Monday, August 25, 2008

Reading Report

Pretty good reading weekend. I ended up skipping the Robert E. Howard chapter of E. Hoffman Price's The Book of the Dead to read the chapter about Clark Ashton Smith. Figured I'd save the Howard chapter for a rainy day, and besides, having only recently become enamored of Smith's work, I was curious about his life. The Smith chapter is a treasure trove of information because Smith and Price became good friends and Price visited Smith several times over the years.
Price paints a portrait of a man who lived in the here and now as much as in the strange realms of weird fiction. Unlike his fellow writers H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard who were very much dreamers, Smith wrote because he enjoyed it, but he also worked regular jobs to support himself and his aging parents. And when I say regular, I mean regular. He dug wells, He picked fruit in the southern California area where he lived. He and in his parents lived in a rough wood frame house in the middle of 40 acres of property in the California hills. They used a deep well as a refrigerator and cooked on a wood burning stove. Smith seemed fine with his rustic surroundings and spent what time he wasn't doing backbreaking labor turning out poetry, water color paintings, sculptures, and of course, some of the most Byzantine and literary prose to ever grace the pages of the pulp magazine Weird Tales.
I decided it was time to break into my rainy day stash of books, so I read Robert B. Parker's Resolution. This is a western, a sequel to his novel Appaloosa. I loved Appaloosa, considering it one of Parker's best, so I was a little concerned that Resolution wouldn't measure up. It does and it doesn't. The first half of the book is very good, but then it hits a midpoint slump and never really recovers. The ending is rushed and anticlimactic, almost as if Parker had hit chapter 30 of a 35 chapter book and though, "Jeez, I better pull this together and finish it." This is often a problem with Parker, so I suspect he does just that. However the dialogue, as always, sparkles, and the action is first rate. If Parker's cowboys get a bit existential at times, he makes up for it with their willingness to kill. For the most part, these are not nice guys.
In fact this may be the first western I've come across to make me really stop and think of what life would have been like when most people went around armed and you often could kill without being arrested because there was no law in many western towns.
Then I switched to F. Paul Wilson's Repairman Jack novel, All the Rage. It seems there's a new drug on the street, known as Berzerk. Berzerk heightens aggression, giving athletes and other competitive types an edge in their endeavors. Problem is, if you take too much it turns you into a violent psycho with absolutely no self control. All around the city, people are going into fits of uncontrollable rage and committing shocking acts of violence. None of this would be Jack's problem except that he's been hired to look into a seemingly reputable business man's connection with a Serbian drug lord who is the main distributor of, you guessed it, Berzerk.
Of course being a Repairman Jack novel there turns out to be some supernatural element, several in fact, and Jack is soon in over his head with gunmen, monsters, and a weird traveling carnival that would give Ray Bradbury nightmares. And if I'm not mistaken, there appears to be a connection to Wilson's Adversary books too. I'm about halfway through All the Rage and enjoying it immensely. I'm fortunate in that I discovered Jack after Wilson had already written more than a dozen books about him, but I still have to space them out. Otherwise I'd just burn through them all as I've done with so many authors in the past.

No comments: