Monday, July 29, 2013

One hard bastard; Mattias Tannhauser

I usually don't blog about a book before I've finished reading it, but for Tim Willocks and his incredible character, Mattias Tannhauser, I will make an exception.

The sequel to The Religion has arrived.  At least, it has arrived in the UK.  It's not clear if it will get North America distribution.  I ordered mine from  As I reported when I reviewed The Religion, I wouldn't wait for the remainder bin this time around.

The Twelve Children of Paris takes place during St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre.  Tannhauser arrives in Paris to find his (very pregnant) wife, who traveled to the city to attend a wedding while Tannhauser was away.  Tannhauser quickly finds himself in the heart of the city, and in the center of a spider web of court and political intrigue and madness.  As the killings begin, Tannhauser must locate his wife and save his stepson from the spreading riots and chaos.

Here's an idea of what the reader can expect;

I don't know - does that poster count as a "spoiler"? ;)

Before you think it's all about the violence, it's not.  The violence is not gratuitous - it's brutal and unflinching, but it's true to the tale.  Tannhauser lives in a violent time, and violent world, and he is one the most dangerous men of the time.  The violence is intrinsic to his existence and integral to the story.

The Religion took place over many locales and months, making it a sweeping epic.  The Twelve Children of Paris is more condensed, staying in Paris for the 36 hours of the Massacre.  In some ways, that imparts even more intensity to the sequel than to the first novel.

I am having a blast reading this one!

(p.s. - It should be noted, that knowledge of The Religion and The Twelve Children of Paris existing at all leads back to Jim Cornelius.  If you don't already follow his wonderful, unique and informative historic blog, Frontier Partisans, you should check it out.)

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Blood & Thunder in paperback

Just saw a note on my Facebook Pulp Coming Attractions feed that Mark Finn's comprehensive biography of Robert E. Howard, Blood & Thunder, is now available as on-demand paperback from Lulu.

Yes, as big as an REH fan that I am, I have yet to get this tome.  I'll be ordering mine this evening.

Monday, July 22, 2013

more capsule reviews

In the Courts of the Crimson Kings by S. M. Stirling (novel)

A sequel to his Edgar Rice Burroughs' Venus series homage, The Sky People, Stirling takes us to Mars for his own vision of Barsoom.  Aiming for a modern take on the sword-&-planet genre, we get an interesting mix of a scifi anthropologic/archaeological tale that morphs into a rousing adventure with airships and wildly imaginative bio-tech.  The opening sequence, a scene where various classic scifi pulp authors watch the first Mars landing together (in an alternate history to our own,) is worth the price of admission alone.

Moanin' at Midnight - The Life and Times of Howlin' Wolf by James Segrest and Mark Hoffman (biography)

I'd been meaning to read this for a very long time.  I know the basics of Wolf's life, but not the details.  Like so many early bluesmen, it's hard to believe he survived to old age.  Also surprising was his sense of discipline to his work ethic.  Music was his job.  He expected his band members to perform sober and well-dressed.  Considering he was one of the wildest of the Chicago bluesmen when he performed, I was surprised to learn that.  It is fascinating to read about Wolf's early solo rambling around the South.  He met and played with the early greats – Charley Patton, Son House, Robert Johnson - long before he went electric & got to Chicago.  It's dumbfounding that given his vocal styling he was never tapped for “field recordings” in his early days as other bluesmen were.  Because he didn't record until after he went electric, there are only a handful of later solo acoustic songs.  I will be seeking them out.

Thieves' World (anthology) by Robert Lynn Asprin & Lynn Abbey

This is the original anthology that launched the Thieves' World continuing series of anthologies and novels.  Various authors try their hand in a shared sword-&-sorcery world.  Though I sometimes felt the grit and nastiness went too far (a backlash against sanitized fantasies of the day?) generally the stories were enjoyable sword-&-sorcery and I'll get around to reading more of them.

Kingdom Come (graphic novel)

A sprawling epic across the DC universe as a new wave of violent super-powered vigilantes displace the old guard.  Drummed out by popularity of lethal force, Superman retreats for ten years while humanity lives in fear of the gods among them.  Lured out of retirement, Superman soon establishes a new order that is much resented by many of the younger breed.  Meanwhile, the government, Lex Luthor and even Bruce Wayne are edgy about the great civil war that is about to erupt between the super-heroes.  Compelling storytelling, “painted” style of comic makes the heroes look very real and among us. It lives up to its hype, I believe.  Worth seeking out.

The Scarlet Citadel (graphic novel)

Like The Phoenix on the Sword, this is a wonderful and faithful comic adaptation of the original Robert E. Howard Conan tale.  The artwork is stunning again.   Nothing wrong here, at all.  It is excellent!

Kingdom of Silver (Doctor Who audio drama)

The Doctor finds a world where Cybermen of the past have worked their way into the mythology of the people.  The populace experiment with “silver” which cures disease and provides other boons.  But it also means that as they approach the dawn of their technical era, the waiting Cyber tomb hidden underneath the world might awake.  A companionless Seventh Doctor allows Sylvester McCoy to deliver a touch of melancholy to his performance as the Doctor.  Terry Malloy, mostly known for his portrayal of Davros - the meglomaniac creator of the Daleks - plays a good-though-misguided-guy, for a change.  This is a solid audio adventure for the Doctor.

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Doctor vs. the Daleks, again (Dark Eyes)

Doctor Who
Dark Eyes (4 part story)
8th Doctor Adventures
Big Finish (audio-plays)

This is a sprawling box set of four adventures of the Doctor, all directly connected to a woman named Molly and the Daleks that are pursuing her.  The Doctor rescues Molly, only to find the Daleks on their trail regardless of where they travel in time & space.  But the Daleks are not alone in their efforts, and the Time Lords have their own agenda to stop the Daleks' plan.

Nicholas Briggs (writer/director/producer) and Paul McGann (the Doctor) both have an interest in the history of the First World War, and details abound in the setting of the first adventure.  Molly, for one, is not a nurse nor a sister of a religious order, she is a V.A.D. (First I'd learned the difference, myself.)  The Doctor also has an appreciation for Sopwith Camels.

The next three adventures put the Doctor and Molly on a path through World War II, the 1970s and futuristic planets.

There's a lot here for Doctor Who fans - particularly if you enjoy the new series (2005-present) and the original series.  Briggs, along with Moffatt, have both claimed they want to keep the Time War mythic and not delve into details.  But, they can't help referencing it.  In the case of the t.v. series, it is a major backstory.  Here, in Dark Eyes, it's a bit of a tease though tastefully done.  The machinations of the Time Lords, here in this story, certainly earn them no favors with the Daleks nor the Doctor.

Also, McGann gets a new costume (which, yes, might seem unnecessary for an audio line.)  But, it allows the 8th Doctor to finally get away from the overused photoshopping of poses and costume that are 16 years old and redundant by this point.  He also dresses a bit more casual and even opts for leather.  Though it seems this was McGann's personal choice, one wonders if there wasn't some planned foreshadowing of the 9th Doctor's fashion sense.

Time, space, history, future, Daleks, Time Lords and the Doctor.  And most importantly, well done.  This story has it all.