Thursday, August 27, 2009

Book Review: Prodigal Blues By Gary A. Braunbeck

It was hard but spoiler free...

Ghouls, vampires and ghosts are the subject of a great majority of horror fiction novels. Perhaps the most grotesque of horror novels and the most frightening are the non-supernatural horror novel grounded completley in reality. Some of the best novels in this sub-genre as for me include Exquiste Corpse by Poppy Z.Brite, Testament by David Morrell and The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum. Now I can add Braunbeck's brutal masterpiece about child abuse Prodigal Blues.

PB explores what might have happened to the children we see(and almost always ignore) on posters. “Have you seen me?” Mark the main character alone on a road trip and stalled on the side of the road finds out quickly enough. This book is better going in cold. It's an expensive rare bbook but if your lucky enough to have library that has it. Portland does, it is highly recommended. I hope Braunbeck finds a paperback publisher for this short but intense horror novel.

Braunbeck has strong and unique voice but this book is very inspired by Stephen King and the road trip horror novel. The author doesn't shun this he has a dedication to the king. This novel takes twists and turns I didn't see coming and will have you cringing at the depths of humanity. For suspense and horrifying moments you can't go wrong here.

I have only minor problems, there is one chapter when the plot unfolds that almost derailed the novel for me, but in the end the surprising twist in the novel ends up working brilliantly. The only problem I seen with the novel is Braunbeck's tendecy to sidetrack the prose with observations. Don't get me wrong- personally I enjoy his observations and consider it an important part of Braunbeck's voice. At the same time I could see where some readers might find it distracting.

This novel to me is brutal masterpiece, if you have a strong stomach and want a story that will challenge it. You can't go wrong with Prodigal Blues. If you search for it I also reviewed Braunbeck's in Silent Graves a few years back.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Miracle small world-ness....

Amazing thing happened last night!

So Sarah one of my roomates from the hardline house in Syracuse recently moved to Portland for her job. It has been awesome hangin out with an old friend, still vegan and generally an amazing person. The last time we lived in the same town was '99 when she was going to school near ithaca and I was spending my last months in upstate NY. Long story short I decided to move back to indiana for a summer with the intention of moving to D.C. In the fall.
I put all my stuff in storage in NY, but left my record collection with my roommate at the time. I feared they would melt in storage. In the fall my buddy Ryan Downey and I drove in a my junky pick-up truck to Syracuse. Spent the night hanging with Red Ranger and Talked Star Wars with DJ before heading down for Breakfast at harvest deli and to pick up my stuff. I didn't have a cell phone and everytime I saw a pay phone that day I called my old roommate. No answer.
After several hours of packing the truck, with a 12 hour drive facing us I gave up. We drove home. A week later I called about my records. No answer. I hear rumors from friends that He had put the records up on E-bay. I looked and saw records I knew were mine up. Sent an e-mail begging him not to sell them and never heard back. I had a few really valuable records including rare bad religion, misfits and tons of straight edge hardcore 7-inches I spent years collecting.
I never started buying music again because my heart was broken on it. How could I ever replace some of those records. I couldn't. Every time I would leaf through someones old records it broke my heart again, this was my youth spent collecting gone. Each record had a story of the show I bought the records at or the record store I found them at.
So last night Sarah is showing us around her place and and tells me, she has a present for me. I open this box and there, completely and 100% intact after 10 years is my record collection. My old roommate quit hardcore, he apparently didn't sell the records, he gave them to Sarah. Who last night in an act of friendship I'll never be able to repay returned them to me. She had not known they were mine, thinking they were my old roommate's records. It wasn't until we were sitting at Vegan prom and she asked me if I still talked to that dude. So I told her about my records. Sarah wisely let it be a surprise at crew dinner. Wow so in the post below are some picture of my favorite records and the some of my favorite gems. Check it!

Highlights from my record collection

One I am super proud of Advance who dares to dream 7-inch – the first Catalyst record numbered 1/50. That's right the very first catalyst record ever! Proudly Kurt's first customer. (Keepin it real fuckers!)

Vegan mosh 7-inches: Green Rage Reflection records 1st press and the Very distro first press. Earth Crisis all out war first black vinal press (with a never re-printed essay about Sexism, racism and how it connects Veganism), All three first editions of the Hardline records 7-inches sold to by Indianapolis Hardline, 1st press of Falling down(pre-Day of suffering), Framework 1st press on red vinal. And more...

Rev 7-inches: Chain of strength what holds us apart 1st press on clear vinal, Burn 7-inch on bubble gum vinal, three judge 7-inches and a live bootleg, Gorilla biscuits 7-inch on green, GB live bootleg, and more....

Midwest hardcore: Endpoint/sunspring split on yellow vinal, Crazy old Majority of One records (including the one where they were all dressed like skinheads), Endpoint in time of hate 1st press on vinal, Transcend on gold vinal, Face Value coming of age 2nd press on clear vinal, Both With Authority 7-inches on colored first press( which only Bloomington kids care about) and much more...

Random: Dischord 7-inches and random nemesis records live comps

Everything is there even my strange misfits, and specials bootlegs. The only thing missing are odd enough the Iceburn and Insight 7-inches. Both old SLC bands on victory. I swear I had those records. I have a lot more I still need flip through. Thanks again Sarah!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

15 books that effected me the most.

15 books that effected me

Here are fifteen books that effected me deeply and in profound ways. They are listed in the order for which they inspired me. I have been meaning to do this for awhile...

1.Lucky Starr and the Rings of Saturn by Issac Asimov – This insanely out of date Sci-fi adventure series written for kids in the fifties were re-published in the 80's with cool looking covers. I thought this one looked so cool I asked my mom to buy it for me. I was too young to read it myself, so she read it too me. We figured out quickly it wasn't the first book and read all six together. By the time we finished the last one I was helping out with the reading.

They made me a fan of reading, taught me the power of prose story telling and were something my mom and I bonded on. I am pretty sure she was not a huge fan of the books but kept reading them to me because I liked them. Lucky Starr was the first character I loved who wasn't in movie or TV. I owe those books in a way I can't explain fully.

2-3.The Shining/ Skeleton Crew by Stephen King: It's hard not to picture the movie in your head but it is truly a masterpiece of horror fiction. That changed my perceptions of what horror fiction was. The first book to make me feel nervous reading it. As an adult the tragedy of the Torrance family broke my heart.
One of the most solid books King ever did was Skeleton Crew. A master at the top of his game. The Raft is one of the most perfect horror shorts ever written.

4.Books of Blood by Clive Barker Perhaps the best horror fiction short stories written by anyone. The blend of fantastic,bizarre and visceral has been unmatched before or since. Reading these stories made me want to create like he did. Made me want to use words to evoke emotions.

5.Diet for a New America by John Robbins: The first really powerful book about Veganism. It never ceases to amaze me the mountain of evidence that backs up being vegan. I felt empowered reading this that I could change my ways and have a positive impact on the world. If you haven't read it his more recent book Food Revolution is even better.

6. Vanguard #1 : So it's an 8 page zine. The first issue of the magazine of the hardline movement was basis of my ideology from 1994-99. While I disagree with parts of it now, I can still quote off the top of my head. It was “The time has come for a movement and ideology both physically and morally strong enough to do battle with the forces of evil that are destroying the earth...” Look up hardline on Wikipedia it's actually pretty close to the truth.

7-8. Ishmael and Story of B by Daniel Quinn: For awhile the cult like status DQ was getting from his fans annoyed me but they are life changing reads. These books are humbling, so much of what we take for granted is simply brainwashing by our culture. I think everyone should read these two.

9. I am Legend By Richard Matheson: Perhaps the best living author of the fantastic. This novel holds up amazing consider it was written when Eisenhower was president. Better than most modern horror novels, it is tense, scary, political, character driven and an over all emotional masterpiece. Every time I read it it teaches me something new about the craft of horror novels. Dog chapter breaks my heart every time.

10.Demons by John Shirley: I had started writing screenplays and was dabbling with scripts. I would divide my time between my activism and writing. This was the novel that taught me I didn't need to separate my fiction from my activism. Demons is a brillant short novel about corporations sacraficing human lives not only for profit, but...well read it. Genius book.

11.Swan Song By Robert McCammon : Sure it's a rip off of the Stand. In so many ways it's better. A bleaker tale that never drags in it's 900 pages. Just when you think a novel can not get darker or bleaker this epic adventure in the wake of a nuclear war is one of the best novels I have ever read. This book taught me a lot about keeping the pace and interest going.

12.The Sheep Look Up by John Brunner: Written in the 70's this Sci-fi novel is the silent spring of Science Fiction. I have tried to create that feeling with my third novel The Very Last Drop. This was a important work for it's time, but we need a new novel to address new over looked environmental issues.

13.The Book and The Sword by Louis Cha: Martial arts fantasy, one of the few translated into english. This expanded the arena of Martial Arts fantasy(Wuxia Pan)for me and was the reason I wanted to adapt my screenplay Hunting the Moon Tribe(coming soon from Afterbirth Books) into a novel.Recently adapted into a passable TV mini-series in china with fights directed by one of my favorite directors Ching Siu Tung.

14.Wetbones by John Shirley : The first book I read living in the northwest was Wetbones. This is a horror masterpiece in part it is about addiction. It is also about losing control of ones self, it's also disturbing on levels few novels have ever reached. Lovecraftian at times, like an 80's cronenberg body horror at times, brutal as a novel could get. It is an overlooked masterpiece.

15. Always coming home by UK Leguin : When people think of anarchist fiction Ursla K Leguin's science fiction masterpiece of the late 60's The Dispossessed is often the first book mentioned. But if you were to ask the author what is her best work of anarchist fiction she would say Always Coming Home. This is a dense hard book to read, it is not easy reading but this tale of anarchist culture in a somewhat primitive far future north California is mind expanding and will give hope that humans could one day live like this.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Magazine review: The Magazine of Bizarro Fiction

So I just picked up the literary journal of the bizarro movement edited by Jeff Burk author of the new bizarro novel Shatnerquake. The bizarro movement already had an official journal by the name of “Bust Down the door and Eat all the Chickens.” I'm vegan enough that I can't stand the title but have enjoyed works of fiction by some of my favorite absurdist and Bizarro writers.
If you are not familiar with the Bizarro movement let me explain. It's a movement of writers (many of whom hail from right here in Portland) devoted to strange and out there fiction. There are four or five main bizarro publishers and about fifteen or so active and involved writers working within the genre. All different flavors of bizarro exist from the darker writers like Jeremy Robert Johnson to the comically absurd like Carlton Mellick III, D.Harlan Wilson and Bradley Sands.
The movement has been overdue for a flagship journal and now we have it. It looks fantastic and is a great deal for $5 bucks an issue. In the past author's collected their novellas in starter kits(two collections exist so far) but the magazine is to be a an even better idea. Not only does it contain excellent examples of bizarro fiction, this issue featuring stories by Anderson Prunty, Jordan Krall, Jeremy Schipp and more. It also features no fiction articles about self promotion, short story writing,the bizarro con report, book reviews and each issue will have an author spotlight.
This issue features a spotlight on my favorite bizarro writer Gina Ranalli. The fiction highlights include Garret Cook's detective noir that takes place in a Teddy Bear world, Jordan Krall's spagetti western prequel to his novel fistful of feet and the twisted story victim by Jeremy C. Shipp.
This is a great magazine off to a banging start. I'm sure it will get better with time. My only complaint is something that can't really helped. Bizarro is tight knit small community of writers and so the inbreeding of book reviewers is a little hard to avoid. Minor complaint, if you like strange fiction check out this journal.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Book Review: Last days by Brian Evenson. Wow! Read this book!

Last Days by Brian Everson
196 pages
Underland press (Portland press!)

I saw Brian Everson read from this novel at Powells city of books here in Portland. I was impressed not only with his readings but also the basket of books he had collected to buy that was sitting by the podium. I swear this guy had four Thomas Ligotti books. I admit I came to the reading to see local Jemiah Jefferson read from her web-novel (Wovel) and had not heard of Everson before. Boy have I been missing out.
Last Days is a short brutal novel that brings noir to horror much the same way Phil Dick was known for doing with Sci-fi. Last days is made up of two novellas, the first of which is called “The Brotherhood of Mutilation” and was published in a very limited edition by Earthling publications. The newest edition comes with an introduction by Peter Straub (Ghost story, Koko and co-author of The Talisman) which in itself is a really good sign. This time the one hundred page novella has a sequel that is about the same length and continues the story.
The story is that of a former undercover cop who in his last mission had his hand cut off by “man with a cleaver.” He lives on, but he is lonely and depressed. All that changes when he gets a phone call asking him to go undercover again. The job investigate the murder of cult leader, the cult is made of Christian who take Matthew so literally that they cut off their hands tto get closer to god.
Once inside the cult we learn that they have taken to multiple amputations and have set a hierarchy based on who has the most body parts sacraficed. The world in the brotherhood of mutilation is both disgusting and darkly comedic. By the second half when we meet their rival break away group it gets even more amusing. That is not to say that the book is slapstick, it's a brutal horror bizarro detective story.
Evenson's dialogue in this book is perfect choppy noir with lots of short snappy comical exchanges. The suspense is handled with a minimalist flair and the moments of gruesome reveal are plentiful. This is strange and wonderful piece of horror literature that should not be missed.
It's also interesting to note that Evenson was once heavily involved in religion as a Mormon. He even taught literature at the Mormon university Brigham Young University. He was fired after he refused to give up writing in the aftermath of his first short story collection. This experience I'm sure had an effect on this novel.
Read Last Days, you'll thank me.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Book Release Party Tonight!

Come to a reading from my book Screams from a Dying world and see why world leaders are trading copies. If that doesn't look like the cover to screams it's the spanish edition.

7:30 pm at Hungry Tiger Too.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Book Review: The Strain trilogy begins, vampires done right.

The Strain By Guilermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan

How stoked was I? When I heard that my favorite film director working today (JC – I mean Carpenter not Jesus isn't really working) was writing a novel. Cronenberg is rumored to be doing the same, but sadly I am not expecting a three hundred page body horror gross-out novel. Sure Romero and his wife adapted Martin and Dawn of the Dead but this is a novel by GDT! I met the man briefly a few years ago at comic-con as many fans do.
During the Q and A I asked him about the bios he writes as backgrounds for his characters in screenplays. Specifically in the devil's backbone, I knew from the bonus features on the disc that he had written prose short stories about the characters. GDT was stoked about the question and asked me to see him after the panel.
We talked only briefly but I encouraged him as any fan would to publish those stories. The man is brilliant I guessed he could write an amazing book. Did he?
First things first, I listened to this book on audio CD read by GDT's personal T Moshia Ron Pearlman. Who else? He does a good job reading it, mostly it just makes sense to hear GDT's book in Pearlman's voice.
The Strain is the first book in a trilogy and as such it purposely starts as a slow burn. The first focus is the mystery, which I am told is GDT's co-writer's genre. I hate to admit I know nothing about Hogan who probably had a major hand is writing this book. The mystery of a plane that lands in NYC with a load of dead people is interesting and drives the first act.
Seen through the eyes of a recently divorced father and CDC investigator we see Hogan's skills unfolding a mystery, GDT's monster and mythology skills and very well drawn a detailed characters.

I am excited for the next books in the saga. I was not a big fan of Del Toro doing The Hobbit, not because he wont rule at it - he will. The problem is that is five years he can't make Hellboy III or most importantly the geek gasm that is his At the Moutains of Maddness script.

In the meantime We will get some Del Toro horror, reminding us Vampires done right are pretty scary.