Friday, July 24, 2015

Book Review:The Hitchhiking Effect by Gene O’Neill

The Hitchhiking Effect by Gene O’Neill

Dark Renaissance Books, 2015

Trade paperback, 274 pp., $19.95

(No cover image yet)

Gene O’Neil is one of my favorite under rated horror writers. I know it is weird to call a writer with blurbs from Kim Stanley Robinson, Scott Edelman and publisher’s weekly unsung but I think as good as he is it is a shame he is not a household name. Serious horror as literature fans know his name and work. I have reviewed him three times before including a fantastic collection of stories set in the San Francisco neighborhood the Tenderloin. The Taste of Tenderloin is a fantastic read that gives a great taste of what O’Neil can do while painting a vivid picture of the infamous section of the city.

The Hitchhiking Effect is an even better example of O’Neil’s work not just because it spans his thirty year career but because it is fantastic top to bottom. The emotional depth of this book highlights the O’Neil trademark. Stories that make you feel things. You will feel the emotional depth of these stories long after you close the book. The theme if there is a connective tissue seems to be the insanity and impact of war on the people forced into them.

The book opens with a wonderful forward by the author that explains the title. I found this a fantastic and inspiring look at how O’Neil learned in his early days the craft of writing from meeting peers and in one case making eight hours drives with one. Really neat.

The first story “The Burden of Indigo” was O’Neil first major sale to Twilight Zone Magazine in the 80’s. This is a vivid and moving tale of a post apocalyptic world where criminals are dyed colors so everyone knows what they did. Wisely the author expanded that story into a novel that I believe is finally coming out soon. That story was a favorite of mine along with The Hungry Skull (fantastic tale of loss) and the short but epic feeling closer ‘Firebug’ that was written to tie up this collection and it certainly did. Firebug follows a fire investigator as he enters the mind of arsonist he is trying to catch.

It also doesn’t hurt that the book comes with 11 fantastic pieces of art based on the stories by Steven Gilberts who is a artist apparently from my home state of Indiana. This book is worth the twenty dollars for the stories alone but the art is amazing. If you like lyrical, emotionally rich horror fiction that leans heavy on the literature side of the genre then you simply can’t go wrong with Hitchhiking Effect. This book should be in your collection and giving a prime spot in the new releases because O’Neil deserves new readers.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Screenplay Review: Killing on Carnival Row

Killing on Carnival Row by Travis Beachum

It is impossible to read a screenplay for a made movie and not seen the finished movie in your head as you read. It is interesting to breakdown how it was finished but really reading an unproduced screenplay is a totally different thing. Since I am working on doing more screenwriting I decided I needed to start doing more of that. Reading well regarded screenplays for movies that never got made seemed the right idea. It is one thing to read William Gibson's Alien 3 script or Oliver Stone’s first draft of Conan but I wanted to read one with no history. No conception in my head at all.

I choose to read script that has been creating buzz for years. Travis Beachum's Killing on Carnival Row. This script has never been made but it has hung out year after year on hollywood's blacklist, the producer guide to the best unproduced screenplays. It got a draft by G Del Toro who I believe optioned it. In fact he liked it enough that he hired Travis Beachum to co-write Pacific Rim for him.

What makes KCR such a fascinating script is the various fantasy and noir genres it crosses and the worlds it builds in it's 117 pages. Screenwriters are taught not to direct on the page but in simple strokes Beachum does fantastic world building. Set in The Burgue a city that is part Noir, part fantasy in many ways reminded me of China Mieville's New Crobuzon. (in the novel Perdido Street Station)

In this noir local humans, faeries, pixies and vampire co- exist in a steampunk ish setting that mixes gothic and modern. It is well realized and in short pieces of description we get a a vivid picture. The story is of a serial killer targeting faeries, who mutilates them by taking their wings. The main character Philostrate is cop who gets framed for the crime.

I thought the script was fantastic as a piece of work that stands on it's own. My favorite line of dialogue was said by a character named Bottom who said "You think you know a bloke, then you find a tub of Pix’s blood in his loo." The bottom line is I hope one day someone makes this movie.

San Diego Horror Events Facebook page up now!

This page is for fans of horror movies, books, TV shows and games who live in or around San Diego. The idea is post all in one place the various events related to all things horror in the area. Between movie screenings, author readings, film fests and many more there is alot going on. If there is an event you want us to promote send us a e-mail.

Amazing Punk Stories Book Release Party July 25th San Diego!

Celebrate the release of David Agranoff's new short story collection Amazing Punk Stories!

2:00 PM July 25th at Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore ----San Diego

Mysterious Galaxy 5943 Balboa Ave Suite #100, San Diego, California 92111

The author of Boot Boys of the Wolf Reich and the Vegan Revolution...with Zombies returns with his follow up to his first Wonderland award nominated short story collection. Amazing Punk Stories will feature stories set in classic pulp genres including Horror, Sci-fi, Epic Fantasy, Westerns, Spy and Noir all with a punk rock spin. Come to the party hear a reading from the book from the author, eat yummy vegan treats and buy a signed copy if you want!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Screenplay Review: Oliver Stone's 1978 Conan The Barbarian Draft

I was listening to the nerdist podcast interview with screenwriter/ director Oliver Stone a few weeks back and he mentioned his script for Conan the Barbarian. It was written in 1978 before his oscar win for Midnight Express. He was on screen with a writing credit but it is often director John Milius who gets the major block of credit. He was told to not worry about budget, and it shows, it was projected as a 40 million film even in 1978, three years later it was made with a different much more stripped down script. In the interview done a few years ago Stone said his script presented a grand vision that he saw could have been expanded into 12 films.

This interested me, I wanted read Stone's script and see what the man saw so differently. I don'tthink Stone is a perfect filmmaker but when he is on he is great. I am a huge fan of Platoon, U-turn and Natural Born Killers for example.

I love the 1982 Conan, it one of the films that makes that year so special. The Milius film is a quoteable classic of fantasy. While many Robert E. Howard purists have problems with the film, it mostly has to do with the casting Swarzenegger.

My first impression is how many of the classic lines of dialogue were written by Stone. "This you can Trust..." or his prayer to crom before the battle were written by Stone. The prayer was changed slightly, as Conan is leading an army in Stone's script. If we had seen Stone’s script I think another spoken by a Wizard character named Zhang probably would be just as legendary “If I had a hundred tongues and a hundred, and throat of iron, I couldn’t describe all the crimes done here against the soul.”

The heist in the tower is there, the first scene with the raid on the village and the murder of his parents is there. One major difference is the revenge story line with Thula Doom was entirely John Milius’s contribution. Some of the scenes that remain from Stone’s script are placed in the plot in entirely different spots. In the end Stone envisioned the arc for Conan to see him go from beggar to King. I prefer the film’s “But that is another tale.”

I think the only reason we didn't get 12 Conan movies had less to do with the shedding of Stone's script and more to the mismanagement of the second film. Stone's script was slightly more epic, at that point he had less practical issues to deal with, one Conan spoke alot more dialogue. Stone envisioned three headed dogs, mutant guards, and armies. Half man half pig warriors.

I think the script shows a wider scope and canvas. It would be awesome to see it, but in the end I think we just a more stripped down and better film. Too bad Oliver Stone’s vision of a series like Bond of a dozen or so films never happened.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Book Review: Mayhem by Sarah Pinborough

Mayhem by Sarah Pinborough

Paperback, 352 pages

Published January 2015 by Jo Fletcher Books

There are certain authors who I have to be careful when I review their work not to get lost in hyperbole. In my generation of writers that doesn't happen often but Cody Goodfellow and Jeremy Robert Johnson are examples. They are not perfect but I tend to generally think the majority of their work rises to a very high level. Sarah Pinborough is quickly becoming one of those writers. This is only the fourth SP novel I've read and the first outside of the Dog-faced Gods trilogy, the first novel in that series is a rare time where a recent novel threatened to get into my top ten favorite horror novels.

I had been planning on exploring more SP novels and the clincher for reading this one was hearing a pretty nice mention of it by Brian Keene on his podcast. I don't even remember what he said but it sounded good enough I got to tracking it down.

Mayhem is a serial killer novel about (in part) the grand daddy of them all Jack the Ripper, but not just saucey Jack. I am not a ripper expert (although I have friends who are) and was not aware of the Thames Torso Killer. Another very different killer operating in the area at the same time. The main character of this novel is Thomas Bond, a real life surgeon who worked for Scotland yard investigating both of the murders.

Bond is a troubled man who is addicted to opium, this takes him to the Opium dens in the seedier sides of London. There his mind is exposed to something that leads him to a dark truth connecting the murders. Pinborough does a great job detailing history and getting the vibe of the era. The novel is historical horror that eventually gets supernatural.

If you are a total nerd for all things ripper than I could see why you might not like this novel. For one thing the Ripper is just a Maguffin, and not the focus of the novel. Second Pinbrough has to massage history a bit to tell her story. I don't think either complaint is valid. Far from an expert on the Ripper, I knew enough to see that the author was clever about making the book work on two levels. Experts on Ripper lore will get a totally different experience. The bottom line is this is a horror novel set against the back drop of the times.

Sense8 - the show you should watch!

I have a real up and dow relationship with the Wachowskis as filmmakers. Overall I am a huge fan. I think Cloud Atlas is one of the most underrated films of the last decade. While I cringe through the first hour and half of the second Matrix film I quite enjoy the third. I liked Jupiter Ascending more than most but had a hard time with the first half an hour or so.

Sense8 however is the Cloud Atlas Wachowskis making genre defying science fiction that may not be for everyone but seemed perfectly constructed for me. Thought provoking science fiction with multiple characters and storylines that weave together in and out like an insane story web. Sold.

It's on netflix if you have not seen it, you should. Each character, each storyline was worthy of it's own show.