Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Book Review: Archelon Ranch by Garrett Cook

Archelon Ranch by Garrett Cook
Legumeman Books
111 pages

This is a weird book, but you knew that going in right? It's a bizarro novel by Garrett Cook who won the first ever bizarro showdown at the first bizarrocon so I knew it would be weird. In a way I would say this novel is a mix of dark city and Adaptation. Bernard the main character is being used in an experiment, the world seems to be trying to convince him that he is a hat. Sometimes other objects, all the while he is being shot with hallucinogenic mud.

The point is not that he is an object, as in a hat, or a dresser drawer. He is object, - protagonist of a novel. As he goes to greater levels he loses more of his sanity, and it's up to his brother Clyde to save him. Clyde is an interesting character,and he knows it. I mean literally he knws he is a character, he is aware that Garrett Cook is writing the book. It seems he has read a lot Garrett's work, and is fairly critical.

So if you have not figured it out it gets a little weird from there. There is a religion that believes in following the word of our author, and Clyde is trying to save Bernard from all the cruel intentions of the author putting him through the experiments.

Is this a horror novel? well I can't say it is not, but I was expecting something a little more horrific,maybe a little darker. That being said it is a great dip in to meta-fiction. If anything was missing, was a feeling that Garrett Cook as a author, and creator of this work was out of his mind. He did such a great job with this novel i felt he was in complete control. He wrote a brilliant piece of meta-fiction but because it was so well written I felt he was solid and in control of the work. That is impressive, but the novel lacked the bat-shit crazy-ness of say Phil K Dick in Three stigmata, where it was so crazy I had no idea where it was going, that novel just felt dangerous. We could have used a little more of that feeling of danger. That is not an insult, Cook is just to good to be that out of control.Well crafted bizarro meta-fiction. Read it, you'll be glad you did.

Interview: Indianapolis horror writer Maurice Broaddus!

An Indianapolis based horror and fantasy writer? I must know more. I just finished reading his debut novel The King maker and thought it was great, more than anything I wanted my Indiana peeps to know more about him, and to check out his books. That being said there is alot for everyone to enjoy in this book.

David Agranoff: This is your first novel can you give us some background how you ended up being a writer?

Maurice Broaddus: I’ve been a writer for almost as long as I can remember. The first story I wrote was in fifth grade called The Big Mac Attacker ( From there, it was all downhill. I was encouraged to pursue writing by a high school English teacher. After a few years in college when I tried giving up writing, I came back to it to give it a full go. King Maker was actually my fifth novel written, though first published, so it has been a long an interesting journey.

DA: So I grew up in Indiana too, I am wondering what impact Sammy Terry had on you?

MB: Wow, Cowboy Bob (the morning cartoon host) and Sammy Terry (host of the horror movies showcase) were like the book ends to my day. Throw in the Saturday afternoon kung fu marathon, and you pretty much cover my formative years of television.

DA: King maker is a modern re-telling of the King Arthur legend set in the Indianapolis gangland. The Wire meets Excalibur is a valid comparison. I grew up in Indiana, and my experience with the city is mostly through punk rock and north of fall creek, as I read this book I found myself what you directly about the gangs of Indy? Is it research or first hand?

MB: It’s a bit of both. The novel found its origin in my working with homeless teens through the ministry, Outreach Inc. Also through them, I connected with the gang ministry, Save the Youth. Between the two of them, I encountered a side of Indianapolis I never knew existed.

DA: I enjoyed the 70's prologue with its reference to cowboy bob, and such. Any chance we might someday get novel set in 1970's Indianapolis?

MB: I wouldn’t rule it out.

DA: One feedback I saw was that some readers were interested in some of the more minor characters, Do you plan to expand characters Like Omarosa or Burke?

MB: Some of the characters get expanded upon, especially as their connection to the legend of King Arthur gets explored. It’s very much the overall legends of each of the knights that get expanded. So we get to see a variation of The Green Knight in King Maker, The Red Knight in King’s Justice, and The Black Knight in King’s War. Characters like Omarosa may not be who people think they are.

DA: This is origin tale and you built the characters methodically, are you worried that might lose some urban fantasy fans?

MB: This is not the urban fantasy many people will be used to. For a start, I still have my roots in horror writing which shows through at times. Second, this isn’t the world urban fantasy diehards, despite having “urban” in the description, may be used to. Thirdly, the way I tell the story (and what I do to the canon of King Arthur) may lose some folks. That said, I hope to pick up an entirely different set of readers who may not realize they are urban fantasy readers.

DA: Can you tell us about Devil's Marionette? When I first read the description it seemed like the set-up for a satire but the reviews I have read say that it is quite disturbing.

MB: Devil’s Marionette (Shroud Books) is a novella about a cast of an all-black sketch variety show who is haunted, literally and figuratively, by the ghosts of its past. In a lot of ways, it explores the pressure of black artists to be “true to their community”, this tacit pressure to put their best foot forward for the sake of the race. Balanced against a history of racism as a part of their story and experience. You combine all of that with murder, mayhem, and madness, and you have a potent tale of anger and loss, if I do say so myself.

DA: Can you tell us about working with Wrath James White? It seems no mistake that your king Arthur is named after him?

MB: I named a couple of characters in King Maker after a couple of close friends of mine in the writing world. Wrath James White is one and Chesya Burke is another. Wrath and I have an interesting relationship in that we are polar opposites. We come at the world, spirituality, and writing in such different ways, but we have a fundamental respect for one another … even as we passionately disagree. Which is what makes projects like Orgy of Souls (Apex Books) so much fun, well, a disturbing kind of fun. People who know both Wrath and I can easily see us in the main characters of that novella. And it’s also why we are currently working on another project that I can’t talk about just yet (but can tease the mess out of folks about).

DA: Last can you tell us about your convention you put on in Indianapolis?

MB: Whenever there is a writer’s convention, there are always room parties at night, where people unwind, lower their guards and have great conversations over food and drinks. Mo*Con ( is like that room party for a whole weekend. What also makes it different is that it takes place in a church. So we have all of these horror, science fiction, and fantasy writers from various spiritual backgrounds who come together and hang out all weekend in a church. We have a couple panel discussions ranging from spiritual issues to social issues to writing issues all over meals. It’s very much a time rooted in getting to know one another and one of the highlights of my year.

check out the new look of

Book Review: King Maker by Maurice Broaddus

King maker: The Knights of Benton Court 1 by Maurice Broddus
412 pages
Angry Robot

This is an excellent and original first novel of urban fantasy, with dark horrific over tones. King maker is most easily described as King Arthur's court in reset in the ganglands of Indianapolis. Having grown up an hour south of Indianapolis, I grew up going to Indy to go to sporting events, metal and hardcore shows. So I was interested in this novel that took place in a city but familiar and unknown to me.

I think many of my friends who has lived in or around Indianapolis might still feel they have a little to learn about the from the point of view Broaddus provides. I admit I probably enjoyed the geography and local references a lot but there is plenty to like even if you have seen been to Indianapolis.

This book is a origin tale and has the difficult task of setting up characters who stand-in for King Arthur and his knights. Not to mention all the gang riff raff they have to deal with. It was smart to include a a chart at the front of the book.

The fantasy elements are pretty restrained, and only appear in small doses until the end of the book, also it sets up the future books having a greater level of fantasy. This worked for me as Broaddus focused his energy on building strong and well defined characters. In this sense the first ¾ of King maker has more in common with The Wire than Excalibur. This is an excellent choice on the author's part because more than most Urban fantasy novels the world felt raw and real.

This is an excellent debut, but it is an origin novel and it's strength lies in strong characters and the road ahead. It's fortunate that Angry Robot has already released books two and three. They are already on my list.