Sunday, September 30, 2012

New Who Blues

   You may have noticed that I've had little to say about the new season of Doctor Who. That's because truthfully I haven't been that taken with it. Last night was the Fall series finale and while some aspects of it worked, I thought a lot of it was just goofy. Long time readers will recall that I've been a big fan and booster of the revived series, so I almost feel bad for not liking it this year. My biggest problem with the series is just too many things don't make sense. Plot holes and improbabilities have always been part of DW. I mean it's not a serious SF show. But recently it seems to be all about big shocking images that ultimately don't pay off or pan out.
 I've referred to Steven Moffat as the Julius Schwartz (Or Mort Weisinger) of Doctor Who before, and this season bears the theory out even more. You remember those old DC Comics covers which were drawn first and then a story written to fit them, no matter how little sense that story made?  Jimmy Olsen marries a Gorilla. Superman becomes a scarecrow. The Flash turns into a puppet. The Statue of Liberty is a Weeping Angel. (Did we know the angels could possess statues that weren't angels?) Rory is dead. Again. The new companion is a Dalek,
   As a whole I've found the first season a bit meh, more style than substance. There have been moments when Matt Smith has pulled things out just by his performance, but often even he seems to be just going through the motions. I'm starting to think its time for Moffat to turn things over to someone else. He just seems to be recycling earlier successes and thus tarnishing them. But DW takes in so much cash for the BBC that I don't see them getting rid of Moffat as long as the Whovians settle for dumbed down Who.

Forbidden Books of Eldritch Lore

   Working on a story idea this morning and I have reference books scattered everywhere. Somehow I always feel very writerly and scholarly when I'm surrounded by a big stack of books and notes. I must admit, however, that this pile looks rather sinister...

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Night of the Demon

   Normally I wait until October to begin my annual FRIGHT FLICK FESTIVAL, but I started a couple of days early this year. My buddy Jim loaned me his copy of the 1957 British horror film Night of the Demon. I have some vague memory of seeing this as a child but I didn't recall much about it, so I sat down today to give it a look.
   Very impressive old school horror movie. Loosely based on the M. R. James short story CASTING THE RUNES, Night of the Demon is one of the early horror films to hinge the plot as much on psychological horror as more gruesome scares. The tension builds slowly (Apparently too slowly for 1950s American audiences as the movie was shortened by about 10 minutes and released over here as Curse of the Demon) and the filmmakers spent a lot of time and effort making the movie visually unsettling.
   Filmed in an almost Film Noir style, the movie is full of odd camera angles, claustrophobic settings, and continual play of light and shadow. There are very few daytime scenes. Almost everything happens at night, except for one effective scene at a Halloween garden party and here the stark, almost washed out daylight produces its own surreal feeling.
   The story involves Dr. John Holden (Dana Andrews) who travels to England to attend a convention where another doctor is supposedly going to expose a Satanic cult. But when Holden reaches the UK, the other doctor is dead, killed under mysterious circumstances. Following the late doctor's notes, Holden plans to continue with the expose. While researching at the British Library, Holden is approached by  the very man his colleague was planning to expose, Dr. Julian Karswell. Karswell tries to convince Holden to drop the matter and when Holden refuses, Karswell pretends to knock Holden's notebook onto the floor so that he can return it. What Holden doesn't know is that Karswell has slipped a parchment into the notebook, a parchment containing runes that will draw a demon from hell to Holden at a predetermined time. Once Holden learns what has been done he is skeptical. The viewer has already seen that the demon is quite real at the beginning of the film, so they know Holden is in real danger. Holden slowly comes around to believing he's in trouble, but at that point he's almost out of time.
   A lot of horror film buffs consider this a classic, and I can see why, The script is intelligent and the directing and cinematography are top notch. The acting seems a bit dated now but is overall good. Niall MacGinnis is particularly effective as the creepy Dr. Karswell.  (Between this and THE DEVIL RIDES OUT, I'm beginning to wonder if the British countryside is hiding dozens of Satanic cults.)
   When the demon actually appears in two brief scenes, he's still pretty scary. The special effects used in his initial materialization hold up especially well.
   Anyway, I very much enjoyed Night of the Demon. My Halloween season is off to an good start.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Bullets and Lies

 I first encountered Robert J. Randisi back in 1984 when I read his Miles Jacoby private eye novel, Full Contact. I liked that one enough to hunt down the previous two Jacoby books and then read the ones that followed, as well as Randisi's other PI series about Brooklyn based Nick Delvecchio. Randisi also compiled and edited the Private Eye Writers of America anthologies, which were treasure troves of PI short fiction.
   Later I learned that Randisi was the author of many many westerns and when I say many I mean over 400. His newest is the first in a projected new series about a former Pinkerton detective turned private eye. So, as the Doctor might say, "It's a private eye book AND a Western! Has someone been peeking at my Christmas list?"
   Bullets and Lies: A Talbot Roper Novel introduces Roper, former soldier, former Pinkerton, now in private practice. he's been hired by the wife of ailing Civil War veteran Howard Westover. Seems that the US Government is revoking a number of Medals of Honor given during the Civil War and Westover's spouse fears that his may be one of them. Westover's health has been slowly going downhill since he was injured in the war and though he may not have long to live, his wife doesn't want him to die in dishonor.
   Roper is hesitant at first but finally agrees to try and save Westover's medal. However, as in all good private eye books, Roper's client isn't telling him everything. Roper travels to Washington DC to try and learn about Westover's military career and enlists the help of an old friend who is now a high ranking official in the Secret Service. While the two men are out for dinner, someone takes a shot at them. But who was the target? The further Roper goes, the more complex his case becomes, and when people start dying, Roper knows he will have to get to the truth before he ends up dead himself.
   Bullets and Lies impressed me on several levels. It's a well plotted PI book and at the same time it has all the things you want from a Western. Obviously Randisi's knowledge of both genres makes him the perfect guy for this sort of book. The writing itself is as smooth and as clean as you would expect from someone who has written over 500 novels. Randisi keeps the chapters short which gives the book a thriller pace. All and all a very good read. I'm hoping to see a lot more adventures from Roper in the future.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Rogue Angel: Magic Lantern

 I've read a few of the Rogue Angel books before, but this one, with it's London setting and Robert Louis Stevenson connection, seemed to be written just for me. The Rogue Angel is a young woman named Annja Creed. Through a series of events too complicated to go into here, Annja has acquired the reforged sword of Joan of Arc. When Annja uses the sword her speed and strength are increased. She's already a formidable martial artist, so the sword just makes her more dangerous. A fun concept.
   In Magic Lantern, Annja is in the UK on assignment for the television show Chasing History's Monsters, looking for a serial killer who claims to have rediscovered the Mr. Hyde formula. My sort of plot. But it gets better. Annja's investigation crosses paths with some seriously bad folks who are seeking an old Chinese Lantern of the type used by a magician who was part of the phantasmagoria art back in the 1700s. These lanterns were used to project fantastic images onto walls or even onto screens of floating smoke in macabre performances. (The book goes into the art of the phantasmagoria in detail.) But this Lantern is special because it is rumored to actually open a door into the Chinese spirit world.
   The book gets off to a creepy start deep in the catacombs under 18th century Paris during a special phantasmagoria performance which goes horribly wrong. Then we jump to present day just in time to see Annja in butt-kicking action. From there the plot just flies along. I had a lot of fun with this book. The Rogue Angel books are credited to author Alex Archer, but that's a house name for several different writers. A look in the front of the book shows that this one was written by Mel Odom. Odom is the author of many books, including novels in the Forgotten Realms series, some Buffy the Vampire Slayer books, and tons of others. I didn't realize he had written several Mack Bolan books as well until I did a Google search after finishing Magic Lantern. I see that  he's written several other Rogue Angel books too. Have to track those down.
   On a personal note, I enjoyed seeing all the ads for various other Gold Medal books in the back of the paperback. Reminded me of the days when I was reading Mack Bolan books hand over fist.
   Anyway, if you're up for some action and a kick-ass heroine, give Magic Lantern a shot.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Book Report

  Well this is exciting. I have the galley proof for Blind Shadows, complete with title pages, headings, dedication, and all. I have to go through this now with the proverbial fine tooth comb, but hey, it's almost a book.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Dark Shadows/Vampirella

    You know the old saw about not judging a book by its cover? I almost passed on Dynamite Entertainment's Dark Shadows/Vampirella crossover because the cover image of Barnabas Collins didn't look remotely like the late actor Jonathan Frid, who portrayed the reluctant vampire on the cult 60s TV show, Dark Shadows. I can be funny about stuff like that. As an artist myself, I figure I can draw a likeness, you should draw a likeness. However, since I had just watched three years worth of Dark Shadows episodes, and because I am a sucker for a crossover, I flipped through the first issue at the comic book store, and seeing that Patrick Berkenkotter, the artist for the actual interior comic pages, could indeed draw a Barnabas who looked like Barnabas, I decided to give the comic a shot.
   Really glad I did. Issue #2 came out this week and so far I'm enjoying the series a lot. Writer Marc Andre'yko has done a nice job of writing Barnabas and Quentin Collins as well. The characters have the right 'feel'. In the first issue of the mini series Barnabas travels to New York looking into the disappearance of a family friend. His investigation crosses paths with alien vampire Vampirella, who is on the trail of a serial killer known as the "Big Apple Butcher". Both characters soon come to the same conclusion, that the killer is probably a vampire, so when they finally run into each other, in classic comic book form, each thinks that the other is a bad guy and a fight breaks out.
   Things get sorted out pretty quickly at the beginning of issue #2 and the mismatched duo agree to join forces. Vampirella becomes Barnabas's guide into the seedier side of New York. Seeing the uninhibited Vampi and the old world gentleman Barnabas try and get along is a lot of fun. Kudos to Andre'yko for seeing the potential culture clash between the two. Soon Vampi's pal Pantha and Barnabas's bud Quentin appear. A woman who can turn into a panther and a man who can turn into a wolf. Expect sparks to fly. Oh, and the identity of the true villain shows that the writer knows his vampire lore. All and all I'm having a lot of fun with Dark Shadows/Vampirella. Issue #3 should be out just in time for Halloween.

Statistically Speaking

 I'm not one of those people who obsessively checks his blog stats, seeing how many hits I have and who's coming to the blog. I blog because I enjoy it and because I like many other blogs and I like being part of that community. I've made a lot of friends through blogging. However I am a curious guy, so occasionally I go through the stats, The thing that fascinates me the most is the Traffic Sources Tab, specifically the Search Keywords that brought people here. Some aren't a surprise. For instance a check of this week's terms finds:

Conan the Barbarian

Best Conan Stories

Conan Comic Books

   I mean, I expect that and I'm glad folks are coming here to read about Conan. Obviously I've spent plenty of time blogging about Robert E. Howard's signature character and his appearances in books and comics.
   Less expected were:

Xena Pizza (I did blog about Xena eating pizza once.)

Roman Swords

Minotaur Barbarian (more about the minotaur in a moment)

Dragon Sex  (erm...)

   The minotaur thing is kind of funny because minotaur is one of the most popular search terms that brings people to Singular Points. I'm afraid people are disappointed when they follow the link because it leads to a post about an idea I had for a Doctor Who episode called The Maze of the Minotaur and not really to any useful information about minotaurs. Sorry about that.
   Another big winner is my pal Mark Bagley, the comic book artist. (Ultimate Spiderman, Justice League, Avengers) A couple of years back he gave me a fantastic drawing of Conan which I posted here. People searching for Mark will probably be happier than the minotaur hunters because they get to see a nifty drawing of a character Mark isn't usually associated with.
   Three of the other most popular search terms that bring people to my blog make me happy because they lead to reviews of three favorite stories, Stephen King's Mrs. Todd's Shortcut, Philip Jose Farmer's After King Kong Fell, and Fritz Leiber's Adept's Gambit. Those I feel I've done justice to.
   Other popular search terms are Jammie Dodgers, Vashta Nerada, How Strong is Hercules, Vikings, and Tarzan, all of which I've written about.
   The single most popular term that brings people to the blog? Singular Points. I don't know if they're looking for me or hunting math terms, but I'll take it.
   So what have we learned? If you need some traffic for your blog, put up a picture of a minotaur.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

International Talk Like a Pirate Day

   Oh, and in case you've forgotten, it's International Talk Like a Pirate Day, so shiver your timbers, buckle your swashes, swab the decks, and hoist the main sail. Arrrrrr! Thanks to Jim and Ruth Keegan for the nifty pirate illustration.

Midweek Report

 Sorry I haven't been blogging much this week. Things have turned busy as they sometimes do. The weekend was good if uneventful. I read a bunch of short stories, including several from M.R. James, which I'll be talking about more as Halloween gets closer. I also watched a very interesting documentary about James, which is available on Youtube. Also, a few years back, the BBC did a series of adaptations of many of James' ghost stories and most of those have been uploaded to Youtube as well. Maybe this Halloween I'll do a post about scary stuff you can watch on Youtube.
   Continuing my Clint Eastwood film festival, I watched Pale Rider this weekend, which is one I haven't seen in some time. I actually saw this one in the theater, making it one of two Eastwood Westerns I saw at the movies, the other being Unforgiven.
   I also got back to watching Deadwood. I'd watched the first half of the first season and gotten sidetracked by other things, so now I'm finishing up the second half. Still a very strong series with some really good actors and some great period detail. I have to say that, rather surprisingly, my favorite character has turned out to be Ian McShane's saloon keeper, Al Swearengen. He's a reprehensible human being, but jeez, what a performance. I've also been reminded what a good actor Powers Boothe is.
   I spent a lot of time at the website Comic Book Plus, a vast library of public domain Comics, magazines, fanzines, pulps, and such. They've got a great collection of Golden Age comic books that I could never afford, and you don't even have to download them. You can just read them at the site. Recently they've been putting up some of the old UK Sexton Blake Library magazines, so I've been having fun with that too. I'll post the link at the bottom of this post, but be warned, you can waste A LOT of time just bumping around this site.
   Other than that, things are quiet. Tonight is Comic Book Store Night, when I swing by my buddy Cliff's comic shop and then go to dinner with a bunch of friends. Always a good time. I have my Friday second breakfast prep mostly done. Just need to pick up some scones tomorrow night. I can cook everything else, but scones are beyond me. Just to show you I'm a total geek, my friend Nancy and I plan to have an online second breakfast in Lord of the Rings Online while we're actually eating. We'll send our avatars Kharrn and Briefer to Bag End at 11:00 sharp. If you're in the shire, come on by.
   Anyway, that's some of what's going on. I'll try and be more interesting later in the week.

Here's the link to Comic Book Plus:

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Swords and Dinosaurs

   Over at his blog, The Blog That Time Forgot, my friend Al Harron has posted some concept art for a new heroic fantasy sub genre, 'Sword & Dinosaur'. Now as a guy who loves both swords and dinosaurs, I think this is a fantastic idea. In fact I may write a short story in the genre just to show solidarity with Al.
   Thinking of swords & dinosaurs reminded me of one of my favorite issues of the old Gold Key sword & sorcery comic, Dagar the Invincible. In issue #5 in a tale called ANOTHER WORLD...ANOTHER TIME, Dagar traveled through a time warp back to the days of the dinosaurs. Dagar writer Donald F. Glut (himself the author of numerous Dinosaur reference books) has this to say:

   "Another Word...Another Time was my chance to combine the sword & sorcery comic book genre with one of my favorites, the dinosaur and/or caveman story."

   This was originally to have been a crossover between Dagar and another Gold Key character, Tragg, of Tragg and the Sky Gods, but Gold Key editors changed Tragg into a more common caveman type late in the game, without telling Glut. Tragg does make a cameo appearance but you have to look sharp to catch him. Anyway, fun to see a sword & sorcery hero running into dinosaurs and cavemen. Meanwhile, I'm very much looking forward to seeing what Al comes up with. Check out his work here:

Second Breakfast

   This Friday. September 21st, Harper Collins UK is celebrating the 75th anniversary of the publication of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit with a big party. They'll be transforming Fulham Palace Garden's into the shire and serving Second Breakfast along with other activities. For those of us who can't cross the pond for the party they have supplied a downloadable PDF with menus and such. I'll supply the link at the bottom of this post.
   The idea is that at 11:00 sharp, where ever you are in the world, you'll sit down to a Hobbit style second breakfast. Since breakfast was always my favorite meal when I was in the UK, this is no chore for me. Here is my menu for my second breakfast.

Blueberry Scones

Eggs (scrambled)

Beans (The UK kind with tomato sauce.)


Cheese (A couple of different kinds.)

Tea (English Breakfast, of course.)

   That ought to be enough to make a Hobbit's mouth water. Anyway, if you want to join the party, here's the link:

Friday, September 14, 2012

Rogue Lawman: Deadly Prey

"I don't take payment for hunting killers. You go on home and rest assured that the men who killed your brother will die."
   Gideon Hawk, once a US Marshall and now a vigilante known as The Rogue Lawman, obviously isn't someone to get on the bad side of. When young and pretty Catherine McCormick comes to his isolated cabin in the mountains, seeking vengeance for her murdered brother and other people in the mining camp where her family lives, Hawk doesn't hesitate to take up the hunt for the killers, even though there are close to twenty of them. And really, knowing Hawk, those odds aren't that long. A man who doesn't care if he lives or dies is the last man you want to cross. But what Hawk doesn't know is that while he's hunting the killers, a hired killer is also hunting him.
    The more I read of Peter Brandvold's work the more impressed I am. Two things that stood out to me as I read Deadly Prey were his ability to write headlong action, which any pulp fan would love, and his ability to set a scene with just the right amount of detail. When Hawk sees a hazy landscape through a veil of sleet you see it too. Anyone who writes knows how hard it is to get the reader to 'feel' the surroundings. Brandvold has that down.
   And the action? Man the action just flies. This is just my sort of Western, the sort of thing that I think Robert E. Howard would have loved. Though Brandvold has been compared to Louis L'Amour his books seem more like spaghetti westerns than old school sagebrush sagas to me. Obviously the man knows his way around the old West, but his plots move at such a relentless pace and there is so much over the top violence that it's almost like what if Mickey Spillane had written Westerns. And Gideon Hawk is the hardest hardcase since Ben Haas's Fargo. Seriously, if you like this sort of hard edged Western you need to check out the Rogue Lawman.
   While picking up the Rogue lawman books I grabbed a couple of entries from two of Brandvold's other series as well and plan to pick up some of his books written under the Frank Leslie pen name. Mean Pete, as he is sometimes known, is fast becoming one of my favorite writers.
   Swing by his website and have a look at all his books.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Witch Queen of Lochlann: A Mystery Solved

   One summer, when I was ten or eleven, my family was visiting my Aunt Myrtle in Apalachicola Florida. We used to go down there a lot because my aunt loved to have us, and she had a big house and lived near the beach so it was a great place for vacations. Anyway, Apalach, (as the locals called it) has become a pretty well known resort area now, but it was just a small fishing town back in the day. That particular summer we had stopped by a drugstore, one of those old fashioned places with a soda fountain, a huge magazine rack, comic books, and the whole nine yards. I was already a bookworm and had just discovered sword & sorcery, so when I spotted a book in a big wooden bin full of paperbacks, that featured a guy on the cover wielding a sword against what looked like a flying shark, I snatched it up. If memory serves the book, which was used or remaindered, was 35 cents.
   I remember liking the book, but somehow, like many paperbacks I had in those days, I lost it. What's funny is, years after reading the book, I could remember most of the plot, but for the life of me I couldn't recall the title or the author. A few years ago I decided to try and find the book but I couldn't find anyone who had a clue what it might be. I remembered that the narrator was some sort of private eye and that he owned a sword and a shirt of mail, and that he ended up following a woman into a parallel world where she was a queen and where magic worked. Still I could not recall title or who wrote it.
   The other day I was searching on Ebay for old sword & sorcery books and I spotted a cover which looked familiar to me. I zoomed in on it and spotted the purple flying shark and the little bell in the back of my head went DING! The title was WITCH QUEEN OF LOCHLAND, and as soon as I saw it I knew it was the long lost book. So I ordered a copy of course and I got it today and read about half of it.
   It's terrible.
   But that's okay, because the ten year old me loved it and he would want me to have it. Plus, I no longer have the book mystery hanging over me.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Charles Rutledge's Book of Horror Vol IV

As always, I try to have the table of contents for my Imaginary Horror Anthology up by mid-September so that anyone interested in tracking down the stories and/or authors has time to do so before Halloween. Have to say this has been a bumper year for Horror and Weird fiction anthologies including Cemetery Dance's massive two volume Century's Best Horror collection and Ann and Jeff VanderMeer's also gigantic anthology, The Weird. This was also the year that Centipede Press published The Best Horror stories of Karl Edward Wagner in two volumes. Add that to various other collections I picked up and I had plenty of horror reading in 2012. Now a bit about some of my choices.
   This year marks the first time I've included a digital original as a choice. That's how impressed I was by Heath Lowrance's THE LONG BLACK TRAIN.
   The vampire entry for the year, THE MYSTERIOUS STRANGER comes from Leslie S. Klinger's collection, In the Shadow of Dracula. No one knows who wrote it back in 1860, but it's a classic pre-Dracula vampire yarn.
   Once again one of the just plain scariest stories in my list comes from Hugh B. Cave. THE DOOR BELOW has often returned to my thoughts. This appeared in Whispers III.
   I devoted an entire post to H. Russell Wakefield's THE RED LODGE earlier this year. My introduction to this writer and a darn creepy tale.
   A big surprise was Anthony Boucher's THEY BITE. I primarily knew Boucher as a Sherlockian and writer/editor of mysteries. Turns out the guy could also turn out a disturbing little horror story.
   I had to wrestle a bit with my choice for Manly Wade Wellman this time around. I was going with WHEN IT WAS MOONLIGHT, a story where Edgar Alan Poe fights a vampire, but then I decided on the last story Wellman wrote about John the Balladeer, WHERE DID SHE WANDER. Similarly I had to give a lot of thought to selections from Karl Edward Wagner and H.P. Lovecraft since I've already used my top favorites from these two writers in earlier lists. I think the two stories I went with are excellent examples of both writer's work, though.
   Since Ray Bradbury passed away this year, I wanted to make sure and include one of his early horror stories. THE JAR is old school Bradbury at his blood chilling best.  I chose a Solomon Kane yarn to represent Robert E. Howard this year. I've long said that the best sword & sorcery stories have a horror tale at their heart and HILLS OF THE DEAD  certainly qualifies. And speaking of REH, as I was re-reading Nathanial Hawthorne's YOUNG GOODMAN BROWN (a story my pal Cliff reminded me of this week) I began to wonder what influence this tale might have had on Howard's creation of Solomon Kane. I'll blog more on that later. And I reviewed the Chiller adaptation of Bloch's YOURS TRULY, JACK THE RIPPER  in an earlier post. The original story is well worth your time.
   Anyway, here are this year's unlucky Thirteen stories.

1. The Mysterious Stranger by Anonymous

2. They Bite by Anthony Boucher

3. The Door Below by Hugh B. Cave

4. The Long Black Train by Heath Lowrance

5. The Red Lodge by H. Russell Wakefield

6. She Walks on Dry Land by R. Chetwynd-Hayes

7. Where Did She Wander by Manly Wade Wellman

8. The Rats in the Walls by H.P. Lovecraft

9. Into Whose Hands by Karl Edward Wagner

10. The Jar by Ray Bradbury

11. The Hills of the Dead by Robert E. Howard

12. Young Goodman Brown by Nathanial Hawthorne

13. Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper by Robert Bloch

Friday, September 07, 2012

Sword and Sandal Theater: Hercules, Samson, and Ulysses

 I mentioned a while back that I was waiting on the arrival of a DVD of a Sword and Sandal movie, the title of which was so epic, that I was keeping it under wraps until it showed up. That title is, of course, HERCULES, SAMSON, AND ULYSSES! That's right. Two characters from Greek myth teamed up with the biblical strongman in a pitched battle against the Philistines. All this and Delilah too.
   When my buddy Cliff pointed out to me that Warner Brothers was about to release a remastered widescreen version of this movie I knew I would have to have it. To me it sounded like a Jack Kirby issue of Thor with Hercules and Samson battling it out on the big screen.
   I just watched the movie and it was pretty much what I expected. Hercules, his pal Ulysses, and a crew of Greek sailors set out to kill a sea monster that has been terrorizing the waters off of Ithaca. They succeed in killing the monster (which appeared to be a giant walrus) but a severe storm drives their ship off course and they end up shipwrecked near Judea. (I know, I know, Just go with it.)
   Hercules and his pals end up traveling to the major city of Gaza to see if they can get a ship back to Greece, but the evil king of the Philistines thinks that Hercules might actually be the notorious rebel Samson, since he was seen strangling a lion with his bare hands. The king's slinky girl friend Delilah doesn't agree and she suggests that the king send Hercules out to capture the real Samson. The reluctant Hercules agrees because the king holds his friends prisoner.
   Herc catches up with Samson in a ruined city and here we go into comic book territory as Samson and Hercules beat the daylights out of one another while simultaneously destroying the ruins with their titanic combat. And just like in a comic, they soon realize that neither of them is a bad guy and they agree to join forces against the common enemy. There's a huge battle at the end and the movie even manages to leave things so that they don't totally disagree with the biblical account of Samson and Delilah.
   This is a very colorful and fun film with good production values. The costumes are better than average and they actually have a couple of real ships instead of models. Kirk Morris plays Hercules in this one with red hair and beard, and Richard Lloyd is Samson. Morris looks good in the role and the big fight scene between the two is well handled.
   I don't think I ever saw this as a kid, though I might have, but what's so fun about all these new versions of these old films is how bright they are. I was usually watching umpteenth generation prints of these movies and they tended to look washed out. Seeing them as they were originally presented makes a world of difference.
   Anyway, I was quite taken with Hercules, Samson, and Ulysses. (Though in truth, Ulysses has very little to do in the movie.) I'll give this three out of five Sandals.

Monday, September 03, 2012

The Lonely Widow

  When I'm writing in a particular genre, I find it helps me focus if I only read stories from that genre  as I work. That way I won't get distracted and want to write something else. As we know I am easily distracted. So I'm reading a bunch of Westerns while I'm working on THE DEVIL YOU DON'T KNOW. Today I read Peter Brandvold's The Lonely Widow, a short story about his series character Gideon Hawk, aka The Rogue Lawman. I wasn't familiar with Brandvold (And I should have been as he wrote for DC Comics.) but if the Gideon Hawk books are as hard-boiled as The Lonely Widow then I need to read them all. Hawk is a no nonsense former Marshal turned vigilante. In this tightly written little story he's hunting for some stagecoach robbers who, after taking the strongbox and all the passenger's money, put the passengers back on the stage and ran it over a cliff, killing women and children. For Hawk that means there's just one possible penalty, a quick and bloody death. The man is relentless. Anyway, if you like your Westerns with an edge, give this one a shot. A steal at only .99 cents for the Kindle. Swing by Brandvold's blog for more info.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Writing Report

 About 4000 words into my 'Six-guns & Sorcery' story. Nothing overtly supernatural has occurred as of yet. There's a bit right at the front that shows that something weird is going on though. Working title is THE DEVIL YOU DON'T KNOW as in "Better the devil you know than the devil you don't know."
   One of the protagonists is a bounty hunter named Frank Hatcher, better known as Hatch. Doing it in chapters like an old fashioned pulp story. Having fun so far.

Kid Kharrn

Even the badlands in Middle Earth need regulators. Kid Kharrn and his hobbit sidekick, Bronco Briefer patrol the lone lands between Bree and Rivendell.