Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Blind Shadows Available for Pre-Order

Blind Shadows, the novel I wrote with James A. Moore, is available now for pre-order in the signed limited edition. Here's the super creepy cover by Alex Mcvey. I knew he'd do a great job and he did. Needless to say, I'm pretty darned pleased. More details at Miskatonic Books here: http://www.miskatonicbooks.com/BLIND-SHADOWS-by-James-A.-Moore-and-Charles-R.-Rutledge-Signed-Limited-Edition-Hardcover.html

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Thongor Returns!

I was just saying the other day that I wished someone would collect Lin Carter's half dozen short stories about Thongor the Barbarian. I always felt that those stories were some of Carter's better work, and I always preferred them to the Thongor novels. Well my wish has been granted. Wildside Books has just published Young Thongor, which has all six of Carter's stories plus some pastiches by other hands. Since Thongor is basically a Conan pastiche, with elements of Edgar Rice Burroughs Mars books thrown in, it's kind of interesting to have pastiches of pastiches. Anyway, more on that when my copy arrives. You can buy it directly from Wildside of get it at Amazon. Available for the Kindle too, but I want a print copy of this one. That reminds me that I haven't blogged about my Lin Carter collection in a long time. Need to get around to that.

The Red Lodge

I mentioned a few posts back that I'm working my way through the Cemetery Dance collection The Century's Best Horror, and that I expected to find some "new" writers to read. The story for 1928 was The Red Lodge by H. Russell Wakefield, a writer I was unfamiliar with, but with whom I was very impressed. Sort of in the tradition of M.R. James, The Red Lodge is one of those stories about a house haunted by malignant spirits who terrorize an innocent family who have just moved in. A little research shows that Wakefield was once very popular but since his death in 1964, he has slipped into obscurity. As I said, I'd never heard of him. However, I was sufficiently impressed to go to Amazon and get a 1982 copy of The Best Ghost Stories of H. Russell Wakefield on the way. There are also some kindle books available of his stories, but I'll wait and see what overlap they have with the Best of collection. Between this and The Woman in Black, this seems to be my weekend for M.R. James style horror.

The Woman in Black

I'd been wanting to check this film out for a while and I noticed I could rent it on Amazon instant video, so last night I settled down to see what the folks at Hammer Films could do with a Gothic ghost story. The Woman in Black deals with a young solicitor named Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe in his first post-Potter role) whose wife died in childbirth four years prior to the start of this story. Kipps has never quite recovered and when we meet him he's on the verge of losing his job and perhaps his sanity. His boss gives him one last chance. See to the settling of the estate of a woman named Alice Disbrow who owned an old manor called Eel Marsh House. Arriving in the rural village where the house is located, Kipps soon finds that the villagers don't want him around, and in fact try everything they can to get him back on the return train to London. Kipps perseveres and gets a local coachman to take him out to the house, which is located on a bit of land out in the marshes and only accessible at low tide. The serious creepiness begins once Kipps reaches Eel Marsh House. He's supposed to be going through all the documents in the house but he keeps hearing noises from upstairs. Investigating, he at first finds a crow that has flown down the chimney, but then, when he looks out one of the upstairs windows he sees a woman in a black cloak and veil standing near the house's small graveyard. He looks away for a moment, but when he looks back she's gone. Back in town, Kipps makes a horrible discovery. The townsfolk are well acquainted with the woman in black and they believe that if anyone sees her, a child will die. A child does perish, and of course the villagers blame Kipps. But Kipps thinks it's just superstition, and returns to the house where the ghostly goings on begin to escalate. Slowly, the identity of the veiled woman and the reason for the deaths of the children are revealed and things get really scary. All and all I was very impressed with the film. It has a nice slow build-up of suspense and terror. Radcliffe does well as the shattered young father. He's the emotional center of the film, and he carries it off well. Eel Marsh House is suitably scary and the directing and camera work bring a real sense of dread to the movie. I wasn't thrilled with the ending, but that's all I'll say about that. As I said, for the most part I liked the movie a lot. A word of warning. There are a lot of scenes of dead children in The Woman in Black, so this definitely isn't a film for younger viewers. It got a PG rating, and there's virtually no blood or gore, but I could see where some scenes might prove very disturbing to children under twelve. I'd like to give a special thanks to my cats Bruce and Amelia for heightening my horror experience by leaping onto the back of my chair at just the wrong moment. Thanks guys....

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Crisis on Earth M

As every collector knows, sometimes you just get lucky. I had one of those instances last night. I was browsing Ebay, looking for a collection of Sexton Blake stories. If you're not familiar with Blake, he's a detective fiction character who was extremely popular in the UK at the turn of the previous century, but is almost unknown now. And by extremely popular, I mean he starred in literally thousands of adventures in the weekly story papers, plus movies, comics, puzzles, games, radio, TV, and so forth. Originally similar to Sherlock Holmes, in concept, if not execution, Blake began losing steam after WW II and was re-imagined as more of a hard boiled detective and managed to survive into the 1960s. Sexton Blake is making something of a comeback these days and will be starring in some new adventures soon. Anyway, I was looking for the old school Blake stories, but as I scanned the listings I saw that someone had put up some of the Sexton Blake Library chap books from the sixties, and at reasonable prices. For the most part those don't interest me, but one of the listings was for a story called The Caribbean Crisis. I blinked twice, then checked the price. Buy It Now cost was six bucks. I ordered it immediately. See the story is credited to someone named Desmond Reid, but that's a pen name. The Caribbean Crisis is actually the first published novel by none other than Michael Moorcock. It's a fairly hard to come by item and I've never seen a copy for under $50, and one in good shape usually goes for $100 or more. As I said, sometimes you just get lucky.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Look, It's Conan

Haven't had many Conan related posts lately, and I was missing the big guy. Figured I'd go with an iconic drawing by Big John Buscema, in my mind still the best Conan artist.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Weird

In the last couple of weeks I’ve picked up over 10 pounds of Weird and Horror fiction. Between the massive two-volume Century’s Best Horror, the two-volume Best Horror of Karl Edward Wagner, and the 1126 page collection, The Weird, I’ve suddenly gotten a lot of creepy stories. I enjoy short stories, partly because I’ve always liked the form, and partly because it’s something I can read at a sitting, often before bed time, but also when I’m not reading a novel and I just need a quick story fix. Generally I don’t read more than one such story at a time. I find it dulls the effect the writers were going for if I read too many creepy tales at once. Sometimes on weekends though, I might read two or three in a day. I’ve been working my way through The Weird, subtitled A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories, and it is, without a doubt, precisely that. Oddly enough, I learned of the book’s existence the day before it was published here in the US. It came out last year in the UK. A quick scan of the table of contents let me know that I had to have the book. I saw old favorites like Algernon Blackwood’s The Willows, F. Marion Crawford’s The Screaming Skull, and M.R. James’ Casting the Runes, and I saw a ton of stories and authors I was unfamiliar with. I’m on page 280 at the moment. Still a long way to go, but I’ve already discovered some gems. Though I’d heard of Saki’s tale, Srendi Vashtar, I’d never read it. It’s a weird little yarn about cruelty, revenge, and the strange world of childhood. H.F. Arnold’s The Night Wire was another tale I’d heard of, but have only now read, and it is a creeper. I wonder what influence it may have had on Stephen King’s The Mist. Margaret Irwin’s The Book is yet another story about a dangerous tome of Eldritch lore and we know how I love those. White Rabbits, by Leonora Carrington, is a short but truly disturbing little tale. Oh, and I didn’t realize until last night that Mimic, the story that inspired an affective horror film a few years back was written by none other than Donald A. Wollheim, founder of DAW books and a man whose importance to the SF/Fantasy publishing world is immense. I’m impressed by editors Ann and Jeff VanderMeer. This book is an international collection, with many weird tales translated from other languages, so you don’t just get the same old oft anthologized stuff. There are notes before every story telling you when it was written, a bit about the author, and other bits of interesting info. And my pal Michael Moorcock provides a nifty, ahem, Forweird. Looking ahead, I see another old favorite, The Crowd, by Ray Bradbury, and a bunch of strange and unknown titles like The Long Sheet, The Hungry House, and The Ghoulbird. Much Weirdness ahead for me. I highly recommend this collection. Well worth the time of any fan of the weird. Here’s a link to a fantastic review of the Weird. This one made me grin. http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/nov/18/beware-the-weird-anthology

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Darkness Weaves

A companion to the Manly Wade Wellman book I showed below, this is a first edition of Karl Edward Wagner's first Kane novel which I just picked up. I didn't previously own a Kane book that had been signed by Wagner, and even though this copy is a little beat up, the inscription makes up for it. Signed by KEW to his nephew Mike Elam, it reads "To Mike-Who enjoyed his uncle's stories."

Smiling at the Monsters

James A. Moore just forwarded me a rough for the cover of our book, Blind Shadows, by artist Alex McVey. I can't show it to you yet, but it is a thing of beauty. Creepy as hell, but still lovely. Can't wait to see the finished painting. For now though, I'm just sitting here and smiling at the monsters.

Acquisitions

And the hits just keep on coming. I was hoping for a little break in the wallet department at the comic book store last night, but as it turned out, I spent more last night than the previous week. A big chunk of that can be blamed on Cemetery Dance's two volume collection The Century's Best Horror. Each of these two massive tomes is 75 bucks and their combined weight is six pounds. One story per year from 1900 to 2000 and only one story per author allowed. So one Lovecraft, one Howard, one Campbell, one Wagner, etc etc. I haven't really had time to sit down and look at them, so I'll have more to say about the books later. Also got Andrew Vachss' new one, This is How I Roll. I haven't enjoyed Vachss books as much since he abandoned his series character Burke, but he still writes a lean, mean crime tale. And, since I admire the man and I know that the profits from his books go to fund his fight against child abuse and neglect, I will always buy every book that he writes. Period. My friend Sara, of the blog My Love-Haunted Heart, recommended that I try Lara Parker's Dark Shadows novel, Angelique's Descent. I started to get it for my Kindle, but then recalled seeing it at the comic store, so I just added it to the stack. The idea of the actress who played the character writing a novel about the character is pretty cool. We'll see how it reads. On the mail order front I got three more John Benteen series Westerns, one Fargo and two Sundance. So, much reading in my future. I'll be staying home a lot anyway, since I'm broke now...

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Long Lost Friend

Unlike many writers of horror and fantasy, who create fictional grimoires, spell books of loathsome lore, out of whole cloth, Manly Wade Wellman liked to use "real" magic books when he could, especially in the stories of John the Balladeer and John Thunstone. (And by the way, Wellman absolutely hated the appellation Silver John, which was invented by a publisher. Wellman always called him John the Balladeer or simply John. That's why you never see me use that name here.) One particular book, which turns up in a lot of Wellman's stories, is 'Pow-Wows or The Long Lost Friend' a compendium of folk remedies and charms published by a Dutch healer named John George Hohman in the 1820s. The book contains protective spells, binding spells, talisman's wards, and benedictions. All of this is "white magic" usually invoking the name of Christ in the spells. For instance, here's a spell for preventing the bewitchment of cattle: "Trotter Head, I forbid thee my house and premises; I forbid thee my horse and cow-stable; I forbid thee my bedstead, that thou mayest not breathe upon me; breathe into some other house, until thou hast ascended every hill, until thou hast counted every fence-post, and until thou hast crossed every water. And thus dear day may come again into my house, in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Amen." This will certainly protect and free all persons and animals from witchcraft. The Long Lost Friend features prominently in three of Manly Wade Wellman's stories about a Civil War Sergeant named Jaeger. Two of these stories were published in Weird Tales, Fearful Rock in 1939 and Coven in 1942, and the third, Toad Foot, appeared decades later in 1979 in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. The book also showed up in a Civil War era story that doesn't feature Jaeger, The Valley Was Still, in Weird Tales in 1939. This story was made into an episode of the original Twilight Zone called 'Still Valley' in 1961. Wellman was a religious man, and he was always careful to point out that the spells in Long Lost Friend were "white magic". Wellman must have had some belief in folk magic himself as his personal volume of one of Aleister Crowley's books of magic has a hand written benediction in the front of it to protect the owner from the author and his magic. Wellman had also penciled crosses on the front, spine, and interior of the book. Anyway, The Long Lost Friend is available at Amazon, and you can find the full text online. In my upcoming novel Blind Shadows (written with Jim Moore) I made use of several of the real books of magic that Wellman used as a tribute to Wellman, but I didn't include Long Lost Friend. I plan to make use of it in fiction at some point though.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Iron and Bronze

Just read Christopher Paul Carey's and Win Scott Eckert's story Iron and Bronze, which was a great way to spend the afternoon. A lost race story in the H. Rider Haggard mode featuring Hareton Ironcastle from Philip Jose farmer's book Ironcastle, and Doc Ardan, the French version of Doc Savage. Ironcastle and his companion N'desi find themselves in a lost outpost of Atlantis where a dangerous criminal has taken the queen of the city hostage in order to try and learn the secret of eternal youth. A mysterious stranger with Bronze skin is working behind the scenes with an agenda of his own. Much pulp style action ensues. This being a story that takes place in the 'Cross-Over Universe' an offshoot of the Wold Newton Universe, there are all kinds of references to various books and stories from various authors. I thought I was being pretty clever catching nods to The Shadow, Doc Savage, Ki-Gor, Tarzan, and Alan Quartermain, as well as Farmer's novel The Dark Heart of Time and the uncompleted work The Monster On Hold, but the story's afterward showed me that I'd missed quite a few references. Anyway this is a fast-paced, well plotted pulp tale and a real steal at 99 cents for the Kindle. So bump over to Amazon and give it a try.

Who Fears the Devil?

Continuing with my interesting acquisitions. This is one I was really glad to get. It's a 1964 edition of Manly Wade Wellman's John the Balladeer collection Who Fears the Devil. The inscription is to Karl Edward Wagner's father, who was nicknamed Red, and reads, "Red Wagner, Your boy Karl said to write in this for you, because you don't need fear the devil."

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Black Magic Woman

I can remember, when I was a kid watching Dark Shadows, I had a big crush on the witch Angelique, played by Lara Parker. I remember being very confused by why Barnabas kept passing her over for Josette and other women on the show. Having watched a few episodes featuring Angelique, I am officially renewing that crush. Oh sure, Angelique sold her soul to the devil and she murders and torments people, but just look at those eyes...

Friday, May 11, 2012

Tony DeZuniga 1932-2012

Earlier today we lost one of the best and most prolific artists to work in the comic book industry, and one of the people who made the early issues of Savage Sword of Conan so much fun. Tony DeZuniga, a Filipino artist, broke into the American comic book business in the late 1960s and worked for many years at the big two, Marvel and DC. He is probably best known for being one of the creators of the DC Western hero, Jonah Hex, and for his long time work inking John Buscema on the black and white magazine Savage Sword of Conan. The pairing was successful and immediately recognizable. I'm reprinting a page of Buscema/DeZuniga art with this post so you can see how well the two artists worked together. Dezuniga sometimes drew Conan features all by himself and at one point or another he also drew or inked pretty much every other type of comic book, from superheroes to war stories and from horror to romance. He was a formidable and versatile talent. But, not surprisingly, I'll always think of DeZuniga as one of my favorite Conan artists. Rest in peace, Tony.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Sword of the Vampire

I ran across the cover illustration by Ken Kelly during one of my rambles around the internet. I never thought of Barnabas Collins as a sword & sorcery hero, but Ken, still in his early Frazetta phase, certainly seems to have put the vampire into that role. Note the standard S&S babe and the swirly, misty background that wouldn't have been out of place on a Tower or Belmont Conan knock-off paperback. Of course no scene like this takes place in the magazine or anywhere else. Fires the old imagination though. Just keep repeating "I do not have time to write fan fiction, I do not have time to write fan fiction...

Acquisitions

It's a good thing I got a raise recently because the publishers of nifty things are once again apparently trying to break me. Last night I got my two volume set of the Centipede Press The Best Horror Stories of Karl Edward Wagner. Been waiting for this one, and even though I already have all the stories in the books in some other form, it's nice to have all of KEW's horror stuff in one place. But wait, there's more. My copy of the latest release from the Robert E. Howard Foundation, Adventures in Science Fantasy, also arrived. Looks like a bunch of interesting stuff in there, on which I'm sure I'll have more to say later. And just look at that beautiful cover by Mark Schultz. And still more. In the Shadow of Sherlock Holmes, the companion volume to In the Shadow of Dracula, which I reviewed a couple of posts ago showed up. And finally, I picked up The Weird, a massive (1152 pages) of weird fiction, edited by Jeff and Ann Vandermeer, and featuring well over 100 stories by such notable practitioners of the weird tale as H.P. Lovecraft, Algernon Blackwood, Clark Ashton Smith, Ray Bradbury, Robert Bloch, Ramsey Campbell, F. Paul Wilson, Stephen King, and a slew of folks I'm unfamiliar with. Bet I find some new people to read in this one. This is a gigantic book and the table of contents is too long to reproduce here, so I'm providing a link. http://www.jeffvandermeer.com/2011/08/30/table-of-contents-the-weird-edited-by-ann-and-jeff-vandermeer/

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

A Scandal in Belgravia

Though Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was very careful to have Watson point out that Sherlock Holmes had no romantic interest in Irene Adler, the American adventuress who bests Holmes in a battle of wits in the first Holmes short story, a Scandal in Bohemia, writers who have endeavored to continue the adventures of the world's greatest detective have always latched on to Adler as a love interest for Sherlock Holmes. Writer producer Steven Moffat Has taken the same approach in the first episode of the second series of Sherlock, the BBC updating of Sherlock Holmes to contemporary times. I went on record last year as absolutely loving this show, and this episode gave me no reason to change my opinion. Benedict Cumberbatch returns as the eccentric, neurotic, brilliant Sherlock Holmes, the best portrayal of the character since the late Jeremy Brett. Moffat, along with his writing partner, Mark Gatiss, have taken the character from Doyle's stories and lifted him, almost unaltered, from the Victorian age and dropped him into modern day London. Martin Freeman is back as the long suffering, but brave and resourceful Doctor John Watson who gives an often needed heart to the series, counter balancing the often cruel and anti-social Holmes. The interaction between these two characters is one of the show's greatest strengths. In A Scandal in Belgravia, our modern Holmes and Watson run into the aforementioned Irene Adler, retrofitted into the present as a dominatrix, a workable substitute for the now outdated term adventuress. She's still a character capable of using the weaknesses of her um...acquaintances to her own advantage and profit. Played with relish by actress Lara Pulver, this version of Irene is in turns brilliant, ruthless, sexy, and vulnerable. Heck, sometimes she's all of that at the same time. A great performance. Irene has a cell phone containing incriminating photos of a member of the Royal Family. Her plans for them change as the show progresses, but I don't want to give too much away. Sherlock's older brother Mycroft, played by Mark Gatiss, charges his sibling with retrieving the phone. A suitable updating of the basic plot from A Scandal in Bohemia. However, this being a Steven Moffat story, there is far more going on than initially meets the eye, and the plot takes those twisty turny paths that Moffat loves so well. In some ways it works better in a mystery format than on Moffat's other show, Doctor Who. And as usual Moffat takes the plot twists right up to the edge of and perhaps a little beyond the believable. But it doesn't matter. The snappy dialogue and the great acting carry the day and in the end, I didn't mind some unlikely turns. For Sherlockians there are almost too many in-joke references to keep up with. There are allusions to cases like The Problem of Thor Bridge, The Greek Interpreter, The Naval Treaty, and even one of the cases Watson never got around to writing, The Aluminum Crutch. Great stuff. Next week, Holmes and Watson go looking for a certain well known Hound. Can't wait.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Writing Report Extra

Oh man. Nothing beats a sudden thunderstorm when you're writing a horror story. I couldn't have ordered better weather. Now if there were just some dogs howling...

Writing Report

All of this reading about vampires made me decide I wanted to write something about vampires. I also decided I wanted to write a sword & sorcery story featuring the aforementioned vampires. So, I did what I often do. I sat down and I started writing with no clear idea of where I was going. Sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn't. And I wrote and I wrote and I wrote. Something resembling a story has begun to emerge, but I think there will be more rewrites than usual on this one. Gonna have to do some cutting. That, however, will wait until I'm actually done, and I'm a good ways from the end. So anyway, writing is a strange exercise. It's worth doing, but it never seems to get any easier.

Friday, May 04, 2012

A Book With Teeth

Wednesday night at the comic book store I picked up the IDW anthology In the Shadow of Dracula. This is a collection of mostly Victorian era vampire stories, some of which preceded the novel Dracula and some which followed. You'll find some well known horror classics here like J. Sheridan Le fanu's Carmilla, John Polodori's The Vampyre, F. Marion Crawford's For the Blood is the Life, and M.R. James' Count Magnus. But the book also contains a slew of stories that I not only hadn't read, but in several cases had never heard of. I'm not done with the volume yet, but stand outs so far are The Family of the Vourdalak by Alexi Tolstoy (1839) and The Vampire Maid (1890) by Hume Nesbit. Vourdalak is particularly chilling, building gradually to a nightmarish climax. What's great about these 22 stories is that most of them are free of the influence of Stoker's Dracula. We sometimes forget what a major influence Stoker was on all the vampire stories to follow his. In fact the book's editor, Leslie S. Klinger, shows which books probably were the influences on Stoker's take on vampires. Klinger's introduction and notes offer a fascinating history of the blood suckers in literature. Clear of the influence of Dracula, these vampires have different powers, different motivations and different weaknesses. But make no mistake. There are no sparkly, happy, shiny vampires here. These are stories with teeth. I see from a little internet research that Klinger has edited a similar volume, In the Shadow of Sherlock Holmes, (You know I gotta have that one.) and he tells me by email that a new book is on the way, In The Shadow of Poe. Also a must have. Anyway, I highly recommend In the Shadow of Dracula to fans of horror fiction. even if you, like me, generally have little interest in vampires, this one is worth your time.