WEDNESDAYS WORDS

WEDNESDAYS WORDS is a new weekly installment that ranks the 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.

Robert S. Duncanson, 19th century Black romantic painter (The Sigma Pi Phi series)
Parks, James Dallas.
ROBERT S. DUNCANSON: 19th Century Black Romantic Painter.
Washington, DC: Associated Publishers, Inc., A Division of the Association For The Study of Afro-American Life and History, Inc., 1980.
x, 60 pp., 25 b&w illus., chronol., catalogue of works. Appendices include letters from Duncanson and note from Mrs. Ruth E. Showes, “A Relative”; letter concerning Duncanson’s illness from his wife Phoebe. 8vo (24 cm.), cloth.

When the Death-Bat Flies: The Detective Stories of Norvell Page

When the Death-Bat Flies: The Detective Stories of Norvell Page- Best known for his Spider pulp stories, scribe Norvell Page was a master mystery writer as well. This 800-page book collects over 30 of Page’s detective stories from the pages of DETECTIVE TALES, THE SPIDER, DETECTIVE FICTION WEEKLY and STRANGE DETECTIVE MYSTERIES, most of which have never been reprinted before. Includes an all-new introduction by Will Murray.

Dead Dolls Don’t Talk / Hunt the Killer / Too Hold to Hold

Three short thrillers that offer variations on the theme of the innocent person caught up in murderous events. Dead Dolls Don t Talk (1959) allows a juror to find out what it s like to be on the other side of the law. Hunt the Killer (1951) is the story of a man just out from prison who is newly framed for a killing he didn t commit. And Too Hot to Hold (1959) is a case of mistaken identity that escalates when greed takes the place of common sense.


City of Corpses: The Weird Mysteries of Ken Carter

“Reading Page is like grabbing a live electrical wire. . . . Once you take hold, you can’t let go until the story comes to an end. Page paced his stories at one speed only-runaway locomotive.

“When it comes to writing grab-your-throat and hurtle-you-along at a hundred miles an hour fiction, there’s nobody better.”

—Robert Weinberg, from his introduction

From the author of The Spider, here are seven tales of weird mystery and strange crime. Follow Ken Carter as he unravels seven strange cases.

Bonus: Also included is a 1935 article by Norvell Page explaining his approach to writing.

With an introduction by Robert Weinberg.

Cover art by Walter M. Baumhofer.

Stories include:

Hell’s Music
City of Corpses
Statues of Horror
Gallows Ghost
The Devil’s Hoof
The Sinister Embrace
Satan’s Sideshow
“How I Write” by Norvell Page

Hank & Muddy


In steamy Shreveport, Louisiana, two musical legends-in-the-making come together: a whiskey-soaked country singer named Hank Williams and blues artist Muddy Waters. What they’ve got in common over several hectic days of drinking, singing and whoring is an interest in staying alive despite local mobsters, bent cops, and a truckload of Ku Klux Klansmen. Then there’s the bankrobber’s daughter.


The Spider VS. The Empire State: The Complete Black Police Trilogy [Paperback]
Norvell Page – THEY SAID IT COULDN’T HAPPEN HERE. THEN THEY SAID ONE MAN COULDN’T STOP IT! Richard Wentworth spent his vigilante career as The Spider always in the shadows. Now evil acted in broad daylight. The Party of Justice swept into office, rewriting the laws of New York state overnight to benefit their criminal backers and make slaves of its people. This American Reichstag gave itself sweeping powers and raised a private army to exert its malevolent will. How could The Spider hope to stop a criminal conspiracy as big as the state itself? This time The Master of Men would go beyond taking the lives of evildoers… by bringing Hope to the tyrannized citizens of the Empire State! The “Black Police Trilogy” is author Norvell Page’s classic pulp fiction Nazi allegory from 1938. Originally published in three consecutive months of The Spider Magazine, the novels “The City That Paid To Die”, “The Spider at Bay”, and “Scourge of the Black Legions” are collected in book form for the first time! The Spider VS. The Empire State: The Complete Black Police Trilogy


The WEDNESDAYS WORDS column is a new blog feature, appearing (you guessed it!) every Wednesday. Come back next week to see which books make the list!

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MISTER B GONE by Clive Barker: A Review

“I have seen the future of horror, and it is named Clive Barker.”

Of all the lines and soundbytes and selling blurbs to help a new writer get noticed, that Stephen King has written, the above is arguably the most memorable, for the simple fact that the books he said the above quote about… going on 3 decades later, Clive Barker’s introduction to the horror field, the apt named BOOKS OF BLOOD still live up to the hype.

They still, much as Poes tales of the macabre, or Harlan Ellison’s DANGEROUS VISIONS, remain watershed moments in a field that is particulary hard to stand out in, the field of short horror fiction. The crowd being massive and the competition fierce.

I’ve praised the BOOKS OF BLOOD series previously, suffice to say it remains 3 decades later an oft reread perrenial favorite.

However that said, I have continually found Barker’s attempt at longer fiction, to consistently fall short of the glory (I add the caveat I have not read his Abarat novels, which I understand are quite popular with children and their parents).

And unfotunately MISTER B GONE is no exception. I won’t belabour the premise since that’s never the point of my reviews, but this tale of a demon, told not just from a 1st person perspective, but told from the physical book’s perspective is a nice conceit, is a nice experiment.

I like how Barker is not afraid to play with the form, the expectations of the genre, in this case making the book resemble an aged tome. Like stated, a nice conceit, surrounding an interesting premise.

It is one that would have made a good short story, but padded to novel length it quickly becomes tiresome, repetitive… tedious.

Only the fact that I also acquired the audio book at the same time even enabled me to finish the book.

In rare cases, just like a good director can improve a just okay book (Michael Mann in MANHUNTER, Zack Snyder in 300) a good Audio Actor can make listenable an oft tedious read. And that’s what happened here with Doug Bradley’s unabridged compelling reading of a less than compelling book.

Because when I say repetitive, I mean repetitive, the book is largely very one note, the book as a character and the book under review. Indeed the bulk of the book consists of three words repeated, requested, demanded, over and over and over.

“Okay I get the point! Get on with it.” I muttered more than once, while reading/listening to the book.

It quickly is an exercise that outlives its welcome. And when finally we get to the reveals of the book, they are all pretty darn underwhelming. And even the climax, the attempt to give import to the war being waged in the pages of the book, is just not a remotely novel (novel as in new) or interesting premise.

It’s just… not good. So yeah, I hate to give a thumbs down to yet another Clive Barker novel, but not everyone can sustain a story, keep it inventive and interesting, for hundreds of pages. Just as very few can do what Barker did in the BOOKS OF BLOOD, in a few pages deliver a gripping, memorable, complete tale. You have people who are great at short stories, you have people who are great at novels, and in a far smaller camp you have people who are great at both (Percival Everett, Stephen King, Chester Himes, etc).

Clive Barker from my experience is not in the latter camp. Your mileage may vary, but for me MISTER B. GONE gets a big good riddance. D-/F.

My purpose of this blog is to bring you honestly the things I Love, and occasionaly the things I feel deserve a warning, dissenting, but I hope never cruel or frivolous, opinion. And because I never like to leave a review on the negative (when I can avoid it), I offer the following:

In prep for this review I explored Barker’s website, and he has quite a few works that I didn’t catch upon first release, that sound very interesting. Particularly his art book, VISIONS OF HEAVEN AND HELL. So looking forward to sampling that, from what I’ve seen so far it’s quite impressive.

“Calling you excrement would be an insult to the product of my bowels.”
–MISTER B. GONE

That is a fantastic line, and honestly is so good it almost, but not quite, saves the book for me. Makes me chuckle. 🙂

Hal Bennett LORD OF DARK PLACES and Apocalypse Now

I’m reading Hal Bennett’s LORD OF DARK PLACES.

I’ve had the kind of week, where reading Hal Bennett seems a logical end to such a week.

I’ve never read anyone quite like him.

His writings are horrible tales of lives horrendously lived, but there’s a manic humor, the humor of the absurd and tragic, that he plays up that will have you amused at the same time you are horrified. I laughed out loud in places that I felt conflicted laughing at. These are bad places and bad things Bennett is discussing.

I mean some of it is so out of the blue and outrageous, he’ll have you inflamed with rage, then in the next sentence make your jaw drop, and a sound not unlike laughter escape you. I’m uncertain how comfortable I am with that, but I know only a Satirist of consummate skill can pull off such a confluence of emotions.

Reading him, following up reading Pearl Cleage’s DEALS WITH THE DEVIL:AND OTHER REASONS TO RIOT (filled with diatribe’s and rants to make even me seem calm in comparison) is not exactly a feel good prescription. But he can write.

You may not particularly care for the twisted and twisting Jim Crow world he writes about, but the beauty of his language, in an age of dumbed-down Black ‘literature’ and ‘music’ is like manna from heaven.

Here is a word-smith, worthy of every tree sacrificed, and every bit of ink used.

‘Her Large cow eyes were still open and gazed somehow to the left, as though death had surprised her from that side.”

and

“There were about a hundred of them in all, but the women in the congregation outnumbered the men two to one, because a woman is always alert for news of any religion in which she might become the Virgin Mother and enjoy the ineffable mystery of having her tail played in by the Holy Ghost. These women were no different. They wore clean drawers in case tonight was the night, or in case they got too happy and fainted and their dresses came up.”

My final verdict is still out on LORD OF DARK PLACES, being only a quarter of the way in. I know so far it is best in small doses, but I also know… I’ll keep coming back to it.

There is this line in Apocalypse Now, where the General says to Martin Sheen’s character of an especially unappetizing looking local dish, ‘If you eat it, you will never have to prove your courage any other way”, the same can be said of Hal Bennett’s LORD OF DARK PLACES.

If you read it, you will never have to prove your courage any other way.

And that right there… is a recommendation.

These are
times that kill ya
these are
times that spill ya
these are
times that kneed you into ground

[repeat 2 times]

MUMBO JUMBO by Ishmael Reed Book Review: A novel about Haiti and America and Ragtime 90 Years Ago

“It’s a way we had over here for living with ourselves. We cut ’em in half with a machine gun and give ’em a Band-Aid. It was a lie. And the more I saw them, the more I hated lies.”– Apocalypse Now


I just finished Ishmael Reed’s 1971 Novel MUMBO JUMBO, a biting, absurdist, fantastic satire, that also happens to be, like the best of satires, a cutting and revealing and true depiction of our ids and our angsts. It is for a work of fiction, far more true than are so-called “history”. It is such a rich and deep and sprawling and compelling and… brilliant novel.

I consider myself a pretty informed reader, and this 4 decade old novel had insights into not just our history but our humanity, that i had never even considered.

Example?

How it defined Museums as store-houses for Pirated/Stolen goods.

I’ve been in and out of museums all my life, and it never even occurred to me to consider them in the context of Robber-Baron’s basically raping and destroying civilizations and bringing home to the west their trophies. Their stolen goods.

And this was like a throw away line in the novel, and it blew my mind. That I who consider myself relatively afro-centric that it did not even occur to me to question the origin and rightness of Museums. And the whole novel is like this, one smashing revelation after another.

And yes it’s a work of sensational fiction, but what makes it even more sensational are the parts of it… that ring true, are true. And speak even today… of true things.

From the hidden Haitian War and Holocaust of the early 20th century, which oddly mirrors the conflicts in Haiti today, even to the search for a talking Android to lead the people astray, which without too much of a jump can be compared to today’s President Obama…. it is almost a prophetic work. Or perhaps it just illustrates how history not learned from, is repeated.

This is the type of book that school curriculums that teach children of color… should cover. Must cover. It’s the kind of book… written with brilliance, and that inspires, ignites a real fire… for more brilliance, and more questions and answers.

It’s the kind of book that inspires… real learning.

It is a challenging read, but stick with it as it does all come together. And I highly recommend hunting down the griot audio book version which is FANTASTIC! It is an essential read, and in light of recent issues in Haiti, I think a surprisingly timely and insightful one. A satire that hints at much that is true, about Haiti’s tumultuous and troubled relationship with Western Powers.

It is an essential purchase. B+/A-

.

O Tidings of Comfort & Joy! Israel America and Dark Reichs

Oh, tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy.
Oh, tidings of comfort and joy.

I’m listening to old 70s Soul Cinema trailer clips, and they are cracking me up. The best? This little tag line from Fred Williamson’s BLACK CAESAR…

“This Caesar comes to bury you!”— How Frigging cool is that!I have to pick up that movie on DVD and watch it now. 🙂

God rest ye merry gentlemen,
Let nothing you dismay.
Remember Christ our savior
was born on Christmas day.
To save us all from Satan’s power
when we were gone astray.
Oh, tidings of comfort and joy,
comfort and joy.
Oh, tidings of comfort and joy.

The odd thing I find about Christmas, and this supposedly benevolent time of year, one of them, is it is typically the time America ramps up her military strikes against non-christian countries.

“Celebrating Ramadan with your families are you? Well let me drop off my present from Uncle Sam….
this megaton bomb bitches!! Merry Christmas MFers!!!”

I sadistically jest, but the truth is that sadistic without any jesting involved.


From God, our heavenly father,
A blessed angel came.
And unto certain shepherds,
Brought tidings of the same.
How that in Bethlehem was born,
The son of God by name.
Oh, tidings of comfort and joy,
comfort and joy.
Oh, tidings of comfort and joy.
Oh, tidings of comfort and joy.
Oh, tidings of comfort and joy.

I want to highly recommend a book I had mentioned picking up previously, DIGGING:THE AFRO-AMERICAN SOUL OF AMERICAN CLASSICAL MUSIC by Amiri Baraka.

A compilation of essays covering several decades of this uniquely American art form of Jazz/Blues as only an insider can, it is not only a seminal dissection of the times and the players in the music scene, it is as brilliant a dissection of America the American id and American fallacies as I’ve ever read.

It is an essential book, and is easily my recommended read of 2009.

It is a book on the masters of the medium, Trane, Coleman, Miles, the list goes on, told by someone who knew and played and laughed with them.

It is a book told with an authority, validity by one of not just the world’s preeminent poets but one of the world’s preeminent music lovers, and you’re NEVER going to get that again, EVER. By anyone.

Because those pioneers are all shuffled off this mortal coil, and what is left is the vultures to retrofit their memories and their music. The vultures who would paint Black Gods white.

We are now deep in the age of Sony and Time Warner and American Idol and corporate bs as the end all and be all of music.

Deep in the age of the tail wagging the people.

So the discussion DIGGING engages in, of the music as the gestalt, and the natural by product of the fears, the hopes, the politics, the loves, the controversies, and most of all as a chronicler from an abused mass of Americans not allowed to be Americans, this understanding of music as a call and a component in change, you are NEVER going to see presented from this capitalist controlled society again.

Music to them. the suits, is either a way to sell you something or to divert you from something, but never a way to engage you in something constructive or progressive or enlightening.

So DIGGING, written by this eight decade old LIVER and SURVIVOR and SHAPER of the most turbulent of American Years, I see as absolutely a historic document from day one, and an essential component to understanding what music was, and what it can be again.

You’re looking for a gift to give that music lover in your life? This is the book you give them. His list of recommended CDs alone is worth the price of the book!! I’ve tried some of his recommendations and they are dead on. Highest Recommendation.

“Jazz is the music of Americans who were not allowed to be American.”

To save us all from Satan’s power
When we were gone astray.
Oh, tidings of comfort and joy, joy.
Oh, tidings of comfort and joy.
Oh, tidings of comfort and joy.
Oh, tidings of comfort and joy.

I’ve followed the recent rash of removals of Black Mayors, from offices throughout the country, for the most trumped up nonsense with some interest. It is very Jim Crow like, and in the age of Black Newspapers and Black Radio Stations and even Black owned theaters… we would have called this convenient confluence of events what is it… a witch hunt, and a power grab, and a turning back the clock.

We would have called it clearly… injustice, and undemocratic, this usurping of the duly elected representatives of the people, by legal maneuverings of a very few people.

But we no longer live in an age of Black owned anything. Brown vs. Board of Education led the way to that.

Brown vs. BOE while a good case in the micro-level, on the macro-level can clearly be seen for what it is, a defeat cloaked as a victory. Zora Neale Hurston said this decades ago, and she was derided for it by everyone, Blacks as well as Whites.

She ended up dying a broken woman. But she was right, and no one has ever been more right.

“Our victories give them weapons they did not have before”

Separate but Equal, there is nothing wrong with that concept. The problem was the practice. America was never Separate AND Equal. It was alway seperate AND UNEQUAL. Inferior service, inferior representation, inferior choices.

And BROWN vs BOARD rather than treat the root cause of the problem, unequal and unjust allocation of dollars and resources, instead became a model for even more unequal allocation/distribution of resources.

That leads to our present atmosphere of disenfranchised people, devoid of real recourse or representation. With representatives picked off one by one, with not even a real Black owned paper or radio station left .

And you may be saying, I’m not Black why should I care?

You should care because

“what you do to the least, you do to to me”

or

“They came first for the Jews, but I wasn’t a Jew so I said nothing”

or

Because ultimately the crimes they, the robber barons of this… trifling age, get away with in Haiti or Iraq or Palestine or Philadelphia today, they are ultimately perfecting to try on you tomorrow.

Because while I’m fond of terms like Black and White, the truth is that this is a class struggle, between those who want to be, once again, their fathers’ sons and be the masters of men. And they will not let color deter them from your fall. They want the mass of men as slaves or serfs, and each peoples’ fall, from Liberia to Haiti to Iraq to Palestine brings them a step closer… to preparing your fall.

They are greasing America to fail, the agents of Oligarchy, they hope to put to bed, at last, even the lie of liberty.

So that the people, frustrated with services closing, taxes rising, food and water unsafe, quality health unaffordable, cost of living escalating, fear and crime their only constant food, and hunger and pestilence and perversion and death in the air, and America made into Gomorrah… so the people, frustrated, will be ready at last for their nation’s march to terror and totalitarianism.

Will be ready, at last, for America’s fall.

Mistakenly blaming their liberty for their pains, when it was not liberty that failed them, but they that failed their liberty by not killing the leaders that led them to such mire and such madness.

So remember this… rambling of mine from the edge… the next time you hear of a suspicious removal of an elected representative, or of an odd arrest, or a case tried in the press/tv, as many increasingly are.

Because with every broadcast, you are being manipulated closer to that day of your own dark Reich.


Ohhhh,
Oh, tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy.
Oh, tidings of comfort and joy.
Oh, tidings of comfort and joy.
Oh, tidings of comfort and joy.