Classic SPICY DETECTIVE Covers!!

As any casual visitor to this blog knows I’m a huge pulp fiction fan, so I’m always on the lookout for vintage or new age pulp covers that grab me. Under the heading risque Vintage Pulp Fiction covers comes the following selection of classic, caustic, and even calamitous covers from the defunct but rightly named SPICY DETECTIVE STORIES.

Take a gander and enjoy!

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And if you’d actually like to read one of these stories (A Norvell Page!!) go here.

Recommended Writers and their most celebrated work: HUGH HOLTON and his Larry Cole Series

Proof positive I do this blog to educate myself as much as entertain anyone else, is this post on Hugh Holton.

I knew Hugh Holton was a high ranking, highly decorated Chicago Police Officer.

I knew he was a fantastic writer from owning and reading three of his books.

I knew he had passed in 2001.

I did not know he had as many books, above and beyond the ones I own. Given his responsibilities as one of Chicago’s Top Cops, that he was able to be as prolific (and going by the novels I’ve read, as consistently good) as he was, is quite amazing.

So without further ado, today’s Recommended Writer is HUGH HOLTON:

Police Lieutenant Hugh Holton was a twenty-nine year veteran of the Chicago Police Department. He authored several bestselling novels, including, Time of the Assassins, The Left Hand of God, and Violent Crimes. At the time of his death, at the age of only 54, Hugh Holton was the highest ranking active police officer writing novels in America.

1994. Presumed Dead
1995. Windy City
1996. Chicago Blues
1997. Violent Crimes
1998. Red Lightning

1999. Left Hand of God, The
2000. Time of the Assassins
2001. Devils Shadow, The

The following three titles were published posthumously, which is why they came as a surprise to me when researching this post. I’ve heard REVENGE was an early discarded rough draft of his, so it’s not up to Hugh Holton’s high standards. It’s something he would have tweaked/perfected had he known it was being published. So take that into consideration when reading it. It’s basically just an early draft, the publisher decided to put out there, so judge it as such, and not as representative of Hugh Holton’s usual great work.

2002. Criminal Element (Amazon – Alibris)
2005. Thin Black Line, The (Amazon – Alibris)
2009. Revenge (Amazon – Alibris)

I was turned onto Hugh Holton’s fantastic Larry Cole mystery series a while ago, and they are pulse-pounding procedurals and thrillers, grounded by the experience of someone who knows intimately the facts behind the fictions… he writes about.. My personal favorite of the three novels I’ve read so far is the juggernaut-like TIME OF THE ASSASSINS. In terms of pacing, and just keeping you racing till the end, it’s the strongest [the others I own are WINDY CITY, and VIOLENT CRIMES].

It was a great starting point for me to the excellent body of work Hugh Holton left us with, but I think I’ll now go back, pick up all the books I’m missing and read them all chronologically.

REVENGE, by all reports should not be considered part of the chronology, it’s something that (again according to reports) was not ready for publication, and was put out as a cash grab by the family and the publisher. It’s a curio, at best, and I would have less problem with it if the family had put their name on the novel(his Daughter I believe signed off on this version), rather than just Hugh Holton’s.

Being a writer, the idea of assigning sole responsibility to me, for something I didn’t have the chance to proof/edit… well that would bug me even in the grave. A writer’s books are his reputation.

And Hugh Holton has a well earned, and well deserved reputation as a great writer. Try the books for yourself at the links below! And tell’em HT sent ya!!!

The Thin Black Line: True Stories by Black Law Enforcement Officers Policing America’s Meanest Streets
Presumed Dead (Larry Cole)

Windy City

Chicago Blues (Mysteries & Horror)

Violent Crimes (A Larry Cole Mystery)

Red Lightning (A Larry Cole Mystery)

The Left Hand of God (Larry Cole Mystery)

Time of the Assassins

The Devil’s Shadow

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Pic courtesy Planet Preset

See more on this writer at SciFan.
As well as an informative interview with him, done shortly before his passing, here!

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!

If you’re a publisher, writer, or other creative representative looking to submit items for WEDNESDAYS WORDS, just leave a comment on this post with your email/contact info, comments don’t get posted they come right to me, and I’ll reach out to you with the snail mail details.

And as far as readers, if you see items on WEDNESDAYS WORDS 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 those links, generates much appreciated pennies to keep this blog running. Your feedback and support… just way cool, and way appreciated. Thanks!

Sponsored by Ebay Store: Deals of the Day!

On the Racism of HP Lovecraft : 2nd Verse same as the First! :)

One of my more popular posts is my article covering the racism of HP Lovecraft. And by popular demand of someone who describes themselves as a self-professed Romney and Gay marriage supporter out of Olympia, Washington (hey I’m just reading what’s on the card :)) … he urges me (maybe she) to repost the article.

This Ricky makes an interesting point about HP Lovecraft’s popularity perhaps being buoyed by the rising tide of an America under attack by selfish liberal interests, bolstered by an ignorant populace that keeps resisting paying welfare to big business.

He/she further goes on to say that “the middle and lower classes are just not understanding that big business is right to bankrupt the country, and enslave many to debt for the needs of the coming over-lords and all this was foretold in the fiction of the messiah… LOVECRAFT!!!! You Liberal scum!! Don’t you see?!! Lovecraft loves you!!!!! HE DIED FOR YOUR SINS!!!!”

Again, I’m just reading what’s on the card people. 🙂

He/She goes on to say “CTHULHU! CTHULHU! CTHULHU!” To which I say Gezuntheit!

Ahh you’ve got to love the intelligence and stability and eloquence of Lovecraft supporters. 🙂

And I think that deserves our renewed attention to the article that started it all! For those who missed it the first time, read it at the link below, with love from he/she/it in Olympia, Washington! 🙂

This one’s for you! 🙂

Writers Face Off: Robert E. Howard vs. H.P. Lovecraft! May the Least Racist Writer stand up! :)

I recently purchased THE SAVAGE TALES OF SOLOMON KANE from Del Rey Books and with spot illustrations by Gary Gianni.

So I’m going through the book, and I’m moving pretty capably along.

There are the random slurs and stereotypes, but pretty much they are few and far between and they don’t get in the way of the story…

Until I hit THE MOON OF SKULLS.

Game over man. Game effing over.

To call it insulting is perhaps an understatement. I had to check to make sure I wasn’t reading something by Lovecraft. 🙂

Oh stop crying! You know I’m right!

Have you read Howard’s THE MOON OF SKULLS?! A xenophobic, denigrating, and intolerant bit of writing, that goes on forever. I think the actual term that popped into my head before pulling the plug on the story was “racist piece of crap”.

Now I do make allowances for the time these books were written, and the fact that the Texan Howard when compared to his contemporaries of the time such as H.P. Lovecraft (a staggering racist) was quite moderate by the definitions of the age.

Part of this is the difference in the type of men they were.

Howard was a rough and tumble, ‘man-of-action’ sort, who understood the world beyond his head, and by that definition understood people outside of his head.

Lovecraft was a secluded New England ‘Intellectual’ who sought a mythology, a hierarchy of master and slave, with the almost ingrained need of the region to preserve an upper class (that in all truth, Lovecraft was very far from, due to the family’s loss of fortune early in his life) by the belief and need for a lower class.

I think racism, gave a lacking man like Lovecraft something. Something to drag himself up on, to restore him to that glory he never had, but thought he deserved… by tearing others down.

Whereas Howard was a self sufficient man (which makes his end all the more bewildering), he went along with the expected prejudice and tropes of the day, but you get the sense in some of his writing, he was content to see men as men. That Howard was a man who stumbled into the tropes of racism, rather than active in the creation and embracing of racism… ala Lovecraft.

I can deal with Lovecraft’s writing in small doses, but I find this recent deification of Lovecraft, of a writer who was barely a footnote in his own time… as odd, though not inexplicable; especially in a country that so desperately, like Lovecraft, wants to turn back the clock to a glorious age of Master and Slave, that never was glorious, and never will be.

But I do think people are over-stating both Lovecraft’s influence and importance, as his work followed in the footsteps of writers like Lord Dunsany, and took inspiration from contemporaries such as Clark Ashton Smith. Much of what people are quick to define as Lovecraftian isn’t, it belongs to a writing movement of the time, dark fantastic offshoots of the age of spiritualism, Houdini, and Arthur Machen.

“In 1914, when the kindly hand of amateurdom was first extended to me, I was as close to the state of vegetation as any animal well can be…With the advent of the United I obtained a renewal to live; a renewed sense of existence as other than a superfluous weight; and found a sphere in which I could feel that my efforts were not wholly futile. For the first time I could imagine that my clumsy gropings after art were a little more than faint cries lost in the unlistening world.” —H.P. Lovecraft

So I do take the biases of Lovecraft into account when reading Robert E. Howard. And rank him as better than the contemporaries of his age.

And I realize I just have to avoid Howard stories that are written toward a certain audience, and toward a prevalent prejudice of the day. Generally this means avoiding most of his Conan stories, as I would end up ripping them in half.

I can stomach his writing in small doses, and that’s generally when he isn’t on bigoted diatribes disguised as a story. In short bursts, and when not using an entire Continent of Africa to advance 1920s fantasies of race and heroism, I can appreciate his writing. His SKULLS IN THE STARS is probably his best short story, it is a well done story and mainly because it is free of Howard’s capitulations to the prejudices and tropes of the day.

So the winner of my Writer’s Face-Off? Well let’s put it this way. I own a Robert E. Howard book, I don’t own any HP Lovecraft books.

I guess that says it all.

MONARCHS OF MAYHEM: AN INTERVIEW WITH RICHARD GAVIN

“It is only proper for a man to taste misery in his thirty-third year, Nathaniel decided. While waiting in the airport lounge Nathaniel realized that, in some small way, he was approaching his own customized Golgotha. Though he doubted that the effects of his journey would ever equal those of the messiah, he nonetheless found himself wondering whether Venice would bring him peace or a sword.”
—‘Strange Advances’ by Richard Gavin

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.

 

If you’ve been coming to this blog in the last month you can not help but see how enamored I have been with Richard Gavin’s short story collection, OMENS. His Sophomore collection, the 2nd in now four collections, was my introduction to the writer. Based on the strength of which, all of the writer’s works are now on my radar.

Whether it’s the Gothic meets ghostly underpinnings of ‘Pale Lover’ or the implacable, creeping horror of “The Bellman’s Way” or subtle and sumptuous tales of the existential and the lost such as ‘Strange Advances” you will find it all in Gavin’s OMENS. But mostly you will find a use of language that cradles you like a lover, before riding you like a fiend.

And this writer of the strange and the dessicated and the boundless loss, was kind enough to consent to some words and some time. The reason I do this MONARCHS OF MAYHEM segment is because I think it is endlessly fascinating not just how the most imaginative people think, and their loves, and influences, and challenges, but the differences in their views and passions when contrasted with their peers. Richard Gavin brings a rich, depth to his responses that I think will both enrich and enliven you, as much as it did me. Again it comes down to that term, endlessly fascinating, and Richard Gavin… is that. Enjoy.

MONARCHS OF MAYHEM: AN INTERVIEW WITH RICHARD GAVIN

HT: We’ll start with an easy one. What is your favorite genre or genres?

RG: The Gothic and weird strains of the Horror genre, followed closely by 19th century Decadent literature.

[for those of you like me who want to read more about 19th century decadent literature, this GUARDIAN article and the comments are intriguing.]

HT: What is the favorite thing you’ve written (both long form (novel) and short form (short story) and feel free to do detail and discuss why if you choose)?

RG: Probably my novella THE ELDRITCH FAITH, which will be published in my forthcoming collection. I consider it a very “pure” work because it was written with no public considerations whatsoever. I wrote it for myself.

It’s a 25,000-word meditation on a nightmarish reality. Consequently, some readers may roll their eyes and dismiss THE ELDRITCH FAITH as an over-the-top mood piece, but so be it.

HT: Name 5 classic or genre writers who inspire or impress or influence you?

RG: I will cheat a little here by listing five authors from history and five contemporary ones:

Past masters: Algernon Blackwood, Hanns Heinz Ewers, H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe, and Comte de Lautréamont.

Maldoror and the Complete Works of the Comte de Lautréamont

AndrĂ© Breton wrote that Maldoror is “the expression of a revelation so complete it seems to exceed human potential.” Little is known about its pseudonymous author aside from his real name (Isidore Ducasse), birth in Uruguay (1846), and early death in Paris (1870). LautrĂ©amont’s writings bewildered his contemporaries but the Surrealists modeled their efforts after his lawless black humor and poetic leaps of logic, exemplified by the oft-quoted slogan, “As beautiful as the chance meeting on a dissecting-table of a sewing-machine and an umbrella!” Maldoror’s shocked first publisher refused to bind the sheets of the original edition… and perhaps no better invitation exists to this book which warns the reader, “Only the few may relish this bitter fruit without danger.” This is the only complete annotated collection of LautrĂ©amont’s writings available in English, in a superior translation.

“LautrĂ©amont’s style is hallucinatory, visionary… this new fluent translation makes clear its poetic texture and what may be termed its subversive attraction.” — New York Times

“Alexis Lykiard’s translation is both subtle and earthy… this is the best translation now available.” — Washington Post Book World

Contemporary masters: Thomas Ligotti, Clive Barker, Gemma Files, Ramsey Campbell, and Caitlin R. Kiernan.

HT: Name some current or new writers, whose work you’ve recently read or discovered and blew you away.

RG: In the interest of full disclosure I must admit that I am irritatingly picky when it comes to modern fiction, genre or otherwise. I read very little of it because a lot of contemporary writing leaves me cold for various reasons; the most common being lifeless, pedestrian prose. The modern writers I mentioned in question number three are ones I consider exceptions because they produce daring visions and, more importantly, unique and rich language.

Many current writers seem too plot-minded. Atmosphere and startling word-selection take a back seat to rollicking story-lines, or worse still, to postmodern genre mash-ups (werewolf detectives, love-starved vampire spies, etc.) I’ve spoken to a lot of genre writers who believe that unusual words (by which I mean words that one might not use in the course of everyday conversation) are simply pretentious, silly, or are distractions from what must always be a rip-roarin’ read. None of this resonates with me. My tastes run to the Decadent and the grotesque and the weird, to fiction that doesn’t read like fiction but rather like a lost account of some truly awesome occurrence.

Beneath The Surface

Nightingale Songs

Bearing all this preamble in mind, I would say that Simon Strantzas is a writer who with each passing year needs less of an introduction to readers who love moody, enigmatic short stories. Laird Barron creates Horror fiction that is deeply atmospheric and genuinely frightening. I’ve also been delighted by the extraordinary work I’ve read from Livia Llewellyn, Daniel Mills, and Orrin Grey.


Engines of Desire: Tales of Love & Other Horrors

HT: Going along with the above, name an author(s) (either new or old) who you think does not get the attention they deserve, and everyone should be reading.

RG: There are plenty of writers who are now all but forgotten because their work is no longer en vogue. On the one hand this is sad, but on the other hand, for the die-hard connoisseur there is a singular joy to digging into the genre’s past and “unearthing” these obscure writers. It’s akin to wandering in a foreign land and suddenly encountering someone who speaks your language. Such discoveries keep people seeking for rarer and rarer treasures, so I’ll leave the reader to unearth these old companions on their own. Obscurity in the contemporary field, however, is a different animal. This kind of attention-deficit can do real harm to a writer’s sense of self-worth. I know a little something of this myself. One current writer whose work is criminally overlooked is Matt Cardin. His short stories and essays are superb examples of the kind of thoughtful, deeply textured Horror that I personally love. Matt’s collection DARK AWAKENINGS was one of the best I’ve read in years.

Dark Awakenings

Revenants

HT: Name 2 or 3 of your favorite horror, fantasy, genre, etc., short stories

RG: “Professor Nobody’s Little Lectures on Supernatural Horror” by Thomas Ligotti, “The Hound” by H.P. Lovecraft, “The Willows” by Algernon Blackwood.

[ The wonderful folks at Lovecraftzine have an audio reading of ‘The Hound”. Swing by and give a listen here.]

HT: Anthologies are usually theme based, so you have your Poe anthologies, or Lovecraft etc. If you could do a short story for such an anthology, if you could decide/choose, what would the anthology be about.

RG:I would love to see a hefty anthology that features not short stories, but accounts from various writers, past and present, detailing their most vivid, unworldly nightmares. It would be a kind of frightening and intimate dream journal, but by many dreamers instead of one.

HT: Name 5 Favorite films, horror or otherwise.

RG: I’ll squeeze in six titles if I may. Films that have had a lasting impact on me are BEYOND DREAM’S DOOR, BORN OF FIRE, DIVINE HORSEMEN: THE LIVING GODS OF HAITI, ROSEMARY’S BABY, MEETINGS WITH REMARKABLE MEN, and Carl Dreyer’s VAMPYR.

Divine Horsemen:The Living Gods of Haiti: A Film by Maya Deren

Beyond Dream’s Door (Special Edition)

Vampyr (The Criterion Collection)

HT: What do you think can or should be done to get more writers producing genre fiction, and more importantly to get more of the public reading genre fiction

RG: Nothing whatsoever. In fact, I don’t want ANY writers producing genre fiction. This may sound hypocritical coming from a writer who has always identified himself as a Horror writer, but the Horror fiction that is most valuable to me is the kind born of Horror writers, not of writers who sometimes wrote Horror as a mere literary convention.

The Horror-as-genre mentality creates a very tepid construct, one that overflows with cliches and stock images. A great deal of Horror is unreadable to me because I can tell when it’s been written by a jack/jill-of-all-trades writer who paid a quick visit to that dark country for whatever reason (to amuse themselves, there was an open market, they just need to write every day, etc.). They write something “scary” (often
trying to achieve little else) and then they leap back to space operas or social realism or dragon fantasies or what have you. It’s all just genre-jumping. Many writers are praised as being diverse for doing this,
but I don’t care about diversity. I want a singular vision. I don’t want to hear from the tourists of Horror who found the setting strange or quaint. I want to hear from the lifelong residents, the ones who were born there.

Personally, I don’t toy with genre elements or try my hand at dozens of styles as a creative exercise. When I write, I am conveying reality as a I see it. Period. Yes, of course there are obvious dramatic embellishments, and yes, I have the same drudgery in my day-to-day routine as you do, but ultimately I view the world through a glass darkly, if you will. For as long as I can remember, my psyche has resided in the Underworld. I’m quite happy this way. My stories are a manner of “dramatic footnote” to my life experiences; a more public communication perhaps, but not fundamentally different from the diaries and dream journals I keep.

I never try to “write dark.” I experience the world in a Gothic manner and I write what I find moving and beautiful and eerie. Therefore, the writers with which I feel the strongest resonance are the ones who spent their lives conveying *their* vision of reality — Lovecraft, Baudelaire, Ewers, Maupassant, Ligotti, et. al. Thomas Ligotti once referred to these writers as “mutants,” which is as good a description as any. I don’t care if your personal vision is scary or not. Just don’t be ordinary.

The Nightmare Factory

Of course this is not the best stance to adopt if one hopes to strike it rich as a Name Author. The less conventional your fiction, the greater your chances of professional disaster and heartache. But I honestly have no interest in producing fiction simply to entertain. There should be engagement and pleasure, yes, but not pat amusement. If there’s no fire behind the story, I simply won’t write it.

In short: I’m glad I have a day job.

HT: While book sales have been steadily declining, specialty presses such as subterranean and centipede press continue to sell out of their lavishly illustrated, high quality tomes/reissues of writers of weird fiction. Proving that even in the age of ebooks there is an un-lessened demand for collectible books with spot illustrations and art-books.

So keeping this in mind a/what are some of your favorite book covers and b/what artist would you like to do a cover and spot illustrations for one of your books?

RG: I’ve been extremely fortunate as far as cover art goes. My books have been graced by the work of two of my favourite contemporary artists: Harry O.Morris and J.K. Potter. Harry has actually done two of my books and we just may be pairing up yet again in the near future.

In terms of other artists, I’d love to collaborate with the American baroque painter Michael Hussar one day. His work is stunning and I think we share a similar aesthetic.

HT: And finally in closing with less than 9 months left in 2012, a/What can we look forward to from you this year and b/what are you looking forward to this year(could be anything, your call)?

RG: This fall Hippocampus Press will release AT FEAR’S ALTAR, my fourth full-length collection of fiction. The book is being edited and Introduced by the preeminent weird fiction scholar and critic S.T. Joshi. To be working with S.T. is definitely a watershed moment for this writer.

I’ve stories coming out in the Lovecraftian anthology AKLONOMICON, a Thomas Ligotti tribute anthology called THE GRIMSCRIBE’S PUPPETS, and another entitled SEASONS IN CARCOSA, which is an anthology of stories set in the
mythos of Robert W. Chambers’s THE KING IN YELLOW.

[Go here to read the writer who influenced Lovecraft or buy the books here: The King in Yellow and Other Horror Stories

The King in Yellow (Mystery & Supernatural) ]

There are a few other pieces in-progress, but I’m a very slow writer, so I don’t think there will be much more to add to the list for this year. Anyone who is interested in my comings and goings can visit my website at www.richardgavin.net.

Thanks for letting me blather on like this.

Charnel Wine – Memento Mori Edition

Omens

The Darkly Splendid Realm


I want to thank Richard Gavin first for his time, and second for the depth and richness of his responses. He has given me and, I believe. you dear reader… much to explore, to discover, to enjoy. Pay it forward by running out and supporting the writer’s past and upcoming books (definitely frequent his website as his upcoming work isn’t on Amazon yet, so keep checking his website), and feel free to use the attached links and treat yourself to books and films and the languid fictions that this week’s Monarch of Mayhem recommends.

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

BOOKS OF THE DAY: THE BEST OF FANTASY! From Charles Saunders to Robert E. Howard

Fantasy can be, for whatever reason, a difficult sell for me. I’m not really an elf and faires fan, which is seemingly 99% of fantasy fiction.

This article then is about the other eloquent, less trope filled, yet still imaginative, 1% of Fantasy that I am a fan of:

ROBERT E. HOWARD- I Find his Solomon Kane to be the far more interesting of Howard’s creations. If you’re going to pick up one Robert E. Howard book, you would be hard pressed to choose a better one than the Gary Gianni spot-illustrated THE SAVAGE TALES OF SOLOMON KANE.The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane

CHARLES SAUNDERS- At the risk of sacrilege someone who did and does the noble warrior and tribal civilizations and fantastic action, better than just about everybody else, past or present, is Charles Saunders. Much in the way Howard was pretty much overlooked while he was writing, I really think Charles Saunders is similarly an incredibly overlooked talent. His IMARO series, is required reading and I think would make both Burroughs and Howard go… “Damn! This guy’s good!” Four books have come out in the series and by all reports the fifth book is on the way.

The original out of print DAW paperbacks are striking, with gorgeous cover art (at least one if not more by artist James Gurney), and are worth having just for the art alone, add the great stories and it’s win-win, but the new revised/improved editions are must buys.

Particularly because Saunders is another Fantasy writer who unfortunately goes out of print way too quickly, pick up the whole series while prices are reasonable.
Imaro: Price your Copy Here

Purchase Link to all In-Print Imaro Books

The only negative I’d lay against this series is the cover art for book #4 (and to a lesser extent book #3)is not good. See for yourself here:

While we all bandy about the saying ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’, I really am (like most of us) inclined to great looking covers. So a great book with a lousy cover is like shooting yourself in the foot. Pay the money, get a decent artist to do your cover. Make it easy for people to recommend your books, get that great cover art.


“Charles Saunders is one of the most innovative writers in the so-called Sword and Sorcery field. He was in the second wave of pioneers. Those who actually made what Robert E. Howard invented move into a new and equally exciting arena. I always loved his ground-breaking novels and stories. And it’s good to see him back.”
-Joe R. Lansdale, author of Sunset and Sawdust and The Bottoms

“Lord knows, the field needs the fresh and discerning insights that only Charles R. Saunders can bring to it.”
-Charles de Lint, author of The Blue Girl and Someplace to Be Flying


KARL EDWARD WAGNER- The Midnight Sun: The Complete Stories of Kane- Let me get on the bandwagon with saying the short fiction of Karl Edward Wagner and his tales of the immortal and amoral Kane/Cain is the way to go. Unfortunately getting this sadly out of print edition is going to set you back, quite a bit.

The Midnight Sun: The Complete Stories of Kane

GEORGE R.R. MARTIN- Martin is seemingly everywhere these days, particularly with the critical and commercial success of the television adaptation of his GAME OF THRONES. He’s now on his fifth book in the series.

NNEDI OKORAFOR-MBACHU- Her novels set in the Sahara of the coming dawn, are among some of the most imaginative and innovative and fresh fantasy of the last couple of decades and her The Shadow Speaker is an essential read.
The Shadow Speaker:Price Your Copy Here

STEPHEN R. DONALDSON- His series of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever is required reading.
Lord Foul’s Bane (The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Book 1):Price your copy here

“Since its first publication in 1977, Stephen Donaldson’s best-selling Thomas Covenant trilogy has become an indisputable classic – acclaimed around the world as the most compelling work of epic fantasy since Tolkien’s ‘The Lord of the Rings’.”— Voyager

STEVEN BARNES- Steve Barnes masterfully jumps genres from science fiction to fantasy to historical fiction, and while you can make a strong argument for keeping him in the former rather than the latter I just think his work is too rich in all camps to exclude from any camp. An amazingly prolific writer, he’s a writers writer. There’s a ton of places you can jump in and enjoy his work. Check the upcoming links!

STEPHEN KING- Speaking of writers writer, I personally ran out of interest before finishing King’s multi-book Dark Tower series. And by all reports I’m not the only one. That said, on rare occasions adaptations can improve on the source, can perhaps focus and streamline it. Zack Snyder’s 300 film being an improvement of Frank Miller’s 300 Graphic Novel. With the DARK TOWER that seemingly works in reverse, the collected graphic novel omnibus seems to be hitting all the right notes, garnering a level of satisfaction even from those less than satisfied with the original prose wrap-up. Wherever you fall on this you cannot deny the huge mythology that King has created.

Dark Tower Omnibus

MINISTER FAUST- A great moniker for an elegant and irreverent writer. His work tinged a bit with that gonzo element of social satire that marks the work of one of my favorite writers, Ishmael Reed . But Minister Faust jettisons most of the baggage of our every day world, skewing toward fun and fantastic fantasy.

The Coyote Kings of the Space-Age Bachelor Pad

“If Spike Lee, Quentin Tarantino, William S. Burroughs and H.P.Lovecraft were to collaborate on a novel, the result might be The Coyote Kings. Pick up a copy. You’ll be glad you did.”– Sci-fi Dimensions

J.K. ROWLING- There is nothing you can say to add or detract from Rowling’s HARRY POTTER series, love it or hate it, it is an undeniable success. However, I tend to be a contrarian and have a knee jerk reaction against the uni-mind of culture, when everybody’s reading the same thing, I worry about the books that aren’t getting attention and aren’t getting read, because the media has eyes only for its chosen flavor. That said you cannot deny the books place or their popularity, and they should be sampled for familiarity’s sake if no other reason.

NALO HOPKINSON- SKIN FOLK is one of the best debuts, and best anthologies in years, and in a genre of stale Dragons and insipid elves and tired tropes it is that rarest of things… something new and good.

Skin Folk

MERVYN PEAKE- The Illustrated Gormenghast Trilogy. Do I really need to say anything else? Not only is this volume a work of literature, it’s also a work of art.
The Illustrated Gormenghast Trilogy


Well that’s it kids, some of the greatest Fantasy writers!

Support the writers (or their memories) and buy the books. Support this blog, and purchase through the handy dandy links. Your Karma will thank you. 🙂

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

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