Sunday, April 27, 2014

No Bad Reviews?

A couple of folks have pointed out that I tend to write glowing reviews and never dislike anything. Here's the truth. I only review things I like. I'm not a critic. I'm a guy who reads a lot and I like to share things I enjoyed.
   In fact, when publishers, authors, publicists and such contact me and want to know if I'll review their books, I usually tell them up front. "I'll give it a look, but if i don't like it, I won't review it, because I probably won't finish it."
   This has caused a couple of publishers to stop offering me ARCs. They sent me a free book and I didn't review it. Sorry folks. If I'm not having a good time within 50 pages, I probably won't be finishing your book.
   Life is short and so is my attention span.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Messages From the Dead

   Been a big reading weekend for me. I read the second half of a novel I started Friday this morning and then plunged into Sandy DeLuca's extremely dark and creepy novella MESSAGES FROM THE DEAD on the recommendation of my pal, Tony Tremblay.
   I wasn't familiar with Sandy's work before, but I knew within a few pages that I was going to like this book. Darkly poetic and filled with haunting images, Messages is a modern ghost story with a Gothic feel. I read that Sandy is a painter as well as a writer and it shows. Her work is very visual, almost cinematic, and the whole time I was reading I kept seeing the scenes in my head and thinking what a great horror movie this could make. Eerie, disturbing, and haunting.
   The book concerns a woman who enrolls in art classes at a small college. The facility has a weird history and between that and the rather macabre tastes of her teacher, the woman begins to seek her own personal darkness to bring to her paintings. She succeeds rather too well and soon things turn not only creepy, but possibly life threatening.
   Sandy DeLuca's prose is dream-like, at times almost hallucinatory and the reader, like the protagonist, often isn't sure what really happened and what was a dream or nightmare. This technique can make me dislike a book, but Sandy walks just the right edge of the fine line between mystifying and confusing. I was occasionally disoriented, but never confused. That's a hard thing to get on the page.
   Anyway, I've already picked out another book by Sandy DeLuca, MANHATTAN GRIMOIRE. You know i love those blasphemous tomes of Eldritch lore.

Conan the Avenger

   My buddy John asked what I thought of the new Conan series, Conan the Avenger, written by Fred Van Lente and drawn by Brian Ching. The short answer is, I enjoyed it quite a bit.
   The longer answer is, I enjoyed it quite a bit, but I was okay with Brian Wood's first issue of his adaptation of QUEEN OF THE BLACK COAST too, and we know how that particular debacle turned out. So let's say I'm cautiously optimistic. Van Lente did a fine job adapting Robert E. Howard's story THE PEOPLE OF THE BLACK CIRCLE last year, so he already has some street cred with Conan.
   This time though, Van Lente is adapting one of REH's unfinished Conan tales, which means he'll have to do a bit more creating of new incidents. This one was finished out before by Lin Carter and L. Sprague de Camp as THE SNOUT IN THE DARK, which was about as good as it sounds, but most Howard collectors refer to the unfinished story as The Shamballa Fragment. REH left behind a partial synopsis and several short chapters of this yarn which you can find in Del Rey's THE COMING OF CONAN THE CIMMERIAN, which you should already own and if you don't, what are you waiting for?
   Van Lente's story begins in the aforementioned Shamballa, which is an African (Kushian?) city, South of Stygia. Conan is basically hanging around town getting drunk, as he attempts to drown the memory of the recent loss of his love, the pirate queen Belit. The spirit of Belit is never far from his thoughts and though this is to some extent, the reason for his condition , it is also the memory of her that will rally him after some local bad guys take advantage of his drunken stupor. When Conan snaps back to reality, it is in fine, barbaric style and Van Lente takes the chance to show us just why you don't mess with the big Cimmerian. Good stuff.
   Brian Ching isn't an artist I'm familiar with. I do like his art, though I'm finding his Conan a bit on the lean side. That could be said of all his characters though, so it may just be his style. We'll see how he progresses as the series moves forward. So John, yeah, not bad at all. Hopefully it will continue along the same lines.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Acquisitions

Time for more stuff. Because I don't have enough books. movies, or comics.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

White Knight

A lot of folks toss around terms like 'hard-boiled' and 'noir' and often at targets that are less than deserving. Bracken MacLeod's WHITE KNIGHT is the real deal. A tightly written suspenseful thriller that messes with reader expectations and delivers the goods.
   It also messes with the protagonist's expectations. A young prosecutor who thinks he's seen it all more than once makes a couple of bad assumptions and gets to watch his life unravel as a result. Before the night is out he will come up against some seriously bad people and see everything he cares about put at risk.
   I've been reading crime fiction for a long time and these days I have a hard time finding stuff that holds my attention. I sat down to read a few pages of MacLeod's novella and after about twenty pages I knew I'd be sitting there until I was done. It's that kind of story. One that pulls the reader along and makes him or her believe in the characters and care what happens to them. It also takes some unexpected turns, which is always nice.
   The prose is clear and clean, with no wasted words. The kind I like best. I read an advance copy of this book, but as soon as it comes out you crime fiction folks need to jump on it. Highly recommended.

Conan and the Maltese Falcon

  Sat up late last night, watching my favorite movie of all time, The Maltese Falcon, and rereading John Maddox Roberts' Conan pastiche, Conan the Rogue, which borrows the plots of Dashiell Hammett's novels, The Maltese Falcon and Red Harvest, with a little of The Dain Curse toward the end. If you've always wanted to see Conan play Sam Spade, this is the book for you.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Acquisitions

This week's acquisitions. The DVD is THE TRAMPLERS, a spaghetti western staring former Tarzan, Gordon Scott, that I've been looking for for a couple of years. New restored transfer. The trade collection of Jack Kirby's Black Panther is a book that's getting harder to come by and more expensive all the time.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Taken at the Flood

Lord of the Rings Online released a new expansion on Monday, which takes the players further along in the plot of the books. Here we see Kharrn the Barbarian (There is no barbarian class in LotRO but I refuse to acknowledge that.) and Briefer the Hobbit surveying the damage to Saruman's fortress Isengard after Treebeard and the Ents flooded the place.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

And Now a Pause For Author Identification

One of the questions I get asked the most by folks who've read BLIND SHADOWS and CONGREGATIONS OF THE DEAD is how did James A. Moore and I collaborate? Basically who did what? My shorthand answer has always been "I'm Griffin and he's Price." And for the most part that sums it up.
   But, some people are more curious than others, so they want to know about the actual writing. How did we do it? The answer is so simple that I get the idea most people think I'm having them on, but basically I would write a chapter (or occasionally two) and send it to Jim. He would read the chapter, write his own chapter, then send it back. On CONGREGATIONS we did that for, I think, 60,000 words before ever stopping to have a story conference. Jim and I are just in sync, what can I tell you? Toward the end we had a chat to figure out how to bring everything together.
   We each have out characters. I wrote Griffin, Charon, and Carter Decamp. Jim wrote Carl Price, Andy, and all the Blackbournes. Reverend Lazarus Cotton was 80% Jim and 20% me. I wrote the sociopath Blues fan, Fry. Jim wrote all the Brennert County officers, the DA, etc. Jim likes to have more characters than me, obviously.

   BUT here's the deal. We also edited each other and fixed each others continuity as we went. If Carl needed to appear in a scene I was writing, I wrote it and Jim changed anything that wasn't "Carl-like". I did the same if he wrote a scene with Griffin. But really there was very little of that necessary. We seem to be able to channel each others characters and while our writing styles are different, they seem to mesh well.
   So anyway, that's how it was done. Now when people ask me this question, I can just refer them to this blog post.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Acquisitions

   Last nights acquisitions. The Spears of Clontarff typescript facsimile, which reproduces the typed pages from an early draft of Robert E. Howard's story. Another volume in Guillermo del Toro's six book horror series. This one's an anthology of horror and weird tales. Finally, the one Jules de Grandin book by Seabury Quinn that I didn't previously own.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

The Axeman of Storyville

   Most aficionados of True Crime are familiar with the New Orleans Axeman, a serial killer who stalked that city in 1918-1919 and perhaps even earlier, depending on whose theory you believe. Heath Lowrance, the creator of my favorite Cowboy phantom fighter, Hawthorne, has taken the basics of the still unsolved case and written a tight thriller featuring Edward Grainger's former U.S. Marshal Gideon Miles.
   It's 1921 and the story finds Miles later in life, having settled down in new Orleans to run a nightclub. The former Marshall thinks his man-hunting days are well behind him. But then the madame of a local brothel shows up at his door pleading for help. Someone has killed one of her girls, a madman with an axe, and the police have no interest in finding out who killed a whore. At first Miles is hesitant, but when a local gangster tries to warn him off, Gideon Miles decides to get involved.
   Lowrance gets to stretch himself a bit in this novella, telling the story from multiple points of view. I've gone on before about how much I like Lowrance's prose, and here I was really taken with his ability to set a scene. I could just see the streets of old New Orleans. Feel the heat. Smell the cigar smoke and cheap perfume in the night clubs.
   The story is action packed, as I like em'. Miles may be getting on in years but he can still mix it up with the best of them and he still knows how to use a Colt when he needs to.
   How much did I like this story? Well I bought it within a few minutes of it going live on Amazon and I read it at a sitting and then came over here to the desk and reviewed it. Highly, and I do mean highly recommended.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Reading Brian Lumley

  I spent a lot of the weekend reading short stories and novellas by Brian Lumley. This was set in motion when my pal, Paul McNamee, posted on facebook about several Lumley collections being available cheap for the Kindle. I picked up THE COMPLETE CROW (all the short stories about Lumley's occult investigator Titus Crow) THE TAINT AND OTHER NOVELLAS (What it says. Horror novellas) and HAGGOPIAN AND OTHER STORIES (A collection of Cthulhu mythos stories.) I read all the Crow stories and all the short stories and a couple of the novellas.
   It's an uneven bunch, as are most collections of this nature, but for the most part I enjoyed the stories. Lumley, sort of like me, is a guy who often uses Lovecraftian horror as a background for action adventure stories. His heroes tend to fight back, rather than go mad or be eaten like so many of H.P. Lovecraft's protagonists. Yes, there are gibbering, slavering things from the Outer Dark, but they can be fought.
   Some of the other stories though are pure horror and people come to nasty ends. Like I said, a mixed bag. Up until now, most of the stories I'd read by Brian Lumley were in his PRIMAL LANDS or DREAMLANDS series. I have to say I like his take on the Cthulhu mythos. Sometimes he strays a little far into the mindset of his mentor August Derleth, but for the most part he uses the Mythos to tell highly entertaining stories. It ain't Lovecraft but it ain't bad.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

The Thing at the Bookstore

Bought this at Barnes & Noble today. There is, of course, no fiction inside that I didn't already own, but it was such a nifty little hardback that I had to have it. The preface by Guillermo Del Toro was very good though, and there's an introduction by S.T. Joshi.