Books Vs. Writers

I shall get long-winded here and veer off on tangents 'cuz I have a tendency to do that (a personal flaw is not too great a personal flaw if you are aware of it - Zwolf 3.16), so let me give you the gist right away because it's important and I don't want you getting bored with me and skipping it:

Horror writers are getting screwed over by what was, until recently, the major horror publisher. At the B-hole we are the blog that's about every-damn-thing, whatever-the-hell-we-feel-like-at-the-time, but if you read us at all you've noticed a predilection for horror. We all like it. And I'm all about it. Like, in my town, I'm (point and whisper) "that guy." And horror fans are a fanatical bunch for the most part. I've never met one who wasn't really a gentle sweetheart of a person, but you fuck with our dudes, then we're gonna even that shit up. And Dorchester Publishing, home of Leisure Books (and former home of my other big favorite, Hard Case Crime), is fucking with some really good writers.

Evenin' up time.

One of the writers that Leisure's doing wrong, Brian Keene, is leading the charge, and the most important parts of this post are going to be links to posts on his blog, which will explain it with more inside detail and authority than I can provide. So, be sure you click the following:


List of Professionals Endorsing the Dorchester Boycott (we're on it, and greatly appreciate being there)

Friday Frenzy (With More Dorchester Stuff)

There'll undoubtedly be more to come, so stay tuned to that channel.

And there's another great post from another of Leisure's screwed-over authors, Wrath James White, which covers a lot of ground that's wrong with the publishing industry in general. I'm glad he said it, because I've been screaming some of this stuff for a while now but nobody listens to me 'cuz I'm not actually a published author. (More on that as I digress, should you choose to hang around for it). Be sure to read Wrath's post:

The Rape of The Genre (And What You Can Do To Stop It!)

(And I stand by my review of Succulent Prey from last week, it's a book you all should read, but, ummmm, hold off 'til Wrath gets a new deal and can make some money from it. In the meantime he has other non-Leisure books which you can and should buy).

Okay, that's the important stuff, so if the rest of my personal rambling bores ya, skip me. Or go read me on Twitter, where I'm not allowed to be so long-winded and just make jokes about violence and bodily functions and try to get the pretty comedian girls to talk to me. (And they don't. Probably because I'm talking about violence and bodily functions. Y'think?) Anyway, if you hang around for the rest I promise to try to make it interesting, but if your time's too short to indulge me, fine, you got the important part. Spread it around. Act on it.


Now, llllllllllet's get ready to rammmmmmbllllle!

I always liked Leisure Books, so this whole thing makes me sad. Back in the day they were the craphouse of horror publishing, one step up from Zebra, but I still had a great fondness for them. I admit it, I'm charmed by crap; I used to collect Charlton comics, for godsake. In the early 80's Zebra was the worst of the paperback empire (mainly because they published William W. Johnstone, the single Worst Professionally Published Writer In The History Of Mankind - it took a special kind of low-standards to look at that guy's work and think "Oh, yeah, the public needs to read this! I love how a character we've never seen before gets shot on every page! That's panache!"), but 80's Leisure was only a little better. They did have a few decent writers in their stable - William Schoell was usually entertaining, J. N. Williamson had his moments, and Mort Castle is one of horror's best-kept secrets. And for the hardcores, Sean Hutson, baby, formative splatterpunk. Horror was having a renaissance, and even though Leisure was just a remora following the bigger sharks, they were worth watching.

Then in the 90's, after Dell's great Abyss experiment (Abyss was to horror publishing what SubPop was to music, just a beautiful thing for horror fans) fizzled, horror went into a slump. The big publishers timidly backed away and avoided eye contact, and Zebra (which had been improving) shit the bed and dropped their horror line. Pocket pulled a fade, too (anybody remember D. A. Fowler? What a twisted woman!), Pinnacle packed up its silly cover art and headed for parts unknown, and horror went into a huge tar-pit. Who was pretty much the last man standing? Leisure! I'm mad as hell at them right now, but I've got to give them credit - they saved the genre from stagnation by staying open for business. And being the only game in town they got a pretty good stable and a better reputation. They were publishing the mighty, mighty Richard Laymon, the genius works of Elisabeth Massie, Mary Ann Mitchell, John Shirley, Edward Lee, Ed Gorman, Jack Ketchum, Ray Garton. Ramsey Campbell -- yes, RAMSEY fucking CAMPBELL was on Leisure! And they were growing a whole new crop of great writers -- Brian Keene, Tom Piccirilli, Steve Gerlach, Simon Clark, Wrath James White, Nate Kenyon, Sarah Pinborough, Bryan Smith, Gary A. Braunbeck, Michael Laimo, J.F. Gonzalez (Survivor is one of the craziest things you'll ever read, but wait 'til somebody else republishes it). Lots more - I'm not even trying to list 'em all, but it had become a strong stable, with hopes of further growth.

Sounds like I'm celebrating them, doesn't it? Well, maybe, but only because that's what you do at a wake. Leisure's dead. Luckily, Hard Case Crime (the newest SubPop type label - I bought EVERYTHING they put out and will do so again) found a new home. But Leisure's all e-books now, and sorry kids, but fuck a bunch of that.

Here comes one of those tangents I was talking about, in the form of a crazyperson rant. Might be a good time for you Kindle Kultists to skip out for a pee.

I am a militant paper loyalist; if your book comes out electronic-only, I won't consider it published, and I won't read it until I can find a printed copy. I don't blame anybody for e-publishing; it's hard enough to make a living writing, and anyone who wants to try would be a fool not to take any avenue open to them, and e-publishing does have a few advantages for writers because they can cut out the middleman and keep more of the money. If it puts food on your table, go for it, godspeed, I won't hold it against you. But if you want me in your audience, kill a tree, partially because those machines look like ass (market it all ya want - I've seen 'em and I don't buy it), but mainly because I'm not paying for something I can never own... and you will ALWAYS be at the mercy of somebody who's giving you "access." Libraries are already having issues with e-journals upping their prices and pulling their access; you cannot count on the "book" you buy always being there, so don't go thinking you've got a "library" in that little cute lil' Etch-a-Sketch. It's fine if you like to read a book once and toss it, but I'm a collector (*cough hoarder cough*) and downloading a file to a machine that's gonna be outdated in five years does not scratch my itch in any way.

And you know what illegal downloads did to the music industry? Gonna be worse for writers. In music at least the bands can still make money by playing live on the road if people pirate their CDs. What are writers going to do, though? Nothing. All you have is your product... and I hate to tell ya, but your product is already on bit torrent sites, being handed out for free. And you'll go broke trying to track it down and stop it. Those Kindle and Nook codes are so easy to crack that I know people at work who've already converted 'em to files so they could print things out, and they're not any kind of hacker. If you start relying on E-publishing, you are so goddamn vulnerable it's not even funny. And the new generation believes everything should be free, so they're not even going to understand why they should pay for something when torrent will just hand it to them. Oh, it's boom-time for e-books right now because it‘s a fun new toy and an in-thing, but a terrifying bust is coming, and when it settles in, "writer" may not be something one can make a living at anymore. Call me a luddite, but MARK. MY. WORDS. I hope I'm wrong, I really do, but I wouldn't bet against me on this one. Play it out. How does it end any other way? Seriously.

Plus, the other whammy: e-publishing is too easy. E-books and print-on-demand have made getting material out there too cheap. Back in the day it cost somebody money to put your stuff out, to print it and market it. Now it costs nothing, so they're eager for any and all material, because whatever it is somebody will surely buy it, and that's a dollar made. If you don't have to back something up with cash, your standards get really low. The firewall is down on literature and the virus of horrible-writing is free to buttrape the literary world. That's going to wear the reading public out. Everybody wants to be "published," so there's going to be so much gack that it's going to be too much of a struggle to wade through it all to find the good writers. Established people will survive it, but new writers who aren't known yet? Your opportunities are going to fade amongst the din. It's gonna be tough to get noticed when there's a billion of you and no editors acting as a floodgate to stop the bad ones from getting through. Look how bad music is now that nobody has to get signed. Enjoy Rebecca Black, ladies and gentlemen... and be sure to buy Friday: The Book. I believe it comes out on Friday, Friday, Friday...

HAVE I MADE MY POINT, MOTHERFUCKERS?! LISTEN TO IT AGAIN! FIFTY MILLION VIEWS in a month that thing had! That is your future! More of that! Forever! I have seen the calendar and the future is aaaaaalllll FRIDAYS! ARRRGGGH! GO FUCKING READ MOON PEOPLE! Thanks to Kindle and Print-on-Demand, Dale Courtney is a published author! William W. Johnstone oughtta send him a goddamn fruitcake from the great beyond for taking the worst-author-ever heat off of him!


Where are me meds? Who was that unpleasant man?

Okay, so, anyway, Leisure's mostly an e-publisher now. Threw 100% of their business behind something that was generating 10% of their revenue, that's the most brilliant idea since buying "amish.com" as a domain name. They weren't going to get my business on that end anyway, but I would've bought some of the trade paperbacks they were planning to put out.

But then, they started screwing over their writers.

As an eats-lives-and-breathes horror fanatic, I take care of my sources. You don't fuck them over and get to walk. You screw them and I'll lay a wreath on you by cutting off what you need from me -- money. And I'm not casual -- I buy LOTS of horror fiction. If I wasn't embarrassed by the messiness, I could post pictures of piles of books in my house, and many of 'em Leisure would damn sure recognize. I'm a horror hoarder, and I don't just go wide, I go deep. In Brian Keene's new book Jack's Magic Beans (which is published by Deadite Press, who also put out things by Wrath James White, Bryan Smith, Edward Lee, and others - books are on the short side, but still quite worthy of your business) he bets twenty bucks a lot of us haven't heard of Robert W. Chambers. In my case he'd lose, because I not only read him, I once helped a librarian friend assess a gift collection made by Chambers' estate. I know of the King in Yellow and his tattered mantle and pallid mask-which-alas-dear-Camila-is-no-mask. And I know of Hodgson, James (both good ol’ M.R. and ah-shaddap Henry), Machen, Onions, Blackwood, LeFanu, W.F. Harvey, F. Marion Crawford, the Benson bros (E.F., A.C, and R.H.), Bierce, Hearn, Lovecraft, C.M. Eddy, Kuttner, Stoker, Matheson, Bloch, Howard, Shirley Jackson, Robert Aickman, Ligotti, Michael McDowell, Schow, F. Paul Wilson, etc. And I'm pissed that Karl Edward Wagner is out of print and think The Library of America should give the man a volume. You can search this forum and find references to old horror writers astounding and abounding, and yeah, I'm bragging on that because I am a proud horror teacher ‘n‘ preacher... which is why what Leisure's doing pisses me off. If you are in the horror market, I am your money. So quitcher fuck’n with my dudes. The customer is always right. And the customer is saying no.

And, since I've always had "writer" in mind as a potential supplemental/fallback career, I also take the screwing-over-of-writers personally even if I don't really have any right to do so. I can't really call myself a writer because I'm not published, so I haven't entered the business end of it, and that's the really hard part of the whole schmear. But I do know the mechanics of writing stories pretty well. I'm lazy and lack the dedication-to-craft I should have, but if unpublished works count, I am el prolifico loco. Before I got out of high school I'd written a series of Road-Warrior-ripoff action novels, which I've talked about here before. There were seven of 'em (the last couple unfinished but already short-novel length) - The Law of the Road, Galil Justice, The Renegades, The Losers, White Line Fever, Burn In Hell, Hired Guns. All the worst kind of juvenalia and not even remotely publishable ('cept maybe now, as Kindle fodder; Moon People, ya'll! Y'heard?), but they taught me things about writing long form, developing situations and characters, and especially how to write violence. Then after college, around 1990, I wrote a horror novel called Rictus Grin, which was a zombie novel that took a very similar approach to the one Brian Keene used in The Rising... except mine was a lot sloppier and had pacing problems, while Keene's is classic. Again, Rictus Grin was unpublishable, but it was good practice. Since then I've written five full novels that would probably be publishable if a capable editor woodshedded me and knocked a few corners off of 'em. All horror, and I've mentioned them on this blog before, too. Death Metal Creeps, Deadhouse, Orphans, Signal 30, Steve's Trailer. And I've got a bunch of unfinished projects that I could probably complete if I bore down for a few months, because they're already nearly novel-length - Daisyland, Blacklight Autopsy, Seth's Soul, Ducts, Choir of Worms. I've had these things read by smart readers and they told me they're good. Granted, they're friends of mine and might be trying to be nice, but one of 'em got excited enough about one of 'em to try to play editor and sell Deadhouse to Tor Books. Never heard back from 'em, but their horror line was dormant at the time so I wasn't too discouraged. And that's the only thing I ever tried to submit, other than a truly terrible short story I once sent in to a Twilight Zone Magazine "unpublished writer" contest when I was in high school. That story sucked farts out of dead cats, so I don't feel bad a'tall for losing. And y'know who won that contest? Dan Simmons, with "The River Styx Runs Upstream." So there's no shame in that, because I wouldn't be able beat Dan Simmons now. Or ever! :) And o’ course I put a couple of short stories up here as a Halloween present. I don’t think they’re works of genius but you can check ‘em out if you like, here and here.

Anyway, I can't call myself a horror writer because I've been too lazy and content with my day job to chase it (it's not an easy business to be in - you've got to respect the people who do it, even William W. Johnstone), but as a dabbler, I side with the writers, big time. And a publisher -- a fucking leech machine that seldom really does much for writers to begin with -- who robs these people... it doesn't make me happy. Sure doesn't make me feel like supportin' it.

Maybe I'll use the money I might've spent with Leisure to buy this Night of the Assholes book I've been flirting with instead. That would seem all poetic-justicey.


CAUTION: dead men may become succulent after heating

I'm wanting to write about some good writers... but I'm having writer's block. Agh! Let's see if I can knock some of the frost off by making fun of something I encountered earlier in the week.

I was eating some Mexican food for breakfast (and yes, Igor, I do eat Mexican food for breakfast sometimes, because a guy can't eat corn dogs or Pizza Rolls every morning, and besides, I have co-workers I want to passive-aggressively get revenge on via biological warfare. And, yes, it was frozen; I wasn't aware Mexican food - or any other food, for that matter - came in any other form), and I happened to look at the instructions and discovered this classic bit of information.

You see that, there, at the bottom, the last thing before the language turns into I-can't-speak-it? "CAUTION: Product may be hot after heated."

That-right-there is the best summation of the complicated science of thermodynamics I've ever seen; cuts through the "energy conversion" bullshit and gets right to the nittys. I admire it. But, I would still venture that anyone who lacks the mental capacity to understand that heating may cause things to become hot probably shouldn't be allowed anywhere near a steamer, for their own protection. If you know such a person, be kind and cook their tamilito for them. And maybe even feed it to them, because they may not be safe around forks, either. Pointy-parts may be ouchy if wielded with force.

For some reason reading about "the sealed bag of the tamale" makes me cross my legs and rock back and forth for a minute. But, that reason is probably childish.

Anyway, on to things more interesting... book reviews!

The Dead Man: Face of Evil
- Lee Goldberg & William Rabkin, (CreateSpace, 2011) Action-series veteran (and friend of the blog - thanks, Lee!) Goldberg - who wrote the .357 Vigilante books in the 80's under the pen name Ian Ludlow (read more about those here) teams with William Rabkin (author of the Psych series) to (hopefully) revive the neo-pulp series genre that faded at the beginning of the 90's. This new take updates the action with horror as Matt Cahill, an ordinary nice guy, gets buried in an avalanche while skiing with his new girlfriend. His body's found frozen three months later and as it thaws it's discovered that, amazingly, he's still alive. Avoiding media attention for his miraculous resurrection, he tries to get on with his life... but death's not quite done with him yet, because a demonic entity known as Mr. Dark (who reminds me a bit of Pennywise from Stephen King's It) is apparently playing a game with him. Matt has gained the ability to see (and smell) evildoers as rotting zombies, before they're even dead. And with this power comes a mission to stop Mr. Dark's bloody massacres. Very well-written and fast-moving, with suitable gore and some effective creepiness (chapter 7 could work as a very scary short story all by itself) and good action scenes. There's a lot of humor, too, but it's handled the right way; it doesn't compromise the horror or the action. It's very short, really a novella (81 pages), but will hopefully serve as an introduction to much more to come. It's good when you finish a book and wish it had been longer, so if they keep releasing these in paperback, I'll happily buy 'em. Good stuff.

You can follow the series on Twitter here, and Lee himself here - definitely worth adding to your feed.

Succulent Prey - Wrath James White (Leisure, 2008) Extremely graphic horror novel with enough good ideas and theories to keep it from being just gross-out exploitation, even though the levels of sex and gore would qualify it. Joe Miles was the victim of a torture-killer as a child, but he escaped and grew into a muscular Superman lookalike who has perverse homicidal urges of his own. He has overwhelming desires to eat human flesh, and he tries to fight his cravings but it's a battle he always loses. Even though he studies as hard as he can to try to find a cure for his perversions, he keeps giving in, at first slicing bits off of willing victims (almost every character in this book is a pervert to one degree or another) and eventually murdering and devouring people he seduces or captures. One would-be victim, Alicia, inspires love in him and he struggles to cure himself before he kills her, too. There's a lot of combined sex and violence and White doesn't pull any punches in its depiction; it's a bit over the top (I'm not sure people could survive these levels of bodily trauma as long as they do, and I'm pretty sure even extreme masochists would stop getting pleasure out of what's done to them here) but the narrative is so compelling that you're willing to play along with it. White also asks a lot of Stockholm Syndrome; I don't really buy that Alicia could still be in love with Joe after the depraved things he does, but, again, for the sake of the story I had no problem playing along. White does manage an extremely difficult trick here, making the reader still feel some sympathy for Joe despite the incredibly horrible things he does; he's tortured by his urges even though he's weak-willed about resisting them. In less skilled hands this would be just a torture-porn book (which is still okay since the reader's been warned about what's in store for them), but White puts a lot of thought into analyzing Joe's situation, and the idea of serial killing as a kind of transferable virus is an interesting one. A great book for those who can handle it from a writer to watch, and I'm glad I snagged a copy of his other Leisure title, The Resurrectionist, before the company went kerflooey. The strength of this book also led me to seek out some of White's other works, such as Population Zero and The Book of a Thousand Sins, so I still have lots to look forward to. Being all about the punk rock, I'm especially looking forward to his new one, Skinzz - that one sounds perfect!

Follow Wrath on Twitter (very nice fella from my experience) and he's got a great blog that's well-worth your time. Always happy to see more atheists, especially when they write this well. Represent!

Gotta throw in a note about Leisure Books (whose move to mostly-e-format I've howled in anguish about before), because - much as I've always loved 'em - they're doin' some wrong things, like continuing to sell e-books from writers who are no longer under contract with them. Yet another reason I hate those goddamn things - it makes it easier for publishers to steal from people with a "glitch." It'll all quit bein' so enchanting when torrent sites really start kicking in... all you people who think I'm just a Luddite hide 'n' watch. Brian Keene can explain the situation much better than I can (in fact, if you're interested in the whole Leisure tragedy, his blog's a good place to research it), so go check that out, and follow the link to what people are saying on Leisure's Facebook page... some of that is hilarious. Horror fans, buddy... we love our genre and you just don't fuck with our dudes. You can read Brian Keene's books, too - he's another good 'un. And, once again, there's this. Twitter... I pimps it.

And, o' course, as always, you can also follow me on Twitter and get the latest outrageous lies about farts, puppies, my genitals, automatic weaponry, depraved acts with vegetables, sex, violence, and other things I mistakenly think are clever and hilarious to discuss in public.

Til' next time, be careful with your tamilitos, kids!


Maps + Atlases @ Bottletree Cafe, Birmingham, AL (Pi Day: 3/14/11)

MAPS and ATLASES Live Show!

Maps + Atlases and Menomena played a show this Monday (14 March, + how appropriate to check out the math-rock stylings of M+A on Pi Day...) at the Bottletree Cafe, on a sporadically rainy Birmingham night. I did not know Menomena prior to the show (or if I did, I'd dismisst what I'd heard quickly), but I very much dig Maps + Atlases' weird melodic spin on the math-rock genre + was looking forward to seeing them play a live show. The Bottletree is a great venue for seeing bands (the food's pretty good, too, though I've only luncht there in July, when the patio is too fucking hot for habitation - the interior's comfy, though) + the rainy weather didn't seem to keep folks away, as there was a good turnout...

Davison a-singin' + a-tappin' his little heart out!

Touring in support of their new album, Perch Patchwork, Maps + Atlases were the opening act last night, which turned out great for me, since I still got to leave early enough to get some sleep, but should've, based on their bad-ass set, been the headlining act. The singer + lead guitarist, Dave Davison, employs a very personalized playing style, with lots of two-handed tapping + flamenco-y sweeps + flicks. I never noticed him using a pick, but his fingerpicking was unique + utterly compelling + he was - impressively - singing during most of the intricate guitar bits.

Added percussion by the blurry + beflanneled Shiraz Dada
Rhythm guitarist Erin Elders also diddled a little Korg for some kooky looping noises, + he + the bassist delved into drumming duties together for a bit as well while the drummer turned to a bells kit for some clever + unusual melodic interplay with the guitar + vocals (those vocals grow on you, but they are rather strange at first blush). The bass player, Shiraz Dada, was solid (with some thoughtfully put together parts + some tasty up-the-neck stuff) + tight with Chris Hainey's drums for the entire set, which were as insane as Davison's guitarwork. Lots of complex rhythmic patterns, with a healthy use of the kit's hardware for lots of woody cliks + klaks + a powerful control of the tempo, with time variations that ramp up or tone down the songs' dynamics... some AfroPop-influenced interplay at times between the guitars + drums, with the bass augmenting the connection, bubbling in + out tastily.

Fucking excellent band (+ really nice guys)! Repeatedly during their set, I caught myself with a beaming smile on my face... the stuff they were doing musically was so infectious + filled with that creative whatever that I was just swept along in the fun of the show. Go see them when they come to your town, dammit!

Maps + Atlases rock the Bottletree (3.14.11)

The wonderful 'Solid Ground' was the set closer; hopefully, I'll have a vid of that to post later (though shot with a drunkenly-handheld Blackberry, so no promise of high-quality)...

Menomena, on the other hand, really never took off for me. Granted, the crowd was really there to see them more than Maps + Atlases - or so it seemed from the abundance of pretty young scene chicks dancing up front + fawning over the handsome-skater-lookin' bass player + drummer, but even with their solid musicianship + the tight set they were layin' down, I was just kinda left flat + headed out to the club's patio to smoke for a few minits before cutting out early.

Maps + Atlases... that's who!
I did, of course, stop by the merch table on the way out + snag a Maps + Atlases t-shirt with a super-snazzy owl design...

Check out the Bottletree Cafe's Show Calendar for more cool upcoming bands: April showers bring May flowers + some fucking promising April shows by Maserati, Cloudland Canyon with White Hills (!!!!!) + lots more!

[Pix from the show, courtesy of excellent local guitarist Donny K.]


Bland Beer Music

OK, so I want to post stuff, but I have no good ideas other than pilfering posts I wrote years ago. So that's what I'm doing, right after these three opening points.

  1. If you're on Twitter, follow Zwolf. His tweets are genius and hilarious.
  2. Even if you don't watch/like/acknowledge the existence of Saturday Night Live, you MUST find and watch Zach Galifianakis's monologue from this past weekend's episode. I've been watching SNL for 30+ years, and it's the best monologue I've ever seen. Brilliant.
  3. There is power in a union.
  4. Fuck conservatism.
And now, an old post (written early April 2005).

On March 31, 2005, I went to see Vertical Horizon with opener Emerson Hart at Rick’s Cafe Americain in Starkville for the “national act” installment of the week-long 10th anniversary celebration of both Rick’s and WMSV, Mississippi State's once-awesome radio station. The show was free provided you had either won a ticket from WMSV or attended the previous night’s “local act” show, stuck around until midnight, and actually claimed a VH/EH ticket. Because I was one of Tuesday night’s local acts (with Igor to boot!) and so was at Rick’s until midnight, I got a ticket and went to see the national acts even though my opinion of said acts was extremely low. (In truth, I went because my friend DJ Flonase was counting on me to go and because I simply need to get out more.)

And, well, it sucked. The night itself didn’t suck – hanging out with DJ Flonase and with my brother-in-law Mr. Clean (who just happened to be in town) was a grand time all by itself in that we drank a lot and laughed until we snorted at all the peacock-y people in the club. The music is what sucked, but – and this is the point of my post – I don’t honestly know why.

Before last night, I knew and could recall exactly two songs apiece by Vertical Horizon and Emerson Hart, which were, respectively, “Everything You Want” and “You’re a God” along with “If You Could Only See” and “You Wanted More” (the latter two are songs by the band Tonic, of whom Hart is apparently the leader). And now, after last night, the number of songs apiece I know and can recall by each act is……two. The same two, in fact.

Given my tastes and musical snobbishness, it’s not surprising that I was not magically won over by the music of VH/EH. What is surprising is the magnitude of my not-being-won-over. I cannot recall ever hearing less distinctive, less memorable, less musical music in a live setting, especially from allegedly professional musicians. The best I can say about what I heard is that the sound was fantastic: Emerson Hart’s voice sounded clear and professional and not unattractive, and I believe I’d harm a family member if it meant I could get an acoustic guitar sound like his. From a technical standpoint, the night was golden.

But music? Ho bloody hum. We got there maybe halfway through Hart’s hour-long set, and absolutely nothing that emanated from him in our first 25 minutes there was worth listening for. He may as well have been tuning his guitar in some elaborate way or saying “check one” with unusual panache into the mic. Zero melodies that warmed or hung or turned corners, zero chord progressions that surged your heart forward, zero words that made your ears snatch one sound out of a thousand and go “Oh, cool.” And I tried, really and truly I did, to focus on the songs and find something salvageable. But there was nothing there. And when the inevitable happened – when Hart started playing Tonic’s big ol’ genuine hit, “If You Could Only See,” as the last song of his set, first as a teasing game by only playing parts of the verses, then as a release by hitting a chorus he knew (and clearly expected) lots of people would sing back to him (“If you could only see the way she loves me/Then maybe you would understand”) – I was relieved, because at last I was hearing sounds that had some potential raison d’etre, some glow or odor that let me sense how a songwriter could cobble together the melody in question and decide it was worth keeping. And, although I doubt many of the Rick’s crowd were thinking my same thoughts, they all agreed in some vague way, because the entire room changed when Hart played this song: more people moved toward the stage, the body movements of the folks already near the stage got more expressive, the folks around my crowded area of the bar (near the back) suddenly got more attentive (“WOOOOOOOOOOO!” went the cherry-cheeked boy next to me, whiskey cup thrust over his head), and every young mouth in sight began pantomiming Hart’s words. The groundswell was almost touching. Almost.

So, glitch-free and burnished though his noisemaking was, Emerson Hart failed to find a new fan in me. Ten minutes later, however, I nearly became an EH fan out of cheese-induced desperation. Once Vertical Horizon began their set, in fact, I found myself thinking of EH’s tepid, largely immelodic acoustic set as a kind of salad days of recently heard music. For if EH makes music that simply doesn’t connect with me at all, VH makes the kind of glossy, unchallenging music that literally sucks out all the life-force. You know how people will praise something – music, a film, a physical act, a new love, etc. – with the phrase “it makes me feel alive”? Well, VH’s brand of airwave disturbance makes me feel dead. I don’t require that all music must make me feel alive, but I’d rather it not kill me with sterility and flatness.

VH’s members came out on stage to the strains of a low, melodramatic rumble apparently meant to scare the audience into the rather obvious realization that the headliner was, in fact, coming out on stage. The scary-bald singer, it should go without saying, came out last, and he immediately assumed a Jesus Christ pose but had his arms a bit too low, crucifixionally speaking. Turns out this lowness made it easier for him to raise his arms slowly while doing that come-hither, fingertip-to-heel-of-hand wave as a way of cajoling the crowd into giving his band their duly voluminous rock-god greeting. (Pathetically, it took several of these flapping exhortations to get the volume just right.) Eventually, VH began making sounds with their instruments, and scary-bald singer began making soothing, midrangey sounds with his voice. I guess he was singing, technically.

Here’s where my point (I hope) sharpens a bit. It was during all this creamy blandness that I began to wonder why I didn’t like VH, why I found their music (along with the music of lots of other bands very much like them) so pointless and empty. Particularly problematic were certain traits in VH’s music that are usually attractive to me elsewhere, such as the guitars. I’ve long championed the notion that fat, distorted, hard-rock-sounding guitars can improve nearly anything, and I will here red-facedly admit that even obvious joke bands as bad as or worse than VH – Creed, the Ataris, Good fucking Charlotte – can grab me for a few seconds when those guitars get whipped up into a macho frenzy. So why didn’t I feel anything like this watching VH, who had big, macho guitar sound to burn? Why did I feel nothing? This is the biggest sin of all to me: listening to music and feeling nothing. I prefer to hear something and get angry at how stupid it is (boy bands, divas, certain rap) than listen to something so preposterously palatable it feels like lukewarm water running slowly over room-temperature skin. Every song VH played had this effect on me. The only difference between the spaces in between songs and the songs themselves was volume, as if the songs were just enhanced silence, louder pauses. I felt absolutely no different during a song than I did just before or after. And the style of song mattered none. Everyone-starts-at-once rocker? Ho hum. Jangly intro followed by a motile verse melody followed by an up-and-down, sing-songy chorus, repeat, wanky guitar solo, repeat, slow down, stop? Ho hum. Pause in between songs, possibly garnished by the introduction of a new song via scary-bald’s positively Buscaglian observation that “sometimes it’s better just to say goodbye”? Ho hum. Midtempo ballad, tearjerky and assembly-line manufactured to showcase VH’s “tender” side? Ho hum. Certified Big Hit™ (“You’re a God”) that perked the crowd up exactly like EH’s closing song had done earlier? Ho ho, hum hum.

Mr. Clean, who is actually a great person but who tends to spout all kinds of nonsense and start all kinds of arguments when drunk, knew I was not enjoying these national acts but apparently could not resist saying “This sounds great. I really like these guys” very pointedly about 5 times. I know him well enough to know he does this because he’s looking for validation, a service I’ve never been able to provide when it means lying to him and/or assenting to his drunken nonsense. So after 5 silences from me, he finally put the match to the vodka-soaked rag, as follows:

Mr. Clean: Come on, man. You’d play music like this, wouldn’t you?
Me: No.
Mr. Clean (grimaces, rolls eyes, makes that tongue-to-roof-of-mouth smacking sound signaling irritation): Yes, you would. Yes, you would.
Me (probably madder than I should be): If you knew the answer already, why’d you ask me the fucking question?
Mr. Clean (grins, drinks whiskey, looks at stage)

Elvis Costello once referred to a certain mainstream-radio brand of mid-to-late 80s music as “bland beer music” (he was, if memory serves, speaking specifically of Phil Collins, Steve Winwood, and Eric Clapton, all of whom sported Michelob endorsements at one time or another). I love that description, and now that I think of it, VH/EH fit rather nicely into this category. I didn’t lie to Mr. Clean, and I don’t think I was speaking rashly: I wouldn’t consciously play bland beer music, even if it meant I could do it for a living. (Mr. Clean and I have had versions of this conversation many times over the years, and I’m now certain he thinks me completely out of my mind for my stance on this issue.) But I’m guessing no one ever consciously plays bland beer music because no one truly thinks of his/her music in that way. So he did make me wonder: why wouldn’t I play that? What specifically do I find wrong with such music? What if I actually play that kind of music now in the opinions of some (or many) people but lack the breadth of spirit or cojones to judge my own work as harshly as I do that of others? Just what the hell IS wrong with Emerson Hart and Vertical Horizon? Shouldn’t I be able to listen them, drink Crown and Diet Cokes, and say – at least once – “Yeah, that was a nice tune”? Just what the hell is wrong with ME?

I don’t know, and neither did Mr. Clean or DJ Flonase, who are adept at tolerating my often pointless over-analyses. We left before VH finished and, presumably, before they played “Everything You Want,” which, I found out while doing some background work for this post, “was the most played song on Top 40 radio in the US for the year 2000” (quoted in the "History" section of http://www.verticalhorizon.com/v2/main.html). I went home and baked my wife’s birthday cake while listening exorcistically to Rage Against the Machine’s The Battle of Los Angeles.


Action Series Books: an incomplete bibliography, pt. 1

First up, help Japan if you can. Goddamn earthquakes, anyway.

Okay, this may bore all 5-6 of our loyal readers who don't care about this stuff, but I'm putting the work in for the rare passerby who might find such a list handy. Anyone who doesn't find this one entertaining is welcome to go read the my-girlfriend-is-a-wanted-felon/I-am-confused-and-eat-things-I-find-in-the-street jokes that fill my glorious-yet-unheralded Twitter page instead. But sometimes ya gotta do things just for the one or two who'll appreciate it, and I know in my own obsessive search for these kinds of things, such a bunch of lists would've been helpful. I did find much useful information on such blogs as Bullets and Broads (post more often, dude!), Johnny LaRue's Crane Shot, and Glorious Trash, and also BareBones and Sick Hipster's especially great post on The Sharpshooter.

Speaking of The Sharpshooter, you'll notice that he's not on this list, nor are some of the other heavy hitters in the genre like The Marksman, The Death Merchant, my man The Butcher, The Doomsday Warrior, Black Samurai, Ninja Master, or a whole lot of others. That's because I've only got so much energy for totin' books back and forth and typin', so consider this a work in progress. If I get really ambitious I'll even try to count up all the freakin' Nick Carter books someday.

I have most of the books listed here 'cuz I'm an obsessive, hoarding weirdo, but some of 'em remain elusive. I'll look around the 'net and fill holes in my collections, but some of these puppies are just price-prohibitive and I'm not payin' more than $4-5 bucks for any of these things, 'cuz they are pretty trashy, after all. And some of the asking prices for these things is crazy... try looking up used copies of Mutants Amok: Christmas Slaughter sometime! Not me, brotha... I'll take my chances on finding it in a Book Rack for a buck-fitty someday.

Anyway, hope this will help some other weirdo in his neo-pulp hunt. I've included a little description of what each series is about. Those are very scant and may get expanded later in revisions of this post. Like I said, work in progress. To my knowledge, these are all the complete lists of the series. Any corrections will be appreciated.

And thanks to Lee Goldberg (author of the .357 Vigilante series) for the helpful reminder (and generous offer) in the comments - much appreciated!


The Avenger - Chet Cunningham (Warner Books, 1987-1988) A DEA agent whose wife is murdered quits the force to become a vigilante and declares one-man war on the international drug trade. Kinda like if The Lone Wolf wasn't a lunatic.
1. The Avenger
2. Houston Hellground
3. Columbia Crackdown
4. Manhattan Massacre

The Black Berets
- Mike McCray (Dell, 1984-1987) A group of highly-trained soldiers form a mercenary team to fight evil all over the world.
1. Deadly Reunion
2. Cold Vengeance
3. Black Palm
4. Contract: White Lady
5. Louisiana Firestorm
6. The Death Machine Contract
7. The Red Man Contract
8. D. C. Death March
9. Night of the Jaguar
10. Contract: Terror Summit
11. The Samurai Contract
12. The Akbar Contract
13. Blue Water Contract

The Bounty Hunter
- Tiny Boyles and Hank Nuwer (Playboy, 1981-1982) The supposedly-based-on-real-life (but I doubt it considering the incredibly high body counts) adventures of a 380-pound redneck bounty hunter and his team.
1. The Deadliest Profession
2. A Killing Trade
3. The Wild Ride
4. Blood Mountain

Bronson: Street Vigilante - Philip Rawls (Manor Books, 1975) An especially depraved (and blatant) rip-off of the Death Wish films.
1. Blind Rage
2. Streets of Blood
3. Switchblade

Chopper Cop - Paul Ross (Popular Library, 1972-1975) A somewhat-hippieish cop with a motorcycle fights crime his own way.
1. Valley of Death
2. The Hitchhike Killer
3. Dynamite Monster Boogie Concert

Confirmed Kill - Mike Morris (Diamond, 1992-1993) A two-man sniper team using a high-tech sniper rifle takes out bad-guy targets.
1. Confirmed Kill
2. Sniper Shot
3. Direct Hit
4. Point Blank

Crockett - Brad Lang (Leisure Books, 1975-1976) An impressive but short-lived series of novels about a hip, long-haired young private detective who takes cases involving hippie-types.
Crockett On The Loose
The Perdition Express
Brand of Fear

Dirty Harry - Dane Harman (Warner Books, 1981-1983) A very good series chronicling the continuing, unfilmed cases of Clint Eastwood's movie cop.
1. Duel for Cannons
2. Death on the Docks
3. The Long Death
4. The Mexico Kill
5. Family Skeletons
6. City of Blood
7. Massacre at Russian River
8. Hatchet Men
9. The Killing Connection
10. The Blood of Strangers
11. Death in the Air
12. The Dealer of Death

Doctor Death - Herb Fisher (Berkley, 1988-1991) A Vietnam vet who's also Native American uses the skills he learned in war to fight bad guys back home.
1. Doctor Death
2. Retribution
3. Slaughter Island
4. Savage Streets

The Executioner - Don Pendleton (Pinnacle, ended 1980) The one-man-war-against-the-Mafia that spawned the whole pulp-revival-in-paperback thing, as well as Marvel's Punisher comics. This is one of the few series that continues to this very day under several titles (Executioner, Mack Bolan, Stony Man), which have reached numbers I'm not even gonna try to count. The ones listed here are the original war-against-the-Mafia run.
1. War Against the Mafia
2. Death Squad
3. Battle Mask
4. Miami Massacre
5. Continental Contract
6. Assault On Soho
7. Nightmare in New York
8. Chicago Wipeout
9. Vegas Vendetta
10. Caribbean Kill
11. California Hit
12. Boston Blitz
13. Washington I.O.U.
14. San Diego Siege
15. Panic in Philly
16. Sicilian Slaughter
17. Jersey Guns
18. Texas Storm
19. Detroit Deathwatch
20. New Orleans Knockout
21. Firebase Seattle
22. Hawaiian Hellground
23. St. Louis Showdown
24. Canadian Crisis
25. Colorado Kill-Zone
26. Acapulco Rampage
27. Dixie Convoy
28. Savage Fire
29. Command Strike
30. Cleveland Pipeline
31. Arizona Ambush
32. Tennessee Smash
33. Monday's Mob
34. Terrible Tuesday
35. Wednesday's Wrath
36. Thermal Thursday
37. Friday's Feast
38. Satan's Sabbath

Gannon - Dean Ballenger (Manor Books, 1973 - 1974) Uniquely-written, double-tough saga of a hardcase blue-collar guy who puts the slam on the abusive rich. A real oddity.
1. Blood For Breakfast
2. Blood Fix
3. Blood Beast

- William Sanders (Diamond) A special agent using his skills to fight evil.
1. Hardball
2. Aryan Legion
3. Skorpion

Hawker - Carl Ramm (Dell, ended 1987) A frustrated cop gets the backing of a rich guy and becomes a vigilante. Carl Ramm was now-popular author Randy Wayne White under a pseudonym, which is why this series tends to be a bit more expensive when you look for used copies online.
1. Florida Firefight
2. L. A. Wars
3. Chicago Assault
4. Deadly in New York
5. Houston Attack
6. Vegas Vengeance
7. Detroit Combat
8. Terror in D.C.
9. Atlanta Extreme
10. Denver Strike
11. Operation Norfolk

The Headhunters
- John Weisman and Brian Boyer (Pinnacle, 1974-1975) An Internal Affairs team takes on crooked cops.
1. Heroin Triple Cross
2. Starlight Motel Incident
3. Three Faces of Death
4. Quadraphonic Homicide

Hellrider - Dan Killerman (Pinnacle Crossfire, 1985) Unfortunately-short-lived series about a guy who declares war on motorcycle gangs after his family's murdered.
1. Hellrider
2. Blood Run
(a third, The Guns of Hell, was announced but never published to my knowledge)

Justin Perry: The Assassin - John D. Revere (Pinnacle, 1984-) The sex-heavy adventures of a professional assassin.
1. Justin Perry: The Assassin
2. Vatican Kill
3. Born To Kill
4. Death's Running Mate
5. Stud Service

The Last Ranger - Craig Sargent (Popular Library, 1986-1989) Post-apocalyptic adventures of a Kamandi-like guy who rides his motorcycle around the ruins of America with a pitbull at his side, trying to rescue his sister from depraved gangs of survivors. One of the few series that came to a definite ending.
1. The Last Ranger
2. The Savage Stronghold
3. The Madman's Mansion
4. The Rabid Brigadier
5. The War Weapons
6. The Warlord's Revenge
7. The Vile Village
8. The Cutthroat Cannibals
9. The Damned Disciples
10. Is This The End?

The Last Rangers
- Jake Davis (Berkley, 1992-1993) Trilogy about futuristic Texas Rangers trying to enforce the law after the apocalypse.
1. The Last Rangers
2. Crime Zone
3. Destination: Showdown

The Liquidator - R. L. Brent (Award/Charter, 1974-1978) Tough guy takes on organized crime all by his lonesome.
1. The Liquidator
2. Contract for a Killing
3. The Cocaine Connection
4. Invitation to a Strangling
5. The Exchange

Little Saigon - Nicholas Cain (Lynx Books, 1989) A former Vietnam MP uses the skills he learned overseas to police a violent Vietnamese section of the city.
1. Abel's War
2. Death For Sale
3. Street Tricks
4. Off Limits
(two more books, Rough Cut and White Death, were apparently written but never published)

The Lone Wolf - Mike Barry (Berkley, 1973-1975) One of the most bizarre action series ever, written by sci-fi writer Barry N. Malzberg, who apparently didn't like vigilante fiction and wanted to mock it. A narcotics agent becomes unhinged when his fiance OD's, becomes a vigilante, goes to war with the international drug trade, and eventually becomes a raving lunatic who guns down random citizens. Another series with a definite ending.
1. Night Raider
2. Bay Prowler
3. Boston Avenger
4. Desert Stalker
5. Havana Hit
6. Chicago Slaughter
7. Peruvian Nightmare
8. Los Angeles Holocaust
9. Miami Marauder
10. Harlem Showdown
11. Detroit Massacre
12. Phoenix Inferno
13. The Killing Run
14. Philadelphia Blowup

MacMorgan - Randy Striker (Signet, 1981-1982) Adventurer Dusky MacMorgan keeps finding trouble. This is another pseudonym of Randy Wayne White, so Doc Ford fans may want to check it out.
1. Key West Connection
2. The Deep Six
3. Cuban Death-Lift
4. The Deadlier Sex
5. Assassin's Shadow
6. Everglades Assault
7. Grand Cayman Slam

Mafia: Operation - Don Romano (Pyramid, 1974) Not sure this is really a "series" so much as separate sagas about the Mafia.
Mafia: Operation Hijack
Mafia: Operation Hit Man
Mafia: Operation Porno
Mafia: Operation Cocaine
Mafia: Operation Loan Shark

Mondo - Anthony DeStefano (Manor, 1975-1977) Ultra-hard-boiled, badass adventures of an alienated thief who's highly trained in the martial arts and doesn't particularly like anyone. Nihilism at its finest.
1. Mondo
2. Cocaine Kill
3. A Minute To Pray, A Second To Die

Mutants Amok - Mark Grant (Avon, 1991) Mutant animal-people created as super-soldiers decide they should be running the planet and go to war against humans.
1. Mutants Amok
2. Mutant Hell
3. Rebel Attack
4. Holocaust Horror
5. Christmas Slaughter

Narc - Robert Hawkes (Lancer/Signet, 1973-1975) Great series by Marc Olden (who wrote the Black Samurai series) about a narcotics agent trying to stop drug dealers.
1. Narc
2. Death of a Courier
3. The Death List
4. The Delgado Murders
5. Kill the Dragon
6. The Beauty Kill
7. Corsican Death
8. Death Song
9. Kill For It

Nazi Hunter - Mark Mandell (Pinnacle, 1981-1983) The son of a notorious Nazi war criminal tries to hunt down and kill his father, taking out as many neo-Nazis as he can along the way.
1. Nazi Hunter
2. Slaughter Summit
3. Killer Instinct
4. Butcher Block
5. Hell Nest

The Outrider - Richard Hardin (Pinnacle, 1984-1985) A rip-off of the Mad Max movie series.
1. The Outrider
2. Fire and Ice
3. Blood Highway
4. Bay City Burnout
5. Built To Kill
(a fifth, Black Death, was announced but never published)

Overload - Bob Ham (Bantam Falcon, ended 1991) A couple of war buddies go into the trucking business, using a weapon-equipped 18-wheeler and ATV's to spread justice. Yee-haw!
1. Personal War
2. The Wrath
3. Highway Warriors
4. Tennessee Terror
5. Atlanta Burn
6. Nebraska Nightmare
7. Rolling Vengeance
8. Ozark Payback
9. Huntsville Horror
10. Michigan Madness
11. Alabama Bloodbath
12. Vegas Gamble
(a 13th - Urban Justice - was announced but never published to my knowledge)

The Penetrator - Lionel Derrick (Pinnacle, ended 1984) One of the better series, dealing with a highly-trained warrior who uses his skills to fight all kinds of threats to civilization.
1. The Target is H
2.Blood on the Strip
3. Capitol Hell
4. Hijacking Manhattan
5. Mardi Gras Massacre
6. Tokyo Purple
7. Baja Bandidos
8. The Northwest Contact
9. Dodge City Bombers
10. The Hellbomb Flight
11. Terror in Taos
12. Bloody Boston
13. Dixie Death Squad
14. Mankill Sport
15. The Quebeck Connection
16. Deepsea Shootout
17. Demented Empire
18. Countdown To Terror
19. Panama Power Play
20. Radiation Hit
21. The Supergun Mission
22. High Disaster
23. Divine Death
24. Cryogenic Nightmare
25. Floating Death
26. Mexican Brown
27. The Animal Game
28. The Skyhigh Betrayers
29. Aryan Onslaught
30. Computer Kill
31. Oklahoma Firefight
32. Showbiz Wipeout
33. Satellite Slaughter
34. Death Ray Terror
35. Black Massacre
36. Deadly Science
37. Candidate's Blood
38. Hawaiian Trackdown
39. Cruise into Chaos
40. Assassination Factor
41. Hell's Hostages
42. Inca Gold Hijack
43. Rampage in Rio
44. Deep Cover Blast-Off
45. Quaking Terror
46. Terrorist Torment
47. Orphan Army
48. Jungle Blitz
49. Satan's Swarm
50. Neutron Nightmare
51. Plundered Paradise
52. Brotherhood in Blood
53. City of the Dead

Phoenix - David Alexander (Leisure, 1987-1988) Post-apocalyptic hero fights bad guys for the scraps of civilization. I'm not an e-book fan, but this whole series is available as a Kindle download on Amazon.
1. Dark Messiah
2. Ground Zero
3. Death Quest
4. Metalstorm
5. Whirlwind

Rat Bastards - John Mackie (Jove1983-1986) A Dirty Dozen style squad of misfits fight the Japanese in the Pacific during WWII. The series followed them through the whole course of the war. You can't tell one book from another, but they're all entertaining as hell.
1. Hit The Beach!
2. Death Squad
3. River of Blood
4. Meat Grinder Hill
5. Down and Dirty
6. Green Hell
7. Too Mean To Die
8. Hot Lead and Cold Steel
9. Do or Die
10. Kill Crazy
11. Nightmare Alley
12. Go For Broke
13. Tough Guys Die Hard
14. Suicide River
15. Satan's Cage
16. Go Down Fighting

The Revenger - Jon Messmann (Signet, 1973-1975) Another guy who's been done wrong by the Mafia declares one-man-war on 'em and "teaches them to sweat with fear."
1. The Revenger
2. Fire In The Streets
3. The Vendetta Contract
4. The Stiletto Signature
5. City For Sale
6. A Promise For Death

Roadblaster - Paul Hofrichter (Leisure, 1987-1988) Post-apocalyptic adventures of a guy trying to cross the devastated U.S. to find his family, using his mechanical skills.
1. Hell Ride
2. Death Ride
3. Blood Ride

Soldato - Al Conroy (Magnum/Lancer, 1972-1973) One of the Mafia's torpedoes gets fed up and quits, but the Mafia doesn't allow you to quit... so, he has to bring the whole thing down to find any peace.
1. Soldato!
2. Death Grip!
3. Strangle Hold!
4. Murder Mission!
5. Blood Run!

The Specialist - John Cutter (Signet, 1984-1985) A mercenary-type super-tough-guy's always gotta get revenge against somebody or other. Secretly written by horror novelist John Shirley.
1. A Talent for Revenge
2. Manhattan Revenge
3. Sullivan's Revenge
4. The Psycho Soldiers
5. The Maltese Vengeance
6. The Big One
7. The Vendetta
8. One-Man Army
9. Vengeance Mountain
10. Beirut Retaliation
11. American Vengeance

Stormrider - Robert Baron (Jove, 1992-1993) After the apocalypse, biker gangs band together to live free and fight off the oppressive ruins of the government.
1. Stormrider
2. River of Fire
3. Lord of the Plains

Stryker - William Crawford (Pinnacle, 1973-1975) A tough cop fights crime.
1. Styker
2. Cop-Kill
3. Drug Run
4. Deadly Alliance

The Terminator - John Quinn (Pinnacle, 1982-1984) An ex-CIA assassin does work for hire, or for revenge.
1. Mercenary Kill
2. Silicon Valley Slaughter
3. The Kill Squad
4. Crystal Kill
5. Chameleon Kill
(a sixth, The Checkmate Kill, was announced but never published to my knowledge)

.357 Vigilante - Ian Ludlow (Pinnacle Crossfire, 1985) A Death Wish style saga of a vigilante, written by more-well-known-now author Lee Goldberg when he was in college.
1. .357 Vigilante
2. Make Them Pay
3. White Wash
(Later published as an e-book, with the first three novels re-titled and a fourth added, under the titles Judgement, Adjourned, Payback, Guilty. I don't count e-books, but I include the info just in case. I don't blame authors for trying to make some extra cash off of out-of-print titles, but I consider e-books a plague on the reading public. Your mileage may vary, though, so if you've got one of those Kindle devices and can't be talked into smashing and burning it, go download these - they're good.)

Traveler - D. B. Drumm (Dell, ended 1987) Another Mad Max rip-off that gets a little wacky as people show up riding giant mutant housecats and such. The weird end to the series is pretty unique.
1. First, You Fight
2. Kingdom Come
3. The Stalkers
4. To Kill A Shadow
5. Road War
6. Border War
7. The Road Ghost
8. Terminal Road
9. The Stalking Time
10. Hell on Earth
11. The Children's Crusade
12. The Prey
13. Ghost Dancers

Tunnel Rats - Cliff Banks (Popular Library, 1989-1990) Tough short fellas fight the Vietnam war underground by invading VC tunnels.
1. Tunnel Rats
2. Mud and Blood

The Vigilante - V. J. Santiago (Pinnacle, 1975-1978) Another Death Wish inspired series.
1. An Eye For An Eye
2. Detour to a Funeral
3. Kill Or Be Killed
4. Knock, Knock, You're Dead
5. Dead End Delivery
6. This Gun For Justice

...more to come one of these days...


Of rock, roll, and such

Yes, more movie reviews (I'll do something more inspired one of these days, but for now I'm too lazy to get more funny book covers or somethin' together). Three of 'em are documentaries on bands, thus the tres' clever title.

Okay, so it's not clever. For clever you gotta go to my Twitter account... and then discount around 65% of what I post there, which is, frankly, a bit stupid. Then there's the 15% or so that's just tiresome and vulgar. But the rest, really, sheer gigglepants gold, swear to god, you'll be telling your grandchildren those jokes. And they'll be using that as proof of your senility when they have you sent to a home, where you'll die sad, alone, and exploited, and it'll be my fault.

But, totally worth it, 'cuz some of the jokes are about farts!

Anyway, onward, inward, and upward, with some side-to-side hip action...


Big Fan (C, 2010) Character study of a pathetic sports fan, “Paul from Staten Island” (Patton Oswalt in an incredible performance), whose entire life centers around the New York Giants, or, more specifically, on being a fan of the Giants. He isn’t interested in anything else -- he works in a parking garage booth and turns down better jobs, probably because having to show up for a day job would interfere making his late-night calls to sportstalk shows on the radio. He lives with his mother and bears her humiliating scorn (which is simultaneously painful to watch and the most hilarious thing I‘ve seen in months), and has only one friend, who’s as pitiful as he is. Paul gets his entire self-worth from calling in to the radio show, and spends his whole day on composing his mundane, unclever rants, mostly because they impress his friend (who’s dumber than him) and because he feels “known” on the radio more than he does in real life. His calls are his identity and the source of the only rivalry he has any chance of winning, a vendetta with an enemy caller, “Philadelphia Phil” (Michael Rapaport). One night he tries to meet the Giants’ quarterback and gets beaten half to death for his trouble, but he refuses to press charges because it’ll hurt the Giants. He’s conflicted about letting the guy get away with beating him up, but he’s pathologically married to his fandom. It’s kind of like an episode of Hoarders -- funny yet disturbing, as only true obsession can be. Patton, who by nature is one of the funniest humans on the planet, manages to keep a lid on it and creates a portrait of a believable weirdo; he’s playing a guy you’ll recognize as someone you’ve met, or maybe even are (although hopefully not to this degree). From Robert D. Siegel, the writer of The Wrestler, to which this bears some similarities.

Color Me Blood Red (C, 1965) aka Model Massacre. Mildest of Hershel Gordon Lewis’s infamous gore trilogy nonetheless had the goriest VHS box, one of those oversized jobs you only seemed to find at mom-and-pop outlets, featuring a shot of a girl with her guts hanging out. A jerk artist of limited skill can’t get respect for his cartoonish monster paintings because he’s not very good with color. When one of his models accidentally cuts her finger, he discovers that blood is just the shade of red he’s been looking for. He tries using his own but gets too faint to paint, so he starts murdering people to use their blood. When those paintings get critical respect he needs to make more and more of them. There’s a lot of blood but the gore is limited to a rather weak disembowelment and a wormy corpse that gets dug up, plus a gunshot to the head. It’s mild compared to the others in the trilogy but the quality of the filmmaking is an improvement over Blood Feast, with passable acting.

Slasher Index has a pic of the infamous box art that freaked me out when I saw it at a local rental place back in high school...

Trailer here.

Somebody put the whole movie up... as usual, dunno how that's legal, but there 'tiz:

Deer Hunter, The (C, 1978) I’ve seen this three-hour epic maybe a dozen times and I’m starting to wonder if it should really be considered a good, much less great movie. There’s wonderful cinematography (from Vilmos Zsigmond what other kind do you get?) but there’s really no story and the directorial style doesn’t really work. Cimino apparently wanted to take on an “immersion approach” to characterization and have us learn about the protagonists by watching them, and that’d be fine if they were doing anything substantive... but they don’t, because most of the time’s spent watching a wedding (probably because the church made for pretty film). All we really learn about these guys prior to Vietnam is that they like joking and giving each other a hard time, and that Robert DeNiro is fed up with John Cazale for always forgetting his gear. Then, off to Vietnam for an intense (but also intensely misrepresentative) scene where DeNiro, Christopher Walken, and John Savage (all still together, which is damn unlikely) are captured and forced to play Russian Roulette by the Cong. I get that it’s a metaphor for war, but why have the whole Vietnam war be represented by something that wasn’t even happening? It doesn’t ring true. After they escape, Walken -- for very unclear reasons -- goes nuts and has a long career in underground Russian Roulette gambling (again, did such a gambling scene even exist? Seems like there’d be too many complications). Savage comes home without his legs, and DeNiro comes back as pretty much the same take-care-of-business leader type, but a bit bothered by what he went through. There’s no fundamental change, because DeNiro readjusts (albeit awkwardly) and Walken and Savage withdraw and avoid it all. When you add in some heavy implausibilities (DeNiro going back to Saigon and finding Walken, who’s become a zombie-figure) you end up with too much suspension of disbelief for no reason. A lot of what Cimino was condemned for when he made Heaven’s Gate is actually on display here, too, but people were too awed trying to figure out what he was doing to call him on it, so this won best picture. Call this an empty chamber that went by before the pin hit the shell on Heaven’s Gate. The picture is too reliant on the audience imposing meaning upon it, because it actually says very little on its own. But, it does have a great cast and a nice look, though, and it’s definitely a film you should see and evaluate for yourself.

Lemmy: 49% Motherfucker, 51% Son-Of-A-Bitch (C, 2010) Documentary on an unlikely national treasure, Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead. Cameras follow the rock'n'roll icon through his apartment (he's a hoarder but a fairly neat one by my standards), his favorite haunts (such as the Rainbow Bar, where he frequently plays a trivia machine), and on the road. Despite the title, Lemmy comes across as a pretty nice guy, rather quiet and self-effacing and quick with a kind word. He does have an enormous collection of Nazi memorabilia which reflects a historical interest rather than a political bent, although it’s still a bit troubling when he shows up in a uniform to look at a tank. He’s no Nazi, though, as he seems to have no racism (the love of his life - who died from a heroin overdose - was black; although she’s barely addressed in the film, her death had a deep effect on Lemmy and his subsequent relationships). Lots of other musicians (too many to list, but including Dave Grohl, everyone in Metallica, Joan Jett, Ice T, Henry Rollins, Scott Ian, Ozzy, Slash, etc.), former members of Motorhead (Fast Eddie, anyway -- Phil Taylor must’ve been busy), and other famous folk (such as wrestler Triple H and Billy Bob Thornton) tell Lemmy stories (often about how it’s a big mistake to try to keep up with his drinking), and Hawkwind show up, mostly to talk about drug use. It’s amazing that Lemmy’s alive and coherent, given all the drugs he’s done and the oceans of alcohol he still swims in on a daily basis. Of course it helps if you’re a Motorhead fan, but since Lemmy has literally been around since the dawn of rock and roll and has participated in most of it (he even used to roadie for Jimi Hendrix), this is a good historical document and I’m glad someone made it. The DVD has hours of extras that are almost as good as the film.

Stay tuned for the end and Lemmy'll tell you a joke!

1931: Once Upon A Time In New York (C, 1974) aka Piazza Pulita, Pete, Pearl, and the Pole. Spaghetti-western minor-leaguer Tony Anthony pulls a Leone ten years before Leone did and makes a spaghetti-gangster flick. Anthony is a small-time hood with a gramophone in his car. The mob hires him to deliver a body back to Sicily, but he figures out the corpse is stuffed with money they’re trying to smuggle out of the country and offers a rival mob half if they’ll help him hold up the funeral. They do, but then they stuff him when he wants his cut, and he doesn’t appreciate that all. Determined to get his revenge on the betrayers he works out a plan, luring his enemies with topless photos of their leader’s kidnapped girlfriend. That doesn’t work out too well and Tony ends up getting a foot sliced up with a razor and gets a ride through a coal processing plant. He’s left for dead, but comes back for revenge with one of those magic movie shotguns that never need reloading. At times this movie acts like it wants to be a goofy parody, only to turn around and get bloody, violent, and grim, and the direction is artless (and hurt by the DVD’s full-framing and rough quality) but somehow manages to have some style despite itself. Odd and worth a look.

Pyx, The (C, 1973) aka The Hooker Cult Murders. Karen Black is a junkie prostitute who falls to her death from a Montreal skyscraper while wearing an inverted cross and clutching a pyx (a carrying case for the Catholic host). A couple of detectives try to track down what led to her death, while flashbacks to her life make that a lot easier on us. More bodies of people connected with the case pile up, while flashbacks show us that Karen’s madam/drug supplier had hooked her up with some wealthy and powerful clients who were interested in conducting a Black Mass. Stylish and atmospheric (some creepily beautiful songs by Karen add to that) but slow-paced. DVD prints are all pretty dark and rough. The choppy narrative style can lose you pretty easily if you don’t concentrate, but it’s worth the effort, and gets eerier as it goes.

Clip here.

Rolling Thunder (C, 1977) One of the all-time classic revenge pictures is about as straightforward as such stories get. William Devane comes home from Vietnam after being a P.O.W. for seven years. The torture he endured in the camp left him emtionally deadened and nearly impervious to pain, and his marriage didn’t survive, but he has a son that he’s eager to get to know. But a group of evil thugs show up, wanting a box of silver dollars (around $2,500 worth, one for each day he was in captivity), and they try to torture it out of him by shoving his hand in a garbage disposal. That doesn’t work so they murder his wife and son. When he gets out of the hospital with a metal hook hand, all he has left is a desire for revenge, and he gets right to work on it, cutting down a shotgun and hitting the road with a P.O.W. groupie to track down the bastards. When he finds them he looks up his war buddy (Tommy Lee Jones) and they load up and roll in smoking. Paul Schrader wrote it and the violence bears some resemblance to scenes from Taxi Driver (Schrader has a thing for hand-injury -- it shows up again and again). It’s very basic but well-told and is such a grindhouse classic that Quentin Tarrantino named his distribution company after it. It’s been ghetto-ized on DVD, not released for years while fans clamored for it and then finally put out as an overpriced, inferior-grade DVD-R. But, it’s good to have it available in any form.

Spoiler, but it's badass ("I'm gonna kill a buncha people."):

Secret To A Happy Ending, The (C, 2009) Documentary on the Drive-By Truckers is a great treasure for fans (and, from what I've seen, can also interest people who know nothing about the band, as well). The band members (including Jason Isbell, sadly no longer with the group) explain their backgrounds, history, and relationship, as well as the Muscle Shoals environment that spawned the band. Patterson Hood came into the business honestly, since his dad was a session bassist who worked with a lot of the greats. You also get some backstory behind a lot of their songs and meet people who were the subject for some of them; Mike Cooley even drives you past some areas from "Zip City." There are a lot of testimonies from fans (including professors), and a bit on the artist who does their distinctive album art. And along the way you might pick up some insight into the South, too. Overall, a high-quality report on a top-notch band.

You Weren't There: A History of Chicago Punk 1977-1984
(C, 2010) This well-done, highly informative documentary plays like a more-regionally-specific version of American Hardcore and is a must-see for punks. All the area bands (such as Articles of Faith, The Effigies, Naked Raygun, Strike Under, Big Black, etc.) are discussed, as well as the local venues where they played. Most of the old punks have held up well (and so have a few of their grudges, like a feud between Vic Bondi from Articles of Faith and Steve Albini, but there is something about Albini that inspires ire), and the history is well-put-together and supported by some great vintage footage of bands, many of whom are forgotten and hard to find records by anymore. An entertaining and valuable document. If you want more (and you will), there's also a documentary specifically about Naked Raygun, What Poor Gods We Do Make, which is also recommended.