Thursday, November 29, 2018

2018 writing round up

The blog has been quiet, so I thought I'd throw out a writing post wrap-up. Yes, I know it is still November but I have nothing else coming out this year.

In retrospect, it felt like a quiet year. But that was because I focused on novel writing for most of it. And, everything that came out this year had been in the pipeline since last year.


Four appearances. Turns out that is the most I've had in a single year. I'll take it.

The pulp serial, HOUR OF THE ROBOT, was delayed. Pro Se Press are hoping to get back on track. With luck, the serial will start coming out in January with the others that were announced.

It was a good--if not great--writing year. (yes, I know we still have December.) I finished two novels that had been languishing. I wrote and submitted a few short stories. I didn't get any bites but some of the stories were sent off to other slush piles that are still open.

I'm working through a short story now that will be completed and submitted by year's end. Then it's back to more chapters of the serial.

So, that's what's up with me on the writing front. I hope all you other authors are having success at either writing and/or publishing.

I hope 2019 is fruitful for us all.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Happy Halloween!

This year's October flashed me by awfully quick. Despite a welcome and fun visit from Charles Rutledge, and the Merrimack Valley Halloween Book Festival, I had personal distractions keeping me from the Halloween spirit most of the month.

I did manage a viewing of SON OF DRACULA, recorded a few movies off TCM (which I won't get to until November, if that,) and read a few spooky comics and stories.

Here are some quick scary tales from my neck of the woods for you.


Wednesday, October 10, 2018

STORYHACK Issue Three, now available!


STORYHACK, Issue Three, is available now!

I've posted about this earlier. I am honored and excited to have the featured story with cover art!

I'd read an article on rubber tree poaching and those who stand against it. I noted it at the time because I thought it would be a great setting for a modern western. Later, when I wanted to try my hand at a jungle hero story, I decided to use it.

So, a touch of "torn from today's headlines!", a dash of a western, and a helping of jungle lore, plus me equals - "Claws of the Puma."

The interior illustration by Gian Luca is stunning, too.


Thanks for reading, and buying, and supporting 'zines and small press!

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Weirdbook 40 now available (print edition)

After some delay, issue 40 of Weirdbook is listed on Amazon now. (print edition)

Includes my story, "Pouring Whiskey In My Soul," featuring my occult adventuring American Revolutionary War veteran, Doran Coyle.

I hadn't written Doran Coyle in many years. It felt good to bring him back and felt even better when the tale was accepted.

Weirdbook 40

 

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!)

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

HOUR OF THE ROBOT, coming in September

Pro Se Productions (Pro Se Press,) accepted my proposal for a pulp serial. It should last for a year (12 chapters,) starting in September.

My story is  a superhero adventure. It's an idea that's been rolling around in my head awhile now. I'm excited to commit to it now.

Pro Se have only announced this via Facebook but I am allowed to share the press release.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
SUBMISSIONS CLOSED FOR PRO SE SINGLE SHOT SIGNATURE SERIES!
SIX NEW SERIES TO DEBUT IN AUGUST-SEPTEMBER!
 
On July 2nd, Pro Se Productions announced openings for four series in the returning Pro Se Single Shot Signature line of digital episodic series with new chapters/issues released monthly.  In  next eight days, Pro Se received a tremendous amount of submissions.  Due to the quality of submissions, Editor  In Chief Tommy Hancock determined that six series deserved to be accepted and expanded the open slots from four to six.   
“So many fantastic ideas,” says Hancock, “made the choice of just a few series difficult.  When all the proposals were reviewed, six remained that we simply couldn’t not take.  Yes, it’s a little more work for editors, formatters, and artists, but these six tales, in addition to the two remaining from the line’s first incarnation going into August, are most definitely the type of tales that will make the return of the Pro Se Signature Series an incredible hit.”
The accepted series to debut in August are a traditional Western story focusing on the exploits of a lawman and the people around him, WESTERN JUSTICE by Tyler Auffhammer; DIMMERY OF PATROL ACADEMY, an intrigue filled space opera science fiction adventure, by A. S. Crowder; and CITY BE DAMNED, a period urban fantasy noir by Todd Cobb.
In September, the three series to premiere include FRONTIER MAGICK, a colonial supernatural actioner by Teel James Glenn; MISTER STYX, a two fisted mystery man tale, by C. William Russette; and HOUR OF THE ROBOT, a super hero alien thriller by Paul R McNamee. 
The six new series will join Chuck Miller’s THE FABULOUS WORLD OF ZENITH and Philip Athans’ TAI OF THE EBONY JUNGLE as the eight episodic tales that will be a part of the Pro Se Single Shot Signature Series, each monthly episode available for only 99 cents.
To learn more about Pro Se Productions, go to www.prose-press.com. Like Pro Se on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ProSeProductions.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

recent read; STORYHACK, Issue Two


STORYHACK, Issue Two, edited by Bryce Beattie

STORYHACK returns with nine stories of action adventure! Count 'em! Nine!

They run the breadth of pulp genres; horror, science fiction, sword-&-sorcery, crime, fantasy, steampunk, superheroes and more!

Personal favorites for me were;

David J. West's sword-&-sorcery "The Crawlers Beneath Avaris," a good old fashioned sewer romp with an exiled general who is on the run with a stolen book.

Keith West's "The Chronicle of the Gorgon's Island," which--yes--features a gorgon and has a strong extrapolation from mythic fantasy. This is also another tale with West's ongoing characters, Rodrik and his cursed liege prince, Balthar. (See issue #0 for their first adventure.)

"The Temple of Baktaar" by Jason Restick.  A jungle expedition leads to a cursed temple and horror. This tale is a WEIRD TALES throwback with strong vibes of Robert E. Howard and H. P. Lovecraft.

All nine stories are quality and worth your time.

Bryce Beattie continues to improve his editing chops with each issue. The story selection here was great. Also, not only do we get vibrant cover art, but each story gets its own black-and-white interior title art. This is a fun magazine, pure and simple!

(There were a few typos and one or two continuity blips but not voluminous or enough to throw a reader out of the stories.)

Grab your issue now!

(remember, if you order the print edition, Kindle matchbook offers the eZine for $1!)

Monday, June 11, 2018

recent read; A HELL WITHIN


A HELL WITHIN by James A. Moore & Charles R. Rutledge

A HELL WITHIN returns us to Wellman, GA where the veil between our world and strange other worldly horrors hangs thin and shredded. Sheriff Carl Price and private detective Wade Griffin again find themselves up against the supernatural. This time, a serial killer is on the loose--and his weapon of choice are summoned demons. You see, these demons allow him to enjoy the crime vicariously--safely keeping the killer away from the crime scene.

Further complications arise when the local organized crime erupts in a gang war over territory. Can the stalwart duo and their occult allies keep their heads down and catch the killer?

A HELL WITHIN is described best as horror-action or horror-crime-action and that is exactly what you get. Moore & Rutledge stay on target, delivering chills & thrills, gunfire, and hellfire. The action scenes are explosive. Characters pop off the page. The story clips along. I read this book in two or three sittings.

If you're a fan of the earlier books, BLIND SHADOWS and CONGREGATIONS OF THE DEAD, you'll want to return to A HELL WITHIN. If you haven't experienced Griffin & Price before, grab any of the three. You're in for a hellacious treat!

Friday, June 8, 2018

Welcome to the Jungle


Yesterday, I received my latest order from Amazon which consisted of three neo-pulp magazines;
It's not much of a secret--as I have signed the contract--I will have a story in the next issue of STORYHACK (#3)

Imagine my elation when I flipped over STORYHACK and found this on the back cover!


That's my story! I've been blessed with cover art!

So pleased with this!

This news update is not meant to detract from the current issue of STORYHACK (#2), featuring Keith West and David West among others. In fact, if you buy the print edition from Amazon, they will offer the Kindle Matchbook for $1. Win/win.

I can't wait to hold this in hand and when it's out I'll let you know--and maybe write a post or two about the behind-the-scenes on this tale.

In the meantime--

Support your 'zines!

Thursday, May 31, 2018

recent read: Pirates of the Levant


Pirates of the Levant by Arturo Perez-Reverte

It is 1627. Captain Alatriste and his young protege, Inigo Balboa--now both soldiers of Spain--find themselves assigned to the Spanish naval infantry, serving on privateer vessels based out of Naples. The Spanish ships prowl the Mediterranean, competing with the other political powers of the region. Of course, they are privateers, operating with the blessing of the Spanish King, and all the other European powers are pirates.

And then there are the Turks--the Muslims and the Catholic Spanish are eternal enemies.

There is not a straight plot through-line in this novel, other than the dramatic tension of Inigo and Alatriste being at odds with each other as the young man tries the establish his own identity. Otherwise, the story is episodic naval adventures highlighting the breadth and scope of the Mediterranean in the early 1600s.

At first I thought having Alatriste become a Marine was a forced excuse to write a pirate novel. But as usual, Perez-Reverte's historical veracity pulled me into the story in short time. PIRATES OF THE LEVANT is as fun, exciting, and historically interesting as any of the other Alatriste titles. If you're a fan of the series, you shouldn't be disappointed in this one, either.

Gratuitous UK cover, because I like them more than the photo US covers
I listened to the audiobook for this one.

If you've been following my Captain Alatriste reviews, you'll notice I've jumped over THE CAVALIER IN THE YELLOW DOUBLET. That's because it wasn't on audio, so I skipped ahead. The novels can be read out of order. I'll double-back soon enough.

Maybe by then, El puente de los asesinos, (THE BRIDGE OF ASSASSINS,) the (currently) last Alatriste novel will finally get an English translation.

Monday, May 14, 2018

THE MIGHTY WARRIORS

Last year, I posted about being accepted to the sword-&-sorcery anthology, THE MIGHTY WARRIORS.

Well, sometimes things in publishing take awhile. But good things come to those who wait, right?

THE MIGHTY WARRIORS is out in paperback now from Ulthar Press. Kindle eBook to follow.(edit: Kindle version now available)

And my-oh-my, just dig that risque art by the one and only Bruce Timm!

(You might want to order soon in case Amazon has an issue with the cover.. could be a collector's item .. just sayin' ;) )

The Amazon listing is sparse. Fortunately I have the means to let you see the table of contents.

 "Know, O Prince: An Introduction" by Robert M. Price
 "Spawn of the Sea God" by Adrian Cole
 "The Corpse's Crusade" by Cody Goodfellow
 "Thongor in the Valley of Demons" By Robert M. Price
 "The Shadow of Dia-Sust" by David C. Smith
 "Amudu's Bargain" by Charles R. Saunders
 "The Secret of Nephren-Ka" by Robert M. Price
 "The Temple of Light" by Milton J. Davis
 "Kiss of the Succubus" by Charles R. Rutledge
 "The Living Wind" by Ken Asamtsu, translated by Edward Lipsett
 "The Last Temple of Balsoth" by Cliff Biggers
 "Lono and the Pit of Punhaki" by Paul R. McNamee

This is an incredible lineup of authors and heroes - classic and new. Not only is Robert M. Price delivering a Thongor story, Adrian Cole is tackling Henry Kuttner's Elak of Atlantis, again. (I covered Cole's first foray in this post last year.) And the incomparable Imaro appears from the pen of Charles R. Saunders himself!

Very happy to see this project come to fruition!

recent read; DARKER THAN YOU THINK


DARKER THAN YOU THINK by Jack Williamson

Will Barbee, an alcoholic small college town reporter, is pulled into a noir-ish nightmare of witchcraft and  lyncanthropy. The deeper he goes, he discovers horrifying secrets about the history of mankind and about himself.

Or, is it all in his head? Has the beautiful, red-headed April Belle bewitched him into devilish deeds, or is his unconscious mind simply playing out his jealous desires?

Written in 1948, by now most of the surprises in the story were predictable. But Williamson works with the suspense of Barbee not understanding what is happening, while the reader does. And that works, too. When will Barbee figure it out? What choices will he make?

Williamson, being a science fiction writer, injects the lycanthropy with pseudo-physics and it suspended my disbelief well enough. It's tricky to try to justify any trope with real world rules.

Near the end, there are reveals. Some worked. One in particular I didn't feel had been setup at all, though.

I don't know if certain writers were influenced or even had read DARKER THAN YOU THINK but there are threads seen later in THE OMEN and ROSEMARY'S BABY, to name a few.

I enjoyed DARKER THAN YOU THINK for its craft and darkness. It deserves its status as one of the great horror and/or werewolf novels.


DARKER THAN YOU THINK is also available via Audible.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

recent read; HIGH ADVENTURE #86


HIGH ADVENTURE #86

Keeping with my resolution for more 'zines in my reading mix...

I swung back into the jungle pulp, following up last year's Ki-Gor read with two more of the better Ki-Gor tales, "The Devil's Death Trap" and "Blood Priestess of Vig N'Ga." Luckily, both stories are included in this single volume.

"The Devil's Death Trap" finds Ki-Gor and his stalwart companions trapped in a lost city of intelligent gorillas (shades of DC Comics' Gorilla City!) "Blood Priestess of Vig N'Ga" also features a hidden city--this one more of a classic Middle Eastern flare. While the former story had echoes of Edgar Rice Burroughs, the later tale had echoes of Robert E. Howard.

Both delivered on pulp fun and adventure.

Unfortunately, this issue (or my copy, anyway) has a glaring misprint in "Blood Priestess of Vig N'Ga" that repeats a page and left out a piece of the story. Fortunately, there is an archive available here. I need to check this out and fill in the gap.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

May 2018 writing goals

Current short term writing goals;
  • Finish w.i.p. horror novel
  • Write 2 short stories
    •  find markets and submit
  • Outline the next novel, which will be my "summer project" - to start in June
Check back in 30 days to see how I did!

Monday, April 30, 2018

recent read; Weirdbook #38


Weirdbook #38

I've been acquiring magazines (electronic and print) in addition to books and I should start reading more of them. And by magazines, of course, I mean anthology fiction magazines.

I should also review the newer titles to support the 'zines out there now that are delivering the kind of stuff I enjoy reading. Weirdbook is certainly one of those titles.

#38 is a good mix and like every anthology, some stories appealed more than others. I should think any pulp fan would enjoy it for the most part. The content is truly a "Weird" mix with fantasy, sword-&-sorcery, and horror (including Lovecraftian horror.) There are poems in the mix, too.

All of the current run of Weirdbook helmed by Douglas Draa are available - even cheaply for Kindle if you want. (this issue is currently the least expensive in eformat.)

Because I want to support them, I feel a little conflict of interest reviewing this magazine for the following reason; I must now publicly disclaim that I am scheduled to appear in Weirdbook #40.

This is also why I am giving a high-level simple review. I don't want to review each story or pick out favorites.

So, all the more selfish reason for me to ask you to keep these 'zines going!

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Los Lobos in concert, The Cabot, Beverly MA 21-Apr-2018



It had been a long time since I'd bothered with going to see a rock'n'roll show. But the opportunity to see Los Lobos in a small theater on a Saturday night was too good to let pass. My wife and I rolled together a date night and an early anniversary celebration, had a nice dinner, and attended the show.

Los Lobos started in with a one-two punch of "Will The Wolf Survive" and "Shakin' Shakin' Shakes." After that, the set list came from the top of their heads. They played a first set that was cut short due to technical difficulties. The guitar tech was on stage constantly. The main issue seemed to be the guitars not cutting through the mix - though other trouble came, too. (e.g.; broken guitar strap mid-song.)

The band soldiered through but went to an early intermission after 35 minutes and 6 songs (which ended with a spectacular jam on "That Train Don't Stop.")

The techs took care of the sound during the break. Not sure why things were so off. Without an opening band, levels should have been locked in during soundcheck.

The band came back on fire, ready to erase the earlier problems and they meant business, with Dave Hidalgo firing off a blistering acoustic guitar solo on "One Time, One Night." From there they started into a Mexican set with "Carabinas .30 .30" The rock and blues returned with "Chains of Love," "The Neighborhood, "Wicked Rain," and others before they closed their main set with a rollicking cover of the Grateful Dead's "Bertha."

For their encore, they had a surprise up their sleeve. They invited local musicians Barrence Whitfield and Willie 'Loco' Alexander to join them. They first served up a blues/R&B song and then blasted out the venue with Whitfield wailing through The Who's "My Generation."

It was a great show, complete with flaws, and I can't wait to see them live again - especially if it's in an intimate venue like The Cabot.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

recent read; Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar


Over the past few years, I've been adding the original TARZAN novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs to my reading diet. TARZAN AND THE JEWELS OF OPAR was next on my list;

Albert Werper is a murderer and deserter of the Belgian army in the Congo. Fleeing into the jungle, he is captured by gang of slavers led by the Arab Achmet Zek. Werper convinces Zek of his fugitive status, and joins the troop of cutthroats. Tarzan has been running afoul of Zek, ruining his slave trade. Zek and Werper hatch a plan to kidnap Tarzan's wife, Jane (of course,) and hold her for ransom. Werper decides to pose as a lost French gentleman, separated from his safari, to gain access to the Greystoke compound and home.

Tarzan - John Clayton, Lord Greystoke - has a reversal of fortune before the kidnapper can strike. Suspected unscrupulous business dealings have wiped out Greystoke's capital back in England. But the loss doesn't cause Clayton too much concern. He will return to the lost city of Opar. (His first visit was during THE RETURN OF TARZAN.) He knows where the city's great treasure room is hidden. Even the degenerated descendants of Opar who still stalk the stone corridors don't know that. He assures Jane he will be safe and vows to return with gold.

Werper has eavesdropped on their conversation. Realizing there is no ransom to be had from a destitute man, Werper takes his leave and stalks Tarzan's safari through the jungle to trail him to the treasure and steal his own portion.

While both men are in Opar, an earthquake traps them. Clayton takes a hard blow on the head. He awakens an amnesiac. He can only remember his primitive existence as the ape-man. Eventually, he learns his name is Tarzan, but his more recent memories refuse to return. Manipulated by Werper, Tarzan helps him to escape from Opar, and Tarzan acquires a pouch of "pretty pebbles" from another treasure room - the Jewels of Opar.

The avaricious Werper has designs on the jewels, and Tarzan feels the pull of the jungle, unaware that Achmet Zek and his bloodthirsty horde are descending on the Greystoke bungalow...

Adventure and action follow in large doses. Combat, death, lions, apes, Queen La and her subhuman worshipers. Escapes and recaptures, reversals of fortune, double-crosses. The list goes on - in a good, adventurous way.

I enjoyed this story, a lot.

Right out of the gate, Burroughs drops a "civilization vs. barbarism" quote that surely must have caught the attention of Robert E. Howard.
To Tarzan of the Apes the expedition was in the nature of a holiday outing. His civilization was at best but an outward veneer which he gladly peeled off with his uncomfortable European clothes whenever any reasonable pretext presented itself. It was a woman's love which kept Tarzan even to the semblance of civilization—a condition for which familiarity had bred contempt. He hated the shams and the hypocrisies of it and with the clear vision of an unspoiled mind he had penetrated to the rotten core of the heart of the thing—the cowardly greed for peace and ease and the safe-guarding of property rights. That the fine things of life—art, music and literature—had thriven upon such enervating ideals he strenuously denied, insisting, rather, that they had endured in spite of civilization.
Forgetting his existence as John Clayton, Tarzan is feral, unpredictable, and dangerous. He is - perhaps - more of the barbaric savage than he has been since the first half of TARZAN OF THE APES.

The only plot points I had an issue with were the overuse of lion attacks. While it wouldn't have changed the story a whit, I think exchanging at least one of the attacks for a leopard attack would have been welcome change up.

Despite the plot cliche of "the hero has amnesia," I enjoyed TARZAN AND THE JEWELS OF OPAR. I think it is my favorite of the series so far.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

recent read; Return to the Lost Level



RETURN TO THE LOST LEVEL by Brian Keene

Keene returns to THE LOST LEVEL with a worthy sequel!

Picking up where THE LOST LEVEL left off, Aaron Pace's adopted tribe has been raided by Anunnaki snake-men. Pace and the surviving villagers set off on a rescue mission, enduring hazards, danger, and hardship all along the way. Pterodactyls, Anunnaki, deadly flora, and other lost world features all hinder their efforts. Along the way they adopt a baby triceratops, and encounter Ambrose Bierce, too.

Keene sprinkles tantalizing bits of his own mythos throughout the story. The framing device also leaves a reader wondering about Pace's final fate in the Lost Level.

RETURN TO THE LOST LEVEL leaves the reader on a tantalizing cliffhanger promising more. I eagerly anticipate the next entry in the saga of Aaron Pace in the Lost Level.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

recent read; MARROW DUST



MARROW DUST by Steve Van Samson

MARROW DUST is the sequel to THE BONE EATER KING, which was one of my favorite reads last year.

Van Samson weaves an intriguing story from the opening pages. Time has passed since the events of THE BONE EATER KING and, clearly, things have gone very bad. Somewhere, somehow, Re, the heroine of the previous novel, has succumb to the curse of the matsatsaku maza - the vampires of near-future Africa who have laid waste to the world.

But Re fights on to retain herself to execute a mission of revenge. Along the journey through post-apocalyptic Africa, we meet a cast of characters - all well fleshed-out and interesting. The action is pulse pounding, and the reveals and turns keep coming through the very last page. The near-future African setting continues to entice and to fascinate and hums with veracity.

As with THE BONE EATER KING, Van Samson delivers the story in a non-linear fashion that is extremely satisfying. The hooks of the current narrative combined with the puzzle pieces of flashbacks all lock together in step until all is revealed but you've got stay for the entire ride.

And believe me, MARROW DUST is a ride you want to take.

5 out of 5.

Monday, February 12, 2018

recent read; The Outpost

I recently read Jake Tapper's The Outpost, a non-fiction book about an American military outpost in Afghanistan. (I am trying to read a little more history and non-fiction this year.)
I thought - given the terrain and operations involved - it would be a fitting post over at Frontier Partisans.  (Jim Cornelius graciously agreed.)
Nuristan province in northern Afghanistan is historically some of the most difficult terrain in which to conduct warfare. It is the land of Rudyard Kipling’s The Man Who Would Be King. The mountains chewed up the forces of Alexander the Great, the British Empire, and the Soviets. In the early 2000s, it was the United States turn.
You can read my review over there.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

recent read; StoryHack #1



StoryHack, Issue #1, edited by Bryce Beattie.

StoryHack continues on with its pulp mission to provide action adventure tales of derring-do, regardless of genre. Issue #1 provides a mix of science fiction, fantasy, westerns and even a few touches of horror and urban fantasy. Heck, there are also steampunk and supernatural detective stories, too!

In addition to story content, I have a print copy and it's very good production quality.

I enjoyed some stories more than others but that is to be expected. They are all quality tales. There's enough in this issue to satisfy anyone's pulp sweet tooth.

Give it a read!

Monday, February 5, 2018

recent read; The Secret Files of Solar Pons


THE SECRET FILES OF SOLAR PONS by Basil Copper

Pons finds himself dealing with four separate mysteries in this collection - "The Adventure of the Crawling Horror," "The Adventure of the Anguished Actor," "The Adventure of the Ignored Idols"
and "The Adventure of the Horrified Heiress."


I admit to sometimes being too easily entertained. I am still new to original Sherlock Holmes tales and the tales of Solar Pons.  I thought these tales were enjoyable, at least.

In "The Adventure of the Crawling Horror," Pons must solve the mystery of a ghostly monster in the marsh lands. "The Adventure of the Anguished Actor" features a tale of theater as Pons and Parker race to save an actor from assassination. In "The Adventure of the Ignored Idols," a brazen thief challenges a museum to stop his imminent procurement of exhibits. And "The Adventure of the Horrified Heiress" is a tale of murder and inheritance.

I found the last story surprisingly predictable.  "Ignored Idols" seemed to have an odd central conceit - the museum thief is initially introduced as known forger. So, why turn to thieving? I was expecting an artifact forgery swap somewhere in the story but it is also a straightforward tale of burglary and Pons's attempt to stop the thief.

So, I'd say the first two stories were the better of the collection.

Copper favored novella length adventures for Pons and his stalwart companion, Parker. I enjoyed settling into all of these longer stories, soaking up some atmosphere and spending more time with the mainstay characters of the series.

(The original Basil Copper stories came in the series of books published by Pinnacle Books back in the day and included Derleth's run. Hence, the first edition of SECRET FILES was numbered 10, not 3. Story content is the same.)

 

Friday, February 2, 2018

recent read; THE LAST SACRIFICE




THE LAST SACRIFICE by James A. Moore

THE LAST SACRIFICE is the first novel of a (new) grimdark trilogy from James A. Moore. Moore again displays the chops that make his writing a standout. Dripping with blood, horror, and an array of moral gray, we are plunged into a world where dark gods demand human sacrifice. When mercenary Brogan McTyre decides the price of losing his entire family is too high, the world is plunged into Armageddon as Brogan battles the monstrous servants of the gods and sets his sights on killing the gods themselves, if no other options are available.

Not any easy mission. Certainly not any easier when Five Kingdoms have put a price on your head to stop the end of the world.

This series, The Tides of War, is apart from Moore's previous Seven Forges series. Once again, Moore's creativity shines through with a new world, new pantheon, new monsters, new nations and continents. The characters live and breathe and pop from the page - often with swords swinging.

The sequel, FALLEN GODS, was just recently released and I cannot wait to dive into the dark - again.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Disney World 2018


My wife, kids and I took a trip to Disney World (Orlando, FL) last week. We all had a grand time, especially the kids – so it was worth it.

We visited Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios. Many highlights.

As a family, we all enjoyed the TOY STORY MANIA ride the most. You ride along in a car with 3-D glasses and fire a virtual pop gun at various toy targets.
TOY STORY Mania!
 We ate too well.

My personal highlights were the Kilimanjaro Safari ride and staying at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. The lodge – Jambo House – has a faux-pseudo-African vibe and is designed like a safari lodge house on steroids.
Jambo House
 We lucked out – our room did not overlook the ‘savanna’ but it did overlook animal pens where the animals get fed and/or shelter for the night. In the mornings, we saw bearded wildebeests, giraffes, impalas (mid-sized antelopes,) zebras, and ostriches sharing a common open space. Off to the right in separate areas were roan antelope (elk-sized, I’d guess,) and a pair of red river hogs came trotting out for their breakfast.

Red river hog comes out for breakfast. Roan antelope in the background.
Fire pit to relax and put up your feet after a long day of standing and walking.

The Kilimanjaro Safari ride offered views of more animals, including an elephant, a hippo, lions, and a white rhino. Lots of other animals and birds, too.
White rhinoceros on the safari
The only downsides were spending lots of money and waiting in lines.

The staff and patrons are all courteous and friendly. The staff need to be. But all the visitors seem to be aware we were all there for the same reason – to relax and have fun. Maybe we can all take that back to our daily lives.

It was good to get away, to connect with family and to drop off social media for a week. I think we can all use that once in a while.