Saturday, December 21, 2019

A Christmas Story by Jean Shepherd

While most of us are familiar with the 1983 film directed by Bob Clark and starring Melinda Dillon, Darren McGavin and Peter Billingsley, I also recommend the stories upon which the film is based. Author Jean Shepherd’s 1966 novel, In God We Trust, all Others Pay Cash, was the primary source material.  Not every chapter in the novel relates to the subsequent film, but shown here is the Broadway Books edition which compiles the five essential stories. Shepherd was both the co-screenwriter on the film and the narrator. His stories are delightful to read and are quite short. The film is widely regarded as a classic and is shown constantly on television along with It’s a Wonderful Life starring James Stewart. I am a fan of the film, and people seem to either love it...or don’t get it. I can’t help those of you that don’t get it, and I won’t bother trying. I have two Red Ryder BB rifles propped against the bookcase in my den. The Red Ryder BB rifle originally went into production in 1940, inspired by the Red Ryder comic book and film character. The Red Ryder BB rifle was designed to resemble the Winchester rifles commonly seen in Western films. There was also a Buck Jones model with a configuration that matched the model found in Shepherd’s story. Buck Jones and Red Ryder are both historical references the average viewer knows little about. Google it. The film’s charm lies in its simplicity; such Holiday experiences were once commonplace in the America experience. The film evokes memories of childhood, a past that has vanished, kept alive by such films as A Christmas Story. The leg lamp represents every idiosyncratic gift various family members coveted, and I can recall when comic books advertised BB guns on the back cover. Daisy air rifles were a popular and coveted item. The International BB Gun Championship was a prestigious event in the 1960s, as were most State Sponsored riflemen clubs. Incidentally, Daisy has just released the Eightieth anniversary edition. Melinda Dillon represents the traditional mother and wife, wise beyond her years, patient and loving. Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

The Ruger Wrangler

Released this past spring, Ruger’s new Wrangler .22 LR comes in three Cerakote finishes (black, silver or bronze) with standard checkered grips, this six-shot single action revolver is sure to please the cowboy in your family. As you might expect from Ruger, the quality is high. A hot and lightweight six-shooter that packs a punch, the Wrangler is the perfect plinking target pistol, but with an Old West feel. I couldn’t ask for a better .22 handgun. Handling the gun is typical of a six shooter, but since this is a Ruger be mindful of the differences between a Ruger and a Colt. You can safely load six because of Ruger’s transfer bar and firing pin design, as opposed to the traditional Colt and its hammer-spur design. Anyone reading this that doesn’t understand those differences is advised to seek a qualified firearm instructor for lessons. I had zero problems or issues firing this gun. The Wrangler handles fine and is only a tad lighter than Ruger’s famed Vaquero model. The Wrangler is economically priced at approximately $200.00, and mine was actually $189.00. Prices will obviously vary by geographic region and state gun and tax laws. My wife bought mine as a 35th wedding anniversary gift, and that also makes it special. A great gun. Highly recommended! As always, please follow the basic rules of safe firearm handling. When firearms are used in a safe and responsible manner, they provide much pleasure, satisfaction and protection, and represent a fundamental part of our personal liberty. Be smart, stay cool, and Buy American whenever possible.
The Ruger Wrangler (center) with two .45 Ruger Vaquero models 
for size comparison.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

30th Century Comics in London - A Haven for Book Collectors

Prior to arriving in London last August, I had conducted an Internet search for dealers of second hand books and comics, and found the website for 30th Century Comics in Putney at 18 Lower Richmond Road. Putney itself, quite naturally, has a rich literary history; Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Algernon Charles Swinburne and E. M. Forster all lived here. However, I was seeking pulp fiction. I was specifically interested in the Sexton Blake digests. Sexton Blake started out as a pastiche of Sherlock Holmes in 1893 and over 4,000 stories by over 200 authors created his adventures through 1978. The 30th Century Comics website indicated a modest back-stock and I was eager for the hunt.
I smelled old paper when I walked into the shop, as familiar and welcome a scent for the bookhound as butter and pepper is for the discerning chef. The proprietor assisted me in immediately locating a modest supply of Sexton Blake titles. I then commenced in rummaging about their massive comic book collection. 
I found some early 1960s hardback Superman and Batman annuals, and my wife found some British editions of The Lone Ranger comic books and a wonderful Gunsmoke digest from 1969. I capped my stack of books with some horror paperbacks and paid up. I might easily have spent another more given the wealth of vintage material available. I complimented them on their excellent backstock.
And so, for you London Travelers interested in a unique experience, and especially for comic book collectors, I heartily recommend 30th Century Comics in Putney at 18 Lower Richmond Road.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Brain Damaged by David Owain Hughes

Brain Damaged is a collection of twenty stories. With Halloween only days away, this is the book that will chill you. It may even send you screaming for mercy; you may lock yourself in a room and find yourself shivering with abject fear. Writing with a hardcore, pulp influenced style but set to an extreme tempo, Hughes explores the human condition with a critical eye, delving into the psyche of some nasty characters. There is a supernatural slant to many of the tales, but what really matters here is the author’s handling of the human condition. He pulls no punches and offers us characters that are all too human; greed and desire, anger and selfishness are all on display. Without reading too much into it, I often think such splatterpunk tales are a type of social criticism. This is the world we live in, like it or not. David Owain Hughes himself is a Welshman and he demonstrates a storytelling command that will leave readers mesmerized. He’s also willing to take chances with his stories, pushing the boundaries of a three-point tale (with its traditional beginning, middle and end) and explore alternate formats. I think he has fun with writing, and you can’t ask for a better selection of tales than found in Brain Damaged. Published by Hellbound Books out of England, Brain Damaged is available on Amazon. Not for the squeamish, I recommend this one for a midnight reading. Guaranteed to send a chill down your spine and make you look over your shoulder.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

The Werewolf Omnibus by Guy N. Smith

Available for the first time in one volume, all three of Guy N. Smith’s classic werewolf tales have been reprinted by Sinister Horror Company. The volume includes a previously unpublished short story titled “Spawn of the Werewolf” which caps off the trilogy nicely. For readers unfamiliar with the GNS classic werewolf paperbacks (which now fetch premium prices by collectors), this volume is a spooky treat in time for Halloween. Written with the hardboiled classic style that has become his unofficial trademark, GNS has created the ultimate werewolf fiction, reminiscent of the classic Universal horror films starring Lon Chaney, Jr., but highlighted by Smith’s deft if not gruesome touch. This is hardcore horror, pulp fiction style, and without a doubt an instant collector’s item. Included here are Werewolf by Moonlight (1974), Return of the Werewolf (1976) and The Son of the Werewolf (1978). Sinister Horror Company had done an excellent job with the reprint; freshly edited and with a clean easy-to-read font and good quality paper, The Werewolf Omnibus is the ultimate Halloween reading material. I dare you to read this on a dark and stormy night when you’re all alone. Lock the doors and shut the windows. When the moon is full the werewolves begin to prowl, and they’re hungry for blood and flesh. GNS is a master at creating heightened suspense, and you’ll be flipping the pages with diabolical fury. Not for the faint-of-heart, settle down in a comfortable chair and get ready for some bloody mayhem.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Lady Death: Apocalyptic Abyss # 1

Lady Death might be the best thing to happen in horror comics in decades. Created by Brian Pulido, the character first appeared way back in 1994 and subsequently appeared in numerous versions until Pulido created Coffin Comics who publish exclusive Lady Death books and art prints. As of today, the Coffin Comics website is loaded with saucy prints and wild books, all with a grand pulp fiction B-movie feel. With a stable of artists and his incredible imagination, Pulido is a powerhouse of Halloween fun. Lady Death: Apocalyptic Abyss # 1 is a continuation of previous storylines, so it’s not exactly a good introduction to the character. Still, it won’t take new readers long to figure out which end is up, and just go along for a tumultuous and sometimes sexy, sometimes violent ride. The artwork in this issue is by Dheeraj Verma and I think it’s dazzling. The stunning cover artwork is by Mike Krome and Ceci de la Cruz. Coffin Comics puts out multiple variant covers which fans of sexy females will find exciting. I find them exciting, and the art prints are great as well. There are some Halloween themed prints with Lady Death wearing a pointed black witch’s hat in the style of the classic pinups, and Pulido and his team get high marks for their intent on creating and promoting a quality business with fantastic products. Here’s a company that makes Halloween fun, and the books are exciting to read. Lady Death is the best trick and treat I’ve seen in many years. Kudos!

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Beware the Witch’s Shadow

Beware the Witch’s Shadow is an independent black and white anthology horror comic from American Mythology Productions. I bought my copy at Forbidden Planet in Soho, London, and it was the best comic I bought there. The book intentionally emulates the classic EC horror comics from the 1950s which is an ongoing trend these days. This one works quite well. This premier issue features three stories and I enjoyed them all. The first story is called “Snow Day” by Jason Pell, with artwork by Richard Bonk. A short but chilling story, right in the classic mold of an old EC comic or magazines like Creepy. “Snips and Snails” by S. A. Check and Eliseu Gouveia and “The Wicked West-A Day in the Afterlife” by James Kuhoric and Neil Vokes are fine but their brevity works against them. Still, I liked the creepy mood here and the series might be fun if the stories were a bit longer. I didn’t mind the black and white format at all. The transition panels featuring the witch were written by James Kuhoric with art by Puis Calzada. EC comics inspired horror books appear regularly each year, but few of them last long. Nothing outstanding here, but the book is a sincere effort at traditional but campy horror. Shown here is the “Main” cover with artwork by Puis Calzada who also created the “Risqué” cover with Arthur Hesli. There is no nudity on the interior panels, and I don’t have a problem with risqué variant covers. What matters are the stories. This is a good start, but my instinct tells me it won’t last. The stories need a bit more kick, and EC horror comics are difficult to emulate. Let’s hope they can do it. I would love to see a title like this become a mainstream success.