Wednesday, October 26, 2016

31 Days of Halloween - Day 26

Guillermo Del Toro: At Home With Monsters by Britt Salvesen and Jim Shedden with Paul Koudounaris, Keith McDonald, and Roger Clark

Insight Editions. 2016

Tying in to the Guillermo Del Toro - At Home with Monsters exhibit currently showing at LACMA and to later travel to a number of other cities, the book looks at Guillermo Del Toro's collection of highbrow and lowbrow art and books including toys, comic books and model kits, and how he uses that collection to fuel his imagination and his own art as a filmmaker. For anyone who is a process junkie, this book is a treasure. This is a very informative look into the creative process from inspiration to integration and execution. For me, Del Toro's collection has become the new Ackermansion, and just as I closely studied those photos that Forrest J. Ackerman used to share in the pages of Famous Monsters, I've often given close scrutiny to photos and videos of the collections in Del Toro's Bleak House. While there are a number of photos of his collection in the book, I would have liked many more. Perhaps a full book of GDT shelf porn will come along in the future.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

31 Days of Halloween - Day 25

The Eyes of the Cat  by Moebius and Alexandro Jodorowsky

Humanoids. 2013.

This 1978 collaboration is a vey slight story about the relationship between a boy and an eagle that's horrifying and packs a real punch at the climax. The art, of course, is beautiful, and Jodorowsky contributes an introduction about how this book came to be that will take longer to read than the story itself. Budget conscious readers may want to pass on this, though it's only $5.95 on Kindle (see below), and can be found in hardcover for under $20.00 from 3rd party sellers.

Monday, October 24, 2016

31 Days of Halloween - Day 24

The Lady and Her Monsters by Roseanne Montillo

William Morrow. 2013

Subtitled; A Tale of Dissections, Real-Life Dr. Frankensteins, and the Creation of Mary Shelley's Masterpiece, The Lady and Her Monsters not only provides biographical information on Mary Shelley and her circle, but investigates scientific advancements and investigations, such as electricity and galvanism, philosophical questions of the time, volcanic eruptions, and the activities of anatomists and body snatchers that were taking place before and during the time of her writing Frankenstein. The book also relates the legendary events that took place Villa Diodati and led to a ghost story contest and the writing of Shelley's famous novel. While the material is covered in depth in other books, it is nice to have all of the disparate elements brought together between two covers. As the 200th anniversary of the publication of Frankenstein approaches, and 200 years now separates us from the events of Villa Diodati, it's a perfect way to go behind the scenes of the classic novel.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

31 Days of Halloween - Day 23

Dark Harvest by Norman Partridge

Tor Books. 2006.

Every Halloween a small isolated agricultural community stages "the Run." The town's 16-18 year old males, after five days of fasting, he'd out into the night armed with clubs, pitchforks, knives, hammers, and other deadly implements to try and find and kill the October Boy before he kills them and reaches his goal of the town church. The October Boy is a supernatural being, an ambulatory scarecrow topped with a jack o'lantern head and armed with a knife.

It's a simple, and very effective plot, yet Partridge is able to inject a surprising amount of twists and revelations into its compact length. Told in a driving narrative style that never lets you forget you're being told a story, Dark Harvest blasts out of the starting gate and never lets up until the end. This is the perfect Halloween book.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

31 Days of Halloween - Day 22

Ghostly edited, illustrated and introduced by Audrey Niffenegger

Scribner. 2015.

This is an anthology of ghost stories selected by author/artist Niffenegger. There is no theme or specified range of stories in the collection. They are simply stories that she liked and wanted to share. Niffenegger has great taste. While some of the stories are familiar and well anthologized in other collections of ghost stories, they still resonate and are in excellent company. Some of the authors include Edgar Allen Poe, Saki, Ray Bradbury, M.R. James, Niffenegger herself, Kelly Link, M.R. James and P.G. Wodehouse. It's a really nice mix. Everyone of these stories is a gem. If they could all be of this quality I'd encourage more anthologies of stories chosen by established authors based simply on what they like without concern about whether the stories have been anthologized before.

Friday, October 21, 2016

31 Days of Halloween - Day 21

Painted Monsters & Other Strange Beasts by Orrin Grey

Word Horde. 2015.

Orrin Grey should be a familiar name to followers of the Countdown to Halloween since he has been an active participant for several years now. Painted Monsters contains thirteen short stories most of which begin with old horror tropes, particularly cinematic ones. Grey then gives these tropes very new, clever, spins while often dropping nods to their inspirations. Lovecraft, Poe, John Carpenter, Clive Barker, Roger Corman, and others all have their fingerprints laying under the fresh paint. These are not pastiches, however. These are original works with their own dark secrets, and are all worth reading, particularly Persistence of Vision which is ripe with novel ideas and chilling in its scope and suggestion.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

31 Days of Halloween - Day 20

A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

William Morrow. 2015

When a medical cure cannot be found for 14-year-old Marjorie Barrett's increasingly troubled behavior, her father, John, turns to a spiritual one, and her mother, Sarah, reluctantly goes along with it. Father Wanderly believes that Marjorie is a victim of demonic possession, and secures permission to perform an exorcism, all of which will happen under the watchful cameras of the reality show The Possession. The family dynamic, already in jeopardy quickly unravels as related to us by Marjorie's eight-year-old sister, Merry, now an adult relating the events to the author of a book on the story of the Barretts.

At the center of the book is whether or not Marjorie is actually possessed, or just a troubled teen showing signs of mental illness. This is not spelled out in any obvious way, and no characters sit down and discuss this directly, but it's there, and Tremblay uses familiar possession tropes to reinforce this divide. To Tremblay's credit, the book is more troubling and disturbing if the possession isn't real. There's a real creep factor to this book. Sure, some of that comes from the implied supernatural aspect of the story, but most of it comes from watching this family disintegrate under the detached watch of the cameras, and where Merry seems to be the only family member who isn't falling apart, and who finds herself needing her troubled sister's love and comfort as her parents pull away from each other.

A Head Full of Ghosts is very well done. I'm looking forward to reading more of Tremblay's work.