2013: Day 15 – Favorite Discoveries of 2012

Well as I still acclimate to this freshly minted 2013, I thought it was a good time to look back at 2012 and reflect on my own personal favorite and new discoveries of 2012. So here is my list in no particular order:

  • Kashi Raisin Bran Breakfast Cereal

  • Discovery of the work of Lord Edwin Weeks at the Richmond Museum of Artedlordweeksml

  • The Walters Art Gallery

  • Texas Roadhouse in Durham, NC

  • The Charlotte, NC skyline

  • The Spider novels and writings of Norvell Page:2012’s Norvell Page obsession , and my mad dash to collect all his books, only equaled by earlier years Cornell Woolrich, Beksinski, Robert Duncanson and Marc Olden obsessions. spidercouncilofevil

    :Browse Norvell Page Books Here!

  • Sidebar Podcast

  • Victoria

  • 11oclock Comics Podcast

  • Spy Smasher movie serialspywithmachinegun

  • And in a rare case of the popular choice actually being my choice, THE AVENGERS was my favorite movie theater experience of the year

  • James Jean Rebus

  • Dark Horse Creepy Presents BERNIE WRIGHTSON

  •   Dark Horse Creepy Presents RICHARD CORBEN

    Browse great Dark Horse Creepy Books Here!

  • Numerous writers, among them Derrick Ferguson and Richard Gavin

  • Rich Yancey’s MONSTRUMOLOGIST series audio books

    :Browse Richard Yancey Books Here!

  • Joe Hill’s Short Story POP ART (from the collection 20TH CENTURY GHOSTS) stands out as one of my favorite, if not THE favorite, short story reads of 2012

  • 20thCentury_hc_c

And these were a few of my favorite things! 🙂

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To Find in Motion

Man I really suck at the guitar. :).

This self teaching thing… not going well.

Oh well, that’s a complaint for another post, this post I wanted to talk to you… about traveling.

I like traveling.

I like to move. I like to… find in motion what was lost in space, to quote Tennessee Williams.

I like to find in motion, what was lost in space.

I like traveling by train, I can deal with traveling by bus, but flying? Due to what our government has made of the flying experience, the chore just getting to your plane has become, I abhor flying. Well, let me correct that, I like flying; I abhor the cancer inducing process it has become just getting to your flight. :).

So most weekends I hit the train, or the bus. I could do the car, but part of traveling, is about sitting back, relaxing, watching the country at speed, reading, writing; all things you can’t do when behind the wheel and stressing in traffic.

So I get on the train or the bus, and I…find in motion what was lost in space.

Last weekend the seven or so hours on the road gave me a chance to read a book that has been on my to-read pile for sometime. Namely Richard Laymon’s THE WOODS ARE DARK. I’ll talk more on that later, suffice to say, the book defines page-turning.

A horror/thriller novel, the late Laymon has his share of writing issues in this book, with wildly inconsistent character behavior and actions (and these inaccuracies are both in the original and revised edition) but he moves the story along at such a pace that you don’t pause too long pondering the inconsistent, illogical, even nonsensical behavior of his characters. I was dragged along by his story all the way to the curt end. Flaws and all, it was a fun read and a recommended read.

But more on that later.

This weekend, I’m not sure where the road will lead me yet. I have an idea, but I’m not a huge planner, I never know until I’m on the bus, or the train, or in rare occasions the plane. I never know— until I’m in motion.

Finding in motion what was lost in space.

Three tentative books on the pile to finish up this weekend while traveling (when home I’m so busy doing, that reading can get difficult to make time for, so traveling is a godsend), the options are:

OMENS by Richard Gavin. I’ve read most of the stories in this collection, but I have two or so left. And a couple I wouldn’t mind rereading.

AS THE SUN GOES DOWN by Tim Lebbon

USE ONCE THEN DESTROY by Conrad Williams

I’ve read a couple stories from the last two books, really, really strong. All three books and writers share a thematic feel, the use of understated horror.

So yeah, looking forward to some good reading, which will translate to some reviews in the next couple of posts. And yes the MONARCHS OF MAYHEM revised Interview schedule will go up this weekend as well. So the death threats can stop now. 🙂

Thanks for looking, come back tomorrow and I’ll have some wacky pics or something. Till then be well and be good. 🙂

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

Audio Book Review: David Morrell CREEPERS and Joe Hill 20TH CENTURY GHOSTS & HEART-SHAPED BOX

Audio Book Review: David Morrell CREEPERS and Joe Hill 20TH CENTURY GHOSTS & HEART-SHAPED BOX

An Audio Book when done well, by a great reader, can enhance a good story, or make finish-able an underwhelming story. When done poorly, an audio book can take away from a good story.

All of my reviews are of unabridged readings (the full book is read, nothing is cut out) unless otherwise stated. Okay onto the reviews:

**********

HEART-SHAPED BOX- Stephen Lang of MANHUNTER, TOMBSTONE and AVATAR fame is one of my favorite character/bit actors, so his name as much as anything else spurred me to give this book a try. And he is a fantastic reader, and this Joe Hill novel starts off strong and interesting but by disk two, with the protagonist going in and out of reality, just gets plodding and annoying and uninteresting. The whole dream sequence plot, completely loses me, and even Stephen Lang can’t salvage it. The dialog circles itself into tedium, over explaining things into the ground. By the time the same anecdote was retold for the third time, somewhere around disk five, I was done with the book. You get the impression early on, that this is a short story/novella, that the writer is desperately trying to pad out to novel length. A common failing of some other horror writers, padding a story till it feels like they’ll never get to the point. This however emphasizes the strength of a good reader, I’ll listen to a good actor finish a lackluster story, that I would have long ago stopped reading (grown bored of) in book form. All in all great read by Stephen Lang (B+), and at times well written, particularly the beginning, but unfortunately overlong and plodding story by Joe Hill (D).

Heart-Shaped Box CD

2OTH CENTURY GHOSTS- This audio book of Joe Hill’s Short story collection, read by David Ledoux is an example of how a poor reading can torpedo an otherwise interesting book. The slightly nasally sounding reading, seems rushed, and lacks any gravitas in the voice, and generally wears out its welcome quickly. Had to stop listening, that’s how problematic I found the reading, on the wrong side of annoying. D-. So avoid the audio book for this one and pickup the book instead, because the short story collection (avoid the over descriptive introduction) itself I quite like, and succeeds where I felt Joe Hill’s HEART-SHAPED BOX failed. Joe Hill is an elegant writer, and here in the short story format he can show off his subtle, understated, beautifully worded tales.

20th Century Ghosts Hardcover

20th Century Ghosts Audio Book CD

CREEPERS- David Morrell has had a long and surprisingly successful career as a writer of thrillers, and more, for his work being often and well adapted into a variety of mediums, from television to films. CREEPERS is a very cinematic read, wonderfully read by Patrick Lawlor, that you can perceive making a very good film. While some of the twist and turns are relatively well telegraphed to any fan of thrillers, the buildup is riveting. I do find the final act a bit cliche ridden, but that excused it moves at a fast clip, very well paced and keeps you turning pages, or in audio book terms, plopping in CDs. Grade: B+.

Creepers