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.