Monday, October 16, 2017

31 Days of Halloween - Day 16

Ghosts and Other Unpleasantries by C.S. Sahu

J.W. Sheahan & Company. 2016

Thirteen types of ghostly tales by Sahu are collected here. A tale of just desserts, revenge and vegetables, magic candles, la llarona, a rambling house, etc. There a couple stories here that are murder tales vs. ghost stories, making them the "other unpleasantries" of the title.

Sahu has a style that suggests these stories would be at home as part of a television anthology series. There's nothing particularly dark, or sinister about her presentation. They feel more 4:00 in the afternoon on a pleasant day than 2:30 in the morning on a stormy night. This is what catches you off guard. While there are a few tales here that are more charming than churning, many of them take a wicked turn and come to a truly dark finish. I'd never heard of Sahu before picking up this book, but I'm glad I found her.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

31 Days of Halloween - Day 15

Sam Specter and the Book of Spells by Ricardo Delgado

Treasures Publishing. 2009.

Sam Specter is a ten-year-old ghost who fancies himself a private eye. He lives in Netherworld City, a vast metropolis inhabited by all manner of supernatural being. Like most kids his age, Sam has the usual problems; homework, bullies, adults who don't believe some of his accomplishments in the world of private investigation. Currently he's working two cases; finding the lost guitar belonging to a member of Netherworld's most popular band, and recovering the Book of Spells, a powerful grimoire, stolen by a gang of monsters performing the bidding of a much greater evil.

Delgado, an accomplished comic book and concept artist crafts three-quarters of a really enjoyable book. Most of the problems are first time writer problems that could have been solved by some good editing. Important scenes take place between chapters, supporting characters could have stood more development and purpose in the story as a whole, and there are a lot of descriptive passages pertaining to the architecture and furnishings of Netherworld City that aren't going to connect with the age group this book is aimed at. Once the story gets rolling it is fast paced, action packed, suspenseful, and very entertaining. Given Delgado's background, I think it would have been more successful as a graphic novel, or as a more fully illustrated book. As is is, beyond the cover, there are only tiny thumbnail sketches at the top of each chapter and these do not convey the true ability of the author, or really provide the reader with helpful visuals to latch their imagination on to.

I'd like to see more adventures of Sam Specter, but hope that Delgado gets some editorial guidance to bring his stories to their fullest potential rather than the almost there story that this first outing is.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

31 Days of Halloween - Day 14

Visceral: The Art of Jason Edmonton 

Cernunnos. 2017.

Jason Edmiston is one of the masters in the pop culture art explosion of recent years. He's uncannily tackled many icons of the big and small screen, not all of them horror icons (he's also painted Batman, Star Wars,  and Transformers characters as well as Willy Wonka, Pee-Wee Herman, and some Disney characters to boot), but his emphasis has been on the darker side of the silver screen. This book is full of monsters, a thick tome of Frankensteins, Freddys, Creatures, Predators, Aliens, Kongs, Jasons, etc. If you love art and horror, this book is not to be missed. 

Friday, October 13, 2017

31 Days of Halloween - Day 13

Vampyres by Christopher Frayling

Thames & Hudson. 2016.

This expanded edition of Frayling's 1978 book is indespensible to scholars and fans of vampire fiction alike. Grayling traces the origins of vampire fiction back to its origins in folklore and its actual birth on the night of June 17, 1816, the same fateful night and location where Frankenstein was born as well. Grayling surveys dozens of stories between then and the creation of Bram Stoker's Dracula, taking some side trips along the way and presenting excerpts, or entire stories that exemplify the evolution of the vampire tale between John Polidori's The Vampyre, and Stoker's more famous creation. Always fascinating, which is a real feat considering the amount of scholarship covering the night of June 17, 1816, as well as Stoker's Dracula, Vampyres provides some rare treats, essential reading, and concludes with a story by Angela Carter, which has its origins entangled with Frayling's research for this book. 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

31 Days of Halloween - Day 12

Jay Disbrow's Monster Invasion edited by Craig Yoe

IDW Publishing. 2017.

Craig Yoe continues his outstanding series of books collecting pre-code horror comic treasures that have fallen through the cracks of time. All are outstanding. This volume dedicated to the works of Jay Disbrow is no exception. Disbrow's art is energetic and disturbing in it's almost naive, off-model carnival spook house style, which is a selling point, not a criticism. The stories are fun and have the feel of independent, low budget horror movies of the 60s, but with better monsters. You also have to give him props for selling the exact same story to two different comic book companies which published them only a couple of months apart (both versions are included).

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

31 Days of Halloween - Day 11

Shirley Jackson - A Rather Haunted Life  by Ruth Franklin

Live right Publishing Corporation. 2016.

When Shirley Jackson entered the hospital to give birth to her third child. a hospital clerk asked her her occupation. "Writer" she said. "I'll just put down housewife, the clerk replied. In her world, that's the role that women were expected to fulfill. The celebrated author of "The Lottery" and The House on Haunted Hill, spent her adult life trying to balance being a homemaker and a writer, while suffering the constant harsh criticism of her mother, and the demanding needs of her distant husband.

Franklin's examination of Jackson's life and career is rich and superb in her manner of relating it. This is an excellent biography about a very influential, if troubled, writer.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

31 Days of Halloween - Day 10

The Last Final Girl by Stephen Graham Jones

Lazy Fascist Press. 2012

Lindsey, a final girl who has survived a massacre at the hands of a killer in a Michael Jackson mask returns to high school in time for homecoming, and fills out the now empty slots of her murdered entourage with the school's misfits. One of those misfits, Izzy, recognizes that this is the formula for a "sequel" and that she and the rest of Lindsey's new clique, were chosen as fodder so that Lindsey can end up as final girl once again.

It would be simple, and inaccurate, to say that Jones embraces all of the tropes of the slasher film and spins them on their heels in order to throw the reader for a loop. That is an important component here.  Jones is aware that the reader probably knows all of those tropes too, dropping in references both obvious (characters named Jamie Curtis and Crystal Blake) and slyly descriptive shorthand to horror fans (the killer does a "Hodder" when looking at a victim), including cameos by horror actors as supporting characters, but what makes this book sing is Jones' narrative style.

The story is told as if someone were describing to you a movie that they were watching, dropping the usual descriptive prose with quick snapshot descriptions of visual and aural edits; establishing shots, quick pans, compositions in which an empty space behind a character looms suspiciously in frame, jettisoning a lot of unnecessary description in order to cut the story down to its meat and potatoes. For all of that, the relationships here feel more real than in one of the movies it emulates, and scenes of loss are more cutting for that. I'm not a real fan of the slasher subgenre, but found this book to be a very entertaining read.

Monday, October 09, 2017

31 Days of Halloween - Day 9

Wicked Witches edited by Scott. T. Goudsward, David Price and Daniel G. Keohane.

NEHW Press. 2016.

As a longtime resident of New England, I've always known that this corner of the USA was darker, more atmospheric and haunted than any other region. This probably accounts for why so many horror writers can be found here. Wicked Witches is a themed anthology of the New England Horror Writers.

The writers included range in styles, experience and skill levels, so the stories range as well. There are a number of very entertaining stories here, a couple chillingly effective ones, and no real duds. Kudos also for the variety of tales told here given the thematic nature of the anthology. Even so, it's probably best to space them out a bit rather than trying to read this straight through, something that can be said for most anthologies. Even just dipping randomly into this volume will give you something that will help make the season complete.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

31 Days of Halloween - Day 8

The Flock by James Robert Smith

Five Star. 2006

In a vast savannah habitat in central Florida, that is part of a now closed military base, three groups compete for ownership of this untouched, remote land; a Walt Disney-esque media company looking to expand their idealistic suburban community named Salutations (much like Celebration), a retired Marines colonel who wants to use it to train right-wing militia groups in preparation to step in and overthrow a left leaning government, and a billionaire ecologist/cryptozoologist who wants to keep it as is.

When dogs go missing from the outskirts of Salutations, Ron Riggs, a Fish and Wildlife officer, is brought in to investigate.  What he finds is romance, intrigue, red herrings, murder, betrayal and 10 foot tall prehistoric birds with strength, speed, razor sharp beaks and some other surprises.

This is an adventure novel which isn't so much of a throwback to nature's revenge novels popular in the 1970s, though it is patterned on them. The characters come in familiar clothes; the scheming, selfish corporate leader, the crazed ex-military man, the environmentalist, the heroic everyman, the tough girl, the meddling reporter, etc. As the book progresses and the characters you think are definite bird fodder, turn out to be other than, and the climax appears and ways other than what you expected, you realize that there are other red herrings than the ones being served to the characters in the book.

This was a fun, fast paced read, and Smith pulls off the unenviable task of having to convey to the reader the inner workings of an alien species. A sequel is in the works, and I'm looking forward to reading that one, too.

Saturday, October 07, 2017

21 Days of Halloween - Day 7

Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho by Stephen Rebello

St. Martin's Griffin. 1990.

Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho was a grisly film that no one, aside from Hitchcock, himself, wanted to see made. This economical thriller would take the box office by storm, redefine Hitchcock's career becoming the film he would never surpass and later a classic.

Rebello's book charts the making of this pivotal film from the events that inspired Robert Bloch's novel from which the film was adapted, through studio politics, preproduction, filming, release and its aftermath. told with precision and insight and with the valuable input of the surviving members of the cast and crew, this is a remarkable behind the scenes look at an essential piece of cinema.


Friday, October 06, 2017

31 Days of Halloween - Day 6

Some of Your Blood by Theodore Sturgeon

Ballantine Books. 1961.

Theodore Sturgeon is best known for his science fiction stories, but crossed genres often. Here, using the same epistolary technique that Bram Stoker used for Dracula, he updates the vampire story to the modern era in a subtle story that chooses disturbing psychology rather than supernatural origins to explain the root of his vampire's cravings. Now, much of what appears here, including similar profiling as used with serial killers, will appear old hat, but in 1961, it must have been fascinating. Sturgeon is a master storyteller though, so this quick read still remains entertaining, if not blood curdling.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

31 Days of Halloween - Day 5

Rawblood by Catriona Ward

Weidenfeld and Nicolson. 2015.

Young Iris Vallarca, the last of her line, is kept isolated by her father at their ancestral mansion, Rawblood. The reason he keeps her there and away from other people is that the house seems to be the only place where their unique disease, Horror autotoxicus can be kept in check. This same disease, she is told, took her mother and has caused early deaths for every other member of their family. As Iris grows up, her suspicions that this unique disease might not even be real, seem to be confirmed, but the alternate explanation for what's causing the deaths at Rawblood is far more sinister.

This is at once a classic gothic tale rich with secrets and atmosphere and a compelling, dark character study. It pushes the characters and the reader towards more and more disturbing revelations until it's punch in the gut climax. This was really outstanding.

The book has been retitled as The Girl from Rawblood for American release.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

31 Days of Halloween - Day 4

Morbid Curiosities by Paul Gambino

Laurence King Publishing. 2016.

If you have an affinity for the bizarre and macabre, this book is a must. This is an examination of the collections of seventeen individuals who have filled their living spaces with all manner of memento mori; skeletons, anatomical models, photographs of the diseased, misshapen, and dead, gas masks, serial killer memorabilia, preserved specimens, medical tools, and taxidermied specimens, both normal, monstrous, and anthropomorphized. The photos are glorious, the collections astonishing, and the stories of the people behind them just as interesting as what they collect.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

31 Days of Halloween - Day 3

Euro Gothic by Jonathan Rigby

Signum Books. 2016.

If there's one area of horror cinema that I know the least about, it's the films that came out of continental Europe. Too many movies had very similar titles (or multiple titles) with quality varying widely and extremely. The best known directors had very inconsistent quality within their own output. Films weren't as easy to come by either. The whole regional genre output seemed like an impenetrable maze.

Now, with Rigby's new book, I have a map. Focusing on the countries of Germany, Italy, Spain, and France from the dawn of cinema through the mid 1980s, this is a comprehensive examination of key (and some utterly disposable films) from this region of the globe. Like me, you'll probably want to keep a list of movies to find while reading this.

If you've read Rigby's other two regional studies, American Gothic and English Gothic, as well as his Studies in Terror, you'll know that his research and observations are outstanding, and that these are essential books for fans of the horror film. If you haven't read any of them, then acquire them as soon as you can. You'll thank me.

Monday, October 02, 2017

31 Days of Halloween - Day 2

Nightmares - A New Decade of Modern Horror Edited by Ellen Datlow
Tachyon. 2016.

When you see Ellen Datlow's name attached to an anthology, you know you are looking at a quality collection of stories. Nightmares is no exception. Organized by year of publication, Nightmares contains what Datlow considers the cream of the crop in horror fiction published between 2005-2015 (there is also a companion volume, Darkness, which covers the years 1985-2015). Authors include Laird Barron, Caitlin R. Kieran, Stephen Graham Jones, John Langan, Gene Wolfe, Gemma Files, Garth Nix, and other notables. There are twenty-four stories in all. Like any anthology, there will be stories that strike a chord with you, and others that don't do as much. There were no outright misses for me in this anthology, but several that made this one of the outstanding collections in recent years for me.  Among my favorites involve a mysterious phenomenon that cuts off a house from its neighborhood, an apocalyptic being kept sequestered in a safe house, and a book thief and an atlas of Hell. Your own favorites will probably differ, but feel free to post them in the comments section below.

Sunday, October 01, 2017

31 Days of Halloween - Day 1

The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All  by Laird Barron

Night Shade Books. 2013.

Nine stories by Laird Barron is a great way to begin this season of darkness, and here you get two fistfuls of unsettling cosmic dread mixed with crime and the every day. What I like about these stories is that in most of them, Barron takes his time getting to the weird stuff, but even while he's setting up characters going about their every day jobs and concerns before they encounter that which will change them forever, that malevolence is there in ambient form. While the stories all stand alone, you'll discover common elements like a sinister black hole in the air looking back at you that makes it seem that it is the same darkness that is moving through this world highlighting examples of its dirty work for us to witness. That the stories themselves don't conclude with neatly wrapped up endings enhances that feeling that the bad stuff keeps rolling on.  I highly recommend any of Barron's work.

Also, kudos, to Norman Partridge for his entertain introduction.

Welcome to My 12th Annual Halloween Countdown

Welcome to my 2017 Halloween Countdown. This is my twelfth annual Halloween Countdown.

Like last year I'll be devoting this to some of my favorite genre related books I've read this year;
anthologies, single author short story collections, novels, macabre non-fiction, biographies and graphic novels are all represented. Like last year, I've decided to only include books I enjoyed and to showcase authors that don't get the same amount of love and attention as the genre heavyweights.

Because I really like to go into a book knowing as little about it as possible, the reviews are pretty general and as unspoilery as I could make them. Some of the books work incredibly well if you have no idea what they are about before starting them.

Most of the books I chose are also pretty easy to get your hands on, and I've even provided a handy link on each post so that you can order the book from Amazon. Please use this link. If you make a purchase from Amazon by visiting through those links (even if it's not the item in question) Amazon will throw some revenue my way. It's hardly a noteworthy amount, but can cover the cost of a book or two that I purchase later on.

I recommend doing this on any site that provides a link to something that the creator of that blog has steered your way. Think of it as a tip jar for being directed to quality entertainment.

Also, be sure to visit my companion blog, The Grim Gallery for all things monstrous 365 days a year.

I'm not alone in running an annual Countdown to Halloween. After you are done here, please visit Countdown to Halloween where you will find links to hundreds of blogs hosting their own countdown this year. If you want to be part of that group, information on how to do so can be found at that link as well.

There's nothing better on an Autumn night when the temperature is down, and perhaps there is wind, and even better, rain, than to curl up with a good drink and a spooky book to usher in the season. Hopefully, this countdown will make it easier for you to choose what to read next.


Sunday, September 17, 2017

Coming Soon...

October 1, 2017. Midnight. Here.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Milestone Update

I'm a little behind here, but for those of you who have been asking me about Milestone Media and when it will be returning, here's an update (of sorts) from San Diego Comic Con 2017. Read it here.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

"Thirty Years Later" Now Open

"The Predator" is the 3-D cut paper piece I made for the "30 Years Later" show, celebrating the films of 1987, which is now on exhibit at Gallery 1988(West) through August 12, 2017. Visit in person, if you can.

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Mad Scientist #32

Issue #32 of Martin Arlt's excellent magazine, Mad Scientist is now available. It's a mere $8.00, including shipping, and can be ordered here, where you can also view the contents of this issue. I created a cut paper portrait of Boris Karloff in The Black Cat which can be found within this issue.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Star Wars - The 40th Anniversary

The movie now known as Star Wars - Episode IV: A New Hope, turns forty years old today. Back when I saw it in 1977, it was just Star Wars. It feels like we were just celebrating it's 30th Anniversary, something I actually did with a month long examination of the film which you can scroll back through by visiting my posts from May, 2007.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Grim Gallery Turns Six

My companion blog, The Grim Gallery, turns six years old today. If you have any interest in monsters, be sure to check it out.

Saturday, May 06, 2017

Derry, Maine - 1957

For the Stephen King show, now on exhibit at Gallery 1988 (West), I told myself I wasn't going to do anything related to It. My decision had nothing to do with my feelings for the book (it's one of my favorite King novels), but because I figured Pennywise would be getting a lot of exposure in the show. However, when this idea occurred to me I had to do it.

The tower in the background, which features prominently in the novel, is based on the Thomas Hill Standpipe in Bangor, ME, which is the actual bit of architecture that King used for the Drrry standpipe in the book. In fact, if you visit the actual site, you'll find that the entire location is pretty exact to how it's described. I took liberties with the setting though.

The boy in the piece is actually based on a photograph of Stephen King as a boy and seemed like the perfect trusting, innocent little boy unaware of the horrors of the world (or those he'd later create).

I did try to give Pennywise the silver clown suit he wears in the book, but it just didn't look right. I ended up going with dark blue because the blue connected to the boy's clothes, only much darker, giving them a relationship. I don't think I need to go into any of the other symbolism in the image. It isn't subtle. I'm actually really happy with how this one turned out.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

I Am the Doorway

The Stephen King show opens at Gallery 1988 (West) tomorrow night. I have two pieces in the show, including "I Am The Doorway" shown above.

My piece is 3-D cut paper and obviously based on the initial paperback cover of Night Shift with art by Don Brautigam (shown below with it's die cut outer cover).

Brautigam (1946-2008) created the covers for the paperback versions of some of King's earliest books, including The Stand, Firestarter, The Dead Zone, Different Seasons, and Cujo (as well as numerous other books and well known record album covers as can be seen here.) Even before I'd ever read a Stephen King book I was drawn to the covers. As far as I'm concerned none of the covers of subsequent editions has come close to recreating that sense of the uncanny that Brautigam's covers brought to King's works.

The covers for Night Shift and The Stand resonated with me the most, and I'd initially planned to recreate both of them, but time and life had other intentions.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

What Lies Ahead.

Here's a couple images that have stayed with me since first encountering them on the cover of paperback books quite some time ago now. They are also influencing some stuff I'm working on for something happening in April. Stay tuned to find out what.

Monday, March 20, 2017

It's Rondo Time

The 15th Annual Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards are happening now, and if you are a fan of classic horror, feel free to voice your opinion on the best of 2016  by voting here, where you will find the complete ballot of all nominees in all categories.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

RIP Dave Hunt

Dave Hunt was an inker for Marvel, DC, and Disney in the 80s onwards. He inked a number of the Scooby-Doo stories I wrote. You can read more here.

Monday, February 06, 2017

Ask Me Anything #61

It's the first Monday of the month and time for "Ask Me Anything."  Ask me anything you want.  Anything except what is happening with the Milestone relaunch, because I don't have an answer for you beyond "it's still moving forward."

Questions can be posted in the comments section below, and I'll either answer them there, or in a separate post sometime later in the month.

I've been asked a lot of good, thought provoking questions in the past as well as some really banal ones, all of which I tried to answer. You can see the previous questions by visiting Ask Me Anything  #1#2 ,  #3#4#5#6 , #7 , #8#9,  #10,  #11,  #12 , #13#14,  #15 , #16#17 , #18 , #19,  #20,  #21#22,  #23#24#25#26#27#28#29#30#31#32#33#34#35#36#37#38#39#40#41#42,  #43#44#45,  #46#47,  #48#49,  #50,  #51#52 , #53#54#55#56,  #57,  #58,  #59, and #60.

Answers not found following the questions can be found in the archives section for each associated month under Ask Me Anything.

Now ask away. 

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Thirty-Three: Celebrating 33 Years of the Independent Spirit & Sundance Film Festival

If you are attending the Sundance Film Festival be sure to stop by the Kimball Art Center to check out the current exhibit, "Thirty-Three: Celebrating 33 Years of the Independent Spirit & Sundance Film Festival" which runs from January 19, 2017 - February 12, 2017. Curated by Independent filmmaker, Morgan Spurlock and Jensen Karp and Katie Sutton of Gallery 1988, the show features some major contemporary artists. I'm honored to be a part of this and sharing wall space with some folks whose work I love. Thanks to everyone involved for having me.

You can learn more here.

Monday, January 02, 2017

Ask Me Anything #60

This "Ask Me Anything" begins with the new year, a time of new beginnings and a hopeful look forward. Ask me anything you want.  Anything except what is happening with the Milestone relaunch, because I don't have an answer for you beyond "it's still moving forward."

Questions can be posted in the comments section below, and I'll either answer them there, or in a separate post sometime later in the month.

I've been asked a lot of good, thought provoking questions in the past as well as some really banal ones, all of which I tried to answer. You can see the previous questions by visiting Ask Me Anything  #1#2 ,  #3#4#5#6 , #7 , #8#9,  #10,  #11,  #12 , #13#14,  #15 , #16#17 , #18 , #19,  #20,  #21#22,  #23#24#25#26#27#28#29#30#31#32#33#34#35#36#37#38#39#40#41#42,  #43#44#45,  #46#47,  #48#49,  #50,  #51#52 , #53#54#55#56,  #57,  #58, and #59.

Answers not found following the questions can be found in the archives section for each associated month under Ask Me Anything.

Now ask away. 

Sunday, January 01, 2017

At the Sundance Film Festival

I'm honored that filmmaker, Morgan Spurlock has chosen my cute paper portrait of Joel and Ethan Coen to be part of "Thirty-Three: Celebrating 33 Years Of The Independent Spirit & Sundance Film Festival" to be exhibited, in conjunction with Gallery 1988,  at the Kimball Art Center in Park City Utah. The show runs January 19, 2017 - February 12, 2017, during the Sundance Film Festival.

If you are attending the Sundance Film Festival, please check it out. There are some amazing artists participating.

For more information please check out the Kimball Art Center's website, or this article from The Salt Lake Tribune.