Friday, September 7, 2018

recent read; GODS OF FIRE AND THUNDER


With GODS OF FIRE AND THUNDER, Saberhagen delved into Norse myth and legend to weave a novel.
Haraldur the Northman once joined Jason on his fabled quest for the Golden Fleece, but now he wants nothing more to do with gods and adventure. Returning to his homeland for the first time in many years, he hopes only to settle down on a farm of his own—until he comes across an impenetrable wall of Eldritch fire and a lovesick youth determined to breach the wall at any cost.
Behind the towering flames, he is told, lies a beautiful Valkyrie trapped in an enchanted sleep, as well as, perhaps, a golden treasure beyond mortal reckoning. It is the gold that tempts Hal to agree, against his better judgment, to assist the youth in his quest.
Declared as 'Book One of the Norse Gods,' the novel is also the fifth book in Saberhagen's 'Gods(Masks)' series. The first four novels deal with Greek myth and legend.

If you've come for a hard-hitting Viking tale, this isn't it. Saberhagen's story concerns the gods, ghosts, gnomes, and other trappings of the Norse myths. The gods aren't truly gods--they are people who have acquired magical masks which transform them into gods. The Masks are a good hook and the characters and their interactions are enjoyable. (I still wonder if the series is in any way connected to Saberhagen's SWORDS world. It has a similar setup.)

It's a solid time-passer as a fantasy story. If you seek blood & thunder and clashing Viking hordes, you need to look elsewhere.

The Masks concept is interesting. Not enough for me to rush out and immediately find the other books in the series. But enough that I might return to the series sometime in future.

If I spot them cheap enough during my bookstore travels I would probably grab them.

3 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

recent read; MEMO FROM TURNER


MEMO FROM TURNER by Tim Willocks

Taking a break from his Tannhauser historical fiction trilogy, Willocks delivers a thriller set in modern South Africa.
What happens when a man of absolute integrity finds himself trapped in a world of absolute corruption?

During a weekend spree in Cape Town a young, rich Afrikaner fatally injures a teenage street girl with his Range Rover but is too drunk to know that he has hit her. His companions – who do know – leave the girl to die.

The driver’s mother, a self-made mining magnate called Margot Le Roux, intends to keep her son in ignorance of his crime. Why should his life be ruined for a nameless girl who was already terminally ill? No one will care and the law is cheap. But by chance the case falls to the relentless Warrant Officer Turner of Cape Town homicide.

When Turner travels to the remote mining town that Margot owns – including the local police and private security force – he finds her determined to protect her son at any cost. As the battle of wills escalates, and the moral contradictions multiply, Turner won’t be bought and won’t be bullied, and when they try to bury him he rediscovers, during a desperate odyssey to the very brink of death, a long-forgotten truth about himself...

By the time Willocks's tale is finished, fourteen men have died. He shows once again that he is the laureate of the violent thriller.
As you can see from the synopsis, this might be filed under crime thriller but the story is a modern western. An incorruptible officer of the law, wading into mining territory controlled by a big boss who will stop at nothing to protect their offspring? What could be more western?

Warrant Officer Turner is determined--a man of honor who will uphold the law until the bitter end, like any good sheriff of old. He encounters corruption and resistance at every turn.

With Willocks, we can expect a spaghetti western, too. We get one, sure enough. Willocks lays out the characters like chess pieces, and the tension builds as events and people are moved into place for the showdown.

Willocks pulls a bit of a feint. The violence arrives and it starts off not quite so visceral as I would have expected. But then the plot hits its major twist and Willocks again casts an unflinching brutal eye over the madness of violence and survival. Not for the squeamish.

I enjoyed this one a lot. Recommended if you like crime fiction and/or bloody westerns. It moves right along. I read it in a few days.

MEMO FROM TURNER has not been published in the U.S. It is available via second-hand sellers through Amazon, ABEBooks, and other sites.

Monday, August 20, 2018

PICKMAN'S GALLERY available now (print edition)

Today is the anniversary of the birth of H. P. Lovecraft.

I re-read "The Dunwich Horror" yesterday.

Also in celebration, Ulthar Press have released PICKMAN'S GALLERY in print. Ebook to follow. (EDIT: Kindle version is now available)

One of the most popular and enduring characters created by H. P. Lovecraft is the mad artist, Richard Upton Pickman. Introduced in the short story, “Pickman’s Model”, Pickman made another appearance in Lovecraft’s fantasy novel, THE DREAM-QUEST OF UNKNOWN KADATH but was that the end of Pickman’s story? What untold horrors awaited? In this brand new collection of seventeen stories, some of weird fiction’s best authors present their versions of Pickman’s life and after-life. Join Peter Rawlik, Paul McNamee, Joshua Reynolds, Robert Price and more in this excursion into the dark side of art. Once you visit Pickman’s Gallery, you will never see the world the same way again!
Currently, the listing lacks a "Look Inside" preview. But thanks to having a proof copy, I can let you in on the table-of-contents.
  • Introduction by Matthew Carpenter (editor)
  • "One Night South of the Border" by Paul R. McNamee
  • "The Studies of Dr. Reid" by Peter Rawlik
  • "The Ghulistan Affair" by Sam Inabinet
  • "Pigman" by Dave Haendler
  • "A Creak in the Floor" by Victoria Dalpe
  • "Pickman's Model" by Maurice Lane
  • "For Susannah" by Tom Lynch
  • "The Ghoul's Portrait" by Joshua Reynolds
  • "A Pickman Original" by Logan Noble
  • "Pickman's Muse" by Kenneth Heard
  • "Eigenspace X" by Mike Chinn
  • "The Medium and the Message" by LC Von Hessen
  • "Beyond the Veil of Pretty Pink Lies" by Rebecca Allred
  • "Pickman's Model Kit" by Cliff Biggers
  • "The Pickman Revival" by Steven Vance
  • "The Cleaner's Tale" by Tom Johnstone
  • "A Photograph from Life" by Robert M. Price

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

recent read; CEMETERY WORLD


CEMETERY WORLD by Clifford D. Simak

Keith West's recent posts on Simak spurred me to dig this out and read it.

This book is a throwback to the era of Cold War science fiction. Its story is told in 150 pages. A quick, fun read. I enjoyed most of it though it invoked some time travel near the end which felt out of place.

In the far future, generations after the "Final War" and the migration into space, Earth has become a huge cemetery. The Cemetery Corporation make good money as a tourist destination, pilgrimage destination, and final resting place for those who can afford it.

But the Earth isn't yet *all* cemetery. There are people who work for Cemetery who still live there. And there are still some outcast groups and monsters of the past to be found in the wilderness.

Artist Fletcher Carson arrives to create a great work of art from the impressions and experiences of visiting Mother Earth and Cemetery. Along with archaeologist Cynthia, and Elmer, the robot, they head into the wilds, encountering strange wonders, and sabotage at the hands of Cemetery. The corporation wants *their* version of the story told, not Carson's independent study.

Maybe the story isn't classic or even Simak's best but it breezes along nicely.

The world needs more stories with 8-foot robots named Elmer.

CEMETERY WORLD is out-of-print in the US but frustratingly available in the UK as an ebook from the Gollancz SCI FI GATEWAY imprint. (I really wish more of those ebooks would be made available to North American consumers.)

Thursday, August 2, 2018

2 story acceptances announced

These were announced on Facebook pages, not main site pages. I think most people have seen my shares from Facebook, but if not;

I have a story coming in Weirdbook. "Pouring Whiskey on My Soul" will be in issue #40. I am not sure when it comes out. #39 just came out two weeks ago, give or take. #40 will be out this year, though.

Next, Ulthar Press announced their PICKMAN'S GALLERY anthology is scheduled for an August release. My story in that book is entitled, "One Night South of the Border."

I will, of course, post when these tales are published and ready for consumption!

Monday, July 30, 2018

recent read; AT THE MERCY OF BEASTS


AT THE MERCY OF BEASTS by Ed Kurtz

AT THE MERCY OF BEASTS is a themed collection of horror novellas. The theme is the past--each story has a historical setting.

"Black's Red Gold" - post World War I, the Texas oil boom leads men to avarice and murder. Deep in the bowels of the earth, Peter Black and his field crew find something potentially more valuable than oil--and far more costly to attain.

"Kennon Road" - during the American occupation of the Philippines in the early 20th century, a madman is viciously murdering people along the new island thoroughfare, Kennon Road. The natives claim it is the work of a demonic Manananggal. The Americans know better. Or, do they? Disillusioned corporal Charles Houghton finds himself drawn into the mystic, horrific world of the dark side of the islands.

"Deadheader" - Fast forwarding to the groovy 1970s, we find trucker Pearlie Pearce, hauling a "no questions asked" cargo. After she picks up a haunted, hitchhiking Vietnam veteran, the haul gets weird and dangerous as the duo are beset by strange attacking creatures and mystery men with their own agenda for Pearlie's cargo.

These are excellent novellas, blending setting, characters, monsters, the evil of men and the evil of monsters, and horror into just the right mix. I enjoyed all of these tales.

If you like horror and you like history, this collection is a must-read.

Friday, July 27, 2018

On the Arm Cast podcast


In the realm of  'small world' syndrome, one of the biggest NECON highlights for me was meeting in person and reconnecting with Armand Rosamilia. We had 'hung out' online at the old sword-&-sorcery forums way back in the day.

He interviewed me for his "Arm Cast" podcast and it was a great chat!


(and do listen to Meghan's interview, too!)