Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Devil's Laughter by William W. Johnstone



The Devil's Laughter
by William W. Johnstone
1992 Zebra Books

1824856

Something funny was going on in Louisiana's backwoods, but the devil was the only one laughing.

Less of the same.  People are acting funny in town, nobody's showering, etc.  Our hero, former CIA operative and reporter (?!) Link Donovan is at the center - the Balon family is mentioned but doesn't appear, along with Satan, sodomy, and everything else that made the Devil series sleazy fun.

Donovan takes care of wounded animals at his ranch home and is harassed by violent rednecks who he just guesses are Satanists.  Everything's small scale here - only a couple hundred Satanists instead of the whole town, God and his "mercenary angel" Michael don't show, and Satan is said to barely make an appearance.  We're teased with beasts, but their just an illusion, and the undead only appear in a comedic epilogue.

This one's more action packed than the rest, with Link spending his time tossing grenades and mowing down rednecks in the woods with a MAC-10.  At least Johnstone's action scenes are improving.

There are no evil clowns.

Available in Kindle ebook from Amazon

Click here to read a sample

Friday, September 29, 2017

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Watchers in the Woods by William W. Johnstone

Watchers in the Woods
by William W. Johnstone
Zebra Books, 1991


What the Ashes series did for Libertarianism, Watchers in the Woods does for animal rights.  It's as bad as that.

Johnstone's pantser tendencies are in full effect here.  We start off with five different couples going on a hiking trip after their joint 20 year school reunion.  Good enough set up for a horror novel.  But wait, one of the reunioners is a CIA contract assassin!  Let's go with that for a while.

On a mission that is never made clear, the CIA agent is ordered to the middle of the woods to do something with the Unseen, also called the Sataw and a dozen other names.  These are the same creatures from A Crying Shame, only more vague.  They're homo sapiens, but haven't evolved as much as the rest of humanity.  They've lived in isolation in the American woods, except for the several generations who have integrated into American society.

They are woefully underdescribed.  Some look like humans, some are hairier and have big teeth.  The only one that gets any description is a tribe leader who has a regular human body and full-on wolf's head.  Most are peaceful, but some are cannibalistic, gone mad by water pollution.  If they bite regular people, those people go mad under a full moon.  So we're told, it doesn't come up.

The reunioners go in the woods, fight the Unseen and some neo-nazis, then fight to get back out of the woods.  The plot is a mess, but we eventually get the full force of the US government involved.  Peaceful Unseen are put into camps, violent ones out in society go feral and kill thousands, and people yell at reporters for existing.

More action than horror, but mostly talking.  Lots and lots of talking.  By then end, Johnstone's giving us a monologue about the mistreatment of greyhound dogs.

Not to be confused with The Watcher in the Woods.


Saturday, September 23, 2017

Zebra Books Misc - 1974-1982

There were a lot of titles in genres that were particular to the 70s.

Exploitation / Sexy Tell-Alls / Porn or Hooker Biography


1974

The Joys of Hooking by Virginia Graham (Zebra #1!)
Where have all the Little Girls Gone by M. K. Callie
Lily: The Diary of a French Girl in New York by Sandrine Forge
Society Hooker by Betsy Winston
Martnis, Manhattans, or Me? by Barbara O'Brien
The Wild White Witch by Peter Stafford


The Love Girl by Suzy Green

Diary of a Modern American Girl by Emily Goodman
China Nights by Ralph Shaw

1975

10 1/2 by Marc Stevens


The Whole Bedroom Catalog by Stephen Lewis

Amanda in Spain by Geoffrey Bocca
The Greek Goddess by R.T. Larkin

1976

Amanda in Germany by Geoffrey Bocca


Amanda in France by Geoffrey Bocca aka Commander Amanda

Washington Call Girl - The Original Washington Expose by Rachel Alceim

1977

Making It Big by Diana Clapton and Marc Stevens
Anytime, Anywhere! by Susie Swanson

Unexplained


1974

Intercept UFO by Renato Vesco
Your Practical Guide to Fortune-telling by Rod Davies

1975

The Witches Workbook: The Magick Grimoire of Lady Sheba
Universal Cosmic Mind Power by Samuel Dodson
The Great Pyramid by Warren Smith
The Strange World of Brad Steiger by Brad Steiger
Triangle of the Lost by Warren Smith
Eckankar: The Key to Secret Worlds by Paul Twitchell
Myth and Mystery of Atlantis by Warren Smith
The Opening of an Eye by Alice Lane

1976

Lost Cities of the Ancients Unearthed by Warren Smith
Pyramid Energy and How it Works for You by James Wyckoff
Strange Secrets of Loch Ness by Warren Smith
UFO Trek by Warren Smith
Discover the Riches of Universal Cosmic Mind Power by Samuel Dodson
The Hidden Secrets of the Hollow Earth by Warren Smith

1977

The Secret Origins of Bigfoot by Warren Smith


The Law of Psychic Phenomena by Thomas Hudson

The Law of Psychic Phenomena Volume 2 by Thomas Hudson

JFK Conspiracy


1975

Appointment In Dallas: The Final Solution to the Assassination of JFK by Hugh C. McDonald and Geoffrey Bocca

1977

Coincidence or Conspiracy by Bernard Fensterwald and Michael Ewing

Occult Investigator


1976

Father Hayes by Peter Leslie
The Steeds Of Satan by Peter Leslie

Martial Arts


1976

Bruce Lee's Basic Kung-Fu Training Manual by Claude St. Denise
Bruce Lee's My Martial Arts Training Manual by Claude St. Denise
Bruce Lee's Guide to Savage Street Fighting by Claude St. Denise

True Crime/Prison/Pimp


1976

Dig the Nigger Up - Let's Kill Him Again by Robert Chinn - ghetto/prison memoir
Blood Family by William Zamora - Manson trial juror

1977

The Virginia Ratt by Ratton Hall and Sandy Sidar - pimp/prison memoir



The Black Prince by Anonymous


Disaster

1978
Collision by Spencer Dunmore

1979
Eruption by Paul Patchick

1980
Epidemic! by Larry R. Leichter, M.D.
Avalanche by M Steele & Steve Cohen
The Omni Strain by Cliff Patton, M.D.

1981
Collision Over Toronto Airport by Spencer Dunmore
Drought! by Ralph Hayes
Ghost Rig by Cliff Patton
Shuttle by David C. Onley

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Black Horde by Richard Lewis

Black Horde
aka Devil's Coach-Horse
by Richard Lewis
1979 Signet



Like the best of disaster/animal attack novels, The Black Horde is largely a series of miniature character studies, each punctuated by gruesome death, here by tiny, man-eating beetles.  Lewis is kind enough not to waste page time on following any main characters.  A scientist finally pops up with a way to counter the plague, the end?  Lewis had the guts to kill off scores of children, but chickened out and did so off page.  Signet really jumped on the killer animal bandwagon around this time, with another dozen or so titles advertised.

Paperback from Amazon

Friday, September 15, 2017

You've Got Foetus On Your Breath - Flashback

Speaking of weird Foetus references, this track ends with a rant lifted from Nitro of Marvel Comics, I think from Peter Parker The Spectacular Spider-Man 55.  I think from the same issue is the line "Thank Heaven for Push Button Phones", which is a track title on the same album.


Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Darkly the Thunder by William W. Johnstone

Darkly the Thunder
by William W. Johnstone
1990 Zebra Books



"DO BOP DE DO BOP DE DO BOP, DE DO."

The 80's are over, and so is the fun, if this lifeless slog has any indication of the rest of the 90s.

So far the worst things about Johnstone horror novels are disembodied sarcastic voices, endless discussion of cosmic rules that he refuses to explain, and interminable padding of characters repeating things back and forth to each other.  That's all this book is.

The Fury is a neutron star that evolved into pure evil and lives off the souls of the recently departed.  It manifests itself as a disembodied voice that yells racist taunts and sings doo-wop.  The Fury is stuck in the 1950s and doesn't understand modern technology.  It has closed off a Colorado town in a secular re-tread of the well worn path of the Devil novels.

There's a little bit of folks not being friendly anymore and a little public masturbation, but not of the bacchanalia of the Devil books.  Bodies are found torn apart and anyone who tries to leave town is killed by the Fury's psychic force.  Not sure what the Fury's endgame is other than killing people, why he doesn't just kill everybody day one, and what 50's music has to do with anything.

On the side of good we have the Force, which doesn't sound too far off from the Jedi stuff except for its love of vigilante murder.  The Force is embodied by the spirit of a James Dean type named Sand who died decades ago after killing the frat boys who killed his wife.

Sand tells his story via a television set, which is recorded by the town's 10-year-old computer genius.  The Fury also tells his story to a reporter who interviews him for hours.  None of that is shared with the reader.

Pretty earlier on, the President is made aware of the situation and plans a strike with a neutron bomb, while the press and some snake handlers show up in town.  The kid hacker is able to figure out where the Fury is in town by tracing him on the telephone, and Sand communicates via modem until Johnstone forgets this device and has him just be telepathic.

Some good carnage in the beginning, and a quick zombie attack in the middle, but almost nothing happens the entire book.  The townspeople and CIA and the White House plan things and the Fury calls the Sheriff burrito-breath and nothing happens for page upon page.  The only interest is Sand's back story of vigilante justice, which has nothing to do with anything.

The plan is finally revealed and executed.  The President drops a neutron bomb on the town.  They blame aliens because if America knew the truth about the afterlife Las Vegas would close down and the liquor industry would collapse.  The townspeople blow up the entire town to create a smokescreen, because the omniscient Fury can't see through smoke.  They use the cover to run through a portal that Sand creates to teleport to safety.

Epilogue: Everyone gets married and the crater that the bomb made is now filled with all the souls that the Fury had taken over the years.  None of this book makes enough sense to even tell if there are plot holes.  Johnstone gets as preachy here as he does in the Ashes books, only now it's about feeding the homeless and being kind to animals.  Like a damn hippy.

Available in Kindle ebook from Amazon

Click here to read a sample

Monday, September 11, 2017

Le Voyage Extraordinaire

Le Voyage Extraordinaire
Futuroscope
France

Futuroscope is a future-themed park in France focusing on 4D movies, though it was nice to see they had a couple of old-fashioned slides.  There should be more slides in parks.

Le Voyage Extraordinaire is a straight up Sorin' knock off, but queue is amazing.  Escher stairs going nowhere, Stargate portals.  I love areas that have a sense of more going on and places you could have gone.


Friday, September 8, 2017

Thursday, September 7, 2017

ABC 1983 - The ABC Saturday Preview Special

An historical look back this time.  This was when Menudo videos were spliced in between everything.


Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Carnival by William W. Johnstone

Carnival
by William W. Johnstone
1989 Zebra Books



In the 50s some rich kids rape some girls and carnies get blamed.  The town sets the carnival on fire and covers it up.  The dead carnies make a deal with Satan to return for revenge.  The townfolk either turn evil or mindless, ala the Devil series.

The few who maintain their sanity try to stop the carnival's plan to have the evil townspeople kill each other.  They do this by killing the townspeople.  They didn't really think this one through.

For once, Johnstone actually sticks to his gimmick, and fully half of the story takes place in the carnival as the townsfolk alternate between Stepford Wives banality and crazed cannibalism.  An avenging revenant rises from the grave with the truck his was buried in, and then proceeds to have pages of discussion with law enforcement about what will happen if the cross an invisible barrier surrounding the carnival.  Chills!

Johnstone manages to have a little fun here without getting too bogged down in cosmic rules.  His last book of the 80s.  If you're already sick of Johnstone, now's a good time to hop off.

Available in Kindle from Amazon

Click here for a sample

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Frankenstein's Tower

Frankenstein's Tower
by Jean-Claude Carriere as Benoit Becker
originally 1957 Fleuve Noir
English translation 2016 Grey Tiger



Jean-Claude Carriere is a respected screenwriter and collaborator with Luis Bunel.  He also wrote a series of mediocre Frankenstein continuations.

Frankenstein's Tower is set in 1875.  A disgraced mesmerist turned hobo creeper named Vrollo reanimates and controls Frankenstein' Monster, called Gouroull here.  Gouroll snaps a couple necks and kidnaps the fair maiden Helen.  The creature overcomes Vrollo's influence and kills him, then moves on to menacing Helen.

The townsfolk can't get in the castle where Gourollo is holed up, so they enlist the aid of a Hindu snake charmer to send an army of poisonous snakes in after them.  Sure.

Helen escapes, Gourollo escapes, and we're left with almost 30 pages of epilogue and afterword of a 158 page book.  I wouldn't mind the short page length if it was filled with more monster and less French talkiness.  And if I hadn't paid as much as I had - these are really more suitable for $1.99 ebooks than $11 paperbacks.

I appreciate Frankenstein's monster being evil (or at least amoral) and murderous, as opposed to the sympathetic approach usually given in the 20th Century, but at least in this installment he doesn't get a lot of page time.  This version suffers from either a poor, direct translation, or the fact that the French use way too many words.  Read Donald Glut for a better version of the same concept.

Overpriced paperback from Amazon.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Cat's Eye by William W. Johnstone

Cat's Eye
by William W. Johnstone
Zebra Books 1989




A sequel to Cat's Cradle, this installment mostly abandons the original premise and brings the story in line with his other Devil books.

A quick recap of that series (Devil's Kiss, Heart, Touch, Cat, Laughter) - Satan periodically picks a random American town and seduces almost all of its inhabitants.  The teenagers start being rude to the elderly, talking back to their parents, having orgies, killing babies, etc.  Then Beasts (stripped down werewolves) and the Undead (stripped down vampires) roam the town, and a hero ordained by God and a small handful of pure souls fight back with machine guns and grenades to a convoluted finish.

We start off with a bodyguard (the son of the hero in the first book, who evidently went through a lot in three years) being hired to protect his author daughter by a rich developer.  Unexpectedly, the rich guy is a conservationist, which is a good thing here.  And the town Sheriff is corrupt and worthless, also a big switch for Johnstone.

Johnstone does not work from an outline, and it shows here.  It shows real bad.  We start off with some bad slapstick.  Animated corpse parts kick people in the butt like an Army of Darkness schtick, and Satan himself catcalls characters with a disembodied voice.

The incoherence becomes an asset as Johnstone picks up steam.  Satan frees some prisoners who go on a raping spree.  Their rape victims become lizard women.  At some point Johnstone tries to shoehorn in a lot of the Satanic Panic nonsense floating around at the time.  There are over 100,000 satanic covens in America, about five times more than Catholic churches.  Almost the entire town is part of a coven, but they hide their heavy metal posters when the police get a search warrant.  It's not really a conspiracy anymore if 90% of the town is part of it.

Parenting advice: If your child listens to hard rock music, kill them and burn the corpse.

The bodyguard and few remaining non-Satanists mow down coven members, living dead, flesh eating maggots, etc, with a cache of grenades and flame throwers, the end.  This is the best book ever.

There is no cat baby.

Available in Kindle from Amazon

Click here to read a sample

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Dew Claws by Stephen Gresham

Dew Claws
by Stephen Gresham
1986 Zebra Books



Yep, this one.  I knew going in the story didn't match the cover (although there is a lot of banjo), that the story was more "quiet horror", but I'd go one further and say this isn't a horror novel at all.  More folksy southern fantasy.  Not that it's a bad thing - the story is well written and moves along nicely, but it's completely mispackaged.

Johnny Ray is a swamp boy who is taken up by the owners of a day care after his family disappeared in the swamp, killed by dew claws, some kind of water spirit elemental.  Johnny Ray is possessed by the spirit of the dew claws and spends the book visiting various folk healers: a swamp doctor, swamp witches, snake handlers, and Indian shaman.

There's a good sense of menace but nothing resembling scares, and nobody is more than scratched the whole book.

Used paperback from Amazon

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The NBC Saturday Morning Preview Revue 1974

There's a hierarchy of terrible television.  The seventies.  Kid's live action shows.  Specials.  So here's a special for live action TV in the 70s, staring all your favorite nightmares from Sid and Marty Krofft.




Supposedly, by the Pink Lady and Jeff era, the Kroffts were being horrible on purpose.  I can believe it here.  Every frame is more terrifying than the last.  HR Pufnstuf not terrifying enough?  How about marionettes.  Elvis Jimmy Osmond dancing with pimps not weird enough for you?  Bring in the clowns!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Killsquad 2: Mission Revenge by Frank Garrett

Killsquad 2: Mission Revenge
by Frank Garrett (Dan Schmidt)
1986 Avon



"These folks ain't right, Sarge.  Or I'd be gettin' a little chubby right now."

The Killsquad is a Deadly Dozen style strike force - let's meet the team:
John "Hangman" Smith - the leader.
Leroy "Lightning Bomber" Walker - ex-boxer convicted of murder.
Rollo "Icepick" Barnes - Harlem pimp and hit-man.
Tommy Williams - hillbilly bank robber.
Mac White - Bigot with a heart of gold, too mean for the KKK.
James Jackson - Fisherman and smuggler, framed for the murder of FBI agents.
Lucien Schnell - insane, serial killing, Nazi mercenary, in the brig this installment for attempting to desert in the first book.

The Preacher, Eli St. Judas, is on a mission to remove sinners from the Earth, starting with a shooting and firebomb spree by his followers on Times Square, the Preacher fapping away as he watches.  He's enlisted the aid of a team of mercenaries, who have their own agenda.

Probably the thinnest plot of any Men's Adventure book I've read, and that's saying something.  Some training, then off to raid the Preacher's orgy compound to see what they're up to.  They leave the Preacher alive for some reason when they discover the plot to kidnap Russian diplomats.  They run to foil the kidnapping, then run back for another raid on the Preacher's base.

Action scenes like midwest cooking - not that great, but there's a lot of it.  Well written but way too quick - this may be the first book that I wished was longer than it's 167 pages.

Used paperback from Amazon.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Sandman by William W. Johnstone

Sandman
by William W. Johnstone
1988 Zebra Books



"What the hell!  Was this county filled with mysterious monsters?"

An evil kid meets evil ghost Jamaicans and gets the power to create blood-filled sand people.  The sand can dig it's way through people's pores and turn them into sand people who are also satanists.  The sand people eat people-people, stuffing roped intestines into their mouths.

That is, until Johnstone gets bored with it.  "The sand people are merely a distraction."  The kid influences others around him to do evil and we've got yet another Devil book, only on a smaller scale.  His sister gets another It inspired kid-power gang together and we get discussion of cosmic rules, this time in dialect.

"Ma mon, you too little to be speakin' to me lak dat.  I'm a big black mons.  You just a little white boy."

Unfocused, small scale, and phoned-in.

Available for Kindle from Amazon

Click here for a sample

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Great NBC Smilin' Saturday Morning Parade 1976

I thought I knew everything about obscure 70s kids TV, but almost every live action show here is new to me:

McDuff the Talking Dog
Big John, Little John
Monster Squad
The Kids From C.A.P.E.R.
Muggsy

Filmed at Magic Mountain, starring Freddy Prinze and all the cocaine in Columbia.


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Toy Cemetery by William W. Johnstone

Toy Cemetery
by William W. Johnstone
1987 Zebra Books


"Grown men and women are thrust in to near-incestuous relationships with their kids; creatures roam the night; toys come alive; and the personalities of nearly everyone in town have been altered."
Johnstone lightened up a little for this one and let himself have a little fun.  A single father returns to his hometown to move into the house left by his recently departed Aunt.  She was a doll collector, and pretty much right out of the gate the dolls come to life in front of the police.

The townfolk are acting funny yadda yadda yadda, though this is one of the books where most of the town are oblivious and only some are actively evil.  We also revisit some of the Nursery in the form of a hospital doing secret experiments and an Ancient One figure.

It was the best selling book of 1986, so this time around (and the next book) we've got a bunch of kids running around like vigilante Boxcar Kids.  By the end we have a complete cluster: ceramic people, tiny headed mutants, satanists, machete wielding kids, evil toys, and good toys all slaughtering each other in the streets.

Not as nasty this time around aside from when our hero finds a cache of Satanic kiddie porn and proceeds to show it to everyone.

Available in Kindle from Amazon.

Click here to read a sample.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Saturday Morning Sneak Peek ABC 1973

Avery Schreiber.
Live action Bugs Bunny.
Australian Rick Springfield.
Yogi Bear dancing to Australian Rick Springfield.
Australian Rick Springfield's psychedelic nightmare "Mission: Magic!".


Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Baby Grand by Joseph E. Keene and William W. Johnstone

Baby Grand
by Joseph E. Keene and William W. Johnstone
1987 Zebra Books


"You look like a retarded penguin."

Bill Elliott is a soldier of fortune who retires and moves home to Tennessee to be a private detective.  His first case: investigate a haunted piano for his old friend Joe Conrad.  The piano plays music by itself and occasionally talks.

Meanwhile, someone is kidnapping and raping local virgins.  We never find out who or why, something about a ceremony.  This is the closest this book comes to the sleaziness we're used to from Johnstone.

Elliott hangs around town for a hundred pages or so, spending a lot of time with teen Carol.  He finds a book about local pianos at the library but some pages are torn out.

A zombie shows up in Conrad's house and hits Elliott over the head with a chair, and the piano chases him around the house, snapping it's lid while playing the theme from Jaws.  Elliott and Carol visit the haunted house next door.  There are eyes following them in paintings, flying candlesticks, the whole Haunted Mansion treatment.

Meanwhile, folks around town seem to be getting rude, and they stop bathing.  You know the drill by now.

For once, Johnstone doesn't lay all his cards on the table all at once.  Though once he finally does, he's got a seven high.

The piano belonged to the Wellingtons, a rich family who owns the town.  Old man Wellington got mad because nobody came to his kid's piano recital, so he sold his soul to Satan.  That's it.  That explains the possessed piano, why the town is full of evil people, and why folks are coming back to the dead as werewolves.

Not Beasts like the other books.  Actual dogs.  You sell your soul to Satan and you can be killed once, and you come back as a zombie who can turn into a dog.  A dog who can be easily killed a second time with conventional weapons.

Which Bill Elliott does by the score, while blowing up everything around with C4.  He sets the piano on fire, the end.

Epilogue:
No consequences for murdering half the town, and tons of loose ends.  The librarian's mom may or not be a witch.  There was a ghost of a priest who does nothing.  Some business of Conrad's dead wife being possessed as a teen and Carol getting local rednecks to break his hands.

Speaking of Carol, Elliott remembers the he hooked up with her Mom nine months before she was born and finally puts things together, working that private detective mind of his.

Too long, too padded, too tame.  It may be all downhill from here.

Why is the skeleton man not wearing shoes?  And there are no children in the entire book.

Currently not available for Kindle, likely complicated by the dual authorship.  I'm curious about Keene's contributions - the only other book I could find by him was about songwriting.

Used paperback from Amazon.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Devil's Cat by William W. Johnstone

The Devil's Cat
by William W. Johnstone
1987, Zebra Books



Sam, Nydia, and Little Sam travel the country looking for towns that Satan has taken over.  They drive back to Whitfield, Nebraska, the scene of the first book to pick up a dog.  Does the dog have fleas?  He doesn't - Nydia just knows. He has no collar - none that earthly eyes can perceive.  Johnstone gets this out of the way early and thankfully doesn't spend a lot of time laboring over cosmic rules and people just knowing things.  Unfortunately, he also got rid of everything else the Devil series was good at.  Less violent, less gory, less rapey, more talky.

There are a couple of subplots that don't amount to much, such as a man turning into a panther and a couple of escaped mental patients, but otherwise it's a less focused version of the last book.  Sam's devil daughter Xaviere wants to have sex with him to breed some super witch or something and Sam wants to kill all the satanists.

Little Sam is a reverse Damien and Xaviere and her fcoven get forgotten about at the end of the book, the tablet is mentioned just once, and the conclusion is a completely disjointed mess, with way too many survivors to keep track of

Not the last Devil book, but the last to have the Balon family.  It ends with a jokey little sequence of the President making a joke about Democrats.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Genre Overview: Men's Adventure Magazines

Sometimes called, either derisively or affectionately, the Sweats, Men's Adventure Magazines ran from the early 50's through the late 60's, though some managed in one form or another through the late 70's.  The featured mostly "true story" type fiction, though there was usually a very thin pretense to how true it actually was.  The tone was ridiculously hyper-masculine, to the point where it's almost impossible to parody.  At least 50 titles began with the word Man or Men.

While the genre in many ways replaced the pulp magazines that had all but died out, the tone and feel were quite different, and there weren't a lot of authors who made the transition, having either quit writing, moved on to paperback originals, or drank themselves to death.  Likewise, with few exceptions, the writers of Men's Adventure magazines didn't move on to the Men's Adventure Paperbacks, a much different beast.  The only author to move up to any level of respectability was The Godfather's Mario Puzo.

Men's Adventure Magazines had their own feel and pace, developed due to the quick page count.  A situation and characters are introduced in a paragraph or two, there's a big action scene, and a brief epilogue.  There were longer stories, but they tended not to hold up as well.

First person narrative was very common, given the "true story" background.  In many ways, they had more in common with the True Confessions genre of women's magazines than the detective or adventure pulps.  This is especially evident in the amazing story titles: "I Was a Sex Gang Flunky for the Nazi She Demon", etc.

In addition to the machismo, there's the sadism.  Some magazines kept it clean, but others reveled in cruelty and torture.  And Nazis, lots of Nazis.

There were a few stock story topics, such as:
  • Exotic adventure
  • Mob/Crime stories
  • Animal attacks (Weasels Ripped my Flesh, etc)
  • War stories
  • Nazi atrocities
  • Westerns
  • Sex exposes

There were also "health" articles preying on men's sexual insecurities, with titles like "Why Your Lesbian Wife Would Rather Sleep With Communist Hippies" and the like.

The rise and decline of Men's Adventure Magazines tends to follow the trajectory of sexploitation movies.  In film, we had Nude Cuties, the sadistic Roughies, hard core porn with actual stories, then just people doing it.

"Gentleman's" magazines like Playboy ran on a parallel track, and only a couple Men's Adventure magazines grew from earlier nudie mags (Sir! is the only one I can think of).  If you look over the covers (Galactic Central is a good place), every title that survives into the 60s starts slipping in photos of half naked women on the cover for a year or so before the painted action scenes are dropped altogether.

More and more page length was given to nude pictures, and the titles either dropped completely or became full blown spank mags.  A few of them, such as Sir! and Male, had some fiction up to the late 70's, before the text either disappeared or became pure sexology.

The lurid covers get most of the attention nowadays, but recently some of the texts have been reprinted as well.  Click on the links below for the Amazon pages.

Cover galleries and overviews:

It's A Man's World: Men's Adventure Magazines, The Postwar Pulps, Expanded Edition
Bruce Minney: The Man Who Painted Everything

Story reprints:

A Handful of Hell: Classic War and Adventure Stories
Cryptozoology Anthology: Strange and Mysterious Creatures in Men's Adventure Magazines
He-Men, Bag Men & Nymphos: Classic Men's Adventure Stories
Weasels Ripped My Flesh! Two-Fisted Stories From Men's Adventure Magazines
Soft Flesh And Orgies Of Death: Fiction, Features & Art From Classic Men's Adventure Magazines
Soft Nudes For The Devil's Butcher: Fiction, Features And Art From Classic Men's Adventure Magazines
Soft Brides For The Beast Of Blood: Fiction, Features And Art From Classic Men's Adventure Magazines

And if you need a non-stop infusion of machismo, visit the Trash Menace Gallery, with over seven hours of cover slideshows.


Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Wolfsbane by William Johnstone

Wolfsbane
by William Johnstone
1982 Zebra Books


"It's called dog-fashion,"

Like werewolves?  Too bad, this book is about a witch.  There are werewolves in it, sure, but just they only pop up quickly enough to get shotgunned down.

In 1934, rural Louisiana,  a suspected rugaru/loup garou/werewolf/bigfoot thing is killed.  Decades later, his widow vows to destroy the bloodlines of her husband's murderers.Her granddaughter Janette, wanting to get to the bottom of the family curse, recruits a burned out special forces vet Pat Strange to help her.

Pat Strange is not a racist.
Pat was not a racist; he did not hate men for the color of their skin.
As usual with statements like these, we're immediately given evidence to the contrary.
He also tried to understand the passions of black Africans - those with some degree of intelligence - to govern themselves.
Pat is the "God's Warrior" of this book, and he comes to a town where folks have gotten unfriendly and stopped going to church.  Some people "just know" things, there's a proxy war between God and Satan with rules nobody follows anyway, arbitrary timelines.

All the usual Devil series trappings, and less.  Aside from a couple of ritual killings, there's nothing resembling a horror novel for most of the book.  People talking, and talking about what they talked about, and talking about that.  Much of it in Cajun dialect, which read more Jamaican in my head.

Pat and the local Sheriff gather up the surviving descendants of the 1934 killing, but I can't be bothered to keep track of a bunch of new characters introduced this late who don't do anything.

After all the talk and rules and blah blah blah, Pat just storms the house and shotguns the hell out of everything.  Walking dead, werewolves, even the witch go down pretty quick.  Pretty good scene, with slipping around in looping intestines and heads flying off shoulders, but it doesn't make up for pages of "I naw tum ting bou ragaru, a ight?"

Epilogue:  Wisecracking Satan has long sarcastic conversations with Pat about sports and holds him in suspended animation for five years.  Pat decides to dedicate his life to stopping Satan's plans.  After pages and pages of talking about his luggage and getting new clothes.

Both the dullest and most poorly written of the Johnstone books I've read so far.  His sentence constructs seemed a bit off, and despite pulling out all the stops at the end, not much going on.  There are a couple of the most disturbing sequences, with an ancient witch raping me as part of ritual murder.  You don't run into the phrase "leathery labia" too much in horror fiction.

Available for Kindle from Amazon.

Click here to read a sample.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Trash Menace Gallery

Blood Moon by Mason Burgess
Blood Moon by Mason Burgess




Bounty Hunter #3: The Wild Ride by Tiny Boyles and Hank Nuwer




Ninja Master 3: Borderland of Hell by Wade Barker



More than you can handle over on tumblr.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Jack-in-the-Box by William Johnstone

Jack-in-the-Box
by William Johnstone
1986, Zebra Books


Jack-In-The-Box centers around nine-year-old Nora and is part Omen knock off (666 birthmark, ability to cause accidents around her), part Exorcist rip-off (she does the owl imitation three times and spits out slime twice), and all Johnstone.

Nora's father Phillip and brother Phil mistrust young Nora, but her mother Jeanne protects her, though she has secrets of her own.  Phillip is compelled to buy Nora an evil Jack-in-the-Box which plays the funeral march and has human teeth.  Like the rockinghorse in Rockinghorse, it doesn't do much more than show up on the cover.

The box was used by a Nazi officer in the concentration camp, though it's evil is more satanic than Naziish.  Phillip learns that his daughter is either possessed or born pure evil, and works with a child psychologist and priest to try an exorcise her.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Blackpool Pleasure Beach - Valhalla

It's probably unfair to constantly accuse other theme parks of ripping off Disney.  I'm sure there were a lot of Nordic themed flume rides with a backwards section before Maelstrom.  Again, I probably prefer this one.  Hard to see most of the ride in the video, but there's much more of a sense of water than Maelstrom - aside from the oil rig scene, you hardly felt like you were in a boat.  And 100% less Olaf.


Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Rockinghorse

Rockinghorse
by William W. Johnstone
Zebra, 1986



"Some little voice tells me my formerly liberal husband has now changed into a hardline conservative"

A New York lawyer and his family spend the summer in the mysterious Georgia plantation mansion he has inherited.  We've got a creepy caretaker, strange going ons in the woods, and a creepy wooden rockinghorse.  There's only one road in and out of town, the townsfolk have been acting strangely, and there's word of devil worshiping and, yeah, this is starting to look more like another Devil series installment.

This is what happens when you don't plot things - your haunted house story starts becoming like every other book you write.  The lawyer gets knocked unconscious and tattooed with a rockinghorse.  The family gets attacked and the daughter almost raped.  But, hey, we've got the whole summer, let's stick around and see what happens.

There's some kind of coven nearby, some bigfoot creatures called Rejects, and ghost children.  How are we going to tie all this together?  How about a siege by Satanic cultists?  But first, let's add twenty more characters.

The coven turn out to be friendly college professors.  A state trooper with his psychic wife join up, and for good measure let's have two entire families come to visit.  An international devil cult called the Brotherhood are interested in the house.  They want to perform a ceremony with the lawyer and the psychic and they needed other people to be there - not too well spelled out.  Luckily we have a psychic lady, and now all the kids are psychic, so they just "know" stuff.  My favorite Johnstone device.

There's like fifty people in the house now - I thought Johnstone was stocking the plot with victims, but I think only like one dies.  I suspect the real purpose is so he could have people explain the same things to each other to fill word count.  It's like this old chestnut...


...except instead of saying "Doctor", there's two pages of a character not believing a supernatural phenomena and gradually coming to accept it.

Just when the book had me skimming through page upon page of the same Rockinghorse being chopped up and burned for the fourth time, the Brotherhood attacks!  Dozens of cultist set up a perimeter and start torturing off-page - sorry, sodomy fans, only one off-page sodomy this time around, just barely enough to fill Johnstone's sodomy quota.

To even the score, God disables electricity and firearms.  Combustion engines still work, include CHAINSAWS BABY!  The lawyer spins one around like he's in a Peter Jackson movie and makes everything worthwhile.

Johnstone then proceeds to piss this goodwill down his leg and completely ruins the pace by having a lengthy sequence of the State Police divining that something is going down at the mansion because some officers have called in sick.  The cops find all the residents in the town asleep and their weapons useless, but just to make sure they try firing them about a dozen times.  This unnecessary insertion of a couple extra cops at the end is repeated later in Sweet Dreams.

The twelve year old that the text has been perving on the whole book gets raped and then forgives the floating corpse of the rapist.  This causes the rockinghorse to hide in the attic and the remaining Brotherhood members to run into the woods to be slaughtered by bigfeet off-page.  The kids set fire to the house, which for some reason they couldn't do before, the end.

Well,almost the end.  A couple more chapters of the Governor and State Police scratching their heads and comically being befuddled.  But it was all worth it for the CHAINSAW!

Available in Kindle from Amazon.

Click here for a sample.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Blackpool Pleasure Beach - Alice's Wonderland

Same layout as the Disney one, but I like this one better, as the design seems based more on the original book illustrations.  The soundtrack, weirdly, seems to be Golden Ticket from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, which does sound a bit like Painting the Roses Red.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Blackpool Pleasure Beach - The New, Branded Stuff

Blackpool follows the international trend of taking the kiddie-ride area and randomly assigning branded names from whoever they have a licensing agreement with, in this case Nickelodeon.  The only one of worth is Dora, because it's a boat ride.




There's also a Wallace and Gromit dark ride - never could get into them


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Sweet Dreams by William W. Johnstone

Sweet Dreams
by William W. Johnstone
1985 Zebra



Alright, strap yourself in.

Our jumping off point is the phenomena of ghostly lights seen around Missouri.  I don't know if this is specifically the Missouri Headlights, I mean, Spook Lights -



There's also an archaeological dig at an Indian burial site.  A Manitou, or Indian spirit thingee, uses the light to travel in and rape women.  He rapes a doctor's wife and explodes her head with electricity, but it's ok because she was an evil harpy because she didn't like that he was cheating on her with his secretary.  Dames.

Said doctor performs an autopsy on his own wife then sleeps with his new psychiatrist girlfriend the same night.  This is our hero.  The two doctors befriend a couple of little kids who are special.  Special how?  Maybe we'll find out later, if Johnstone remembers (he doesn't).

We move into the Devil series template here.  The town is isolated, with people getting amnesia if they cross the border in either direction.  The townspeople inclined towards evil get superevil and work for the Manitou.  Of course, this includes all the teenagers.  A handful (the kids, the doctors, a preacher, and a couple of cops) stay normal.  Everyone else becomes a zoned out zombie, shuffling through a semblance of normal life.

The kids' parents have incestuous orgies while they're trying to sleep and the kids' toys come to life and start banging each other.  What's going on?  Luckily, there's a magic Indian man to explain everything.  And, yes, he's a drunk.

The Manitou is very dangerous and can't be stopped by Western Jesus magic.  Only another Manitou can stop it, or maybe the kids, or the medicine man's magic, or maybe he can't be stopped, but definitely not by anything God can do.

So, something something about being between two worlds.  We have to go to the haunted house!  The drunks, kids, doctors, and cops force their way through a storm to get to the haunted house.  The woman cop gets blown away by the wind, raped some, then teleports back to the house with a sore tush.

Yeah, the raping.  There's a lot of rape in this book.  Like, twenty or something.  Every character's backstory involves rape.  Child rape, monster rape, ghost rape, all the rape is in this book.  Never seen so many anuses get "bulled" into.

So the group gets to the haunted house and hit a time warp to 1890.  Their clothes change to old timey clothes, but they're invisible spirits so it doesn't matter, and they run into the evil man that lived there in 1890 who is also a ghost at the same time.  He rapes a bunch of kids.

They befriend a ghost dog and the Manitou starts confronting everyone with illusions of their darkest fears.  The evil man that is also a ghost says he works for Satan, who might be teaming up with the Manitou, but let's not go anywhere with that.  The cops fight a living wall of human flesh with pointy sticks.

We're three fourths of the way through, so let's introduce a bunch of new characters.  Some cops figure out how to get into town and keep their memories.  They team up with a priest and go to the haunted house.

There's a running subplot about a teacher (yes, she gets raped) who get's possessed by the Manitou, wears Indian clothes, and skins men alive.  The skinned men still live and she joins the evil rapey people on a raid on the haunted house.

The rapey people get shot, and the skinned people melt under holy water and crosses, because that works now.  That thing about Jesus magic not working?  Never mind, it works fine.  God just opens up an earthquake, the Manitou falls in, the end.

But wait...EPILOGUE !!!

The Manitou crawls out of the ground into a lake a couple days later.  So much for Jesus magic.  Only a few pages left, can we squeeze in a couple more rapes?  Because the Manitou babies grow fast, and in one year they'll be full grown and the Manitou will strike again.

How are the kids doing?  They're apprehensive, because they've got the feeling that in one year this will all happen again.

Johnstone was nice enough to even list all of his own plot holes and lost threads there at the end:

  • The kids were supposed to be special, didn't do anything.
  • The magic Indian was supposed to be special, all he did was give wrong information and die somehow.
  • The spook lights got forgotten.
  • So much was made about God not being in the same world as the Manitou, yet this couldn't be more of a deux es machina if it got wheeled down on ropes.
  • None of what anyone did mattered.  God could have zapped the Manitou whenever he wanted and saved the town a lot of rape.

But don't worry, all these loose threads will be tied up in one year in the sequel that Johnstone is shamelessly plugging that never happened.

There were no dreams, sweet or otherwise.

The Kindle edition was done by the Lyrical Press imprint of Kensington Books, an ostensibly real publishing company.  They evidently had an intern just scan in a paperback, complete with OCR errors and the original back matter.  I just sent Zebra my 50 cents for their catalog.