Monthly Archives: March 2007

Read This: Vampire Outlaw of the Milky Way

Vampire Outlaw of the Milky Way
By Weston Ochse

(Vampire Outlaw) is the story of an autistic child who speaks in his own brand of Fred Flintstone language, his soulmate, Monray da Kine, intersteller bounty hunter and vampire outlaw, and the unique bond they form across the galaxy.

Weston Ochse is one of the three creative minds behind Muy Mal, and a great writer on every level.  His Scary Rednecks collection with David Whitman is practically required reading.  He is truly one of the new great writers.

And it saddens me that I can’t give Vampire Outlaw a high recommendation.

The ingredients are there.  Heartfelt angst simmers next to amazing pulp action.  The mythology Weston has created is marvelous, full of one-eyed aliens andd undead laborers.  On the whole, though, it just doesn’t seem to come together into as strong a package as it should have.

If you want to check out Weston’s work, head over to Muy Mal and read his Chronicles of the Black Bishop. 

Recommendation: Moderate.

Read This!: The Familiar Stranger

The Familiar Stranger
By Brett McBean

Seth is a worker angel – one of many whose job it is to clean old souls, those soiled and broken and in need of cleaning in order to be recycled. But when Seth starts to doubt the veracity of his work, starts to wonder if old souls can truly be cleansed of their past evils, he decides to travel down to Earth and see what has become of one of the old souls..

Cassius ‘Corey’ Willis is living a colourless existence; stuck in a rut, he dreams of living a different life, of being somebody else. But when a mysterious stranger offers him the answer to his dreams, Cassius will learn the truth of his past. A past so stained with violence and bloodlust it refuses to be wiped clean . . . and a secret so horrific that it may shatter his very soul.

I wish I could remember how long people have been telling me to read Brett McBean.  Seems like forever.  Well, now that Necessary Evil Press has released this story in a beautiful, yet affordable chapbook edition, I finally get to check Brett’s stuff out.

Right off the bat, I can see why folks love McBean.  His prose is sharp, clever, and more than a little brutal in a few spots.  I wish I had writing chops like this guy.  The prose just crackles!

The plot, on the other hand, feels a little clumsy.  It appears Brett was trying to be mysterious, just falling short of explaining things.  It’s entirely possible that I’m an idiot, but I just didn’t get it.  The storyline jumps around through several different timeframes, and it all just gets jumbled in my brain.

I can’t wait to read more McBean, but this one just wasn’t my cup.

Recommendation: Light.

When Silly Clubs Serious about the Head and Neck

I was checking out DC Comics’ June solicitations this morning.  This is, of course, their list of books coming out in June.  Well, I was about halfway through the list of largely mainstream superhero books when I spotted it.  It’s a series that’s been going for eight issues and sports the silliest, most ridiculous title known to mankind.

Trials of Shazam!

Now, I won’t go into too much detail about Shazam because, frankly, I don’t know a lot.  He’s one of DC’s mightier heroes, and I think he’s somehow related to Captain Marvel, Kid Marvel, Mary Marvel, Isn’t it a Marvel? and Marvelthorp the slack-jawed super-yokel.  Unless they’ve changed continuity (which never happens), all of these characters change into their superpowered identities by yelling SHAZAM!

Trials, on the other hand, suggests either great toil or a legal matter of some importance.  There’s a strong sense of drama there.  That drama is all stripped away by the words “of Shazam.”

Seriously.

I hear “trial,” and I think of some serious matters.

I hear “Shazam!” and I remember how good Beyonce Knowles looked as Foxy Cleopatra in Austin Powers: Goldmember.

Now, this isn’t the first time comics have butted the serious and silly up against each other.  It’s one of the reasons we love them so.  Spider-Man deals with real world issues of being a broke loser (who happens to be married to an actress and super model) while dressed like a complete twit.  One of his villains, The Rhino, is an angry man dressed like a rhinocerous.  DC has the murderous monsters Mr. Freeze and Captain Cold (or something like that), and Marvel has Stilt Man.  Stilt Man!

But still, comics are about (or probably should be about) big, dumb fun.  As much as Marvel and DC editorial would like to think so, we don’t read about superheros for the gritty realism.

But Trials of Shazam?  C’mon!

Working Through the Weekend

Spent the entire weekend working on the new book, scratching and tearing to have the first draft fone before World Horror on the 28th.  I’m exhausted, and I just want to hook a coffee IV up to my arm.  I got a ton of work done, though, and with seven days left to work on Malice, things don’t look so impossible.

Did take a couple hours off on Friday night to go see Behind the Mask with Shawna.  Very fun movie!  Everybody should go see it right away.

Read This!: Savage

Savage
By Richard Laymon

Richard Laymon can be a tough writer for readers to crack.  It’s not because he’s wordy or over-literate, though.  Many of his books read like ninety minute horror movies: quick, brutal, and full of characters who would cut you rather than shake your hand.  This has put more than a few people off, and I can see where it might.  I love Laymon, though, so let me recommend Savage to you.

Savage is the story of Trevor Bently, a young Englishman who happens to be hiding in a hotel room when Jack the Ripper commits his final London murder. Determined to end the madman’s murderous ways, he follows the Ripper, who we come to learn is a man named Whittle through the streets of London.  When the tables are turned, however, Trevor ends up on a yacht bound for America… as Whittle’s captive.

What follows is equal parts a horror tale, a western, and a coming of age story.  Trevor makes it his life’s mission to end Whittle’s life, but the people he meets keep turning his mind toward other pursuits.  After spending time as a sugar baby and an outlaw, Trevor finally grows into a man, and we feel stronger for taking the journey with him.

By far, this is Laymon’s strongest work.  It’s much longer than his typical tale, and the characters are much richer.  I can’t remember the last time I’ve grown so attached to a cast.  If nothing else, Savage should be read for its rich character work.

Recommendation: Must Read!  Look, people.  You’re not going to read a better book by Laymon, and you’ll be hard pressed to find a better novel, period.  Leisure books will be publishing an American edition in November, but if you can’t wait (and you shouldn’t) you can find the UK edition on amazon at a fair price.

I’m a Soldier

The Afghan Whigs, one of the greatest bands to never blow up huge, have released their first new song in almost ten years.  “I’m a Soldier” is one of two new songs recorded for the upcoming Whigs retrospective Unbreakable.  You can listen to it now on their myspace site.

The Whigs were a force to be reckoned with when they were around.  Certainly the best live show I’ve ever seen.  They crammed more power and spectacle into a 300 seaer club than most arena acts can pull off with an unlimited budget.  From Dulli’s smoke-fueled monologues to Rick McCollum’s seemingly heroin-fueled slide guitar (I once watched him play an almost three hour show without opening his eyes), they ruled the stage from start to finish.

And their music… wow.  They were the first band to really mean something to me.  I remember listening to “Debonair” for the first time and realizing how powerful music could be.  I remember playing a loop of “What Jail is Like” and their covers of “Little Girl Blue” and “Dark End of the Street” for my girlfriend at the time for mood purposes.  It worked, too.  I played the same songs for days after she broke up with me.

For a long stretch of time, it seemed every band I enjoyed was destined to disband within a year or so.  Hum, Triple Fast Action, Letters to Cleo, Cold Water Flat… tey all just died away.  Nothing hurt as much as reading the press release about the Whigs’ break-up.  I was never going to see them live again.  I’d never get to buy another of their incredible records (masterpieces filled with more sex, angst, and joy than you can shake a stick at).  I was crushed, something I never thought a band could do to me.

Unbreakable remedies some of that.  Though Dulli has said there won’t be any reunion shows, I still have this little slice I can pick up and take with me.  That counts for something, I guess.

300

Saw 300 last night.  I’m now taking my second stab at reviewing it, as the first draft was far to bitchy.

In short, 300 is quality mindless entertainment.  And I do mean mindless.  I think the DVD should be packaged with Porkies and Nightmare on Elm Street and sold on every street corner.

Is it historicaly accurate?  Nah!  This isn’t an historical epic, though.  It’s an action movie based on a comic book.  If nothing else, I think the nu-metal score shows that. 

I went into the theater last night expecting to see one thing: cool, looking fights.  300 delivered that in spades.  They could have slapped black trench coats on everybody and made it the official Matrix sequel, it was so cool.  I wanted to wrestle elephants afterward.

So, yeah.  Go see 300.  Turn off your brain watch men stab each other to death.  It’ll be fun!

Read This!: Monster Island

Monster Island
By David Wellington

The dead have taken over Manhattan, and one of them–a formermed student–has managed to hold onto his intellect.  A UN weapons inspector arrives with an army of teenage Somali girls, looking for the medicine that might save their warlord and by extention his daughter life.

This is the world of Wellington’s Monster Island, a novel that first appeared for free online (it’s still out there!) and has since taken the genre by storm.  While I hesitate to pronounce Wellington the new master of the zombie (there seems to be a new one every three weeks or so), I will proclaim this to be a damn fine book.

Wellington writes at a break-neck speed, using tight, short chapters to keep the story moving.  The action is steady without being over the top.  The characters are entertaining and three dimensional.  To top it all off, Wellington has some fun new ideas for this horror sub-senre, and they’re fun as all hell.

Recommendation: Very Strong.  If you don’t feel like shelling out some green, go find the book online.  It’s at Wellington’s homepage.

Bits, some Kibble

– The next Read This! should go live this weekend or Monday.  It reviews David Wellington’s Monster Island.

– So Captain America died this week.  No, I didn’t buy a copy.  I’m getting Cap in trades.  I did think about buying a copy for ebay purposes, but decided against it.  Just seems crass to me.  I did enjoy the Fox news pundit saying “It’s wrong to kill Captain America when our nation is at war.”  Silly people are fun!

– Latest trailer for Rodriguez and Tarantino’s Grindhouse has been released. It looks fun, sure, but I’m in no way excited about it.  I’m afraid it’ll be like Kill Bill or Sin City, where five minutes in I’m thinking Okay, I get the hook, and then I get to sit there bored for the next two hours.  The think the problem lies with the directors.  Rodriguez is an idea guy.  His stuff tends to fall apart in practice.  Tarantino can write great dialogue, but when he strays from banter he gets a bit dicey.  This one will be a rental.

– STAPLE! is almost a week past, and I’m still feeling the effects.  Coughing and hacking and blowing my nose every few minutes.  I think there’s a metric ton of mucous in my system, and it’s trying to eat me from the inside like The Stuff.

– Three weeks from now, I’ll be in Toronto, continuing con season with the whirlwind of activity that is World Horror.  Sadly, this year’s con appears to be organized by bitter chimps, but I’m not gnona let that get me down.

– Take care of yourselves this weekend.

Norm Partridge wants me dead

That’s the only explanation I can think of.

See, this all started a week ago.  I’d asked Norm-who I met way back at World Horror last year-to read a novella of mine.  Well, I heard back from Norm last week.  He loved the book and agreed to blurb it. 

But then he said it…

“If I have any problem with this, it’s that it reads like the first act of a novel.”

Dammit.

Seconds after reading that, the gears started to turn in my head.  Norm thinks I have a great chance of selling the book at novel length during World Horror.

World Horror is in three weeks.

Three weeks to write a novel.  That’s 60,000 words (at least) added onto a novella while working forty hour weeks and attempting to buy a house.  I figure 2000-3000 words a night on weeknights, while shooting for 5000-6000 a day on weekends.  Ouch!

Norm, if I die you have to help Shawna move.