Monday, January 24, 2022

Book Review: Dangerous Visions and New Worlds: Radical Science Fiction, 1950 to 1985 Edited by Andrew Nette, and Iain McIntyre


 

Dangerous Visions and New Worlds: Radical Science Fiction, 1950 to 1985
by Andrew Nette (Editor/Contributor), Iain McIntyre (Editor/Contributor)

Paperback, 224 pages
Published November 2021 by PM Press


Let me start by saying I think this is an amazing book and anyone with an interest in the history of Science Fiction, radical fiction, or (Proto) bizarro should read this book. I like this book tons and intend to have Andrew Nettie on Dickheads. Anything critical is simply because this is a topic I feel very strongly about and most readers will not have the same nitpicks as me. As some who studies and reads books about this era constantly, I am almost too close to the subject.

So, I should say I think this is a really valuable book for anyone interested in Science Fiction, radical fiction, and weird fiction in general. I am stoked that the book has a focus on the years 1950 to 1985. That is the sweet spot for the genre. Don’t get me wrong I enjoy some Golden age stuff and certainly, Judith Merill who is profiled here was starting to write radical fiction as early as the late 40s right out of the gate of her career. Some of the really transitional radical speculative works come from the decades of the 50s. If you asked Philip K Dick he would have told you that no one wanted anything different or mold-breaking.

This book is the story of this transformation. In doing so the book has articles, profiles, and biographies of some of the radical voices. There are excellent profiles on Judith Merill, J.G. Ballard, and Octavia Butler. Perhaps the most interesting to me was the R.A. Lafferty article by Nick Mamatas that was the only author that I had never heard of before. I also enjoyed the one on Sam Delany and his commune years which gave me some added context to his classic Dhalgren.

I know it would be impossible to write them all, but there is a very short piece of Malzberg, better than nothing but I would like more on him. No Harlan Ellison profile? I know he could be a prick but it seems missing. Norman Spinrad and John Brunner's cover art are all over the book, their novels get mentioned but they are two of my favorites so I am going to be disappointed. That might not be a problem for most readers.

There are also lots of great essays on various topics. I found the essays on the Speculative fuckbooks and the black radical novels to be the most enlightening. The comparison between Leguin and Heinlein’s classic novels was cool. Sure there are topics I wish were a little expanded like eco-radical fiction of the era and proto Cyberpunk like John Brunner’s Shockwave Rider and John Shirley’s City Come-A-Walkin felt missing. That said I was constantly looking up books on Goodreads and adding them to my want-to-read shelves and that is a mark of a great genre history book.

Some of the essays were more academic, some were more pictures with a short text. The whole book looks cool at times it has a coffee table look with all the awesome cover art, combined with all the great articles it is really a cool thing to have. The book could have been three times the length and still felt like it was touching the surface I think Nettie and McIntyre did a fantastic job.
Anyone who is a student of the genre and this exciting period should check this book out!  

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Book Review: Professor Charlatan Bardot’s Travel Anthology to the Most (Fictional) Haunted Buildings in the Weird, Wild World Edited by Charlatan Bardot and Eric J. Guinard

 


Professor Charlatan Bardot’s Travel Anthology to the Most (Fictional) Haunted Buildings in the Weird, Wild World Edited by Charlatan Bardot and Eric J. Guinard
Illustrated by Steve Lines and James Gabb
Paperback, 452 pages
Published November 2021 by Dark Moon Books

Let me start by saying that this review will be filled almost to the brim with crazy understatements. If it sounds hyperbolic at times just know this is a super cool anthology and it would impossible to overstate the amount of work involved in this project. I have been on the record on many Dark Moon books.  I think Eric’s primer series is so good. Guinard really knows how to put a collection together and give the reader value not just in content but the product of the books.

This anthology whose title is impossible to shorten is incredible on every level. The amount of work involved in just collecting close to 30 short stories on a tight theme itself is a monster task. These stories are sourced from an international cast of authors with both huge names, beginning writers from a dozen or more countries, and cultural backgrounds. Big names like Kaaron Warren, Ramsey Campbell, Lisa Morton, Nadia Bulkin, Weston Ochse, and Joe R. freaking Lansdale. Just that feat alone is an intense act of editing.  

But this book is just getting started.  Add to it collecting almost 40 flash pieces – called Tiny from authors around the world that feature names like Cody Goodfellow, Poppy Z.Brite, Han Song, and many many more. These tiny tales are like seasoning but I liked them as introductions to authors, many of whom I have never heard of.

I am not done explaining why this is such an amazing feat of editing. Working with two artists Steve Lines and James Gabb the book is filled with so many illustrations and maps. Designing and formatting that is a ton of work. Working with the artists is hours and hours of work.

Next, you have to format the book and compile all the fiction into sections that are designed and set up by parts of the world. Stories from Asia, Europe, Australia and Oceania, Africa, North America, and Latin America, and the Caribbean. Each section had to have equal stories of the long and flash formats. I know this feels like people explaining why Peter Jackson deserved the best director award. Making three epics at once was crazy. Editing this book was crazy. From the point Guinard opened submissions to when it went on sale was a super short amount of time. Throw all the awards at him.

This anthology is fantastic and really impressive. It is not just that he did all these things. They worked and the stories are great. The theme is great, a playful travel guide to (fictional) haunted spots around the globe. Guignard had fun inventing a fictional persona as his Co-editor but make no mistake this is the product of one fantastic editor.

Let’s talk about some of my favorite short stories in this book. Some of the best are of course by the long-time pros, they are in that position for a reason. That said the story representing Sweden for example, Fish Tale about a haunted fish market by Eugenia Triantafyllou was the first story to really hit me. Maybe it is the vegan in me but fish ghosts work very well for this reader. “The creature she met was not vengeful or angry. It carried with it sadness for all the wasted time it spent away from the sea.” One of the more surprising tales was about a haunted Chinese restaurant in Barcelona Spain by S.Qiouyi Lu. This was a story-heavy on the vibe that will have me seeking out this author.  

As for the stories by pros. Ramsey Campbell rarely misfires, this is true here with a haunting piece. Nadia Bulkin is consistent as ever. Lisa Morton’s Hollywood tale is a great example of how she uses her native Angeleno eye for history like a superpower. Weston Ochse uses his experience in the country to write about a haunted tank in Afghanistan. While we are talking vehicles. Joe R. Lansdale’s Dead Car is a short but powerful tale that uses dialogue to bring the creeps. Neat trick.

Some other stand-outs include Above Aimi by Thersa Matsuura about a haunted Japanese hospital. Tidemarks by New Zealand’s Octavia Cade. Kaaron Warren’s haunting story about a dying parent making a last visit to a mine. Last but not least was The Case of Moaning Marquee representing Nigeria by Suyi Davis Okungbowa.

Those were stand-outs. I enjoyed this book from top to bottom and couldn’t be more impressed with the construction. I already had massive respect for Guignard, but this is some ‘we are not worthy’ shit right here. I think most readers might not understand the magic trick Eric and his Bad Moon press pulled off here. If you like horror anthologies and short fiction this is a must-have. If you are an indie publisher or an anthology editor you need to pick up this book to see how high the bar is being raised.    
 

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Book Review: If It Bleeds by Stephen King


 

 If It Bleeds by Stephen King

Hardcover, 436 pages
Published April 21st 2020 by Scribner



Sometimes I feel like I am too hard on Uncle Steve. The man is a genius, and he set a very high bar for himself with early classics. I mean Salem’s Lot, The Shining, The Stand, and The Dead Zone are unfuckwithable. Pet Semetary, and Misery are high bars but you can’t release as much as Stephen King does and have all hits. The reality is I am always curious like a new Metallica album. They will never release anything as powerful as Master of Puppets but they always cause conversation. A new Stephen King novel is always a conversation.

When SK is on, his powers are pretty amazing to behold. I thought LATER released from Hard Case Crime last year is one of those amazing pieces of work. I also think Doctor Sleep is underrated, but that being said it is always his four novella collections I get excited about. This is the perfect length for King in my opinion. Full Dark No Stars for example is a perfect collection of all four stories, just perfect.

So why three stars? I think half maybe ¾  of this book is really great but I didn’t like the title story. We will get there.

Perhaps the most naturally Stephen King feeling story in the book is the opening story Mister Harrington’s Phone. In the early King days of collections like Night Shift and Skeleton Crew, he had a habit of finding random objects or various set-ups to build horror stories about. Last Rung on the Ladder, The Monkey, The Raft, etc. In the same way, I imagined SK staring at his phone and this story all came flowing to him.

“And what makes you think you’re the main character in anything but your own mind?”
The first story is about Craig a young man who lives in rural Maine and is hired by a billionaire recluse to read for him as his eyes are failing. What follows is a few short years while Craig grows up and gets to know the Luddite rich man. Before his death, Craig teaches him how to an iPhone that he gives him as a gift.

“Henry Thoreau said that we don’t own things; things own us. Every new object—whether it’s a home, a car, a television, or a fancy phone like that one—is something more we must carry on our backs.”

The phone is the Maguffin, and it drives the story a bit, but the thing that makes this story click is the intense and meaningful relationship between Craig and Harrington. There are creepy moments but they wouldn’t mean much if not for this foundation. This story is an excellent character piece.
The second story The Life of Chuck is probably my favorite the reasons why are not super easy for me to identify. As a devoted reader of Philip K. Dick, this story is positively Dickian.

“Because there really is a second world. It exists because people refuse to believe it’s there.”

The story is broken up into narrative slices that might not seem to connect but this is a story about alternate realities. The fact is this strange end of the world story goes backward. It is a fantastic story that is really well written except for one exchange of forced exposition. The story has a mood and vibe I liked but also felt profound. I thought was playing with the idea of our lives flashing before our eyes. This is a story that might benefit from a second or third time through. It would be easy to miss what is going on in the transitions. VERY GOOD stuff here.

I was feeling good. Then came the title story that I knew was featured Holly Gibney who has been a character in many King novels. I know he was eager to come back to her after The Outsider. Her character was not the problem with that book that had a fantastic set-up but fizzled out for me. My review is up here to read if you want to read it. This novella kinda recycles the set-up of the outsider but mashes it together with the genius Dan Gilroy movie Nightcrawler. Both of which reminded me of San Diego author Ryan C. Thomas’s second novel The Ratings Game, it is just an accident. Just pointing out the idea of journalists creating violence and chaos for their own ratings is hardly anything groundbreaking at this point.

The idea that the media are tragedy vampires certainly deserves more than one examination so I don’t think that is the problem. I wanted to like this story but it was the longest and biggest slog for me in this book. I didn’t really feel much interest in the mystery at any point. This novella just felt like a re-do of the previous novel shoe-horned into this theme. So, I know this is a contradiction as it felt too long and not developed enough at the same time.  

Holly is a good character and this does provide some details into her family and that did spark a little interest. The only thing that kept from skipping was Holly. I figure this stuff will be important when we see her again.

The final story RAT is another writer’s story and is mostly vibe and tone. I related to this one a bit, but I am a writer. Although the writer is so desperate to finish something I can’t relate to. I am never sure how these stories work for non-writers. It is a moral story, like Matheson’s classic Button, Button meets the misery of writer’s block. There are some moments where the writer at the heart of the story questions reality and there were some fun narrative tricks, but ultimately I wonder if the stakes are relatable. SK does what he can to make them clear.

If It Bleeds is a must-read for constant readers. If you’re not I would suggest Different Seasons or Full Dark No Stars before this one.


Saturday, January 15, 2022

Book Review: The Happening Worlds of John Brunner: Critical Explorations in Science Fiction Edited by Joseph W. De Bolt (Editor)

 

(No cover art)

The Happening Worlds of John Brunner: Critical Explorations in Science Fiction Edited by Joseph W. De Bolt (Editor)

Hardcover, 216 pages
Published June 1975 by Kennikat Press

I read this as research for an article or two, or three about John Brunner who I personally think was the best sci-fi writer of the 20th century. I am super curious on how this book came to be. A couple of English professors at Central Michigan decided that the world needed an academic look at the work of British Science Fiction author John Brunner. Considering this was written when Brunner had yet to write of his masterpieces Shockwave Rider. This is a critical look at Brunner's work through 1974 when it was released. All by professors at Central Michigan, pretty hip for a small midwestern college in the early 70s.

 This 40-year-old book that was only briefly in print is a major source of quotes for the recent book on Brunner in the Modern Masters series. That is clearly the superior book but having this is important. I thought it would be impossible to find but shout-out to Dickheads listener Alan Ricks who is a rare books wiz and found one I could buy.

Murray State library copy that was discarded in Detroit and years later is now on my shelf. It was edited by Joe Debolt who died in 2017 and had also written a similar book in the 70s about Leguin. I don’t know much about him but he did great and was clearly a connected researcher. I am sure the Sci-fi research community was just starting to grow at the time. We know Professor McNeely was doing his thing at Fullerton at this time but I have no idea if there were many science fiction studies programs.

 Prefaced by Futurians members and all-timer Sci-fi legend James Blish and tapped off by a response by John Brunner himself. My copy is dog-eared, highlighted, and noted up and down. I am planning on writing several articles in the near future so some of my thoughts will be short here.
The most important part for me was the opening 60 pages that were a detailed biography, most of the facts made into the recent Jad Smith book, but the details here were fantastic. As a PKD researcher there is no shortage of detailed biographies out there but I honestly never expected to get a life story for Brunner. So that is special.

The second section is called Prose and Poetry and has three essays on Brunner’s writing style. The third section is Economics and Politics with two essays both have strengths but I really enjoyed William Browne’s essay on Governments in Brunner books that has hilarious tables that show how all the books end with a dysfunctional government.  There are two essays on science and Technology and those were the weakest of the essays in my opinion but that is an effect of Brunner being a soft science fiction writer who is way more interested in social-political themes.

I of course loved John Brunner’s response. The whole package is very insightful. Jad Smith’s Modern Masters book is still in print and written long after Brunner’s death so it is more complete. But if you are a serious Brunnette you need to read this too.

Sunday, January 2, 2022

Book Review: Anoka by Shane Hawk


 

Anoka by Shane Hawk, 

Seweryn JasiƄski (Cover Illustrator)

Paperback, 110 pages
Published October  2020 by Black Hills Press

 There is something special about the horror collection about a single creepy town. King did it with Castle Rock, Charles Grant Oxrun station, and just last year Josh Malerman wrote about Goblin Michigan. So lets stay in the Midwest Anoka Minnesota. This is the debut collection for Shane Hawk who is a local writer here in San Diego.  This is a short-themed horror collection that highlights Hawk’s natural talent. It is amazing that 6 short stories, including two flash fiction, has kicked started a serious career but Shane Hawk is a natural talent and his knowledge of literature and the genre drips off the page so the surprise should end quickly.

All six stories are strong with the most powerful story for me was 'imitate.' The book comes with a serious and thoughtful introduction written by the author, that explains the concept. There are story notes in the back. A practice many authors use in collections. I have used it myself and I am a fan of the practice. Let's come back to those notes later.

The first story Soilbourne is a very short story that hinges mostly on the power of the final moments. It is a good opener for showing Hawk’s ability to write with heart. The story helps set the stage with parents’ joy for children, thus making the gut punch at the end more powerful.
The second story Wounded is where Hawk draws heavily on the influence of his indigenous heritage. The story plays with character and setting really well. Those who read for diverse experiences and voices will be happy that they picked up this book and this is where they will really feel it. This is also where I started to see the strength of the prose.

“Before the sun breached the clouded sky, Philip was in the backyard in nothing but his pajama shorts. He held the pitchfork above his head and plunged it into his book. His clenched hands revealed angry spiders of blue veins. Mottled skin stretched across his pronounced cheekbones.”


The fourth story Imitate was my favorite. To me, this was the most complete story with a high concept. I loved the idea that the father looks under the bed and sees a copy of his son Tate hiding when he is asked to check for monsters. Great classical Halloween ghost story set-up. If there was one story to read, for me this is the one. Calling the copy Tate-thing seems like a tip of the hate to The PKD story The Father-Thing.

The fifth story Dead America also has a PKD feel with the slightly off-beat story inspired by a coin out of joint if you will. The last story is the cover story and is a neat story of a werewolf that is a bit of a metaphor for the Trans experience. I liked this story even if it grosses this vegan out a bit.

The story notes at the back were great, I like those. There is a fine balance between showing a peek behind the curtain and over-explaining. If there is any negative for me is I think Hawk maybe over-explained these stories. Look this is his first serious writing. I loved it. Think it was a great collection. Shane Hawk is a writer who should and will become a powerful writer. I am positive about that. There is room for growth, with experience and an editor.

I have talked with Shane for Dickheads and off-line and I am super excited about the direction he is headed. So be ahead of the game. Pick up this collection so you can be ahead of the curve. Be one of those peeps who had the demo tape before the band got big.



Friday, December 31, 2021

Best reads of 2021 post and podcast!

 

Best reads of 2021 post and podcast!

For my 2021 best reads podcast I asked my homey Judge Marc Rothenberg who you might remember from the best horror short stories episode to return and count down our top reads of the year.  Featuring my favoriite Retro reads, non-fiction, honorable mentions and top ten. It features books from Rivers Solomon, Hailey Piper, Stephen King, John Shirley, C.Robert Cargil and more.

Podcast on Apple! 

 The podcast on YouTube

Books

Retro Reads:


 

The Compleat Werewolf by Anthony Boucher

Mockingbird by Walter Tevis

The best of Judith Merril

Void Captain’s Tale by Spinrad

Non-fiction:

 the Divine madness of PKD by Kyle Arnold

In the process of doing the podcast there was nothing in this book about Phil I didn’t know or hadn’t read before. But what makes this book special is Kyle Arnold takes that research and his clear knowledge of the fiction. Paint a vivid picture of the psychological issues Phil had that were made worse by the extensive damage he did to himself.

Favorite PKD I read:

Flow my Tears the Policeman Said.

Honorable mentions:

Lola on fire by RY

Goblin/Pearl/ House on the bottom of the Lake by Josh Malerman

The Book of accidents by Chuck Wendig.

The Blade Between by Sam J. Miller

 

10.  No Gods no Monsters by Cadwell Turnbull

For me, there was that awesome feeling of discovery when you find a new voice you know you will return to. No Gods No Masters is a delightfully powerful and unique piece of work. I would recommend it for all fans of modern dark fantasy but for the ones that enjoy deeper political reading, Anarachist werewolf novel you can’t go wrong

9. The last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward

 From the very beginning, the book has a disconnected, and strange first-person style. All the clues are there but the amount of confusion it causes is one hundred on purpose. I am fine with confusion as long as I am entertained. The funny, wry prose was enough to carry me but I get that many readers would not be able to hang.  You have to make it to the end but it all pays off. If a cat POV and first-person narrators who lie and contradict each the other narrators or invent characters that don’t exist in one chapter to the next sounds confusing. It is. If you hang it will make sense.

Yeah, I think this is one you should read.

8. Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon

Sorrowland is a radical novel, sure it is gothic, it is horror, science fiction, and fantasy. It is all those things but at the core, it is the most radical of coming-of-age stories. It comes from such a fresh, thoughtful, and intensely unconformist place that I hesitate to imply that I understand it. I felt many things reading Sorrowland, I was moved by it and yet I feel from my position I have only seen the parts of the iceberg above water. It is not every novel that is able to comment on race, gender and personal identity, sexuality, misogyny, racism inherent in the American system, Well-intentioned but misguided radicalism, colonialism, religion, the state experimentations on people of color and do it all while telling a coming of age story of a teenage mother.

 

7. Machinehood by SB Divya

Excellent modern Sci-fi about AI and machine rights.

“Por Que, do you consider yourself enslaved?”

“I belong to you, Welga, but since I don’t have personhood, I can’t be a slave.”

Questions, questions. The book asks plenty of those. The ideas are there that was the most exciting aspect for me. There were times I wished the story committed more to the power cords of Sci-fi action, but in the end, I found the conflict plenty effective.

The grandest of science fiction are the tales you can hold up like a mirror to the issues of today. Even more grand are novels that decades like still feel like they are that mirror. Look at Brunner’s Stand on Zanzibar or Butler’s Parable books. I don’t know if Machinehood will have that kind of life. I suspect it will be in conversation during award season. The life of the novel may depend on how slow or fast this future hits us.

6. The Worm and His Kings by Hailey Piper

I cheating a bit as this is 2020 book.  there anything more cosmic in horror when a monster knows you down to the deepest fabric of your heart? A monster that knows what you desire in your core and want more than anything. The greatest scariest moments in the genre of horror can only be achieved if the storyteller creates characters we care about and monsters who threatened them. The Worm is Monique’s fear made real.  

“And here, in the darkest place, Monique found monsters.
Maybe if her parents knew how far she’d fallen, they would at last regret having bashed their only child.
Unlikely. That was her imagination preying on her thoughts with something more painful than monsters in the dark-The illusion that her parents could accept her.”


Goddamn. Amazing stuff, one of the best things I have read so far this year. Some of the best modern to come out of the small press in a long damn time.

 

5. Later by Stephen King

I always point to Stephen King's Delores Claiborne as an example where the narrator NEVER cheats.  Later is GREAT first-person written in a kid's voice and it NEVER cheats. SK has skill for writing children and speaking in their voices. In this novel he is doing subtle and genius things to those moments of young person’s POV. Jamie is telling this story as a young man and SK is in perfect command of this. The word LATER is so important to the narrative not just because it is the title. Jamie is telling this story of his childhood with the gift of insight insight, so he often gets ahead of the boy in the story. I didn’t understand that until later, or I would learn later. In my opinion this is the best King novel since Doctor Sleep or maybe 11/22/63. It might be his best in this century. The quality is up there with his Full Dark novellas like Good Marriage or 1922. It may sound like hyperbole but I really happy to report this. I don’t want to spoil the twists but the first one is gnarly and scary, the second is just gross and disturbing. I don’t entirely know how I feel about accept once again King got me in the feels.

 

4. Good neighbors by Sarah Langan


Good Neighbors is a novel that resists tight genre distinction but if you really want to know it is I would call it a horror social satire. What blows my mind is that I read a few reviews so far and not one seems to notice or comment on the intentional in your face word for word tribute to the classic Twilight Zone episode The Monsters are Due on Maple Street. The ultimate modern suburban horror novel, the monsters have indeed arrived on Maple Street. With a heep of Cli-fi involved too. Do yourself a favor and read Good Neighbors. This book does for the burbs what American Psycho did for Wall Street assholes and I am here for its scares and biting satire.

 

3. Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

There have been thousands of ‘end of the world’ movies, and read as many novels. One of my favorites is Sunshine, and I admit this starts with a similar set-up. I feel like Andy Weir came up with this watching that movie and saying I can come up with something more plausible.   I know I am a broken record pointing out the parallels and reversals that make up my favorite stories but this what makes the best stories tick and here Weir sets up a doozy. You see early in the story Grace accepts that he is here and he must be there as a hero.  Through the unfolding memories it is revealed he didn’t want to go save the human race he was dragged kicking and screaming.  One of the best portrayals of alien contact, on many levels this novel worked for me.  Combines Weir’s hard science problem solving with stakes of human survival and first contact. Great Science Fiction.

 

2. Stormland by John Shirley

Stormland is a warning novel no different from classics like Alas, Babylon or 1984. The issue at hand is the temperature in the Atlantic ocean. The linage is more directly connected to the eco-Science Fiction of John Brunner's bleak horror novel The Sheep Look Up.  The best we can hope for is the world moves to avoid this fate.

 A welcome return of the master of social satire science fiction with a razor-sharp punk edge. It is a fierce and angry book that confronts climate change with the proper venom the topic needs. It is written with skill and a quality of prose that will remind you quickly how strong of a voice John Shirley has honed over the years. It is not too far from tone and attitude he expresses with a rock and roll beat. It is every bit as urgent. A must science fiction read for 2021.


 

 

1. Day Zero by C.Robert Cargill

Day Zero is such an effectively told story that even as Cargill is manipulating my emotions and I can see the storyteller behind the curtain I am nothing but impressed. Day Zero is not exactly a masterpiece of science fiction per se but it is a masterpiece of storytelling. As such C. Robert Cargill will always have my attention.  I say this with utmost respect Day Zero feels more like Spielberg and Amblin than Asimov. I really like the two very different takes and remember there is no right or wrong way to tell the story of the AI uprising.

Day Zero is a more straightforward narrative-wise than SOR, in the sense that it has human characters and an easy-to-pitch set-up. The swings between action and sugary sweet moments are what make me think of Amblin movies and senor Spielberg.

Book Review: All About Me! by Mel Brooks

 


All About Me! by Mel Brooks
Hardcover, 480 pages
Published November 2021 by Ballantine Books 
 
Just as this book was released Mel Brooks did an interview on Fresh Air with Terry Gross. I really enjoyed that interview. You can see the roots of this book, the man is a natural storyteller and at 94 years old I am sure he has told these stories a million times. You can see the roots of this book in the acknowledgments he mentions that he spent his lockdown writing this book based on stories he told many times.

Look as the son of a Jewish man who died in his 80s who told many stories there was a vibe I found familiar. While my father was a political scientist his lunch group was Indiana university executives and not Hollywood filmmakers when Brooks talked about his lunch groups this book made sense to me.

Mel Brooks was a veteran of WW II, he was a comedian, a comedy writer, A filmmaker as a writer, director his life is fascinating. Look it is his life and he has the right to tell his story how he would like to. He talks about his struggles as a kid, in the army but once we get into his adulthood it is all Rosey. If I didn’t know better I would have thought Brooks was married once and had one son. It was kinda weird that only the famous wife and son got mentioned through the book. Like I said his choice.

Look as a huge fan of his work, Get Smart has one of my favorite gags of all time. I love Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, History of the World part 1…you name it. So it was fun to get some inside details.

I enjoyed this book but Solarbabies is the only one of Brooks Hollywood challenges he mentions, and that in the context of how he managed to take a stinker and save the production and make money in the end. Dracula Dead and loving it was a bomb, and being honest might provide insight.
In the end, I would say that the Fresh Air interview might enough for most fans. I laughed a bunch. Learned some details. Glad I read it. I enjoyed the book but not entirely sure this is a must-read.