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

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.