If you've been a long time reader of Singular Points, then you know
that I'm a huge fan of Doctor Who, in which case you may have noticed
that I've had little to say about this season. While very much approving
of actor Peter Capaldi as The Doctor, I've felt that most of the
episodes haven't been too well written this season and that the writers
have had trouble getting a handle of Capaldi's Doctor. Up until this
weekend there hadn't been an episode I actually liked that much and a
few I actively disliked. Thus, I didn't have high hopes for the 2014
Christmas episode, THE LAST CHRISTMAS.
But fortunately I was wrong. THIS episode the Doctor actually seemed
like the Doctor, using his brain to work out what was going on and
actively working to solve the problem. The inclusion of Santa Claus in
the story, which I figured would be just goofy, turned out to have a
logical reason that actually furthered the plot, and added one of the nicest bits of Christmas spirit. "Just one more time, believe in Santa Claus."
The menace, a creepy race of spidery creatures called 'dream crabs'
were almost Lovecraftian, and in fact reminded me a great deal of Frank
Belknap Long's 'The Space Eaters.'
So yeah, THE LAST CHRISTMAS was a lot of fun. Maybe it will be a
turning point and the series will impress me more in 2015. Who knows?
Long time readers
of this blog know that I am a life-long fan of the writings of Edgar Rice
Burroughs. My mother collected the Tarzan novels and comic books before I was
born and so I pretty much grew up with Burroughs. Once I learned to read, I
quickly moved from Tarzan to Barsoom, (Mars) Amtor, (Venus) and to Pellucidar,
that amazing world at the center of our hollow Earth where dinosaurs still roam
and the sun hangs eternally at noon.
The thing that I
perhaps loved most about ERB’s books was the sense of wonder they gave me. The
lure of adventure in exotic worlds full of strange creatures and dangerous
foes. I can tell you that sense of wonder is hard to come by these days, but
not impossible. Brian Keene’s new novel, THE LOST LEVEL goes a long way towards
capturing that feeling of headlong adventure on another world.
It begins in true
Burroughs fashion, with the protagonist, Aaron Pace, introducing himself and
giving you a bit about his background. Pace is a student of the occult, which
makes sense, because Brian Keene is an award winning author of horror novels
and knows his way around a grimoire. Unlike most of ERB’s heroes, who stumble
into their adventures, Pace is seeking a way to explore alternate dimensions,
looking for a place termed The Labyrinth, which serves as a pathway between
other dimensions. (And is part of much of Keene’s
Pace finds what he
was looking for and is able to enter other dimensions, but a moment of
carelessness sends him to the fabled ‘Lost Level’, a dimension where the
flotsam and jetsam of other realities wash up. Unfortunately, much like the
Hotel California, you can check out any time you like from the Lost Level, but
you can never leave.
The Lost Level is a
homage to more than Burroughs though. While it possesses the eternal noon of
Pellucidar (for different reasons) it also owes something to Sid & Marty
Croft’s 1970s television series, LAND
OF THE LOST and the DC
Comic WARLORD, originally written and illustrated by Mike Grell. (Both,
favorites of mine.) There’s some Robert E. Howard in there as well. Thus, you
have not only dinosaurs, but robots, snake men, and all sorts of strange
creatures of Keene’s
A big part of the
appeal of this sort of tale is the ‘fish out of water’ nature of the hero, and
Keene does a fine job of showing how someone thrust into this sort of adventure
might flip out a bit before settling down to deeds of derring-do. In this, Aaron
Pace is perhaps closer in spirit to Carson Napier than John Carter, but he’s
certainly a capable hero.
As he explores the
Lost Level, Pace finds a staunch ally in the cat-man Bloop, and even finds his
own Dejah Thoris or Dian the Beautiful in the lovely and capable Kasheena, a
heroine who would have made Burroughs proud. Together they face the many
dangers of the Lost Level.
Now here’s the
deal. Though I’ve explained all the similarities to various books and comics,
this is still a Brian Keene book and fans of his other work will find much to
enjoy. The Lost Level is a pastiche, but it’s not old fashioned and there is
much humor and the occasional moment of horror or shock, just like in Keene’s other work.
Now obviously I’m
the target audience for The Lost Level. I grew up reading those same books and
comics and watching the same TV shows as Brian Keene. But you don’t need all
that background. If you enjoy a well written tale of high adventure, this book
is for you. And the good news is, it’s the first in a trilogy. More adventure
and wonder to come in The Lost Level. Highly recommended.
P.S. I enjoyed this book so much that even though I got an advance copy for review I've pre-ordered a copy of the paperback from Apex Publications. You can too.
Back in the late 1990s, I read my way through all of Anne Perry's
mystery novels about policeman Thomas Pitt and his wife Charlotte, a
woman from the upper class. All of these books take place in the later
years of the Victorian Age. A second series, about detective William
Monk, is set about twenty years earlier. For the most part the books
were traditional whodunits, though they had a pretty hard edge,
especially when it came to the details of the murders. These definitely
were not 'cozy' mysteries.
By the time 2003 rolled around, when Perry wrote her first short
Christmas novel, A CHRISTMAS JOURNEY, I had wandered away from reading
traditional mysteries. I noted the little books, usually about 200 pages
and smaller in height and width than the average hardback, and figured
I'd try one at some point. I'm still something of an anglophile and I
enjoy historical fiction.
I tried 2007's A CHRISTMAS PROMISE more or less on a whim and enjoyed
it. I started another one (can't remember the title) but it didn't hold
my attention, and I bought 2010's A CHRISTMAS ODYSSEY, stuck it on a
shelf and forgot about it. When you have as many books as I do, that
happens. Ran across it the other day when I was looking for something
else and set it aside for Christmas reading. I decided today, a little
more than a week away from Christmas, was the time to give it a shot.
Really glad that I did. Made for a great afternoon of Holiday reading.
This one is pretty dark for a Christmas book, I have to say. Elderly
and ailing, the wealthy James Wentworth asks a favor of his old friend,
Henry Rathbone. It seems that Wentworth's son Lucien has fallen in with
bad company and has vanished into the dangerous warrens of London's West
End, and Wentworth wants Rathbone to try and find the young man.
Rathbone is a gentleman and has no knowledge of the streets and slums so
he goes to the clinic where William Monk's wife, Hester tends to the
needs of the poor. There he meets 'Squeaky' Robinson, a reformed Pimp
who now works as the book keeper for the clinic. (The Christmas books
tend to feature secondary characters from Perry's series as
Robinson knows his way around the West End and he agrees to help
Rathbone in his search. With Robinson as guide, Rathbone will descend
into a sort of Dante's Inferno in the backstreets, alleys, and tunnels
where every sexual taste can be found and danger and death lurk around
every corner. The two men are aided in their search by an unlicensed
doctor named Crow, and a 15 year old street urchin named Bessie.
This book is definitely more suspense than mystery, though there are
some very clever bits of misdirection. I didn't catch one of them which
makes a long time mystery reader like me happy. Perry's knowledge of the
time period is amazing and her descriptions of the time, place, and
people are well drawn without being too detailed. You'll feel the cold
in the air, heard the ringing of the horse's harnesses, and smell the
noisome odors of the disreputable pubs and filthy alleys.
There is, though, a good bit of Christmas spirit in the book, and
you'll definitely get the feeling of a Dickens era Christmas. I
thoroughly enjoyed A CHRISTMAS ODYSSEY and highly recommend it to anyone
looking for a satisfying and suspenseful Christmas read.
I'm starting to suspect that my cat Bruce is reading my Conan books when I'm not home. I looked over and saw him sleeping with his paw on the hilt of my practice gladius. I like a cat who sleeps with his weapons at hand.
Watched THE BABADOOK which is a darn creepy Australian horror movie
about an apparently haunted children's book. I will warn folks that it's
very slow in comparison to what we usually see in the US, but give it
time as it needs to build slowly. This was a low budget film, and the
special effects are intentionally low tech, but the 'in camera' feel
gives it a reality that a lot of the recent CGI fests can't provide.
The movie plays on childhood fears and upon the fears of parents as well. Not one to watch with the kiddies.
Last night's acquisitions. Volume two of INVADERS complete collection. Even includes the mini series from years later and the issue of WHAT IF which featured the team. THANOS VS THE HULK written and drawn by Jim Freaking Starlin, kiddies. Latest issue of DOC SAVAGE MAGAZINE with a couple of stories I haven't read. First issue of the new HELLBOY AND THE BPRD series, which takes us back to the early days of Hellboy's adventures. And while I was at it, I got HELLBOY: HOUSE OF THE LIVING DEAD, which leads into Mike Mignola's upcoming new FRANKENSTEIN series, and which has artwork by Richard Corben. I'm calling this a good night at the comic book store.
GET TV was airing HAPPY HOLIDAYS WITH BING AND FRANK last night. This 30 minute special episode of the Frank Sinatra show from 1957, was filmed in color, though it originally aired in black and white. The idea behind the show is simple enough. Frank has Bing over to his swinging bachelor pad and they sing a bunch of Christmas classics. The high point for me was the middle of the show, where the boys time travel to Victorian England and go wassailing with a bunch of Dickens era folks. I am not making this up. Got my Christmas season off to a good start. Thanks to my pal, Cliff for bringing this to my attention.
Some really nifty acquisitions yesterday. The Simon and Kirby book is
a massive collection of comic book pages shot from the original art.
Art not only be Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, but by others who worked in
the Simon/Kirby studio. I didn't see EXPENDABLES 3 in the theater, but I
liked the other two, so hopefully I'll like this one as well. And of
course there's a lot of Conan and the second of two issues in the latest
BALTIMORE mini series. This has become one of my favorite series from
Dark Horse Comics.
Sorry the blog
has been a little quiet lately. Between working on the new Griffin and Price novel, A HELL WITHIN, and
various other writing projects, reading time has been pretty thin on the ground.
Haven't really had time to dig into anything since finishing Stephen King's
REVIVAL. Hoping to do a bit more reading over the Thanksgiving holidays.
And speaking of
Thanksgiving, because of some scheduling issues with some members of my
extended family, we ended up doing the Family Thanksgiving get together over
the weekend, so I've already got that behind me. Not sure what I'll be doing on
Thanksgiving Day as of the moment.
At my job we've
got Thursday and Friday off and I've scheduled Wednesday off, so this is an
inverted work week. Work two days and then have a five day weekend. I like the
sound of it.
that's me. I'll try to get back here with something more entertaining soon.
Just now finished up Stephen King's new one, REVIVAL. It took a
little work because it's a slow starter, well over a hundred pages in
before anything supernatural occurs. But when the weird kicks in, it
really kicks in. The book has an interesting dedication, mentioning many
of the heavyweights of horror, from Mary Shelley to Lovecraft to Arthur
Machen. And as I read, I could see what influences each writer had,
with the three mentioned above being perhaps the strongest.
What interested me though, Lovecraft fan that I am, was how King used
and adapted HPL's material, twisting to fit his own strange pantheon of
supernatural beings. Though much is being made of the 'Lovecraftian' elements in REVIVAL, this is, by no means. a mythos novel. It just
dances along the edge. I started the book this morning after breakfast
and finished it at dinner time, so that shows you that I enjoyed it.
Anyway, I don't want to give away any details, so this is a no
synopsis review. You should read REVIVAL yourself. Recommended.
For me, 1974 will always be the year of Marvel Comics. I've told the
story before of how I received ten Marvel comic books for Christmas of
1973 from a favorite aunt. Up until then I only read DC comics. Somehow I
just thought Marvels were inferior. However, since I had the things I
decided I might as well read them. And I loved them. So 1974 was the
year that I leaped headfirst into Marvel. I quickly made up for lost
time and became a huge fan of the Fantastic Four, Captain America, The
Avengers and especially Spiderman.
So when Christmas rolled around again I was thrilled to see the
over-sized Tabloid Marvel Christmas Edition on the stands and promptly
snatched it up. My grandmother probably paid for it, now that I think of
it. Anyway, there was another one the next year and I bought that one
too. The third one, I never owned.
Of the two DC Christmas tabloids, I only had the first and don't
recall ever seeing the second. In any case, I lost the three Treasury
Editions sometime when I moved, and just recently decided I'd like to
have them back. And of course, why not get the two I'd never owned while
I was at it. A little careful watching on Ebay and I found all three of
the Marvels as a set for a measly $19.99. The two DCs set me back five
and ten bucks respectively. The first DC seems to be very hard to come
by in decent shape. I didn't care about mint condition, but I did want
I won't be reading these until December, but I'm happy to have them.
The good news is, while I had thought there were only five Kardios
sword & sorcery stories by Manly Wade Wellman, now I know that there
are actually six. The final story, THE SLAUGHTER OF THE GODS, appeared
in the 1986 collection HEROIC VISIONS II. So yes, one Kardios story left
that I haven't read is good news.
The bad news?
Once I read it, there won't be ANY left. I'm saving if for a special occasion.
When people think of Noir films, they tend to imagine high contrast
black and white photography and claustrophobic sets, but director Jim
Mickle's adaptation of Joe Lansdale's novel COLD IN JULY shows that even
out in the bright daylight and blue skies of Texas that things can get
as dark as they possibly can be.
Richard Dane, who runs a frame shop by day is awakened in the night
when he and his wife hear an intruder in their house. Dane shoots the
man as much by accident as intent and then calls the cops. The local
police seem in a hurry to clear the case and get things out of the way,
but it turns out that the intruder's father, Ben Russell, was a recently
paroled convict and he takes his son's death personally. For a very
short time it looks as if Russell is going to play Cape Fear type games
with Dane and his wife and young son, but that's not the way it goes.
After some suspenseful scenes, Russell is captured and that appears to
But here's where the Noir kicks in. Things are not at all what they
seem and Dane is soon pulled into a web of deceit and death and a world
that is Dark, dark, dark, This is where actor Michael C. Hall really
shines, playing an everyman who finds himself in way over his head. Hall
very believably shows a frightened man whose innate decency is what
really gets him into trouble.
Sam Shepard plays Ben Russell, world weary, beaten down, but with a
core of battered iron. A man who does what he thinks he has to, even
when it costs him. And Don Johnson brings some serious acting chops to
the role of Jim Bob Luke, a private eye who's also a pig farmer. Johnson
brings some humor and charm to a very dark film.
I didn't immediately recognize Vinessa Shaw as Dane's wife Ann, even
though, by coincidence, I had just watched her in HOCUS POCUS for
COLD IN JULY was actually the first thing I ever read by Joe Lansdale
and that was when it came out in 1989. I remembered some of the plot,
but not enough to keep me from enjoying some of the twists and turns the
story takes. I really enjoyed the film. It's suspenseful, well written,
and well directed and you can't beat the cast. I got my copy from
Amazon and I'm sure they have more, so pick it up. Highly recommended.
Picked up this set of Lovecraft books on Ebay for twenty bucks. I
mostly wanted the Ballantine books. two of those are part of the
Ballantine Adult Fantasy series with notes and introductions by Lin
Carter. I used to own the two annotated volumes but I loaned them out
and they didn't come back so nice to get replacements. Never had the
other two paperbacks, so yay, new editions.
The four books most often mentioned in Cthulhu Mythos fiction are
NAMELESS CULTS, MYSTERIES OF THE WORM, THE BOOK OF EIBON and of course,
that foulest of the foul, that most blasphemous book of all, the fabled
NECRONOMICON. And it occurred to me today that I have them all in my own
I would just like to state that proximity to said books has not
affected me in any way. Well except for the vision of the three lobed
burning eye and the messages from the ultimate center of chaos. Ia! Ia!
Just to show you that it's not all action and strife in Lord of the Rings Online, here's Briefer the Hobbit fishing while Kharrn the barbarian looks into the distance. A lovely day on the Brandywine river.
One week until
Halloween. How's everyone's spooky season going? Though to a certain degree,
every day is Halloween at my house, during the season I do ramp things up. In
addition to the movies I've already mentioned here, I've also watched the
Universal MUMMY'S TOMB and MUMMY'S CURSE, as well as the Ray Milland ghost
story, 1944's THE UNINVITED, and the 1980s films JOHN CARPENTER'S THE FOG and
horror cult favorite, PUMPKINHEAD.
This was my
first viewing of PUMPKINHEAD, even though I'd been hearing about it for years.
It is a lot of fun, though very much a 1980s film. One thing I really liked
about it was the creature, which was created entirely through practical special
effects. No CGI in those days. Don't get me wrong. I love a good computer
generated effect, but I think horror works better when the bad guy is actually
there with the actors. Pumpkinhead is basically a 15-ft animatronics puppet
with a guy inside, but in several scenes where he's shown head to foot, he's
very impressive and obviously really there.
Also watched the
entire first season of SLEEPY HOLLOW on Blu-Ray. I had started watching the
show when if first came out and enjoyed it, but I got behind on the episodes
and finally just decided to binge watch it when it was released on DVD and
Blu-Ray. Unfortunately the makers of the show decided to wait and release the
DVD ONE WEEK before the start of season two, and I didn't want to get ahead, so
now I'm behind on season 2. See how these things happen?
And I'm watching
the 1970 season of DARK SHADOWS, which is kind of a twist on THE TURN OF THE
SCREW, with male and female ghosts from the past threatening the folks at
Collinwood. Kate Jackson, who would later become famous as one of Charlie's
Angels, plays the female ghost Daphne, and does a good job. The storyline is
rolling up on one of the show's 'time travel' storylines which are always fun.
For its time, DARK SHADOWS was an amazingly experimental show, particularly for
a day time drama. Not only did it feature a vampire as a major member of the
cast, but it also explored such SF concepts as alternate realities and time
travel, all on a budget of next to nothing. It's funny, because people make fun
of the cheap sets and poor special effects, and they almost seem to think that
viewers were more easily fooled in those days. It's not that. Watching TV in
those days was kind of like watching a play. People knew they were looking at
sets and painted backdrops, but they just accepted it as they would if they
were watching a live play on a stage. They didn't expect everything to look
real. A different time.
Reading wise I've been
doing my usual turn through horror short stories, comic books, and such. Also
reading some great non-fiction. Just finished up S.T. Joshi's LOVECRAFT AND A
WORLD IN TRANSITION, which is a fascinating collection of essays about
Lovecraft. Highly recommended. Been enjoying the annotations in Leslie Klinger's
THE NEW ANNOTATED H.P. LOVECRAFT as well. Been a banner year for Lovecraft
Halloween season is going well. Lots of fun movies, comics, and books. So
what's the plan for Halloween itself? That's still in the works. I know there
will be movies involved. Since I've done the scary stuff and the nostalgic
stuff, I may have a scary/funny evening with HOCUS POCUS and ABBOT AND COSTELLO
MEET FRANKENSTEIN. We shall see.
PS. Saturday night I'm going on a tour of haunted houses, graveyards an such. I'll let you know how that turns out.
I'm going to be a guest at next year's JordanCon in 2015. As you can tell from the name, this is a Fantasy Convention built around Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series. The Con folks told me that they wanted to expand their programming to include horror and suspense tracks, so come next April I'll be there talking on panels, signing books and pretending I know what I'm talking about. More information to come.
When I was a kid we had a TV show in Atlanta called Friday Night
Frights. It was, as you would expect, a program that ran horror movies
in the vein of Shock Theater. It originally had its own horror host, a
fellow called Dead Earnest, but I don't really remember him. Anyway, one
night the program showed a double feature of THE TIME MACHINE and KING
KONG, neither being films that I could readily see in those pre-VCR/DVD
days. In honor of those long ago times, tonight I will watch my own
double feature of these two SF/Horror classics.
Nice find at the Friends of the Library sale today. A boxed set of the The Lord of
the Rings with the original Ballantine old school covers. This was the
authorized edition that Ballantine rushed out to compete with the
infamous ACE 'pirated' editions. The box was just a little scuffed but
the paperbacks are almost perfect. I didn't own these editions so pretty
nifty. The cost? Three dollars. A buck per book and no charge for the
Watching a couple of the sequels to 1932's THE MUMMY, THE MUMMY'S
HAND and THE MUMMY'S TOMB. Of the classic Universal Monsters, The Mummy
probably fared the worst in terms of sequels. 1940's THE MUMMY'S HAND is
very much a B Movie and looks more like a Movie Serial than a classic
horror film. Still it's kind of fun to see Kharis the mummy stalking
around and strangling people. These are the movies I remember watching
as a kid, with the Tana Leaves and the sinister Egyptian Priests.
A weird thing about actor George Zucco, who played the high priest in
THE MUMMY'S HAND. For some reason Kenneth Anger, who wrote the book
Hollywood Babylon, claimed that Zucco died in an insane asylum convinced
that he was being hunted by H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu. In truth, Zucco
died of pneumonia in an assisted living home. I've always wondered why
Anger would come up with such an outre lie. Maybe one of his sources for
the book fed him the story. But seriously, Cthulhu?
Came in from work, watched an episode of Sleepy Hollow and read two
new Horror comic books, CHILLING ADVENTURES OF SABRINA and WYTCHES. Both
comics were excellent and now I have a nice Halloween buzz going.
Wytches was probably the scarrier of the two but not by much. This new,
realistic version of Sabrina has some good horror chops. It seems
to be following a different continuity than the recent Sabrina issue of
Afterlife With Archie, but perhaps it's just earlier in the history of
the character. There are some nice in-jokes for long time readers of
Archie Comics and the back up feature is a reprint of the original first
ever Sabrina story from Archie's Madhouse #22 with gorgeous art by the
late Dan Decarlo. The series is off to a great start.
I started reading John D. Haefele's A LOOK BEHIND THE DERLETH MYTHOS
and in the introduction he talked about Lin Carter's 1972 book,
LOVECRAFT:A LOOK BEHIND THE CTHULHU MYTHOS which was obviously a big
influence on the Derleth book. I read Carter's book a long time back,
but it had been a while since I gave it a look, so I dug it out of
storage and as i read it, something caught my attention.
In the back of the book Carter had a list of the known published
Cthulhu Mythos stories up to that time. Everything by Lovecraft, August
Deleth, Frank Belknap Long, Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, Henry
Kuttner, Lin Carter, Ramsey Campbell, Brian Lumley, Robert Bloch, Colin
Wilson, and several others.
The total? 119 stories.
Think about that for a moment. The published Cthulhu mythos stories
today would run into the thousands. But in 1972, just over a hundred.
But one has to keep in mind that the whole Lovecraft phenomena was just
gaining steam at that time. There hadn't been a full blown biography of
Lovecraft yet and only three volumes of his letters had been published.
Lovecraft fandom was still sort of a niche market and the comic books,
video games, role playing games, etc weren't even a glimmer on the
horizon. Pretty wild.
Got the Fright Flick Festival off to a good start with 1994's WES
CRAVEN'S NEW NIGHTMARE. I remember seeing this when it originally came
out and liking it, mostly because I've always had a soft spot for
meta-fiction, a self referring text, and this is a movie within a movie
about the fictional serial killer Freddy Krueger trying to cross over
from his world into ours. Actors Heather Langenkamp, Robert Englund, and
even John Saxon all play themselves. Director Wes Craven even gets
in on the act, appearing as himself as he is forced by an 'ancient evil
entity' to write a script bringing Freddy back from the dead.
I liked the original Nightmare On Elmstreet, but each sequel that
followed seemed to get sillier and less horrifying. When the series
ended, I didn't even notice. However Craven, apparently unhappy with
the way things had gone, wanted to do one more Freddy film, returning
the character to his more horrific beginnings. Less funny. More Scary.
The movie does a pretty good job, though the writers felt compelled
to create a 'story arc' for the 'character' of Heather, which pretty obviously wasn't the real life of actress Heather Langenkamp. Not the way I would have handled it.
There are some scary scenes though and the sets and nightmare effects
come off well, occasionally even manages to capture some of the feel of
a real dream world. All and all a great way to get the festival up and
New Acquisitions! Gearing up for Halloween with the brand new
Annotated H.P. Lovecraft and Wes Craven's New Nightmare, the
meta-fictional Freddy movie. Also got the movie version of Joe
Lansdale's 'Cold in July', which was the first book of Joe's I ever
Got a massive dose of vintage Captain America reprints including Sal
Buscema's great run on the series. These Marvel Essential Volumes are
out of print now, so get 'em while you can. And finally the collection
of Rich Buckler's DEATHLOK the Demolisher. Killer cyborgs as as you like
them. All and all, a great haul.
The paperback of the Widowmakers benefit anthology is available now. This is my copy, which came in the mail today. Over 700 pages of horror, dark suspense. and just plain hard hitting fiction, including a Carnacki the Ghostfinder story by me.
I wrote this because a local woman was assaulted and injured just as the woman in this story is. I read about it in the paper and came home and wrote this.
Griffin had been prowling the woods around Silver Pine Trail every
morning for the last week. The Wellman cops, who had stepped up
patrols after the assault on Cindy Carver, had never seen Griffin.
They also hadn't seen the man in camos and mask who was hiding in a
clump of bushes about twenty feet from where Griffin was concealed.
to the news, the as yet unidentified man had dragged Cindy into the
woods around the walking trail and had beaten her so severely that he
had broken most of the bones in her face. Griffin had seen the
pictures. The attacker had obviously enjoyed himself. That meant it
wouldn't be long before he came back. The cops knew that too, but
they didn't have the man power to keep a constant watch on the trail.
Griffin wasn't currently employed and he didn't mind getting up
heard someone coming along the trail and he turned his focus to the
here and now. A woman appeared out of the morning fog. Petite. Bright
running clothes. Blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail. Griffin saw
camo slowly stand up and go into a crouch. He had obviously been
watching the police patrols and knew they were a long way from his
current position. His plan was probably to step out and hit the girl
hard, stunning her or knocking her cold. Making sure she couldn't
scream. Then he could drag her into the bushes and have his fun.
covered the distance between he and camo as silently as a ghost. He
slid one arm around camo's neck from behind, grasped his own bicep on
the other arm and leaned in so camo couldn't reach back and go for
his eyes. Properly applied, the ju-jistu choke hold he used could
render an opponent unconscious in less than four seconds. Griffin
applied it properly.
jogger was long gone by the time camo came to. The man sat up,
rubbing his temples. Griffin knew that the choke hold, which cut off
the supply of blood to the brain, would give the recipient a hell of
took camo a few seconds to realize that his hood was gone. He looked
over at Griffin who was now wearing a ski-mask. Camo said, “You
can't prove nothing.”
wrong,” Griffin said. “Cindy carver scratched you. She's got your
DNA under her fingernails.”
shook his head. “Bitch didn't get a chance to scratch me.”
his mistake, camo said, “Nobody heard that but me and you. Don't
true,” Griffin said. He removed a pair of leather gloves from the
pocket of his jacket and began to pull them on.
you going to arrest me or what?” Camo said.
not the police,” said Griffin.
not here to arrest you. Now stand up, please.”
eyes had gone wide. “Why do you want me to stand up?”
giving you a chance to fight back. It won't do you any good, but it's
more than you did for Cindy Carver.”
got to his feet slowly, his hand slipping to his pocket.
knife's gone,” Griffin said. “I thought about letting you keep
it, but that would be stupid and you could get lucky.”
ain't fair. You're bigger than me.”
you outweighed Cindy by a hundred pounds. I don't have that much on
you've been waiting out here just to beat on me? That's crazy.”
I'm done talking now, except for one last thing. You broke most of
the bones in Cindy's face. I want you to know that I'm going to do a
better job than that.”
man. Don't!” Camo started yelling. That was fine. The cops were a
long way off and this wouldn't take long. Griffin had an appointment
for later in the morning so he was glad things had gone his way. He
shrugged his shoulders, blew out a long breath, and went to work.
Today's mail brought the BIG BOX OF BURROUGHS! Except for The Mucker, which is slightly dinged, the other copies appear to be unread. I needed some better copies of most of these and four of then, I didn't own. Bruce says they smell terrific.
Keep in mind these books are from the 1970s. The Frank Frazetta covers are still bright and shiny after all these years. These covers absolutely scream ADVENTURE!
Stellar group of books purchased last night. S.T. Joshi's Collected
Essays on Lovecraft, a new adaptation of Michael Moorcock's Elric, a
collection of Sub-Mariner/Human Torch Comics by Roy Thomas and Rich
Buckler, and the latest volume collecting Savage Sword of Conan. This
one features Tim Truman's first art job on Conan, by the way, long
before he started drawing and writing the character for dark Horse. See? I did get Conan into a post!
anthology WIDOWMAKERS is live as of now for the Kindle, with a trade paperback
on the way. Over 700 pages of Dark Fantasy with stories by folks like Bracken
MacLeod, Elizabeth Massie, James A. Moore, Brian Keene, Jeff Strand, and even
some guy named Rutledge.
One of the odder items in my collection. The press book for a movie about Lin Carter's barbarian hero, Thongor. Had the movie been made it would have beaten Conan the Barbarian into theaters by three years. The book contains 20 illustrations that outline the plot of the entire film.
I was reviewing
my posts here this year and I noticed that in addition to the general drop off
in posting from last year, that there's also been a scarcity of posts dealing
with Robert E. Howard and his most famous creation, Conan the Cimmerian. If you
check the previous few years of Singular Posts, Conan has been a fixture and
there are, in fact, a couple of years where this is almost a REH themed blog.
At the moment,
Howard's colleague and pen pal, H.P. Lovecraft seems to have edged REH and
Conan out. Not sure if that's because I've been spending so much time writing
horror or what. I've definitely been reading more Lovecraft than Howard for the
past six months.
Anyway, I assure
you that my enthusiasm for all things Conan and Sword & Sorcery hasn't
waned. Just doesn't seem to be where my posting interest lies at the moment.
As I mentioned
in a couple of other posts, I think that my activity on Facebook and other
social media has made the biggest difference in the frequency of my blog posts.
Any time that I have a lot to say about something I blog about it, but the
quick little snippets about stuff seem to end up on Facebook. I've yet to hit
100 blog posts for the year so far. Checking last year's stats, I averaged
about 20 posts a month and now I average about 10.
Anyway, I've no
plans to stop blogging, but it is interesting how the changing face of the
internet has affected things.
This is my first time reading Brian Keene, though I've been aware of
his work for some time. Not sure why I never got around to reading any
of his books before, but I will certainly be making up for lost time.
I've already ordered the other books in the series to which this one
belongs, so that should tell you that this is going to be an extremely
Albatwitches is the chronologically fourth book in Keenes' series
featuring ex-Amish Occult Detective, Levi Stolzfus. The book is actually
two novellas, "The Witching Tree' and the titular 'Last of the
In 'The Witching Tree' Levi is called in when a lone tree in an old
field apparently starts killing people. The local law enforcement is a
little out of their depth and soon Levi finds that he could be in
In 'Last of the Albatwitches' Levi runs up against an old local
legend, something similar to Bigfoot, but smaller, and a lot less
friendly. As he digs deeper though, he finds that there's more than
meets the eye to what's going on.
As I said, this was my first Brian Keene book and so my first meeting
with Levi. He's a terrific character, with an original and complex
background. He's no longer Amish but he still holds to many of his old
ways. He's also a mage, a man who practices 'powwow' magic, and uses the
book 'The Long Lost Friend' as his primary source of power. I first
heard about The Long Lost Friend in the stories of Manly Wade Wellman,
The book and the magic behind it figure in some of Wellman's John the
Balladeer stories and in some of his other horror stories.
Keene has gone farther then Wellman though, having Levi use the
spells, charms, and protections from the book against all kinds of
supernatural menaces. This is, of course, the original, unexpurgated
version of the book. Not the one you can get online for your Kindle.
Brian Keene is a sure hand when it comes to horror and these two
novellas are darn scary. They're also fascinating and well written,
really some of the best horror I've read this year. You don't have to
read the books in order but if you want to, the first is 'Dark Hollow',
followed by 'Ghost Walk', 'A Gathering of Crows' and then Albatwitches.
Like I said, I've already ordered the others and plan to read a couple
during Halloween. Highly recommended.
It's the middle of September and there's just a hint of autumn in the
air. That means it's time once again for my annual imaginary horror
anthology. Inspired by the collection 'H.P. Lovecraft's Book of Horror'
back in 2009, I decided to collect an unlucky 13 horror stories from my
reading history and suggest then to folks who might be looking for some
spooky reading material for the upcoming Halloween season. I always try
and have the list up by the middle of September so that interested
parties can track them down in time for All Hallows Eve. If you check
the archive for Sept of 2009-2013 you'll find even more suggestions.
This gets a little tougher every year because I've used up my
absolute favorites, so the selections from favorite writers become more
difficult. Luckily I continue to collect horror short stories, so there
are always new (or new to me) stories and authors. This year marks my
first inclusion of stories by folks like Brian Lumley, William Meikle,
and Gene Wolfe, and the return of old favorites Ramsey Campbell, H.P.
Lovecraft, Karl Edward Wagner, Stephen King, and Manly Wade Wellman.
Speaking of Wagner, this is the first time I've used a story about
his hero-villain, Kane in one of my lists. I usually stick to Wagner's
traditional horror yarns, but 'Undertow' is probably the most horrific
of the Kane tales and I think it fits right in.
I almost included Kealan Patrick Burke's story 'Offline', but at the
last minute I replaced it with his 'Someone to Carve the Pumpkins'
because of its creepy Halloween vibe.
There's nary a whisper of the supernatural in Ed Gorman's story,
'Angie', but trust me, it's horror, and perhaps more so than some of the
other because it's all too believable.
I was a bit surprised at the sheer, out and out terror evident in
William Hope Hodgson's 'A Tropical Horror' because I usually think of
his horror stories as being more reserved. This one is a real shocker
and would make a good movie, I think. Ditto Amelia B. Edwards' 'The
Phantom Coach' which has an ending that's just plane gruesome.
One of my favorite Ghost stories in quite some time is Chet
Williamson's 'Jabbie Welsh'. Chet writes beautifully and here his horror
chops really shine.
William Meikle's 'The Keeper of the Gate' is a top notch Cthulhu Mythos
story, as are most of the yarns in the collection 'Dark Rites of
Cthulhu'. I highly recommend that anthology. It's often hard to find
Mythos stories that manage to actually be scary these days and Dark
Rites has more than its share.
So there you have it. 13 horror tales for your Halloween reading
pleasure. Hopefully you old hands will find something you missed, and
for the horror newbies among you, I hope I can point the way to some new
writers, even if some of them are of Victorian Vintage.
1. Manly Wade Wellman -Pithecanthropus Rejectus
from The Mammoth Book of Frankenstein
2. Amelia B. Edwards -The Phantom Coach
from The Phantom Coach
3. Karl Edward Wagner -Undertow
From Night Winds
4. Chet Williamson -Jabbie Welsh
From Figures in Rain
5. Brian Lumley -The Fairground Horror
From The Taint and Other Novellas
6. William Hope Hodgson -A Tropical Horror
From The Centipede Press Library of Weird Fiction
7. Gene Wolfe-Lord of the Land
From Cthulhu 2000
8. H.P. Lovecraft-The Shunned House
From The Best of H.P. Lovecraft
9. William Meikle-The Keeper of the Gate
From Dark Rites of Cthulhu
10. Kealan Patrick Burke-Someone to Carve the Pumpkins
From Dead Leaves
11. Ed Gorman-Angie
From Scream Queen and other Tales of Menace
12. Stephen King-The Monkey
From Skeleton Crew
13. Ramsey Campbell-The Show Goes On
From DAW Year's Best Horror Vol XI
Went out to breakfast at Waffle House this morning. I took along volume
II of S.T. Joshi's biography of H.P. Lovecraft, I AM PROVIDENCE because
I'm doing some research. Sitting there, listening to what passes for
Country Music these days, I suddenly wondered what Lovecraft would have
ordered if he'd been with me. Reportedly his usual breakfast was donuts
and cheese, and he had a notorious sweet tooth, so I figure he'd have
been good with a waffle and maybe some eggs with cheese in them. Yes,
there are the sorts of things writers think about at 7:00 on a Saturday
morning. What would I buy H.P. Lovecraft for breakfast at Waffle House?
My first and probably last 'sketch cover' drawn for a contest to create a new alternate reality DC Universe. personally I liked the sketch I put up earlier, but this looks pretty cool with the logo and I only had the one shot at drawing on the blank cover.
Congregations of the Dead, by James A. Moore and me, is officially
available at Amazon as both a Kindle book and a trade paperback. Griffin
and Price fight vampires in the North Georgia Mountains. Here are the
A quick ink sketch of an H.P. Lovecraft version of the DC Universe, featuring ELDER (Superman) DEEP ONE (Aquaman) and NIGHT GAUNT (Batman). This is the sort of thing that occurs to me on a Sunday afternoon. ELDRITCH LEAGUE anyone?
In the early sixties, a publishing company called Gold Star, working
under the mistaken impression that Edgar Rice Burroughs' character,
Tarzan of the Apes, had gone into public domain, began publishing new
Tarzan adventures. They put out five volumes before ERB Inc. let them
know that they were in trademark infringement. Thus perished Tarzan: The
I had never tracked these down for whatever reason, but then my ever
generous pal Cliff found that he had two duplicates in his collection
and passed them on to me. Now of course, being of the collector frame of
mind, I couldn't just have two of a set of five. So now I'm hunting
down the others. My most recent acquisition, TARZAN AND THE SILVER
GLOBE, comes from the collection of writer Donald F. Glut, creator of
Doctor Spektor, which is appropriate, given my interests. Three down and
two to go.
Me: "Hi, I need to order a birthday cake."
Bakery Lady on phone: "Okay, how would you like it decorated."
Me: "Can you put an octopus on there?"
Bakery Lady "I don't think we have any octopuses. We have whales and sharks."
Me: "I was really hoping for a cephalopod."
Bakery Lady: I don't know that that is."
Me. "Okay forget the cephalopods. How about a graveyard?"
Bakery lady" "Er...we have little cookie tombstones."
Me: "Great, Go with that."
Bakery lady. "This is a birthday cake?"
Me: "Yeah, don't worry. The guy is dead."
Bakery lady. "Oh dear."
Me: "No, no, it's okay. He's been dead since 1937."
Bakery lady. "Um, okay. Do you want a name on the cake?"
Me: "Yes, put Happy Birthday H.P. Lovecraft."
Bakery lady: "Is Lovecraft one word?"
Me: "It is."
We talked about cake sizes and icing choices. Then she said, "When do you need to pick this up?"
Me: "Tomorrow will be fine."
Bakery lady. "What time are you coming because I want to be here to meet you."
Lovecraft’s Birthday. There are few authors whose work has given me more flat
out fun that HPL’s. He remains one of the giants of the horror/fantasy field
and along with Poe, one of the most influential writers of the macabre. I wrote
an appreciation of Lovecraft last year on his birthday and I really can’t add
to it, so if you didn’t read it, the link is below.
In the summer of 1991 I had two jobs. I was writing a Chinese
Kung-Fu comic book called Drunken Fist and at night I was teaching
karate. Most days I had a lot of free time, and I was looking around
for something else I could write as work for hire. I knew a lot
about martial arts and a lot about guns and knives so it occurred to
me that maybe I could write some Men's Adventure books. You know,
The Executioner, Able Team, that kind of thing. So I began reading a
lot of the Gold Eagle titles to see how it was done and ended up
getting hooked on Mack Bolan, Stony Man, etc. Gold Eagle was trying
a lot of titles at the time so there was plenty to choose from.
One series, or rather mini-series seemed to be tailor made for
me. It was called TIME WARRIORS, and it teamed a modern day Mercenary
named Black Jack Hogan and a barbarian warrior from pre-history
named Brom. The two were mystically linked somehow and would be
called to each other's time when they were needed, so Brom would
come to the present when Blackjack was in danger and vice versa.
Great concept, eh?
Except I didn't like the writing. The books were credited to a
David North, but I don't know if that was a real guy or a house
name. Gold Eagle used a lot of house names. I bought all three books
in the mini series and tried to read them but they just didn't work
for me. Apparently they didn't work for many other people either as
Time Warriors never became a regular series.
So why did I think of this twenty three year old series suddenly? The
usual thing. Digging through some boxes of books and I found one of
the paperbacks. No idea why I saved it. I haven't come across the
other two, so it probably just got past me when I moved in 2004.
I'll put it aside for the next Friends of the Library book sale. For
the Time Warriors, time has run out.
This is on the way from the UK. A Holiday Annual from 1982, which reprints
some much older material, including a Sexton Blake Christmas story by
Gwyn Evans, who specialized in such tales, and Holiday stories from
other British story papers. Never too early to start gathering Christmas
The picture above is the first con sketch I ever bought and I didn't
actually intend to buy it. It was 1977 or so and I was attending the
Atlanta Fantasy Fair. I'd have been about 15 and I was planning on being
a comic book artist so I had gone down to artist's alley to watch the
pros draw. Gil Kane, already a comic book legend, had a small crowd in
front of him and I joined the group so I could watch him draw.
Needless to say, I was amazed seeing the way he effortlessly
constructed a figure in pencil, then finished it up with a marker. A lot
of people seemed to be getting Green Lantern drawings and I knew he was
identified with that character, but by 77 he had long since moved on
and I'd only seen a few GL stories by Kane in reprints. To me he was a
Marvel artist, and at that point he was drawing Daredevil regularly and also doing Spiderman annuals, and lots and lots of covers.
Anyway, I was so fascinated by his skill that I didn't realize that I
was moving up in line until the guy in front of me got his sketch and
stepped aside. Kane looked up at me and said, "And what character would
I probably hesitated for a few seconds but in my memory I just said, "Daredevil."
As I said, I hadn't planned on buying anything, but at that point I
was too embarrassed to say so and get out of line, and Daredevil was the
first thing that came to mind since he was the current artist on the
book. So Gil Kane began roughing out Daredevil, and his wife, who was
sitting beside him said, "That will be twenty dollars."
Fortunately I had the cash on me. And yes, in 1977 you could have a
Gil Kane Drawing of any character you wanted for twenty bucks. Of course
now I wished I'd said Conan.
Been a while since I did an acquisitions post. It was a good comics
week. Conan and Baltimore were excellent. The Shadow Over Innsmouth was
disappointing. Hard to make an idea with that much promise match up to
the potential I guess. I got the Hellboy trade because I wanted to read
the Batman/Hellboy/Starman teamup. The catnip mouse isn't
actually new, but Bruce brought it over while I was putting these comics
on the floor so I guess he wanted ya'll to see it.
I've had a lot of questions about this (and I'm glad of that) so I'm
pleased to announce that Congregations of the Dead, by James A. Moore
and me, will be available in the not too distant future as an e-book
and paperback. More news soon.
I don't generally do music reviews. In fact this is the first one at
Singular Points, but if fits here, as the subject, Kasey Lansdale, is a
member of the NECON family, which includes many of my favorite writers,
artists, and other creative types. And also I've been listening to her
CD, RESTLESS, nonstop since I returned from this year's NECON, where Kasey
gave a concert to open the con.
A little background. I don't listen to a lot of country music these
days, but I grew up in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains so it
was definitely background music to my childhood. I like the old stuff.
The real stuff, steeped in blues and pain. I've little (read no)
interest in the pop that currently passes for country. I grew up with
Conway Twitty, Johnny Cash, Jim Reeves, Loretta Lynn, and yes, Elvis. I
watched Hee Haw with my grandparents and I have a soft spot for Buck
Owens and Roy Clark still.
Kasey Lansdale is the real deal. The songs on Restless range from the
wicked SORRY AIN'T ENOUGH to the slow and heartfelt BLAME YOU FOR
TRYING. That last one practically bleeds regret and makes me wonder how
someone as young as Kasey can get that sort of feeling into that kind of
Then there's JUST ANOTHER GUY. One lyric from that one stays with me.
"And for once he could really be a hero...if he'd just turn that car
around." But you know he won't.
I think my favorite song on the CD though is WHY CAN'T I? As you can
probably guess, that's not a happy one. But it speaks to me, which is
what we look for in music, so there you go.
A word about the vocals before I go. Kasey has a very powerful voice
(she sang A capella at NECON. Amazing.) and she can go from playful to
soulful without missing a beat. She comes from a family of storytellers
(her dad is author Joe Lansdale) and Kasey is a writer and editor of
fiction as well as a singer. On RESTLESS she's got quite a few stories
to tell and they're all worth listening to.
"I have reared a marble urn in his memory in St. John's Churchyard-the
place that Poe loved-the hidden grove of giant willows on the hill,
where tombs and headstones huddle quietly between the hoary bulk of the
church and the houses and bank walls of Benefit street."
Supposed to hit 92 degrees today but at the moment it's in the mid 60s, nice and cool. Re-reading HPL's THE SHUNNED HOUSE this morning over breakfast, since I was just there a week ago. Interesting to read his description of the house and to be able to compare it to my own experience. So far my low profile weekend goes well. Played Lord of the Rings Online a bit with Brie yesterday. Got to enter the Paths of the Dead after viewing the Mustering of Rohan. Love it when the game does scenes from the books. Read some comics which I may or may not review later, depending on how industrious I feel. Plan to write some here in the next few minutes. All and all, not a bad start.