Monday, November 23, 2015

recent read; Borderland Noir

Borderland Noir, edited by Craig McDonald

Borderland Noir is an engaging anthology of short stories, novel excerpts, and essays pondering the harder edges of life on the border of Mexico. Coyotes (human traffickers,) wasted lives, murder, the drug war, banditos and echoes of the Mexican Revolution, and all sordid stops in between are examined.

The short stories are all engaging and take different directions. There are many, many stories to be told under the umbrella of borderland noir. DEA, ICE, prison guards, sheriffs, broken-down hookers, hit men, washed-up lawyers, life on the other side of the river and more.

McDonald's excerpts from his novel, El Gavilan, provide a poignant view of the illegal immigrant's journey through desert, coyotes, mad men with jugs of water and untold hardships - all for a chance - just a chance - of something better in the United States.

Jim Cornelius's essay on the the rise and fall of Pancho Villa, "Pancho Villa—Fourth Horseman of the Mexican Apocalypse," might appear out-of-place at first. But, in fact, it is a fascinating read when paired with the closing essay, "Where God And The Devil Wheel Like Vultures" by Tom Russell. The roots of bandito worship start with Villa and the Revolution (or perhaps, earlier.) The bad guys are the good guys because - for all their killing - they also help entire communities when it is to their benefit. It is chilling to see the same behavior and acceptance of drug lords and their wars. Also chilling - both items, separated in content by 100 years, give or take - mention Americans on the border watching warfare and gunfights across the river.

If you think the fictional body counts are unbelievable, just wait until you read the real statistics.

History repeats.

Borderland Noir is an engaging read. It drags you over the border and steeps you in sweat, beer, fear, revenge, smoke, jalapeƱos and blood. It is an eye-opening noir anthology about life in the shady world of the border.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

On the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month

I've posted before about my maternal grandfather and his service during World War I. As usual for me, on this day to honor all veterans I find myself gravitating toward the root in Armistice Day of World War I.

Another World War I veteran in the family tree was Joe St. George. I don't know much about him, though there are a few family anecdotes. He was nicknamed "the Count," for one, because he led a wild life.

Recently when cleaning out the house after my father's death, we found a picture of Joe & his wife, along with the certificate for his French Verdun medal.

Joe & Nellie St. George, year unknown (probably 1940s)

And last week, I finally found and visited their grave.
Amazing stuff to discover after all this time.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

recent read; Weird Menace, Volume 1

Quick post on this one;

Scary houses, mad scientists, insane monstrosities, pummeling fists, stalwart heroes, blazing pistols & spunky dames. This anthology delivers on its premise all the way through. Fun throwback, really feels like you grabbed a pulp off the rack in 1935.

If you like that sort of thing, this is for you.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Guerilla grave tending

It's been nearly a year since my father passed away. Damn but time flies.

The anniversary of his death, too near my birthday at the end of November usually means miserable cold weather. The weather between Autumn and Winter. Wet, cold and lacking both the cheer of snow or the beauty of Fall colored trees.

Rather than wait, I paid respects yesterday. It was cloudy but unseasonably warm, the day was open. Coincidence it came on All Souls Day/Day of the Dead/Samhain.

Turns out the spot looks lovely in Autumn. Next year I need to get down a little earlier, perhaps. Some of the trees had already dropped all their leaves, but there was still enough nice color to go around.

Lovely spot come Autumn.
Then I swung up to my great-grandfather's grave (same cemetery.) It is a shared plot with other past family members - great-grandmother, a grand uncle & a grand aunt. Unfortunately, their stone is a flat-in-the-ground style. Entropy had set in. Names were occluded by growth. (I need to come by more often. I probably will now that my father is buried there.)

Anyway - the humorous part comes here. I came unprepared for a grave cleaning. I had no gloves, and my pocket knife just wouldn't do the job. I could come back later, but I really wanted to do something then & there. I thought to myself, "Is there anything in the car I can use to take care of this now?"

Yeah. I keep an entrenching tool (collapsible spade) in the trunk for emergencies.

So, there I was, walking around the graves, with shovel in hand.

Glad no one called me out on it. Could have been awkward ;)

Sometime you bring roses. Sometimes you bring a shovel. Sometimes both.

I think I can generate a few short stories out of the experience. :)

(I'll get back in the Spring, bring a kit and do a proper job.)

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

recent read; Atomic-Age Cthulhu

The United States in the 1950s.

The middle class expanded, GIs earned college degrees, the suburbs sprawled. Rock’n’roll and television arrived, and Hollywood continued to entertain America. But underneath the idyllic facade, there were dangers. The Cold War, atomic annihilation, red communists infiltrating the West and war in Korea.

But what of Cthulhu and sundry Mythos gods? Did they sleep through the boom years? Or were they and their disciples and their enemies actively at work furthering their unfathomable objectives?

Some of these nineteen stories play with our history. Some offer alternate worlds where history is slightly different. The entire set of stories offer a wide range of tones, ideas and Mythos elements - some are humorous, others horrific, some have a spirit of adventure and others drip with paranoia. The humans, of course, are sometimes the worst monsters of all.

Atomic-Age Cthulhu is a very solid anthology that delivers on its premise. Highly recommended for a different slant on the Cthulhu Mythos.

(Perforce, this review is condensed. I wrote a much fuller review for periodical that will be coming in the near future. I will let you know when that becomes available.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Atomic Robo returns to print

Last year (or earlier this year?) Atomic Robo went the web comic route. Creators Brian Clevenger (writer) and Scott Wegna (artist) took Atomic Robo out of Red 5 Comics. They setup a web page backed with Patreon and using KickStarter to offer hardcover editions of previous collections. And, plans to offer future print collections on-demand.

Out of the blue, Clevenger & Wegna were contacted by IDW Publishing to keep Atomic Robo in print. IDW have been putting out the latest story arc (in parallel with the web comic,) and they have put out an omnibus of the first three volumes, Atomic Robo: The Everything Explodes Collection.

The second omnibus is already listed at Amazon, too, Atomic Robo: The Crystals Are Integral Collection.

Clevenger guested on a Comics Alternative podcast. It's long, but very insightful. I loved his observation that in a way, Atomic Robo is the Bugs Bunny of his universe. But Dr. Dinosaur is Cecil the Turtle - the only character who ever disrupted Bugs Bunny's winning streak.

Again, I can't recommend this comic enough. It's written for adults, but it is all ages appropriate and tons of fun for everyone.

The Real Science Adventures continue!

Monday, October 12, 2015

recent read; STRANGE TALES, Jan. 1932

Time for a retro review!

I've picked up a few Girasol pulp replicas in the past year. This Strange Tales Jan 1932 issue jumped out at me both for its cover and for the authors listed in the contents. It's October, so I decided to read the entire content rather than cherry pick this one.

"Dead Legs" by Edmond Hamilton
Thugs meet mad surgeon story. In this case, a crippled mob boss forces a brilliant doctor to graft new legs onto his body. The legs are those of the mob boss's murdered rival. The cursed legs try to get the mob boss killed. Entertaining but a bit of a stretch and certainly not classic.

"Wolves of Darkness" by Jack Williamson
Classic horror novella that turns the werewolf story on its ear. What starts out in the usual fashion - a lone man called to a remote destination where strange thing are afoot - soon changes tracks. For, not only do the wolves and people of this story seem preternatural, it is eventually revealed that strange alien life forces - not lyncathropy - are at work.

"The Moon-Dial" by Henry S. Whitehead
This one falls under light fantasy as a young man falls under the spell of the moon. He recalls past lives - all with a connection of scrying scenes under the light of the moon. Robert E. Howard fans might enjoy the passage from a Roman soldier's point-of-view, as they abandon Hadrian's Wall to the amassing Picts.

"The Black Laugh" by William J. Makin
Good horror story set in Boer Africa. A young man woos a woman who teases him into scaling a plateau. But the hapless lover cannot find his way back down. Madness ensues. I swear I've read this one before. I'll need to check some of my anthologies.

"The Shadow on the Sky" by August Derleth
A haunted house and a curse. A non-Lovecraftian story. Nothing wrong but nothing memorable, either.

"The Door To Saturn" by Clark Ashton Smith
A sword-&-sorcery entry involving a blasphemous sorcerer who flees through a portal to Saturn, and his arch rival who gets trapped there with him. Entertaining story and Smith has a great way of imparting cyclopean landscapes. It is a story on the light side, though. No clashing barbarians here.

"The Smell" by Francis Flagg
A ghost story where instead of the ghost being only seen or only heard by one person, a certain odor accompanies the spirit's presence. Again, serviceable albeit not overly memorable.

"The Door of Doom" by Hugh B. Cave
A ruined mansion, a strange Oriental servant, and four daring survivors of World War I who thrill themselves with occult challenges. This one went places I wasn't expecting. I assumed a weird/yellow menace story but it is, in fact, a tale of the supernatural. It reads like a series, yet some main characters die. So, it does a real good job of feinting the reader. This reader, anyway.

All in all,  a strong issue with justifiable classics. I'm glad I grabbed it.

(and who doesn't love all the old advertisements?)