Thursday, October 29, 2009

Friday Forgotten Books- Darkly The Thunder by William W Johnsonte

William W Johnstone was a writer of mainly paperbacks in the horror, action adventure and western genres. He is best know for his series Out of the Ashes, a political after the bomb series that like much of his work dealt with two great themes: The battle between good and Evil and what I like to call the Baby Boomer Culture War . These conflicts play out in a series of stories that involve people who are flawed, and know it, doing their best to do the Right thing and save the day even when the cost is great. At least with all of Johnstone's books that I read (which was everything I could get my hands on until about 1996) all of these conflicts would play out with the "good Guys' nominally winning the battle, and the 'Bad Guys' slinking off to fight another day.1

I started out to write a double post about the first of the Out of the Ashes books and the first of Jerry Ahern's Survivalist series, and in doing a little research discovered that Mr. Johnstone had in fact passed away in 2004. I was unaware of this, largely due to the fact that as a reader I had moved on from his work in the late 1990s. There was a point in my life when Johnstone was not only my favorite writer, but one that I felt was highly under rated, and mostly due to the fact that his political leanings were further to the right that most, and that he was discriminated against for the reason.

The news of his passing and the fact that it had been kept from his readers was a little jarring to me, until I realized that his name had become a house brand and the powers that be saw the need to keep the cash flowing in. Johnstone appealed to a segment of readers who had long ago been disenfranchised from a lot of other writers and a lot of main stream fiction because of a perceived (and often times real) leftist bent.

Ok, On with the show, I'd hate to think that I just spent two paragraphs justifying my selection for this week, a little horror novel called Darkly, The Thunder

(that very 1990 cover looks fairly silly in hindsight)
THE ROOT OF EVIL The ominous rumblings of thunder - dark thunder, was how retired head of police Al Watt thought of it - had started thirty years before on the night that Sand was killed. A good man, that Sand, and when he died, the forces of darkness had taken root in Willowdale, Colorado. Now the isolated little town, nestled in the Rockies, was about to give birth to an evil beyond comprehension, beyond imagining..a reign of terror so insatiable that Al Watt could do
nothing to stop it.

I sold a lot of my William W Johnstone books long ago (and as a lot of them were out of print I think I accutally made money on a lot of them), however I did hold on to a couple. Out of the Ashes, The Rockabilly books and my copy of Darkly the Thunder. Loosely connected with Johnstone's Horror books (the so called Satan Influenced series) the book deals with a evil that has re-emerged from the past, an old wrong is brought to light and all kinds of things go bad.

This was a book that really spoke to me when I was a 17 year old outside living in a complex world where there wasn't any real black and white. Johnstone's books spoke to the outsider and misfit in me. There was something in his writing that was accessible, fun, and had a drive that I couldn't put down. It was an escape from the world which I lived in and was desperate to escape from. On element of Johnstone's books that I think get's overlooked is the role of the outsider. He clearly has a right leaning point of view, but at the same time he's not comfortable with the political right as a group and mistrusts them more in many ways than the left. This leaves his protagonists on the outside of the culture, mostly looking to live quiet lives where they are just left alone.

Johnstone was also a primary force in my really looking at writing as being more than just what I was being force fed in school. He wrote about things he cared about, he entertained and he somehow made a living at it. At the end of his career he turned to writing Westerns, and to the end (and apparently past the end) was turning them out a couple a year. There was also a romance novel that I suspect mirrored his real life. I bet

I have been sitting on this post since last July, wondering if I really should write about someone who I can only imagine will not appeal to the group of readers and writer who follow the Friday forgotten posts. However, here is it.


1 The Baby Boomer Culture War is simply the vicious and unending split between the Right Wing and Left Wing members of the baby boomer generation. As a cohort they seem unable and unwilling to let go of the events of the late 1960s and move on. This culture is still wrangling about Vietnam, The ERA, Gay Rights, Abortion, Gun Control and so called Family Values. The level of dysfunction is such that name calling, open hatred and dogmatic identity politics are the order of the day.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Short Story Month-- Nov 2009

Short Story Month-- Nov 2009

I have noted the number of anthologies that are collecting dust in my place as of late. I deal with this issue I have decided that November 2009 is going to be Short Story Month.

I plan to read exclusively short stories. All of my Friday Forgotten Book entries will be about short story collections. My reading challenges for this year included reading one Donald Westlake book and one Hard Case Crime book a month. I have a collection of Westlake stories to satisfy the first of the challenges. For the Hard Case Crime challenge I had to think outside the box, and have settled on listening to the Audio Book of The Colorado Kid by Stephen King. It's reputed to be one of the weakest of the HCC books, and it is short. I figure until Hard Case gets around to putting out an anthology the audio book is going to be the way to go.

I will also be working on a Flash Fiction story for the latest challenge over at Patti Abbott's blog. Info Here.

If you look at my Shelfari widget at the top of the blog you will see an increase in the number of books. As I crack open each new collection, I will add it to the shelf, and it will stay until I have read all of the stories in the collection.

That's the plan.

Thoughts, Comments, anyone?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Night of the --- 3 DVDs for your Scar...

Night of the --- 3 DVDs for your Scary Holiday

I am happy to say that 3 of the top 3 films that I most wanted on DVD are now available. All 3 are fun, sometimes scary, Sci Fi/ horror filcks from the 1980s-- ok the most recent one came out in 1990, but that's close enough.

Night of the Comet (1984)
IMDB Wikipedia Fan Site
The earth passes through the tail of a comet turning most of the world population into dust. Everyone else is either turning into a Zombie due to an exposure or fine (because they were in a sealed environment). Our two survivors, a pair of valley girl sister, go shopping of course. The film is pure 80s B flick fun, valley girls with Mac 10's, no so smart scientists, Killer Stock boys and a truck driving Cowboy. It's pretty medium on the gore and scare level with a few nice moment so each. Over all well worth spending an evening or afternoon with. 

Night of the Creeps (1986)
IMBD Wikipedia
I didn't want to watch this action, horror, comedy flick the first time around. Now it is one of my favorite films of all times. It's got it all, space slugs, a 50s style police detective who's more hard boiled and Spade, Marlowe, or even Parker. It is a bit dated (as is Night of the Comet) but that never detracts from the fact that it is fun, quotable, and perfect for a party.

Hardware (1990)
IMBD Wikipedia
I remember seeing this one in the theater by myself. There wasn't another soul in the room and I watched as a man made monster crawled across a landscape of destruction to Kill. It has the look of a rundown Blade Runner  with the monster loose in the house plot of Alien (not to mention The Old Dark House)  Of the three this is the best, scariest and in some ways it is the funniest.

Thoughts, Comments, DVD Recommendations?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

FFB- Plunder of the Sun By David Dodge

Another week and I haven't completely shaken the stuffy head cold that has been haunting me this week. So I am going to reprint another of my pre-FFB review. This one is the not so forgotten Plunder of the Sun, which was republished by Hard Case Crime. Enjoy- EP.

Plunder of the Sun
By David Dodge
A Hard Case Crime Novel
Originally published 1949

Plunder of the Sun is the first of the Hard Case Crime books that I have read that don’t fall into the category of Noir and Crime Fiction as we tend to think of it today. It has crime elements in it to be sure, but it’s much more in the vein of the paperback adventure pulp novels of the ‘30’s and 40’s. It’s a simple tale of artifact smuggling, a treasure hunt, and of course lots of double crossing, uneasy alliances and historical mystery. The story is set in Chile and Peru, and centers on a lost Incan legend and treasure. The book is most definitely a product of it’s time in that it’s not in depth on the archeology angle as a Clive Cussler story, which really is the heir to books like this one, but it moves along quickly, it’s very readable and it’s a nice peek into a genre that really hasn’t vanished but morphed into…. Well the Cussler type of books…. This is also one of the better examples of the kind of story that Indiana Jones was (and is) riffing on and inspired by…. all and all, a nice change of pace that’s not to far off the beaten track for Hard Case Crime.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

FFB: I wanna be your Joey Ramone by Stephanie Kuehnert

In a act of semi laziness and semi writers block my Friday's Forgotten Book this week, is a re-post of a review I did in my pre-FFB days. This one is a little over a year old, but I still think this book deserved more of an audience. I think part of the problem is that it was marketed as a young adult novel, but as I state in my review I think it might be of more interest to women who grew up during the era that the book covers. I don't know, anyway, it's worth checking out and is currently out in paper back.- EP

I wanna be your Joey Ramone by Stephanie Kuehnert

He walked into the party looking just like he had in the past
He came up to me and he didn’t even have to ask
I tried to say something he said “Girl shut your mouth,
They’re playing Papa Was A Rolling Stone”
Last night I was dancing with Joey Ramone
-Amy Rigby

I wanna be your Joey Ramone is the story of a young woman, Emily Black, who’s mother has fled her and her father to ‘Follow the music’ and Em’s quest to find her mother. The music in this instance is Punk Rock and all of its ascendants, stages and variations. As she grows Em keeps in mind that it’s the music that her mother set out to seek, and so Em designs to create the music and lead her mother home. All of this is told in stages, paralleling the lives of Em and her mother, punkspotting the points and places that punk flared up in America in the 80’s, 90’s and into the present decade.

The story is also the tale of what I know that many young women growing up in the 80’s and 90’s faced in small town America, as ‘old fashion’ values (read the social norms of the 40’s, 50’s and early 60’s) battled with the first generation of women growing up in a post feminist world. Honestly this is the part of the book that rings the most true, as I have known and even dated several women who grew up in small town Wisconsin in this era, and they all had stories that mirrored the central trauma that both Emily and her mother experience though the course of this book. The theme of growing up in a post 77 punk world, lost parents, changing social norms, social dislocation and expectations and the post feminist landscape in America seems to be a more and more common theme in film and lit in the last decade, with Gypsy 67, Girl, Juno, Hairstyles of the Damned, Blankets, The Waiting Place and now I wanna be your Joey Ramone just being some examples of what Generation X is looking back on as it’s youth and development.

The one complaint I have about this book is that there wasn’t enough about the punk rock that Em’s mother set’s out to find. Sure a few band names are dropped and a few scene’s pointed to, but there is never a real look at the reason why punk, the music, energy or connection that is created between people and that music is such a powerful draw. We are past the point where punk is thought of a simply violent anti-social behavior in America, and it’s time to only talk about why it’s still here but provide young people with a solid roadmap to follow the music, and this book had the perfect place to really start presenting that map to especially young women, and I just don’t feel like it did.

Over all this was a fine book, and I hope that not only young people embrace it, but that older ones who lived though the times depicted do as well.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Whip It! (2009)

Whip It!(2009)

I was excited to see the new film Whip It for a number of reasons. First and foremost it was shot locally, and featured a number of the Detroit Derby Girls. I’ve been a loyal fan of the local Roller Derby organization for the last year and a half, and was glad to see our local girls get to be part of what I kinda hope is going to be the first film about the current Derby Landscape.

(that's Detroit Derby Girls Killbox and Racer McChaser on the right side of this image)

The film starts the always watchable Ellen Page (who everyone knows from Juno, but you really need to see Hard candy to get her range) and she delivered great, young, youthful non-manic-indie-pixie performance that anchors the film. Page plays a small town Texas high school student who competes in the local beauty pageants at the behest of her mother—only it is really not her thing. One day she sees a flyer for Roller Derby and sets out with her friend to take in a bout. She of course is inspired to try out and becomes the rookie phenom of the Hurl Scouts. Working from the screen play by written by Shauna Cross and based on Cross' novel Derby Girl first time director Drew Barrymore gives us a coming of age story,a first romance story, a sports movie, and a dealing with your parents movie all in one. Some of it is more successful than others.

What I liked: The performances were mostly first rate. Page is charming, and enduring and note perfect as the every girl. Marcia Gay Harden and Daniel Stern are first rate as her parents, one of the lesser known Wilson brothers as the coach Razor is great a comic coach. Zoё Bell (Zena) and Juliette Lewis (The Running Kind) are maybe the only of the actresses who could hold their own in a real bout. Kristen Wiig really gives the best and most illuminating performance of the film, with her wholly believable portrayal of a single mom, who acts as an older sister to Ellen Page when she needs it the most.

There are a few things about the film that weren't so great. The romantic subplot could have been left out, but the swimming pool scene was well executed. If that subplot had been jettisoned then the mother daughter stuff could have been explored in more depth and also the family dynamatic of the derby team could have had more screen time. The derby scenes while well shot, and this was my local Derby Girls got their screen time and to show their stuff. They were exciting and fun, and put the watcher right on the track.

Over all it is a solid film, and well worth checking out. I hope that at least it get's more people out to check out their local Roller Girls.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

FFB: Hicksville by Dylan Horrocks

FFB: Hicksville by Dylan Horrocks

"Behind every great fortune there is a great crime"
(Italian proverb)

I have been meaning to write about Hicksville as a friday forgotten book for a while.

It is a graphic novel that tells the story of:
"World-famous cartoonist Dick Burger has earned millions and become the most powerful man in the comics industry in the few short years since the publication of his first Captain Tomorrow graphic novel. But behind this rapid rise to success there lies a dark and terrible secret, as biographer Leonard Batts discovers when he visits Burger's hometown in remote New Zealand. For Hicksville is no ordinary small town. In Hicksville sheep-farmers and fishermen argue the relative merits of early newspaper strips, while in the local bookshop and lending library obscure Mongolian minicomics share the shelves with a complete run of Action Comics. But why does everyone there seem to hate Dick Burger? And what is the secret of Kupe's Lighthouse? Weaving together real and imagined histories of the much-maligned medium of comics and the often marginalised country of New Zealand, Hicksville is a moving comment on art, business and the importance of turangawaewae - finding a place to stand... " (descrpition from the Hickville Website)

I discovered the book via the WEF (The Warren Ellis Forum) back around the turn of the century. Old Man Ellis was one of the many champions of the book, and so am I. Not only is it an entertaining and engaging, but it made me think about the culture that sorrounds comics and what role I as a reader and fan play in that culture. The book is very much a reaction to the celebrity of comic creators and the fascism of fanboys. It's a great story and well worth spending an afternoon with. The TPB looks to be currently out of print, but your local comic shop should have copies. A new edition has been promised for the near future. I should also mention the follow up series Atlas (which has had all of three issues in the span of almost a decade), which is a related book (sorry it's been so long since I read the last issue that I really don't remember how it is related)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

It is October again, and I was thinki...

It is October again, and I was thinking back a couple of years when I used to have a October writing project over on my mog com page. Mog is a music blogging site that I participated in for three years before calling it quits. I realize that a lot of the people that read this blog didn't get to see those posts, and some of you might be interested in looking at some of them.

The story is that I was on the train from Stockholm to Uddevalla in September of 2006. I was new to mog and wanted to do something in the coming month to celebrate my favorite month and one of my favorite types of music, Horror Punk.

anyway, below is a set of links to my entries from that month.
thought's, comments, zombie fighting tips?

Friday, October 2, 2009

FFB: Torso by

FFB: Torso by Brian Michael Bendis

It's good to note that there is a resurgence in interest in Crime Comics these days. DC comics has just announced that Megan Abbott will be joining Ian Rankin and Jason Starr among others in writing crime graphic novels. I have sort of have been waitng for this for the last 10 years, back when I discovered to crime comics underground and the work of Brian Michael Bendis. Bendis is best known these days as one of the main writers at Marvel comics, having relaunched Spiderman for the company several years back. Prior to that he just a little guy making indie comics in black and white. His early work was mainly in the crime comic world, with AKA Goldfish and Jinx-- and then came todays forgotten friday book, Torso.

From Wikipedia:

Torso tells the story of the real life "Torso Murderer", a serial killer
who was active during 1934 to 1938. He received his nickname because he
left only the torsos of his victims. Without fingerprints or dental
records, these victims were very difficult to identify in a time before
DNA testing. The investigator on the case was Eliot Ness, Cleveland Safety Director and former head of the Untouchables.

I discovered the book on the recommendation of the owner of my local comic shop The Vault of Midnight. I liked the combination of the historical fact and the drama that Bendis creates to drive the story along and for my money in those early days Bendis had some of the best dialog in the comics world. It's available in TPB (Trade Paperback) and well worth checking out.

Sept reads

Mark it now! the September reads edition of the Restless Kind Blog

Blood is a Rover by James Ellroy
Tarot Card Book Mark: Gold
MARK It NOW: Ellroy's Back. If you are a fan, you've already started to dig this one, if not-- start with the LA Quartet and work your way to this one. Anything he's written after 1985 is well worth checking out.

Jack Wakes Up by Seth Harwood
Tarot Card Book Mark: The Purse or Bag
Originally a podcast novel, Jack Wakes Up is Harwoods first published novel. This is a solid first novel, with some interesting ideas. Jack Palms is a recovering adict who started in one action flick but nothing more. He's the guy who had all the lines, and now finds himself in a situation where he is called on to do for real what he did in the movie. A strip club, eastern European gangsters, a local drug dealer and a cop who seems to owe Jack one fill out the story, as Jack tries to figure out who killed an old buddy of his. All of this leads to a lot of expected places, and a few unexpected. I liked the growing friendship between Jack and the guys that he is working with that was a fun touch that and their real identies were played out nicly, a little bit at a time. Harwood shows promise here but this is obviously a first novel. I found it confusing in a few places, and feel like the story could have been told in somewhere around 50 less pages. I do how ever encourage people to check the book out and will give Harwood's next book a read.

Bury Me Deep by Megan Abbott
Tarot Card Book Mark: Falling

The Trunk Murders come alive. This book put me in mind of the books I have read by Pulp master David Goodis. The story is simple on it's face, but underneath it's a twisting mass of desires, lusts, desperation and loss of faith. The story is a riff on the infamous Trunk Murders of the 1930s, with a twist. It's the story of a woman who finds herself abandoned in a world that she is not ready to negotiate and how she gets sucked down into a life of compromise and a downward spiral of civility. It's a character driven book, the plot is there -- but it's not what drives the story. Overall a solid read that I suspect will be well worth revisiting.

Officer down by Theresa Schwegel
Tarot Card Book Mark: Playing Cards
Windy City Police story, an officer shoots her partner. Wasn't that the premise of the 80s show Midnight Caller--- in part at least. I liked it enough that I plan to read the follow up Probable Cause.

First Quarry by Max Allan Collins
Tarot Card Book Mark:Drowning
Hard Case Crime book for the month
I haven't been the biggest fan of Collins in the past, but I really enjoyed this quick and fun novel. Quarry is a Nam' vet who with nothing else to do becomes a hitman. This is the story of his first assignment. Sent to Iowa to wack a college professor, he quickly finds himself in the middle of a nasty domestic situation or two. Both complicate his job and send him off on side adventures. Fast and fun, the book never gets bogged down with extraneous plot or subplots. The writing is crisp and drives the story along at a solid tempo. all in all a great little dervision, and I look forward to reading more of the Quarry books.

Parker: The Hunter (Graphic Novel)
Adaption by Darwyn Cooke
Donald Westlake book for the month-- ok sort of.
A pretty straightforward adaptation of The Hunter, this beautiful graphic novel evokes the best parts of the first of Stark's Parker novels. I have to admit that The Hunter is the least favorite of the Parker books I have read, as it's more a revenge story than a heist story. I really liked revisiting the first of the Parker story in this format, I liked the art and I like the project of adapting all of the Stark books as graphic novels.

I also read Cat Burglar Black by Richard Sala this month, a nice compact little graphic novel that ended with the promise of more to come.

thought's, comments, spare gold medal paperbacks?

Tarot Card Book Marks? I have a really lame deck of Tarot cards that I pulled off a free cart at the Friends of the Ann Arbor District Library sale a couple of months back, and I started using them as book marks for giggles mostly. I just pull a card at random from the deck, make note of it, and when I am done it goes in the discard pile. Sometimes the card ends up to have a relation to the book in questions, sometimes not.