Thursday, December 29, 2016

Operator #5 20 Scourge of the Invisible Death

Scourge of the Invisible Death
Operator #5 20
by Frederick C. Davis as Curtis Steele

The bad guys: An underground Loyalist secret society descended from British intelligence efforts during the Revolutionary War.

The weapon: The Death Star!  A different one.  Not really a specific star, more like cosmic rays.  The Loyalists can create temporary holes in the ozone layer that allow cosmic radiation to beam down in a death ray.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Maddening/Playmates by Andrew Neiderman

The Maddening
by Andrew Neiderman
Originally as Playmates 1987 Berkley Books

A cliche wrapped in padding.  A woman's car breaks down and she's forced to take refuge at a creepy house with her daughter - a premise so hokey it was the stuff of parodies from at least the 1930s.

The house is occupied by a woman insane with grief over her lost child, her sociopathic husband, and their intellectually disabled daughter.  Usually these things build up, but we're in a hurry, so we go straight to locked rooms and chains around the ankles.

The missing woman's husband looks for her and does a better job than the cops until he finds the farmhouse and gets tossed down a well.  He spends several chapters crawling his way back up while the two girls play and the farmer rapes the mother.

Dad crawls out of the well and attempts a rescue, with a local cop swooping in to save the day at the last minute.  An uneventful epilogue, the end.

I was shocked to find this came out like a month before Stephen King's Misery, as this is a pale shadow of it.  No suspense, no tension, just pages and pages of back story and repetition.  There's an entire half chapter of the cop recapping the investigation to his wife.  The text was so repetitive I wasn't sure if I swiped the right direction on my tablet - you can flip a handful of pages and it's still the same thought.

I don't find myself yelling at characters in books for being stupid, but everything here depends on people making bad choices.  The mother is chained to the leg of her bed - I don't care how heavy it is, it's just a damn bed, you can lift one leg up two inches (which she finally does).  The farmer knows the husband is alive in the well and figures he'll dump some dirt on him later.  Dad stuns the farmer not once but twice and limps away without finishing him off.

The last half alternates between the events at the farmhouse and the local detective poking around the area, with the cop showing up to prevent the husband from having to finish a fight.  The problem - the events at the farmhouse are in the middle of the night and the detective is walking around in the middle of the day.

I stuck it out because the cover deserves it, and because online reviews talk about how creepy and disturbing it is - maybe for Goodreads folks, but not around these parts.  The one nice thing I can say about it is it handled the farmer's backstory well with his history of mental illness and child abuse.  Neiderman wrote Pin and was VC Andrews ghostwriter, so he has some background in creepy family histories.

For a better treatment of the same general premise, try Satan's Daughers or the aforementioned Misery.  This was made into a film with Burt Reynolds and Angie Dickinson, of all people, which from the plot synopsis has about ten time as much "stuff happening" as the book - and if you want to see Stroker Ace raping the girlfriend from Ferris Bueller's Day Off, this is your film.

Available for Kindle from Amazon.

Click here to read and excerpt.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Spider vs The Empire State

The Spider vs The Empire State
by Norvell Page as Grant Stockbridge
Originally from the Spider #60-62

The Spider 60, 9/1938
The City That Paid To Die

The Party of Justice has been elected into power in New York State.  The Black Police, criminals released from prison, patrol the towns, demanding tribute to be paid on the spot.  The Spider, Richard Wentworth, rescues a store owner from extortion, which turns out to be the beginning of a revolution.

From here the story reminds me of both the video game Freedom Fighters and the TV series V.  Wentworth and his growing army attack targets of strategic importance, growing their numbers from freed prisoners.

The Spider 61, 10/1938
The Spider at Bay

More of the same, but with the added peril of germ warfare.  Captured revolutionaries are given diseases to discourage aid from the frightened citizens.

The Spider 62, 11/1938
Scourge of the Black Legions

Wentworth is shot in the lung.  He disperses his large army - I guess Page got tired of that gimmick.  He attempts to infiltrate the Party of Justice with a someon's twin and it just kind of fizzles out.

Available collected in paperback.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Things I Didn't Finish - Chimera by Stephen Gallagher

by Stephen Gallagher
1982 St. Martin's Press

After a looong prelude of a prisoner escaping from Auschwitz, we have the police securing the area around a rural fertility clinic in which all the doctors were massacred (off page).  A reporter, a nurse who was off duty at the time, and a father who lost his embryo come to town, fiddle with getting accommodations, then leave.  Could be a good enough first chapter, but we're 40% through the book.

The book eventually becomes a thriller, so I'm told, something about hiding a monkey boy from the government.  Way too slow so far, and I only started because I was expecting more of a horror novel, which this isn't.

Gallagher has written for British TV and adapted the book for an ITV miniseries, which was then chopped up to make Money Boy,

Available for Kindle from Amazon.

Click here to read a sample.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Slime by John Halkin

by John Halkin
1984 Hamyln

Killer jellyfish attack England.  The story focuses on an actor, the journalist he's having an affair with, and his estranged cheating wife as they're all affected by the jellyfish invasion.  They begin by attack those in the water offshore before starting to move inland, in rivers and ponds, before slowly creeping on land.

The references to water taps refer to a development of jellyfish babies ending up in the drinking water - this wasn't really developed in the book.  The end has some decent thrills during a rescue mission at a besieged hospital.

Not as sleazy as Squelch or Slither; this one had more of a disaster movie feel, albeit with faces getting melted off.

Available for Kindle from Amazon.

Click here for a sample.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Shock Chamber aka Greedy Terror

Shot on camcorder Canadian horror anthology.  So bad that, when I saw this as a kid on Saturday Nightmares, I asked my Dad why they would even bother making it.  He sat me down and gave me the talk about Canadian tax shelters.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Spider 23 - Master of the Death-Madness

Master of the Death-Madness
by Norvell W. Page as Grant Stockbridge
The Spider 23
August 1935

Mass suicides by members of an Anubis death cult, controlled by a drug similar to our own loco weed.  Pretty good scene of a wave of suicides jumping off a bridge, trying to take the Spider down with them.  Nita gets in on the action, donning the Spider's cape and killing a few folk.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Dime Mystery Magazine: James A Goldthwaite Book 1

Dime Mystery Magazine: James A Goldthwaite Book 1
James A Goldthwaite, sometimes writing as Francis James

Some stock weird menace setups, but the execution felt a bit less formulaic than usual.  Lots of throats getting ripped out with bare hands - like snapping celery stalks!

Hands That Kill
A beastly strong womanizer was run out of a small Canadian town ten years ago.  His wife waits for him to return with the dog she's trained to kill him.  Now he's back, claiming to have learned mystical healing powers of the orient.  Someone with his immense strength is committing brutal crimes, starting with ripping the heads off rabbits and lining them up in teacups.  Now, the men that ran the mystic off ten years ago are dying one by one, their throats ripped out with bare hands, one left crucifed as a scarecrow, is face eaten away by birds.

The Devil's Highway
A lumbering, square headed brute is kidnapping people from a small town.  Weeks later they return, feeble minded and covered in whip lash scars.

Satan's Sisterhood
A series of suburban housewives start sleeping separately from their husbands before ending up dead in apparent suicides, their suicide notes forged by their husbands.  Is this connected to the fiend who tears apart neighborhood cats with his bare hands?

Mark of the Laughing Death
Hundreds of citizens find a brand tattooed on their chest before succumbing to Joker venom (four years before the Joker).

My Twin From Hell
A boy spends years in an asylum, driven mad by his father's brutal murder.  Now cured, he takes his girl to the worst resort possible.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Review of Kindle Unlimited

Since Kindle Unlimited began, I'd been keeping track of which titles in my want list were eligible.  When enough stacked up, I gave their 30 day free trial a go.

The good:
  • I tore through probably a good $50 worth of books, so there's definitely good value for money (even if I had paid the $10).
  • I took a lot more risks in my titles, reading or sampling some that I wouldn't have paid good money for.  For the most part, my instincts were right.
  • Some free trials can be tricky.  You could get cut off when you cancel, or they could bill you for the next month way before the trial ends.  KU clearly states the billing date, and if you cancel beforehand you can continue using it up to that date.
The meh:
  • I kept my list of titles in a Want list on the Amazon website.  If you access your Want list from the books tab on Kindle Fire, that version of the list does not give the option to borrow on KU.  You either have to do a separate search again from the books tab or borrow them though another device.
  • It would take upwards of 20 minutes to get my titles loaded on my Kindle Fire.  This is because the Kindle app is horrible.  If you start getting DRM errors, unregister your device and sign back in.  Collections are cloud based now, so you shouldn't lose anything.
  • I've got enough titles left over to justify another month, but just barely.  I can't see paying for this for a whole year.
  • This won't matter to most folks, but you can't pay for KU with gift card funds.  You might be able to use gift card funds to buy a KU Gift Membership for yourself, but those are in six month chunks.
To see if KU is right for you you can do what I did.  Keep track of KU eligible books you want to read in a separate wish list.  You can filter searches on Amazon by clicking "Kindle Unlimited Eligible" on the left sidebar, or add the words "prime eligible" to your search term.  When you have a month's worth of books, sign up for the free trial, and cancel whenever you want.

If you are considering the free trial of KU, consider signing up through my affiliate link to help me save up for a spinner rack.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

The Badge by Jack Webb

The Badge: true and terrifying crime stories that could not be presented on TV, from the creator and star of Dragnet
by Jack Webb
2005 Thunder's Mouth Press

Originally The Badge: The Inside Story of One of America's Great Police Departments; Prentice-Hall 1958

The Badge reads like notes from unpublished Dragnet scripts filled out with LAPD press releases.  The former is great - quick summaries of crime and investigation lasting a couple pages each, the proper length for the genre.  I like True Crime, but even the most complicated cases can be outlined in a few pages.  Instead of endless padding, Webb gives us his square/beat patter.

The latter is dull at best and infuriating at worst.  Webb has always been an LAPD apologist, and it doesn't age too well.  This was written when the LAPD had cleaned up in regards to payoffs and bribery and had to deal with racial profiling and civil rights violations (or refuse to deal with, more often).

James Ellroy wrote an introduction about how he bites Webb's style.  I swear Ellroy has a macro on Word that spits out a full paragraph on his dead mother at a keyboard shortcut - even the wording has become repetitive.

Available on Kindle for Amazon.

Click here to read a sample.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Warbots 8 - Force of Arms by G. Harry Stine

Force of Arms
by G. Harry Stine
Warbots 8
Pinnacle 1990

In the non-apocalyptic, not very different, future, Chinese, Russian, and Japanese troops fight over the availability of prostitutes in a small coastal town.  Enter the Washington Greys, America's elite force of Warbots.

Warbots are - hell, I still don't know.  The term is used to describe all kinds of remote controlled military equipment, from tanks to bird-shaped spy drones.  They are not cyborgs or exoskeletons or mech-suits like the cover copy implies.  Some are mind-controlled remotely, others are controlled in the field with voice commands.  The guy on the cover there I'm assuming is what they call a "jeep", because we weren't confused enough.  They are larger than people but can move through a house, and that's literally all the description we're given.  That is also the only thing the Jeeps do the entire book - walk through a house.  The lavender loincloth does not come into play.

Love the military but hate violence?  Warbots is the series for you, with exactly one on-page death, by shotgun of all things.  Nothing resembling an action sequence until about 300 pages in, and even then everything happens off page.
"Let's split up.  I'll look for the kidnapped reporter.  Hey, look she's right there!"
"The fighting is all over now.  I killed eight people, by the way."
That's the biggest action scene - less than a page, half of which is describing how a warbot could shoot someone, which it doesn't.

There's another off-page action sequence told in the epilogue, which also wraps up a bunch of romantic angles that didn't exist until then.  Then what fills up more than 350 pages?  Logistics, diplomacy, and jargon-laden dialogue that makes ample use of the eight page glossary at the end.

Lots of female soldiers in the future who seem to only exist for off-page sex and a lovely, patronizing scene of them being left out of a mission because too many "ladies" had been killed.  And in the future, the official military terminology for the Chinese appears to be "Chink", with Mongol being an acceptable substitute.

Army Wives in mirrorshades.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Mother's Boys by Bernard Taylor

Mother's Boys
by Bernard Taylor
1988 St. Martin's Press

A man tries to start a new relationship after his divorce.  He has custody of his four kids, and his ex is a bit off.  She's especially close with her two oldest boys, both of whom distrust their potential new stepmother.

Dad is called away during a vacation, leaving his new girlfriend to take care of the kids.  They trick her into tying her to a chair and put on a long, laborious show trial for ruining their parents' marriage.  Sometimes there's a fine line between suspense and tedium.  This was just tedious.  Maybe I don't have the patience for the slow build anymore.  By the time there's any violence I was just happy the book was almost done.

Taylor played the incest card way too early - it might have made a decently creepy reveal near the end, but it's just kind of thrown out there early on and forgotten.

There was evidently a movie with Jamie Lee Curtis that doesn't look very good.

Available from Amazon for Kindle.

Click here to read a sample

New Avengers: Breakout Prose Novel by Alisa Kwitney

New Avengers: Breakout
by Alisa Kwitney
Marvel 2013

New Avengers: Breakout Prose Novel (New Avengers (Hardcover)) by [Kwitney, Alisa]

The Black Widow defects to SHIELD just as there's a breakout on the raft, the super-prison for super-villains.  The Avengers reform (after the events of Avengers Disassembled) to hunt down the escapees, starting with Carl Lykos aka Sauron in the Savage Land.

Most of the novel (as are the comics) is a slog through the jungles of the Savage Land, uncovering a poorly thought out, unrelated plot about a rogue SHIELD unit or something.  That and the budding romance between Hawkeye and Black Widow, with Spider-Woman as a barely participating third side of the triangle.

I've become a bit less tolerant of sexism and sexuality in my superhero comics in my years.  Not being prudish, just not the place for it.  In comics it's at least in the background.  Here, the author makes sure to point out how butts and breasts look in tight fitting outfits.

Turns out, of course, this was written by a woman, and a romance writer to boot.  Explains a lot.  Based on the comments on Amazon, there's evidently a market for romance-focused superhero comics, so more power to them.  If you want some fade-to-black Black Widow on Hawkeye action, this is your scene.

There are some unusual continuity choices with the character's background.  Hawkeye is a SHIELD field agent with no spandex experience.  Black Widow is introduced.  Luke Cage and Captain America are full-on SHIELD agents, to the extent that Cap turns his shield into the armory when not in use.  Spider-Man comes to us straight from his engagement to MJ being broken, which I think happened in the 70s.  This mirrors 616 continuity more than the cinematic universe, but this is clearly Downey Jr.'s Iron Man.  There's enough background in other places to prove Kwitney knows her comics, so I'm assuming these choices are on purpose.

Could be worse - I'm dipping my toe back into reading comics and forgot about Brian Micheal Bendis' David Mamet routine.

Available from Amazon for Kindle.

Click here for a sample.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Dead Bait 2

Dead Bait 2
Severed Press 2011

Dead Bait 2 by [Alten, Steve, Ramsey Campbell, Guy N Smith, Tim Curran, James Robert Smith]

A themed horror series that is both horror and stays on theme!  Be still be bleeding heart.  Not as good as the first installment, or maybe the novelty is wearing thin - I suspect these are leftover submissions from the first series.  I'm impressed that they've managed to spread out the topics and types of fish to avoid too much repetition.

Captain Fontaine and the Man Eater by Raleigh Dugal
A midlife crisis tale of shark fishing.  There's a brief hallucinatory scene with a mermaid or something, so you can take that for Magic Realism if you want, but not really horror.

The Mer-Monkey by Paul A. Freeman
An anthropologist goes looking for Fiji mermaids with a stupid twist that doesn't make sense.

Heavy Weather by Murphy Edwards
A sea Captain promises the biggest catch, for a price.

Lonely After Dark by Tim Curran
A vengeful ghost lurks beneath the ice on Spider Lake.  My favorite of the collection, but there's a lot of leftover potential in ice-fishing horror.

Ferry-Moans by J.M. Harris
A guy fishing in the Amazon kills a native girl who becomes bait.  Starts to play off the whole "women are good at fishing because of pheromones" thing before it just fizzles out.

Raised by the Moon by Ramsey Campbell
A college student's car breaks down in a desolate coastal town.  He finds shelter with an old, miserable couple who deliver him to a horde of sea people.  I've never had much luck with Campbell, and this one I had trouble following some of the prose.  We've come this far without a Dagon reference, and I'm genuinely surprised it didn't come up here.

A Summer on Quiet Island by Cody Goodfellow
Another small town with a dying fishing industry, this time on an inbred island with mostly deaf inhabitants and a lot of creepy juvenile sexuality.

Lost in Time by Steve Alten
Noirish double crosses unearthing a buried pirate treasure and prehistoric fish.

The Fish Thing by Guy N. Smith
Smith doesn't even bother phoning it in - the title is about as creative as this gets.  A man kills his unfaithful Romany lover and throws her in a lake.  He goes back to the lake and she turns into the Fish Thing, the end.

Shiners by Michael Hodges
Man fishes with son, man catches weird looking fish, man gets snatched into the sky by some kind of bat thing.

The Worst Thing Ever by Anthony Wedd
Shark attack, written from the viewpoint of an annoying British teenager.  Some decent gruesomeness.

"The Krang" by James Robert Smith
A mercenary shanghais a one-armed beggar to hunt the Krangin an old-timey fantasy.  Slight horror overtones, but I enjoyed it so I'll forgive going a little off-genre.

Available from Amazon for Kindle.

Click here for an excerpt.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Butcher 32 The Hoodoo Horror by Stuart Jason

The Hoodoo Horror
by Stuart Jason (Michael Avallone)
The Butcher 32
1981 Pinnacle Books

A generic guru Father Pequet goes to the hospital for a heart attack.  The Butcher is sent by White Hat to protect him.  He fakes injury in a car accident to access the hospital where he's involved in a couple of explosions between banging nurses.

Another agent, The Candy Man, helps him escape police questioning and joins the Butcher in finding Pequet after he's discharged from the hospital.  Here we come as close as we're going to get to a plot.  Pequet faked the heart attack, intending to amaze the world with his ability to recover enough to make a speech three days later.  A little weak, as far as miracles go.

Pequet's theology is incredibly vague - part Hindu guru, part Billy Graham.  Pequet admits that he's using the dark power of Hoodoo...

...which is vague bad-guy magic stuff.  Pequet says this power will destroy the military and make him the world's master.  Which is a good enough reason as any for the Butcher to murder everyone.  He does, getting the Candy Man killed in the process.

This is my first reading of an Avallone Butcher, and he continues in the eccentric writing style of the original, only more repetitive and adding Avallone's trademark of having not much happen.  In places it reads like Lionel Fanthorpe doing hardboiled detective, which is not a good thing.  But we end up with lines like:

"Some women's home plates can be like stubbly forests, barbed wire fences, gravel pits - "

Sexy stuff, that.

Available used on Amazon for too much.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Fluttering by David Whitehead

The Fluttering
by David Whitehead (Ben Bridges)

The Fluttering by [Whitehead, David]

Brits are attacked by telepathic bats before having their heads beat in by a hammer.  A scientist and cop get to the bottom of things in a clear Guy N. Smith homage.  The kindle title comes up in a search for Smith, meaning he was actually included in the keywords when uploading the file.

Not that there's anything wrong with channeling the master, but it doesn't quite rise to the level of gore or sleaze of the original.

Available for Kindle.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Things I Didn't Finish - Secret Six audiobooks

My library got a Hoopla subscription, which means I now have access to a big chunk of Radioarchives pulp ebook and audiobooks.  I have fond memories of listening to storybook albums as a kid, or falling asleep listening to Mind's Eye cassette tapes.

Michael C. Gwynne's voice is perfect for listening to spooky stories in the dark.  I love his gravelly, bass delivery.  My car speakers, not so much.  As much as I romanticize the good old days of sitting around a giant radio, nobody is going to do that for 3 to 8 hours.  I listen to these in the car, and I can barely make out the dialogue over my windows rattling once I turn up the volume to actually hear what he's saying.

I've heard other titles by Gwynne that didn't have this problem, but his delivery didn't work for me with the Secret Six.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Hosts of the Flaming Death - Operator #5 17

Hosts of the Flaming Death
by Curtis Steele (Frederick C. Davis)
Operator #5 17 8/35

America faces a shortage of wartime materials and a gold-masked enemy threatens America's gold supply.  Operator #5, Jimmy Christopher, is taken off the case to deal with the Hidden Hundred, a vigilante army of men in skull mask and skeleton gloves.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Bronze Thrills

Bronze Thrills
November 1959
Volume 8 Number 11
Good Publishing Company, Fort Worth

"America's Greatest Negro True Story Magazine"

As nasty as the men's magazine could be, I think the women's magazines were darker and more sordid.  The confessional magazine dates back to 1919, but they play off earlier morality plays going by centuries.  The form survives today in various forms, from daytime TV to Oprah book club autobiographies to Jezebel confessional essays.

The format is: Sin, Suffer, Repent.  For the women's magazines, they're often not so much sinners as victims, the only sin being hooking up with the wrong man.

Minister's Wife In a Trap: A woman with a shady past marries an understanding pastor.
Bad for Each Other: A husband wants more children than his wife.  Deals with spousal rape and abortion.
Born to be a Jailbird: A young woman is coerced into helping her boyfriend's robbery, and is punched out and raped for her efforts.
Product of the Slums: A girl is arrested for robbery but finds love after her prison term. 
One Real Love: Young love turns to rape and stalking.

Also, love advice from The Man of Mystery:

Matchmaking, diet advice, household tips,

The ads are mostly the usual pulp fare.  We've got the ads for "Not an Abortion Pill, Wink Wink":

And stuff like this, which just makes me cry:

Overall, one of the most depressing magazines I've ever read.  As miserable as a black woman's life must have been in the 1950s, they read this magazine about people worse off than them to feel better about their lot in life.  Weirdly, there is almost no mention at all about racism, inequality, or bigotry.  There's a brief mention that a woman's husband might not have gotten a job because of his skin color, but it's mentioned in hushed tones, like it was too horrible to say out loud.  This is a magazine not afraid to talk about child rape and illegal abortions, so I don't think it was out of propriety or censorship.

Bronze Thrills was originally titled World's Messenger.  Good Publishing Company also published Hep, Sepia, and Jive.  Other similar titles include Copper Romance, Brown, Tan, Tan Confessions, Color, Hue, and Duke.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Giallo Fantastique

Giallo Fantastique
edited by Ross E. Lockhart
2015 Word Horde

Themed horror anthologies have a hard time staying on topic, and here's one with a pretty ill-defined premise to begin with.  The idea is that these are Giallo mixed with Fantastique.

Giallo is better known as a genre of films: Dario Argento, Mario Bava, that lot.  They're named after yellow-covered paperbacks published in Italy, but instead of it being it's own distinct genre, these were just translations of relatively mundane English language detective novels: Agatha Christie, Edgar Wallace, etc.  Neither the books nor the movies tend towards the supernatural.

Fantastique is a broad French fantasy subgenre in which the supernatural intrudes on the real world and the characters react to it, similar to magic realism.

Let's see how far I get:

Minerva by Michael Kazepis: A woman goes through her dead brother's things.  There is an eccentric detective.  Structured like a giallo, maybe one of the 90s made for TV crappy gialli, up to a surreal, confusing, unsatisfying end.  I wouldn't mind seeing this one fleshed out, but as it is it comes across unfinished.

In the Flat Light by Adam Cesare: A retired giallo director is interviewed for TV.  He passes out and remembers an actress being set on fire on the set of one of his films.  He wakes up and the TV crew is gone.  A decent start, let's see ... oh, that's it.

Terror in the House of Broken Belles by Nikki Guerlain: Bizarro splatterpunk.  Men who did bad things to kids are sexually tortured in Hell.

The Strange Vice of ZLA-313 by MP Johnson: A Jetsons style satire with robots.  I'm guessing it's a satire - turns out I have little tolerance for reading "bot" as a suffix to every other noun.  I skipped ahead to:

Exit Strategies by Brian Keene: The only author I've heard of in this anthology.  The first person narrator gives a paranoid rant about how the US highway system is built on ley lines and spells out sigils and by the way I'm a serial killer and you die now.  Not bad, at least in comparison to the rest, but I get the feeling he had a library of unsold stories and he just pulled this one out to submit.

I really like the cover.

Available for Kindle.

Read a sample.

Look for more horror in the Trash Menace Bookstore.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

After Life by Andrew Neiderman

After Life
by Andrew Neiderman
1993 Berkley

Recently blinded Jessie and her basketball coach Lee have moved to a small town which has a mild undercurrent of menace.  The high school basketball team would rather fight than score and the town seems to have a fawning devotion for Dr. Beezly.  Meanwhile, Jessie keeps hearing digging in the cemetery next door.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

"Price set by seller"

Read an excellent book that I intend on reviewing soon - luckily it was available through my library.
  • As of this writing, it's priced at $9.99 for Kindle.  Amazon included their usual "Price set by seller", meaning "You want agency pricing?  Here's your agency pricing."
  • Again, excellent book, but it's a decades old genre novel that should run $2.99-$4.99.
  • For your extra money, the text was filled with as more typos than your typical self-published book ran through spell check a couple times.
  • The author surely benefited from Traditional Publishing's marketing magic:  their "About the Author" listed the biography of a computer programmer specializing in geology.
  • I'm sure their accountants know what the best price point is.  Based on the Amazon rank, the Kindle version has sold two copies in the last month.  That's probably a big $3.50 royalty check for the author.  Going self-published at $2.99 would have a higher return of around $4.20 and probably sell more copies.

I found this disappointing, especially since I've been coming across tons of 80s horror and action being reprinted at reasonable prices.

I'm half-convinced that the Big 5 traditional publishers want to destroy their customer base.  There are folks out there that devour genre fiction by the score, but they seem focused on the mainstream audience that maybe buys two bestsellers a year.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The School on 103rd Street by Ronald Jefferson

The School on 103rd Street
aka The Secret Below 103rd Street
by Ronald Jefferson
Vantage Press 1976
Holloway House 1976
Old School Books 1997

After some teenage kids vandalize the new school on 103rd Street in Watts, one of them is found dead, tied up and his eyes gouged out.  The kids go to the only grownup they can trust, hip community clinic doctor Elwin Carter.

Dr. Carter spends the next half of the novel being an upper middle class African-American professional in 1970s LA.  He sails on his friends' yacht, goes to dinner parties, buys brand name clothing, hangs out with his cool chick Sable, and drives around in his Ferrari.  Meanwhile, another kid is killed off page.

Carter recruits a 'Nam buddy to help him break into the school.  After a lengthy planning session worthy of Joseph Rosenberger, they discover a hidden door behind the boiler that leads to an empty prison with a state of the art medical facility and room for 500 prisoners.

Carter's Nam buddy recruits one of his buddies to check it out, then they hire his buddies to find similar prisons around the country and place explosives in each, timed to go off together.  Someone screws up the time zones and the bomb at the school on 103rd is mistakenly set to go off after students arrive for class.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Dennison's War by Adam Lassiter

Dennison's War
by Adam Lassiter
1986 Bantam

Dennison operates a soldier of fortune operation, only taking jobs where he kills bad guys that the government are too spineless to handle.  Great luck for him that there are enough high paying clients that give him conscience-free jobs, and even greater luck that he gets two jobs at once dealing with the same incident.  What are the odds.

Dennison assembles his team, assisted by his secretary the sexy and capable Miss Paradise.
Chris Amado - female South American freedom fighter
Miss Paradise - Dennison's sexy and capable assistant.
Matthew Conte - ex mafia hitman with a heart of gold
William Sterling Price - some ex-military guy or something
Vang - Hmong warrior from Laos who works to support a community of refugees.

Despite the juvenile premise, the novel starts out strong.  Lots of detail and characterizations.  Every character has a sleazy little back story.  I'm a sucker for that kind of thing.  However, once he had to settle on an actual plot things kind of fell apart.

We start off with a lot of random elements.  Two professional terrorists are rampaging across America, a rogue military man seems to be recruiting soldiers of fortune, and a mafia torpedo has gone rogue.  All of these elements come together thanks to coincidence and a twist ending so stupid I can't be bothered to dissect it.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

The Weapon From Beyond by Edmond Hamilton - StarWolf 1

The Weapon From Beyond
by Edmond Hamilton
Starwolf 1
Ace Books 1967

Chane is a Starwolf - hated interplanetary raiders.  He flees his own people and joins up with mercenary Earthman Dillulo, who blackmails him into aiding him in his missions.

The mercs get involved with a war between two planets, both populated by jerky races that look down on humans.  They're tasked with discovering the secret weapon of one faction, which proves to be a giant, city sized spaceship left by an ancient alien race.

OK setup, but I think it was against Hamilton's religion to write an action sequence.  I've seen this in other works of his, where the fights are resolved in less than a sentence: "They surprised the aliens and won the fight."

This was made into a Japanese TV series, then dubbed and re-edited into English, and then featured on MST3K, yet some scenes managed to survive almost word-for-word.

Nobody tries to kill anybody with a forklift, but that may be in one of the other two installments.

Get used from Amazon.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Horror Novels of Stephen Gresham

Stephen Gresham, or the Skeleton Banjo guy as I like to think of him, is a Southern Gothic horror writer who was treated to some of the most awesome covers 1980s Zebra could provide.  He's still active, and the classics below are available either in Kindle format or can be found cheaply on the used market.  Click the pictures to shop.

All covers are from - he has some notes on the publishing of each.



Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Scream and Scream Again by Peter Saxon

Scream and Scream Again
originally the Disorientated Man
by Peter Saxon (Stephen D. Francis)
Paperback Library 1966
A vampire rape-killer hunts young girls in London.  A spy is killing his way up the ranks in Communist East Germany.  And an Olympic runner in England finds himself strapped to a hospital gurney, and each time he wakes he's missing another limb.

But mostly, cops chase a guy around a quarry.

I've been looking for an affordable copy of this for years ever since I fell in love with the nonsensical 1970 Amicus movie.

The movie follows the book to the letter, except for the ending, which is more ambiguous than the kind of stupid book ending, and better for it.  And, seriously, that quarry chase lasted forever in both.

Peter Saxon is a house name used by a variety of writers, mostly for the Guardians series of occult investigator novels.  Stephen D. Francis was better known for the British hardboiled Hank Janson series .

There was no inscription, but the copy I got happened to be from the estate of horror writer and Fangoria journalist Philip Nutman.

Get the movie from Amazon.

Look for a used copy on Amazon.

Look for more horror in the Trash Menace Bookstore.

Monday, September 5, 2016

The Insanitarium

At Coney Island, the Steeplechase ride ended in the Insanitarium, or Blowhole Theatre.  A clown and a little person would zap women with electric cattle prods and force them over jets of air that blew up their skirts, all in front of an audience.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Spider 21 - Hordes of the Red Butcher

Hordes of the Red Butcher
by Norvell Page as Grant Stockbridge
The Spider 021
June, 1935

A horde of neanderthals roam rural America, immune to bullets, slaughtering everyone before them with spears and hammers.  The first part has pretty strong action, and it's interesting to see the Spider in a rural setting.

Wentworth is framed for murder and arrested, leaving Nita and Ram Signh to prove his innocence.  Nita goes full Dexter and orders the torture murder of a hood to gain information.  When chauffeur Jackson calls her on it she says she'll murder twenty men, including him, to free her man.

This development turns out to be a cop out, as Ram Signh is ordered things like "Go to Europe, find the suspect, and bring him back to New York", which all occurs off page.

Commissioner Kirkpatrick is now governor but Wentworth refuses to ask for a pardon.  This leads to a lot of heated drama between Kirkpatrick and Nita about who loves Wentworth more.