Wicked Stories Of Shuddering Horror!

Some brand-new pulp horror fiction, and some older stuff for those who like to haunt used bookstores (i.e. pretty much anybody who'd be reading this-here blog). Enjoy!

The Dead Woman: The Dead Man #4 - David McAfee (Adventures in Television, 2011)
The supernatural action continues in this fourth installment as axe-wielding hero Matt Cahill continues his quest to stop the demonic Mr. Dark. This time he drifts into the small town of Crawford, Tennessee, where he meets a woman who's also died and returned to life with the same evil-spotting powers Matt has. And those powers will come in handy in the Crawford area, because a serial murderer called The Blake County Killer has been in operation there for years, and is about to get busy again. Unfortunately you'll probably guess who the killer is pretty early, and since this entry's more focused on mystery than action, that compromises things a bit. Other than a scene were Matt gets the snot kicked out of him, the book's almost three quarters done before the real fighting starts. McAfee's writing style is good, though, and keeps the novella interesting even when not a whole lot is happening, and the predictability isn't really his fault -- the series has gotten a little too comfortable with the formula and there's a rut starting. Matt sees zombie folks, Mr. Dark shows up to taunt him, Matt thwarts him, then moves on so it can happen again somewhere else. Hopefully subsequent books in the series will shake things up a bit and break the familiarity, and McAfee's writing is good enough that he deserves a chance to be one of the ones who'll do that. These books are coming out so rapidly it probably wouldn't hurt things if they slowed the production schedule a bit and fought off the formula a bit. But even though this entry had a more mundane storyline than usual, it's still well worth picking up, and it ends on a note that promises more trouble for Matt in #5, Blood Mesa. I haven't picked that one up yet, but now that it's available in paper, I'm gonna.

Afraid - Jack Killborn (Grand Central Publishing, 2009)
Breakneck pacing is maintained throughout this scary-ass, no-holds-barred horror novel; I don't know how Kilborn manages to keep the intensity so high without numbing the reader to it, but he pulled it off. Quite a feat. A secret government helicopter crashes in an isolated rural community in Wisconsin, unleashing five experimental "red-ops" soldiers. Formerly serial killers, they've been genetically enhanced to be stronger and have hightened senses, and were given extensive training in the killing arts via microchips planted in their heads. The purpose of these super-soldiers is to demoralize and terrify the enemy through horrific terrorist actions, and they don't really mind that they're not on enemy soil; they proceed to murder every man, woman, and child they can find, often bringing slow death through extreme torture. A few survivors of their predations - including a sheriff, a firefighter, and a single mother and her son -- try to escape the hunting predators as they stalk the town, which has had all electricity and communications cut off. Kilborn isn't afraid to kill off major characters so you don't know who's going to survive, or what shape they'll be in (almost everyone is in need of medical attention), nor does he balk at gore or depravity; his killers are some sick, ruthless sonsabitches who know no limits. Our heroes are constantly in danger, with tense situations coming one after another, but it never wears you out or gets boring. The only drawback is the way people pass up opportunities to kill the psychos. Several times they manage to knock the killers out and then just tie them up instead of cutting their throats; I know that keeps the story going but it does make you want to yell at the protagonists a bit. That aside, this is a definite page-turner and won't let down any reader who can handle this level of violence. Recommended.

The Exorcism of Angela Gray - Norman Thaddeus Vane (Belmont Tower, 1974)
Freaky little horror novel about a coven of devil worshipers who sacrifice girls to a ram, who usually ends up raping them to death. One strange girl -- the Angela Gray of the title -- manages to survive the ritual and ends up impregnated by the ram and is just a wee bit unhinged by the process. An amateur reporter notices her selling her paintings of evil rams and takes the odd little hippie home and has sex with her. Eventually Angela dies, but since he's still seeing her around town, the reporter tracks down the coven to try to figure out what's going on. And that's not necessarily a good idea. Very trashy and strangely written; the author seems to be preoccupied with clumsily inserting "clever lines" (most of which sound like he read them on bumper stickers or tee shirts) into the dialogue, so things sometimes come across as a vaudeville skit. Other times the prose is so deep purple that I expected the book to start playing "Smoke on the Water." Great cover, though, and if you pick this book up, trashy was probably what you were looking for. And at 166 pages of fairly large print (and many of 'em black at the end of short chapters) it won't take much of your time so we can't be too harsh with it.

Hat tip to The Groovy Age of Horror for tipping me to the existence of this book!

Rest In Agony - Ivar Jorgensen (Monarch Books, 1963)
Blah pulp horror in which a kindly uncle dies in great pain and leaves behind an obscene book which is sought by a cult of devil worshipers. The narrator and his sister (who are overjoyed to find out she's adopted because she and her brother have always been borderline incestuous) try to unravel their uncle's secret life and stop the cult. The author's a pen name shared by two sci-fi authros, one of them Harlan Ellison. This isn't him, but it's definitely a sci-fi author because no one else would have come up with the tiresome, overblown pageant of horseshit that ends this warped little mess. The Satanic rite stuff is so breathlessly fanciful that it's damn near unreadable, and it makes this short (125 page) pulp novel seem a lot longer than it is. A dud.

Deeper - James A. Moore (Berkley, 2009)
Unworthy follow-up to one of H. P. Lovecraft's best stories, "The Shadow Over Innsmouth," this has our narrator, a boat captain, taking a college professor's expedition out to dive on a reef near the town that used to be Innsmouth. They're studying the "deep ones," the Dagon-spawn fishmen who've tainted the bloodlines of Innsmouth citizens. The writing's not bad (the narrator comes across as pretty much of an asshole who doesn't know he is one; either that's skillful writing or Moore doesn't know how this guy's going to be perceived, but either way it's effective) but Moore doesn't display any understanding of what made Lovecraft's story work at all; there's no creepiness or terror here, and it plays out more like an action novel, with a two-fisted hero fighting monsters. Some of the narrative gets annoying (it's overly conversational, with the narrator asking questions on your behalf and then answering them, way too often) and the monsters become familiar, just an enemy to fight. There are also ghosts and ghost ships thrown in, which gets silly. Not really a horror novel despite the monsters, but not really boring, either.

The Cement Garden- Ian McEwan (Berkley, 1978)
Reminiscent of Julian Gloag's Our Mother's House, and themed similarly to Lord of the Flies, this is a weird novel of a family of children who decide that the best way to stay together after their mother dies is to put her corpse in the basement in a trunk full of concrete, then carry on without her. Soon the house is filthy, the kitchen's full of rotting food, the youngest brother is cross-dressing and then reverting to infanthood, and the eldest sister and brother are carrying on an incestuous relationship. Short, well-written, and odd.

To Walk The Night - William Sloane (Dell, 1937)
Genre-bending novel that is simultaneously a crime/noir novel, sci-fi, and horror. In the form of a narrative of a man telling his best friend's father how his son committed suicide, this novel deals with a mysterious woman who may or may not be human. When the friends find an old college professor of theirs burning to death in an observatory, they're surprised to learn that he was married. His wife, named Selena, is very beautiful, very intelligent, apparently psychic, and emotionally dead. She seems to find the ways of humans rather alien, and no one is sure where she came from. She bears a resemblance to a missing retarded girl, but it seems impossible that there could be any connection. The son falls in love with her and marries her, but eventually starts to discover some very strange secrets about her, and why she has no past. Very intelligent and well-written, high-concept novel that mixes different genres brilliantly and keeps the reader guessing all the way. Worth of rediscovery.

Comes the Blind Fury - John Saul (Dell, 1980)
Another in Saul's long line of scary children horror novels, this one deals with the spirit of a blind girl who was teased until she fell off of a cliff, only to come back about a century later to get revenge on a new batch of mean kids. When a new family moves into the blind girl's old house, she possesses the family's daughter and makes her believe that the ghost is her only friend and then, using the live girl (who's also teased, because she has a limp), the ghost causes accidents that kill any mean children. She also wants to kill the girl's new baby sister. Saul's prose is so simplistic that his work often reads like a young adult novel, and the story's pretty predictable, but some creepiness does come through in spots, and he's not afraid to write a downer. No masterpiece, but not a bore, either.

The Landlady - Constance Rauch (Popular Library, 1975)
A young couple and their toddler daughter rent out the lower floor of an old house and soon find out that their landlady is a creepy old nasty-tempered bitch who's completely mad and has meddled in and ruined the lives of all her previous tenants. Weird things happen, such as a grotesque old pornographic doll showing up in their daughter's crib, and someone sneaking around the house at night, scaring their daughter with perverse acts. Also, an old lady in the village is found knifed to death, which may have something to do with the landlady. Essentially, they're in one of those nightmarish situations that Bentley Little sometimes writes about. The book's a little hard to get into, because even though the prose is intelligent, it has some stilted quaintness to it that sometimes made me wince. I'm glad I stuck with it, though, because after about 50 pages the creepiness starts kicking in and it gets good. The solution is twisted and the influence upon it is pretty obvious, but it works well enough. Seek this one out.

The Grave-Maker's House
- Rubin Weber (Avon, 1964)
A violent graveyard caretaker murders an old man and nobody in town will do anything about it because he may turn on them next. A schoolteacher's conscience gets the better of him and he decides to fix the injustice, which may get him and his family killed. Nothing at all special (other than the title and the lurid hand-sticking-out-of-the-dirt cover art) but it's a quick read. The main reason you might want it is the cover and since I've scanned that for ya, quest over.

Twitter! Where I speak the unspeakable and you hopefully laugh at the unlaughable-at!


What Got Heard: White Hills, John Coltrane, Ghost + more...

As usual, I've been checking out some music recommended to me by friends, enemies, strangers on blogs... +, as usual, there's some good stuff out there, along with some that ain't really all that... Here's a rundown of what I heard this week (* ratings are out of a possible 5, btw):

Administration Shock Him - 39:03 (2011)    *****
Post-rock the right way: instrumental + great for roadtrippin'. I hadn't heard of this band before they showd up on a couple of blogs I follow, but I will be keeping them on my radar from now on. The production is nice, giving this a polish similar to God Is an Astronaut. Music's in that same vein, too, with the big epic swells + tender little passages that keep it interesting + a nod of the head to post-metal's huge walls of guitars alongside some drum programming that tips its own hat ever-so-politely to modern glitch'tronica. The third track ('III' - yeah, it also has the typical post-rock pretentious-ass songtitles...) features a long audio excerpt from the Apollo 11 mission broadcast that adds so very well to some already-beautiful music. Big high-quality sound, solid dynamics... HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION!!

Dias de Septiembre - s/t (2011)    ****
Firmly entrencht in the post-rock / post-metal styles, with lots of trilled single-note guitar lines, atmosphere to spare, bass parts that bounce from almost-static foundations to lovely + melodic lines + back, a wide dynamic range dominated in the huge-sounding sections by big guitars, tasty drumming (which synaethesia my wife really dislikes: "Drums are NOT tasty! And they're usually verrrrrry dirty!"). There are some vocals, but they're few + far-between + nicely coucht in the mix (mostly long, held notes with some harmonies, used almost like a synthpart for chordij behind the main musical parts). This band has an excellent capacity for smallifying itself during the more subtle + quiet moments in the music, + also builds back into the epic parts quite well. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Eternal Tapestry - Palace of the Night Skies (2009)    ***1/2
There's a certain something lacking in the production here, like it's a live-offa-one-mic recording, but the music is just so damn'd hypnotic + trippy that I can get past it. There's a callback to classic raga-rock here, with a cyclic building on the basic riff of each song that's allowed by the songlengths (2 outta 3 are around 17 minits) to develop from something sorta simple, or at least unadorned, into something more grandiose + embellisht-upon, before winding back down. I've heard 3 different rekkids from this band + have liked every one of 'em. RECOMMENDED!

Ghost - Opus Eponymous (2010)    **
Extremely-overhypt Eurometal... The whole thing has excellent production, but it otherwise sounds like a lost metal record (maybe Cirith Ungol with a different + somehow worse singr + a Keith Emerson or Rick Wakeman wannabe on keyboards...) from 1985. The guitars + bass sound great, but waaaay dated. The drums are really solid, + they're comfortably coucht in the metal playbook, as are the lyrics. But the singr (+ vocal harmonies) + the keyboards are anomalies to the music, sounding way too much like they came from some 1970s prog-rock sessions or an album by Europe ("It's the fiiiiinal countdown!" 'toot-too-toot-toot toot-toot-toot-too-toot)... When I first heard about these guys, vocal comparisons were made to King Diamond; thankfully, that wasn't quite the case, except that, just like with Mercyful Fate, the vocals totally ruint this band for me. I'd love a copy without any singing or keyboards, cuz the rest of the music is straight out of my high-school metal memories. But this is being hypt as some ground-breaking shit, + the only way I see this breaking ground is in a graveyard with a shovel, digging up + defiling some classic metal corpses + putting 'em on an album. Sorry, but just... no. (The album cover's good, though.)

Gnod - Ingnodwetrust (2011)    ***
Oh, good googly-moogly, just look at that fucking beautiful cover... Psychedelic-as-fuck, this two-track 30+minit rekkid has dangerously-throbbing bass + a hypnotic drone-thing going on that sucks you right in. First time that I heard these guys a while back, Gnod + I didn't mesh well. Then I checkt out the Gnod Drop Out with White Hills stuff + decided I should give em another shot (cuz if White Hills likes em, maybe there's something there). I'm glad I did, but I'd only recommend it to my weirdest music-friends (or is that weirdest-music friends?)... Over the throbby, repeated bass-figures surf a range of crazysounds: delay effects on guitars + synths + samples. a knob-twiddling heaven. Raga-licious stuff. If you dig White Hills (see a trend here...?), this one is much stranger, but might also tickle yer pickle.

Henryspenncer - To the Timeless Valley (2010)    ***
This is a strange one, with elements of Krautrock, Ennio Morricone's spaghetti western scores, prog rock + Bruce Licher's post-Savage Republic desert-instrumental band, Scenic, all bubbling to the top at times. It most sounds like the soundtrack to some non-existent obscuro-cinema-europa film, composed by somebody kickt out of, I dunno, Goblin, maybe? It's good, but it doesn't really grab me like it needs to (especially considering how little space remains here for more music now). Not memorable enough to really recommend, but I definitely suggest checking it out to any fellow deep-catalogue-delvers...

John Coltrane - Cosmic Music (1966)    ****
Some far-reaching + inspired free jazz from a true jazz pioneer here, but not for the faint-of-heart... Alice Coltrane + Pharoah Sanders are also featured players on this one, which will definitely help the already-familiar decide if it's at all up their alley. Trane + Pharoah are really flying free here, building huge walls of sax + then tearing 'em down, though there are some tender + more melodic moments that surface unexpectedly at times, + Alice's trademark modal piano style is on full display. There's even some vocals, an invocation reminiscent of the one that introduces 'Om' shows up on 'The Sun,' which closes the album on a nice piano riff of Alice's that fans of her Journey in Satchinanda album will dig. Recommended ONLY for fans of Trane's free jazz excursions + fans of Pharoah Sanders' + Alice Coltrane's rekkids as bandleaders. (Others will likely think it sounds like a gaggle of geese flying headlong into a woodchipper made of drums + pianos.) HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! (but ya gotta read the stipulation above...)

Pyrior - Oceanus Procellarum (2010)    ***
This shit rocks! It's a nice representation of what the young people call stoner-metal nowadays, with some of the quieter moments sounding a bit more post-metal... instrumental + grooving, heavy-as-hell, with chugging basslines + monster drumming + big wah-driven guitars + an obvious love of Black Sabbath. Definitely something I'd recommend for fans of stoner-metal stuff like Karma to Burn, but after a bit, it loses my attention, sitting on some riffs a bit longer than I'd like.

Sigmoid Argonaut - s/t EP (2009)    ****
A very math-rock EP (under 25 minits), with the requisite excellent musicianship, + a particularly notable rhythm section - the drummr + bassist are tight + funky + in total control of dynamics. Guitars are tasty + prominent, along with some very prog-flavored synth parts. And the music is badass; points of reference for me include Blind Idiot God, Maps + Atlases, early Trans Am, + even some old Yes or ELP (cuz that synth is soooo damn'd retro sometimes!) + old krautrock... if any combination of those makes yer liver quiver, go hunt this down! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Voice of the Seven Thunders - s/t (2010)    ***1/2
This sounds like some late 1960s heavy psychedelia, with that characteristic-of-the-time fuzztone all over the guitar sound. Not that that's a bad thing... There's an acoustic folk-chedelia vibe here that screams 'Sandy Bull!' at times, along with a lot of sorta-meandering Bevis Frond-y jams with tons of guitarij. I'd think that the folks at the Ptolemaic Terrascope really dig this. RECOMMENDED!

White Hills - H-p1 (2011)    *****
I love this band! This is their newest (double) album, + it's a huge slab of blisst-out psych-rock with their typically-heavy spin + a raga-stylee patience-in-development that lets songs build + fall (over a decent span of time, a few of the tracks are 10+ minits), grow + diminish - all while still recalling or echoing the central riffs. Huge distorted guitars + trippy synth bits + kooky effects-noises ride upon a monster tide of big rock drums + fuzzy bass. The vocals also work well - not a lot of vocals, really... usually some harmonized he + she vox that're not too loud, not buried... just kinda floating inside the mix, intertwined. And don't get the wrong idea; the album is plenty dynamic, with some softer, introspective moments intersperst throughout, drafting a well-crafted ebb + flow to the music. If you like the recent (more Hawkwind-flavored) Mudhoney albums, this is right up yer alley! HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION!!!

And that, aside from two sucky recent EPs + an older ambient rekkid that blew chunks, all from artists who shall remain unnamed here, is what got heard here this weekend!


The Richter Scale determines if our instruments are in tune...

If you follow this blog at all, you've probably noticed that I'm just a wee bit unhinged on the topic of e-books. Yeah, that again. It's pretty safe to brand me a Luddite, but I think e-books are going to seriously harm the literary world. I would be happy to be wrong about this, but... I'm not. And since I am at fucking WAR with your goddamned Kindle (or your Nook, or whatever-the-hell -- I just don't want to be accused of "picking on the little guy) I'm going to take some time to explain my case against this infernal "literary" movement again, since a news article vindicating some of what I've been saying just came out.

Here it is:


Read the whole thing, but here are some pertinent bits, boldfacing mine:

"This is a staggering increase. It's mind-boggling," Greco said. "On the positive side, this is helping an awful lot of people who wrote books and could not get them published in the traditional way through agents."

But Greco listed downsides. One problem is that authors must compete for readers with a lot more books — many of which "probably never should have seen the light of day," he said.

Y'know what? FUCK "helping authors" in this way. Poisoning the pond is not "help" in the long run. I've written several novels, and haven't made any serious attempts at getting them published, but if I do, I want them to go through traditional publishing channels. That means an editor who can reject them if they're not good enough for the public, and an agent who can decide if it's worth shopping around, and a publisher who'll have to put some money behind it and therefore work with me to make it the best it can be. That'll spare me embarrassing myself and will leave me proud that the customer is getting something that's worth their money. Yeah, I love my stories... everybody thinks their babies are beautiful. But that's why we're lousy judges of our own work. I'm an aspiring author, yeah, but I don't want the kind of "help" that degrades the market I'm trying to get into. If my work isn't good enough, I should have it bounce back at me so I'll work harder at my craft until it is good enough.

It shouldn't be easy. Right now you have people who are changing character names in some old Xena: Warrior Princess or Babylon 5 fanfic shit they wrote back in the 90's and dumping it on Kindle as a "book," because Kindle makes it so simple and since nothing is at risk, they have no reason not to throw any-and-everything out there. Hell, you don't even have to write anything to get a book on Kindle now, because the standards are so low. Check this out:

Thousands of digital books, called e-books, are being published through Amazon's self-publishing system each month. Many are not written in the traditional sense.

Instead, they are built using something known as Private Label Rights, or PLR content, which is information that can be bought very cheaply online then reformatted into a digital book.

These e-books are listed for sale — often at 99 cents — alongside more traditional books on Amazon's website, forcing readers to plow through many more titles to find what they want. Aspiring spammers can even buy a DVD box set called Autopilot Kindle Cash that claims to teach people how to publish 10 to 20 new Kindle books a day without writing a word.

This new phenomenon represents the dark side of an online revolution that's turning the traditional publishing industry on its head by giving authors new ways to access readers directly.

That's what you're being asked to buy as a reader, and what you're expected to compete with as a writer. Opportunistic fucks who couldn't give a shit less about the world of letters -- which in my opinion is by far mankind's greatest achievement -- are taking a shit on the writing industry, flooding the literary market with their gack, and wearing readers out. It's hard enough to get people interested in reading with so many less-challenging distractions in the world. Any idea how much harder that's going to be when most of the stuff on the market is absolute garbage? If people read enough of that they'll decide that books just suck and won't bother trying anymore.

In 2010, almost 2.8 million nontraditional books, including e-books, were published in the United States, while just more than 316,000 traditional books came out. That compares with 1.33 million nontraditional books and 302,000 conventional books in 2009, said Albert Greco, a publishing industry expert at Fordham University's business school.

That's about nine unchecked-piece-of-shit "books" on the market for every one legit book. And it's just starting. It's going to get worse. A lot worse. B'lieve dat.

I predicted this a long time ago. I've been saying it for a year or more (Igor will vouch because he's been the very-patient victim of many of my anti-Kindle rants via e-mail) and I said it on this blog three months ago. Here's what I screamed at ya:

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!

The news is finally catching up to what I've been telling ya'll for months now. And I'm not congratulating myself for being any kind of Nostradamus, because you don't have to be... you just have to think. Think about what you're doing, think about the implications of what's going on and where it logically leads.

And that's not all the bad road you're going to have to drive down with this Kindle bullshit, either. As I've also said before on this blog, downloadable books are like downloadable music. It's open to the same file-sharing piracy that has fucked the music industry and is now gnawing away at the DVD business. If you are a big-time published author, type your name or the titles of your books and "bit torrent" into a search engine, and prepare yourself to get pissed, because I can just about guarantee you that your e-books are being made available online for free. And because bit-torrent samples from dozens of different sites, it's not trackable and there's not a whole helluva lot you can do about it, especially if you're a mid-lister who can't afford big-time lawyers.

Think that a little stealing won't hurt you? Think a-fucking-gain.

But those appearances are deceiving. According to one download site’s stats, people are downloading SHADOWED SUMMER at a rate of 800 copies a week. When the book first came out, it topped out at 3000+ downloads a week.

If even HALF of those people who downloaded my book that week had bought it, I would have hit the New York Times Bestseller list.

If the 800+ downloads a week of my book were only HALF converted into sales, I would earn out in one more month. But I’m never going to earn out. And my book is never going to be available in your $region, not for lack of trying. My foreign rights agent is a genius at what she does, and has actively tried to sell it everywhere- UK, AU, China, France, you name it, she tried to sell it there.

SHADOWED SUMMER will only be coming out in Italy, because that’s the only place there’s a market for it.

And let me tell you guys… the sales figures on SHADOWED SUMMER had a seriously detrimental effect on my career. It took me almost two years to sell another book. I very nearly had to change my name and start over. And my second advance? Was exactly the same as the first because sales figures didn’t justify anything more. I don’t blame my publisher. There’s weak demand for my books, according to my sales figures.

Meanwhile, 800 copies of my book (worth about $1200 toward my advance, if everyone paid for a copy,) are being downloaded a week.

That's a lady who's just trying to make an honest and honorable living, writing books to entertain people. It's not an easy job. It takes long, lonely hours of work to write a book. Lots of things are a lot more fun, which is why I've never gotten as serious about it as I wish I could be. But why should anybody put in the work to make something good when it can be stolen from them so easily? In a few years, "author" may be a profession that nobody can make a living doing. Oh, Stephen King and John Grisham will be fine - they're established, they've got an audience. But everyone else is going to be struggling to be heard amongst a din of garbage flooding the market, so you may never see another Stephen King or John Grisham, because they'll be drowned out among the Dale Courtneys and the ten-books-a-day bots. And then, even if they get noticed, their work will be bit-torrented and they can't pay the bills. When music got pirated, bands could at least still make money by playing live. What's an author going to do? All they have to sell is their product.

And authors aren't the only people getting hurt by e-books. It hurts our economy as a whole. Soon you'll hear Democrats and Republicans promising to create jobs, but the sad fact is none of them are going to be able to do much, because the problem with the employment numbers is due to technology eliminating jobs, and that's only going to continue. E-books, alone, are already partially responsible for the decline of book stores and some libraries. When's the last time you saw a record store? Downloads are killing them, they're like drive-ins now. How about video rental places? My small town used to have about a dozen, now there's a Redbox and Netflix and that's it. And the same thing is happening to bookstores. Borders already had problems, and several others are on the brink. That means fewer retail jobs for people. Publishing houses where people worked to make sure the books that hit the market were quality items? Going, going... And what about the factories where they put the books together? More jobs lost. How 'bout the truck drivers who transported and distributed the merchandise? And used book stores? No such thing as a used e-book. Libraries? They may survive as databases, but it'll kill off a lot of jobs. Even the artists who painted book covers are suffering because lazy spam-writers on Kindle don't want to put any cash behind their "product" so you get situations like THIS, which is hilarious, but also a case-in-point of what a shit-quality product you're buying when you purchase an e-book. There are whole blogs now devoted to the cover art on old paperbacks, but who's going to bother making such things for e-book covers?

There are more webs of intrigue to connect, but I sense this may be getting boring. We're not a blog focused on any one thing, but I know mostly people come here wanting to see something reviewed (and, of course, Twitter accounts plugged!), not my paranoid rants, so I'll hold back.

As I've said before, I don't have any problem with an author publishing their work as an e-book. It's a hard enough job already to make a living doing, so any avenue that's open for you, take it. I hope you'll enough respect for the business to go through the proper channels and get an editor and an agent and do all the proper work to turn out a quality product that's worthy of the great tradition you're lucky enough to be a part of, with Dickens and Welty and King and Spillane and London and Hemmingway and Steinbeck and Poe and Doyle and all the others who did it the right way. But, I don't blame you for e-publishing. I'll never be reading your work until there's a version that's printed on paper, but do what you gotta do; it's a tough profession and I respect what you do above all other professions; do what you gotta do so you can keep doing it.

But if you're thinking of buying a Kindle or a Nook or whatever, I ask you to please think again. Don't be a part of this. Pitch a wrench in that bitch, and buy your favorite author's works on paper. Even if it costs a little more, it's worth it. Every dollar you spend is a vote for the kind of world you want to live in... and if you love writing, this e-shit isn't building any kind of world you're gonna like. Don't tear down quality-control for the sake of expediency. After all, your computer would probably run faster if you didn't have virus protection... but it wouldn't run long.

And for my naive friends out there who are in love with their new toy and think they've got a library in their pocket, if you really believe you'll still be able to read the e-book you just bought in ten years, I've got a five-inch floppy of Space Invaders you can play if you can find the hardware to read it and the software platform needed to run it. You gettin' me? The only sure thing in the world of electronics is hardware/software/platform/format changes. Your "library" has an expiration date that's a lot shorter than you think. Don't believe me? Try playing that Duke Nukem or Doom disc you bought back in '98 on a computer now. Good luck.

And I didn't even say any crazy stuff about EMP's and the Library of Alexandria, because I didn't want to come across as too over the top. ;)

Okay, enough of that. Here's a few CD reviews just so you might not be completely disappointed by this week's offering. Thanks for indulging me, it's something I'm a little obsessed about.


- Possessed. (1985)
Possessed was the first Venom album I encountered, back in the days of vinyl, and it blew me away and made me a Venom fanatic, scarfing up everything else by them I could find and wearing so many tee-shirts it was silly. (I've even still got a homemade one an ex-girlfriend painted me). I listened to the hell out of it, but then for some reason I never re-bought it on CD, so I've been away from this album for a decade or so. Last month I got a hankering to hear "Satanachist" again, so I bought the CD. Maybe it's because damn near everything that's sold as "metal" now is overproduced, flowery, jazzy exercises in boring, repetitive wank, but this really sounded good all over again. The production's fer-shit and the playing is gloriously sloppy and the Satanic personas are silly as always, but it's Venom goddamnit! It opens with "Powerdrive," which is just crazy. That bass is just slammin'. With un-muddied production, this would be dangerous.

"C'mon, let's get some hell goin' down here!
Faster, faster!
Hotter than an atom bomb, holocaust so vast
Devastation is our home, light ain't all that fast
Vesuvius erupts, igniting all in reach
Leaving all in Purgatory 'til time decides to teach
Candlelight the new volcano, power shines the moon
Powerdrive, powerdrive, powerdrive!
C'mon, wind 'em up!
Wilder than a charging beast, our methods set on death
Elements recharge our songs, not time to catch your breath
The Richter Scale determines if our instruments in tune
Candlelight the new volcano, power shines the moon!"

That's Venom. That's metal, baby.

The CD varies speeds, with mid-paced crushers like "Flytrap" or "Hellchild," the sludgy Satan-soaked title track ("Come listen to me and I'll tell you/ Things that will sicken your mind/ I drink the vomit of the priest/ Make love to the dying whore/ I have the blood of the beast/ And I hold the keys to death's door/ Through many a tortured night prevail/ Thy exorcisms shall but fail..."), and (as Cronos called them) "speedy jobs" like "Voyeur" and "Burn This Place To the Ground" ("We ain't here to entertain you/ We're here to make you scream/ When you waken up tonight you'll think it was a dream"). And, of course, the defiant anthem, "Too Loud (For The Crowd)." The CD comes complete with several bonus tracks, like the bludgeoning "Warhead," the chaotic "F.O.A.D." (which is like psychedelic Venom!), and a live slaughterhouse version of "Witching Hour." Not Venom's best, but essential formative black metal and true to the Venom concept, as stated by Cronos - "Venom is a brick. You throw it over here, BAM, there's Venom!" Yeah, they come across as a real-life Spinal Tap, but they'll kick your ass.

Stevie Stiletto
- My Life Is Great DVD (C, 2009)
Years ago I found an American Asshole CD in a used bookstore in Pensacola, Florida, and since it was only a dollar and looked punk-rock I gambled on it. It's now one of my favorite punk albums. Since hardly anyone's heard of this band, I was psyched when I saw a DVD had come out about the band. And, amazingly, it's two hours long, with bonus live footage, and comes with a CD of some greatest hits. Definitely worth your money! It covers the Florida punk band from their early early days in the 80's, and their frontman, who's been living on borrowed time for years now. He was given three days to live back in 2005 due to his alcohol-destroyed liver (he was pissing out chunks of it!) and cancer that had spread through his body from rampant drug use... but, to my knowledge, he's still alive and kicking. The band played widely and went through various lineup changes but remained unjustifiably obscure. They wrote some really amazing music and generated some insane road stories, which you'll hear plenty of on this DVD. Even members who got kicked out still have affection for the band, and Stevie, although he was apparently quite the crazy, unmanageable monster at times. This is punk rock that you should know about.

(This song goes through my head every day when I'm getting jabbered at by a co-worker)

An uncharacteristically pretty song... and damn catchy.

Ghost - Opus Eponymous CD 2011
Wow, this is a weird one. This description isn't original to me, but it's the most accurate one I've heard so I'm ganking it -- Mercyful Fate meets Judas Priest. Nobody's sure who this band is (although rumors has is that members of In Solitude are involved) because they wear hooded robes, except the singer, who dresses like a skeleton pope! The lyrics are praises to all things Satanic, and even though they're played very straight, somehow they come across as tongue-in-cheek. The vocals are very clean (even gentle, and never King-Diamond-squeally) and so is the music, really. Things never get all that heavy, but somehow it always fucking ROCKS, even when things verge on prettiness. My favorite track is "Ritual" and if you don't like this one, you're probably not going to like the album.

Nothing is overly complicated, but the songs are driving and catchy as hell and it's different. Loving both Mercyful Fate and Blue Oyster Cult, this is perfect stuff for me, and I think it'll grow on anybody who gives it a chance. And I have to love any band who pays homage to my cousin, Elisabeth Bathory...

I've never heard this before, but I love it... Ghost covers the Beatles!

I say pick this one up right now...


yeah, you guessed it...

... more movie reviews. Kinda screwed for time, so gotta slap up some older stuff from a can. But, it's new to ya'll, right? Enjoy!


Anatomy (C, 2000) aka Anatomie German horror in which a medical student (Franka Potente of Run Lola Run) discovers that a secret society of anti Hippocratic doctors is operating at her Heidelberg medical school, injecting people with a preservative that turns flesh and blood to rubber, and then they vivisect them and make anatomical models out of them for the school museum. This creates the opportunity for lots of extreme gore (although it's dry and looks like anatomy displays so it probably won't gross you out much, even though they supposedly really are plastinated dead bodies, for real) and is a pretty sick concept. She has to put a stop to the society before she becomes one of its subjects. It's well made and fairly scary, although it also has a good bit of crude German sex obsessed humor, which creates a weird vibe. There's even sex scenes on autopsy tables. It's mentioned that the anti Hippocratic society was very active during the Third Reich, which is strange since Germans tend to go out of their way to avoid mentioning Nazi atrocities. One of the better titles being buried in Wal Mart's five dollar bin.

Basketball Fix, The (B&W, 1951) John Ireland is a sports writer who works to get a nice guy poor kid named Johnny a scholarship playing college basketball. Johnny instantly falls in love with a girl named Pat, but also gets mixed up with a guy named Mr. Taft who bets on basketball. He starts throwing money at Johnny in amounts large enough to corrupt even an honest straight arrow kid, trying to get him to start underperforming to shave points off of scores. Johnny resists for a while, but between wanting to show Pat a good time and getting his little brother some Christmas presents, he starts missing a few shots here and there and taking the money. After a while he gets a case of conscience and wants to quit cheating... and Mr. Taft turns to violence to try to keep him on the hook. Entertaining, moralistic little B flick that plays like a pseudo noirish afterschool special. Strange to see basketball footage of nothing but white boys. You can find this one in every Dollar Tree in the world. Worth a buck.

(With descriptions for the blind!)

Beast, The (C, 198 [8)] aka The Beast of War. Reagan era relic from the days when we were still arming the Afghanis and portraying guys like Bin Laden as "heroic freedom fighters." And, ironically enough, this glorification of the Muslim resistance was filmed in Israel. During the 1981 invasion a Russian tank attack destroys an Afghan village. Then one of the tanks gets lost and a small group of Mujahedeen, armed with an RPG with only one rocket, stalk it through the desert, waiting for their chance at revenge. As they travel along under the pressure of being lost and hunted, the tank commander becomes increasingly ruthless and unstable, and kills their Afghan guide out of sheer prejudice. This upsets one of the tankers so the commander leaves him tied to a rock. The rebels find him and (sorta) take pity on him (it's part of their holy law "Nanawatai" means they have to give sanctuary to anyone who asks for it) and he agrees to work with them to destroy his crazy commander's tank. Flawed slightly by a bit of Allah ex machina here and there, but overall a pretty compelling and well made war film. Could play totally differently now since the Russians speak like Americans... it could almost work as Jihadi propaganda. Definitely a product of its era which contains a lot of irony nowdays. With George Dzundza, Jason Patric, Steven Bauer and Stephen Baldwin.

Because of Eve (B&W, 194 [8)] aka Because of Eve (The Story of Life) Old roadshow "hygiene film" depicting very graphically the horrors of VD and the "beautiful" gruesomeness of childbirth. Bob and Sally are taking a physical prior to getting married and the doctor happily reveals all their secrets and almost cancels the marriage Bob had VD once and Sally had a baby that died. After they storm out at this news, the doctor finally brings them back together and they learn that, luckily, the guy who got Sally pregnant and hooked Bob up with the woman who gave him VD is a guy who saved Bob's life in World War II... so it's all okay! The doc also shows them graphic educational films on venereal disease (complete with sore covered genitals) and childbirth regular and Cesarean section. This will educate you and make you squirm in the tradition of Mom and Dad. You will be one wise, nauseous motherfucker by the end of this one, kids. If your school won't teach you sex ed because of uptight Baptists, it may be a good thing these road show flicks are being revived on DVD.

Big Doll House, The (C, 1971) aka Bamboo Dolls House, Women's Penitentiary, Women's Penitentiary III Contender for best women in prison flick ever stars Pam Grier, Pat Woodell from Petticoat Junction (as a dangerous revolutionary named Bodean, which is funny ?cuz that's Jethro's last name on Beverly Hillbillies, which is also from the country sitcom school), too damned pretty Roberta Collins, and some other nice looking girls who can actually act pretty well. A girl named Collier is sent to a Phillipines prison full of hardened female cons who promptly try to drown her in the toilet. The prison has a high mortality rate and lots of sexual frustration, which sleazy Sid Haig and his goofy buddy try to exploit while making deliveries there. Soon the girls stage a breakout and take to the countryside with machine guns, leading to more mayhem The girls are pretty and convincingly badass, the action scenes are solid, and all the women in prison elements (nudity, cat fights (including mud wrestling) and torture chamber shenanigans are all in full effect, but without being overblown. And this one actually has a compelling (yet admittedly simple) storyline and some characterization, and good direction from Jack Hill (who did all those other great Pam Grier movies this was her first).

Black Angel
(B&W, 1946) Based on a Cornell Woolrich novel, this noir isn't too hardboiled but is very well made and compelling. After a woman who specialized in blackmail is found strangled, her alcoholic pianist husband teams up with the wife of the man who gets falsely accused of the killing to figure out what really happened, before the wrong guy is sent to the gas chamber. Peter Lorre is a sinister likely suspect and they have to infiltrate his club by posing as a singing team, but the truth may be darker than they expected. Good, well -constructed noir mystery.


Kraft Macaroni & Cheese; or, Kraft Italian Movies & Cheesy King Kong Ripoffs (ha ha, get it?!)

That's probably my most-unclever out of many, many unclever post titles, but I decided that its so unclever that it almost wraps back around and becomes clever again! In any case, I have no shame, so I'm usin' it.

Just a few movie reviews this time, a couple of 'em recent DVD releases and a couple others which star Evelyn Kraft, who is crazy-gorgeous:


Black Swan, The (C, 2010) Natalie Portman (in an incredible performance) plays a ballerina who's striving for "perfection" in her strongly-desired lead role in Swan Lake. She's a mousy "sweet" girl under the thumb of her mother, a guilt-flinging oppressive force who's something worse than just a "stage mother." Her director doubts that she can pull off the black swan half of her role because she's so repressed and frigid that it's unlikely she can access her dark, seductive side. But Natalie's character is striving for perfection so hard that she's losing her sanity, aided by her wilder understudy (Mila Kunis), who may be darker in Natalie's mind than she is in reality, and who serves as an object for her corruptive fantasies (including a really hot lesbian one). As she lets go of her repressions she also lets go of her sanity, and things get darker and darker, and the film grows increasingly nightmarish. This is an unusual horror film that's not about murder or mayhem, but explores a character's mental darkness. There are plenty of chilling moments even though it's a highly artistic film. Director Darren Aronofsky handles the story with no shortage of style and keeps it fast-moving and compelling even though it's not a terribly eventful story; by all rights it should get boring but it never does. And Portman is masterful in gradually transforming from a timid, unsure mouse to a seductive, unstable force; she becomes everything she's afraid of, and erodes under the weight of it. It's not easy to pull off a gradual decline (which is probably why Jack Nicholson didn't even try it in The Shining and just started out crazy). The horror is unusual because you're not afraid of her but for her. Extremely, sometimes suffocatingly creepy and reminiscent in some ways of Repulsion and Persona. Even if you're not interested in ballet (I'm not even remotely) don't let that put you off. Shares some thematic points with Aronofsky's The Wrestler, which is also highly recommended.

French Sex Murders, The (C, 1972) aka Casa d'Appuntamento, Murder in Paris, Murder on 17th Avenue, The Boogeyman and the French Murders, The Paris Sex Murders. An unwelcome bordello customer whose anger management issues are burying the needle on the pissedoffometer becomes the chief suspect when his favorite hooker is found beaten to death. An inspector who's a dead ringer for Humphrey Bogart (Robert Sacchi, who's even dubbed with Bogie's "pork shopsh and apple shaushe" speech impediment) catches the loonietoon but he swears that he's not guilty and will return to haunt his accusers if he's executed. He escapes custody on his way to death row, steals a motorcycle, and gets decapitated in a highway accident before the guillotine can get him. But even though he's dead, the murders continue (they're not terribly gory but they're all shown over and over again through different colored filters in a cheap attempt at being artsy), so either his curse is coming true or someone's trying to make it look like it is. There's also some weirdo who has a mania for messily dissecting eyeballs, just to try to spice things up, and some incest to add to the sleaze, but it's still a pretty low-rent giallo overall. The Paris locale is wasted over than a finale (which also opens the film!) on the Eiffel Tower. Howard Vernon is on hand, and you get to look at Anita Ekberg, Barbara Bouchet, Rosalba Neri, and the gorgeous Evelyn Kraft, so that's a plus.

Mighty Peking Man, The (C, 1977) aka Goliathon, Xing Xang Wang. Shaw Brothers knockoff of the 1976 King Kong is even goofier and more terrible than its inspiration, but also a lot more entertaining. Because his girlfriend cheated on him with his brother, archaeologist Johnny Fang agrees to lead an expedition into the jungle to find a giant ape. He also finds Samantha, a Sheena Queen of the Jungle rip-off (Evelyn Kraft, who's so gorgeous it's unreal) in a leather bikini that barely stays on (seriously, it's worth seeking this movie out just to look at her). She's a friend of the giant ape and also plays with tigers and leopards like housecats (guess she's so pretty that even animals wouldn't dream of hurting her). She and Johnny fall in love and, wide-eyed innocent that she is, she agrees to help bring the giant ape back to Hong Kong. Once they get him there he's kept chained up and mistreated, which makes Samantha very upset and the Peking Man enraged. When he sees a sleazebag try to rape Samantha, the Peking Man breaks loose and goes on a highly-unoriginal rampage with poor Samantha trying to help him. It doesn't even try to break the King Kong mold, and the special effects are hilarious. Mostly it's a guy in a second-rate gorilla suit stomping around model landscapes, but there are insert shots of a clumsy rubber ape-puppet, I guess just to create more facial mobility. There's also a slight amount of gore, such as a ridiculous tiger-bites-a-guy's-leg-off scene, and an elephant-trampling (after which a rear-projection elephant is brought down by a couple shots from a .38 pistol). A must for bad movie fans or anybody wanting top-notch eye candy, because Evelyn Kraft will make you want to bite yourself.

And a much better reviewer than me, Roger Ebert, actually reviewed this movie... and liked it!

Rite, The (C, 2010) I'm always glad to see another exorcism movie, but unfortunately that's all this really is -- another exorcism movie. It's about as standard as it gets: a guy studying for the priesthood has a crisis of faith and is about to drop out, but they send him to Rome to train him to become an exorcist. He, of course, has his doubts about the whole thing, even when he starts working with the "unorthodox" exorcist Anthony Hopkins. Hopkins treats a supposedly-possessed pregnant girl and a boy who's suffering attacks from a demonic mule, and he's not above using a bit of trickery to pull everything off, even though that reveals a lack of faith on his part. His younger student tries to take a pragmatic approach to the whole thing, but some of the events he's unable to explain. Then Hopkins has a crisis of faith of his own, which leaves him open to the demons who'd consider him a major prize, and being forced to believe in the devil forces our hero to get over his doubts. It's supposed to reaffirm one's faith, but it does a better job of showing how dependent religion is on "the devil," because evil is more evident than good in this supposedly God-ruled world, and "the devil" scares believers to seek God. It all comes down to fear. Unfortunately this movie's scare tactics are too familiar to evoke much of that. If you're a big Anthony Hopkins fan you can add a few points, because he gets an opportunity to go all-out acting possessed. I've never considered him the genius many do, but he's still good, and gets an opportunity to use his range here. It's not a bad possession film, but it's just so basic that it almost couldn't be more generic for the genre; the film offers no surprises and is about as inspired as a Lifetime movie. The filmmaking is solid, though -- it's a well-done rendition of a very vanilla story. But, worthwhile viewing for exorcism fans.