the arcane ways of licensing, each of these companies has control of one of the characters, so any team-up has to be agreed upon by both companies. Dark Horse did four issues of a mini-series called CONAN/RED SONJA, and apparently now it's Dynamite's turn to do RED SONJA/CONAN.
   The first mini series was a lot of fun. It had a fairly lightweight story involving the Stygian wizard Thoth Amon and a dangerous mystical plant called the Bloodseed. And it had really good art by my main man, Dan Panosian. I did get a little tired of the whole Bloodseed thing by the end of the mini series I must say.
   So you can imagine I wasn't overly thrilled when I opened the first issue of RED SONJA/CONAN to find that once again the menace for the two sword slingers to face was a Stygian wizard and the Bloodseed. New plot, people. Please.
   Anyway, the art in the first issue, by Roberto Castro, is really sharp. In fact I prefer it to the current art in the regular Dark Horse Conan comic, but that's probably because it's more Marvel style. I grew up with the Marvel Comics version of Conan and the closer something hues to that, the happier I usually am. What can I say? I'm an old school comics guy.
   The writing, by Victor Gischler, is serviceable, though Conan seems a little out of character, but we all know how picky I am about Conan, so that's a minor quibble.
   Oh one funny bit, maybe a little spoilery. In the old Marvel continuity, Sonja had a vow that she wouldn't sleep with a man unless he defeated her in combat. Not so with the Dynamite Sonja. In fact as she's written by regular Sonja series scribe Gail Simone, today's Sonja, much like Conan, is rather randy.
   So it finally looks like Conan and Sonja are going to get it on, when some of the wizard's monsters show up in the bed chamber and things go to hell in a Hyborian hand basket. So close, yet so far.
   So yeah, lightweight sword and sorcery fun from Dynamite with spiffy artwork. There's a preview here.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Friday in the Library With Lovecraft

This year I made my third trip to the Northeastern Writers Conference, better known as Camp NECON. Necon isn’t like any other convention. My pal James A. Moore nailed it when he called it a cross between a con and a family reunion. Now that I’m a member of that family, I look forward to seeing my distant relatives every July.

This year, though, several of us made a side trip of epic proportions. Writer Brian Keene arranged for a group of us, including me, Jim Moore, Mary SanGiovanni, Nick Kaufman, Alexa Antopol , Dave Thomas, and Paul Tremblay, to visit the John Hay Library at Brown University in Rhode Island and view the H.P. Lovecraft manuscript collection.

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, then think about that for a moment. Me, Charles Rutledge, Lovecraft Fanboy, going to see HPL’s handwritten manuscripts. As you can imagine, I was pretty psyched.

Despite knowing more or less where the library was, we had a little trouble finding the place. Typing the address into the GPS results in you ending up at a different location, almost as if there is something working against you. Perhaps the non-Euclidian angles of the streets resist modern technology. We finally made it though, and because we were a little early for our 10:00 am appointment, I took the chance to make another dream come true and got Jim to take my picture at the Van Wickle Gates, across the street from the library. You see, there’s a famous picture of Lovecraft seated on a stone bench in the corner of one of the gates and that bench is still there, so Jim and I took turns sitting in the exact spot where HPL had been over seventy years ago.

When the library opened we were met by Christopher Geissler, the Librarian for American and British Literary and Popular Culture Collections, who was to be our guide. Mr. Geissler couldn’t have been nicer, and I think he was glad to have some visitors who showed the reverence and enthusiasm for the collection that we did.

Before going upstairs to see the manuscripts, we first had a look at the recently restored main reading room. The John Hay was built in 1910 and over time the huge reading room had been turned into three separate rooms. In the last few years though, the walls were removed and the room was restored to its epic dimensions. It really looks like a set from Hellboy or some Gothic horror film with its high ceilings, tall windows, and busts of authors set above the shelves. I felt like I could have been there to view the Necronomicon and in a way, I guess I was. (Mr. Geissler told us that while they didn’t have a copy of the Necronomicon, they did have Lovecraft’s manuscript for ‘The History of the Necronomicon’.)

Then we went upstairs to one of the rooms used for meetings and other functions, another place that looked like a Gothic set. Walls of dark wood panels. A fireplace with hearthside chairs. More tall windows and heavy furniture. We gathered around a long table and Mr. Geissler began to set out the manuscripts. I’m going to post some pictures with this entry, but I can’t show you everything we saw. Among the treasures were handwritten and typed manuscripts for THE CALL OF CTHULHU, THE DUNWICH HORROR, AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS, THE CASE OF CHARLES DEXTER WARD, and THE COLOUR OUT OF SPACE.

We also saw Lovecraft’s notes for AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS, including a drawing of an Elder Thing. Some of the coolest things we saw were several color drawings of Lovecraft’s creatures made by a teenage Robert Bloch. I’m not allowed to show you any of these, but they’ll be available at a new exhibition at the library, about which I will give you more information later.

While looking at the manuscript for THE CALL OF CTHULHU, I read the first paragraph aloud. Jim Moore got me to do it again so he could video it. Turned out pretty cool. Maybe I’ll post it, if I can figure out how.

Probably the most moving moment for me was reading a hastily added postscript to a letter from Lovecraft to Duane Rimel, telling of just receiving a report of the suicide of Robert E. Howard. Both of these writers are literary heroes of mine and to see the actual handwritten note made my eyes smart, I’ll admit. Made it more real to me, I guess.

Anyway, it was an amazing, even overwhelming experience, so thanks to Brian Keene for setting it up, to Christopher Geissler for his knowledge and patience, and to the other folks who went on the expedition for their enthusiasm. Seeing the manuscripts with a bunch of like-minded people made it even better.

Oh, and thanks to H.P. Lovecraft for writing the stuff in the first place. 








Friday, July 10, 2015

More of 'My' Superman

  This just in. You may recall how pleased I was that 'My' Superman had come back for two issues of DC's Convergence series. Apparently I wasn't the only one who liked it. It sold really well. News from Comicon is that there will be a mini series featuring that version of the character, who is married to Lois Lane. I'd really like to see 'Old' Superman outsell current Superman. So buy this when it comes out!