Tuesday, October 31, 2017

I Am Slappy’s Evil Twin by R. L. Stine

Hello, Slappy here, everyone…I’ve taken over McNulty’s blog to write my own review. Why? Well, that’s what evil dummies do, you dummy! Ha Ha! My creator, R. L. Stine, that creepy genius who lives in New York, has penned yet another Slappy story. If you haven’t read the first Slappy stories in the original Goosebumps series, then you’d better order them from Barnes & Noble on-line right now! That’s right, I said now, or something terrible will happen to you! Ha Ha! Meanwhile, I bribed Stine into starting yet another Goosebumps series, this one called Slappyworld, and I not only introduce each story, but I’m in some of them! The new one is called I Am Slappy’s Evil Twin and it’s not only a twisted tale of terror, but it’s all true! Are you dummies getting all of this? You’d better take notes, because if you don’t something really, really bad will happen to you! I’m not kidding! Anyway, it’s Halloween, and I made McNulty buy the book and read it under his bedcovers with a flashlight. The dummy got so scared he went into shock! As you can tell, he has questionable taste in literature, so my brother, Snappy, and I put McNulty in a straightjacket and locked him in the closet. He’s in there now, screaming…Ha Ha! Anyway, I Am Slappy’s Evil Twin is the third book in the Goosebumps Slappyworld series, and of course it’s the best one so far! The next one is called Please Do Not Feed the Weirdo and I’m going to make McNulty buy that one, too! You see, we have to help keep R. L. Stine fat and happy so he can tell more stories about us! And don’t you dummies forget, Scholastic Books has reprinted all of the original Goosebumps stories, and you can also collect the Goosebumps Horrorland and Goosebumps Most Wanted Series, too! Go to Barnes & Noble right now and buy some, and tell ‘em Slappy sent you! 

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Detective Comics # 455, January 1976

A retro-comic perfect for Halloween!

Every once in a great while I like to pull something out of a box and re-read it. Recently, while organizing my comic book collection, I pulled out this long forgotten beauty from our Centennial year, when many comic books were promoting a patriotic storyline. There are several reasons why I have fond memories for this issue of Batman’s flagship title. The first is that Batman encounters a real vampire, and while such encounters have occurred before (and will again), they are few and far between. Secondly, the story was written by Elliot S. Maggin, one of my favorite writers at DC Comics. Maggin is responsible for writing many underrated Superman tales. Finally, the artwork is by Mike Grell. I love Mike Grell’s artwork, and I treasure all of those fantastic Green Arrow books that he produced. The story is titled “Heart of a Vampire,” and it clocks in at just 12 pages. Maggin and Grell do more with 12 pages than you’d think was humanly possible. They give us the origin of the vampire, Gustav DeCobra, and provide Batman with a dilemma in discovering how to kill a vampire who can transplant his heart...elsewhere. Maggin concocts a reasonable story, and Grell’s artwork shines with each creepy and gothic panel. I’d enjoy seeing this one reprinted. No, it’s not a classic, it’s simply fun and creepy, and that’s what vampire stories are supposed to be. The back-up story is a Hawkman tale with artwork by Jose Luis Garcia Lopez from a script by E. Nelson Bridwell.

Friday, October 27, 2017

The Quest of Frankenstein by Frank Schildiner

The Quest of Frankenstein is a top-flight adventure, appropriately creepy, and guaranteed to satisfy your craving for a gothic-style fright-fest. Inspired by the French Frankenstein continuation novels by Jean-Claude Carrier, the story commences during World War I, and in the first chapter author Frank Schildiner swiftly establish the brooding tone that will permeate the ensuing sections. We meet Gouroull, the legendary creation of Victor Frankenstein, who engages in a bone-crunching hand-to-hand battle with a man-monster called the Creeper while a military battle rages mercilessly around them. Schildiner expertly sets the plot ingredients in place, and if you’ll pardon the analogy, lights a fire that slowly but effectively sets the pot to boiling. Schildiner writes with masculine authority and holds nothing back. Gouroull is on a quest for mate, and angry at past failures, he is hopeful when he encounters a scientist named Herbert West. With the stage set and all of the players in place, Schildiner indulges himself in a fantastic tale of desire, greed, power, egotism, madness and monsters. The Quest of Frankenstein segues into an All-Star Monster Romp, sprinkled with references and characters paying homage to not only Mary Shelley and Jean-Claude Carrier, but a slew of Hollywood personalities and story arcs. I was captivated by the story, pleased with Schildiner’s hard-boiled and unapologetic style, and delighted by every gory turn. The Quest of Frankenstein includes an introduction by Jean-Marc Lofficier who details the facts behind the original novels by Jean-Claude Carrier published in the 1950s. Frank Schildiner’s The Quest of Frankenstein is a new pulp fiction classic, and I understand a sequel is in the works. Count me in. 

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Deathbringer by Bryan Smith

Deathbringer was published by Leisure Books in 2006, an imprint of Dorchester Publishing, now defunct. Deathbringer is a zombie novel, and about as entertaining as any zombie novel could hope to become. Author Bryan Smith has a knack for suspenseful pacing, which is really all that’s needed when it comes to zombies. When the Reaper comes to the town of Dandridge, the recently deceased start returning to life as zombies, and their killing spree creates yet more zombies. There is nothing original in the plot, but author Bryan Smith is skilled at creating suspense and keeping the action rolling along. In fact, Deathbringer opens with a real humdinger chapter that sets the tone and pacing, which never lets up. Deathbringer is like a pulp carnival; all noise and terror and gleeful screams and breathless excitement. I enjoyed every bloody chapter, every race against time, every scream in the dark and every gaunt-faced zombie attack and every startling or shocking piece of mayhem. Sure, we’ve seen it all before in movies and stories, but Bryan Smith delivers what we crave, in sumptuous doses of terror and carnage. Will Melinda, Erin and Avery survive? Will the Reaper be vanquished? During their heyday (which was short) Leisure Books offered the best horror fiction in the grand tradition of the classic pulps. Bryan Smith’s other Leisure Books included House of Blood, The Freakshow, and Depraved. He’s still out there with numerous e-books available. His books are great and fans of horror fiction won’t want to miss any of the blood-curdling chills, especially this time of year.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Sherlock Holmes Vs. Frankenstein by David Whitehead

When I heard that author David Whitehead was going to turn his attention to both Sherlock Holmes and Frankenstein’s monster, I knew it would be special. David’s considerable talent and passion for writing has produced an envious bibliography that includes Westerns, horror, suspense and even romance. David Whitehead is a powerhouse of talent. Sherlock Holmes Vs. Frankenstein was just as great as I thought it would be. I love being right. Based upon the screen story for a forthcoming film by Gautier Cazenave, readers will plunge into the traditional world of Holmes and Watson, and the set-up captures the feel of the original stories by Arthur Conan Doyle. This wasn’t surprising because David has co-authored several Sherlock Holmes tales with Steve Hayes. Traveling to the German village of Darmstadt to solve the mystery of a gravedigger’s murder, Holmes and Watson soon meet the current Baron Frankenstein. At the heart of this gothic tale lies the idea that Mary Shelley’s famous book, which Holmes discusses with Watson, may have been based on fact. Indeed, the central question being is the monster real? The plot has a clever twist involving the monster and Mary Shelley, which I won’t reveal. Readers need to discover for themselves as Holmes did, the ghoulish secret that lies in the shadow of castle Frankenstein. I guarantee you’ll be frantically flipping the pages as the mystery unfolds. I delighted in every chapter and enjoyed this book immensely. David Whitehead is a fine writer, and Sherlock Holmes Vs. Frankenstein is a real treat for his fans. Highly recommended!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Young Scrooge by R. L. Stine

Young Scrooge is a stand-alone novel, and separate from R. L. Stine’s famed Goosebumps series. Young Scrooge hits the paperback racks just in time for Halloween. It’s typical Stine all the way, entertaining, and easy to read. Stine is a consistent writer, so those of you familiar with his work will be right at home with this homage to Charles Dickens. It should be noted that Young Scrooge is neither a sequel nor a prequel or a continuation of A Christmas Carol; in fact, Young Scrooge is an original tale, with a nod toward Charles Dickens, but comprised of R. L. Stine’s own blend of wickedness and humor. This is the story about Rick Scroogeman, a school bully who hates A Christmas Carol, hates Christmas, and spends most of his time fabricating cruel pranks to play on his classmates. He is obviously not popular, and he’s clueless as to the negative effect he has on those around him. When the first of three ghosts visits him, Scroogeman is subjected to the same type of bullying he’d been dishing out. The three ghosts don’t relent, and poor Scroogeman is put through the wringer, which you’d expect. Stine handles this swiftly and never lingers in one place too long. I have promoted Stine’s books multiple times on this blog, and I’ll continue doing so. His books are aimed at young readers, and if this gets young people reading – and continuing to read – then I’m all for it. R. L. Stine is a national treasure. His wild imagination and sense of playfulness compliment the spookiness. Young Scrooge doesn’t disappoint. 

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Season's End

Season’s End
Thomas McNulty

The day comes where you have to pull the boat out of the water. The difficulty lies in choosing the right day. If you wait too long, the lake might have a thin crust of ice on its surface, and your feet and hands will be chilled to the bone if you get them wet. If you pull the boats too early, you’ll know you’re depriving yourself of one last ride or one last afternoon with a line in the water. All the same, there’s no getting around it. The boat has to come ashore.

I am in the habit of waiting until the last minute of the last day. I pick a time when the lake is quiet, and the swimmers and boaters and fishermen have already packed their gear and gone home. The light has to possess that autumnal gold I find so relaxing, and I’m fine with it being cold as long as the sun is out.

I’ll sit on the cabin’s deck with a steaming cup of coffee and just watch the water. There are usually ducks splashing in the bay; and through the spindly undergrowth on my left I can see the shine of a painted turtle’s shell on a shoreline log. My thoughts are grim in the wake of losing my parents and my sister. My sister’s oldest son had turned his back on his cancer-stricken mother when she needed him the most. That dark stain on his soul can never be wiped clean. He marked himself, and that stain will follow him for the remainder of his life.
You learn who truly cares and who your friends are in the wake of grief. Friends and acquaintances always in sales-pitch mode appear quickly; and I discard them now. The northwoods have been my constant source of serenity for many decades. I find solace here; a release from the grief that has plagued our lives in recent years. There is always war somewhere on the planet. My cold-hearted and selfish nephew is but a symptom of a breed of fools who have refused to join the global village and ignored the benefits of promoting creativity over arrogance.

I take to the waters as a way of healing. I follow the dream-path of the old chiefs in the land of sky blue water; I linger in the tracks of the black bears foraging in the brush for berries. I follow the trail of pulp dreamers and the frontiersmen of yesteryear. I listen to the tall tales of fishermen and the sad tales of hunters. I track the eagle’s shadow across the sparkling whitecaps. I read a long book, turning the pages slowly. I dream of rivers and streams without end; sometimes I can hear their voices on the pine-scented wind and the past is so close I can almost touch it. When the frost is on the vine, I pull the boat out of the water and prepare for tomorrow.

In Memoria Thomas C. McNulty, Patricia McNulty and Janet Albright

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Splatterpunks edited by Paul M. Sammon

I think we get hung up on labels, and the term “splatterpunk” is really an unnecessary tag. I agree, however, that it helps in marketing certain styles of writing. I am in agreement with writer Mel Odom who states there are seven genres of fiction – mystery, suspense, science fiction, fantasy, romance, western and horror. Everything else is a sub-genre of those primary labels. Depending on the story elements, “splatterpunk” could be a sub-genre of several other genres. Just as “steampunk” and “cyberpunk” are sub-genres of science-fiction, and “weird western” is a fusion of westerns and often fantasy and horror. All of these fusions and morphing genres can be a bit overwhelming. Splatterpunks edited by Paul M. Sammon, was published in 1990 and collects and documents the trendy splatterpunk literary movement that was all the rage. The problem I had with this trend is that it resulted in a lot of stories where the focus was on bloody scenes, and whatever story might have been told was lost in gratuitous pools of blood. Fortunately, this anthology avoids most (but not all) of that nonsense. The first tale is Joe R. Lansdale’s “Night They Missed the Horror Show” which is a masterpiece. This is the scariest story published, because it can be real. There are no supernatural elements, no Lovecraftian monsters. This is an unflinching slice (no pun intended) of Americana, and when you read it you’ll never be the same again. Everything else in this anthology is secondary to Lansdale’s frightening tale. Other tasty tales are Clive Barker’s “The Midnight Meat Train” and “Rapid Transit” by Wayne Allen Sallee. Editor Paul M. Sammon includes his own essay tracing the origins of the splatterpunk movement, and there’s an essay by Chas. Balun about splatterpunk films. Both essays struck me as pedantic. For you George R.R. Martin fans his story, “Meathouse Man,” is included, too. In general, this is an entertaining anthology, and most of the stories will keep you awake at night. That’s what they’re for, so lock the doors and start reading.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Trouble in the French Palace by Sundown McCabe

Cleveland Westerns are published in Australia and are the last of the pulp fiction digest Westerns on the market. Most of their titles offer traditional storylines, and they are all fun to read. Trouble in the French Palace represents a small percentage with a saucier cover and a modest inclusion of adult action. They are not pornographic, just saucy. The covers are eye-popping delights in the grand tradition of old school men’s adventure magazines.  I couldn’t resist the cover for Trouble in the French Palace, and the story was great. Every Cleveland Western I’ve read has been well-written. The tale begins with the murder of a sheriff, and the town of Comanche Creek is controlled by Bernard Souter and his no-good bunch. The town council decides to hire professional town tamer, Jack Logan, who turns out to have a personal reason to get involved at Comanche Creek. The descriptions are vivid, the gunplay steady, and the doves are ready, willing and able. The cover scene actually appears on page 35, and is comprised of a few sentences. Again, the saucy scenes are modest, and the great cover guarantees a sale. Cleveland Westerns like this are the perfect reading fare for fans of pulp fiction and the men’s adventure fiction market. Sometimes heavy on the action, and racing between subplots, Trouble in the French Palace is precisely what I wanted from a pulp fiction story. Sundown McCabe is obviously a pseudonym, and I don’t know who the author is, although I have my suspicions. Some of the Cleveland Westerns authors have also written for the Black Horse Western brand. Trouble in the French Palace was first published in 2005. To learn more about Cleveland Westerns CLICK HERE and visit their website.