Thursday, January 31, 2019

Chainsaw by John Bender

My new year's resolution is to read more current indie horror.  I've had mixed results with modern self-published fiction, but I think I've run across a few current writers with the right vibe.  I tend to avoid reviewing them, as I'm both a nice guy and a coward, so I'll only be reviewing those I have something nice to say, or it's so bad I'm ok with taking a steaming dump all over it.

Chainsaw is the debut novella by John Bender, and is the story of two dumb rednecks who try to hold up a bank with the titular implement, which is stolen from a rancher who runs his hands with a cultlike intensity.

For me the vibe was more crime comedy than horror, more Raising Arizona than Evil Dead.  It also invokes early Joe Lansdale, one of Bender's influences.

It's cheap fun and quick enough not to wear out its welcome.  Give it a read, and follow Bender @TheRealJohnBend on twitter.  He's a solid dude, and I look forward to reading more from him.

Kindle ebook available from Amazon.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Tie-Ins: Prisoner Cell Block H

Prisoner Cell Block H is a bit of an oddity - an Australian women's prison soap opera that ran for 692 episodes from 1979 to 1986. 

Pinnacle produced a series of soft-core tie-ins that led to a strike by the cast in protest.

Prisoner: Cell Block by Murray Sinclair

The Franky Doyle Story by Henry Clement
The Karen Travers Story by Maggie O'Shell 
The Frustrations of Vera by Michael Kerr 
The Reign of Queen Bea by Angela Michaels
The Trials of Erica by Mary Carter

A couple more were issued by Mandarin in 1991:

The Showdown by Richard Lane
A Dangerous Affair by Betty Quin

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Alpha by Greg Rucka

by Greg Rucka
2012 Mulholland Books

Die Hard in a theme park.  Or could have been.  Should have been.

Jad Bell is a retired Delta Force operator who becomes head of security for Disneyland clone "Wilsonville".  Terrorists hold it hostage the day his estranged daughter visits, and he has to stop it.

The setting was a complete waste.  We get chapters on the historical background of the park and their characters, but very little attention on the rides.  Everything is small scale - all but about a dozen park guests are successfully evacuated, and most of the action takes place in the utility tunnels.  Half the time is Bell waiting for backup, which comes in the way of a whopping two operatives.  I've seen unpaid ticket roundups with more backup.

The action is sparse and tactical, more thriller than action.  Lot's of people talking about their intel and pissing contests between agencies.  About the only gimmicky piece in the book, and the biggest highlight, is a standoff where the terrorists and hostages all have on mascot outfits, which was fun but dumb on several levels.

A good chunk of the wordage seemed to constantly call attention to the absurd coincidences and plotholes.  In reading a Die Hard clone, I'm prepared to put up with some silliness, but the characters are constantly remarking on them - "What are the odds?".  Here, Rucka actually writes his way out of most of them, and I'm assuming the rest are covered in the sequel.  This meant I spent a good chunk of the book thinking he was being stupid only to find out he was being clever, which I can admire, but also isn't the best way to enjoy an novel.

Overall, the book is a failure because it does not have an action sequence involving an operating ride, the closest scene involving climbing up a defunct coaster's lift hill.  Instead, I bring you this from the Clones:

Spoiler, and some whining, here.  Starting around I, the Jury, there was a trend of authors having their protagonist kill a woman to show how hardboiled they were.  I have no problem with fictional members of any gender, but it all seemed a bit forced, and some seemed to go out of their way to outdo each other.

I've seen a little bit of this in current thrillers - this, the first Jack Ryan movie, Seal Team 6, where a special ops type murders an unarmed, elderly non-combatant, all in the name of raw justice.  Since Watergate, it's generally been agreed that the government are always the baddies.  After 9/11, we saw intelligence agencies more likely be the good guys again, but some authors try to have it both ways.

I don't much trust either, especially fictionally, so I have a hard time caring when a military secret, off the books, illegal operation has complaints about the CIA doing the same.  Or when the character is like: "This is horrible.  The government is murdering people in cold blood and covering it up.  To counter this, I, an employee of the government, must murder someone in cold blood and cover it up.  For America."  That's why Mack Bolan and the A Team should have stayed underground.

Ebook available for Kindle on Amazon

Audiobook currently on Hoopla, check your library

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Tie-Ins: Strange Paradise

Strange Paradise was Canada's answer to Dark Shadows - a gothic supernatural daily soap opera.  Some of the CBS Radio Mystery Theater books began life as scripts here, then radio scripts, then novels.  Dorothy Daniels wrote three direct tie-ins:


1969 Strange Paradise


1970 Island of Evil


1970 Raxl, Voodoo Priestess

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Shock Rock II edited by Jeff Gelb

Shock Rock II edited
by Jeff Gelb

Favorite Song by Mark Verheiden: A drifter goes through a series of deadend jobs trying to find his favorite song.  Some good graphic violence from the guy behind the Timecop books and TV show.

The Last Time by Michael Garrett: A Mick Jagger lookalike tries to get laid.

The Sad Story of Billie Psych-Out and the Psyched Out Encyclopedia of Rock 'n' Roll by Tia Travis: The unpublished book of a rockabilly guy gets stolen by another rockabilly guy.  The first rockabilly guy drives his car off a bridge.  The end.  I went back to read it again to see if I missed a twist ending.  Not horror.

Elvis Can't Dance by Robert Weinberg and Tina L. Jens: Zombie Elvis gets violent revenge on rappers who think he's racist.

Better to Burn Out by Scott H. Urban: Rocker has been blows up arena.

Scream String by Edo van Belkom: Tell-Tale A string.  Rocker strangles his wife with a guitar string, which screams accusingly as he plays it, though the fact that he left her bloody corpse directly backstage with no effort to hide it probably would have done him in anyway.

Severin Hedz by Thom "Th." Metzger: Psycho groupie.

Mr. Pants by Gary Brander: A loser learns the secret to rock star sex appeal - magic pants.

Dead Legends by Rick Hautala: Gee, all the pictures hanging in this recording studio are of dead rockers.  All the pictures were taken within a week of their death, we can tell somehow.  I had a hard time figuring where this was going, but luckily the entire story was just the premise being restated over and over.

Rockin’ On Home by Nat Gertler: A man meets a woman from another dimension in which all the fictional artists (Ziggy Stardust, Kilgore Trout, etc) are real.  Interesting.  Not horror.

The Undeadliest Game by Bill Mumy & Peter David: Multi-generational groupies meet ageless rockers.  From the kid from Lost in Space and the writer of X Factor.

The Red Sax by Graham Watkins: See Scream String, replace guitar with saxophone.

He’s Hot, He’s Sexy, He’s... by A. R. Morlan - Epistolary account of Jim Morrison bringing back from the dead by a voodoo priest and doing poetry tours.  Not horror.

Mike Baron - Oi Boy: A skinhead in an oi band gets a gypsy curse that forces him to play Culture Club.  From long time Punisher scribe who began writing horror novels decades later.

Track Eight by John F. D. Taff: Cursed extra track on a metal CD.

Graveyard Shift by Jeff Gelb: An abused woman calls in to a late night DJ

Inspiration by Don D’Ammassa: A pop star gets her greatest hits after the people she loves dies.

Shock Rock Jock by Rex Miller: A humiliated actress gets revenge on a Howard Stern stand in.  

The Songwriter by Jesse Sublett: A small band goes touring between Texas and Oklahoma.  The most literary of the bunch, well written aside from not really being able to figure out what happened. 

Rock ’n’ Roll Will Never Die by Max Allan Collins: We made it this far without a vampire story.  At least it's a comedy.

Drumbeats by Kevin J. Anderson & Neil Peart: A rock drummer wandering Africa finds a new sound. I didn't have high hopes for the collaboration of a Rush drummer and Star Wars expanded universe author, but I was pleasantly surprised.  I might even read their steampunk novelization of a Rush album unironically.  

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Tie-Ins: CBS Radio Mystery Theater

CBS Radio Mystery Theater was a bit of an oddity - a revival of 40s old time radio style suspense stories, that aired nightly for 1,399 episodes between 1974 to 1982.  There were a handful of novelizations and expansions into novels.  All were published by Popular Library, who advertised on the show.

Three episodes were novelized in 1976's Strange Tales From CBS Radio Mystery Theater, edited by Himan Brown.  They include:
The Black Room by Elspeth Eric
The Only Blood by Sam Dann
Time And Again (or The Vampire Clock) by Ian Martin

Sam Dann expanded two of his radio plays to novel length:
1979 The Third Body (based on Children of Death)
1985 Goodbye Carl Erich

Ian Martin reportedly recycled three radio scripts (one already recycled from the Canadian soap opera Strange Paradise) into gothic romances under his wife's name Joen Arliss.  There were two others in the Zebra Mystery Puzzler series that I don't believe are related.

1979 Nightmare's Nest
1980 Beloved Victim
1980 Shadow Over Seventh Heaven

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Shin Godzilla

Shin Godzilla

The twelve years between Godzilla: Final Wars and Shin Godzilla is the longest Japan has gone between Godzilla films since 1954.  The continuity of Godzilla films is complex, with at least six reboots being a direct sequel to the original, much like the Halloween films.  This is the first time the series has been rebooted to the very beginning, to the point that a character googles Godzilla to see what it means.

The keys to any good Godzilla movie are:
  • Monster fights
  • The parts that aren't monsters fighting are spies or aliens, preferably alien spies.
Instead we get endless scenes of men in suits being serious in command centers and maybe fifteen minutes total of monster.  There's a love/hate thing going on with the US military and some kind of commentary about government bureaucracy - themes that are in lots of other disaster or kaiju movies while still being entertaining.  Here it's just people talking fast while looking at laptops.  There's an "American" character, Ms. Patterson, who speaks worse English than the Japanese speaking characters.

The effects were serviceable, with the rubber suits holding up better than the CGI.  Where they really drop the ball is in monster design, something Japan used to be good at.  He (or she, like in the superior Broderick version) looks rigodamndiculous.  He's a warty pile of molten lava with button eyes and a giant snake tail twice as high as his body that shoots lasers.  When he breathes radioactive flame his mouth opens twice the size of his head.

Godzilla is stopped by feeding him blood coagulant from cranes, which turns him into a block of ice, which is what happens when your blood gets too thick.

This is the worst Godzilla movie.  Worse than All Monsters Attack.  Worse than the 1998 American version, which didn't even have Godzilla in it.  On the other hand, it was a big hit in Japan, likely for consciously invoking the memory of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and subsequent nuclear disasters.  That and the the usual strain of nationalist militarism, a bit absurd given that the Civil Defense Forces in Godzilla movies are the Washington Generals of the military.

DVD from Amazon

Friday, January 11, 2019

New Wave Theater

New Wave Theater had the look of a cable access show, but aired as a part of Night Flight.  It must have been more in the early years, as I would have probably remember it.  Live performances from punk, new wave, and post punk bands, including the Dead Kennedys, Fear, 45 Grave, and the Circle Jerks.

Peter Ivers, who scored Eraserhead, was the very cool host.  He was murdered, with Harold Ramis of all people briefly considered a suspect.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Shock Rock edited by Jeff Gelb

Shock Rock
edited by Jeff Gelb
1992 Pocket Books

I recognize pretty much everyone in this rock n roll themed horror anthology.  Jeff Gelb tends to have some comic book writers in his anthologies who rarely turn to prose.

You Know They Got a Hell of a Band by Steven King: Lost travelers encounter a town taken over by the ghosts of dead rock stars.  Pretty much just the premise, restated several times.  "She and Clark had stumbled into Rock and Roll Heaven, only it was actually Rock and Roll Hell."  Hacky, down to a "This is like something out of the Twilight Zone" conversation.  This is the first King I've read in probably thirty years, and it's the worst thing of his that I can remember.

Bob Dylan, Troy Johnson, and the Speed Queen by F. Paul Wilson: A time-traveler uses his musical knowledge to impress Bob Dylan and take the place of the Byrds in rock history.  There was a better version of this in the 80s Twilight Zone.  There was a reason I've avoided ever reading Wilson that I can't remember, and this hasn't changed my mind.

Odeed by David J. Schow: A band rocks so hard they're a WMD.  Schow does a great job capturing the vibe of ridiculous hard rock testosterone - looking forward to reading The Kill Riff.

Vargr Rule by Nancy A. Collins: Werewolf sex rock.  I've made it this far in my horror reading career before encountering a pack of werewolves raping a dog to death.

Blood Suede Shoes by Ronald Kelly: Rockabilly with a cursed guitar.  Vibes of the Friday the 13th TV series.

The Dead Beat Society by Don D'Ammassa: Revenge from beyond the grave via music video.

Voodoo Child by Graham Masterton: Jimi Hendrix returns to save his soul from the voodoo spell that gave him his talent.

Rites Of Spring by Paul Dale Anderson: Concert goes get mind controlled, bang each other, and forget about it.

Dedicated To The One I Loathe by Michael E. Garrett: Radio station van ironic serial killer.  Felt like a proof of concept for a longer piece.

Requiem by Brian J. Hodge: A bootlegger records the ghosts of a dead band.  There are two stories about how music bootleggers deserve violent death - I didn't think folks who traded Dead tapes in the 90s were that reviled?

Heavy Metal by R. Patrick Gates: Comedy Poe tribute about a sculptor's plan to silence a troublesome boombox.

Bunky by Rex Miller: A DJ is trained to lure in a grossly overweight serial killer.  What is it with Rex and fat psychos?

Bill Mumy & Peter David by The Black '59: Cursed guitar

Groupies by Richard Christian Matheson: A quick interview with an underaged S&M groupie.  Dark, if maybe trying to hard.

Michael Newton - Reunion: Riff on the Stones/Hell's Angels Altamont killing.

Bootleg by Mark Verheiden: In Russia, bootleg plays you.

Weird Gig by Ray Garton: Band plays an undead corporate.

Hide In Plain Sight by John L. Byrne: Groupie werewolf story with a twist straight out of a 50s horror comic.  Yes, this is the same John Byrne from Fantastic Four and the X-Men.

Addicted To Love by Thomas Tessier: Music snob does necrophilia on a Robert Palmer fan. 

Flaming Telepaths by John Shirley: Possibly demonic beings and a tele-evangelist at an alternative club.  Captures the kind of scene in the early 90s, where punk, industrial, metal, new wave, goth, and a little country all mixed together.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Bad Influences - Night Flight

Night Flight wasn't so much a show as a programming block, airing for four hours late Friday and Saturday nights on the USA Network from 1981 to 1989 before moving to syndication and finally the internet.

The show centered around music videos, of the artier persuasion, but also had animation, short films, features, and general psychotronic stuff.  Notably, it showed clips from the Subgenius film Arise!  As cool as you can get on basic cable.

I think I watched the show mostly during sleepovers, and the only specific memories I have of it are seeing Duran Duran's Wild Boys video and a kung fu movie where someone has to drink virgin piss and chases around little boys trying to pee in alleys.  I must have watched much more - I recognize presenter Pat Prescott's voice more than my mother's - but I remember very little.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Tie-Ins: Blake's 7

Blake's 7 is a 70s British sci fi show about a group of criminals turned revolutionaries fighting an evil galactic empire.  I remember nothing of the stories, but the show boasts two of the most amazing characters in pop culture: the sexy, cold-blooded Servalan and the sociopathic anti-hero Avon.

Big Finish has published a seemingly never-ending stream of audio dramas with much of the original cast, much of it better written than the TV series.

1978: Blake's 7 aka Blake's 7: Their First Adventure by Trevor Hoyle and Terry Nation
1979: Project Avalon by Trevor Hoyle (Seek–Locate–Destroy, Duel, Project Avalon, Deliverance and Orac)
1981: Scorpio Attack by Trevor Hoyle (Rescue, Traitor and Stardrive)
1984: Afterlife by Tony Attwood - original novel set after the series
1989: Avon: A Terrible Aspect by Paul Darrow - prequel novel

Big Finish published several novels - I'm not sure if they're novelizations of audio dramas or vice-versa:

2012: The Forgotten
2012: Archangel
2013: Warship
2013: Lucifer
2013: Anthology
2014: Lucifer: Revelation
2014: Criminal Intent
2015: Lucifer: Genesis
2015: Mediasphere
2017: Heroes
2019: Urising

Monday, January 7, 2019

Lotte World - Aeronauts Balloon Ride

Finally found some good onride footage of the balloon ride that skirts the ceiling of the inside park.

And offride

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

TM Gallery: VHS Covers

Night Creature
A big-game hunter brings a killer leopard to his private island and turns it loose so he can hunt it down. However, unexpected visitors arrive at the island and interrupt his hunt. Meanwhile, the leopard begins to hunt the inhabitants of the island. 
DVD from Amazon

Scream Bloody Murder
A man has a claw hand after a farming accident and he uses it to terrorize everyone he knows and meets. 
On Amazon Video

Dracula vs Frankenstein

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Tie-Ins: Doom

Doom is an early 1st person shooter game, in which a space marine travels from Mars to Hell fighting demons.

The original game has a four novel series written by Dafydd ab Hugh and Brad Linaweaver:

1995: Knee Deep in the Dead
1995: Hell on Earth
1996: Infernal Sky
1996: Endgame

The game became a movie which became a novel. 

2005: Doom by John Shirley

Doom was rebooted in 2004 as Doom 3, with a two book series by Matthew J. Costello, the writer of the game.

2008: Doom 3: Worlds on Fire
2009: Doom 3: Maelstrom