Friday, December 23, 2011

Favorite Fiction in 2011

2011 the Year in Books

Not all of the books listed here were published in 2011,
but these are the best books that I happened to read in 2011.

Enemies & Allies by Kevin J. Anderson
The Cleaner by Brett Battles
The Black Stiletto by Raymond Benson
Dimiter by William Peter Blatty
Feast Day of Fools by James Lee Burke
The Burning Soul by John Connolly
Zombie Pulp by Tim Curran
The Jungle by Clive Cussler and Jack Du Brul
Dead Man’s Brand by Norbert Davis
Phantoms in Bronze: The Phantom Detective by Laurence Donovan
Inside Out by Barry Eisler
Cryptozoica by Mark Ellis
Shiloh by Shelby Foote
To Hell On a Fast Horse by Mark Lee Gardner
Yesteryear by Tommy Hancock
The Phantom Patrol by L. Ron Hubbard
Dead Zero by Stephen Hunter
All the Earth, Thrown to the Sky by Joe. R. Lansdale
Ghosts of War by George Mann
The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey by Candice Millard
A Transaction in Diamonds by Talbot Mundy
Gather My Horses by John D. Nesbitt
The Spider: City of Doom by Norvell Page
Zombies! Zombies! Zombies! edited and compiled by Otto Penzler
Viktoriana by Wayne Reinagel
The Buntline Special by Mike Resnick
The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss
Death Rattle by Jory Sherman
The White Sybil and Other Stories by Clark Ashton Smith
Kiss Her Goodbye by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins
The Consummata by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins
The Stonehenge Gate by Jack Williamson

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Shopping at Macy’s: A Christmas Story

Shopping at Macy’s
A Christmas Story
Thomas McNulty

Not that it matters but most of what follows actually happened in 2008

Once again we made our annual pilgrimage to Chicago’s Christkindlmarket in Daley Plaza where I bought some trinkets, drank some glug and mourned my frozen blarney stones as the winds swept in from Lake Michigan and turned Chicago’s Loop into an iceberg. Our intention was to get some Christmas shopping done but I ended up sampling the various intoxicants instead. I was cold so I drank more glug, and then some beer. Then I drank another cup. glug is a fascinating drink; in this instance a combination of brandy and fruit juices, heated and served in a small ceramic cup. I drank some more. I also drank some heated wine in a Christmas mug. For those that haven’t visited Chicago, let me describe the cold – the wind comes in over Lake Michigan and curls into a gigantic pit bull in heat and then slashes your balls off. Real nasty. The only remedy is glug and various alcoholic drinks, but you won’t know this until you’ve gulped down some glug. You get the idea.
It was in this intoxicated state that we pressed on through the concrete wasteland and sought refuge in Macy’s Department Store. Immediately a female Macy’s employee approached me and said, “Would you like to meet Jessica Simpson?” She handed me a small white card that said: Jessica’s Fancy. I wasn’t certain who Jessica Simpson was. I know that she’s a media favorite, and that she’s competing with Britney Spears as Dumbest Blonde of the New Millennium. But I didn’t know the details. My perplexity must have shown in my face. “Smell the card.” The woman said. I pressed the card to my nose and instantly my eyes crossed and my throat constricted as if I’d inhaled mustard gas from the Argonne forest in France, circa 1917. I suppressed the gag reflex and tried to wriggle my wooden tongue loose from the top of my mouth. Somewhere in the dark labyrinth of my mind I may have smelled perfume, and a momentary image of nights in white satin flashed through my befuddled mind. Meanwhile, my wife and daughter continued on their way, oblivious to my plight. 

Then the Macy’s employee explained that for eighty dollars I could buy a bottle of Jessica’s perfume and receive a “free” gold lamé handbag along with a ticket to stand in line and have Jessica sign a glossy photo for me. I wasn’t sure about the perfume. There wasn’t much I could do with it. I wondered if the woman thought I was gay? And the gold lamé handbag was too large and looked like something a cross-dressing Santa would carry around on Chicago’s preppie north side. Maybe I could pour the perfume over my brawny body next summer and see if it worked as a sun-tan lotion? No, I had to snap out of it. I lurched sideways, still clutching the card.

“No, no thanks, “I stammered, “My wife doesn’t like me talking to strange women...” and I stumbled away, shoving the card into a mannequin’s panties. I caught up with my family and hastily explained to them that Jessica Simpson was here and my daughter, knowledgeable twenty-three-year-old that she is, quickly filled me in on Jessica’s claim to fame. She’s a singer (I haven’t heard any of her songs), she’s a wannabe actress (I haven’t seen any of her movies) and she’s stupid (dumb blondes were put on this earth for a reason). Then my daughter explained that on television once, poor Jessica was filmed eating Chicken-of-the-Sea tuna and asked someone “Is it chicken or fish?” Thus, her nomination as Bimbo of the Year was secured. I filed away this pertinent information for later use.
We went shopping. By the fifth floor I realized the booze I’d been drinking in Daley Plaza was fermenting. I reeled through the Men’s Clothing section and found a glimmering rack hung with black wool jackets with military style insignia and skulls emblazoned across the breast pocket. I veered toward the shirts and they all had skulls, skulls, and more skulls either embroidered into the fabric or screen-printed onto the chest. I deduced skulls are big this year. I browsed in a blur among the negligees. I found some I really liked, but then I realized my wife might protest if I asked the attractive brunette salesgirl to try them on. I sort of skipped back over to the Men’s Department where I looked at a designer T-shirt silk-screened with skulls. The price tag said $90.00. I had an idea that I could save myself $90.00 by taking a black Sharpie and drawing a skull on one of my T-shirts. Brilliant thinking! I sauntered over to my wife and told her my plan. She looked at me and said, “How much of that heated wine did you drink?”
Dejected, I meandered along, lost in a blue funk. I examined the men’s briefs. They had Metallica briefs, Guitar Hero briefs, Batman briefs, Superman briefs, Spider-Man briefs, ACDC briefs, and skull briefs. I wondered why there wasn’t such a thing as edible Elvis panties. Imagine the image of a young Elvis on a pair of petite Ladies edible panties. Another brilliant thought! I went over and told my wife my brilliant plan. She looked at me and said, “Don’t wander off and get lost. You’ve had too much to drink.” While the girls were chattering away in the Dress Department, I wandered off. Then I heard the crowd scream downstairs and I knew that Jessica Simpson had entered the building. I went back and talked my wife and daughter into joining me in ogling Jessica. “It’ll only take a few minutes,” I said, “We can’t be in the same building with her and not take a peek.” So we went to peek at Jessica.

Big mistake. Thousands of people had escaped the cold and crowded into Macy’s to stare at Jessica Simpson signing autographs. The crowd was enormous and in all of the hustle-bustle I became separated from my wife and daughter. I pressed ahead, the crowd surging against me, and I was swept along like driftwood on the Colorado River. The crowd merged with other crowds. The crowded crowds came to a standstill and there she was. They had her under the lights and signing photographs at a table. I was mesmerized. I fought against the ceaseless tide and was pushed into a corner next to a redheaded mannequin with perky nipples. From this vantage point I could observe Jessica unhindered. She seemed pleasant enough. But then I remembered the Chicken-of-the-Sea story and I despaired. Could this be what they mean by “Pretty Dumb?” But I thought maybe this was all unfair to poor Jessica. She wasn’t acting stupid. In fact, she appeared to be quite friendly. The thought crossed my mind that Jessica Simpson wasn’t stupid at all. At eighty dollars a bottle she had Macy’s packed with admirers, and this during an economic recession. By God, she was a genius! What I needed was a hot ass, a pretty face and a bottle of perfume! I’d clean out their wallets and retire!
In my alcohol induced state I mused on these, and other politically incorrect topics. Perhaps the glug was working on me, but I suddenly felt sorry for Jessica Simpson. I decided she was attractive enough, even if I hadn’t been drinking glug, beer and wine, and bless her heart! Somewhere in the distance Perry Como was singing a Christmas song but I wasn’t in the mood for Perry Como. I was in the mood for that alternative rock band from Boston, Dropkick Murphys, and I thought I’d rather be listening to them as Jessica Simpson danced naked for me. I pondered this image a moment. Yes...
“Yo, Pops, you gotta move along!” I looked up and a tall, imposing security guard was frowning at me. This man had just called me Pops. I made a mental note to dye my goatee red in the morning. I stumbled away and happened to glance at the escalator. There was my wife gliding upward and snapping pictures of Jessica over the railing (photo attached). I waved my arms wildly but she was lost in the crowd. I ventured into “Christmasland” where little Christmas packages shimmered beneath gigantic red and blue ornaments and squeaky little wooden elves buggered each other beneath the mistletoe. No, wait, that can’t be right. That was the booze talking.
Leftward I skipped merrily along and made a full circle before stepping onto the escalator. The crowd surged again as we rose above Jessica, cameras clicking, and the escalator stopped. I stared down at Jessica. Something that once might have been glug bubbled to life in my belly. Whatever sympathy I once felt for poor Jessica was obliterated by a glugish recapitulation that hopped, skipped and jumped into my nervous system. Suddenly overcome with emotion, I yelled “Jessica! Jessica!” She might have heard me as she looked up, but then her admirers (predominantly young girls of mixed ethnicity) thronged forward. I sucked in a breath and bellowed: “Hey Jessica! You know what would have happened if the pilgrims had picked a donkey instead of a turkey? We’d all be having a piece of ass at Thanksgiving!”

And then my ears popped and the escalator jerked to life and I was propelled heavenward. Jessica dwindled to a blonde speck and I was slammed up and up by the pure unadulterated forces of greed, money, fanaticism and booze. I came to a rest on Level Eight, broken and exhausted. Now I had to reunite with my family, my dalliance with Jessica Simpson but a cherished memory. So down I went, past the salivating crowd, down to Level One where the glittering decorations undulated with an eerie glow. I thought my wife and daughter would be extremely pissed-off by now. The clerk allowed me to use Macy’s house phone to call my wife’s cell phone. I blurted out my location and begged forgiveness. My wife, observing me over the balcony on Level Two, screamed down at me; “Don’t move until I get down there or I’ll kill you!” I threw up my arms in defeat.
Reunited at last, we were all famished. We found the cafeteria on the lower level but the crowds here were greater than those drooling over Jessica Simpson. To make matter worse, the shortest food line was serving rare, spotted dorsal fin of some weird creature flown in from the Caribbean and sautéed in mushroom sauce. My loyal family was content with sipping a few Cokes but I needed sustenance immediately, so I ordered the fins and ate them greedily. My wife and daughter watched in amazement as I gulped down the fins. Finally, my wife asked, “What’s it taste like?”

“Doesn’t matter.” I said between bites, “After drinking all morning everything tastes like chicken.”

Eventually, we traveled up and out, pushing ourselves onto State Street where the wind whipped us with its cold lash. Carolers were singing hymns and gentle flakes drifted down, the street thrumming with noise, the shoppers moaning with pleasure. A sense of peace at last washed over me. I stepped up to the curb as a cab driven by a swarthy looking gentleman took the corner at full speed, the cab’s tires spinning on the ice, the slush and soot-blackened snow drenching me from head to foot.

“You scum-sucking low-life!” I screamed, shaking my dripping fist. “I’ll rip out your goddamn throat you pig humping leech!”

And may we all enjoy a safe and
Happy Holiday Season!

(...and go easy on the booze)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Author David DeWitt

My good friend and blood brother David DeWitt is a superb writer in addition to managing the best blog about Errol Flynn in cyberspace. Please take a look at David’s blog, Zaca Publishing, and follow the links to order some of his e-books. I don’t own a kindle or nook myself but those of you that do will enjoy some of David’s science fiction stories. You can visit ZACA PUBLISHING by clicking HERE! And for the best Errol Flynn fan page please visit The Errol Flynn Blog right HERE! Kudos to David DeWitt!

Review: Cryptozoica by Mark Ellis

Cryptozoica by Mark Ellis should have been a New York Times bestseller. It was better than anything I saw on the New York Times bestseller list this year (or most years for that matter) and outside of Viktoriana by Wayne Reinagel there is no other book I’ve read recently that told such an epic story so well. And epic is the key word here. This is one of those books that you pick up and begin reading and within a few pages you say to yourself WOW! Cryptozoica represents how pulp style adventure novels not only should be written but how they should be presented. Superior illustrations by Jeff Slemons and designed by Melissa Martin-Ellis, this book is a visual delight, superbly packaged and quite clearly lovingly produced by all participants. Cryptozoica puts other trade paperback designers to shame. This book is an instant collector’s item just based on the excellent illustrations and design. Then, of course, there’s the actual story itself. Mark Ellis has published widely under the name James Axler and tells a riveting tale. Stylistically, he tells a story with the correct balance of descriptions and exposition unlike so many of today’s bland thriller writers who rely on minimalism and terse dialogue. The plot: a group of fortune hunters and adventurers on a forgotten island hunting the key to humanity’s lost origins. A diverse and memorable group of characters – Tombstone Jack Kavanaugh, Augustus Crowe, Honoré Roxton, Aubrey Belleau, and Mouzi – all make for some lively reading. With Ellis you’ll see the story, smell it, feel it and sense it just the way old-fashioned adventure stories were meant to be. There is a superficial resemblance to Michael Crichton’s classic Jurassic Park, but that’s ok because there is a superficial resemblance between Jurassic Park and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World and At the Earth’s Core by Edgar Rice Burroughs. In other words, Cryptozoica joins the growing bookshelf of dinosaur laden adventure novels. Cryptozoica is better than a Saturday afternoon movie serial from the mid-1940s although it moves at the same break-neck pace. This the best whiz-bang science-adventure-slugfest punctuated by those tell-tale bursts of automatic gunfire that’s you’ll read for a very long time. I don’t think Mark Ellis AKA James Axler can top even himself, but I sure hope he tries. Kudos!