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Monday, May 18. 2015


There are quite a few books coming up from longtime authors whose work I love. Here are the highlights.

THE BORDER, by Robert McCammon. This one was on my doorstep when I got home from work today. My highest anticipated publication of the year. McCammon is, quite simply, the best.

THE SCARLET GOSPELS, by Clive Barker. I choose to ignore the negative word on this one. Chances are fair that I will agree, but I will go into this as I do with every book I start: With the intention of enjoying it. The Books of Blood and The Damnation Game were two of the most important books in my early horror reading years.

FINDERS KEEPERS, by Stephen King. King is on a hell of a roll as far as I am concerned, and I absolutely loved Mr. Mercedes. Which is the first in a proposed trilogy. It was an homage to the hardboiled dick genre, yet King instilled his own warped, yet distinctly human sensibilities to the story.

PARADISE SKY, by Joe R. Lansdale. While it has been a little while since a Lansdale truly knocked my socks off, I've been a ginormous fan since I first held the Bantam paperback of The Drive-In in my trembling hands.


ELIMINATION
, by Ed Gorman. This is the latest thriller featuring Gorman's political consultant character, Dev Conrad. I don't like the Conrad series quite as much as I do the McCain books, I will read as many of these as he is gracious enough to give us.

VIXEN, by Bill Pronzini. By my count this is the forty-second publication in the incomparable Nameless Detective series. And that is not counting short stories and novellas. I don't know how he does it, but Pronzini has managed to keep these stories fresh and vital. They are among the most treasured pieces of fiction of my life.

LITTLE GIRLS, by Ronald Malfi. Ron Malfi is one of my favorites of the newer horror writers, and he always delivers a story that touches the mind and heart, as well as scaring his readers. Little Girls looks like it will be one of his best.

TIN MEN, by Christopher Golden. Golden is a one-man publishing industry, producing an alarming number of books per year. Anthologies, media tie-ins, collaborations, young adult, series work. All of uniform excellence, but I like his stand-alone novels the most. Tin Men sounds particularly good, and hopefully enough it will wipe that stupid movie with Danny Devito and Richard Dreyfuss completely from my memory.


There are always good books on the way, but right now is a particularly exciting time.

Sunday, May 17. 2015


The most hotly anticipated movie of 2015 is probably Mad Max: Fury Road. Not by me, but by a lot of people. Most particularly action fans. It's not that I wasn't looking forward to see it, but there are others that I am more excited about.

Well, it's finally here, and the praise is rolling in. Deservedly so. Mad Max: Fury Road is an astonishing accomplishment. It is certainly a visceral experience, with more action, exciting and nightmarish imagery, and explosions than most of us have ever seen in a motion picture. Few, very few, fans of the series will be disappointed.

And if the characters and their motivations are a little murky, I am reminded of a line from the immortal Paul Bartel, in Hollywood Boulevard: "This isn't a movie about the human condition. This is a movie about tits and ass".

Mad Max: Fury Road is concerned with jaw-dropping action, explosive violence, and pyrotechnics. It succeeds at what it sets out to accomplish magnificently.

Still, I won't list it among my personal favorites, and chances are fairly good that I will never watch it again. I'm not that big of an action fan these days, and the although I do like it, the Mad Max series was never one that I held in highest regard. I was always more of a Death Wish fan. Or maybe Vice Squad. Fort Apache: The Bronx. Or even Jake Speed.

I'm not complaining. Mad Max: Fury Road is exactly what I hoped it would be, and I got my money's worth. If you have not seen it yet, you need to. If you have, it's pretty likely that you will watch it again and again in the future.

I give major applause to the studio for having the wisdom to have George Miller bring his original vision back to life. They could have easily brought in a snotnose young director to make the movie. I think the gamble will pay off, even though Pitch Perfect 2 has outgrossed Mad Max: Fury Road on this opening weekend.
Thursday, May 14. 2015


Who would have guessed that early MTV staple, Greg Kihn, would write one of the best horror novels of the 1990's? Well, he did, with Horror Show. Horror Show is a fun and scary story that blends thrills and chills with classic bad cinema. Kihn followed it with two good sequels.

Then he seemed to disappear from the literary world for a while. Kihn returned last year with Rubber Soul.

According to Beatle legend, the Fab Four discovered American Blues, R&B, and primitive Rock and Roll from a flea market seller who supplied them with records. He was a merchant marine who obtained the music from America.

Using that as a springboard, Greg Kihn created the character, Dust Bin Bob. Bob meets the Beatles and ignites their love of American music in their formative years. Befriending and even working for The Beatles, Bob ends up saving the Liverpudlian lads from a plot to destroy them.

Rubber Soul is a fun book, with an engaging character. It portrays early 1960's England well, and also the burgeoning hippie/rock and roll scene in America.

Kihn has returned with Painted Black. This time Dust Bin Bob, now a respected antiques dealer, makes the acquaintance of troubled musical visionary Brian Jones, of The Rolling Stones. In reality, Jones died under mysterious circumstances in a swimming pool. His legendary wild lifestyle almost certainly played a crucial role on his death.

In Painted Black, Dust Bin Bob is coerced into helping Brian Jones survive his own demons. Or is there a conspiracy against the rock and roll legend? And maybe even other doomed artists of the time?

Again Greg Kihn invites readers into a long past world of mod swinging Londoners and wild American freaks.

Both Rubber Soul and Painted Black are permeated with the love of joy of music. Regardless of whether you like Greg Kihn's own recordings, he is a veteran of the industry and he writes with intimate knowledge and passion.

If Kihn brings back Dust Bin Bob, it is my hope that he meets Flo and Eddie of The Turtles. It is more likely that Bob's possible next adventure will feature him with Janis Joplin and/or Jimi Hendrix. I say bring it on!
Monday, May 4. 2015


Recently on Facebook I saw some individuals--small press writers they were--bitching about how someone was putting down a book or a writer. I didn't see the offending posts, but I am pretty sure they were unnecessarily rude and infantile. Such is the internet. Many feel really big and tough when confronting someone from the safety of afar.

Some other writers were agreeing about how rude it all was, and one made a statement about how writers should support one another. Someone else chimed in with that old chestnut about how you should not say anything at all if you can't say something nice.

I feel that this is one of the most destructive ideas in the community, and that it is far worse than any trollish behavior.

Once upon a time, way back when I was at Gorezone and Shocklines, I mostly felt the same way. I wanted to support the genre. I didn't want a lot of negativity on the forums.

I still don't wish to see a bunch of needlessly nasty criticism. That stuff is usually counterproductive and ugly to behold. It sure makes for a busy forum, though. Despite what many might claim, a lot of individuals thrive on drama.

Really, in the end, it is just one person's opinion. Some might claim otherwise, but I don't buy it. Sure, you can point our glaring examples of typographical errors, and that is a matter of fact, not opinion.

I see writers supporting one another all the time. Trading blurbs, hyping stuff up. There's nothing wrong with that, in theory, but it becomes nearly impossible to tell when it is honest appreciation or gladhanding.

It's no different in any other trade. I made a change in my employment last year, and I was cast way outside my comfort zone. My new supervisor is a hardass, and he rarely, if ever, hands out a compliment. He does, however, criticize me almost constantly. I have often hated it, and I silently cursed him a blue streak on many occasions. But I ended up learning a lot more that way. He kicked my lame ass up and down, and now I thank him for it.

Or, as a legendary writer and great friend of mine says, put your dick on the chopping block and wait for the cleaver.

Quite a few people have flattered me by telling me that they respect my opinion. I owe it to them, and to my own self, to be honest when I discuss books and movies. My opinion may end up being in the minority (it usually is), but I stand by it.

I think the genre needs more critical thinking. Emphasis on constructive criticism. The ease of self publishing has writers cranking out fiction in assembly line fashion. If readers like it, fine, but I truly believe that we all will be much more supportive of the genre and the community, not to mention the writers in question, if we give our opinions with honesty. Especially if we have the grace to do so with tact.


Wednesday, April 29. 2015


I'm not sure what exactly ignited my interest in the work of Chevy Stevens. Perhaps it was her unusual name. Maybe she was recommended to me due to my enthusiasm for Gillian Flynn's writing. It really does not matter, because I was interested enough to give one of her books a try.

I chose the debut novel of Chevy Stevens. Its title is Still Missing.

Still Missing deals with the abduction, imprisonment, and rape of a woman. Annie O'Sullivan is a real estate seller who is surprised by a male following an open house she has hosted. She is drugged and taken to a remote cabin, and is plunged into a nightmare that seems to have no end. Annie is abused, both emotionally and physically.

The novel alternates between her captivity, the aftermath of her escape, and therapy sessions. Everyone is interested in her story and the gruesome details of her ordeal, but few comprehend that the horrors have not ended. She suffers from acute anxiety and has serious trust issues with everyone she comes across.

Worse than that, Annie begins to suspect that the abduction was not random and that it was engineered by someone she knows. And that she may, in fact, still be in physical danger.

Did I enjoy Still Missing? I don't know. I don't think "enjoy" is the right word. I respect the novel and its writer. I was inspired by the courage and fortitude of Annie O'Sullivan. I consider Still Missing to be a document of a woman's struggle against almost insurmountable odds.

Some might consider Still Missing to be feminist fiction. I don't. Not exactly. While I would be unsurprised to learn that the majority of fans of this book are female, to me this is a story of an individual who has more strength than she probably believes she has. It deeply touches on universal things like friendship and loyalty. Desperation and perseverance. Trust and betrayal. Human cruelty and compassion. Most of all, Still Missing has a message of hope.

Yeah, I guess you could say that I enjoyed Still Missing after all.

Will this be the last Chevy Stevens book I read? Absolutely not.

Very highly recommended.
Sunday, April 19. 2015


I read, and loved, this novel when I originally read it. I was fortunate enough to obtain an ARC prior to publication. Now I am listening to the audio edition.

Dr. Sleep is a divisive novel, but then most of King's books are. Some, like me, greatly enjoyed it. Others were disappointed.

I get it. At least I think I do. Allow me to elaborate.

Stephen King is known for his colorful villains. They are often multi-faceted, and they are usually interesting and entertaining characters. Consider Randall Flagg, Roland Lebay, Pennywise, Annie Wilkes. Even Cujo.

I'll admit it. The true Knot, from Dr. Sleep, are among King's weakest adversaries. None of the characters are fully fleshed-out, and they feel like forced creations.

Then there are the themes of alcoholism and Alcoholics Anonymous. It can come off as preachy to some, I believe.

Plus, Dr. Sleep is the sequel to one of King's greatest triumphs. The Shining has large shoes to fill.


Me, I have never been one to look for subtext and hidden meanings in fiction. Give me a story, well told, and leave the mental masturbation to the academics.

However, I found the themes in Dr. Sleep to be utterly compelling. As I did The Shining. In The Shining, the reader is introduced to an alcoholic who is in very shaky recovery. He moves his family into an abandoned hotel for his job as Winter caretaker, and they find that the hotel is a malignant entity. Some of its rooms are haunted.

The Shining is, to me, a metaphor for alcoholism and its devastating effects on not only the afflicted party, but to his family. Jack Torrence has some very haunted rooms in his mind, and unable to deal with them properly, he relapses and brings destruction upon himself and his family.

Of course The Shining can be enjoyed as simply a story of a terrifying haunted hotel.

The underlying themes of Dr. Sleep are inherited addiction, recovery, fellowship, and mortality.

Perhaps I appreciated Dr. Sleep more than some for reasons of my own, ah, intimate relationship with alcohol addiction.

Dr. Sleep had a profound effect upon me. I found it to be a deeply spiritual novel that helped bring me strength and comfort. It even prompted me to give AA a try. Unfortunately, like many things, Alcoholics Anonymous is a better idea on paper than it is as a reality. At least to me. But that is quite another story.

Stephen King's Dr. Sleep works for me as a treatise on alcohol treatment, recovery and intervention, as well as the burden of sobriety on a problem drinker.

Dr. Sleep is also a horror novel, and there are some powerful scenes. Such as when a boy with a baseball glove is exhumed from an unmarked grave.

The scenes where Dan Torrence acts as "Dr. Sleep" and eases the passing of dying individuals are breathtakingly moving. Here is where King's own faith shines the most in his fiction.

My opinion is my own, and some will share it, while others will not. It's all fine by me, but I hope that anyone who approaches Dr. Sleep for the first time will do so with an open and receptive mind.
Monday, April 13. 2015


Don't be too harsh. It was the 70's after all, man.

Yes, I was a pothead. A doper, if you will. Sometimes referred to as a "fiend" for short. Hey, who wasn't?

You've seen Dazed and Confused, I presume? Well, that shit was pretty accurate. There were different social groups, but by my senior year, I ran with the 'heads.

In some ways I have no regrets. What's the use? It was fun and I have a wealth of great memories. On the other hand, I wish I had taken things a wee bit more seriously.

I was a reader, of course. I always have been. I also had aspirations of being a writer. My eye was set on journalism. In a way, I achieved that goal. I am, after all, a columnist at Cemetery Dance Magazine. But I didn't become a newspaper reporter as I dreamed about. All that partying does not often lead to lofty positions in the working world. I am a machinist, and I consider myself lucky to be one.

We were rebellious, of course. We rejected the values and attitudes of our parents, and although most of us ended up right where they were as far as work and debt are concerned, maybe all that peace and love crap (as well as the poetry of rock and roll music) made us a little better. Some of us, anyway.

And we hated school. What a drag, man. It seriously cramped our party lifestyle.

One day a good friend of mine and I were in some woods, getting high and talking. We talked about everything imaginable. We had this idea: Let's start an underground newspaper and distribute it at the school. I'm not entirely sure whose idea it was, but I am thinking that I was a major proponent of it. I do know that I came up with the title. Poetry in motion, my friends. Our little endeavor was called...

THE HIGH'S COOL PRESS

Kinda has a ring to it, doesn't it?

I also remember well that the other guy did most of the work in getting it printed up.

We gathered some like-minded friends, made up phony names for ourselves in hopes that we wouldn't get caught, and started writing some stuff. We had a couple of cartoonists, and a handful of would-be journalists.

We handed them out in clandestine stealth. The cover price was a whopping quarter. No small amount of greenage in the 1979 economy.

People liked it. We made our investment money back. And we were never caught. The faulty and staff were outraged, and tried to find the guilty parties. No one narked us out.

Our upstart publication had a long three-issue run. Which was two more than I figured would ever get made.

Not long ago, some old friends and I got together for pizza and pitchers of beer. High school pals. We had some laughs, looked back at our triumphs and embarrassments, and promised each other that we would get back together. Real soon.

It hasn't happened yet, and I guess it never will. People go their separate ways. But one of the guys who was at the reunion was my old High's Cool partner. He came up to me after everyone else was gone and handed me a folder. It contained all three issues of The High's Cool Press.

I look back at it now with nothing less than astonishment. We actually did it. Some of it is pretty bad, and I blush a little bit, but for the most part I saw passionate work by some pretty smart teenagers. I got a chuckle and a few tears as I read them.

And now my party days are long past. I gave up the incessant dope smoking decades ago. I continued to drink for a long, long time, but it has been months since I have had a drop. I couldn't get high if I wanted to. I get screened at my job. Even if it becomes legal in my state, and it no longer matters to my job, I probably won't do it. You've got to grow up sometime. Well, some of us do.

Wednesday, April 8. 2015


I'm trying. I'm trying very hard to appreciate and enjoy newer writers in the horror genre. The truth is, I am not very successful.

Thanks in part to the ease of producing and distributing books through Amazon/Createspace, there is a glut of material out there. Even many small presses are using the service now, and who can blame them?

But when there is a glut, quality tends to deteriorate.

Everything seems to leave me flat these days. I recently did enjoy some newer books: Save Yourself, by Kelly Braffett, and Fat Kid Saves The World, by K. L. Going. Neither are precisely horror fiction, but both have disturbing elements in them.

Part of the problem, for me, is the abundance of writers trying to emulate Richard Laymon, Jack Ketchum, and Edward Lee. Over-the-top stuff makes me yawn most of the time. Been there, done it.

I've heard nearly universal acclaim for Laird Barron, so I took the plunge and ordered his sole novel, The Croning. I didn't get very far. The dialogue in the first chapter was ridiculous to me. I also did not care at all for the setup, which featured a Spy and a Queen.

Where are the game changers of today? The horror novels that literally change the genre? In the past there were knockout books like The Shining, The Ceremonies, Swan Song, even Lost Souls. The last thing I can think of that had anywhere nearly as much influence as those is Brian Keene's The Rising.

Maybe I am just getting older. I keep looking to the past for my reading fixes. I just finished up Philip Jose Farmer's mind-blowing A Feast Unknown, which I originally read around thirty-five years ago. I'm listening to Red Dragon in my car. I'm also going back and re-experiencing beloved titles from my past by Peter Straub, Stephen King, F. Paul Wilson, Charles Beaumont, Ray Bradbury, etc.

I'm much more apt to find something I like in the YA dept instead of a book labeled "Horror".

The funny thing is, I don't mind most current horror movies. Sure, many leave a lot to be desired, but to me watching a movie is an escape and reading is mental concentration. But more books seem to be directly influenced by movies these days than ever before.

Funnier still, most fans and writers seem to "support" up-and-coming horror writers, while many disdain most of the genre stuff that plays the multiplexes.

I don't like all horror movies, of course. Texas Chainsaw 3D is one of the most wretched things I have ever had the displeasure to watch, and I can't get aboard the Rob Zombie bandwagon.

I really am trying. It's hard when you don't do the Kindle thing, and paperbacks run anywhere from ten to twenty dollars. Sometimes they are even more expensive. And when I am disappointed most of the time, it is hard to continue to try new stuff.

In the meantime I will read the writers I love, and to rediscover the joys of the past.

I will continue to try, but I am beginning to despair that I, or the genre, is hopelessly out of touch.



Monday, March 23. 2015


I was in Junior High the first time I read Kurt Vonnegut. I guess they call it Middle School now. I had been reading a lot of science fiction and fantasy, and while I loved that stuff, I was hungry for something different.

One of my older brothers graced me with a copy of Slaughterhouse-Five. I started reading it, and was instantly shocked. This novel was unlike anything I had encountered before. I would later come to call it a meta-novel.

Slaughterhouse-Five is a shrewd blend of memoir, an anti-war polemic, and science fiction.

In the book, Vonnegut came across as bitter, but not uncaring. Cynical, but not without kindness. It's a tour of his harrowing past experiences in the fire-bombing of Dresden, Germany, in WW2, and a trip through the author's own imagination.

I was hooked. And his next novel, Breakfast of Champions, was richer, more outrageous, and also hilarious.

Kurt Vonnegut (then known as Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.) rose to meteoric fame and fortune with this two books. His earlier work had been extremely well received, but now he was a literary superstar.

I read all the back works, and I liked them all. Much of it was published as straight science fiction. My favorite was The Sirens of Titan, but I also really loved Cat's Cradle and Mother Night. Kurt Vonnegut, in fact, became one of my favorite writers.

I had a fairly turbulent late youth, and I ended up missing out on the two books that followed Breakfast of Champions. But I made up for it by buying the next one. In hardcover, no less, which was foolhardy of me in those days. But then I have always been a fool for books.

Palm Sunday was the name of the book that I financially overextended myself with, but I was only too happy to have done so. I could not wait to start it. Then I could not wait for it to be over.

I suffered through the whole thing. I found Palm Sunday to be massively egotistical, and worse, uninteresting. It included the short story, The Big Space Fuck, but I had already read that in Ellison's Again, Dangerous Visions. Mostly I felt that I had been rooked when I bought Palm Sunday.

I went back and read the previous two books: Slapstick and Jailbird are not what you might call bad books, but they did not possess the vitality and passion of the earlier books. Had success spoiled Kurt Vonnegut?

I also read one called Deadeye Dick, but I was largely unimpressed.

I did enjoy his novel, Galapagos, but again, not to the extent of the earlier books, and I passed on later publications like Hocus Pocus and Timequake. Other books of unpublished short fiction and essays came out in book form, but I had the impression that they were filled with trunk pieces.

So, yeah, I had given up on Kurt Vonnegut. I was not happy about that, but it happens.

I didn't think a lot about Vonnegut. It was very cool to see him show up for a minute or so in one of my favorite comedies, Back To School. Other than that, he rarely crossed my mind. The inferior later material sort of soured me on him.

I grieved, like most did, when I heard that Kurt Vonnegut had passed away. He died of complications after a fall down some stairs.

Regardless of how I felt about some of the stuff that came after Breakfast of Champions, it was a major loss to American letters.

Here and there I heard good things about his final novel, Timequake. I picked up a copy at a thrift store, and tucked it away for a rainy day.

That day came last week. Weary of horror and suspense, I was looking through the ridiculous number of books in my house, and I focused on Timequake. Now was the time to see if the old magic had arisen.

How I wished it would be so, but unfortunately I did not make it very far in Timequake. What I did read was excruciating. The old cynicism was there, but it seemed silly and put-upon. The 50-75 pages I read meandered and seemed to be going nowhere. I was not enjoying it, and I reasoned that moving forward would only serve to further sully my admiration of Vonnegut.

Yet others seem to like it. I don't know what it is. The old saw about the emperor and his nonexistent clothes comes to mind. Do fans see something there that I didn't through some form of loyalty?

Or maybe I am the one who has grown too cynical. I really have no idea.

Maybe it's time to go back and re-experience and re-evaluate the past work of Mr. Vonnegut.

I recently obtained a copy of Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle in audiobook form. The narration is done by Tony Roberts, who was so good in the early Woody Allen movies. From there I plan to eventually reread more of Kurt's older catalog, and hopefully I will regain love and understanding of his work. And then maybe I will approach Timequake in a more suitable frame of mind to appreciate it.

ADDENDUM: I began listening to the Cat's Cradle audiobook today, but I had to shut it down. I loved it when I was around fourteen years old, but now it comes across trivial and condescending. Cat's Cradle is ostensibly a science fiction story, but Vonnegut seemed to have utter contempt for that audience. Times change, people change, and I guess I have changed, because I no longer think Kurt Vonnegut is a writer I care to read.

Sunday, March 1. 2015


Remember back to your youth. When you were the most passionate horror fan around. It cost you a few relationships, I bet, because the truth is, you loved horror more than your partner.

When a horror movie came to town, you bet your ass you got out there and saw it. How could you not? Sitting around in front of a TV in the living room was for your lame-ass parents.

And you liked just about everything you saw. To varying degrees, obviously. Even the bad ones were fun, and you made a point of getting out there and seeing for yourself. As bad as some of them were, you still had a good time. And as the years race by, you look back upon each and every one of those theatrical outings with fondness.

I've been guilty of it. It's easier to sit home, drink beer, and watch a movie on home video. It's even easier now. Watch on demand, instant download, streaming. Not to mention the repulsive act of illegally downloading a movie.

I look back on the days of my horror-watching youth with infinite fondness. I've grown cynical, and somewhat embittered, but I try to fight it. I am trying to keep that burning flame of horror fandom alive and burning.

If a horror movie comes to the theater, I try to get out and see it. One thing has not changed: Most of them are not very good. Not if you gaze upon them with a critical eye. But many of them are fun, and the real joy is getting out and seeing them in a theater.

Something pretty cool is happening in the midst of big changes in Hollywood. The mid-priced movies seem to be disappearing. Big budget slop is everywhere, and low budget movies are flourishing. Ones that cost between, say, ten and sixty million dollars, are going the way of the drive-in theater.

Low budget horror movies are coming out at a fairly steady clip, and most of them are extremely profitable. We're not talking a gazillion dollar revenues like the latest regurgitated superhero feature, but a tidy return that has to be undeniable to the studios.

Which brings me to The Lazarus Effect. This humble effort was reportedly produced for a little over three million dollars, and in just a few days has tripled its money.

But is The Lazarus Effect any good?

Not particularly. I didn't mind watching it, and to be painfully blunt, it is not a whole lot worse than many movies I went to see and sort of liked in my misspent late youth. Things like One Dark Night, The Pit, Bloody Birthday, Slaughterhouse, and on and on.

The Lazarus Effect breaks no new ground. Its theme of "Man should not meddle in God's work" has been done by superior talents like Mary Shelley, H.P. Lovecraft, and Stephen King. The Lazarus Effect has a lot of pseudo-science, melodrama, and the final quarter is nothing short of an embarrassment.

I had a good time with it. The acting was above par, the movie was professionally shot, and there is a modicum of suspense. For a six dollar matinee, I do not regret seeing it at all.

The really good thing about it is, young people are going out and seeing these movies. Most will grow up sooner or later, but thankfully there will be the few who never do. People like you and I. Horror fans who refuse to be relegated to old fogeydom. Some of these will be the horror fans, and the writers and directors, of tomorrow. They will look back upon movies like The Lazarus Effect, Insidious, Paranormal Activity, and so on, and the building blocks of their obsession for horror and the macabre.

Thursday, February 26. 2015


Most readers of this website will be familiar with the David Lynch movie, Wild at Heart. It's one of his best, and most coherent, motion pictures. Not as many may be aware that Wild at Heart was adapted from a novel of the same name by Barry Gifford. Fewer still might know that Gifford has written several sequels to Wild at Heart.

The Wild at Heart adaptation is pretty faithful to the source novel, although David couldn't resist throwing in some Lynchian elements of his own. It's really too bad that he didn't continue on with the series.

The story deals with two lovers, Sailor and Lula, whose wild and violent life is second only to the passion and dedication they have for each other. They are kind of a white trash Romeo and Juliet, but their burning love is so genuine that it lends grace to the bizarre circumstances of their exploits.

The Sailor and Lula stories are collected in an omnibus edition entitled, appropriately enough, The Sailor and Lula Novels. This collection contains seven complete short novels that chronicle the lives of the two lovers. It concludes with the emotionally devastating The Imagination of the Heart, which chronicles the end of the wild lives of Sailor and Lula.

This appeared to be the end of the epic saga, but Barry Gifford had one more trick up his sleeve. It's another novel called The Up-Down, and it concerns the son of Sailor and Lula, who is named Pace.

Pace's destiny has been shaped by the astonishing lives of his parents, but now he is aging and nearing the end of his own existence. His life is no less violent and profane as that of his parents, but he lacks the passionate dedication that brought them so much contentment and happiness.

Feeling spiritually vacant, Pace embarks on a journey of self discovery. He seeks a state of enlightenment that he thinks of as the up-down. Along the way he finds more violence, extraordinary individuals, and is reaffirmed that everyone's life is wild at heart and weird on top.

The Up-Down concludes the story of Sailor and Lula once and for all, and it makes me a little bit sad. But I am richer for having known these characters, and having had the privilege of Barry Gifford conducting me on a tour of their flaming lives.



Sunday, February 22. 2015


Me and a buddy watched this last night, and we had a blast.

I know that some will disagree, but as far as we are concerned, anyone, ANYone, but James Garner in an action movie. The guy is such a goofball. Might as well have Paul Lynde in one.

Tank is pretty corny, to say the least. It could have been a decent little exploitation flick. Tighten up the dialogue, tone down the schmaltz, and get Clint Eastwood. Chuck Connors. Ed Lauter. Joe Don Baker. Bo Svenson. Warren Oates. Lee Marvin. Charles Bronson. Even Burt freaking Reynolds. ANYONE BUT JAMES GARNER.

We had a sort of an impromptu MST3K-inspired roast of Tank last night. It isn't too hard with fertile material for ridicule such as Tank. We laughed our asses off the whole time.

I picked the DVD up from a thrift store, and my buddy resisted, but I insisted. Afterward he said that I had been right. Tank is a great choice for a Saturday night movie lambaste session.

Tuesday, February 10. 2015


Recent troubles in the Horror Drive-In forums have caused me to wistfully think back to a long time ago. The turn of the twenty-first century, in fact. Back to the very best days I've had as a moderator of message boards.

People think it's easy. They'll stand there and go on and on about how someone should run his or her own website. It's no better than someone arguing about how a homeowner should run a party at their own house.

The bad part it, when things go awry, as they will do, there is usually no action whatsoever that will appease everyone. No action at all has generally been the wisest course for me, and things generally wind down on their own. The government that governs the least, and all that jazz.

What it boils down to is, at any given time there are individuals who think you are an asshole.

It wasn't always like that.

Back in 1999, I was given the job of moderating a forum dedicated to fiction and books at a site called Horror.net. I had been involved in internet bulletin boards before, but this was my first full-fledged moderator gig.

I was mostly alone at first, so I just started threads about writers like Richard Matheson, Chet Williamson, Harlan Ellison, Thomas F. Monteleone, Edward Lee, and on and on.

It was a different time. There were still plenty of sites dedicated to horror, but nothing like today. So readers were likely to find their way there by searching for horror fiction or particular writers.

A core group began to call the Horror.net Book Forum their home. At the risk of eliminating treasured names of members, due to my faulty memory, here are some of the best people there.

Brad Vautrinot
Larry Torreggiani
Suzanne Donahue
Steve Savile
Mark "Hoke" Tyree
James "wolfchild" Newman
Donn "Diablo" Gash
Brad Gullickson
Valarie Thorpe
Deena (Holland) Warner
Jonathan Amsbary
Tessie Caggegi
Mikael Sovijarvi
Allen Richards

There were more, I know. If anyone is reading this and was left out, please send me an email.

We all loved horror, and--dare I say it? We loved one another.

People were ridiculously generous to each other. We got along all the time. It was perfect.

Did we agree on everything? What do you think? No, but no one attacked other members, and no one took offense at the opinions of others. It seemed to be instinctual.

There was a collaborative round robin chapbook called Fallen Angel Blues. That might have been the very high point of the Horror.net days.

It was a great period of my life. I got married in the earliest days of the community, and everything was so bright. I was on top of the world.

The genre was in a great place, too. The small press was smaller, and there were not thousands of new "writers" self publishing. Limited editions were almost always deserving books. A lot of amazingly talented veterans of the field were still alive.

I guess it was too good to last. A nifty domain like Horror.net had to be a money-making endeavor. The site was taken from us with no warning whatsoever.

We found another home at Gorezone, and things were amazing for a while. It got ridiculously popular and things eventually got ugly. That's what people do: They fuck things up. And the worst part is, every single one of the culprits is too clueless to even realize that they are doing something wrong.

I came very close to closing the doors at the Horror Drive-In forums in the last month or two. There was dissent, never-ending arguments, and endless complaints. I had to resort to an unpleasant action that pissed off a few people, but made many more heave a sigh of relief.

I'm not shutting things down. Not yet, anyway. I think there still might be life in the old message board world. Despite the words of Facebook devotees these days.

I want to thank everyone who ever came along and participated in the various forums I've been involved with: Horror.net, Gorezone, Shocklines, and Horror Drive-In. No offense to those who came later, many of whom have become beloved friends, but most of my thanks and affection today go to the ragtag bunch at the old Horror.net Book Forum. You guys and girls are all jewels.
Saturday, January 31. 2015


I'm sure you've heard about the Ghostbusters remake or reboot controversy. People getting mad that the 'busters are all female. People getting mad that people are getting mad that the 'busters are all female.

People sure love to be offended, don't they?

I don't care much either way about the case. I love Wiig, and will watch her in anything. Melissa McCarthy, on the other hand, plays her roles way too broadly for my tastes. She showed some depth and restraint in St. Vincent. A little at least. Any step up is a big one for her.

I have a lot of fondness for the old movie, even though I don't think it's a particularly good movie. It brings a great time of my life back, and I recently found a nice 45 of the theme song at thrift shop.

The truth is, I'm still bummed about the death of Harold Ramis. The man was a genius of comedy. I might not think Ghostbusters is a great film, but it was a smart one. It resonated with a hell of a lot of people and is an icon in motion picture history.

I have a funny feeling this reboot will be closer to Ghostbusters 2.
Wednesday, January 21. 2015


The surest sign of a great work of art is its ability to get into one's head and stay there for a long time. Sure, we all like idiot entertainment now and then. It's fine to enjoy a dumb comedy, or a mindless action movie. But when a movie stays and haunts the viewer long after it is watched, that is a real achievement.

Linklater's Boyhood didn't just stay in my head. It is as if a I swallowed a marlin hook and had it rip my guts out.

I run hot and cold on the film work of Richard Linklater. Take Slacker...please! While it gave film student types spontaneous orgasms, the movie bored me to tears. Watching people I would cross the street to avoid isn't my idea of a great time.

Then came Dazed and Confused, which blew me away. Linklater captured high school (emphasis on the word, high) perfectly. I've seen this one numerous times and I treasure it.

I didn't care so much for some of the others. Before Sunrise was beautiful to look at, but I found it to be uninvolving and dull. I probably need to give these movies a second chance.

I despised The School of Rock, but my distaste for Jack Black has a lot to do with that.

I actually enjoyed his Bad News Bears remake.

So I considered Linklater to be a director to watch, but not necessarily one to get excited about. Which is probably why I didn't see Boyhood for a while.

I corrected that this past weekend, and I am still winded by the experience.

Boyhood, plain and simple, is a masterpiece. I have literally never been so affected by a motion picture as this one. It is more, much more, than a gimmick. Boyhood is sweet and sad, funny and tragic, joyous and heartbreaking.

One scene got to me above all others. It really isn't much on the surface and I doubt if many others were as moved by it as I was. Kids were in line at a midnight Harry Potter release party. Many of them were dressed up as characters from the books, and all of them were excited about getting their copies of the new novel.

It brought back so much to me. I raised children in the '00 decade, and the Harry Potter phenomenon was so strong. My kids loved the books. The scenes of the party made me feel anguish and deep sadness. They made me long for those wonderful days and they made me miss my children desperately.

But it was more than that. Those humble scenes made me feel such love for the joy, the enthusiasm, the passion, the imagination, and the unbridled wonder that children have.

Boyhood is filled with moments like that. It's story is both extraordinary and mundane. An average life of a bright boy in love with life. His experiences are true and real and they burn with humanity.

Not everyone is as enamoured of Boyhood as I am. Some criticize its pacing and felt that it should have been more exciting. More explosions, or more sex and violence, probably.

Some also complain about the "naturalistic" film style. To them I recommend more viewings of Guardians of the Galaxy. Or hold their breath until the Avengers sequel is released.

Boyhood broke my heart and made me weep with joy and sadness. I cannot say that I ever enjoyed a movie more than I did this one.

Richard Linklater nailed my generation with Dazed and Confused, and now he has nailed the Millennials with Boyhood. I am in awe of him.