Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year!

   Well, here we are. The last post of 2013. All and all this has been a decent year. My second novel, Congregations of the Dead, written with my buddy James A. Moore, was published. I also had a story in an anthology and made it into Alter Ego magazine. A good year for writing. Looking over at my bookshelves, I actually have my own spot now, with two novels and two anthologies. Four books. I have to say that's a kick.
   I attended my first writers conference in 2013, heading to Shadow Haunted New England for NECON, and I plan to return there in 2014. Met a lot of great folks and had many adventures. Have other possible travel plans for the new year. More on that later.
   As I've mentioned in other New Years posts here on the blog, I don't make resolutions. I do have some goals I want to accomplish, but that's always the case. Anyway, I just wanted to mark the passing of another year. The blog is still going strong and I actually beat last year's post total by a couple of posts. So, Happy New Year to all of you and to all the ships at sea.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Big Time

  Blind Shadows, the novel by me and James A. Moore, on the shelves at the library in the small town where I grew up. The big time, folks. Photo by my dad.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Weird Writings of Robert E. Howard

   One of the niftier Christmas gifts I received this year was from my buddy Cliff. It's the two-volume WEIRD WRITINGS OF ROBERT E. HOWARD, a huge pair of books that reproduces, in order of publication, all the stories by REH that appeared in Weird Tales Magazines, shot from the magazines themselves and including all the original illustrations. When you read these you're seeing exactly what a reader of the magazine would have seen in the 1930s. (But on nicer paper.) Published by Girasol Collectibles, this is as close as I'm likely to get to actually owning the original magazines.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Carnacki: The New Adventures Now Available.

This just in. Carnacki: The New Adventures, featuring all new stories of William Hope Hodgson's occult detective is available now in paperback at Amazon. It features my story, 'How They Met Themselves' and a lot of other tales that I'm looking forward to reading.

http://www.amazon.com/CARNACKI-The-Adventures-Sam-Gafford/dp/0615943004/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1387903855&sr=8-6&keywords=carnacki

Monday, December 23, 2013

Conan the Collected

This is the shelf where I keep my Conan Comics Collections. At this point, I think Dark Horse Comics should be subsidizing me...

A Christmas Card From Middle Earth


Sunday, December 22, 2013

Matters of Style

   When I wrote my Carnacki story 'How They Met Themselves' I decided not to emulate the style of the Ghost Finder's original writer, William Hope Hodgson. Hodgson wrote his stories in an odd variation of first person within someone Else's first person, which I didn't care to copy, so I wrote my story in third person past tense.
   At the moment I'm writing another Carnacki story for the hell of it, and I decided that I would try and write this one in first person, but still not exactly like Hodgson. I'm writing this one as a letter from Carnacki to Hodgson, telling of his adventure at a Christmas house-party at a country manor house, where Carnacki runs into not only the supernatural, but a mysterious man named Kharrn.
   I had actually written a good chunk of the story in third person, but I felt like I was repeating myself. I read a quote from a writer (and I can't remember who) which basically said that if you find your writing coming too easily you're probably just covering old ground. I think there's some truth in that, so succeed or fail, I decided to challenge myself a bit. We'll see what happens.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Pure Kirby Conan!

   Jack Kirby penciled the cover for Giant Sized Conan issue #5, but when the comic was published, Conan's face had been redrawn by Marvel art director John Romita Sr., presumably to make it more 'on model' with the way Conan looked in the monthly comic. If one wants to get technical, and one does, Jack's version of Conan's face and hair were more 'on model' with the character inside the comic. Issue #5 featured a reprint of the two-issue crossover between Conan and Michael Moocrock's Elric, drawn by Barry Smith, and Jack drew the Smith version. Romita's changes made the character look more like the John Buscema version. In any case, here is the power packed pencil version of the cover. Pure Kirby.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Acquisitions

You could say it was a good night at the Comic Book store. The second volume of the collected Russ Manning Tarzan Newspaper strips, a new issue of Doc Savage with interior art by comics great Bob Powell, another volume of the collected Savage Sword of Conan, with stories by Chuck Dixon, DC Strange Adventures Showcase with nutty 1950s-1960s SF stories, and an annotated edition of my favorite Jane Austen novel, Northanger Abbey. Looks like I'll have plenty of good reading for the Holidays.

Christmas Schedule

Last night was my first official Christmas function, the annual Christmas dinner of the Dr. No's gang. (In case you've forgotten, Dr. No's is the Comic Book store that belongs to my buddy Cliff.)There was much laughter and carrying on. I got some nifty gifts and people seemed pleased with the things I gave them, so Christmas is off to a good start.
   Next week, I'm only working Monday, then I'm off the rest of the week. Technically I'm off until January 2nd, but I plan to swing by the workplace on Monday the 30th, just to make sure there are no drafting emergencies.
   I have one get together on Christmas Eve and One Christmas morning, then I'm free the rest of the time. Looking forward to a lot of chilling out. Given the amount of books I acquired in the last two days I've got plenty to read. More on that later. Anyway, the holiday season is shaping up nicely.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Carnacki Cover!

Check out the nifty cover for Carnacki: The New Adventures, which contains my short story, 'How They Met Themselves', and a lot of other cool new Carnacki adventures! Looks pretty snazzy.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Guest Post by Andy Remic

   Well, it's Monday, but here's something that hopefully will take some of the sting off. A Guest Post from author Andy Remic, talking about his new book from Angry Robot, The Iron Wolves. If you've been reading this blog for a while then you know that I really liked Andy's Clockwork Vampire Trilogy, so now that he has a new series, I'm looking forward to giving it a try. The book will be available as of Dec 31st.
   Andy's giving a Blog Tour to help promote the book. When Caroline Lambe At angry Robot asked what I'd like Andy to talk about on his stop at Singular Points, I suggested he tell us a bit about his influences as a writer. So here's Andy Remic. 

My influences have been far and wide ranging, from novels to films, music and real life people – my dad included. :-)  From a very early age I was inspired to write by Enid Blyton, Roald Dahl and C. S. Lewis – whom I admired for their rollicking adventures and creepy mysteries. I then moved on to the Great Tolkien – who dropped me headlong into Middle Earth and gave me a love of fantasy which inspired me beyond words. Because of Tolkien I sought out other fantasy authors, namely Raymond E. Feist, Michael Moorcock and then Terry Pratchett, Peter Morwood and David Gemmell – whom I’ve cited previously as being a massive influence. I read Iain Banks for mainstream, and his SF for high adventure. All of these authors went into the gestation pot inside my skull, and then my literature degree opened up a much wider world of fiction, from Hemingway to Suskind, Orwell to Gide.

However, for fantasy I always went back to Gemmell, may he rest well in the Hall of Heroes; and in my new novel - The Iron Wolves - amidst the chaos of many nasty, evil characters, Kiki, leader of the Wolves, a honey-leaf drug peddler and addicted to her own foul narcotic; Narnok, a violent whoremaster with a razor-sliced face; Prince Zastarte, a decadent gambler who burns people alive; Dek, a nasty, thug-like pit fighter; and Trista, originally a woman of wealth, nobility and religion, who has devolved into an assassin who kills married couples on their wedding night – so that their love can never die – well, it was Dave nagging me in the back of my mind to create the honourable, noble General Dalgoran whom must pull all these bad people together and seek to find them some kind of redemption. So yes. I am still influenced by those early fantasy authors whom inspired me.

Nowadays, after fifteen novels, I think my writing is very much my own. I am locked into my own style and I enjoy writing in my own little worlds, and try my best to deliver high-action and diverse entertainment for the reader. Ideas and concepts can still influence me, as can people, conversations, dreams and memories, but then that’s how all writers, film makers, musicians, artists etc work. Life is an inspiration. :-)

Check out my publisher’s Iron Wolves page over at Angry Robot - http://angryrobotbooks.com/books/the-iron-wolves-by-andy-remic/ and of course, my own website www.andyremic.com for more news and information. Oh yes, and I have a little indie horror movie which I’ve just completed, for anybody remotely interested – www.impuritythemovie.com.

Finally, if any nice reviewers out there review the book and post it to a blog/review site, they’re eligible for the “Wolf Pack” (geddit? heh) – a little pack containing an Iron Wolves t-shirt, 3 x book marks, a signed author photo and a lolly pop.

Cheers!
Andy Remic, December 2013.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

So Long Billy Jack

   When I was just a kid, starting my journey in martial arts, there weren't many martial arts films. Enter the Dragon was the big one, and Chuck Norris was just getting started. And there was Billy Jack. I don't know how many times I watched Billy Jack for the few karate scenes it contained. The one everybody remembers of course, is the fight in the park after the kids from the Freedom School are humiliated in the ice cream parlor and Billy Jack... just... goes... BERSERK! Probably seen that a million times and after I post this I'm going to go and put the DVD in and watch it again, because this week Tom Laughlin, the man who portrayed Billy Jack has died at age 82. Rest in peace, sir. I promise not to hate my neighbors or cheat my friends like the song says. So long Mr. Laughlin and Billy Jack.

Swedish Savage Sword of Conan

I don't remember where I got these. Stumbled on them today while hunting something else.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Rattled

   Jude Hardin's short story RATTLED is sub titled 'A 30 Minute Thriller' and it'll probably take you about that time to read it, but let me tell you, there's a very dark little tale jammed into that space.
   It's Nicholas Colt's birthday, so when his wife sends him out to the store he figures it's just an excuse to get him clear of the house so she can spring a surprise party. The ex-musician, ex-private eye plays along and everything's wonderful until he picks up a hitchhiker.
   You will not believe how fast things go bad and how bad they go. This is a nice little espresso shot of Noir and I guarantee it will get your heart rate up. It's free for the Kindle right now, but I don't know how long that will last. It's well worth the .99 cents it normally goes for though if it goes off sale. Recommended.

http://www.amazon.com/Rattled-A-Nicholas-Colt-Story-ebook/dp/B00AKOIQHU

Sexton Blake: The Affair of the Black Carol

  "A seasonable story of detective adventure, animated throughout by the gladsome spirit of Christmastide."

   As some of you may recall from last Christmas, I picked up a collection of Sexton Blake Christmas stories. I read and reviewed one novella last December, and I'm back this year with another. This one originally appeared in the Dec. 10th issue of Union jack Weekly for 1927. It's exactly what the blurb above promises. A detective story with plenty of Christmas spirit.
   At the beginning of Black Carol, Sexton Blake and his young assistant Tinker are hanging around Blake's rooms in Baker Street, (Just a few houses down from 221B, one suspects) discussing plans for Christmas eve, when they receive a visit from an old friend, the American cowboy turned detective, Ruff Hanson. A giant of a man, Ruff sports a stetson and a pair of six guns as all good American detectives should. Seems that Ruff has been employed by a ex-pat Brit who's made a fortune in the movies in the US. The man wants Ruff to bodyguard his young son, a fragile, lame boy who's doting father has brought him to the homeland for a real old fashioned British Christmas.
   The movie magnate has rented an estate in the country where he plans to host a Dickens style Christmas party for the local children, including the orphans under the care of the village Vicar. And as it turns out, the young boy hero worships the great Detective Sexton Blake and wants him to attend the party. Blake agrees and he and Tinker, along with reporter friend Splash Page, and the stolid Scotland Yard man Inspector Coutts, head down by old fashioned carriage.
   This is where author Gywn Evans, who was known for his Christmas Blake tales, really gets a chance to pour on the Christmas trappings. Everyone is supposed to wear Dickensian garb to the party, so Blake and the gang are decked out in 1860s fashion, each of them portraying a different character from the works of Charles Dickens. As our heroes ride through the snowy evening in their carriage, they stop at rustic Inns for fresh horses and sample the fare. Yule logs pop and crackle in glowing hearths and the lads even sing a few carols as they go. It's all very innocent and nifty and gave me a nice Christmas buzz.
   At the estate there's more of the same as the father has spared no expense for the party. As it turns out, Sexton Blake has brought a big bag of toys for the kiddies too. Evans gets such a happy, warm Christmas glow going that when we are suddenly reminded that Sexton Blake lives in a world of criminals, it hits especially hard,
   See, Ruff Hanson (great name that) had been hired as a bodyguard for the lame boy because some of his father's rivals, who had connections to the underworld in America, were making threats. Little do our heroes know that the bad guys have hired local talent in London and just as the party winds down, Blake and company find that the lame boy has been kidnapped from the estate.
   The second half of the story is a grim and desperate race to save the lad before the kidnappers decide to cut their losses and kill the kid. They show they mean business by sending a phonograph record (the titular black carol) of the kid being tortured. Beside himself with fury, Blake swears that he will bring the low lifes to justice if it costs him everything and if there's anything worse than getting on Sexton Blake's bad side, it's doing so while he has the Two Gun Bob of detectives to back his play. Justice will be served, you can bet.
   This is just a great, unapologetic pulp yarn full of colorful characters and thrills and chills. Plus all the trimmings of an old fashioned British Christmas, where the spirit of Dickens is never far away. I enjoyed it tremendously. I can see why Sexton Blake was such a popular figure back in the day. He's kind of like The Doctor, in that you know as long as he's there, there's always hope. Blake never gives up.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Congregations First look

   My comp copies of Congregations of the Dead haven't arrived yet, but Cliff called to let me know he had the copies for his store, so I buzzed over and got one. I'm still new enough to this to get a thrill out of holding the actual book for the first time.

You can get one for your very own here:

http://miskatonicbooks.wordpress.com/2013/11/27/new-rare-and-interesting-items-this-week-at-miskatonic-books-19/

Friday, December 06, 2013

Tarzan, Conan, and the Dragons


 I was rereading one of my favorite Edgar Rice Burroughs novels, Tarzan the Terrible, and I happened across a scene that I didn't remember but suddenly realized might have been an influence on Robert E. Howard when he was writing the classic Conan yarn, Red Nails.
   The scene occurs when Tarzan and a Waz-Don (one of the races of the lost land of Pal-Ul-Don) woman under his protection are attacked by a gryf, a carnivorous form of triceratops. Tarzan and the woman take refuge in  huge tree, where the dinosaur can't reach them. Tarzan says that they can wait until the gryf goes away or escape through the treetops, but the Waz-don woman tells him:

   "You do not know the gryf," replied Pan-at-lee, gloomily.
   "Wherever we go it will follow and always it will be ready at the foot of each tree when we would descend. It will never give us up."

   That reminded me of a scene in red Nails where Conan the Cimmerian and Valeria of the Red Brotherhood have been trapped on a rocky outcropping, and a dinosaur they refer to as a dragon waits below. Valeria says the thing has to leave sometime and Conan replies.

   "That thing must be a dragon, such as the black people speak of in their legends. If so, it won't leave here until we're both dead."

   And later Valeria says:

   "Can't we get into the trees and get away, traveling like apes through the branches?"

   Conan explains that the trees near the rock won't hold their weight, but I find it interesting that Valeria suggests the same escape plan Tarzan had thought of. Of course in Tarzan's case he probably could have escaped the way, but he had someone else with him and he wouldn't leave her.

   I knew Robert E. Howard read a lot of Burroughs but I wasn't sure about Tarzan the Terrible, so I checked the list in the back of the book The Dark Barbarian of books he owned, and sure enough, Tarzan the Terrible was listed.
   So anyway, no way of knowing if the scene in the Tarzan novel was the inspiration for the scene in Red Nails, but I think it likely. Of course Howard took it in his own direction as any good writer would.


Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Carnacki: The New Adventures Contents



The table of contents is up for Carnacki: The New Adventures, featuring brand new stories about William Hope Hodgeson's occult detective, Thomas Carnacki. Check about halfway down the list and you'll see I have a story in this collection. I see the names of several other writers whose work I enjoy too.

http://williamhopehodgson.wordpress.com/2013/12/03/contents-for-carnacki-the-new-adventures/


Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Free Sexton Blake Christmas Story

  The redoubtable Keith Chapman (aka Western author Chap O'Keefe) was kind enough to let me know that the website Comic Book Plus has put up a Sexton Blake Christmas story, originally printed in Union Jack Weekly in 1924. I haven't read this one, so it's an early Christmas present for me. And now it's for you as well, if you're so inclined. A complete Christmasy Detective story, available right here.

http://comicbookplus.com/?dlid=38746&b=I

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Chistmas Season Reading Material


   Time to start gathering books and comics and such for the Christmas season. I happened across the various Christmas comic book collections the other day when I was looking for something else, so I retrieved them from the box. A couple of the books above are new and others are collections I've had for a while, so new reads and rereads this year.
   If you were reading the blog last year you may remember the huge effort I put forth to have a better Christmas than in recent years past. Not sure I can work up the enthusiasm again this year, but what they hey. I'll give it a go.
  

Friday, November 29, 2013

Congregations of the Dead In Stock and Shipping


The signed limited edition of the second collaboration by James A. Moore and me is available as of now.

http://miskatonicbooks.wordpress.com/2013/11/27/new-rare-and-interesting-items-this-week-at-miskatonic-books-19/



Konrath Crossovers



   J.A. Konrath, author, E-book entrepreneur, and marketing genius is at it again. This time he's got what has to be one of the coolest ideas I've seen anyone do in a while He's letting other authors write in his universe, teaming their characters with his. If he likes the story he writes a second draft and publishes the team-up and splits the profits 50/50 with the other author. (He pays all publishing costs.) Why do I think this is a cool idea? Because Konrath sells a lot of books, so authors who are perhaps not as well known can get a boost by teaming up with him, and pick up other sales for their solo books from Konrath's fans. It's a smart way to use the way that Amazon sells E-books. You know, those recommendations and the thing that says 'people who bought this book also bought...'
   Anyway, I found this out because I'd ordered one of the books from Amazon and backtracked to Joe's blog. The book I bought was called RACKED and it teamed Konrath's police detective Lt. Jacqueline 'Jack' Daniels with Jude Hardin's P.I. Nicholas Colt. I'd read most of the Jack Daniels books and just picked this new story on a whim. I really enjoyed the story and we know I'm a sucker for a crossover.
   So after I read it, did I go and buy one of Jude Hardin's solo  books? Yes, I did. And when Jude's novel, LADY 52, also written with Konrath comes out, I'll buy that too.
   Intrigued, I decided to try a couple more of these crossover stories, STRAIGHT UP by Konrath and Iain Rob Wright, and JACKED UP by Konrath and Tracy Sharp. Both were fun thrillers and I'd definitely read books by the other author in both cases, plus any further team-ups with Konrath.
   There are several more of these crossovers on the way, and I'll be checking them out. It's a good way to find new people to read and also to visit with Konrath's characters who I like. And I'm all for helping out new authors. So the next question is, am I going to write a story and send it to Konrath? The answer for the moment is no, mostly because I don't have a character that I think would fit his universe well, but hey, you never know.

If you want to read more about the Konrath Crossovers, swing by his blog here:

http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2013/11/straight-up-and-racked-and-amazons-also.html

Monday, November 25, 2013

Chinny chin chin.

I was going to write, but Bruce wanted my chair.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Five Day Weekend

  My workplace is closed Thanksgiving day and the Friday that follows it. I have taken off the preceding Wednesday. So I have a two day work week this week, then I'm off for five days. So next week is a reverse work week. Two days on and Five days off.  I like it!

Acquisitions

Some cool stuff in the last couple of days. The Hanging Stones was the last of the John the Balladeer novels by Manly Wade Wellman that I didn't own. Glad to get a nice copy of that.
   The new collection of Robert E. Howard's Western stories actually has some stories that I haven't read.
   And the other book is a history of Tarzan and other Edgar Rice Burroughs characters appearances in Big Little Books. All and all, a good week for stuff.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Four Color Conan: Meeting Mr. Smith

 

I discovered both the character Conan and the Conan comic book at the same time, with issue #36 of Marvel Comics' Conan the Barbarian. By that time the regular artist on the book was Big john Buscema, who remains my favorite Conan artist. I was totally unaware of the  24 issues (give or take a Gil Kane fill in) by the previous artist, Barry Smith. Didn't know a thing about his near legendary time on the book or his final famous issue, The Song of Red Sonja. No, my reading of Marvel Comics didn't get started until late 1973 and by then Barry was long gone.
   The first time I ever laid eyes on Smith's art was in a reprint in the back of Giant Size Conan issue #1. The story originally appeared in Conan the Barbarian issue #3 and was called THE TWILIGHT OF THE GRIM GREY GOD.
   I don't think I noticed the blurb at the bottom of the splash page that stated that the story had been adapted from Robert E. Howard's story THE GREY GOD PASSES. We'll come back to that in a bit.
   No, what I noticed was Smith's portrayal of Conan, which was so vastly different from John Buscema's. Buscema's version was a hulking  brute, where Smith's was more lean and youthful looking. The underrated inks of John's brother Sal Buscema also gave a smoother, more 'Marvel' looking finish to the art. It was a bit of a jolt after reading a half dozen or so current issues of Ctb, but I liked it. Fortunately for me, Marvel was doing a lot of Giant Size comics when I started collecting Conan, and there were plenty of back up feature reprints, so I got lots of chances to see Barry Smith's art without having to hunt down pricey back issues. One of the tabloid size treasury editions reprinted Smith's masterpiece RED NAILS along with an adaptation of what would become my favorite REH Conan story, ROUGES IN THE HOUSE.
   But back to TWILIGHT OF THE GRIM GREY GOD. As I said, I didn't notice that the story was an adaptation. Hey, I was twelve and I'd never seen a book by Robert E. Howard. Howard's tale was itself a rewrite of an earlier historical adventure, SPEARS OF CLONTARF. When he failed to sell Clontarf, Howard rewrote the purely historical tale, adding a supernatural element so he could pitch it to Weird Tales. Having read both, I prefer THE GREY GOD PASSES, but that's just me.
   Something else I didn't know at the time, but can see now, was that this story marked something of a turning point for Barry Smith in terms of his art. Smith, like most Marvel artists of the 1960s/1970s was working in the shadow of the King of comics, Jack Kirby, who really was the 'Marvel Style'. Smith had done a lot of super hero work in his quasi-Kirby style and his first two issues of Conan the Barbarian still have a certain Kirby-ness to them, right down to the omnipresent 'impact lines' and even some 'Kirby Krackle'. The figure work contains a lot of Kirby flourishes as well in the extreme foreshortening and the bulked up anatomy of a lot of the characters.
   Issue three almost looks like a different artist. Though there are still one or two minor Kirby-isms, the figures have taken on more realistic proportions, growing leaner and more graceful. Smith's layouts, which always seemed to me to have a bit of Jim Steranko influence to them, are more interesting and varied than the previous two issues.
   Smith's interest in classical art is beginning to show. Check out the panel reproduced below where the 'Choosers of the Slain' come riding through the clouds.

 While you're at it, check out the dialogue.

   "Now comes the reaping of kings..the garnering of chiefs like a harvest."

   "Gigantic shadows stalk red-handed across the world and night is falling on Hyperborea."

   Most of these words are Robert E. Howard's, though with slight changes. The original story was set in Ireland during the very real Battle of Clontarf, so Roy Thomas had to adapt the tale to Conan's Hyborian Age. He did his usual bang-up job. I think one of the things that makes the first 60 or so issues of Conan the Barbarian so beloved to readers is the internal consistency. Whether Roy was adapting an actual Conan story, rewriting a non-Conan REH yarn into a Conan tale, or spinning his own original story, the characters and the world all seemed to fit. I maintain that Thomas is at the top of the heap when it comes to Conan pastiches.
   Anyway, that was my first look at the art of Barry Smith, now known as Barry Windsor Smith. It was amazing stuff and it would continue to improve by leaps and bounds as the series went on.


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Bad Times: Cannibal Gold

   Okay, we know I'm a sucker for a time travel story. And I like hard hitting action yarns. So when I read the premise of Chuck Dixon's short novel Cannibal Gold it sounded like my sort of thing.

Four Days.
For the fight of their lives.
It was just a walk in the desert to a place 100, 000 years in the past.
They thought they knew what to expect but they were wrong.
Now a team of scientists is trapped in a world they were not prepared
for and can never return from.
Their only hope lies in quartet of former US Army Rangers willing to
travel to prehistoric Nevada and face unknown horrors and impossible
odds bring them home from Bad Times.
New York Times bestselling author Chuck Dixon presents the first in a new original science fiction series featuring the kind of action, breakneck pacing and suspense that millions of readers around the world have come to expect.
Following up on his Kindle sensation series of SEAL Team 6 books, Chuck creates a new cast of characters and a new universe of adventure starting here with Cannibal Gold.


   Sounds pretty up an at 'em, eh? Now add the fact that the novella was written by one of my all time favorite comic book writers and this was pretty much a no-brainer for me.
   In my posts about Dixon's run on Savage Sword of Conan I mentioned that he seemed to enjoy writing stories where Conan was part of a mercenary band. We get the same sort of camaraderie here. The former rangers are some bad-ass individuals and after a bit of a setback, trying to stick to the rules set them by the scientists who sent them back in time, they come back on their own terms and kick some serious butt. Nobody says 'Crom count the dead!' but it has the same sort of energy as Dixon's comic book work. This is the first time I've read any of Dixon's prose and it's very tight. Things move along quickly and there's plenty of attention paid to ordnance and tactics and such. If you like Military SF and enjoy a good time travel yarn, this one's for you. It's also the first in a series so more fun to come. Recommended.

http://www.amazon.com/Cannibal-Gold-Times-Chuck-Dixon-ebook/dp/B00F4DHLQE/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&qid=1384907316&sr=8-7&keywords=chuck+Dixon

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Adept's Gambit. Now With More Cthulhu.

   Okay, how cool is this? This volume is coming out from Arcane Wisdom:
 
   "In 1936, the young Fritz Leiber wrote a 38,000-word novella entitled Adept’s Gambit and sent it to his new correspondent, H. P. Lovecraft. The older writer was thrilled at this sprawling narrative that mixed fantasy, sorcery, and historical fiction, and wrote an enormous letter expressing his praise and pointing out possible points that needed revision. Overall, however, Lovecraft was enthusiastic: “Certainly, you have produced a remarkably fine & distinctive bit of cosmic fantasy in a vein which is . . . essentially your own. The basic element of allegory, the earthiness & closeness to human nature, & the curious blending of worldly lightness with the strange & the macabre, all harmonise adequately & seem to express a definite mood & personality. The result is an authentic work of art.” 
 
For decades, it was believed that this version—which contains small but significant references to Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos—was lost. But the manuscript has recently surfaced, and it is now being published for the first time. This version differs radically from the later version published in Night’s Black Agents (1947), and represents a landmark in the development of Leiber’s fantasy career. As the first Fafhrd and Gray Mouser narrative, it will be of consuming interest to all devotees of Leiber’s work. 
 
   This edition contains the complete, unabridged text of “Adept’s Gambit,” along with the complete text of Lovecraft’s letter commenting on it, as well as an introduction by S. T. Joshi providing background on the writing of the story. In all, this volume will find a cherished place among devotees of Fritz Leiber and H. P. Lovecraft. "


    I've heard about the original, more Lovecraftian version of Fritz Leiber's Adept's Gambit for years. Now I'll finally get to read it. And it's being published by Arcane Wisdom. You know who else is published by Arcane Wisdom?

Me. I have the same publisher as a new version of the very first Fafhrd and Gray Mouser story. I'm going to go sit down now.

Tarzan's Hollywood Adventure


 Something that would probably surprise a lot of people who haven't read much Edgar Rice Burroughs is that the creator of Tarzan of the Apes and john Carter of Mars had a very sly sense of humor and it shows up throughout his novels. I was reminded of it this evening while doing a reread of ERB's 1934 novel, Tarzan and the Lion Man.
   Lion Man isn't a favorite, primarily because it's a book that seems to feature Tarzan almost as a guest star. Large portions of the book follow the cast and crew of a movie company who have traveled to Africa to shoot a movie about an ersatz Tarzan who was raised by lions. Tarzan shows up every few chapters, but I'd say he's in less than half the book and the other characters aren't really that interesting.
   Things get a bit more entertaining in the second half of the book when one of the movie crew is captured by some apes who speak English and taken to the domain of the Dr. Moreau-like mad scientist who created the mutant apes. But even then we don't get much Tarzan.
  
   BUT the last chapter of the book is fantastic. Functioning as an epilogue, the last chapter is sort of a mini adventure where Tarzan travels to Hollywood to see what has become of the survivors of the doomed Lion Man crew. He visits the Brown Derby, attends a movie premiere, and ends up at a Hollywood party where he is 'discovered' and offered a part in, wait for it, a Tarzan movie. But when he goes in for a screen test the director declares that he's not the right type to play Tarzan. He does offer him a part as a cowardly white hunter though. I got the idea Burroughs was having a lot of fun writing this sequence.
   I did note that after Tarzan gets fired from the movie for killing a lion that had gone berserk (He saved several lives but he cost the studio a lot of money) that ERB said he stayed in Hollywood another week before taking the shortest route back to Africa. Tarzan in Hollywood in 1934. The possibilities for pastiches are not lost upon me.
   Anyway, not a great book, but that last part was worth showing up.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

This Looks Like a Job For...

  

    Many years ago I was in a local mall and I happened to be wearing a blue shirt with a Superman insignia. A woman walked past me with her small son and the kid suddenly darted over to me and motioned for me to bend down so he could speak to me. I leaned down and he whispered, 'You forgot to take your glasses off."
   Took me a couple of seconds to realize what he meant. Then I put a worried expression on my face, snatched my glasses off, and stuck them in my pocket.
   "Thanks,' I told him. "I'm glad you warned me."
   The kid grinned and ran back to his mom, who was also grinning. I gave her a nod and walked on. The kid went home that day happy that he had helped Superman preserve his secret identity. That was a good day.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Colossal Conan is, Well, Colossal.

Finally, a book big enough for everyone's favorite Cimmerian. I have provided a standard size paperback for comparison. The book is bloody huge.

Frankenstein Meets Cthulhu?

   Over on Facebook, Dan Cziraky put up a link to an article about the 1939 Universal Horror movie, The Son of Frankenstein, and said that Lovecraft's Necronomicon had been mentioned in the original shooting script of the film. That struck me as a bit odd, since in 1939 Lovecraft had only been dead a short time and was mostly known to aficionados of weird fiction. The general public didn't know from Lovecraft. So I did a little digging on the scriptwriter, a man named Wyllis Cooper.
   Turns out that Cooper was the creator of the famous radio Horror series LIGHTS OUT!, and that he had been interested in horror for a long time. As early as 1932, he had created and written for a radio program called THE WITCHING HOUR. The first episode of this short lived series was apparently so scary that the series was briefly canceled and then returned in a toned down form.
   In 1934 Cooper created LIGHTS OUT! for which he wrote many of the scripts and sometimes even directed the episodes. One wonders if Cooper just enjoyed reading horror, or if he came across Lovecraft while looking for stories to adapt for his series. (He'd have been disappointed in this, since HPL didn't release radio adaptation rights to his stories.) In any case, it explains how he could have known about the Necronomicon long before Cthulhu became a household word. Here's the part of the script with the Necronomicon:

   18
INT. LIVING-ROOM - WOLF - CLOSE SHOT

at the bookcase. He fingers the books on the shelves.

            WOLF
        (over his shoulder)
    Even my father's books haven't
    been disturbed.
        (he blows at them; a small
        cloud of dust arises)
    Definitely.
        (he touches the books
        as he names them)
    Agricola's De Re Metallica... the
    Necronomicon ... Roger Bacon ...
        (he shuts his eyes as he
        touches one book after
        another, naming them)
    Euclid ... Paracelsus...
    FitzJames O'Brien ... Avicenna!
        (as he speaks the last
        name, he pulls the book
        from the shelf, opens his
        eyes)
    See -- I haven't forgotten!

Pretty interesting, eh? I've lost count of how many scenes I've seen like this in various Cthulhu mythos pastiches, where one or more of the blasphemous books of the mythos get a mention in passing. Written a couple myself, come to think of it. The article goes on to say that the script was virtually ignored by the director, so this and many other things never made it into the movie. Too bad. Would have been cool to have something of Lovecraft's mentioned in the movies that early on.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Bloggiversary

   Well, once again I have let the anniversary of Singular Points slip past me. I started blogging on November 1st, 2006 and here I am some seven years later, still at it. The post that preceded this one was the 200th post for this year, so obviously I still have a lot to run on about.
   The content of the blog has changed somewhat over those years. People have pointed out that I don't talk about my day to day life as much as I used to. That wasn't really a conscious decision, just kind of the direction in which things drifted. I still review a lot of books, movies, comics, TV shows, and what have you, which was the original purpose of this blog.
   I'm also on Facebook now, which is where some of the short 'sound bite' posts that used to be here appear nowadays. I'm barely on twitter, but now and again I tweet something. I link most of my longer posts to Facebook, which has brought the blog a lot more traffic.
   But I'm still a blog guy. I like the space to ramble on about whatever I'm interested in, which I don't really find on other social media. I've met a lot of nice folks through the comments and those people have recommended many books and films that I otherwise wouldn't have discovered. After all these years this is still a fun place to hang out.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Karl Edward Wagner Speaks

I'd never heard Karl Edward Wagner's voice until today. Here he is on a panel with Stephen King, Charles Grant and other horror writers. Kind of wild to finally hear what KEW sounds like after admiring him all these years.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PYqK4gIq5Sw

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Getting Things Off to a Fast Start

A friend of mine, who wanted to write some short stories, asked how I always seemed to get my stories off to a fast start. I told him "Start in the middle of someone Else's story and have your hero wander into it." This is a trick I learned from a comic book writer named Gaylord Dubois and I've used it in many a short story and one novel. Dubois reportedly wrote over 3000 comic books in his career and I've certainly read hundreds of them because he was the main writer for Tarzan at Dell and Gold Key. He also wrote a ton of Dell Westerns and I'm going to use one of those to show what I'm talking about. This story is from the Dell Gene Autry comic, issue #100.
   The opening page shows Gene on top of a ridge, looking down at a bunch of bad guys attacking a wagon. Gene rides down, guns blazing, and scatters the outlaws. Not only does this get the story off to a fast start, it also establishes the character of the hero. He's brave, capable, and on the side of the underdog.

  Page two actually gets the plot running as Gene rides down to see the folks he rescued. We learn a bit more about Gene. He knows field medicine and is cool in a bad situation. And the rest of the cast is introduced in a natural way.
 
 
    And with page three, the other main characters of the story tell Gene who they are and what they're doing out in the wild. It doesn't feel so much like exposition because they're not telling the reader, they're telling Gene. Now we have the necessary info for the plot and Gene's already involved. That's what I mean by starting in the middle of someone Else's story. The story ultimately isn't about gene Autry, but about the people he's trying to help. So if you're having trouble getting a story off to a quick start, remember how Gaylord Dubois did it. Works for me, anyway.
 
 

 

Friday, November 08, 2013

The Colossal Conan

   As a collector, there are things that you need and things that you want. Usually the ones you need are, not surprisingly, items that you don't have. Often the things that you want are things you already have but that come in a different form. Different edition, different cover, and so forth. The Colossal Conan, a new collection from Dark Horse Comics comes under the category of Epic Want. This gigantic hardcover book is 1264 pages of comics, collecting issues #0 through #50 of the Dark Horse Conan comic book.
   Now here's the deal. I own the original comic books where these stories were published. I own the smaller hardback collections of the stories. I already have all of this material save the new cover and some essays by writers Kurt Busiek and Timothy Truman. I do not in any way, shape or form NEED this book.
   But...

   IT'S CONAN AND IT'S A HUGE BOOK, LIKE THE SIZE OF THE NECRONOMICON, AND IT'S CONAN AND IT'S ALL THE STORIES IN ONE PLACE AND IT WEIGHS AS MUCH AS A SMALL CAR AND IT'S CONAN AND I MUST HAVE A COPY!

   Ahem. So yeah, I'm getting the book.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Attack of the Disney Princesses

   Several folks had warned me that the second season of ABC's Once Upon a Time wasn't as good as the first. In some ways that's to be expected, as a major plot point of season one, once resolved, changed the entire direction of the series.
   Another point that was made to me was that Disney is apparently shoehorning as many of their characters into the series as possible, whether it make sense or not. This particular point was brought home the other night when I watched an episode that featured central character Emma Swan teamed up with Aurora from Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, and Mulan. I mean, how many princesses do you need in one episode? And I left out Beauty and the Beast's Belle, who was also in the episode, just not part of the princess strike force. I'm steering clear of spoilers for the current Season, but I did see that Tinkerbelle has shown up, as well as Ariel the Little Mermaid. (From stills I've seen of Ariel in costume she ain't so little anymore. Ahem.)
   Anyway, I'm still enjoying the show, but it does have a very different vibe in Season 2. I do like the focus on alternate realities and the points where they cross. It's been determined that fictional characters from worlds other than the Fairy Tale realm can show up in Storybrooke. Doctor Frankenstein, for instance. Oh. And I'm not seeing nearly enough Evil Queen in these episodes, ABC.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Longarm and the Devil's Bride

 Over at the Western Fictioneers Blog, author James Reasoner made a very interesting and informative Halloween post about Westerns with supernatural themes. Two of the books he mentioned were part of the long running Longarm series that's been around since the 1970s. Not only that, but for these two entries, behind the house name Tabor Evans was no other than Reasoner himself. Now I've read a bunch of Reasoner's Westerns and enjoyed all of them so I immediately ordered Longarm and the Devil's Bride for my Kindle and since the other book wasn't available as an ebook yet, I ordered the paperback of Longarm and the Voodoo Queen.
   Sat down with Devil's Bride and really enjoyed it. It starts out like a crime story in Western duds with deputy U.S. Marshall Custis Parker Long, aka Longarm, being assigned to look for a young woman named Angela Boothe who has gone missing in Kansas City. Longarm takes an all night train to Kansas but when he arrives the local law enforcement is little help and no sooner has he begun to nose around than somebody tries to kill him for his troubles.
   But Longarm isn't easy to kill and he's soon back on the trail. Worth mentioning is that author Reasoner has written quite a few mysteries as well as Westerns so the detective work here has an authentic feel to it. Longarm has to do some deductive reasoning to get on the right track. That leads him to my favorite Western city, Santa Fe New Mexico, where he does indeed find the young lady but also finds more questions than answers and he begins to suspect something strange and sinister is afoot. I'm about to give a possible spoiler so you can stop right here if you want. Go buy the book. I highly recommend it. A good story with plenty of action to be had. And this one doesn't have a Scooby Doo ending. There really is some supernatural stuff going on.

   POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD. You've been warned.

   I wanted to mention one bit I really enjoyed. When Longarm finds himself in the main bad guy's house he enters the library where he finds some old books. They mean nothing to Longarm but he does note that the authors have strange names like Von Junzt and Alhazred. I was grinning like an idiot at that point.
   I also wondered if one of the other villains, Lucius Thorne, had been named in honor of John Thunstones' nemesis Rowley Thorne.
  

Thomas Yeates Tarzan II

And another Thomas Yeates drawing. Tarzan and La of Opar.

Tarzan by Yeates I

Digging through some old files and found this commission drawing of Tarzan by Thomas Yeates.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Marvel Comics Horror

   In 1971, the ironclad grip of the Comics Code Authority, a self regulating group formed to make comics safe for the youth of America, loosened slightly, making certain things that had been forbidden in comic books since the late 1950s usable again. This included vampires, ghouls, and werewolves, as long as they were handled tastefully. Oh yeah.
   By the mid seventies Marvel Comics had unleashed the horrors, publishing color titles like Tomb of Dracula, Werewolf by Night, Morbius the Living Vampire, The Ghost Rider, and The Monster of Frankenstein, plus Black and White magazines such as Dracula Lives and tales of the Zombie.
   I started reading Marvel comics about 1974, and the monster movement was just getting up and running. Monsters seemed to be popping up everywhere. Spiderman fought Morbius and Dracula and a werewolf called Manwolf. The Ghost Rider turned up in Marvel Team-Up and even joined a short-lived super group, The Champions.
   This was also around the same time that movies like The Exorcist, The Omen, and other devil centered films were becoming popular. Marvel jumped in with characters like The Son of Satan and Satana: The Devil's Daughter. I can recall the only time my mother ever flipped out over a comic book was when I brought home The Son of Satan. To me it was just another superhero comic. (He wore tights and a cape.) To my mom it was a tool of the devil. I was requested to remove those comics from my collection. I actually just moved them to the bottom of the trunk where I kept the comics. The lesson here, parents, is dig deeper.
   Anyway, here on Halloween I'm thinking about the Marvel Monsters. While I was at the comic book store last night, I picked up the Essential Marvel Horror volume one, a telephone book size collection of an assortment of Marvel horror characters.You get The Ghost Rider, Dracula, Satana, and yes, The Son of Satan. Sorry mom. There's also a second volume which has The Living Zombie and Brother Voodoo. Ah, comic books. There are also Essential collections of Tomb of Dracula, Werewolf by Night and most of the other Marvel Horror titles.
   The bad news is many of these volumes are out of print. The good news is, they are readily available at Amazon, Ebay, or well stocked Comic Book Shops like the one I shop at.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Almost Halloween

Well here we are at the end of October. One day to go until Halloween. My Halloween season has been good. I've watched a lot of scary movies and read scary stories by folks like E.F. Benson, Karl Edward Wagner, Hugh B. Cave, and Robert E. Howard. I've also worked my way back through a bunch of horror comics, mostly Marvel's Black & White Magazines, like Tales of the Zombie, and Dracula Lives. Some wild stuff from the 1970s. Tonight I'll be out with the Dr. No's gang.
   I've scheduled a long weekend, leaving work tomorrow after lunch and taking off on Friday, not because of Halloween but because, as usual, I've got a lot of leftover vacation to burn here at the end of the year. Still it's nice knowing I can stay up late on Halloween and not have to roll out of bed early on Friday. Going to watch a couple more movies, and finish up the season in fine style.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Let Sleeping Cats Lie

I throw my down lined jacket on the sofa, because Bruce likes to sleep inside it.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Carnacki is a Go.

My Carnacki the Ghostfinder story 'How They Met Themselves' has been picked up for the anthology Carnacki: The New Adventures. More info when I get it.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Conan Joins the Avengers

Okay, not really, but when I was a kid I always wanted to see such a team-up. And look, the bad guys are the Sons of The Serpent. Conan fought the minions of set, and in the comics he ran into the Serpent men of Valusia. This is a British comic and while it did feature reprints of the Avengers and Conan, there wasn't an actual crossover.

Sea of Secrets

 When I was a kid in the late 1960s early 1970s, my mother read about a gazillion Gothic Romances by authors like Madeleine Brent, Dorothy Eden, Phyllis A. Whitney, and Victoria Holt. Before I could read, I referred to them as 'girl running away from house' books, because they all seemed to have a similar cover image, a young woman in a flowing dress or nightgown running from a sinister dark house or castle. Up until a few years ago, I hadn't read any of the books myself but after discovering that one of the Lovecraft Circle, Frank Belknap Long had authored seven Gothic Romances, I read those and followed up with several by the authors my mom had read. My favorite of mom's favorites was Victoria Holt.
   The other day I was wondering if anyone had written anything like that recently and started browsing Amazon. Came across a book called Sea of Secrets by Amanda Dewees. The cover had the prerequisites. Girl in flowing dress. Check. Spooky castle. Check.
   I used the 'Look Inside' feature to read the first few pages of the book. Dewees had me after about five paragraphs. The heroine's voice was so witty and engaging that I knew this was a character I was going to like. She was obviously intelligent, fond of irony and a bit of a wise-ass. A good start.
   The plot moves quickly. After the death of her beloved brother, Oriel Pembroke is disowned by her cruel father without a dime. With no clear way to support herself she approaches a wealthy relative she doesn't know well, hoping she can help Oriel find a situation. Instead, the former Duchess of Ellsworth basically adopts her, taking her home to the Duchess's lavish seaside home. At first, Oreil can't believe her own good fortune, but this being a Gothic, things quickly take a dark turn.
   It seems the Duchess has created a scandal by marrying her late husband's brother without waiting what polite Victorian society considers a proper amount of time. Not only that, but her son Herron, a troubled and brooding lad, thinks his mother hasn't shown sufficient respect to his father's memory with her quick marriage to his uncle. (If, like me, you're picking up parallels to Shakespeare's Hamlet, you're not wrong.)
   In any good Gothic Romance you need two possible romantic interests. One nice guy and one brooding guy. Check. However if you think you know where this book plot is going, you're probably wrong. Amanda Dewees is too good a writer to just regurgitate old Gothic plots. This is a thinking person's Gothic Romance. She doesn't scrimp on the tropes though. Ghosts, storms, crashing seas, family secrets, mystery and rumors of murder. And maybe more than rumors. The period detail is great, and applied as you need it.
   Anyway, in case you couldn't tell, I really enjoyed Sea of Secrets. A specimen of an old genre with a fresh voice, some good writing, and some nice twists. And yes, I recommended it to my mother.

For more about Amanda Dewees and her books, check out her website here:

http://www.amandadewees.com/

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Sexton Blake Dossier

   Found an interesting item on Ebay the other day and it arrived yesterday. The Sexton Blake Dossier is a small booklet with tiny little printing that was given to writers working on the Sexton Blake Library series in the 1950s. The series 'bible', basically. It contains brief bios and stats for all the main characters, Blake, his assistant Tinker, his secretary Paula Dane, friends like Splash Kirby, Inspector Coutts, and so forth. It also has descriptions of Blake's rooms in Baker Street, his offices in Berkeley Square, his car, handguns, etc etc. For a collector who is also a writer, this is pretty darn spiffy.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Innocents (1961)


   I remember seeing parts of this film on television when I was five or six years old. Scared the bejeebus out of me. Don't know that I ever watched it all the way through until today. Have to say, it has considerable power still. It's considered one of the first psychological horror films and the production, particularly the directing is very impressive.
   Based on Henry James' story THE TURN OF THE SCREW, The Innocents is taken from the stage play version. Deborah Kerr plays a governess given charge over two young children, a boy and a girl, at a large country estate. At first everything seems fine but then Kerr begins to learn about the fate of the previous governess. She had been having an open and somewhat kinky affair with another estate employee. The man was killed in what was probably an accident, and the woman fell into a deep depression and finally drowned herself in a lake.
   After witnessing some strange events, Kerr begins to suspect that the ghosts of the two lovers have possessed the children. Her attempts to 'save' the kids don't go very well and her own mental state begins to deteriorate.
   Just as in James' original story, the viewer isn't sure if there really are ghosts or if the governess is imagining all the spooky stuff. You can draw your own conclusions about whether this is a ghost story or a story of a woman going mad or both. In any case, this is a very well done horror tale with some truly frightening moments. The atmosphere is seriously Gothic and Deborah Kerr's performance carries the film.  All and all, a very satisfying entry into my Halloween movie watching.

Friday, October 18, 2013

When the Stars Are Right...


My cat Bruce loves the Necronom-nom-nom-icon...

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Once Upon a Time


   I've gotten hooked on ABC's Once Upon a Time. I had caught about half an episode a couple of months back and noted two things. The concept was really good and the Evil Queen was hot. That was about the extent of my involvement. Last weekend I read an article about the show which intrigued me a bit more. My pal Cliff had mentioned that he had bought OUaT on Blu-Ray and he was kind enough to loan me the first season. After three episodes I was hooked.
   The basic concept of the show is that all the story book characters like Snow White, Prince Charming, Little Red Riding hood, etc really existed. Snow White's step mom, the Evil Queen, placed a curse on everybody in the magic realm, sending them to our world and replacing their memories with false ones so that they believe they have always lived here. For 28 years nobody ages and no one notices in the town of Storybrooke. The Queen is the Mayor and she pretty much rules the town.
   However Snow White and Price Charming had a daughter and they managed to spirit her away to our world as an infant before the Queen's curse took effect. On her 28th birthday, the girl's 10 year old son, whom she gave up for adoption, arrives on her doorstep with a crazy story about a town called Storybrooke and his wicked adopted mom who is actually the Evil Queen from the fairy tales. His birth mom, Emma, takes him back to Storybrooke and things get interesting.
   I'm not sure why the concept appealed to me so much. There is something about those old old stories that seems to resonate with folks and it's fun to see these familiar characters in a new way. The writing on the show is clever and the plots move fast. The show switches back and forth from the present in our world to the past in the fairy tale realm, so you get to see the characters as both versions. One thing I really liked was that she show builds slowly so that early on you're not sure if Emma's son Henry is delusional of if his adopted mom really is the Evil Queen.
   Anyway, I'm rolling up on the end of season one and I've enjoyed it tremendously. Glad I decided to give it a shot. Oh, and that Evil Queen? (actress Lana Parrilla) My initial assessment was correct. She's hot.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Sexton Blake: Pengarth Castle

I decided to give the 1960s era Sexton Blake books a rest and go back to some classic Blake from 1925. I read a two part serial, THE PAUPER OF PENGARTH CASTLE and THE CURSE OF PENGARTH CASTLE. Some nice Gothic goings on, particularly in part II.
   Pauper begins with Sexton Blake receiving a telegram in Baker Street. It seems someone is impersonating him as a guest at Pengarth castle in Cornwall. Blake and his young assistant Tinker catch the next train to Cornwall to see what's what.
   Turns out that the man using Blake's name is an old enemy, Rupert Waldo, aka The Wonder Man. Waldo possesses superhuman strength, speed, stamina, and agility, but fortunately he's of the gentleman bandit school and he and Blake actually sort of like one another. Waldo tends to act on whims and he's just as likely to do good as evil depending on his mood. He ended up invited to Pengarth castle after he used his prodigious strength to rescue the Earl of Pengarth's daughter, Lady Betty, from a falling tree. Since he didn't want to reveal his own identity, he claimed to be Sexton Blake, a name that opens doors. He didn't know, however, that the family butler had actually met Blake and it was the Butler who sent the telegram to the genuine article.
   Once Blake arrives, Waldo cheerfully departs, or seems to, and the plot gets going as Blake learns that the old Earl is about to lose his castle. His lawyer has tricked him into signing away his holdings and now that lawyer has sold the castle to a boorish businessman. When said business man arrives, seeking entrance, the earl sends him packing. Unfortunately the man returns and breaks into the castle where someone promptly murders him. The Earl is found standing over the body and things look grim. End of part one.
   In part two, Sexton Blake shifts into full Sherlock Holmes mode as he tries to clear the Earl of the murder charge. The local constable is none too keen on Blake, but he can't send the famous criminologist packing without causing an uproar. And of course Lady Betty has complete faith in Sexton Blake. Who wouldn't?
   Meanwhile Rupert Waldo, acting on one of his whims, (and with a bit of self interest) decides to see what he can do about the scheming lawyer's crimes.
   The resolution to THE CURSE OF PENGARTH CASTLE owes a bit to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES but for the most part it's all Sexton Blake's show.
   This is a tremendously fun story from Sexton Blake's Golden period with plenty of action, suspense, mystery, and a bit of melodrama. British pulp at its very best.
   Next up. A monster from a century old painting seems to have come alive to wreak havoc in THE GNOMID.
  

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Zombie and Ice Cream Dreams

  Last night I dreamed about Zombies. I don't recall ever doing that before. In the dream, the ever popular zombie apocalypse had occurred and I was wandering around, steering clear of the flesh eating predators. Had it a little easier than the folks in Walking Dead because for whatever reason, these zombies only came out at night.
   I came across this huge old house and there were several people living inside. They had zombie proofed the place as best they could but they warned me that that the upstairs was better protected than the downstairs because zombies couldn't climb well, so all they had to do was barricade the stairwell every night. However when evening came the upstairs was so crowded that I decided to take my chances downstairs. Bad choice. The zombies broke in after dark and action horrific ensued.
   I survived, but the next night I decided overcrowding wasn't that bad. Don't remember much after that. Later I dreamed I was at some sort of convention along with my brother. We had ice cream from one of those soft serve machines and everyone was amazed at my ability to make a Dairy Queen curl on top of the cones. (My family owned a Dairy Queen when I was growing up.)
   Teach me to eat pizza in the afternoon I guess.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Autumn Thoughts

   I took the day off today. I had originally planned to go and buy some tires, but that plan has hit a slight snag, so it must be reconsidered. I slept in, not getting up until 6:15. For me, that's late.
   I've been out to breakfast at J. Christopher's. A skillet of potatoes and corn beef hash with two eggs on top. Now I am sitting here typing. The windows are open. I can hear Bruce in the kitchen munching on cat food with that odd hollow sound that cats make when devouring dry cat food.
   Not sure what the rest of the day holds. May head for a bookstore. May just sit here and watch scary movies and read books all day. Think there could be some pizza in there somewhere.
   Fall is off to a fine start here in Georgia. Leaves are turning and some are falling. The mornings are crisp and cool and the afternoons are still warm. The light has that particular quality that only comes with autumn. I am restless, as I always am at this time of year.
   Bruce has left the kitchen now and is sitting in the window, nose pressed to the screen, green eyes searching for chipmunks, squirrels or the stray McDonald's wrapper carried on the autumn wind.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Now With More Scary Movies

   Both Cliff and Jim came through last night with Blu-Rays and DVDs of scary movies to add to this year's Fright Flick Festival. Jim brought me SESSION 9, which I've heard good things about, and Cliff brought me the remastered Blu-Ray of The Universal Horror movies plus some other films, so I can add those to the stuff I haven't watched yet.
   Cliff also loaned me the first seasons of Grimm and Once Upon a Time, so now I can catch up on my fairy tale based shows.
   Did I mention I'm enjoying Sleepy Hollow? The winning mix of "fish out of water buddy cops" protagonists, the supernatural bad guys, and some clever writing makes this show a lot of fun. And it premiered just in time for Halloween. I'll have more to say about the show once I get caught up on the episodes.