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.