WEDNESDAY WORDS! TOP 20 BOOKS OF THE WEEK!

HEROIC TIMES Top 20 Books list is a new weekly installment that ranks the 20 most interesting, intriguing books of the week (old, new, reissues, digital, etc). Contributors represent a variety of genres and sources. Each book includes Title and publisher blurb.

Feel free to leave feedback comments below, or suggest additions or subtractions. And if interested in purchasing please use the attached links. Every purchase through those links, is you helping to support this blog. Now without further ado:

Emperor Mollusk versus the Sinister Brain [Hardcover] by A. Lee Martinez- Emperor Mollusk- Intergalactic Menace. Destroyer of Worlds. Conqueror of Other Worlds. Mad Genius. Ex-Warlord of Earth.Not bad for a guy without a spine.But what’s a villain to do after he’s done . . . everything. With no new ambitions, he’s happy to pitch in and solve the energy crisis or repel alien invaders should the need arise, but if he had his way, he’d prefer to be left alone to explore the boundaries of dangerous science. Just as a hobby, of course.

Retirement isn’t easy though. If the boredom doesn’t get him, there’s always the Venusians. Or the Saturnites. Or the Mercurials. Or . . . well, you get the idea. If that wasn’t bad enough, there’s also the assassins of a legendary death cult and an up-and-coming megalomaniac (as brilliant as he is bodiless) who have marked Emperor for their own nefarious purposes. But Mollusk isn’t about to let the Earth slip out of his own tentacles and into the less capable clutches of another. So it’s time to dust off the old death ray and come out of retirement. Except this time, he’s not out to rule the world. He’s out to save it from the peril of THE SINISTER BRAIN!

And Their Memory Was a Bitter Tree – As one of the three most important American pulp fantasy authors of the 1930s (with Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith), Robert E. Howard captivated readers with his indomitable, battle-scarred barbarian hero Conan. Though Howard’s life ended prematurely in 1936 at the age of 30, Conan lives on as one of the genre’s most enduring icons. This beautifully designed collection contains nine essential Conan stories along with a full-length Conan novel. Also included is The Hyborean Age, Howard’s fascinating history of the raw, blood-drenched world Conan inhabited, an alternative Earth that preceded Tolkien’s Middle Earth. And Their Memory Was a Bitter Tree features a color map of this realm and an interior painting by cult artist Brom, along with a series of Frank Frazetta’s seminal Conan paintings, appearing for the first time with the stories for which they were created.

Creepy Presents Richard Corben [Hardcover]- Over 300-pages of timeless terror from a master storyteller! Horror comics visionary and coloring pioneer Richard Corben has been a voice of creativity and change for over four decades. For the first time ever, Corben’s legendary Creepy and Eerie short stories and cover illustrations are being collected into one deluxe hardcover! With an informative foreword by artist and comic-book colorist Jose Villarrubia – who also provides color restoration – this volume features Richard Corben’s original stories, Edgar Allan Poe adaptations, and collaborations with comic-book writers Bruce Jones, Bill DuBay, Doug Moench, Gerald Conway, and others! - I love the art and stories of Richard Corben, particularly from this period. And to have 300 pages of it collected in one place in Hardcover format? Sign me up. The output of Dark Horse Publishing continues to be top notch and abundant. And this is another winner from them..

Caravaggio: The Complete Works – Hardcover: 306 pages. Publisher: TASCHEN America Llc (December 1, 2009)Language: English, ISBN-10: 383650183X, ISBN-13: 978-3836501835, Product Dimensions: 19 x 13 x 2.2 inches

Negative Space- As an artistic device, ?negative space? refers to an artist?s rendering of a subject by relying on the space that surrounds the subject to provide shape and meaning. Of course, the term also refers to any topic that conjures feelings of unease and discomfort. Furthering the partnership begun with the publication of Guess Who? internationally acclaimed illustrator Noma Bar has compiled his newest collection of work, Negative Space.

Art of the Modern Movie Poster: International Postwar Style and Design [Hardcover]- Critically authoritative, visually stunning, and physically massive, Art of the Modern Movie Poster is the first and last word on post-WWII film poster design. Showcasing fascinating examples from 15 nations, this collection of more than 1,500 exemplary designs is a must-have for film buffs, design and poster aficionados alike. The posters are organized by country of origin, offering an intriguing glimpse into each region’s unique visual sensibility and sometimes unexpected takes on familiar films. Gathered from the renowned collection of the Posteritati Gallery in New Yorkone of the largest holdings of international film posters in the worldthis volume is the definitive survey of both film and popular graphic art in the modern era.

Black Seas of Infinity: The Best of H.P. Lovecraft [Hardcover]- The book is 536 pgs and contains 19 stories. Also includes the following: Introduction by editor Andrew Wheeler by Lovecraft. Appendix A-History of the Necronomicon by Lovecraft. Appendix B-Notes on Writing Weird Fiction by Lovecraft. Appendix C-Some Notes on Nonentity. Appendix D: Chronology of the Fiction of H.P. Lovecraft

Parallel Tracks: The Railroad and Silent Cinema – In wide-ranging and provocative analyses of dozens of silent films—icons of film history like The General and The Great Train Robbery as well as many that are rarely discussed—Kirby examines how trains and rail travel embodied concepts of spectatorship and mobility grounded in imperialism and the social, sexual, and racial divisions of modern Western culture. This analysis at the same time provides a detailed and largely unexamined history of the railroad in silent filmmaking. Kirby also devotes special attention to the similar ways in which the railroad and cinema structured the roles of men and women. As she demonstrates, these representations have had profound implications for the articulation of gender in our culture, a culture in some sense based on the machine as embodied by the train and the camera/projector. Ultimately, this book reveals the profound and parallel impact that the railroad and the cinema have had on Western society and modern urban industrial culture. Parallel Tracks will be eagerly awaited by those involved in cinema studies, American studies, feminist theory, and the cultural study of modernity.

Griots: A Sword and Soul Anthology [Paperback] by Milton J. Davis (Editor), Charles R. Saunders (Editor)- Publication Date: August 7, 2011- Magic. Myth. Warfare. Wonder. Beauty. Bravery. Glamour. Gore. Sorcery. Sensuality. These and many more elements of fantasy await you in the pages of Griots, which brings you the latest stories of the new genre called Sword and Soul. The tales told in Griots are the annals of the Africa that was, as well as Africas that never were, may have been, or should have been. They are the legends of a continent and people emerging from shadows thrust upon them in the past. They are the sagas sung by the modern heirs of the African story-tellers known by many names – including griots. Here, you will meet mighty warriors, seductive sorceresses, ambitious monarchs, and cunning courtesans. Here, you will journey through the vast variety of settings Africa offers, and inspires. Here, you will savor what the writings of the modern-day griots have to offer: journeys through limitless vistas of the imagination, with a touch of color and a taste of soul.

Omens[Hardcover]Richard Gavin- Omens is a collection of twelve haunting tales by Richard Gavin, whose work is reminiscent of the subtle supernatural tales of Robert Aickman, and also of the eerie and unsettling tales of Thomas Ligotti. — I like collections. I think the short story format can, when done well, offer variety and freshness, that can sometimes be hard to sustain over the course of a novel. Some of our most acclaimed writers, those who remain relevant generations on, Poe, Lovecrat, Howard, etc., do so because of their short stories. Because of their ability to in scant words get to the heart of a story and of ourselves. Richard Gavin does that in these stories, that while it has beeen alluded to Aickman or Ligotti, the stories are more visceral than Aickman and more satisfying than Ligotti, are uniquely Richard Gavin.

An Illustrated Life: Drawing Inspiration from the Private Sketchbooks of Artists, Illustrators and Designers[Paperback]- This book offers a sneak peak into the wildly creative imaginations of 50 top illustrators, designers and artists. Included are sketchbook pages from R. Crumb, Chris Ware, James Jean, James Kochalka, and many others. In addition, author Danny Gregory has interviewed each artist and shares their thoughts on living the artistic life through journaling. Watch artists – through words and images – record the world they see and craft the world as they want it to be. The pages of An Illustrated Life are sometimes startling, sometimes endearing, but always inspiring. Whether you’re an illustrator, designer, or simply someone searching for inspiration, these pages will open a whole new world to you.

The Green Hornet Chronicles[Paperback]- Introducing the long-awaited return of the Green Hornet and Kato, and their rolling arsenal, the Black Beauty! With his faithful valet Kato, Britt Reid, daring young publisher, matches wits with the Underworld, risking his life so that criminal and racketeers within the law may feel its weight by the sting of the Green Hornet. Featuring stories by the likes of Harlan Ellison, Greg Cox, and Robert Greenberger, The Green Hornet Chronicles is the first anthology featuring all-new, original crime fiction tales of the man who hunts the biggest of all game – public enemies that even the FBI can’t reach! — Harlan Ellison writing a Green Hornet story? Wrap it up, I’ll take it! :)

Conspiracy of the Planet of the Apes[Hardcover]- Conspiracy of the Planet of the Apes is the first-ever original novel set in the continuity of the classic 1968 movie. Conspiracy tells the story of what happened between the scenes of the first film, exploring the adventures of the Astronaut John Landon, Chimpanzee scientists Dr. Milo and Dr. Galen, and Gorilla Security Chief Marcus. Written by Andrew E.C. Gaska, and adapted from a story by Gaska, Rich Handley, Christian Berntsen and Erik Matthews, the book contains illustrations from the top talents in the industry, including: Jim Steranko, Andrew Probert, Timothy Lantz, Joe Jusko, Mark Texeira, Dave Dorman, Chris Scalf, Brian Rood, Chandra Free, Dan Dussault, Ken W. Kelly, Colo, David Hueso, Miki, Matt Busch, Dirk Shearer, Barron Storey, David Seidman, Sanjulian, Chris Moeller, Thomas Scioli, Scott Hampton, Leo Liebleman, Lucas Graciano, Erik Gist, and Patricio Carbajal.– Again not a PLANET OF THE APES devotee, but I’ve heard great things about this series, and the list of artists alone makes it worth a buy.

Wally Wood’s EC Stories Hardcover (Artist Edition, Volume 1) – IDW proudly presents WALLY WOOD’S EC STORIES: ARTIST’S EDITION, collecting more than a dozen complete stories by the great Wally Wood, plus an exceptional cover gallery. Each page is scanned from the original art, same size as drawn, and in full color (in insure the best possible reproduction). Since Wood’s originals were larger than modern size comic art, measuring 12 x 18 inches, plus the paper, this Artist’s Edition will be a GIGANTIC 15 x 22 inches! –

Okay I admit this installment is a bit artbook heavy, but these are what are galvanizing my attention this week. And the funny thing about artbooks is they have the annoying habit of selling out. IDW has released other books in their ‘Artist’s Edition’ series, I have no interest in them. But this… It’s over a 100 pages of Wally Wood’s scifi horror artwork of the 1950s.. at full size. Duh! Can you say no brainer? Outside of buying the original artwork for thousands per page, you’re not likely to see this. It’s an easy contender for art-book or art collectible of the year. The first printing is sold out, but IDW is releasing a new printing this June. At $125 it’s not cheap, but considering the first printing sold out in a matter of weeks and was commanding nearly $300, $125 isn’t looking that expensive. :). You can pre-order here or if you can’t wait till June get a first printing here: Wally Wood’s EC Stories Hardcover (Artist Edition, Volume 1)

Cédric Delsaux: Dark Lens[Hardcover]- In Dark Lens, Delsaux transports Darth Vader and the whole gamut of Star Wars iconography to a post-apocalyptic, urban-suburban landscape of endless parking lots, highrises and wasteland interzones, vacant of ordinary human life. Delsaux’s “mythology of banality” (as he describes it) produces images that are not just funny or preposterous, but also weirdly compelling; in their photographic plausibility they successfully incorporate Star Wars into an everyday reality that we can all recognize, but in ways that make both worlds seem strangely real and absurdly false. Delsaux’s Dark Lens will captivate both film and photobook fans alike with its fantastically bizarre recasting of Star Wars on planet Earth after the apocalypse.–I don’t own a single Star Wars book. I’m not really a Star Wars guy. I like the movies well enough, but that’s as far as it goes. I’m not interested in making a mythology of them. So typically, most merchandising or books etc, I could care less. But this book works as an art book first, which is why I like it.

THE JAMES BOND OMNIBUS by Ian Fleming – James Bond, the world’s most famous secret agent, has thrilled audiences for over fifty years with his globe-trotting adventures. THE JAMES BOND OMNIBUS collects eleven of Ian Fleming’s original daily comic strips for the very first time in a mammoth omnibus edition.

DILLON AND THE LEGEND OF THE GOLDEN BELL by Derrick Ferguson – The author of The Nuclear Suitcase, Joel Jenkins, describes Dillon and the Legend of the Golden Bell as “James Bond meets Cthulhu” and you’ll want to check out this heady mixture of the spy thriller and horror genres.

THE ARTIST WITHIN by Greg Preston – The culmination of more than fifteen years of photography by renowned photographer Greg Preston, this book is a living history of the men and women who have shaped the imaginations of countless millions of people around the world through their work in the fields of animated cartoons, comic books, comic strips and editorial cartooning. The list of more than two hundred artists includes such luminaries as Frank Miller, Al Hirschfeld, Joe Barbera, Jack Kirby, Joe Simon, Moebius, Walter and Louise Simonson and many more, all in photographs exclusive and shot expressly for this book.

ATLAS OF HUMAN ANATOMY AND SURGERY by Jean-Marie Le Minor – Anatomically correct We owe a great debt to Jean Baptiste Marc Bourgery (1797?1849) for his Atlas of Anatomy, which was not only a massive event in medical history, but also remains one of the most comprehensive and beautifully illustrated anatomical treatises ever published in any language. In 1830, having received his doctorate in medicine three years prior, Bourgery began work on his magnificent atlas in cooperation with illustrator Nicolas Henri Jacob (1782?1871), a student of the French painter Jacques Louis David. The first volumes were published the following year, but completion of the treatise required nearly two decades of dedication. 15.5 lbs and 19.2″ x 12.6″ x 3.5″.714pgs.

THE SHADOWS GALLERY by L.R. Giles – You’ve been invited to the opening of a grand exhibition, a show unlike any you’ve ever seen. Inside you might find your greatest joy or your worst fear on display. But be warned, it can be difficult to tell which is which when you’re looking through the shadows… Award-winning author L.R. Giles brings forth a collection of tales that take you to the limits of imagination and beyond.

Well gals and guys hope you enjoyed that.

The WEDNESDAY WORDS column is a new blog feature, appearing (you guessed it!) every Wednesday. Come back next week to see which books make the list! And if you see items you’re considering purchasing then, if you are able and would like to support this blog, please utilize the attached links. Your helpful purchases through the links generates much appreciated pennies to keep this blog running. Your feedback and support… just way cool, and way appreciated. Thanks!

Week 1
Week 2

WEDNESDAY WORDS: TOP 20 BOOKS OF THE WEEK #2!

HEROIC TIMES Top 20 Books list is a new weekly installment that ranks the 20 most interesting, intriguing books of the week (old, new, reissues, digital, etc). Contributors represent a variety of genres and sources. Each book includes Title and publisher blurb.

Feel free to leave feedback comments below, or suggest additions or subtractions.

The Complete Slayers: Fast One and the Complete Short Stories of Paul Cain [Hardcover]- This collection features the novel Fast One and the complete short fiction written by Paul Cain for Black Mask and other pulps. This is the first time that many of them have been collected in book format. Lynn Myers and Max Alan Collins have written an outstanding introduction with new research into Cain’s life. – It hurts me to list this, for the simple fact I haven’t bought my 2nd copy yet, and I know you guys are going to jump on this like rabid dogs, and it will be all sold out. Oh well. ‘I am a river to my people’. :)

[the first person who contacts me with what film that quote comes from wins a hardcover copy of Valerie Wilson Wesley's EASIER TO KILL Mystery novel, use the contact form, put 'contest' and it won't get posted, but will come right to me. :)]

Korean Eye: Contemporary Korean Art[Paperback]- The most influential and significant work on Korean contemporary art and artists to date. Following the huge success of Korean Eye: Moon Generation, the first international exhibition of Korean contemporary art, Skira publishes a book featuring sixty of Korea’s most renowned contemporary artists, selected by a curatorial team which consists of a mix of Korean and international art curators. The book also includes background information on the art scene in Korea and references to the major art fairs, symposia, exhibitions, galleries, museums, and events throughout the year.

ECHO NOUVEAU The Art and Life of a Working Girl: 1995-2010[Hardcover]- This book is much more than a collection of fifteen years of artwork by the renowned and award winning art nouveau advertising illustrator, Echo Chernik. In this book, Echo answers the question “What’s it like to be an advertising illustrator?” She addresses the topics of portfolio creation, contract negotiation, and the process involved in becoming a successful commercial artist. As an instructor of Graphic Design and Illustration at Pratt Institute and Skidmore CCI, and one of the industry’s most in-demand advertising illustrators, Echo has designed this book not only as a collection of previously uncompiled illustrations, but also as a conduit for dispensing years of accumulated knowledge and advice to fledgling and hopeful young illustrators. Through a stunning visual tour of published works, Echo divulges hints and tips on how to navigate the business. She also shares often humourous stories about working on individual projects. The Studio of Echo Chernik is the combined efforts of Echo and Lazarus Chernik, both graduates of Pratt institute in New York. Echo’s clients have included over the years: Trek Bicycles, Miller, Camel, Coors, Nascar, Mattel, The Bellagio Casino, Celestial Seasonings Teas, Sears, K-Mart, Arlo Guthrie, The Dave Matthews Band, and many more. Echo has been the recipient of numerous “Best In…” awards, Gold awards, Silver awards, Cover awards and Fan Favorite awards, including HP’s Best In Show. Echo has also been featured in three publications of Spectrum to date. –It was seeing her lavish and lovely, exquisite even, drawings in the annual SPECTRUM art collection that made me interested in this book. She’s a staggering artist.

Omens[Hardcover]Richard Gavin- Omens is a collection of twelve haunting tales by Richard Gavin, whose work is reminiscent of the subtle supernatural tales of Robert Aickman, and also of the eerie and unsettling tales of Thomas Ligotti. — I like collections. I think the short story format can, when done well, offer variety and freshness, that can sometimes be hard to sustain over the course of a novel. Some of our most acclaimed writers, those who remain relevant generations on, Poe, Lovecrat, Howard, etc., do so because of their short stories. Because of their ability to in scant words get to the heart of a story and of ourselves. Richard Gavin does that in these stories, that while it has beeen alluded to Aickman or Ligotti, the stories are more visceral than Aickman and more satisfying than Ligotti, are uniquely Richard Gavin.

Six-Legged Soldiers: Using Insects as Weapons of War[Paperback]- Beginning in prehistoric times and building toward a near and disturbing future, the reader is taken on a journey of innovation and depravity. Award-winning science writer Jeffrey A. Lockwood begins with the development of “bee bombs” in the ancient world and explores the role of insect-borne disease in changing the course of major battles, ranging from Napoleon’s military campaigns to the trenches of World War I. He explores the horrific programs of insect warfare during World War II: airplanes dropping plague-infested fleas, facilities rearing tens of millions of hungry beetles to destroy crops, and prison camps staffed by doctors testing disease-carrying lice on inmates. The Cold War saw secret government operations involving the mass release of specially developed strains of mosquitoes on an unsuspecting American public–along with the alleged use of disease-carrying and crop-eating pests against North Korea and Cuba. Lockwood reveals how easy it would be to use of insects in warfare and terrorism today: In 1989, domestic ecoterrorists extorted government officials and wreaked economic and political havoc by threatening to release the notorious Medfly into California’s crops. A remarkable story of human ingenuity–and brutality–Six-Legged Soldiers is the first comprehensive look at the use of insects as weapons of war, from ancient times to the present day.

An Illustrated Life: Drawing Inspiration from the Private Sketchbooks of Artists, Illustrators and Designers[Paperback]- This book offers a sneak peak into the wildly creative imaginations of 50 top illustrators, designers and artists. Included are sketchbook pages from R. Crumb, Chris Ware, James Jean, James Kochalka, and many others. In addition, author Danny Gregory has interviewed each artist and shares their thoughts on living the artistic life through journaling. Watch artists – through words and images – record the world they see and craft the world as they want it to be. The pages of An Illustrated Life are sometimes startling, sometimes endearing, but always inspiring. Whether you’re an illustrator, designer, or simply someone searching for inspiration, these pages will open a whole new world to you.

The Green Hornet Chronicles[Paperback]- Introducing the long-awaited return of the Green Hornet and Kato, and their rolling arsenal, the Black Beauty! With his faithful valet Kato, Britt Reid, daring young publisher, matches wits with the Underworld, risking his life so that criminal and racketeers within the law may feel its weight by the sting of the Green Hornet. Featuring stories by the likes of Harlan Ellison, Greg Cox, and Robert Greenberger, The Green Hornet Chronicles is the first anthology featuring all-new, original crime fiction tales of the man who hunts the biggest of all game – public enemies that even the FBI can’t reach! — Harlan Ellison writing a Green Hornet story? Wrap it up, I’ll take it! :)

Conspiracy of the Planet of the Apes[Hardcover]- Conspiracy of the Planet of the Apes is the first-ever original novel set in the continuity of the classic 1968 movie. Conspiracy tells the story of what happened between the scenes of the first film, exploring the adventures of the Astronaut John Landon, Chimpanzee scientists Dr. Milo and Dr. Galen, and Gorilla Security Chief Marcus. Written by Andrew E.C. Gaska, and adapted from a story by Gaska, Rich Handley, Christian Berntsen and Erik Matthews, the book contains illustrations from the top talents in the industry, including: Jim Steranko, Andrew Probert, Timothy Lantz, Joe Jusko, Mark Texeira, Dave Dorman, Chris Scalf, Brian Rood, Chandra Free, Dan Dussault, Ken W. Kelly, Colo, David Hueso, Miki, Matt Busch, Dirk Shearer, Barron Storey, David Seidman, Sanjulian, Chris Moeller, Thomas Scioli, Scott Hampton, Leo Liebleman, Lucas Graciano, Erik Gist, and Patricio Carbajal.– Again not a PLANET OF THE APES devotee, but I’ve heard great things about this series, and the list of artists alone makes it worth a buy.

Wally Wood’s EC Stories Hardcover (Artist Edition, Volume 1) – IDW proudly presents WALLY WOOD’S EC STORIES: ARTIST’S EDITION, collecting more than a dozen complete stories by the great Wally Wood, plus an exceptional cover gallery. Each page is scanned from the original art, same size as drawn, and in full color (in insure the best possible reproduction). Since Wood’s originals were larger than modern size comic art, measuring 12 x 18 inches, plus the paper, this Artist’s Edition will be a GIGANTIC 15 x 22 inches! –

Okay I admit this installment is a bit artbook heavy, but these are what are galvanizing my attention this week. And the funny thing about artbooks is they have the annoying habit of selling out. IDW has released other books in their ‘Artist’s Edition’ series, I have no interest in them. But this… It’s over a 100 pages of Wally Wood’s scifi horror artwork of the 1950s.. at full size. Duh! Can you say no brainer? Outside of buying the original artwork for thousands per page, you’re not likely to see this. It’s an easy contender for art-book or art collectible of the year. The first printing is sold out, but IDW is releasing a new printing this June. At $125 it’s not cheap, but considering the first printing sold out in a matter of weeks and was commanding nearly $300, $125 isn’t looking that expensive. :). You can pre-order here or if you can’t wait till June get a first printing here: Wally Wood’s EC Stories Hardcover (Artist Edition, Volume 1)

Super Black: American Pop Culture and Black Superheroes- Super Black places the appearance of black superheroes alongside broad and sweeping cultural trends in American politics and pop culture, which reveals how black superheroes are not disposable pop products, but rather a fascinating racial phenomenon through which futuristic expressions and fantastic visions of black racial identity and symbolic political meaning are presented. Adilifu Nama sees the value–and finds new avenues for exploring racial identity–in black superheroes who are often dismissed as sidekicks, imitators of established white heroes, or are accused of having no role outside of blaxploitation film contexts. – I hate the term African American, so not having that in the title predisposes me to like this book. Add discourse on superheroes (how the heck does Marvel and DC trademark that term?) and myth building and I’m there. :)

THE JAMES BOND OMNIBUS by Ian Fleming – James Bond, the world’s most famous secret agent, has thrilled audiences for over fifty years with his globe-trotting adventures. THE JAMES BOND OMNIBUS collects eleven of Ian Fleming’s original daily comic strips for the very first time in a mammoth omnibus edition.

DILLON AND THE LEGEND OF THE GOLDEN BELL by Derrick Ferguson – The author of The Nuclear Suitcase, Joel Jenkins, describes Dillon and the Legend of the Golden Bell as “James Bond meets Cthulhu” and you’ll want to check out this heady mixture of the spy thriller and horror genres.

THE ARTIST WITHIN by Greg Preston – The culmination of more than fifteen years of photography by renowned photographer Greg Preston, this book is a living history of the men and women who have shaped the imaginations of countless millions of people around the world through their work in the fields of animated cartoons, comic books, comic strips and editorial cartooning. The list of more than two hundred artists includes such luminaries as Frank Miller, Al Hirschfeld, Joe Barbera, Jack Kirby, Joe Simon, Moebius, Walter and Louise Simonson and many more, all in photographs exclusive and shot expressly for this book.

RADIOACTIVE:MARIE & PIERRE CURIE: A TALE OF LOVE AND FALLOUT – In the century since the Curies began their work, we’ve struggled with nuclear weapons proliferation, debated the role of radiation in medical treatment, and pondered nuclear energy as a solution to climate change. In Radioactive, Lauren Redniss links these contentious questions to a love story in 19th Century Paris…Whether young or old, scientific novice or expert, no one will fail to be moved by Lauren Redniss’s eerie and wondrous evocation of one of history’s most intriguing figures.

DREAMSCAPES 2010: CONTEMPORARY IMAGINARY REALISM – Publication Date: April 28, 2011 | ISBN-10: 9490668028 | ISBN-13: 978-9490668020 The greatest practitioners of imaginary realism are presented in this lavish overview of dreamy, surreal and beguiling paintings and sculptures! This large-scale, beautifully produced book features artwork by modern favorites like Michael Parkes, Daniel Merriam, Kinuko Y. Craft and many others. Vibrant paintings feature psychedelic dreamscapes populated by fairies, nymphs, gods and golems. Loaded with symbolism and often jarringly original, this showcases the best fantasy artists working today.Buy Direct from Publisher Here.

ATLAS OF HUMAN ANATOMY AND SURGERY by Jean-Marie Le Minor – Anatomically correct We owe a great debt to Jean Baptiste Marc Bourgery (1797?1849) for his Atlas of Anatomy, which was not only a massive event in medical history, but also remains one of the most comprehensive and beautifully illustrated anatomical treatises ever published in any language. In 1830, having received his doctorate in medicine three years prior, Bourgery began work on his magnificent atlas in cooperation with illustrator Nicolas Henri Jacob (1782?1871), a student of the French painter Jacques Louis David. The first volumes were published the following year, but completion of the treatise required nearly two decades of dedication. 15.5 lbs and 19.2″ x 12.6″ x 3.5″.714pgs.

FULL DARK, NO STARS by Stephen King – Like Different Seasons and Four Past Midnight, which generated such enduring films as The Shawshank Redemption and Stand by Me, Full Dark, No Stars proves Stephen King a master of the long story form.

THE SHADOWS GALLERY by L.R. Giles – You’ve been invited to the opening of a grand exhibition, a show unlike any you’ve ever seen. Inside you might find your greatest joy or your worst fear on display. But be warned, it can be difficult to tell which is which when you’re looking through the shadows… Award-winning author L.R. Giles brings forth a collection of tales that take you to the limits of imagination and beyond.

SHERLOCK HOLMES CONSULTING DETECTIVE Vol III – The Baker Street Sleuth returns in five new original mysteries told in the classic style of Arthur Conan Doyle. Here are tales by Aaron Smith, Ian Watson, Joshua Reynolds and Andrew Smith guaranteed entertain any mystery fan. Throw on your deerstalker cap and load your pistols, there’s murder and mayhem about and the game is afoot once more.

Cédric Delsaux: Dark Lens[Hardcover]- In Dark Lens, Delsaux transports Darth Vader and the whole gamut of Star Wars iconography to a post-apocalyptic, urban-suburban landscape of endless parking lots, highrises and wasteland interzones, vacant of ordinary human life. Delsaux’s “mythology of banality” (as he describes it) produces images that are not just funny or preposterous, but also weirdly compelling; in their photographic plausibility they successfully incorporate Star Wars into an everyday reality that we can all recognize, but in ways that make both worlds seem strangely real and absurdly false. Delsaux’s Dark Lens will captivate both film and photobook fans alike with its fantastically bizarre recasting of Star Wars on planet Earth after the apocalypse.–I don’t own a single Star Wars book. I’m not really a Star Wars guy. I like the movies well enough, but that’s as far as it goes. I’m not interested in making a mythology of them. So typically, most merchandising or books etc, I could care less. But this book works as an art book first, which is why I like it.

Well gals and guys hope you enjoyed that.

The WEDNESDAY WORDS column is a brand new blog feature, appearing (you guessed it!) every Wednesday. Come back next week to see which books make the list! And if you see items you’re considering purchasing then, if you are able and would like to support this blog, please utilize the attached links. Your helpful purchases through the links generates much appreciated pennies to keep this blog running. Your feedback and support… just way cool, and way appreciated. Thanks!

Week 1

UPCOMING MOVIES: MAR/APR 2012

With walking lobotomies like 21 JUMP STREET hitting screens, March is shaping up to be one of the most uninteresting movie months in a while, with tons of films that you would have to pay me (and quite well) to sit through.

However there are a few being released in the next 60 days that may potentially be interesting.


THE HUNTER- William DaFoe stars in this thriller set in Tasmania and directed by TV director Daniel Nettheim

THE CABIN IN THE WOODS- Another first time director helms this Joss Whedon produced horror/thriller.

LOCKOUT (2012)- Two relatively untried directors helm this Guy Pearce vehicle. Not a fan of Pearce but also stars actors Lenny James and Jacky Ido, so it may be worth a look.


WOMAN THOU ART LOOSED: ON THE 7TH DAY- I saw the trailer for this, and it looked surprisingly good. I typically don’t go for these ‘message’ movies. They generally give me a swift pain, but the trailer on this looked more like a decent thriller, with some good performances. Plus it actually has a director with some experience (albeit TV experience), namely Neeema Barnette.

THE RAVEN (2012)- Now speaking of experienced directors James McTeigue is a proper film director, with roughly a film every 2 years since 2005’s V FOR VENDETTA, followed by THE INVASION, NINJA ASSASSIN and now the much delayed THE RAVEN. None of his movies have wowed me but they are all at least intriguing. And while THE RAVEN has a plot that sounds more than a bit like they poorly ripped off Marc Olden’s novel POE MUST DIE, and I’m not a John Cusack fan; however being about Poe, the film should at the very least be… intriguing.


THE RAID (2012)- Gareth Evans, with this his third feature film (previous two being MERANTAU and FOOTSTEPS), is gaining notice as a director of disturbing yet elegant films of violence. If the trailers of THE RAID are any indication… Mr. Evans may have a hit on his hands. An uncomfortable, violent, and perhaps morally suspect hit (police raids, and police brutality as entertainment doesn’t sit too well with me. Sets dangerous glorifications of fictions, that run the risk of being formative to our facts)… but a hit none the less.

Time will tell.

PHOTO OF THE DAY: In The Dark

It was somewhere between 2am and 4am in the morning. If I had to guess I’d split the difference and say 3. I have a pretty good internal clock, so I’d reckon my guess was pretty close. I can tell my body when to get up, and it gets up.

So anyhow it’s 3ish in the morning and I find myself in my bathroom, in the top floor of my house, in the dark, urinating.

I toyed with saying ‘taking a leak’ but that always struck me as an inane and artless expression.

Though it can be argued how much art is involved in relieving yourself. Though I have been known to draw figure 8s in the water, but that may fall under the heading too much information.

But anyhow I’m in my house, alone, in the upstairs, in the bathroom, in the dark, urinating.

Now to explain the “in the dark” part, it may just be me, but in the middle of the night, when the call of nature is upon me, I like to fancy myself capable of having sufficient night vision to make it across the hall to the bathroom, do my business, wash my hands and make it back to bed, all sans light.

Bright light blazing in your eyes I find not being conducive to quickly returning to sleep.

So it’s 3am, I’m in my house, in the dark, in the bathroom, relieving myself, when the thought comes to me.

Why isn’t there an entrance to an attic in this house?

It’s odd isn’t it that you can live in a house for years, with a crack in some corner of the wall, that you manage somehow to see and not see. Always promising yourself to get to, and never really getting to.

For some reason, in the night, in the dark, in my bathroom… I saw the absence of an attic, really saw it.

The question had come up earlier over at my sister’s house, We had somehow got around to discussing attics, probably while talking about storage space, and I mentioned I didn’t have one, there was no entrance anywhere to an attic or crawl space. But the more I thought about it the more odd it seemed.

I had thought, finally, about there at least being some kind of storage space up there. So why no entrance? But surely attic-less houses are common? There’s no mystery. Some houses have attics, and some just have insulation. Not exactly news. Why the hell was I obsessing about a phantom attic?

And just as I thought that and was shaking and wiping in the dark, preparing to shake it off as one of those twilight fancies, and wash my hands, and head to bed,…above my head, clearly and deliberately, with extreme patience… I heard someone take a single step.

Copyright 2012 HT

WHAT I’M READING: Grading the Short Stories Nov 2011 Edition

What I’m reading:

    BLUE YODEL

- This is a short story from Scott Snyder’s VOODOO HEART collection, published in a nice hardcover by Dial Press in 2006. It’s an imaginative tale of one man’s mad chase across the country for… aww but that would be telling. Suffice it to say it’s an irreverent fable, touched with the capraesque and the odd. Perhaps a little too plodding, and the ending is a bit forgettable, but overall a good read. C+.

Voodoo Heart:Price it Here

Next are a few stories I want to mention from Joe Hill’s 20TH CENTURY GHOSTS collection. First a word about the book: The 2005 1st US Edition published by William Morrow (and one of the rare books still printed in the US), paradoxically boasts a beautiful black hardcover exterior, while a very cheap rag/pulp paper interior. There’s something quite endearing about that dichotomy. It’s a book designed for you to want to hold it and page through it. A book that has a lure and allure, still beyond the reach of a digital age. I read this book for free from the library, but it’s one I have to buy for my shelves for the reasons of its construction listed above, and the reasons of its content, listed below…

Here are the grades on the stories in 20TH CENTURY GHOSTS that I’ve read so far:

    BEST NEW HORROR

- A short story that lives up to its name, and is a strong one to open this collection with. The genre is so hard to be original in, because for the most part it relies on conventions that the reader is well aware of. The strength of Hill’s story is it plays and counts on and echoes the readers familiarity with the horror genre, to craft a tale that sucks us in, and creeps us out despite our cynicism. It’s really wonderfully written and constructed tale, that does not overstay its welcome. B+.

    20TH CENTURY GHOST

- The titular story, I couldn’t get into it. A story of a haunted movie theater, that unfortunately does nothing with that both familiar, and potentially interesting premise.

    POP ART

- Now that’s a brilliant and unusual and completely captivating way to start a story. I was hooked from sentence one. Laugh out loud brilliant and strange, absurdity of a story, that underneath may or may not tackle serious issues of neglect, abuse, childhood terrors, childhood friends, escapism, hope, survival, imagination, beauty, suicide, death of the wondrous, and growing up. It’s just subtle, imaginative, and elegant writing.

“You get an astronaut’s life whether you want it or not. Leave it all behind for a world you know nothing about. That’s just the deal.”

or

“It is my belief that, as a rule, creature’s of Happy’s ilk— I’m thinking here of canines and men both— more often run free than live caged, and it is in fact a world of mud and feces they desire, a world with no Art in it, or anyone like him, a place where there is no talk of books or God or the worlds beyond this one, a place where the only communication is the hysterical barking of starving and hate-filled dogs.”

or

“I hope if there is another world, we will not be judged too harshly for the things we did wrong here– that we will at least be forgiven for the mistakes we made out of love.”

I was reading this, silly, silly story. And somewhere through it I realized the space under my eyes was wet, and for the life of me, I could not find out how. One of the best short stories I’ve read all year. An easy A-.

20th Century Ghosts: Price it Here

My appreciation of the writings of H.Russell Wakefield has led me to other early 20th century writers of the weird, of strange fiction. Poe and Shakespeare withstanding, we have a tendency to expect something of the outdated, the stilted, the historically important but unfortunately no longer engaging from writers of yesterday. However I largely find, that great writing, is great writing, and it endures. Largely because even though times move on, what moves and drives people… largely does not. That what made the seafarers of a distant age laugh and cringe, is not all that removed, from what moves you and I.

And perhaps that is a failing of man, that the penny-dreadfuls, and Poe’s tales of madness and revenge, and Doyle’s mysteries of the macabre should resonate as well today as yesterday in the hearts and minds of men.

It shows how little we evolve, that we can still understand and thrill to… the petty failings and fears of men. The day we do evolve past the point of understanding or identifying with lines such as the following, we will have gained and lost… much.

“But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovered Country, from whose bourn
No Traveller returns, Puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have,
Than fly to others that we know not of.
Thus Conscience does make Cowards of us all,”
-Shakespeare’s Hamlet

or

“This spirit of perverseness, I say, came to my final overthrow. It was this unfathomable longing of the soul to vex itself–to offer violence to its own nature–to do wrong for the wrong’s sake only–that urged me to continue and finally to consummate the injury I had inflicted upon the unoffending brute.”
– Edgar Allan Poe, “The Black Cat”

It’s the fact that hundreds of years can separate the writing from the reading, but the passions and conflicts and soul searching is as new as the dawn.

So it is that the writing of Robert Aickman, removed from us and our world by decades of time and decades of change, still maintains the power… to enrapt. Case in point

    RAVISSANTE

my first introduction to the short stories of Aickman (and indeed the first short story of his first sole collection), surprised me with its seeming prescience, it’s ability to put on the page, observations ever current, and ever waiting to be discovered… particularly for those of us of an artistic bent. And it surprised me with its… strangeness. I would have expected its frankness and its sensuality from a writer of today, but not one so far into yesterday.

But many writers of today, would have lacked the craft and patience and subtlety to make that frankness and sensuality more than shock, lacked the ability to make it not unlike… revelations.

Not a ghost story, more an examination of the strange corners of the world where we haunt ourselves, RAVISSANTE can be found in both the collections SUB ROSA and one of Aickman’s “best of” collections, PAINTED DEVILS.

Painted Devils; Strange Stories: Price it Here

Aristocrats of Insanity: The books of Thomas Ligotti

“A paralysis had seized them, that state of soul known to those who dwell on the highest state of madness, aristocrats of insanity whose nightmares confront them on either side of sleep.”
—from Thomas Ligotti’s THE TSALAL short story, available in his excellent collection NOCTUARY

I’ve spent an inordinate amount on collecting the work of Thomas Ligotti, and I’m not quite sure of it, his works, or even sure of him yet, as a writer.

His MY WORK IS NOT YET DONE, one of his later collection of stories, was just plain… endless. It was often tiresome, un-engaging writing that spiraled itself into ever tightening circles of disinterest. Luckily, I did not buy MY WORK IS NOT YET DONE, but had the good sense to rent from the Library.

While Nihilism is a state we all flirt with, particularly the artistic minded, to make of those fleeting moments a religion or a philosophy or a world view, is the height of maudlin, affected, self indulgent claptrap.

Particularly to invoke thousands of words to the belief in meaninglessness or the uselessness of everything or the need for everything to be exterminated, as Ligotti purportedly does in his non-fiction book THE CONSPIRACY AGAINST THE HUMAN RACE (and no I’m not about to read it, the snippets I’ve read are enough, when Ligotti is being maudlin I can’t make it through his short stories, much less his novel length attempt at philosophy) is the height of affectation and self-delusion.

If nothing means anything what the eff are you writing for?

Have the strength of your convictions and off yourself, or the more rational and preferred thing… embrace the fact that your convictions may need work, and life can be good as well as bad, and that’s reason enough… for everything.

So Ligotti, when he gets out of his own way, and doesn’t succumb to his own ennui, or believe too much in the precarious hype heaped on him by his overly ‘cultist’ fan base… can be a great writer (the only thing more detrimental to a writer than the critic who believes he can do no right, is the fan who believes he can do no wrong. The former at least would potentially embrace change, the latter, should your style change/mature, would hate you for ‘selling out’). Unfortunately in any given collection, he tends to be a .500 hitter.

However perusing his earlier collections there is much there to be enamored of, in that 50%.

SONGS OF A DEAD DREAMER (1985,1989)
Songs of a Dead Dreamer

GRIMSCRIBE (1991)
Grimscribe: His Lives and Works

NOCTUARY (1994)
Noctuary

THE AGONIZING RESURRECTION OF VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN (1994 – On the low end copies of this are going for a few hundred dollars. Pretty expensive for a book of not even short stories, but snippets, vignettes. Save yourself money and buy SONGS OF A DEAD DREAMER instead, as they share some of the same vignettes.)
The agonizing resurrection of Victor Frankenstein: & other gothic tales

THE NIGHTMARE FACTORY (1996- Collects the previous, at the time, out of print story collections).
The Nightmare Factory

[There were some CD chap books that were released in this period.]

MY WORK IS NOT YET DONE (2001)

THE SHADOW AT THE BOTTOM OF THE WORLD (2005- With NIGHTMARE FACTORY being out of print, this is NIGHTMARE FACTORY light, being a smaller, less comprehensive collection, sampling of Ligotti’s previously published work. With a few new stories tossed in. This was my introduction to Ligotti, and considering I’m still talking about him, I guess it was a good one)
The Shadow at the Bottom of the World

TEATRO GROTTESCO (2006)- And as with previous volumes there’s very little new here, it’s mostly a repackaging of previously collected stories. However, because this is the newest, this is the most affordable collection out there, so makes a great starting place. Plus the Virgin Books edition that is available is very nicely laid out, readable interior, comfortable compact shape, and a cover that is a closeup on the face of a weathered, broken doll… which says everything you need it to say about the work within.

Teatro Grottesco

So I’m not sure the future is going to bring us anything substantially new from Ligotti, more than likely just ever more expensive repackaging of older stories. But it does mean you can pick up just about any volume and get a nice sampling of Ligotti’s work.

I think you’ll find, Ligotti at his best… worth your time.

THE BEST OF VIRGIL FINLAY: An overview of the best Virgil Finlay art books Pt 1 of 2!


“How does it feel?

How does it feel?

To be on your own?!

With no direction home?!

How does it feel?”

—Bob Dylan

Okay, onto this installment’s topic…

Virgil Finlay.

Do you know the name?

A month ago, I couldn’t say I did.

I had come across his work and his name in passing, without ever really internalizing them. A month or so ago I picked up a lavish Edgar Allen Poe tome, and the most memorable and impressive thing about it was this one Virgil Finlay drawing.

It set me off it did.

The compulsive in me.

The collector in me.

The one for whom… nothing is forgotten. Nothing is ever forgotten.

Least of all the fleeting, tortured gasps of genius… we call art.

Virgil Finlay was an artist of the early days of the 20th century. Perpetually underpaid, he crafted time-consuming masterpieces of pen and ink (done one laborious drop at a time, no photoshop for him, no short-cuts, what you see in his drawings is a level of detail that could only be called… staggering) for the popular, but cheap mass medium, of penny a word pulps.

Hailed as a master in his own lifetime, he was the sought after artist for many up and coming writers, making their name in the pulps… among them Harlan Ellison and Robert Bloch.

His work decades later, even to I… who am somewhat informed of the work of great artists past and present, is revelatory.

It is the work of someone… compelled.


“We do these things not because they are permitted.

We do them because we are compelled.”
—Rorschach in Alan Moore’s WATCHMEN

There are various Virgil Finlay art books but only five that I consider… must have additions to any art lover’s library. The five books being in chronological order THE BOOK OF VIRGIL FINAY (1975)
, VIRGIL FINLAY’S STRANGE SCIENCE (1992)
, VIRGIL FINLAY’S WOMEN OF THE AGES (1992)
, VIRGIL FINLAY’S PHANTASMS (1993)
, VIRGIL FINLAY’S FAR BEYOND (1994)
.

It is testament to Finlay’s prodigious talent and output that these five books, over a 130pages, each chock full of full page Finlay art, that there is surprisingly little overlap of material. Each book offers something essential not found in the others, and as such it’s an impressive and, I feel, highly worthwhile quintet of books, and overview of an artist, and his art. And they all leave you with an indelible interest to read the short stories (typically) that Finlay’s illustrations complemented.

If you have to choose one book to start with, the well named THE BOOK OF VIRGIL FINLAY is a good one. Compiled by Art Collector Gerry De La Ree, he had more to do with keeping Finlay’s name alive, and championing him in the early 70s and bringing his largely forgotten work (mostly left to rot in the browning pulp pages of the 30s and 40s that they adorned),to a new generation. Much as Francis M. Nevins unflagging writings and praise helped lionize, justly, the work of Cornell Woolrich to modern readers far removed from his pulp heyday.

Indeed Edgar Allen Poe himself, dismissed in his own life time and years later, owes his current elevated literary status to a biography done on him in the early 20th century. Again by a collector and a fan. So the importance of the fan, the collector, the patron, the lover of art… can not be overstated.

Because without this person to glorify the work, it runs the high risk, in an always mercenary market, of rotting away.

Gerry De La Ree, is not Virgil Finlay’s only champion, but his 1975 book marks him as one of those pivotal voices, whose work has helped preserve Finlay from that most common curse of men… that we and our works are forgotten.

In 1975 Gerry De La Ree’s book was both eulogy and clarion call to his friend and idol, it was testament… proof against his friend being forgotten. And it worked, because 36 years after the publication of THE BOOK OF VIRGIL FINLAY, I’m talking about the book, and the man, and his art. And it spurred me to pick up the other 4 essential Finlay books.

And I think, it will you.

THE BOOK OF VIRGIL FINLAY is not the best book of the five, (this being the Avon Books Softcover I’m referring to, I’ve never seen a copy of Gerry De La Ree’s Self Published Hardcover) construction-wise it suffers from poor paper stock and even poorer binding. If you can find a copy today that does not suffer from browning, mildewed pages, or crumbing binding and evaporated glue (I have one copy, that basically turned into a pile of looseleaf pages as soon as I tried to look through it) then get it and hold onto it.

Because poor construction aside what TBOVF does offer, that none of the other books does, is a chronological overview of Finlay’s artwork that covers the years from 1933 to 1968.

It’s amazing to see that over this 30+ year period, how consistently excellent and varied and innovative and experimental is Finlay’s output. Beyond the constants of masterful detail, his imagination makes each drawing fresh, and eschewing stereotypes.

So THE BOOK OF VIRGIL FINLAY is a must own book, if you can get it in any thing approaching collectible condition. Strongly Recommended. We’ll cover the other four books in an upcoming post.

“I make no claim that these are the best of Finlay, though certainly many of them rank with his best and, hopefully will demonstrate the meticulous craftsmanship of this man who took such pride in his art despite the inferior publications for which he often was working.”
–From Gerry De La Ree’s Introduction to THE BEST OF VIRGIL FINLAY

Book Review: Edgar Allan Poe: Masters of the Weird Tale

“Nothing will teach you more about the human heart, than Murnau’s SUNRISE. Not the living of it, and not the leaving of it. If that simple, supple, nuanced tale does not move you. Indelibly move you, then you are something I prefer not to know. For its day there was no bigger, more sumptuous, more lavish spectacle. And technically, SUNRISE, with its use of various compositing effects, and camera effects, was both innovator and game-changer.”
— Heroic Times on MURNAU

Sunrise [Blu-ray]

Edgar Allan Poe: Masters of the Weird Tale- Centipede Press is the producer of high end tomes containing work by some of the standout writers of the fantastic, among them H.P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, Robert E. Howard, August Derleth, Fritz Leiber, Ray Bradbury, Stephen King to name a few. True to the title, EAPMOTWT concentrates on collecting all the work of foremost writer of Dark Fiction, Edgar Allen Poe. At 900 pages, the book also contains many illustrations done for Poe stories.

Edgar Allan Poe: Masters of the Weird Tale

Aware of the giant over-sized art retrospectives done on HP Lovecraft and Stephen King respectively, and led by the dimensions listed on the on-line purchase page, 14″ by 10″, I bought this item. However, once received, actual dimensions are 7″ by 10″, which is comparable to regular book size.

The good? is it is 900 pages, contains all the Edgar Allen Poe stories, sports large type, illustrations and spot illustrations sporadically through the book. Comes in a slipcase, with quality cover, paper and binding.

The bad? As stated it is not oversized, it is regular sized. The artwork is sporadic at best, so not an art book in the sense of Centipede Press’ phenomenal and large enough to bludgeon the odd badger, KNOWING DARKNESS: THE ART OF STEPHEN KING. It’s more a book with various spot illustrations tossed in, all pretty turn of the century and stock. The best of the illustrations are the handful done by Virgil Finlay. And while these sporadic illustrations are pecfectly fine if this book was priced say at $40, this book retails for nearly $300!!! Even getting this deeply discounted online, you’re still looking at $180 to $200!?! A lot of money for what really amounts to a hardcover book with some spot illustrations. This is not an art book. You can get any number of books containing all Edgar Allen Poe’s stories, for a fraction of the cost of this tome. I recommend this one:

The Complete Edgar Allan Poe Tales

My recommendation… pass.

You can decide for yourself… here.

Edgar Allan Poe: Masters of the Weird Tale

The Last Black Samurai: Remembering Marc Olden; an interview with Diane Crafford

22 Feb 2012 Wednesday

There’s some news on the horizon regarding Mark Olden’s seminal series BLACK SAMURAI, as well as other work. I don’t have the thumbs up yet… to break the news, but in the interim I thought it was a great time to re-present this fun and informative interview, to tide you over.

Plus it has been updated with new pics, courtesy of Ms. Crafford. Please Enjoy!

And is it me, or does the new film THE RAVEN bear more than a passing resemblance to Marc Olden’s POE MUST DIE? hmmmm. :) .

**************************

The fact that what you are about to read and hear is a YEAR in the preparation, goes to the absurd vagaries of mi vida loca, my crazy life.

But here finally, before the clock turns over on yet another year is my interview with Diane Crafford, on one of my favorite writers, the late, great and incomparable Marc Olden.

We’ll start with the text portion of the interview, and following that the pretty free flowing audio interview. HUGE, HUGE thanks to Diane for her time, her good humor, her anecdotes, and her extreme patience.

Now without further delay….

1st to set the stage.

Who is Marc Olden?

Marc Olden is a writer I became aware of, oddly enough on an auction site. Being something of a bibliophile I’m always looking to pick up books, and no doubt I was looking for either Warren Murphy’s DESTROYER books, or books by the late great Donald Goines.

And instead I came across this auction of a near complete series of BLACK SAMURAI books by Marc Olden. Being a Blackophile as well as a Bibliophile :) , the title alone, as well as the very impressive 70s art on the paperbacks were enough for me to decide to purchase the books.

So I won the auction got the books, and was… from book one, blown away. This was not the hokey Jim Kelly movie, this was the undiluted source material, and it was pure and gritty, and brilliantly written. I’ve a huge fan of the Warren Murphy DESTROYER books, as well as the James Bonds and the MacK Bolans, but BLACK SAMURAI takes it to another level. BLACK SAMURAI is the BEST of that flooded market that was Men’s Action Adventure Books of the 70s. And the fact that it was so relatively short lived, also makes it a far more accessible body of work, and to my mind, far more prized.

And passion leading to passion, I just became obsessed with collecting all the work, primarily the 70s work, of this somehow inexplicably under the radar writer. Two of the holy grails being the Edgar Nominated POE MUST DIE, and the even more obscure BOOK OF SHADOWS (which I have to thank Diane for really making me aware of).

And reading his books led me to wanting to share with the world more of this, I felt and feel, brilliant, important, and overlooked writer.

So I reached out to the person who was keeping the late Mr. Olden’s web presence alive, the gracious Diane Crafford, and she was both kind and crazy enough to consent to the following free flowing and I believe informative and engaging interview/conversation.

The early part of our interview… the audio does not capture Diane’s, bubbly, fun, immersive personality, so I’m going to transcribe that from notes, and memory as best I can (I have a tendency toward the romantic, so anything that sounds like bs I take the blame for) bullet points mainly, and then we’ll kick into the audio.

HT: Hi Diane, thanks in advance for your time. We’re here to discuss Marc Olden one of my, and I assume your, favorite writers. Now most of this I got from your site as well as my research: He’s done over 40 books. His first work of fiction NARC a series of nine novels. He also produced the eight book BLACK SAMURAI series, made into a bad movie with Jim Kelly. And POE MUST DIE a stunning immersive novel drenched in period detail.

DC: You do your homework.

HT: I try. Now I’m detecting a bit of an accent, and your name Crafford, Londoner?

DC: Welsh, actually.

HT: Ahh, missed it by that much. Now tell me a little about Marc Olden behind the books

DC: Well he was born in Baltimore and was a press agent before he gave it up to become a writer. And once he chose that road, he embraced it completely. He had a strong work ethic, he wrote every day. His Black Samurai series was written at the same time he wrote the Narc series. It was while writing Narc he got to know guys in Law Enforcement. With advanced degree black belts in Japanese Karate and Aikido, he coached and mentored many members of the NYPD in Aikido.

HT: So his writing was an extension of the man.

DC: Yes. Like every good writer he wrote what he knew, of his passions. And after the NARC, BLACK SAMURAI books, he went into stand-alone novels such as INFORMANT. It did well but was not a best seller.

HT: Going back to BLACK SAMURAI series for a second, what did he think of the film?

DC: He had no input into the film. And resigned himself to it being something distinct from his work.

HT: Well let’s backup a bit, and tell us bit about you and how you met Marc.

DC: -I met him here at New York. He was a press agent for a restaurant, and I was working in film. We hit it off immediately. He had a way of carrying himself. –Later I was in London working for a film Producer, Sidney Dujer. The film was THE TWELVE CHAIRS starring Frank Lagella.

It’s amazing the little decisions that make all the difference. Marc went from Press Agent to writer, writing magazine articles. And then was approached to write a book on Angela Davis. And at that time I was looking for work, and became his transcriptionist. He had a head full of stories, he loved to tell them. And at the center of them was his belief in Justice.

HT: Now how did one of his earliest books, and what I consider not just one of his best books, but one of THE best books, POE MUST DIE come about? It seems a very ecletic work and ahead of its time work, mixing historical fiction and figures, mystery, horror, action, and adventure.

DC: He loved Edgar Allen Poe and he loved Charles Dickens. And POE MUST DIE at its heart is his love letter to those influences, but done as only he could do it. Dicken’s Christmas Carol, all about redemption, at the heart of this elaborately researched and gothic murder mystery,

HT: I can definitely see that. The book is so full of period detail, and authenticity, it puts you there in that place and in that time, of a wilder and younger England and America. What were some of his other inspirations?

DC: He thought Raymond Chandler was the best American writer. He was inspired by Eastern Philosophy through his mother and father (his father was George Olden, an art director). This filtered down to the type of man he was. Very calm, very contained, very brave and strong. I once asked him, “What is it that makes you so together?” and he said, “Good looks and the power of prayer.”And while he said it with a smile, that was sincere, it was how he lived his life. In balance.

“It was a different breed of man who sat in the cherrywood chair, his legs crossed under a cashmere robe, a thin volume on his lap. His graying hair, immaculately groomed, seemed to highlight a strong-lined, somber face… An aura of greatness and elegance seemed to permeate his being, as if his presence lent dignity to the book-lined walls. He seemed like what men should be, but never were.“
….THE DESTROYER: CREATED, THE DESTROYER by Warren Murphy.

HT: You can see that balance in his work. It’s very measured and… sincere. Which is an odd thing to say about fiction, but he wrote fiction with Authenticity.

DC: Yes. All his work was an extension of his interests. Take BOOK OF SHADOWS, he got the idea for that on one of our annual trips to England. He loved history and was a real Anglophile. He became intrigued by the canals that snaked through England, and that was the impetus for BOOK OF SHADOWS about vacationing American’s who stumble across things best left undisturbed.

***********************************

Okay that brings our text portion to an end. Onto the audio. You’re going to hear a lot of paper shuffling, that’s me jotting down notes, and flipping back and forth in my book, to consult my notes. I don’t think it distracts too much, Diane does a great job. So please enjoy! And bottom line, if you haven’t read anything by Marc Olden, go to Diane’s site and get acquainted. I would also suggest purchasing through her site.

Diane’s great site on Marc Olden

For more on Marc Olden, and particularly BLACK SAMURAI also see the following sites:

Great overview of the 8 Book BLACK SAMURAI series
More great Marc Olden/Black Samurai coverage

The below audio is a little over 33 minutes,, and the audio has been noise reduced to minimize the sound (my frantic note taking) as much as possible. Not great audio, but definitely listenable, and DEFINITELY informative.

Okay! You can listen to it HERE!

Copyright 2000-2012 Masai Inc and other specified writers. Images copyright their respective owners.

GIRLS:THE COMPLETE COLLECTION OVERSIZED HARDCOVER by The Luna Brothers

Greatness following greatness, in addition to receiving the gorgeous ABSOLUTE JUSTICE HC, I also received the stunning, sumptuous oversized GIRLS:THE COMPLETE COLLECTION OVER-SIZED HARDCOVER written and drawn by the amazing Luna Brothers.

I’m going to be brief. If you don’t own this… I feel great sympathy for you.

It’s brilliant.

Absolutely brilliant. As much as I like and adore ABSOLUTE JUSTICE, superhero books are an acquired taste. GIRLS is something else all together, a dark, disturbed, and at times cackle out loud funny, fantastic fable, as at home sitting beside Poe as it is King. No one is going to dismiss this gorgeous $100 tome… as kid’s entertainment.

A masterful work by the Luna Brothers, that you really should own before it sells out. Check here to purchase it.

Highest Recommendation.