Friday, January 31, 2014

Monster Plantation

I have a very vivid memory of seeing pictures in a kid's magazine of a monster themed boat ride while I was in turn visiting a Gravity House.  Every few years I remember it and get bugged by trying to find it.  Thanks to Laff in the Dark I think I've finally found it: Monster Plantation at Six Flags Georgia.

It was revamped in 2009 with "4-D" effects, which probably means squirting water, and the name was changed to Monster Mansion.  I don't know what could have happened in Georgia to give plantations such a bad reputation.

Now if only I could find out what Gravity House I was at.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Crime Minister

Crime Minister 
Crime Minister 1 
by Ian Barclay (George Ryan) 
1984 Warner Books

You know that guy in junior high that wore a child sized camo jacket that he swore was his dad's who died in Nam, the one that kept talking about his uncle in Special Forces and got in trouble for bringing ninja stars to school? Maybe not, I had like five of them in my school, but anyway, the Crime Minister is the story of that guy's life turning out the way he dreamed while abusing himself to Soldier of Fortune magazines.

Richard Woodgate aka Richard Dartley is the world's greatest assassin. But first, refrigerators. Specifically, how it's hard to order just the right one overseas. Four pages of this. Strap yourself in, because this is the roller coaster pace that we'll be travelling over the next 395 pages.

After their last assassin finally ends up in said fridge, some former Nazi war criminals, now industrialists, hire Dartley to kill a Turkish gangster responsible for one of their wives getting hooked on heroin. One of the industrialists is having an affair with his secretary, secretly a Russian spy.

Dartley has a cunning plan. The first step is to custom build a very expensive and very easily traced armored limousine. Next, Dartley needs a body double corpse dressed in a chauffeur's outfit. Only one place to go for that. Off to the gay bar


I'm not sure it's just the padded pace of the novel that gives us the lurid S&M gay bar scene, but it covers all the fetishes both academically and with an obvious fascination. We get a good four pages describing the history, biology, and social context of fisting. Dartley finds his double, gets him dressed up, and since he's a professional he doesn't mind doing a little heavy petting before poisoning him. It's not gay if you murder him afterwards.

Now that he has his dead doppelganger, Dartley saws through the guardrails of a bridge. And if you're worried that I'm zipping through this without giving proper context, don't worry. Buy the book and read the three pages of the bridge's history and constructions.

Dartley picks up the Turkish gang lord and his bodyguards after several obnoxious annoyances and manages to drive the limo, which is specially designed to hold the passengers captive and the dead rough trade in a hidden compartment, off the bridge and into the river.

But won't the police know that the chauffeur had been dead for a while before hitting the water, and question why the limo is designed as an obvious death trap? Well, Dartley figures the police won't mourn the loss of a major crime figure and won't investigate thoroughly. So why the trouble and expense and man-kissing?

Here lies the problem and fascination with the Crime Minister. The novel reads like it was passed back and forth between two authors, each thinking the other one is a jerk. One Richard Dartley is a nuanced character that plays with the expectations in the genre of the invincible, infallible, principled hero while showing the reality of an insecure, incompetent, immoral coward. Or the author was trying for a straight forward right wing fantasy piece and started his midlife crisis in the rewrites.

In some scenes Dartley is totally James Bond all up in here, moving three steps in front of his enemies and having all the angles covered. In others, he's ragingly incompetent and a nervous wreck. Dartley got into the assassination game as a matter of high principle, only accepting targets that are either criminals or communists. Or gay or black, as it turns out. One of his early contracts was targeted because he wrote a tell-all biography of Joseph McCarthy. His conscience almost bothered him until he found out the author was also gay, at which point he could fire away.

And the racism. In another flashback, his first target was an African politician who was targeted for the crime of daring to be African while at an American university. To get close to his target, Dartley goes undercover, and by undercover I mean in black face. It's even written as a ridiculous scheme, but it works anyway.

There's another weird scene where some black teenagers are breaking into cars in a lot, only to trigger one of Dartley's anti-theft devices. The narrator shifts into various perspectives, including a security guard that naively assumes that the thieves are clean cut citizens and to be suspicious of them would be nothing less than racist. Yes, the infamously liberal security guards of the 1980s. Anyway, a kid gets his fingers cut off, and they're described as looking like dog turds hitting the ground. On account of them both being brown, I suppose. One could write that off as the narrator following the racist perspective of Dartley, only Dartley wasn't around at the time.

A thin, rambling plot, almost no action, and way too long. The only thing going for it is the weird gay panic issues Dartley and/or Barclay were going through. Dartley dresses up as a preacher briefly, but otherwise there is no Crime Minister.

Thursday, January 23, 2014


by Berton Roueche
Avon 1974

A couple abandon a cat when they move.  They are bothered by feral cats.  The cats kill a cop.  A posse shoots all of the cats.

Pad that out to 124 pages with polite conversation with neighbors and calling local government agencies, and you have Berton Roueche's Feral.

The prose was so basic and childlike, in a "See Dick Run" kind of way, that I had to check if it was originally written in a foreign language and translated by first year students.
"Then the cats were on him.  They were all over him."
The above is from the thrilling murder of a policeman by a horde of cats.  The only human death on page in the entire book.  There were some other killings mentioned off hand, and some loose threads about the cats being unnaturally big or infected with horrible diseases, but they weren't picked up on.  The back cover copy heavily implies that the cats are eating people, but there's not really any of that in the story.

What I thought was the climax ended up being an epilogue, with a cheap stinger at the end of a trash can being knocked over, because, sweet heaven, there might still be a cat in the world!

Still, I would love to see a movie of this.  I could watch people shotgun cats all day.
"They're horrible and repulsive.  I mean, they aren't Sneakers.  They were never Sneakers.  They couldn't be Sneakers - they're evil."


by Andrew Sugar
Lancer Books 1973

"The contract's out from the Mafia masters - get the Enforcer!  Before he gets us!"
"You're a Dead Man, Jason!
Death is rotting your guts, tearing you apart with pain.  It's all over; there's nothing left but the funeral, and they're measuring you for the coffin now.  But we can save you, Jason - we can give you a new body, a new face, a new name.  You don't have to die - not yet.  Maybe never.  All you have to do is say the word and we'll fix all the things that are going wrong with your body, with your life, with your world.  We want you, Jason.  We need you - and we're going to own you!  you belong to us, Jason - you're our ENFORCER"

Alexander Graham Bell Jason is an author and journalist dying of cancer, but he is given a chance at a new life by a mysterious representative of the John Anryn Institute.  John Anryn was a billionaire chemist who favored "constructive selfishness" over corruption and altruism.

The John Aynrand Institute opposes an international cartel of organized crime figures more vast and generic than the mafia.  These criminals unfairly influence and control the political process.  They fight these shadowy power brokers by operating in the shadows and assassinating people they don't like.

There are hints that the Institute, nicknamed Big John, may not be as benevolent as it barely pretends to be.  Either later books show them up to be less than above board, or the author has the same lack of self awareness as Big John.

Big John has a vast horde of advanced technology, which it uses to advance it's own purposes rather than, say, benefit society or even make a buck off of.  This introduces the half-assed science fiction element of the series.

The Enforcer randomly throws out half-baked inventions that not only are implausible, but have no impact on the course of the story.  There's a laser gun with infinite range that can't miss and can destroy large structures with a single shot, yet it's only used at point blank range as effectively as a pistol.  There's a perfect pain-killer that has no addictive properties, which for some reason isn't used to make a billion dollars while revolutionizing medicine and end the suffering of millions.

This is even true of the main gimmick.  Big John is able to transfer a person's consciousness to new clone bodies.  The clones last about 90 days, and the process only works for two years before..never mind, they fix that half way through the book.  I guess they wanted to avoid any dramatic tension later on.

I'm sure a secret agent of a shadowy organization could use this body hopping gimmick in all kinds of clever and exciting ways, and maybe AT&T Jason will do just that in a later volume, because he doesn't get much use out of his one body in this volume aside from turning Hispanic.

Jason is recruited to plan assassinations for Big John, using his skills as a writer, so of course his first assignment is to blow up an oil well with a laser gun.

Given that the laser gun has infinite range and can't miss, you'd think literally anybody could handle this mission from literally anywhere, but Jason is sent into the South American island of Punta de Flecha to meet up with rebel forces there.  A mission he immediately bullocks up and gets captured.

Jason is tortured for days and weeks by the gay Captain Julio O'Brien, which takes up a big chunk of the book until his exciting and daring escape.  And by that I mean until his useless ass is rescued.

We're 3/4ths of the way through the book and Verizon Jason has yet to accomplish jack.  His rescuers take him to a rebel camp where they learn about experiments being done on the natives which turn them half plant life.  Not in a cool way, with venus flytrap heads and spit, just a doctor saying "She's half plant".

A young girl has escaped from the fortified lab, but the experiments have turned her into a mindless half vegetable girl.  In a daring gambit, Jason takes the girl back to the lab, pretends to be in the same military, and talks his way inside.  There he finds an antidote and saves the girls life.

Sorry, I did it again.  He totally gets her killed, but not before making this observation:

"His eyes followed her finger to Lucilla's bare backside as it bobbed up and down while she kept pace with the marchers and he felt his insides tighten.  Staring at the thin buttocks, Jason realized that they would never fill in normally so that old man [sic] would want to pinch them and young boys would want to chase them.  The anger of the injustice grew inside him and Jason didn't attempt to extinguish it."

Yeah.  That's the real injustice.  That the bare ass of the child you're not bothering to clothe and about to get killed won't be suitable for leering.  Except by our hero, of course.

Did I mention there's a lot of sex?  There's a lot of sex.  More sex than action, but no more plausible.  Most of the sex is with a fellow Big John recruit, who was a virgin in two bodies.  Sure.  Lots of mature, nuanced eroticism, such as: "Damn it, I wish you had another c*** so I could suck it while you f***ed me!"

Anyway, Jason actually does something about twenty pages from the end and manages to sneak his team into the laboratory and gets the head scientist compliant by threatening him with a spider.  They escape the lab, only to be double crossed by the violent, insane, racist redneck on the Big John team.  With Jason's latent psychic powers, you'd think he'd see that coming.

Oh, did I forget he has some kind of psychic powers?  So did the author, aside from a couple of obvious hunches he shoe-horned in.

Jason is useless even in the big showdown, in which the redneck gets himself killed before Jason is rescued once again.

Butcher 02 - Come Watch Him Die

Come Watch Him Die
Butcher 02
by Stuart Jason (James Dockery)
Pinnacle Books 1971

from Spy Guys and Gals

"While a lethal but beautiful blonde stalks Bucher, he must find - and stop - a crazed chemist turned killer!"
"Once again Bucher is on the line...caught in a cross fire between his Mafia Masters and the undercover agents he now serves.  Butcher is wearing of trusting no one.  He allows himself to succumb to the softness of a woman - a devastating dame who plays the deadliest game in town."

The Butcher was the first series to capitalize on the success of the Executioner, and it's good to see an example of the genre before the style got fossilized.  And one thing the Butcher series has is style.

The Butcher is Bucher, a mafia hitman who quit and is now working for the mysterious government organization White Hat.  The Butcher is investigating a Nazi scientist's plot to replace politicians with exact doubles for the Mafia, while he is being stalked by mob killers looking to collect on a $1,000,000 bounty and a prostitute who believes only a man as manly as the Butcher can give her an orgasm.

Not much plot wise - the Butcher goes to a place, somebody tries to kill him, he kills them, he goes to the next place.  The situations are definitely quirkier than the Executioner - you won't see Mack Bolan fighting giant snakes.

The text is very stylized, often to the point of annoyance.  The Butcher shoots the gun out of someone's hand Saturday matinee cowboy style, and the narrator spends the next several pages in a cartoon drawl.  The gangsters all speak in a weird patois of Jersey tough guy, hippie, and beatnik, with "a-roonie" suffixing half the dialogue.  But it's all worth it for gems of pure nastiness like this:

"Blow-John made his hits with a blowtorch when practible; said he liked to hear 'em scream because it shushed a funny noise inside his head.  Snyder Key preferred a carpenter's ordinary brace and wood bit to bore angled holes in the helplessly bound mark's skull, pack the holes with cotton soaked in cigarette lighter fluid and fire up, listening to the hillbilly music of Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs and masturbating till the mark's brains boiled and popped his skull."

I think I'll be reading more of the Butcher.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Edge 24 - Slaughterday

Edge 24
by George G. Gilman (Terry Harknett)
Pinnacle 1977

Edge wanders into a town in the middle of a political struggle.  One side is the son of a shady land baron who previously ran the town, the other a newcomer who hires mercenaries as deputies and promises to sell the land to the townspeople.  With murky motivation, Edge settles in a hotel and shoots anyone that pisses him off.

Edge aligns himself with a black hotel owner, and the two discover that the prior landowner has paid of some vicious drunk Sioux Indians as muscle.  Everyone quickly figures out this is a bad idea, and all parties band together to face an invasion.

Some gruesome Indian torture and almost a full page description of the effects of a double barreled shotgun against a human torso.  This is my first Edge book, and I was less than impressed by the reputed humor of the character, consisting mostly of wry anachronistic puns.

Apache 3 - Duel to the Death

Duel to the Death
Apache 3
by William M. James
Pinnacle 1975

Cuchillo is picked up for a murder another Apache commits.  He escapes to clear his name, murdering several people in the process, which kind of negates the point.

Not a lot of action, but I felt like I was on the Warren Commission, with the trajectory of every arrow or bullet described in gruesome detail.

We get the same meticulous descriptions of a burst set of testes and the effect a shotgun blast to the gut has on a hanging lynch victim.

TNT 5 - Killer Angel

Killer Angel
by Doug Masters
Charter Books 1986

Anthony Nicholas Twin is an Irish photographer that gains mild superhuman powers after being hit by an atomic bond, increasing his senses, speed, and endurance.  He's blackmailed into doing intelligence work by a gay germaphobe Arnold Benedict while he tries to care for his mentally disabled daughter October.

In this installment, Twin's plane makes an emergency landing in Albania, while coincidentally Benedict is there to wheel a deal.  The Albanian president's femme fatale wife is training political dissidents for the Olympics, using a mad scientist with robotic legs and his experiments in drugs and mind control to create super athletes.

Twin is forced to compete in games patterned after the labors of Hercules, and later has to escape from an elaborate underground complex.

A lesser entry in the series, not quite as over the top of the others I've read.  A more detailed and better look at Glorious Trash.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Punk Rock

Punk Rock
by Richard Allen (James Moffat)
New English Library 1977

punk rock richard allen

James Moffat, as Richard Allen, wrote a quickie exploitation novel about British skinheads.  It became a surprise hit, so there were a billion sequels, as well as books covering other subcultures of the day.  I've read a couple and they're horrible, ill informed, and too restrained for proper exploitation.

In Punk Rock, Allen/Moffat avoids the problem of knowing jack-all about punks by mostly avoiding them, focusing on a journalist working halfheartedly on a piece about the scene.

The journalist spends most of the time shagging the daughter of his future employer, and the rest of the slim book is about an indie music magazine being bought out and reorganized.  Thrilling stuff.

There's a titch about punks.  One is a spoiled rich rock star, and others fake their safety pin piercings.  The most sordid it gets involves a punk star sleeping with a married maid.  Shocking, I know.

Unrelated to the rest of the plot, we get a couple of brief vignettes of Teds beating up punks, but those threaten to get too interesting, so not much focus there.

More at Vault of Evil

Epcot VIP Lounges - The Land

Pavilion: The Land
Sponsor: Kraft 1982-1992, Nestle 1993-2009, currently sponsorless
Features: lots of windows
Entrance: via the main elevator, to the third floor.  There's evidently a trick to getting the elevator to open without a pass or key or whatever.
As seen from outside: The windows can be seen at the top level inside the mall, I mean pavilion, above the Good Turn restaraunt.  Also from the Listen to the Land ride during the rainforest and farmhouse sequences.

Occasionally open as a passholder lounge.  Currently used for training classes and employee break room.  Here's a video of someone sneaking around:

And someone else sneaking around:

More at Dark Side of Disney.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Blood Oath

Blood Oath
by William W. Johnstone
1999 Pinnacle

In 1973, a secret clique of rich kids gang rape and accidentally kill a thirteen year old girl, then attack her brother and leave him for dead.

Twenty six years later someone is raping and killing the children of the clique.  The crime is investigated by a Sheriff's deputy, a Johnstone standby, who doesn't so much investigate as has hunches and fails to do much to protect the obvious future victims until the killer is revealed.

There's a twist that's ridiculous even for Johnstone that pretty much no reader will swallow, and some not especially graphic sleaziness.  A lesser effort.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Ashes 01 - Out of the Ashes

Out of the Ashes
William W. Johnstone
Ashes 01
1983 Pinnacle


Out of the Ashes is about 2% post-apocalyptic men's adventure and 98% half-baked political utopian babbling.

A secret army of rogue elements of the US military start a war between China and Russia.  These are the good guys, the ones that kill billions of people.  Ends up that they were somehow having their strings pulled by presidential candidate Logan Hilton, who is for some reason the bad guy for doing the same thing.

Most of America is wiped out by nuclear and germ warfare.  Veteran and genre fiction writer Ben Raines, an obvious stand-in for Johnstone, proceeds to travel around the country interviewing survivors to preserve the oral history of the nation.  But mostly, he bangs liberal college girls less than half his age when he isn't patronizing them.

He occasionally stops to toss a grenade at redneck militias, but there's a lot more sex than violence in the first part of the book, and way more Andy Rooney-ing.  For a character that came of age in the 60s, Raines comes across a bitter old man, whining about rock music, the IRS, the FCC, and other trivialities that one would think would be overshadowed by having some 90% of the worlds population killed off.

There is a smattering of action as Raines butts heads with KKK and neo-nazi groups, but these are just introduced so that Raines' normal level of 80s conservative racism seem acceptable in comparison.  Raines is no bigot after all.  He recognizes that not all black people spend their welfare money on defense lawyers so they can stay out of prison while raping white women, only a sizable percentage.  Some are decent, well educated, and don't listen to black music (known in the US as "music").  Well, one is.  And some of the mixed race women are actually attractive enough to sleep with, provided they don't look or act black.  This is going to have to pass for open mindedness here.

Back to the plot, eventually, and President Logan Hilton is trying to rebuild the country, forcing people to relocate and taking their guns.  The deep south becomes New Africa, the KKK run portions of the midwest, and Raines heads off to start the tri-state empire of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming with the Rebels.  You know, the ones that killed off most of the planet.

At this point we hit the fast forward button.  Logan unites the rest of the country by force, a neat trick since the entire military hates him.  Raines is the governor of the Tri States, and it's six years later.  We're treated to a tour of his utopia as presented to that most hated enemy - the liberal media!

Like Hilton, Raines relocated the populace.  The difference between them is guns.

In the Tri States, Raines is Governor for life, the final arbitrator of all rules, proceeds over every trial, and controls every aspect of everyone's life.  This is not a dictatorship, because he was elected Governor for life, running unopposed.  I'm not sure Johnstone knows what a dictatorship is.

The state controls all industry, assigns work roles, sets wages, re-educates dissenting citizens and takes away their children, controls the press, and enforces conformity in thought and action.  This is not communism because guns.  I'm not sure Johnstone knows what communism is.  Or irony or self-awareness for that matter.

We're treated to probably a good hundred pages of armed guards bullying and smugly bragging about how great their utopia is.  Here we finally get to the meat of how this Utopia works: only good people live there, and the laws are perfectly written out the first time so that there's no grey areas.  Total rule by law, except that all laws are interpreted by one Carl Raines.

For the sake of sanity I skimmed through this part, then Johnstone personally throws me a bone and has the US forces wipe out almost every smug man, woman, and child of the Tri States.  Raine's unborn child is bayoneted in the womb and blown apart by a full clip of rifle fire, but someone was kind enough to put the pieces together and wipe them off to let him know he had Raines' eyes.

Raines and a few survivors spread rabies and anthrax through the Tri States in a scorched earth strategy that ensures that even their old and injured end up dead.  So the Tri States end up a practical, as well as moral, failure.

The survivors infiltrate the rest of the US and assassinate most of the US Congress and any bystanders that happen to be in the way, the end.

I know I have to put up with a little political soapboxing with these things, but Out of the Ashes is almost 500 pages of naive drivel, with maybe twenty devoted to action.  More baffling, there's like 34 more volumes in the series over the next twenty years.

Thursday, January 9, 2014


John Russo
1980 Pocket Books

The children of satan worshipers grow up and kidnap victims to use in a ceremonial sacrifice.  It was relatively tame in terms of horror or exploitation, but it has a slimy film of sleaze and nihilism that appeals to me.  The book rambled about following various characters, often waiting several chapters before they entered the main narrative.  These sections were engaging enough character studies, but I can see how it may strike some readers as padding, especially for a book with this low of a body count.

Written by the co-creator of the Night of the Living Dead, Russo directed the film version a couple years later.

One gripe is that the book brings up the Holocaust in a couple of places, to compare it with the horrors the characters are going through.  It doesn't make the book any scarier or give it any gravitas, and just makes Russo a bit of a jerk for bringing it up.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Bounty Hunter 1: The Deadliest Profession

The Bounty Hunter 1: The Deadliest Profession
by Tiny Boyles and Hank Nuwer
1981 Playboy Paperbacks

"He's part grizzly, part mountain lion - and all _mean_"

"He's like a bounty hunter from the old, wild west...
And he's hell on goddamn wheels.  He's 6'6", weighs 389 pounds and favors machine guns, magnums and big buck knives.  That 12 gauge looks kind of like a Tonka toy dangling in his huge hairy paw.  So if you want to jump bail, be our guest.  He'll cross seven state lines, then drag you back every inch of the way.  Then it's bail or jail and there's nothing you can do.  Only now he's met his match.  He's sworn to bring back Satan Himself: A mass-murdering sexual psychopath hiding down in Mexico with a fanatical band of killers and a bevy of beautiful but deadly women who will do anything for him.  If he asks them nicely, that is."

I was prepared to dislike the real Tiny Boyles for reasons I might go into later, but Nuwer starts him off as being a criminal sack of fertilizer from the get go, and makes him charming enough to get away with it.

Nominally based on a real bounty hunter, The Deadliest Profession has Tiny Boyles hired to wipe out a Mormon splinter cult.  He recruits several of his friends, arms up a Winnebago, and drives out into the desert.  Before you know it, they're mowing down fleeing women, shooting them in the backs with machine guns.

The book is kept aloft by the witty banter, which actually works, rather than the clumsy action sequences.

Victim City Stories - Premiere Issue Now Available

Available exclusively at Amazon in Kindle format.  Download the free Kindle reader for PC or phone.

Earworm - Sisters and Brothers

From 1974's Free to Be You and Me.  This version's better than the album cut.  You might recognize June Angela from Electric Company's Short Circus.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Cat's Cradle

Cat's Cradle
by William W. Johnstone
Zebra, 1986

Anya and Pet are a little girl and cat that were created by a Egyptian cult thousands of years ago.  Every 25 years they awake, eat a few people, then go back into hibernation.  A mining crew disturbs their hiding place, so when they are attacked they become mummies.  And the mummies attack other people and they become rapist mummies.  And the woman the mummy rapes come back to life and, well, Johnstone kind of loses track at this point.

A severed mummy arm at first starts sprouting a new body, then instead spits out flesh eating maggots that fill an entire room.  Cats start attacking people en masse, and demonic Old Ones crawl out of bleeding gashes in the ground and set people on fire with their eyes.

That's the good stuff.  The blah stuff is Sheriff Dan, the Johnstonian hero.  His children obedient, his wife strong but knows when a woman should shut up.  He spends half of his time complaining that the federal government is lying and covering things up, and the other half lying to the press and covering things up.

Most of the wordage is Dan and his crew dealing with multiple government agencies that involve the FBI, CIA, KGB, corporations, and religious groups.  He also is harassed by a liberal muckraking reporter that doesn't trust the government.  You'd think she'd make an interesting ally, but she's shut away in a cell and mostly forgotten about.