Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Silver Alibi

   It's not common in my experience as a reader to come across a cross-genre novel that fully satisfies the conventions of both of the genres it crosses. Usually it will lean toward one genre more strongly than the other. James Reasoner's new novel The Silver Alibi manages to function as a full fledged mystery with clues, suspects, red herrings, and some nice twists and turns while also being a full out Western with plenty of gunplay, brawls, and the like.
  The protagonist, Judge Earl Stark, is a former stagecoach guard who studied law and eventually became a Federal circuit Judge. Stark rides into trouble within the first few pages. On his way to the town of Jackhammer to arbitrate a dispute between rival mining operations, Stark comes across some men trapped in a creek by a deadly crossfire. The Judge wades in with his Winchester and evens the odds. Turns out that the boys in trouble are part of one of the mining companies and Stark uses the fact that they don't know who he is yet to get some inside information about the dispute.
   Before long, Stark realizes that things are complicated and potentially dangerous, and that his job won't be an easy one. Then a murder occurs and things get much worse.
   The whole time I was reading this one I kept thinking that it would make a great movie. The plot is a little gem of  construction with each scene leading logically to the next and providing just the right amount of information to keep the reader guessing as to the true identity of the killer. But as  I said it doesn't scrimp on the action either.
   The judge is a great character and Reasoner surrounds him with an interesting cast. There are characters to like and ones to hate and there's even a little romantic subplot. Like I said, it would make a great film. I'm just now meeting Judge Earl Stark but I see that he's appeared in several other books and short stories. I'll be tracking them down. Highly recommended.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Department of Lost Barbarians: He-Man

   Wait? He-Man? That He-Man? A Barbarian? Yep. Not only that but truly a lost barbarian because he was retconned into something else a couple of years after he first appeared. I only learned of the character's alternate origin yesterday while searching for information for an upcoming post about comic book artist Alfredo Alcala, and I thought some of my fellow sword & sorcery fans might find it of interest.
   Legend has it that the Mattel toy company originally was going to do a toy line based on the 1982 Conan the Barbarian movie but the deal fell through so they came up with their own barbarian, however various toy collectors have told me that this story is apocryphal. (This is apparently a major point of contention among He-Man collectors.)
   However, Mattel definitely had the big barbarian in mind as this very early sketch for a He-man design shows.
This much I already knew, since back in 2011, Mattel included a figure made from this sketch, called Vikor, in their Masters of the Universe Classics line. I picked one up, of course. As action figures go, it's a pretty damned cool Conan figure. Personally I always thought the Vikor sketch bore quite a resemblance to this Neal Adams drawing of Conan from the cover of Marvel's Savage Tales issue #5.
However, it was this illustration by the aforementioned Alfredo Alcala from the very first He-Man mini-comic, which was included with some of the toys, that gave me the idea for this post. Note that in the text under the picture that He-Man is a member of a jungle tribe, a true barbarian. Check out the flint spear and the loin cloth.
A couple of pages later, He-Man rescues a green-skinned sorceress from a dangerous beast and she rewards him by giving him weapons and a set of armor that increases his strength to a superhuman level.

There's no secret identity in the original version. No Prince Adam and no mention of a mother from Earth or all the trappings from the Filmation cartoon series that would come a few years later. The Original he-man was a flat out, Conan style Barbarian. I think I prefer him that way.    Anyway, Alfredo Alcala, who did quite a bit of work on Marvel's Conan comics and about whom I'll have more to say later, drew several He-man mini comics for Mattel. I've got a couple on the way from Ebay as we speak.

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Chronicles of Professor Elemental

   "Discovery" the first episode of the web series, The Chronicles of Professor Elemental is finally here. Some of you may recall my mentioning the good Professor a while back. His Steampunk rap stylings (know as Chap Hop) were brought to my attention by comic book artist and all around swell guy, Mike Hawthorne. I was very taken with the Prof's songs Fighting Trousers and Cup of Brown Joy, and when I heard that he was trying to get a web series going through a kick starter style appeal to his fans I had to contribute. The campaign raised a good deal more cash than  the original goal and they were able to make a nifty three part pilot. The first of those three parts is up now at the link I'll supply at the bottom of this post. If you like Steampunk and enjoy British dry humor, and of course some Chap Hop songs and general silliness, then check out The Chronicles of Professor Elemental. Watch the ending credits and you'll see me there as a funder under the screen name CRRUT. Look at me. I'm a patron of the arts.

The Big Picture

   My old television was on its last legs so my pal Cliff loaned me one of his, a 44" flat screen, which is a considerably larger picture than I've had before. Cliff also gave me a Blu-ray player for Christmas (the man loves electronics) so I hooked that up to the flat screen last night. Good grief but that's a big clear image. I know some folks have 55 inch screens but I doubt I would want one that big. Not in my current living room anyway. With the 44" it already feels like I'm at the drive-in. So anyway, movies have a new look at my place. Thanks, Cliff!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

On the Hills and Everywhere

   If you're looking for a Christmas story to warm your heart, might I recommend Manly Wade Wellman's tale of John the Balladeer, On the Hills and Everywhere. John doesn't take part in this one, but rather relates it to a group of children while their folks are cooking Christmas dinner.
   John tells the story of two neighbors, former friends, who have had a falling out. One of the men hires a traveling carpenter to build a fence between the properties, but gets something far different and far better than what he asked for. This is one of Wellman's mountain tales and it has that same home-spun quality that his best stories have. Trust me, this one will bring a smile to your face.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Plans

   Tonight is the Christmas get-together for my extended family, so I'll be heading out to my uncle's house about 6:00 pm. That will be the over eating part of the holiday. Then tomorrow morning I'll go to my brother's house to exchange gifts with my parents and my brother's family.  And that should take care of Christmas.
   So far my plan to have a better Christmas has gone well. I've enjoyed having the tree, though not as much as Bruce has enjoyed it. I've watched Christmas movies and read Christmas stories, and I plan to do more of that today.
   I need to dig out my stash of Christmas themed comic books. I know I have some collections of Uncle Scrooge, Archie, and various super hero Christmas stories. They're in a box somewhere. Otherwise, should be a calm Christmas Eve here. Hope everyone is having a good Holiday as well. I've learned that I can still enjoy the Christmas season. I just have to work at it.


Started the second draft of Congregations of the Dead, the follow up to Blind Shadows. My co-author, James A. Moore, gave me the first crack at it. I got through about a third of the 300 plus page manuscript yesterday and so far I haven't had to do any major rewrites. Just the usual corrections, rewordings, and such that one expects. I will say that letting a MS sit for as long as we did this one allows you to come at the book with fresh eyes. I haven't peeked at it since we set it aside several months ago. I'm expecting more trouble toward the last third of the book as I remember thinking at the time that it was a bit choppy, but we'll see.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Kirby Conan Redux

A while back I put up the cover to an old Marvel Comics Calendar drawn by my hero, Jack Kirby. The cover had one of the few examples of Kirby drawing Conan the Barbarian. However that cover had been inked by John Romita, whose inking style somewhat changed the look of Kirby's characters. This was standard practice back in the day. Romita draws some of the most handsome men and most gorgeous women you've ever seen in comics, so he often was brought in to add some polish to a finished cover for Marvel. However, those of us who love Kirby want to see as much of Jack's pure penciling power as is practically possible, so imagine how happy I was to come across the pencil version of the cover. It might not be as technically 'pretty' as the inked version, but it's got the power and energy that only Jack Kirby could bring to a drawing and it's an example of pure Kirby Conan. Be sure and click on it to see it full size.

Monday, December 17, 2012

A Tale of Two Scrooges

I mentioned last week that I had watched the 1951 version of A Christmas Carol and that it was one of my two favorite adaptations of Charles Dickens' classic. This weekend I watched the other favorite, the 1984 Television movie starring George C. Scott as Ebenezer Scrooge. The reason I still have two favorites is because I can't decide which I like best.
   Both are very faithful to Dickens with most of the dialogue being lifted directly from the book. Both have charismatic actors in the lead role and both have great period detail and wonderful supporting casts. It's a hard call.
   The 1951 version gets a bit of an extra push because it's the version I grew up with. I watched it with my parents every year when I was growing up, so there's a nostalgia factor. It's also the more 'feel good' version of the two, a bit lighter in tone, with a more "movie-ish" version of early Victorian London.
   The 1984 version is darker and more realistic. The poor people look poor and the sick people look sick, especially Tiny Tim who is indeed played by a very small boy. The 1951 Tim is almost as big as Scrooge. Dickens probably would have approved more of this version as it does a better job of showing the social problems he was trying to talk about in his book.
   As I mentioned, both movies have excellent leads. Alastair Sim makes Scrooge a believable miser, a man who made some bad choices and allowed his goals to eclipse his feelings. He looks genuinely terrified when faced with Marley's ghost.
   And George C. Scott? Here is where Scott shines because he takes the poetic dialog of Dickens and he manages to make it seem like he's really saying those things. He's not acting or reciting. He's talking, making him the more naturalistic of the two Scrooges. Scott's Scrooge is a human being, a man who let his tragic childhood turn him against the world, and who let his pursuit of wealth cut him off from people who cared about him. Scott makes you believe he could change his ways, that there's still something of the young man who loved his sister deep inside the hard crust of Ebenezer Scrooge.
   So anyway, having watched both versions fairly close together, I'm still not sure which I like best. And fortunately, I don't have to choose. I can watch both every Christmas season and enjoy what each has to offer.

Friday, December 14, 2012

On the Shoulders of Giants

   I had told my friends that when I got a copy of Blind Shadows I was going to shelve it between books by Karl Edward Wagner and Manly Wade Wellman, not because I have any illusions that my work belongs beside theirs, but because they were the two biggest influences on me when I was writing my part of the novel. My Co-author, James A. Moore agreed that we should dedicate Blind Shadows to Wagner because he had been a big influence on Jim as well.


  I'm feeling decidedly author-ish this week having received my comp copies of Blind Shadows. As you can see, Bruce is suitably impressed. Actually he's probably wondering how that dust jacket would taste. Fear not, they are out of his reach now.

Thursday, December 13, 2012


   Very good night at the comic book store last night. In fact, about as good as it gets for me, as there were reprint collections by two of my favorite comic book artists, Russ Manning and Jack Kirby.
   Manning was also representing one of my top three favorite fictional characters, Tarzan of the Apes, so it was a double for his book. This was volume one of Dark Horse Comics' Tarzan: The Russ Manning Years, and it reprints some of the comics that my mother collected and some of the first things that I ever read. In fact these comics helped me learn to read, as I have talked about before.
   Along with writer Gaylord Dubois, Russ Manning illustrated a series of adaptations of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan novels and this volume features adaptations of Tarzan of the Apes, The Return of Tarzan, The Beasts of Tarzan, The Son of Tarzan, Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar, Tarzan the Untamed, and Tarzan the Terrible. All of these are illustrated by Manning, whose smooth, graceful drawing style is just as fresh today as it was in the 1960s. Manning drew a noble, powerful (but not muscle bound) Tarzan. His scenes of the jungle are lush and exotic. His animals are accurately rendered. He drew beautiful women and fantastic lost cities. He was the perfect choice for the Tarzan comic book and later for the Sunday Newspaper strip. And he is my absolute favorite Tarzan artist. So yeah, glad to get this one.
   The Jack Kirby book was the second and final collection of Kamandi: The Last Boy on Earth, Kirby's post-apocalyptic, Planet of the Apes style comic. But in Kirby's World, almost all animals have evolved into creatures of human intelligence, so Kamandi (named for Command-D, the bunker he was raised in) has to deal with not only talking gorillas, but talking dogs, baboons, tigers, dolphins, and other intelligent beasts. This collection features one of my favorite issues, #29, which offers tantalizing glimpses of what became of the world's Greatest Superhero in the Great Disaster. A story called 'The Legend' reveals that somewhere perhaps, Superman is still alive. Great stuff.
   And interesting connection between these two books is artist Mike Royer. Royer was the primary Inker for Kamandi and he also assisted Manning on some of the art reprinted in the Tarzan book. Both Manning and Kirby lived in California at the time and Royer ended up working for both of them. Bet he'd have some stories to tell. Anyway, two great books.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Robert E. Howard's Pirate Adventures Coming Soon

  The fine folks at the Robert E. Howard Foundation have posted the cover for the next in their teriffic series of books featuring the writings of REH. This time out it's Howard's pirate stories and verse. Should be fun. Damon C. Sasser has posted the contents here:

Check it out.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Broadway Bounty

Broadway Bounty is my second visit with Robert J. Randisi's bounty hunter, Decker. I picked up Bounty on a Baron in a used bookstore and liked it enough to look into the rest of the series. After I read the plot of Broadway Bounty, I knew I'd have to get that one. In this book, Decker travels to New York City to avenge the backshooting of an old friend, a fellow bounty hunter named Dover.
   Decker goes on the hunt for the man who hired the gunmen who killed his friend and soon finds himself the target of the same man.
   I love this sort of fish out of water story, with the Western bred Decker trying to adjust to the Wild Wild East. The streets of new York are not the kind of canyons Decker is used to and he has to adjust to a different kind of man hunt. But Decker learns fast and soon he's dispensing his own brand of frontier justice on the city slickers.
   This is a fast paced Western with good supporting characters, a couple of nasty bad guys, and even a romantic subplot. It's under 200 pages so I read it in a couple of hours. Just like with Bounty on A Baron, I was very impressed with Randisi's stripped down prose. No words are wasted as he drags you along with Decker. I'm currently reading one of Randisi's Gunsmith books and enjoying it tremendously. More on that later.
   The bad news is there appear to be only five book in the Decker series. The good news is, they are available on Kindle so you don't have to hunt down the paperbacks if you don't want to.
   Oh I did notice that Randisi has continued his practice of crossovers from his private eye days. Back when I was reading the Miles Jacoby PI books, Randisi would often reference other writers private eyes, like if he needed information on a suspect in Detroit, Jacoby might call Loren D. Estleman's Amos Walker. Estleman gets a nod in one of the Decker books when Decker mentions US Marshall Page Murdoch, who has his own series. And the Gunsmith knows Jim West from the Wild Wild West. I love stuff like that.

Weekend Report

 Had a fairly quiet weekend, which was what I wanted. Did a good bit of reading. I read Broadway Bounty by Robert J. Randisi, which I'll review in my next post. Did some non fiction reading about Charles Dickens and the Pre-Raphaelites. That led to me writing a post about Conan comics artist Barry Windsor Smith and his connection to the Pre-Raphaelites, which I deleted after about ten minutes because I decided I hadn't done the subject or the artists justice. Expect to see an expanded version of that later with more information.
   Read a bunch of stories from volume #12 of the Dark Horse Savage Sword of Conan reprints which led to the post below about Rudy Nebres. Overall the stories in this book aren't terribly well written, but there's some good art. Chuck Dixon will be along in volume #13 and the writing quality will improve.
   Movie and TV wise I watched the Christmas episode from the first season of the regenerated Doctor Who, The Unquiet Dead, which features Charles Dickens and zombies. Now THAT's a Christmas episode. Also watched several episodes of Kung Fu. I'm about halfway through season two on my re-watch of the entire series. The show has hit its stride and there are some really well done stories.
   I watched Scrooge,  the 1951 version of A Christmas Carol with Alastair Sim. This is one of my two favorite versions of Dickens' classic. What's the other? That would be telling. I'll try to put up a post about both versions in the not too distant future.
   Otherwise I spent the weekend just chillin and watching my cat Bruce practice his mixed martial arts moves on my Christmas Tree.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Savage Spotlight: Rudy Nebres

   I was talking to my pal Mikeyboy over at the Crom! blog and we were lamenting how we miss Marvel Comics' black & white magazine The Savage Sword of Conan. If you were reading this blog about this time last year you may recall a series of essays I did, waxing nostalgic about my days as a kid reading SSoC. I miss those bright and garish covers that promised and often delivered so much exotic action and adventure. Nothing really like that on the comics stands these days.
   Anyway, it made me want to write a bit more about Savage Sword, so I'm inaugurating a new occasional feature here at Singular Points, The Savage Showcase. I'll talk about anything that comes to mind dealing with SSoC. This week I was looking through the latest volume of SSoC reprints from Dark Horse Comics, #12, and I was reminded of one of my favorite artists from the 70s-80s, who only occasionally graced the pages of Savage Sword, Rudy Nebres.
   Nebres migrated from the Philippines to the US in 1975, when the big two comic book companies, Marvel and DC, were bringing in a bunch of Filipino artists, including Alex Nino, Ernie Chan, and Alfredo Alcala, all of who did work on Conan the Barbarian. I'll talk about each of these guys at some point, but the spotlight is on Rudy today.
   My first exposure to Rudy Nebres was actually on another Marvel black and white mag, The Deadly Hands of Kung Fu. Nebres was drawing the Iron Fist feature in Deadly Hands and I loved it. Chris Claremont, who was writing the title at the time, steered clear of the usual superheroics of the color Iron Fist comic and wrote a more fantasy oriented storyline which was well suited by Nebres' lush illustrative style. Really Nebres would have been a natural for sword & sorcery from the get go, but at that time the great John Buscema was turning out some of his best work on Conan so the Cimmerian wasn't available. (Nebres did ink a couple of Big John's stories and they look spectacular.)
   A little further down the line though, Buscema had moved on and Nebres got to come in and show what he could do with everyone's favorite barbarian. I'm giving you two examples, a pin-up and a page of continuity. The comic pages is from SSoC #121, which is reprinted in the aforementioned Dark Horse volume #12. The pin-up appeared in issue #123.
   Over the years Nebres would work for most of the comics companies, including DC, Marvel, Red Circle, Warren and Continuity. He's still drawing today and is available for commissions.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Full Treasury

  A while back I mentioned that I was trying to get all four of the Marvel Treasury Editions that featured Conan the Barbarian without paying an arm and a leg. I kept a close watch on Ebay for these 10"X13" giant comics and last week my diligence paid off. I found a very nice copy of Marvel Treasury Edition #4 for a good price and I snapped it up. It arrived in the mail yesterday. Of the four, this was the only one that I'd owned a copy of when I was a kid. I remembered it well because it was the first look I had at two Roy Thomas/Barry (pre-Windsor) Smith adaptations of original Robert E. Howard Conan stories, Rogues in the House and Red Nails. Both are well done with Red Nails being particularly impressive, showcasing what was perhaps Smith's best art on the series. Rogues in the House is probably my favorite single Conan story and I read this comic before I read the REH prose story, so Smith's visions of the foppish nobleman Murilo, the evil red priest Nabonidus, and the ape-like Thak definitely colored my impressions of the story when I finally read it.
   So anyway, there's another collection complete. Now, what can I hunt down next...

Friday, December 07, 2012

I'm Going to Have a Merry Christmas if it Kills Me

   I am determined to have a good Christmas season. The last few years I've let the Holiday pass with barely a ripple. Like many adults I blamed this on growing older and the commercialism of the season, and blah blah blah. But really, as Abraham Lincoln observed, most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be, so I decided to put forth some effort this year.
   I've already blogged about laying in a good supply of Christmas reading material in the form of Sexton Blake stories, but I've added more books to the mix and I'll talk about that soon. I'm lining up a bunch of Christmas movies too. I have put up a tree, which is something I haven't done in a long time. Of course my cat Bruce knocks it over about twice a day, (He attempted to climb it within the first ten minutes of me setting it up.) but hey, it's giving him a good Christmas so what the hey.
   Most importantly, I've been making sure to help others out at this time of year when "want is keenly felt, and abundance rejoices" by donating to various charities who need a boost at Christmas time.
   And I have to say, that here, three weeks before Christmas, I'm already enjoying the season more than I have in years. It just takes a little effort. Okay, end of heartwarming post. Back to the usual foolishness.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Now It Can Be Told

   A while back I discovered the British book publisher Angry Robot through a display at Barnes & Noble. They put out a lot of dark fantasy and the book that caught my attention was Kell's Legend by Andy Remic. I enjoyed that one and read several other books from the company, most of which I've reviewed here at Singular Points.
   Anyway, as I was reading the work in progress manuscript for my pal James A. Moore's fantasy novel, Seven Forges, I noted that its dark and gritty tone seemed like a perfect match for Angry Robot, so I suggested that Jim try submitting Seven Forges there. He did, and I'm proud to announce that Angry Robot has officially picked up Seven Forges for publication in 2013. I couldn't say anything about it until the deal was finished, but Jim has announced it on his blog, so now it can be told.
   This makes me very happy. Congratulations, Jim.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Belated Blogiversary

   I just remembered that I missed the sixth year anniversary of Singular Points. I started this blog on November 1st, 2006. I've been at this a while. According to the stats reader, this will be the 1403rd post I've made. Quite a lot of words and I'm still having fun, which is the whole point of a blog like this.
   So thanks to everyone who stops by to see what I'm going on about. I've made some friends through this blog and learned a ton of stuff from the various comments, links, and such that folks have provided. Hopefully I can continue to share books, comics, movies, etc that are not without their singular points of interest, as Sherlock Holmes might say.

Tarzan: The Centennial Celebration

   Okay, seriously, if you're a fan of Edgar Rice Burroughs' immortal creation Tarzan of the Apes, then you need this book. I'm saying this as a guy who owns dozens of books about Tarzan. Scott Tracy Griffin has done Tarzan fans a huge service by putting together this big, colorful coffee table book about everyone's favorite jungle lord.
   The book starts with a biography of Burroughs, then moves to chapters devoted to each of the two dozen Tarzan novels. Each book gets the star treatment, with a detailed synopsis, covers and illustrations from the original magazine appearances, then covers from the various hardback and paperback versions and even covers of the multiple comic book adaptations, many of these shot from the original art. Frank Frazetta. Russ Manning. Hal Foster. Thomas Yeates. Joe Jusko. Roy Krenkel. John Allen St. John. Names to conjure with. The book is printed on heavy paper so these illustrations really stand out. I was particularly taken with the covers from the 1960s Gold Key comics, as these were my introduction to Tarzan.
   In between these features, Griffin has done essays on Jane, Korak, Nkima, Jad bal ja, and the other characters who appeared in the books over the years. Learn about the various lost civilizations that Tarzan discovered and speculate on just what species were the apes that raised the jungle lord. There's even a full glossary of the ape language that Burroughs invented so you too can learn to speak ape. (I already do but I could use a refresher.)
   The book covers all the movies and television versions of Tarzan as well with plenty of photographs and loads of behind the scenes information. This really is a celebration of 100 years of Tarzan and it's hard to imagine a more thorough look at the lord of the jungle. Highly recommended.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Happy Birthday Conan!

   December marks the 80th anniversary of the first publication of Robert E. Howard's Conan. The December 1932  issue of Weird Tales featured the very first Conan story, The Phoenix on the Sword. Please join me in wishing the big guy a happy birthday. Conan is a pop culture icon and one of my very favorite characters. The world would be a poorer place without him.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

The Next Big Thing Blog Meme

   My pal Howard Andrew Jones, whose new novel The Bones of the Old ones is due out this month, invited me to take part in The Next big Thing blog meme. That deal is that several different writers would answer the same group of questions about their work. You can read Howard's answers and see links to other writers here:

   And now, on with the questions.

What is the working title of your book?

   Since my first novel, written in collaboration with James A. Moore, is shipping this week, that's the one I'll talk about. The title is Blind Shadows. We've already done a first draft of a second novel with the same protagonists, but I'll leave that until later.

Where did the idea for the book come from?

   Jim asked me if I wanted to collaborate on a novel that would combine horror with crime fiction and I said, "sure!" We tossed some ideas around and decided we wanted to something in the vein of Arthur Machen (The Great God Pan), something where the bad guys would appear to be human but really weren't. We decided to make these creatures members of a backwoods family and to set the story in the mountains of northern Georgia. We wanted the book to have a Southern Gothic feel to it. With guns.

What genre does your book fall under?

   It's either a horror novel with crime fiction or a crime fiction novel with horror.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie version.

   I can't really think of anyone from the current crop of Hollywood actors. Both heroes, Wade Griffin and Sheriff Carl Price are big bruisers. Probably have to go with unknowns for the leads.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of the book?

   A private detective and a small town sheriff investigate the murder of an old friend and become involved with a horrific menace from another dimension.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

   Blind Shadows is being published by the Arcane Wisdom imprint of Bloodletting Press.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

   It took right at eight weeks. Jim and I were trading chapters back and forth at a dizzying speed. Jim described it to another writer friend as juggling knives at one another.

What other books would you compare this story with in your genre?

   The closest thing I can think of is Joe Lansdale's Hap and Leonard books. But with monsters. It's kind of like a really scary buddy movie.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

   After Machen, probably the biggest influences as far as the horror aspects go were Karl Edward Wagner and Manly Wade Wellman. There's some Lovecraft there too. Crime fiction wise, Mickey Spillane is a big influence on my viewpoint character, Griffin. Also the heroes of Robert E. Howard. You would have to ask Jim Moore who influenced him when writing Sheriff Carl Price. I think of this as a very pulpish novel. Imagine a head on collision between Weird Tales and Black Mask and you would be close.

What else about your book might pique the interest of readers?

   Jim and I wanted to do something uniquely Southern so we're using a setting that hasn't been seen in many horror novels. We really were trying for something different. Oh, and there's also the world's most dangerous English Professor.

   James A. Moore has joined the game with information about his Next big Thing, the first volume in a projected fantasy series, The seven Forges. Check it out here:

Doing Your Homework

   I mentioned a few posts back that I was working on a Weird Western story. A couple of folks have emailed, asking how that's going. Well truthfully it stalled out at about 10,000 words because I read back through it and said to myself, "This reads like it was written by someone who read about half a dozen Westerns and decided he could write one." Well, duh.
   So I set about gathering reference books and more Westerns and I've been reading my way through those. The photo doesn't even begin to show a quarter of the stuff. There's a ton of newer Westerns on my Kindle by folks like Wayne Dundee, James Reasoner, and of course, Peter Brandvold/Frank Leslie. In fact I picked up all of the Yakima Henry books yesterday at a used bookstore.
   Also, I learned a ton of stuff while I was in Santa Fe in October which showed me how much I'd gotten wrong in terms of the landscape in that area. I asked a lot of questions, made a lot of notes, and bought a lot of books while I was there and I visited all the historical places I wanted to use in my story.
   So I'll be back to the West but right now I'm doing my homework.

Monday, November 26, 2012

In Stock And Shipping

   Blind Shadows is now in stock and shipping from Miskatonic books. My first novel, written with the redoubtable James A. Moore, is available this week. Can't wait to get my copies. Details here:

   And if you're in the Marietta Georgia area, Dr. No's Comics and Games will be stocking copies.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Last Lawman

 I mentioned before that Peter Brandvold was fast becoming my favorite Western writer, and his new book, The Last Lawman, goes even further in cementing the title. Talk about your narrative drive. Federal Deputy Marshall Spurr Morgan is 60 years old and feeling his years, but that doesn't stop him from setting out on another manhunt. His quarry this time is Clell Stanhope, a stone killer who is cutting a murderous swath through the west.
   Brandvold spends a lot of time with Stanhope and his gang, the Vultures, showing the reader just what a lowlife this guy is. Brandvold wants you to hate him, and boy I do. But Stanhope is smart too, and he seems to be ahead of Spurr and his allies at every turn, taking a serious toll on the heroes as the book progresses.
   Brandvold gives me even more to like when his hero from another series, half-breed Yakima Henry, shows up to back Spurr's play. You know what a sucker I am for a crossover. (And Spurr himself is a character from Brandvold's Cuno Massey series.)
   Spurr's age makes him somewhat different than Yakima Henry or my favorite Brandvold character, The Rogue Lawman, in that Spurr can't be quite the bull in a china shop that the younger heroes are, but he makes up for it with experience and guile, and he's by no means a slouch when it comes to fannin' lead. This is a fast action, pulp style Western, my favorite kind, but there's quite a bit of rumination on growing older.
   This is apparently the first in a series, though, so it looks like Spurr has a few good years left. Looking forward to joining him for more adventures.
   Next up on my Brandvold (under his Frank Leslie pen-name) reading list is Dead Man's Trail, a new Yakima Henry novel which takes place around Christmas.

More Christmas Reading

   In addition to the Sexton Blake Christmas book mentioned below, I also started reading Six Guns and Slay Bells, a collection of Weird Westerns set at Christmas. Read the first story last night, Sheriff Santa by Robert J. Randisi. In this one, an aging Sheriff tries to stop a bank robbery while attired in the Santa Claus suit he wears for the town kids. Things don't go well, but then he gets some unexpected ghostly help. This is a very fun little story and a great beginning to the collection.
   This is another collection from the members of the Western Fictioneers, the same folks who did The Traditional West anthology I bragged on a while back and who are doing the shared world Wolf Creek books. I'll be talking about more of the stories as I read them, but you can get more info about Six Guns and Slay Bells right now by going here:

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Mystery of Mrs. Bardell's Xmas Pudding

   I'll admit it. I'm a sucker for a mystery story set at Christmas. Be it Sherlock Holmes in The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle, Nero Wolfe in Christmas Party, or Ellery Queen in The Adventure of the Dauphin's Doll, I love em' all. So you can probably imagine, given my recent mania for all things Sexton Blake, how happy I was to discover an entire volume of Sexton Blake stories set at Christmas.
   Crime at Christmas features four Sexton Blake novellas by one of the best of the Blake writers, Gwyn Evans. Evans was known for his festive Christmas stories and readers of Union Jack and Detective Weekly came to expect them every Yule season. Evans was particularly fond of Blake's housekeeper, Mrs. Bardell, and he often placed her at the center of these Christmas mysteries, beginning with his very first one, The Mystery of Mrs. Bardell's Xmas Pudding, which I read last night.
   This story from the Union Jack Special Christmas number for 1925 is one of the most fun Christmas mysteries I've ever read. It's subtitled 'a Real Christmas story and a Real Detective story too!' and it is very much that. It starts off with American reporter 'Splash' Page and Inspector Coutts of Scotland Yard, who, finding themselves at loose ends for Christmas, are invited to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day at Sexton Blake's rooms in Baker Street. Evans takes the opportunity here to ladle on the Christmas trappings. Snow begins to fall and carolers are wandering the streets. All is warm and cozy by the fire in Baker Street as the three gentlemen and Blake's young assistant Tinker share good natured jibes while downstairs Mrs. Bardell bustles about in the kitchen.
  Things become more interesting when Mrs. Bardell comes into the consulting room and asks for Blake's advice. It seems that Mrs. Bardell's sister, Mrs. Cluppins, who runs a rooming house, has had her Christmas pudding stolen from her larder. Not only that, but for some reason, Mrs Cluppins' only boarder, a sailor known as 'Roarin Bill Barnes', is beside himself with anger over the theft.
   Mrs Bardell wants to take another pudding to her sister and Blake tells her to go ahead. However a little later Mrs. Bardell telephones from her sisters home to say that Roarin Bill has been murdered, stabbed in the back.
   Blake, Tinker, Coutts, and Page hurry over to investigate. (They take Blake's bloodhound Pedro too.) As it turns out, Barnes isn't quite dead, and Blake gets a cryptic clue from him before Barnes  lapses into unconsciousness. Barnes' reaction to the theft of the pudding takes on new significance and the team splits, with Tinker, Page, and Pedro going after the missing pudding and Blake and Coutts following other leads on the trail of the would be assassin.
   The rest of the narrative follows the heroes through various adventures as they encounter a gang of boy pirates, a shifty pub owner and other denizens of London's underworld. In the end Blake solves it all of course, and the whole cast sits down to a huge Christmas dinner. Like the man said, Christmas story and Detective story. Just a tremendous amount of fun.
   What's really cool about the book itself is that it's printed like bound issues of Union jack, complete with ads, features, back up stories and the like. A real time capsule of a bygone age. The other three stories in the book are:

The Crime of the Christmas Tree

The Affair of the Black Carol

Mrs. Bardell's Christmas Eve (I plan to read this one on Christmas Eve)

   I also have another Evans story, The Christmas Cavalier, in another collection. So plenty of Sexton Blake Christmas adventures ahead. I'll parcel them out through the Holiday season.

Friday, November 23, 2012

They Fight Crime!

   Sexton Blake and Kharrn. He's a British Detective. He's a time traveling Barbarian. Together, they fight crime!

   Okay, really it was just another Kirby-Esque sketch I did the other day...

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

   I'd like to join Kharrn the Barbarian in wishing you a happy Thanksgiving. Now go and gorge yourselves like a bunch of barbarians and make me proud.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Wrath of Kharrn

  See these four Orcs? When I was a little newbie in Lord of the Rings Online they killed me. A lot. They were part of a tough quest at about level 20 and I just could not get past them. I died again and again. So now, whenever I happen to pass this small camp, I stop and kill these Orcs in revenge. Petty? Childish? Yep. But I hates them.

The Big British Breakfast

  We've all heard tales of how bad British food is. I always tell people that it depends on what you order and where. I found the steak and mushroom pies to be great, for instance. (I did have a scary experience with Yorkshire pudding, but I've tried to forget that.) However, during my various trips to the UK, my favorite meal was always breakfast. The Grafton Edwardian Hotel on Tottenham Court Road (Where Watson and I once tracked a werewolf that had been preying on shop girls, but I digress) always served up a fantastic breakfast buffet of eggs, bacon, sausages, potato cakes, baked beans (No Spam) and other delights.
   This year, on Second Breakfast Day, I was reminded of how much I liked the British style baked beans in tomato sauce with my eggs, so knowing I had the day off today, I stopped in at Publix yesterday evening and picked up a can of Heinz baked beans in the British foods section. While I was there, I swung by the bakery and got some blueberry scones. Publix scones come the closest to the genuine UK article of any scones I've tried and the blueberry are particularly good.
   So this morning I cooked myself a big breakfast of eggs, sausages, and baked beans, finishing up with a blueberry scone. This is the way to get a five day weekend started! 
(Note: The above image is not a picture of my actual breakfast. I ate mine before thinking to get the camera.)

Edit. Hey this marks my 200th post for the year! Doesn't look like I'm going to match last year's number, 243, but still a respectable number of posts.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Win a Copy of Bones of the Old Ones

  Good Reads is hosting a giveaway of my pal Howard Andrew Jones' new book, Bones of the Old Ones, the followup to his excellent sword and sorcery novel, The Desert of Souls. There will be three winners chosen and each will receive a signed hardback copy of Bones as well as Desert of Souls. I highly recommend Howard's work, so head over to the link below and sign up. Winners will be announced on December 19th.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Queen of the Night

   On one of my rambles around the internet I came across the scan above. It appears to be the cover for the follow up to Karl Edward Wagner's Bran Mak Morn pastiche, Legion From the Shadows, but from what I've heard, Wagner never wrote this book, though he sometimes claimed that he did. In the last interview he gave he said:

"I was asked to write some Robert E. Howard pastiches by Glenn Lord via my agent, Kirby McCauley. None of us were happy with the sorry state of the then-current crop, and I was brought in as a hired gun to try to sort the matter out. Legion From The Shadows and The Road of Kings were both difficult to write. I wrote in my own style, remaining true to Howard’s characters.
The second Bran Mak Morn novel, Queen of the Night, was held back for various reasons. It will be published in England later this year (1994) as a double volume."

   Still, according to friends and colleagues, the book was never written. When I came across this scan, however, I noted that there was copy on the back. Usually this is copy telling the reader what the book is about, so I wondered if perhaps Wagner had at least given a his publisher a synopsis. The text is hard to read in this small scan, (Anyone got a bigger one?) but from what I can make out the plot is pretty general.
   So being the intrepid journalist that I am, I decided to email the guy the scan had apparently come from, author David Drake, friend and occasional collaborator of KEW. Drake was kind enough to reply. he said:

    "Karl must have told his Zebra editor that he was going to set it in Atlantis, because he was really pissed when the Bran novel by...doggone...I'm blocking on the names...came out, it was set in Atlantis. There was never a synopsis or anything whatever written."

   So perhaps Drake was right and an editor at Zebra cobbled together some back cover copy based on a conversation with KEW. Interesting stuff.

Sunday, November 18, 2012


   I've blogged before about how scary I often find the stories of Hugh B. Cave to be. This weekend I finally got around to reading what is arguably his best known story, Murgunstrumm, and yeah, it's scary as hell. Though it was originally published in 1932, it's aged well. There are one or two melodramatic moments, but for the most part it certainly doesn't read like something 80 years old.
   The story begins with a very tense scene where a man escapes from a mental institution. Cave, a master of mood, makes the man's fear almost a tangible thing, slowly building up the psychological tension by describing the man's mental state and layering on the atmosphere. By the time the guy gets free, you almost feel like you were incarcerated with him. And that's just the first few pages.
   Cave continues the build-up. The reader learns that the hero and his girlfriend were both put into mental institutions because of the wild story that they told about being tortured and imprisoned by some horrible non-human creatures at an isolated country inn, and that the hero is going back to that inn. By the time he gets there, after first tricking the men who had him committed into visiting the place themselves, you know that bad bad things are going to happen. And they do. Cave is one of those writers who make you think "Oh jeez, he's not going to do what I think he's going to do", and then he does it. Where other writers might shy away, Cave plunges in. Karl Edward Wagner once pointed out that any of the writers who thought that the extremes of the splatterpunk horror story were something new, obviously hadn't read Hugh B. Cave. This is a genuinely disturbing story. There were a couple of times when I could feel my pulse rate pick up as Cave ratcheted up the tension. Gotta love a writer who can do that.
   Anyway, I won't give out any more of the plot because the slow build-up is part of the fun. Hugh B. Cave is yet another writer who I discovered because of Wagner. Fittingly enough I read it in the Carcosa volume Murgunstrumm and Others.

Friday, November 16, 2012

My Favorite Tarzan Film

 In a comment on the post below about a new Tarzan movie, my pal Cromsblood asked if I had an absolute favorite Tarzan movie. I had to give that some thought because there are several I like quite a bit.
   I'm very fond of Mike Henry's three Tarzan films, partly because Henry, of all the various actors who had played Tarzan, came the closest to looking like Edgar Rice Burroughs' descriptions of the character . Tall, and leanly muscular, with jet black hair, he almost seemed a Russ Manning drawing come to life. I also like that in all three of his movies, Tarzan and the Valley of Gold, Tarzan and the Great River, and Tarzan and the Jungle Boy, he managed to show Tarzan as a man who could function  just fine in civilization, but who became a ruthless and implacable enemy back in the jungle. Henry's Tarzan wasn't someone to mess with.
   I'm also fond of the first half of the movie Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan. Why only the first half? Because that part almost gets the origin spot on. It's very close to the books. Unfortunately, the second half of the movie goes off on some 'noble savage' tangent and never recovers. I always turn the movie off right where Ralph Richardson's character dies. It's downhill from there. But boy, that first half is a blast.
   However, having considered the question for a bit, I think my absolute favorite Tarzan movie is the aptly named Tarzan's Greatest Adventure. This is a tightly written, no nonsense little movie, a straight ahead thriller that is not only a very good Tarzan movie, but just a very good movie. You could enjoy this without ever having seen a Tarzan film before.
   This was producer Sy Weintraub's first attempt to drag the apeman into contemporary times and make him more realistic. He got rid of all the trappings that Tarzan had been saddled with since the Weissmuller days. No mention of Jane. No Boy. None of that 'me Tarzan' stuff. Cheetah the chimp makes only a brief appearance.
   In Tarzan's Greatest Adventure four criminals slaughter a bunch of villagers in order to steal dynamite they need for a diamond stealing plot. Tarzan goes after them and tracks them through the jungle. Like I said of Mike Henry, this is a no nonsense Tarzan. Just like ERB's character, who thought little of killing an enemy, this Tarzan will do whatever has to be done to stop the bad guys.
   There are some good performances from the villains, particularly Anthony Quayle as the leader of the crew, and a pre-Bond Sean Connery as a sadistic grinning rogue. Worthy villains for the apeman. The movie was shot mostly on location in Africa and it shows. Gone are the fake looking jungles and obvious sets.
   Gordon Scott, who had already made a couple of pseudo-Weissmuller Tarzan movies, got to show that he could actually act if given a chance. This is probably his best film. He's a little beefy for ERB's Tarzan, but he's convincing in the role and he did most of his own stunts.
   So yeah, that's my  favorite Tarzan movie. Well worth a look.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

More Sexton Blake on the Way

   As promised, Bear Alley Books is getting ready to release yet another Sexton Blake annual facsimile. This is the 1942 annual. Check out that cover. Blake dukes it out with a Nazi U-boat crew. Nazis. I hate those guys.
   I've already pre-ordered mine of course. Go here to get the info.

Tarzan Swings Again

 Someone forwarded me a link to an article in Variety about a possible new Tarzan film from Warner Brothers. Here's the premise:

"Years after he's re-assimilated into society, he (Tarzan) is asked by Queen Victoria to investigate the goings-on in the Congo. Tarzan teams with an ex-mercenary named George Washington Williams to save the Congo from a fierce warlord who controls a massive diamond mine."

   I'm fine with that as a plot. Sure, it isn't based on any of Edgar Rice Burroughs' actual Tarzan stories, but at least they're not filming the tired old origin story yet again. Thing is, some of my favorite Tarzan movies have had little to do with Burroughs' original tales. It's the character of Tarzan that concerns me much more than the plot. If he's portrayed the way ERB intended, I'm fine with a new adventure.
   In that respect, Tarzan has fared much better over the years than Robert E. Howard's Conan. Though the Johnny Weissmuller films didn't do much to bring the 'real' Tarzan to the screen, later movies, particularly those featuring Gordon Scott, Mike Henry, and Jock Mahoney went a long way towards bringing Burroughs' idea of an intelligent, articulate ape-man into cinemas. The 1960s Tarzan TV series starring Ron Ely was fairly close in many ways as well.
   If you've read the novels, then you know that by the fourth book, The Son of Tarzan, that the jungle lord had indeed been "re-assimilated into society" and was living in England as Lord Greystoke on his estate with his wife Jane and their son Jack (Korak). So that's fine, though in the books that would have been after the death of Queen Victoria. Still I think the producers are wise to keep Tarzan in the past, as to me, he's a character that doesn't work that well in the here and now.
   Anyway, I've been saying for years that I wished someone would make a Tarzan movie that wasn't an adaptation of Tarzan of the Apes. Handled properly, I think the ape-man could give the current crowd of action heroes a run for their money. Time will tell. If you want to read the entire Variety article, go here:

   The name being bandied about for the actor to portray Tarzan is Alexander Skarsgard. I have no idea who that is...


Quite a few things showed up at the comic book store last night that I was interested in. I got the big art book, James Bama: Personal Works, which has a ton of paintings by one of my favorite artists that haven't been seen by too many folks. Stuff he painted for himself. When you consider the amount of commercial work that Bama did, it's amazing that he still found the time or interest to paint for his own enjoyment, but this book shows that art for art's sake never stopped being a source of pleasure for him.
   Also picked up The Big Book Of Ghost stories, another in Otto Penzler's series of "Big" books for Vintage Crime. Cliff, Jim, and I were amazed that there were quite a few stories in the book that none of us had read, since between the three of us we've read mass quantities of horror fiction. There are some classics as well, but yeah, a bunch of new stuff for me to read. The selections cover over a hundred years so you get everything from Victorian chillers by Kipling to modern ghostly tales by Asimov and Joyce Carol Oats. Should be fun.
   And I got The Once and Future Tarzan, a Dark Horse comic book that collects the series of the same name which appeared in Dark Horse Comics Presents. This is a tale of the far future where the 300 year old immortal Lord Greystoke lives in a post-apocalyptic world. It has art by my favorite living Tarzan artist, Thomas Yeates. I've already read the series but it's nice to have it in one volume. I bought a copy for my mom too, who still enjoys a good Tarzan comic.
   Finally, I picked up the 12th volume of the Dark Horse reprints of Marvel Comics' Savage sword of Conan. This volume reprints SSoC issues 121 through 130. We've finally escaped the long wasteland of writer Michael Fleisher's stint on the book and volume 13 will bring us into Chuck Dixon's run, which I've blogged about before at length. The issues between Fleisher and Dixon were written by Don Krarr, Larry Yakata, and the pseudonymous Jim Owsley (now Christopher Priest).
   The focus on these stories is Conan as mercenary, a trend Dixon would continue, leaving Fleisher's emphasis on fantasy behind. The good thing about this is the reprints have finally arrived at issues I enjoyed reading. Though I like Michael Fleisher's work on Jonah Hex and The Spectre, his Conan stuff just left me cold and he was on both the color comic and the black and white Savage Sword for a loooong time.
   All in all, not a bad haul.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Shadow Over Hercules

   In one of those odd coincidences, I learned that Michael Hurst, best known to US audiences as Hercules' sidekick Iolaus, is something of an H.P. Lovecraft fan. I was watching one of my favorite episodes of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, a segment called Mercenary, which Hurst directed. I was listening to the audio commentary and there's a scene where Hercules and his prisoner, the titular mercenary, are trying to escape from some manta ray like creatures that live under the sand. They climb onto some half buried ruins to get away from the monsters and out of the blue, Hurst mentions that he shot the scene from a low level to give the buildings a strange look, "Like something from H.P. Lovecraft, like the geometry wasn't of this world."
   Go Iolaus!

Friday, November 09, 2012

No, I'm Not Obsessed. Why Would You Say That?

   Just because less than a month ago I didn't own any of these books and there are actually three more that wouldn't fit in the picture?  Well that's just silly. Now if you'll excuse me I have to go to ebay and look for more Blake stories...

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Reading Report

 I did a good bit of reading over the weekend, mostly in the form of short stories. Still enjoying the adventures of Sexton Blake in various collections. Have a couple more volumes of Blake stories on the way. I'll try to do a post soon on some of my favorites so far.
   I also read Peter Brandvold's novella The Canyon (written under his pen name, Frank Leslie) which is a horror Western that features series character Yakima Henry. I've read a couple of Brandvold's other 'weird westerns' Bad Wind Blowing and Ghost Colts, and found him to be a good horror writer. The Canyon is another strong entry, though the ending may surprise fans of Yakima Henry.
   I picked up a collection of short stories by Charles Beaumont, who wrote one of my favorite episodes of the original Twilight Zone, The Howling Man. That story gives this collection its title, but there are many other gems in the book. Beaumont was one of those writers who, like Joseph Payne Brennan, seemed to be a fountain of original ideas. Writers like Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, and Richard Matheson all praise Beaumont's abilities. Having read about half the stories in the book now, I can see why. Amazing stuff.
   Still not finding much on the novel front to hold my attention, so short stories and non fiction are filling the reading maw for now. I've got a couple of books that I'm holding onto for a rainy day, and that day may come soon.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

7 Men From Now

This 1956 Western movie was recommended to me by several people whose opinions I respect so I gave it a try, and boy I'm glad I did. Turned out to be one of the better Westerns I can recall seeing. Tightly directed, with spare dialog and an almost hard boiled feel to it, 7 Men From Now follows one man's quest for revenge that becomes a chance for redemption.
   What I found interesting about this movie was that while the plot seems like something you've seen before, a man's wife is killed by outlaws so he hunts them down, the execution is very different. Ben Stride, played by Randolph Scott, isn't Jose Wales. This is a man driven as much by guilt as revenge. He feels responsible for his wife's death, and you can see the pain on the man's face as he goes about his mission. No snappy one liners when men die. He's taking no pride in this. It's just something he feels he has to do.
   Along the way, Stride picks up a ragtag group of companions, including a married couple and two trail bums. Two of these characters will affect him greatly. The woman (Gail Russell) of the couple reminds him of his late wife, and he's obviously attracted to her. The leader of the two trail bums (Lee Marvin) is a dangerous hombre who knows way too much about Stride's past. The very different tensions provided by these two characters drive the middle of the film.
   This movie was originally written for John Wayne, who acted as producer, but he had to bow out as star because he was committed to filming The Searchers. Just as well that he did, because this is Randolph Scott's vehicle all the way, and I don't think even the Duke could have done it better.
   Amazingly 7 Men was the first script job for writer Burt Kennedy and only the second movie directed by Budd Boetticher, but it turned out so well that it far exceeded everyone's expectations for what was basically a 'B' Movie Western and led to a collaboration between Boetticher, Kennedy, and Scott that would produce six more films, all of which are considered excellent and a couple which are considered classics. You can bet I'll be watching the others soon.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

It's A Book!

   Woke up this morning to find a first look at actual copies of Blind Shadows, the horror/crime novel I wrote with James A. Moore, at the Miskatonic Books Blog. As you can probably imagine, this made my morning. Check out more pics and info here:

Friday, November 02, 2012

Sexton Blake Annual 1941

Freelance author and editor Steve Holland, who specializes in old British comics, books, and magazines, has done a great favor for fans of British detective Sexton Blake by recreating the Amalgamated Press Sexton Blake annual for 1941. (He's also recreated the annuals for 1938 and 1940, but we'll get to that.)
   Amalgamated Press started publishing soft cover Blake annuals in 1938, collecting the most popular Blake stories by the top writers on the series. As I've mentioned before, Blake appeared in something like 4000 stories over the decades, reportedly written by 200 or so writers. What Holland has done is recreate these annuals in perfect bound format.
   I was lucky because my current Blake-mania coincided with the release of the 1941 annual, which I spotted over at Bill Thom's Coming Attractions site and immediately ordered. This book is great. It's huge, at 8"X12" inches with a bright, painted cover by semi-legendary Blake artist Eric R. Parker. It contains all the original illustrations from the stories, printed on nice white paper, far superior to the original. Best, of course, is that the book has ten Sexton Blake stories, which carry the great detective and his sidekick Tinker all over the world to solve crimes and foil the schemes of master criminals.
   The first story RIDDLE OF THE CROSS finds Blake in Australia, where he and Tinker rescue a young man who's being beaten by a gang of thugs. A little later they discover a murder that is connected somehow to this man, which leads to more murders and a ruthless criminal. Blake does a lot of Sherlock Holmes style deductions in this one and there's plenty of action.
   Further stories in the annual take Blake to India, Canada, Egypt, Spain, Africa, and the far east. This is a terrific collection of stories, spotlighting the often exotic nature of the Blake stories as well as Blake's skills as a detective. If you've been meaning to give Sexton Blake's adventures a try, this would be a great place to start. I've seen the actual annuals go on Ebay for three or four hundred bucks, so this is definitely a bargain too.
   I was so impressed with the book that I immediately turned around and ordered the annuals for 1938 and 1940, and Holland's website, Bear Alley Books, says that the 1942 annual is on it's way. You can bet I'll be picking that one up as well. The link for the site is:

Thursday, November 01, 2012

No Surprise There

   F. Paul Wilson's newsletter sent me over to Oxford Dictionaries to take this "What Kind of Writer Are You" test. Not surprisingly, I'm Ernest Hemingway.

Care to give it a go:

When You Wish Upon A Death Star

When the news broke that George Lucas had sold the Star Wars Franchise to Disney, a lot of my co-workers stopped by my desk to see what I thought. I am their source of fannish knowledge. Of course I had to explain, as I often do, that just because I used to collect comic books and read science fiction, I'm not automatically a Star Wars fan. I do like Star Wars, just as I like Star Trek, but I don't consider myself an actual fan of either. I'm a comic book fan. A Robert E. Howard fan. A Doctor Who fan. A Sherlock Holmes fan. My knowledge of Star Wars is probably only slightly better than the average movie-goer. I blame a lot of this on The Big Bang Theory, which has fostered the idea that speculative fiction fans are fans of EVERYTHING.
   However I did give my co-workers my opinion, which is that ultimately I think it a good thing. George is tired of the universe he created, and it might be better to let new writers and directors try their hands at the property. Though I didn't hate the second three Star Wars movies (And yes, I know that chronologically they're the first three, so don't go all fan boy on me.) I thought they had a lot of problems story wise.
   I'm hoping that new folks can take Lucas's concepts and write some new and better stories. And of course Disney has the cash to do them right in terms of special effects, so no worries there.
   Interviews with George that I've seen in the last couple of days indicate to me that he's glad to step away from Star Wars and leave it to the new generation of film makers. He got his 4.2 BILLION and he's leaving his toys and going home.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

As I mentioned before, I haven't been able to have quite as epic a Halloween season this year as last, mostly due to circumstances beyond my control. Still I've worked in a good many creepy movies, stories, comics, and such, so it hasn't been a bad one. Since tonight is the night I'm usually out with my friends Halloween's about done for me. Won't have time to fit in another movie or anything. Maybe I can work in one more short story or comic book between getting home from work and heading out with the gang. We shall see.
   I did pick up some candy, though it's unlikely I'll have any trick or treaters, but hey, you never know. I chose Three Musketeers this year because that was the candy my grandmother always gave out. I think it was her favorite candy, so she knew any that didn't get handed out wouldn't go to waste. Same is true at my place. Can't go wrong with Chocolate.
   Autumn continues to be beautiful here in Georgia, one of the nicest I remember in several years. Looks like the kids should have good weather for trick or treating tonight. Cool, but not unpleasantly so.
   Anyway, hope you all have a good Halloween. Keep an eye on the shadows and check your closet and under your bed before you go to sleep. Never know what's lurking in the dark...

Sunday, October 28, 2012

A Season More Than a Day

Well, it finally looks like Halloween out there. A front moved through last night, bringing cooler temperatures and a heavy cloud cover. The sky is gray and the ground is littered with leaves and a brisk wind is sending showers of more leaves past my windows as I type this. Bruce the cat is running back and forth at the windows, leaping and pawing at the leaves as they strike the glass.
   I was reading some horror stories from the 2002 collection October Dreams, and between the various stories, some of the authors had published short essays about their favorite Halloween memories. I tried to recall if I had a favorite such memory, but no single incident stands out. I mean, I remember trick or treating (it always seemed to be raining) and going to my grade school Halloween carnivals, but there's no one memory that stands out.
   For me, childhood Halloweens were much as they are now, a season more than a day. A time to watch scary movies, read scary books and comics and just enjoy the spirit of Halloween. I can recall reading Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes and the Halloween Tree, and watching marathons of Universal horror movies. My Halloweens always featured Karloff, Lugosi, and Chaney Jr.
   We always had Jack O'Lanterns. My dad, a big kid at heart, was always ready to carve a pumpkin and put it out on the front porch. Often we would turn the face toward the house's front windows so we could see the flickering candle lit features as we watched scary movies in the living room.
   I was watching a documentary on YouTube called The Sci-Fi Boys, where a bunch of Hollywood directors, writers, and special effects guys talked about how they were all influenced by Forest J. Ackerman's magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland. That magazine looms large in my childhood as well, and at Halloween I definitely dug out my collected issues and read about horror movies from all eras. In those pre-VCR days, the pictures in those magazines were sometimes the only look I had at famous but obscure fantasy, SF, or horror films like Freaks, Metropolis, The Golem, or The Lost World. Heck, even King Kong was only a legend to me until someone set up a screen and showed it one night at my local library. Famous Monsters of Filmland was the only place you could see articles about special effects or movie make up. No wonder guys like Rick Baker and Peter Jackson were so enthralled by the magazine. You can probably see why I was so thrilled to have my novel Blind Shadows reviewed at Famous Monsters.
   Anyway, that was and is Halloween to me. A few days to revel in the darker side of the human imagination. To wander through moon lit nightscapes of shadows and fog, where things undreamed of in our philosophies lurk just beyond the borders of the fields we know.

Legend of Conan (Or here we go again)

A few posts back, I commented on my opinion of Arnold Schwarzenegger's viability for a new Conan movie. At that point, though I thought he could do it,  I really didn't think it likely, given the poor performance of the 2011 reboot starring Jason Momoa as Conan. However this weekend it's been revealed that Arnold has signed with universal to star in a new film, Legend of Conan. So, here we go again.
   "Legend of Conan" Producer Chris Morgan plans for the film to take Arnold's age into account and tell the story of the older King Conan. He says:

“This movie picks up Conan where Arnold is now in his life, and we will be able to use the fact that he has aged in this story. We think this is a worthy successor to the original film. Think of this as Conan’s ‘Unforgiven.’”

   This is wise, and hopefully will make for an interesting story. It won't be a Robert E. Howard story, of course, but that leads me to the next part of this post.
   Believe it or not, I'm going to try and step away from my REH purist stance and give this movie a chance. "But why Charles?" You say, "You hate the first Conan the Barbarian movie."
   Yes I do. But I love the character of Conan and after 2011's reboot tanked so badly, I had little hope of anyone taking a chance on a Conan movie again in my lifetime. Like it or not, if anybody has a shot at making a successful Conan film right now, it's Arnold. And that will help bring the character back into popularity, which can only help to keep REH's books in print and available for future readers to discover.
   Plus, as my pal Al Harron has pointed out, this is a sequel to a movie that already wasn't faithful to Howard, so worrying about that particular issue is pointless. Let's just hope for a good movie.
   The downside, of course, is that if the movie does well, people will say "See, only Arnold is Conan." which will make me a bit apoplectic and I'll be subjected to more bad Arnold impressions until my dying day, but I'm willing to take one for the team.
   And if this movie tanks as well? Then I can say "See, you should have filmed one of Robert E. Howard's stories like I told you."

Read the article I refer to by Chris Lee here: