WEDNESDAY WORDS! TOP 11 BOOKS OF THE WEEK!

HEROIC TIMES Top 20 Books list (top 11 this week :)) 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.


Dream: The Dark Erotic Photographic Visions of John Santerineross [Hardcover] John Santerineross
Dream: The Dark Erotic Photographic Visions of John Santerineross

After forcing fans to wait for five years, John Santerineross again proves his genius of dark erotic art as he releases his eagerly anticipated second book of disturbing yet titillating images, entitled “Dream”. This sequel to “Fruit of the Secret God” is an exploration of John’s dream imagery and iconography through the use of the photographic medium. Hailed as “The leading dark erotic artist of our time” by media, fans and fellow artists, John again demonstrates his intelligence and talent in producing work that is provocative, disturbing and erotic.

“Dream” is a 9″ x 12″ hardcover photography book with dust jacket. 120 full color pages, it includes 50 new and never-before-seen images. Accompanying John’s disquieting, sensual images is an introduction offered by underground erotic writer, Nina Hugo and a short story written by artist and writer Bethalynne Bajema.

Guillermo Del Toro: Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark: Blackwood’s Guide to Dangerous Fairies
Guillermo Del Toro: Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark: Blackwood’s Guide to Dangerous Fairies [Hardcover]

An illustrated novel that dives into the world of the 2010 Miramax film “Don’t be Afraid of the Dark.” The movie is a PG-13 thriller written and produced by Guillermo del Toro, starring Guy Pearce and Katie Holmes, about a young girl sent to live with her father and his girlfriend. They move into a historic New England house, which is secretly inhabited by a brood of small creatures. These creatures seem at first to be playful figments of his daughter’s imagination, but quickly turn into a deadly threat.

The book, co-written by Guillermo Del Toro and Christopher Golden, takes place a hundred years before the movie begins. It chronicles the travels and adventures of a young nature scientist who begins to understand there’s more to the world than science understands.

Monsters in the Movies
Monsters in the Movies by legendary filmmaker John Landis showcases the greatest monsters ever to creep, fly, slither, stalk, or rampage across the Silver Screen!

Landis provides his own fascinating and entertaining insights into the world of moviemaking, while conducting in-depth “conversations” with leading monster makers, including David Cronenberg, Christopher Lee, John Carpenter, and Sam Raimi— to discuss some of the most petrifying monsters ever seen. He also surveys the historical origins of the archetypal monsters, such as vampires, zombies, and werewolves, and takes you behind the scenes to discover the secrets of those special-effects wizards who created such legendary frighteners as King Kong, Dracula, and Halloween’s Michael Myers. With more than 1000 stunning movie stills and posters, this book is sure to keep even the most intense fright-seekers at the edge of their seats for hours!

The Maze of the Enchanter (The Collected Fantasies of Clark Ashton Smith, Vol. 4) (v. 4)
The Maze of the Enchanter (The Collected Fantasies of Clark Ashton Smith, Vol. 4) (v. 4)
This series presents Clark Ashton Smith’s fiction chronologically, based on composition rather than publication. Editors Scott Connors and Ron Hilger have compared original manuscripts, various typescripts, published editions, and Smith’s notes and letters, in order to prepare a definitive set of texts. The Maze of the Enchanter includes, in chronological order, all of his stories from “The Mandrakes” (February, 1933) to “The Flower-Women” (May, 1935). This volume also features an introduction, and extensive notes on each story.

The Last Hieroglyph (The Collected Fantasies of Clark Ashton Smith, Vol. 5) (v. 5)
The Last Hieroglyph (The Collected Fantasies of Clark Ashton Smith, Vol. 5) (v. 5) [Hardcover] – The Last Hieroglyph is the fifth of the five volume Collected Fantasies series. Editors Scott Connors and Ron Hilger have compared original manuscripts, various typescripts, published editions, and Smith’s notes and letters, in order to prepare a definitive set of texts. The Last Hieroglyph includes, in chronological order, all of Clark Ashton Smith’s stories from “The Dark Age” to “The Dart of Rasasfa.”

Bodies: His Photographic Art Bodies: His Photographic Art [Hardcover] – Boris Vallejo is renowned for his distinctive style of fantasy illustration. He depicts a world populated by powerful, athletic women and dynamic, well-muscled men, engaged in challenging, physical encounters where their strength and power is subjected to the most demanding tests. He is often asked if the people in his paintings really exist and in Bodies he gives his answer. This collection of sensuous photographs confirms that his inspiration does indeed come from life.

The Metabarons Ultimate Collection
The Metabarons Ultimate Collection [Hardcover]- Jodorowsky & Gimenez’s epic saga collected for the very first time. A multi-generational tale of family, sacrifice, and survival told within an immense universe, both in scope and originality. A true classic in the pantheon of graphic storytelling and science fiction as a whole. Omnibus content includes The Metabarons #1-4 trades + 30 pages of bonus material (including two Metabaron short stories), presented in its original size and color and in a limited and numbered print run of 999 copies only.

Critical Millennium Volume 1: The Dark Frontier
Critical Millennium Volume 1: The Dark Frontier [Hardcover] – Mankind’s rise and fall in space begins here! Two thousand years from now, the Earth is nearly dead. A bold group of explorers led by philanthropist Thomm Coney pushes forward to take the first tentative steps out of Earth’s solar system. Their quest: new worlds to colonize, so that humanity may yet have a chance at survival. Facing impossible odds, political agendas, and a fanatical terrorist regime bent on their destruction, Coney and his crew brave the dangers of a potentially volatile star drive in order to preserve a civilization intent not only on killing itself, but also on taking down every other living thing around it. Will mankind set aside its greed long enough to see a future amongst the stars? Collects Critical Millennium: The Dark Frontier #1-4 and contains new pages and a frontispiece and afterword by comic creator Chandra Free.

The Great Negro Plot: A Tale of Conspiracy and Murder in Eighteenth-Century New York
The Great Negro Plot: A Tale of Conspiracy and Murder in Eighteenth-Century New York [Hardcover] – In 1741, New York City was thrown into an uproar when a sixteen-year-old white woman, an indentured servant named Mary Burton, testified that she was privy to a monstrous conspiracy against the white people of Manhattan. Promised her freedom by authorities if she would only uncover the plot, Mary reported that the black men of the city were planning to burn New York City to the ground. As the courts ensnared more and more suspects and violence swept the city, 154 black New Yorkers were jailed, 14 were burned alive, 18 were hanged, and more than 100 simply “disappeared”; four whites wound up being executed and 24 imprisoned. Even as the madness escalated, however, officials started to realize that Mary Burton might not be telling the truth.

Expertly written by the acclaimed author of Drop and Hunting in Harlem, The Great Negro Plot is a brilliant reconstruction of a little-known moment in American history whose echoes still reverberate today.

Black Cool: One Thousand Streams of Blackness
Black Cool: One Thousand Streams of Blackness [Paperback] – Publication Date: February 7, 2012
Black Cool explores the ineffable state and aesthetic of Black Cool. From the effortless reserve of Miles Davis in khakis on an early album cover, to the shock of resistance in black women’s fashion from Angela Davis to Rihanna, to the cadence of poets as diverse as Staceyann Chin and Audre Lorde, Black Cool looks at the roots of Black Cool and attempts to name elements of the phenomena that have emerged to shape the global expectation of cool itself.

Buoyed by some of America’s most innovative thinkers on the subject—graphic novelist Mat Johnson, Brown University Professor of African Studies Tricia Rose, critical thinking and cultural icon bell hooks, Macarthur winner Kara Walker, and many more—the book is at once a handbook, a map, a journey into the matrix of another cosmology. It’s a literal periodic table of cool, wherein each writer names and defines their element of choice. Dream Hampton writes about Audacity. Helena Andrews about Reserve, Margo Jefferson on Eccentricity, Veronica Chambers on Genius, and so on. With a foreword by Henry Louis Gates that bridges historical African elements of cool with the path laid out for the future, Black Cool offers a provocative perspective on this powerful cultural legacy.

Dark Awakenings
Dark Awakenings [Hardcover]- From its earliest origins, the human religious impulse has been fundamentally bound up with an experience of primordial horror. The German theologian Rudolf Otto located the origin of human religiosity in an ancient experience of ‘daemonic dread.’ American horror writer H.P. Lovecraft asserted that weird supernatural horror fiction arose from a fundamental human psychological pattern that is ‘coeval with the religious feeling and closely related to many aspects of it.’ The American psychologist William James wrote in his classic study The Varieties of Religious Experience that the ‘real core of the religious problem’ lies in an overwhelming experience of cosmic horror born out of abject despair at life’s incontrovertible hideousness. In Dark Awakenings, author and scholar Matt Cardin explores this ancient intersection between religion and horror in seven stories and three academic papers that pose a series of disturbing questions: What if the spiritual awakening coveted by so many religious seekers is in fact the ultimate doom? What if the object of religious longing might prove to be the very heart of horror? Could salvation, liberation, enlightenment then be achieved only by identifying with that apotheosis of metaphysical loathing?

In Dark Awakenings, author and scholar Matt Cardin explores the ancient intersection between religion and horror in seven stories and three academic papers that pose a series of disturbing questions: What if the spiritual awakening coveted by so many religious seekers is in fact the ultimate doom? What if the object of religious longing might prove to be the very heart of horror? Could salvation, liberation, enlightenment then be achieved only by identifying with that apotheosis of metaphysical loathing?

This volume collects nearly all of Cardin’s uncollected fiction, including his 2004 novella ‘The God of Foulness.’ It contains extensive revisions and expansions of his popular stories ‘Teeth’ and ‘The Devil and One Lump’ and features one previously unpublished story and two unpublished papers, the first exploring a possible spiritual use of George Romero’s Living Dead films and the second offering a horrific reading of the biblical Book of Isaiah. At over 300 pages and nearly 120,000 words, it offers a substantial exploration of the religious implications of horror and the horrific implications of religion.

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!

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Book Face Off: Massey’s DARK DREAMS vs King’s JUST AFTER SUNSET

This week’s Book Face Off is Stephen King’s JUST AFTER SUNSET vs Brandon Massey’s DARK DREAMS.

There really is no competition here between the two collections of short stories. Stephen King when on, can write like a force of nature.

But in JUST AFTER SUNSET, Stephen King is not on.

Story after story fizzles against each other to create a collection that underwhelms. There’s a sense in these King stories, as in some of King’s novels, the sense of padding. Of words poured on just to have words, and the gist of the story stalled, till the mandatory word count is reached.

It makes for something of a chore to get through. The best way to describe the effect of JUST AFTER SUNSET is tedium. It’s a tedious, tedious read. One belabored story followed by another.

Thankfully Brandon Massey’s DARK DREAMS Anthology, while having its shares of misses (Kalamu ya Salaam’s story being one of the most egregious), on the whole is as fresh as JUST AFTER SUNSET is routine. DARK DREAMS’ pages are filled with enough strange, evocative and varied stories of the sinister and the savage; to make it a far more satisfying read throughout.

And I strongly recommend the almost sold out DARK DREAMS unabridged audio book read by a variety of great performers. A nice compliment to the paperback. Check it out here: Dark Dreams : A Collection of Horror and Suspense Unabridged Audio Book CD

AUDIO OF THE DAY! HOW LOVE CAME TO PROFESSOR GILDEA from ESCAPE

“Can’t you feel how hideous it is for me! I can’t stop it! The thing makes love to me, caresses me. Whatever it is … it has no mind. That thing is a slobbering idiot!

But I didn’t tell you what it really did this evening, what came close to driving me insane.

The thing kissed me… but not from the outside! I could feel it, warm and wet, kissing my lips… FROM THE INSIDE!!”

— HOW LOVE CAME TO PROFESSOR GILDEA the February 28th 1948 Episode of ESCAPE

It’s as fantastic as that quote indicates. Just brilliant! Listen to it here!

PHOTO OF THE DAY: MY STAY AT A HAUNTED HOTEL


“After that, nothing was real. It was fantasy, ecstasy, dread and apprehension. It was glory. They went to live in her apartment, and did not need a thing. Neither people nor food nor sleep. Nor the world. Because there was too much of each other within the hours that they would never have.”
— SO SOFTLY SMILING by Chester Himes from
The Collected Stories of Chester Himes (Himes, Chester)

I see her often.

When I have given up seeing everything.

In the darkness and in the light, when it’s softly raining and when it’s hardly night… I see her often.

She’s in the places where corridors end, and doors that are shut… speak of being opened.

In the middle of the night I find myself in endless hallways, in strange cities, in tortured lands, waiting for the one corner that I will turn, the one door I will open, the one promise I will break…

And she will be there.

And hell will have no dominion.

It’s a dream… I have.

—NO DOMINION copyright 2012 HT

THE MAN OF BRONZE

The statue caught my eye.

The man of bronze looked at me, and I heard

on the wind

something singular

that spoke with voices legion.

Voices that had given

much;

their last,

best measure…

“Don’t fall backwards.”

The voice of the few

and the many

implored

“Don’t fall backwards.

Don’t give ground.

Go forward.

More to do.

Much, much, more.”

Much later I would try to convince myself that the man of bronze could not have spoken, the children of bronze could not have watched me with eyes the color of bombed churches and torched buses.

Much later I would try to find security in rational lies. I would try to un-hear what I heard.

But in the midnight hour

Always in the midnight hour

like an old, tired song

I hear them clearly.

With the voice of men

who go down to the sea in ships

and war heroes

swinging from southern trees

they cry

“More, more, more!”

—words and photos copyright 2012 HT

WHAT I’M READING: Laird Barron’s OCCULTATION vs Richard Gavin’s OMENS

2011 was my year to introduce myself to quite a few new authors, particularly of the macabre. Two of those writers I contrast in this post: Laird Barron who has gained something of a reputation as a name in the Lovecraft tinged field of fiction, and Richard Gavin, who has made very little noise, and I just stumbled across when surfing online.

Laird Barron’s book OCCULTATION, had much praise heaped on it, but finally read I found his attempt at weird fiction, somewhat lacking. Seemingly trying for the open-ended, obscure endings Aikman is known for, but without that writers capacity to make the journey entertaining and the ending compelling. Barron, for me, also lacks the beauty of phrasing of other writers of weird fiction, making his stories somewhat chore rather than charm.

In story after story, I found the protagonists not particularly interesting, and the ending unsatisfying. Final Verdict on OCCULTATION, it’s worth a look in the library, but not a purchase.

OMENS however, by Richard Gavin is something else altogether, it is engaging and captivating from page one. Richard Gavin having it all in this collection of stories… great prose/phrasing, imaginative stories, sometimes mysterious, sometimes harrowing, never less than page-turning. It’s a consistently addictive collection, some highlights being THE BELLMAN’S WAY and DANIEL. Final verdict… It’s a Buy!

Come back later for more of WHAT I’M READING! 🙂

Occultation

Omens

PODCAST OF THE DAY: SFF AUDIO and OPIUM

Been listening to episodes of SFF AUDIO, a Science Fiction Feed Podcast that covers all things scifi, from scifi readings to interviews to reviews and much more. Today I caught two episodes that share a common theme… Opium.

The first story is a great reading of WHO’S THERE by Fitz James O’Brien, brought to us by the host of another great short story podcast HYPNOBOBS, Jim Moon.

The second is the H.P. Lovecraft story, THE CRAWLING CHAOS excellently read by Wayne June, (Episode #138)

Far less interesting is the dissection of the latter story, that succeeds it on that particular episode, led by two pedantic hosts.

While it’s nice to hear both Jim Moon and Wayne June as guest commentators on that particular discussion, they are both performers with great voices, the aforementioned hosts, whose names escape me, aren’t that melodious, and while they don’t have to be, I do find their over-analysis of the Lovecraft short story grating rather than enlightening.

But that’s more than likely just me, as I tend to think like many creators that the two most meaningless, tiresome things you can ask of a creative person is “what does it mean” (Beksinski the painter particularly hated this question) and “where do you get your ideas from” (Harlan Ellison among others has had very little love for this question, from those for whom no explanation is enough).

While I am by no means a Lovecraft fan, I do acknowledge him, in his better moments, as a visionary, influenced by others such as the aforementioned Fitz James OBrien, and as such there is an ineffable quality in his work, the nature of the mystery, that to each reader is a bit unique. And to try too hard to decipher or lock down that mystery, to try to cross every ‘t’, and dot every ‘i’, which is what I took away from the post discussion, is to risk cataloging it with their heads, while missing it with their hearts.

It’s that pedantic nature to the dissection, which I find appropriate to accounting or taxes but… inappropriate and indeed anathema to the experience of art.

Perhaps proof that knowledge is not understanding.

That’s my take on it, your mileage may vary.

So great reading, but, my take, avoid the discussion afterwards.

Otherwise both episodes make for great listening.

Listen to episodes 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

SHORT STORY OF THE DAY or Hal Bennett vs Jack Ketchum

There is a vulgar beauty, a luscious insanity, an offensive attraction in the work of Hal Bennett, that reeks of a certain time and place and mindsets, hopefully now buried, mindsets strange and weird beyond all knowing, that Bennett in prose vital, and with vision that appalls you to the point of almost shutting the book in disgust in one sentence, before being waylay-ed by the next sentence which drags to your utter surprise, sounds very much like cackling laughter from your unprepared lips.

It is the work of a master satirist, working from levels on high… and down below. Hal Bennett is a writer… to read. Cautiously, fearfully, and uncomfortably, but ultimately very additively, humanistically. He’s not one of these writers tossing shock and absurdity and offensiveness for its own sake, Bennett is a true writer, he wants to tell you a tale, that might your dark unspin. Unlike some writers who all they want to do is revel in darkness, put offal on the page and rub your nose in it (such as the work of Jack Ketchum, and writers of his ilk, that I have no use, or patience for. I think it is the literary equivalent of a snuff film, that finds a real life victim of atrocity, and victimizes them again in detail and with fervor to make money, it debases, dehumanizes both reader and read) the fiction of Hal Bennett aims higher than that, using the vulgar to tell us something visionary.

It is not just drama, and not just horror, and not just fantasy, and not just satire, and not just scifi, and yet there are elements of all of that in the criminally under-read fiction of Hal Bennett. Hal Bennett is a genre onto himself.

Case in point, our short story of the day:

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO HENRY OATES from the collection INSANITY RUNS IN OUR FAMILY

“There were many things he loved– large women’s asses, the smell of chitterlings and red beans cooking on a winter morning, the onslaught of good whiskey on his groin that sent it thumping like a triphammer before the effect subsided; but what he hated more than anything else in the world was machines. Aside from the fact they were ugly and loveless, they were as prolific as rabbits, one machine spawning another in far less time than it takes to make a Black baby. Since Henry Oates had no children of his own, at least none he knew about, he felt surrounded by machinery that seemed bent on destroying him. Not just automation, but by the machinations of government and society as well. Sometimes he felt like a man standing on the last edge of an island that is being chewed away by steel-tipped waves.”

That’s a great paragraph, that using an unlikely pov character offers, in scant words, insights that resonates with the high and low. That’s the ability of Bennett, to tell a simple, intimate story, with characters you seemingly have nothing in common with, and yet show you the common and sometimes uncommon hopes and fears and desires that bind us all.

The work of Hal Bennett, particularly INSANITY RUNS IN OUR FAMILY, deserves to be rediscovered and widely printed, rather than relegated to the out of print pile. If ever an author deserved the lavish attentions of a specialty press, and nicely printed tomes, ala Ligotti, it’s Hal Bennett.

Seek him out.

Insanity runs in our family

Short Story Review: CONVERSATIONS IN A DEAD LANGUAGE from NOCTUARY by Thomas Ligotti

CONVERSATIONS IN A DEAD LANGUAGE from the short story collection NOCTUARY by Thomas Ligotti-

There is something TALES FROM THE CRYPT like about this short story, and more straight forward then what one usually associates with Ligotti, and it is a pleasant surprise. The shift in writing style I mean, not the story, which could not be defined as pleasant. Well done, grotesque, disturbing and enthralling… yes. Pleasant…. no.

CONVERSATIONS IN A DEAD LANGUAGE initially feeling more reminiscent to me of Robert Bloch, especially in its more visceral, graphic, vulgar imagery/language/sensibilities. However by the end, with its stream of consciousness narrative, absorption with dreams and puppet imagery, and its strange antagonist and his talk of what lives beyond the darkened sky… with all this you’re in solid Ligotti territory.

It’s a good read ranking up there with Ligotti’s more compelling efforts. A solid B+. Take it for a spin yourself here:

Noctuary