Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Hemlock Grove or, The Wise Wolf, by Brian McGreevy

(pb; 2012)


From the inside flap:

"The body of a young girl is found mangled and murdered in the woods of Hemlock Grove, Pennsylvania, in the shadow of the abandoned Godfrey steel mill.  A manhunt ensues - though the authorities aren't sure if it's a man they should be looking for.

"Some suspect an escapee from White Tower, a foreboding biotech facility owned by the Godfrey family - their personal fortune and the local economy having moved on from Pittsburgh steel - where, if the rumors are true, biological experiments of the most unethical kind take place.  Others turn to Peter Rumancek, a Gypsy trailer-trash kid who has told an impressionable high school classmate that he's a werewolf.  Or maybe it's Roman, the son of the late JR Godfrey, who rules the adolescent social scene with the casual arrogance of a cold-blooded aristocrat, his superior status unquestioned despite his decidedly freakish sister, Shelley, whose monstrous medical conditions belie a sweet intelligence, and his otherworldly control freak of a mother, Olivia."


Review:

Hemlock Grove is a mostly well-written and entertaining hodgepodge of Frankensteinian experimentation, small town life and lycanthropy.  McGreevy has a clear love of striking phrases and scenes, as well as a love of language itself.   The characters are simultaneously familiar and engaging.

I use the phrase "mostly well-written" to describe Hemlock because of the author's occasional ill-advised point of view changes in the middle of scenes - he goes from third person omniscient to a different first-person present tense without section breaks and without warning (and often for only a line or two); these abrupt shifts jarred me out of this otherwise solid story. 

McGreevy easily has the potential to pen an excellent novel, but this isn't that novel - though, with a few choice edits, it could have been.  Borrow this from the library.

#

The resulting Netflix series began airing on April 19, 2013.  Eli Roth serves as an executive producer on the show.

Landon Liboiron plays Peter Rumancek.  Bill Skarsgård  plays Roman Godfrey.  Penelope Mitchell plays Letha Godfrey.   Famke Janssen plays Olivia Godfrey.  Lilli Taylor plays Lynda Rumancek.  Freya Tingley plays Christina Wendell.  Kaniehtiio Horn plays Destiny Rumancek. 

Dougray Scott plays Norman Godfrey.  Joel de la Fuenta plays Dr. Jonathan Pryce.    Ted Dykstra plays Francis Pullman.  Laurie Fortier plays Marie Godfrey. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Seventh, by Richard Stark (a.k.a. Donald E. Westlake)

(pb; 1966, 2009: seventh novel in the Parker series.  Also published under the title The SplitForeword by Luc Sante)


From the back cover:

"The robbery was a piece of cake.  The getaway was clean.  And seven men were safely holed up in different places while Parker held all the cash.  But somehow the sweet heist of a college football game turned sour.  Parker's woman is murdered and the take stolen.  Now Parker's looking for the lowlife who did him dirty, while the cops are looking for seven clever thieves - and Parker must outrun them all. . ."



Review:

This entry in this taut, reader-gripping series is filled with especially quirky and crazy characters and situations which collide with disastrous, often laugh-out-loud results.   When a plotted killing - which has little to do with Parker - and an incidental robbery - which directly involves Parker - occurs, the master thief and his six partners (who have just completed an easy-peasy heist) fan out to relocate their missing loot, while a killer stalks Parker and the cops search for all of them.

Once again, Stark nails it.  Seventh, like all the preceding Parker novels, is worth owning.

Followed by The Handle.


#

The resulting film, The Split, was released stateside on November 4, 1968.  Gordon Flemyng directed the film from a screenplay by Robert Sabaroff.

Jim Brown played McClain (cinematic stand-in for Parker).  Diahann Carroll played Ellen "Ellie" Kennedy.  Jack Klugman played Eric Kifka.  Ernest Borgnine played Bert Clinger.  Julie Harris played Gladys.  Donald Sutherland played David Negli.

Gene Hackman played Detective Lt. Walter Brill.  Warren Oates played Marty Gough.  James Whitmore played Herb Sutro. 

An uncredited Thordis Brandt played a "Police Clerk".  An uncredited Chuck Hicks played a "Physical Instructor".

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Paradise Left Behind, by TreSart L. Sioux

(pb; 2013: erotic anthology)


Overall review:

Paradise is an excellent, mood-effective and often humorous collection of lesbian sex stories with a strong emphasis on character, smart writing, mood, foreshadowing and other elements that are vital to superb storytelling.  This is one of the best single-author erotica anthologies I've read in a while, one that easily transcends its genre.  If you're a fan of lesbian sex works, this is likely a must-own book for you.



Standout stories:

1.)   "Suckin' It Up": A bartender (Emily) hooks up with one of her customers, a dark-eyed beauty named Stephanie.  Nice balance of sexual tension, humor and storytelling to this one.  Thoroughly entertaining read.


2.)   "The Truth Be Told": Funny microstory about alphabet soup, the author, and - according to this work of fiction - one of her personality traits.


3.)   "A True Love":  After her lover passes away from ovarian cancer, a woman (Megan) pines for her rotting lover.  This especially worthwhile Gothic and witchcraft toned work brings to mind certain Edgar Allan Poe stories.


4.)   "Hurtful Imagination":  Romantic, entertaining tale about a heartbroken woman (Regina) whose best friend (Claire) and a hot next door neighbor (Grace) work her out of her love funk. 


5.)   "The Shady Motel and the Secret Door":  Excellent, intriguing - if you don't mind extreme sexual darkness - thriller-update of the Bluebeard fable.  Its ending may be familiar to those well-acquainted with the aforementioned fable and Seventies horror films, but that familiarity does little - if anything - to detract from its masterful lead-up.


6.)  "One Hell of a Friend":  A deal with a devil takes a personal and traitorous twist.  Succinct, perfect microstory.

Monday, July 07, 2014

Toxicity, by Max Booth III

(pb; 2014)


From the back cover:

"When Maddox Kane is released from prison after serving a ten year stretch, he has one thing on his mind: reconnecting with his daughter.

"Problem is, his ex-wife and her new junkie husband have other plans, and it's going to cost Maddox a small fortune to buy his share of custody.  His daughter, on the other hand, has other priorities to attend to - such as coming up with enough cash to skip town before the cops find a certain body decomposing in the woods."


Review:


Toxicity is an addictive, tightly penned Quentin-Tarantino-film-crossed-with-chemical-eff'd-upness read: violent, quirky, darkly hilarious, icky and character-driven, a work that is often terrible in its scenarios and simultaneously hilarious, with a few characters who - despite their failings and shadiness - are worth rooting for. 

This is a great novel, if you're not easily squicked out - one worth owning.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Lost in the Dark, by Joe Mynhardt

(eBook; 2012: horror anthology)


Overall review:

Lost is a worthwhile, traditional-horror anthology, one that I enjoyed a lot.  Every story, even the few I had personal preference issues with, had something to recommend them.  Good stuff, this - worth owning.



Standout stories:

1.)   "Beyond the Ornate Tree": Christmas takes on new elements of gory terror as a psychiatric patient (Jim) and his doctor converse, so Jim can resolve his Yuletide "issues".  Fun read, laughed out loud (in a good way) at the finish.


2.)   "The Way Back":  Off-beat, interesting story about a paranormal investigator (Thomas Sanders) whose most recent investigation - in a ghost-notorious prison - may an unforeseen impact on his life.


3.)   "Fashionably Undead":  An emasculated husband - Rupert - disgusted by a zombie-models-on-the-runway fashion show, decides to finally do something about it.  This is an especially good tale, with a cliffhanger-ish ending that is memorable and effective.


4.)   "Come All to the River of Death":  A ghost hunter (Henry Taylor) gets more than he anticipated while investigating a particularly thrilling, rich-with-horrible-history house.  Fun, phantasmagoric work, this.


5.)   "Lost in the Dark":  Fairy tale-esque tale about a kidnapped girl (Hanifa) who not only tries to escape her supernatural captor, but rescue others as well.   Tone-effective, entertaining.


6.)   "Rise, Dead Man":  A drug-addicted grave robber, hounded by one of his victims, tries to atone for his latest crime.  Another tone-effective work, with an especially good ending.


7.)   "Zombie Mischief":  Fun cautionary tale about being a grisly joker.


8.)   "The Nature of the Beast": A young man hunts the nightmarish creature that killed his brother and some of their neighbors.  "Nature," well-written and gripping, stands out for its unexpected finish, which echoes the feel of an African-village fable.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

The Jugger, by Richard Stark (a.k.a. Donald E. Westlake)

(pb; 1965, 2009: sixth novel in the Parker series.  Foreword by John Banville.)


From the review:

"Joe Sheer, a retired safecracker living in Nebraska who knows too many of Parker's criminal secrets, says he's in trouble.  By the time Parker arrives on the scene, the safecracker is dead and a greedy cop, a nosy neighbor, and a gaudy crook are busy looking for a treasure the old man may never have even had.  Parker is a pro with a past to protect and a future to consider - and the last thing he needs is a bunch of determined amateurs who know more than they should.  And for this pro, killing is the only way out of town."


Review:

A few months after the events of The Score, Parker finds himself in Sagamore, Nebraska, delving into the real reason for his friend's death.  The local newspaper says a heart attack killed Joe Shardin (a.k.a. Joe Sheer), but Parker knows better.  A host of shady characters - including Abner Younger, a local corrupt police captain - are hiding something from him, as well as dropping fresh bodies, and it's up to Parker to not only find out who's crossing who (in various ways), but how to protect his cover identity, Charles Willis.

Like the preceding Parker novels, Jugger is short, sharp, lean and pulp-icy in tone.  Also, like the aforementioned works, it's excellent in its execution - that is to say, worth owning.

What I particularly love about this story is how it ties into Score and how its ending marks a relatively huge transition for Parker, as well as his need to eliminate further, thus-far-unresolved threats to his person - threats which will presumably be dealt with in The Seventh.

#

The resulting loosely - and I do mean loosely - linked film, Made in the U.S.A., was released stateside on September 27, 1967.  Jean-Luc Godard, billed as JLG, directed and scripted the film.  He also, uncredited, voiced the character Richard Politzer.

Anna Karina, billed as AK, played Paula Nelson.  Laszlo Szabó, billed as LS,  played Richard Widmark (a shout-out to the actor with the same name).  Jean-Pierre Léaud, billed as JPL, played Donald Siegel (a shout-out to the director with the same name).   Marianne Faithfull, billed as MF, played herself.   Yves Afonso, billed as YF, played David Goodis (a shout-out to the author with the same name).

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Black Magic: Shotgun Spacebabe by E.S. Wynn

(eBook; 2012, 2014)


From the back cover:

"The year is nineteen aught ninety.

"The planet: Gore Gulch.


"The shotgun: a sawed-off two gauge punt gun that specialist Black Magic calls 'The Deuce.'

"Five powerful men just pissed off the wrong woman. Five worlds are on her hit list, and even John Herbert Wilson Thomas, the President of the Republic, will find himself in her sights before her rampage is over. . ."


Review:

There's plenty of violence, gore, humor, sex and vengeance in this burn-through novel in which Black Magic tracks down and executes five politicians and scientists - as well as their weapons-wielding defenders - who are not only corrupt, but intentionally released a plague that effectively turns its victims into violent, zombie-like creatures, many of whom Black Magic must also battle to reach her targets.

Black jumps into the action from its first word and doesn't let go until its last.  It's an entertaining, bloody and fast science fiction read, one worth owning.
Steve Isaak has published two hundred stories and poems, and is the author of three anthologies: Behind the wheel: selected poems, Shinjuku sex cheese holocaust: poems and the forthcoming Horrorsex County: stories (which are, or will be, available at Lulu and Amazon).