Countdown to Halloween 2012

Discussion in 'Fantasy / Horror' started by Hobbit, Sep 30, 2012.

  1. Randy M.

    Randy M. Registered User

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    Tem's primarily a short story writer, with only a few novel length books -- even Deadfall Hotel is structured more like linked short stories; according to the Weird Fiction Review website, one story in Deadfall Hotel was originally published as a novella in 1986, and the book has expanded off of that. Double-checking at ISFDB confirms my impression that a lot of his work has been through small press publishers:
    Excavation -- Avon Books, 1987
    Daughters (w/Melanie Tem) -- iPublish, 2001 (this may have had national distribution; I don't recall seeing it, though)
    The Book of Days -- Subterranean Press, 2003
    The Man on the Ceiling (w/Melanie Tem) -- Wizards of the Coast Discoveries, 2008 (this had national distribution)

    His story collections have all been through small press: Necronomicon Press, Silver Salamander, Ash-Tree, Dark Regions, Centipede. Note: His collection from Ash-Tree Press is now available as an e-book: The Far Side of the Lake. The actual book has been on my shelf a while and I'd hoped to get to it this last summer, but that didn't happen.

    I rather like it, and I think the actual physical item does look better. And thanks for the link.

    It does indeed.


    Randy M.
     
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2012
  2. Randy M.

    Randy M. Registered User

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    BAG OF BONES by Stephen King (Scribner, 1998)

    On a very hot day in August of 1994, my wife told me she was going down to the Derry Rite-Aid to pick up a refill on her sinus medicine prescription – this is stuff you can buy over the counter these days, I believe. I’d finished writing for the day and offered to pick it up for her. She said thanks, but she wanted to get a piece of fish at the supermarket next door anyway; two birds with one stone and all that. She blew a kiss at me off the palm of her hand and went out. The next time I saw her, she was on TV. That’s how you identify the dead here in Derry – no walking down a subterranean corridor with green tiles on the walls and long fluorescent bars overhead, no naked body rolling out of a chilly drawer on casters; you just go into an office marked PRIVATE and look at a TV screen and say yep or nope.
    -- first paragaph​


    Mike Noonan loses his wife, apparently to natural causes. A writer, he glides by for four years on the manuscripts stored away during his productive years, each maintaining his foothold on the middle of the best-seller list, bringing in some money. But for those four years he grieves, unable to forget Jo, unable to absorb and contend with the knowledge that Jo was pregnant at the time of her death, unable to comprehend why she had not told him, why she seemed to have a secret he hadn’t even suspected. He finds evidence that suggests a lover; that he and Jo hadn’t been able to have a child earlier in their marriage leaves him hurt and trying not to think the worst.

    Shortly before her death Jo had travelled to their summer vacation home on Dark Score Lake, a house known as Sara Laughs. In trying to learn Jo’s secrets, Mike comes to realize that the answers to his questions, the settling of his doubts and his only chance at coping with his loss lies in returning to Sara Laughs and unraveling the mystery surrounding Jo’s death. Meanwhile, he dreams of Sara Laughs, and he dreams of death.

    Although unraveling the mystery of Jo’s doings before her death and the mystery surrounding the community around Sara Laughs powers the story-line, it's the characters and their interactions, and the history of the community that makes the novel addictive reading. From Mattie and Kyra Devore, to Bill Dean, to Royce Merrill, to the long dead singer Sara Tidwell, to Max Devore and the community known as TR, King creates a believable town and a credible haunting.

    This was advertised as the most “literary” of King’s novels and he directly references Herman Melville’s “Bartleby, the Scrivener” and Ray Bradbury’s “Mars is Heaven,” among other works, but I’m not sure he does much beyond what he usually does: Scrounge literature and pop culture for examples of themes and tropes he constantly refers to and credit those works which inspired him. King has always been generous that way, and here his preoccupations seem to merge the Bradbury story with Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” and “The Summer People.”

    I'd rank Bag of Bones as one of the best I've read by King, nearly on par with Pet Semetary and The Shining, a textured, emotionally layered and resonant ghost story that shares King’s preoccupation with family, both the good and the bad. The A&E network televised a four-hour miniseries based on the novel in the Spring of 2012. I watched the first episode and did not watch the second because the first had to pare away so much and alter so much, it seemed nearly unintelligible, in spite of Pierce Brosnan’s strong presence as Mike.


    Other King works I’d strongly recommend: Salem’s Lot; Pet Semetary; The Shining; “The Mist” (Skeleton Crew, 1985)

    The first television adaptation of Salem’s Lot starring David Soul and James Mason was excellent; the second, starring Rob Lowe, satisfactory but not as powerful. The Stanley Kubrick version of The Shining is powerful, in spite of King’s repudiation of it; the television mini-series, satisfactory but not as powerful, in spite of King’s connection to it and his blessing. The film of Pet Semetary is controversial among fans, some love it, some dislike it, but almost everyone agrees Fred Gwynne’s performance is very good; I found the movie barely satisfactory, a lesser film version of a good King novel. I haven’t seen The Mist yet, perhaps a little wary because the novella is one of my favorite King’s stories.


    Evoking Bradbury: http://www.sffworld.com/forums/showthread.php?p=600030&highlight=evoking+bradbury#post600030

    A Novel Experience: http://www.sffworld.com/forums/showthread.php?p=600653&highlight=experience#post600653

    Hill House, not sane …: http://www.sffworld.com/forums/showthread.php?p=663265&highlight=hill+house#post663265


    Next: Ghost Storeis by Walter de la Mare
     
  3. Loerwyn

    Loerwyn Staff

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    If my memory is correct, the town of Derry also appears in 11/22/63, It and a number of other books by King.

    Just an interesting aside.
     
  4. Randy M.

    Randy M. Registered User

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    Your memory is working on all cylinders, Loerwyn. King's Maine includes Derry and Castle Rock, both of which, like Lovecraft's Innsmouth, Dunwich and Arkham, if you find yourself there, get out. Leave now. Run, if you have to.

    Other writers have created fictional places to locate their stories in, too. For instance, I mean to visit Charles L. Grant's Oxrun Station, but haven't found the time, yet.


    Randy M.
     
  5. Randy M.

    Randy M. Registered User

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    GHOST STORIES by Walter de la Mare (The Folio Society, 1956)

    Walter de la Mare was a significant figure in early 20th century British literary circles, primarily as a poet (Of interest, “The Listeners”). I believe his poetry is no longer as highly regarded, but his short stories have shown continuing life, perhaps because many of them are ghost stories. This book, published by the London Folio Society in the year of de la Mare's death, holds seven of those ghost stories, including one of his better known tales, "Out of the Deep" (well-known perhaps because it is included in Great Tales of Terror and the Supernatural). The other stories are, "The House," "Revenant," "The Green Room," "Bad Company," "The Quincunx," and "An Anniversary."

    These stories range from the serious to the somewhat less serious, de la Mare letting his sense of humor loose early in "The Quincunx." And most of them are influenced more by Henry James than by M. R. James, the telling sometimes oblique (even elusive) rather than direct, though the story becomes clearer as it progresses and the ways in which de la Mare weaves his ghosts with the concerns of his characters become more apparent.

    I hesitate to recommend such an old and hard to find book, but the stories are still available in the set, Walter de la Mare: Short Stories 1895-1926 and Walter de la Mare: Short Stories 1927-1956, used copies of which may still be available or copies of which may be found through inter-library loan programs. One thing that makes this volume interesting in and of itself, though, is the progression of the stories from internal, personal, subjective hauntings that evoke nostalgia and regret and melancholy (“Out of the Deep” and “The House”), to more external hauntings that still somehow engage the characters’ sense of right and wrong, and what is owed the dead (“Revenant,” “The Green Room,” “Bad Company” and “The Quincunx”), to a final story of a husband haunted and how it stems from his marriage and weaves into the relationship between him and his wife (“An Anniversary”).

    The only story that did not work for me was “Revenant” which starts and builds well, but the appearance of a familiar deceased literary figure complaining about the use of his work by a literary critic feels forced and maybe too much a mouth-piece for de la Mare. Also, “Bad Company” seems conventional compared to the others, but more directly addresses issues of redemption and atonement that are only indirectly addressed in “The House” and “The Green Room.” Perhaps the strongest story in the collection, “An Anniversary,” employs the (Henry) Jamesian approach: While all of the stories ask, “What do the dead want from us? What do we owe the dead?” “An Anniversary” is the most complex, showing a marriage breaking down and the cause of it.

    I would recommend these for reading at any time of year, though I found them good end-of-year, Christmas reading. De la Mare's approach was a bit more challenging than, say, King's in Bag of Bones, but the sense of melancholy and, in several of the stories, nostalgia, were appropriate for a season during which, if we get any spare time at all, we tend to assess our previous twelve months and from there our past and our probable future.


    A Warning to the Curious: http://www.sffworld.com/forums/showthread.php?p=664518&highlight=warning#post664518

    More Curious:
    http://www.sffworld.com/brevoff/855.html

    Hungry House: http://www.sffworld.com/forums/showthread.php?p=663347&highlight=hungry+house#post663347


    Next: Carnacki, the Ghost-Finder by William Hope Hodgson
     
  6. Randy M.

    Randy M. Registered User

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    Hi, all. I'm not going to be on-line from later this afternoon until next Monday, so I thought I'd drop in one more ...


    CARNACKI, THE GHOST-FINDER by William Hope Hodgson (Sphere, 1981)

    “Carnacki had just returned to Cheyne Walk, Chelsea. I was aware of this interesting fact by reason of the curt and quaintly worded postcard which I was re-reading, and by which I was requested to present myself at his house not later than seven o’clock on that evening.”
    -- first paragraph, “The Thing Invisible”​


    Carnacki, the Ghost-Finder is a collection of stories about the titular psychic sleuth, one of several created in the wake of the popularity of Sherlock Holmes and to a degree the precursors of Garrett, P.I. and Anita Blake. The Carnacki stories, along with Algernon Blackwood’s John Silence stories, are among the few still read and are probably a bridge between fantasy and early s.f., since Carnacki goes to lengths to explain his theories on hauntings and sightings of the unnatural and to offer "scientific" means of dealing with them, in this prefiguring works like Richard Matheson’s Hell House.

    Essentially the Carnacki stories combine the ghost, detective and club stories stories popular late in the 19th century and around the turn of the 20th century, each beginning with a variation of the above paragraph informing the reader that once again Jessop, Arkright, Taylor and the narrator are dining with Carnacki, an event glossed over quickly so Carnacki may settle in his chair and launch his recital of his most recent adventure with his latest client.

    Hodgson’s creations are often clever and he was smart enough to give a couple of these stories natural causes rather than supernatural answers, making it harder to predict the outcome of any one story. Still, Hodgson's strength as a writer is his invention of the weird and outré as he describes intrusions into our realm by the "Outer Monstrosities." Unfortunately, as I’ve found in other works by Hodgson like The House on the Borderland, his weakness is that his prose is uneven: While one passage may awe the reader, the next can be awkward and repetitive. Anyone reading this collection might want to space out their reading of the stories.

    I found all of the stories entertaining, but the most effective were “The Whistling Room” and “The Hog,” though the latter goes on rather long. “The Whistling Room,” situated deep inside an old English manor house, late at night emits an eerie whistling. Almost by happenstance, Carnacki gains a view of what happens in the room when the whistling reaches its peak, a view that tests his courage and determination.

    “The Hog” is the longest story in the collection (46 pages in the Sphere paperback edition) in which Carnacki’s client comes to him fearful of the dreams he has whenever he sleeps, dreams of another place in which he hears a fearsome grunting coming ever closer, dreams from which he is having increasing trouble escaping. Carnacki is convinced his client has come into contact with the Outer Realms. “The Hog” feels like a trial run for The House on the Borderland, it’s phantasmagoric moments reminiscent of portions of Borderland’s extended dream sequences. But there is some controversy around the story. It was first published in the Arkham House edition of the collection in 1947, 29 years after Hodgson’s death in 1918, and some have speculated that it was not a found story but a story written by August Derleth, Arkham’s founder and editor and a talented writer of pastiches (see his Solar Pons stories playing off Sherlock Holmes). I am unaware of any evidence that answers the question either way, and the story, whoever its writer, is deftly imagined and entertaining.

    The most recent edition of the Carnacki collection was part of the Night Shade publication of the complete works of fantasy of William Hope Hodgson.


    Another (though reluctant) sleuth: Kyle Murchison Booth

    More ghosts


    Other club stories:
    Henry James: “The Turn of the Screw” (Penguin Books, 2011 – among many, many other editions)

    Peter Straub: Ghost Story (Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, 1979; G. P. Putnam’s Sons/SFBC, January 2012)


    Next: "The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag" by Robert A. Heinlein
     
  7. Hobbit

    Hobbit Administrator Staff Member

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    Thanks for suggesting two, Randy.

    The de la Mare I've been fancying for a while, weirdly, but only seen in the two other editions you suggest. Must look for the Folio edition.

    Again, another author I know more of for his non-genre fiction (and poetry!) than genre. I have read separate stories in anthologies but not a collection of his own.

    and Carnaki.... I prefer Carnaki to some of Hope Hodgson's other (weirder) fiction. Much shorter, more straightforward and great fun. An author who sadly died before his time, as a casualty of WW1 at the criminally young age of 40. I didn't know about The Hog controversy.

    Mark
     
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2012
  8. Randy M.

    Randy M. Registered User

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    I have the first volume of the full collection and a Best of ... that I've read in fits and starts over the years but never finished. Probably about time to read all of the "best of"; he's a great ghost story writer.

    I can understand that, and I've liked his short stories as a whole. I found The Boats of the "Glen Carrig" a little underwhelming -- not bad, really, just not as engaging as I'd hoped -- and The House on the Borderland good, and in spots terrific, but not a sustained effort. One of these days I will tackly The Night Land but I'm still building up to it.


    Randy M.
     
  9. Hobbit

    Hobbit Administrator Staff Member

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    Since we've been talking Bradbury: The last thing Ray Bradbury wrote. And it is as wonderful a tale of books, reading and libraries as you'd expect it to be....

    Mark
     
  10. Hobbit

    Hobbit Administrator Staff Member

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    And whilst Randy's away, I'm going to highlight one I'm reading...

    [​IMG]

    Originally published 1960. Has dated in places but still quite good overall. More winners than losers so far... tha stories are -

    Piece-meal by Oscar Cook;
    The Fly by George Langelaan,
    The Vertical Ladder by William Sansom,
    Pollock and the Porroh Man by HG Wells,
    The Inn by Guy Preston,
    The Judge’s House by Bram Stoker,
    The Speciality of the House by Stanley Ellin,
    The Last Séance by Agatha Christie,
    The Black Creator by Vernon Routh,
    By One, By Two and By Three by Stephen Hall,
    Boomerang by Oscar Cook (again),
    Our Feathered Friends by Philip Macdonald,
    Taboo by Geoffrey Household,
    The Black Cat by Edgar Allan Poe, and
    Leiningen Versus the Ants by Carl Stephenson.


    Mark
     
  11. Randy M.

    Randy M. Registered User

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    Interesting line up, Mark. Most of the ones I recognize -- Ellin, Household, Poe and Stephenson -- aren't really supernatural.


    Randy M.
     
  12. Randy M.

    Randy M. Registered User

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    ”THE UNPLEASANT PROFESSION OF JONATHAN HOAG” by Robert A. Heinlein (first published Unknown Worlds, 1942; The Fantasies of Robert A. Heinlein, Tor, 1999. Included in Horror: The 100 Best Books ed. by Stephen Jones and Kim Newman)

    ”It is blood, doctor?” Jonathan Hoag moistened his lips with his tongue and leaned forward in the chair, trying to see what was written on the slip of paper the medico held.
    -- first paragraph, “The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag”​


    Jonathan Hoag awakens each morning, ritually performs his ablutions, dresses and then … he does not know. He arrives home each evening satisfied that he has done something, but his memories are only of early evening until early morning; of when he supposes he is at work, he remembers nothing, and so he hires Randall and Craig, Confidential Investigations.

    Though skeptical of a case in which they follow and report on the client to the client, Randall and Craig need the money. In the course of the investigation, first Hoag’s background information does not check out then Cynthia Craig Randall loses the two men after seeing Hoag catch her husband Ted tailing him. When Cynthia finally catches up with Ted he denies being spotted and says he followed Hoag to the thirteenth floor of the building in which Hoag works. On going to the building they find there is no thirteenth floor.

    Then things get peculiar.

    Elements of the story echo G. K. Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday – a reality behind the commonly perceived reality, a secret cabal led by a fat man, and the use of a form of popular fiction for structure for a story outside the usual scope of the form. Where Chesterton used the tale of espionage ala John Buchan for his structure, Heinlein uses the 1940s private eye story along with a common genre trope of the time, amnesia, to catalyze his tale questioning consensus reality. The novella’s major weakness shows up early on and stems from the private detective story: The snappy banter between Cynthia and Ted falls flat as Heinlein attempts dialog along the lines of 1940s screwball-comedy like The Thin Man movies or, for an even better example of similar film dialog, His Girl Friday. Still, the premise overcomes any missteps and reverberates off stories of the time with similar concerns, like Fritz Leiber’s “You’re All Alone” and “Smoke Ghost,” and Jack Williamson’s Darker Than You Think. The revelation of Hoag’s true profession is at once ludicrous, audacious and unnerving in its implications. Reasonable readers may disagree whether Heinlein spells out the implications a bit too clearly, but the ending convincingly underscores what reality the Randalls have found, and how they cope with it is both touching and sad.

    “The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag” is one of my favorite Heinlein stories and I wish it was as well-known and frequently re-issued as his science fiction.


    Another Heinlein story of similar interest (same collection): “They—

    Reality behind reality:
    Cornell Woolrich: Night Has a Thousand Eyes (first published 1945; Pegasus, September 2012; available for Nook & Kindle)
    Neil Gaiman: “We Can Get them for You Wholesale” (Smoke and Mirrors, first published Avon Books 1998)
    Caitlin R. Kiernan: The Red Tree, The Drowning Girl & “Le Peau Verte” (To Charles Fort, With Love, Subterranean Press, 2005)
    John Langan: House of Windows (Night Shade Books, November 2009 [hc]; August 2010 [tpb])
    Thomas Ligotti: Grimscribe (Carroll & Graf, 1991; Subterranean Press, July 2011) & “Conversations in a Dead Language
    Arthur Machen: “The Great God Pan” (anthologized in many, many books)
    M. John Harrison: The Course of the Heart (Night Shade Books, 2004 [hc]; March 2006 [tpb])


    More Science Fiction and Horror


    Next: The Dead Letters & Headstone City by Tom Piccirilli
     
  13. Hobbit

    Hobbit Administrator Staff Member

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    Ah, Heinlein. :)

    This one hasn't dated as badly as some of his SF.

    As an aside, arrived today:

    [​IMG]

    Looks good, so far!

    Mark
     
  14. Randy M.

    Randy M. Registered User

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    It amazes me that the Hamilton is bigger than the ghost anthology.


    Randy M.
     
  15. Randy M.

    Randy M. Registered User

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    THE DEAD LETTERS & HEADSTONE CITY by Tom Piccirilli

    THE DEAD LETTERS by Tom Piccirilli (Bantam Books, October 2006)

    “Killjoy wrote:
    Words are not as adequate as teeth.”

    -- first paragraph

    Edward Whitt's daughter, Sarah, was the first victim of a serial killer dubbed Killjoy after Whitt told a reporter the murderer had "killed his joy." Killjoy went on to murder several other children, then mysteriously stopped, then just as mysteriously reappeared two years later, taking children from abusive families and distributing them to his previous victims. During this time, frustrated by the inability of the police to find Killjoy, maddened by grief and the loss of his wife to insanity, Whitt dedicated himself to finding Killjoy: What motivated Killjoy to kill? What then motivated him to repent or seem to, to try to repay the losses he’d inflicted? The novel details how Whitt struggles with these questions and the cost of his quest on himself and those nearest him.

    Piccirilli's taut, concise writing and insight into obsession and near-insanity born of grief, guilt and rage and the mind-tricks a man can play on himself when driven to extremes make this a tense thriller. Whitt may not be wholly likable but I found him understandable and believable. Equally believable are the characters around Whitt, from his wife Karen, to his father-in-law Mike, to his friend Freddy, to his contact with the police, Brunkowski, who is gruff and manipulative and confrontational and gives Whitt more information than is probably good for him, to FBI agent Diana Carver who takes on the case late, to Mama Prott and her sons, murderous religious fanatics who seem to discern Whitt’s darkness and who know more about Whitt than they should. I would go so far as to say that what distinguishes this novel is the strong cast of characters surrounding Whitt.

    In honesty, The Dead Letters is not as creepy as Thomas Harris' best thrillers, nor is it as compelling and ambitious as Glen Hirshberg’s The Snowman’s Children, but Piccarilli’s novel is literate, intelligent and frequently intense with a few harrowing scenes, and his Killjoy is far less romanticized than Hannibal Lector and so somewhat more believable. And that is as it should be. This is Whitt’s novel and what there is of horror in it comes from watching the ways his quest warps and torments him, the lengths to which he must go to solve the murders, the lengths to which he must go to control himself, skittering along the edge of becoming what he hunts.

    Piccirilli started his career writing mainly horror stories. In the last decade or so he has slid over into the thriller category while retaining the ability to ratchet up narrative suspense and also create scenes that capitalize on fear and dread. I have a chunk of bookshelf holding Piccirilli’s novels and now that I’ve started reading him, I intend to read more. Anyone interested in crime stories, serial killer stories or noir would find this novel of interest.



    HEADSTONE CITY by Tom Piccirilli (Bantam Books, March 2006)

    The came after Dane in the showers while he had soap in his eyes.
    -- first paragraph​


    Johnny Danetello, aka Dane, has "the burden": He can see ghosts and converse with them. His grandmother, his only living relative, has a similar ability, and his best friend, Vinny Monticelli, has a limited ability to see the future -- he sees three likely avenues the present can take, and he can move between them as he likes. But friendship aside, part of the Monticelli family blames Dane for the death of their youngest daughter, the Monticelli family is still one of the strongest Mob families in Brooklyn, and one of its members has taken out a contract on him.

    After a stint in the Army, Dane has drifted for years. Now, to save his life, he has to decide what direction he needs to follow. Can he stave off Vinny's family? And what does Vinny really want from him?

    This is an interesting book that overlaps with urban fantasy and crime stories in the hard-boiled tradition, and it steps around the border of horror without ever really falling over into it. I found it engaging and at times quite good. I enjoyed Dane's humor and his reminiscences about his old neighborhood and the people he grew up with; they help define a time and place where this story could happen. Still, I might have liked Headstone City more if I'd read it before or quite a bit after reading The Dead Letters. I think I expected another novel with a similar intensity, but Dane being laid back, a guy who mostly waits for things to happen before reacting, this novel doesn't have the same kind of drive. I also wasn't entirely convinced by the ending, even though Piccirilli prepares for it.

    That said, I enjoyed it over all and anyone interested in Piccirilli, mob stories, or hard-boiled crime stories mixed with urban/supernatural fantasy should find it entertaining.





    Other noir thrillers with elements of horror:
    Cornell Woolrich: Black Alibi (first published in 1942; it has not been reissued since the 1980s, as far as I can find) & Night Has a Thousand Eyes (first published in 1945; Pegasus Books, September 2012)
    Fredric Brown: The Screaming Mimi (first published in 1949. Filmed in 1958, starring Anita Ekberg and Philip Carey. There are Nook and Kindle editions available.)

    Scary Human Tricks


    Next: 13 Bullets by David Wellington


    Additional information about Tom Piccirilli: Late last month a friend of Tom's announced at Shocklines that Tom had been diagnosed with "a tennis-ball sized tumor" in his brain. Tom has been operated on and, according to Shocklines, is doing well. He will be in for a round of chemo. Last I heard, Crossroad Press is giving 100-percent of purchase price of any of Tom's books until the end of this year to Tom to help defray costs. ChiZine Publications is doing the same with their edition of Every Shallow Cut
     
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2012
  16. Hobbit

    Hobbit Administrator Staff Member

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    That is sad news about Tom, Randy: I wasn't aware of his health issues. Here's hoping he's on the mend and is better soon.

    Mark
     
  17. algernoninc

    algernoninc It never entered my mind

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    I've been planning to read The Coldest Mile by Piccirilli this year. I don't know much about it, except that it was a psychological thriller, wasn't aware of horror elements. thanks for the heads up.
     
  18. Randy M.

    Randy M. Registered User

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    Hi, Algernoninc.

    I'm not sure about that one -- it's on the bookshelf, but I haven't read it. Piccirilli has certainly developed a reputation for dark, noir thrillers, though. Like Ed Gorman, he's a favorite of the horror readers I've met on-line.


    Randy M.
     
  19. Randy M.

    Randy M. Registered User

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    13 BULLETS by David Wellington

    13 Bullets by David Wellington (Three Rivers Press, 2007)

    Through the rain there wasn’t much to see. The all-night dinner stood at the corner of two major streets. Its plate glass windows spilled a little light on the pavement. I handed the binoculars to Webster, my partner. “Do you see him?” I asked.
    --first paragraph​

    Wellington’s vampires are real and fast and strong, physically monstrous predators nearly invulnerable when full of blood. They are worlds away from such relatively debonair vampires as Dracula (or at least of his imitators) or Lestat, or even the more sensuous, insinuating vampires in Tim Powers’ The Stress of Her Regard. They are also extinct. Or were thought to be extinct in the U.S. since the destruction of Piter Lares by the one living American to have killed a vampire, Special Deputy Jameson Arkeley of the U. S. Marshalls. When a traffic stop discovers a car trunk full of corpses driven by a half-dead – a victim of a vampire whom the vampire calls from the dead to serve him – Arkeley joins the case.

    Because Arkeley takes on as an assistant Trooper Laura Caxton, who was working the traffic stop that accidentally flushed the half-dead, 13 Bullets has a little of the flavor of The Silence of the Lambs. The story is told mainly from her point of view and over the course of the novel Caxton has to figure out what it is that Arkeley wants from her, why the vampires show an interest in her, save herself from direct attacks by half-deads and vampires, try to understand the recent ennui of her live-in lover, Deanna, and come to terms with her emerging feelings for another Trooper, the photographer, Clara. The characters act in ways consistent with the logic of the novel, and in mostly believable ways for fairly tough humans pushed into a stressful and violent situation, although their endurance approaches that of action/adventure movie-humans. The story builds to a crescendo and the conclusion, while obviously intended to leave room for sequels (four of them), doesn’t really disappoint me and again, in a way, reminds me of Thomas Harris’ novel as we gain more insight into the true villain of the novel.

    Most readers who think about such things at all would probably call this a noir horror novel. To me it reads less like noir than like noir’s precursor, hard-boiled. Where noir emphasizes mood and atmosphere, an overhanging sense of emotional gloom and the overwhelming improbability of an ordinary person triumphing over the powers arrayed against them, hard-boiled fiction usually features the tough character (almost exclusively male in hard-boiled written before the 1970s) who takes on the odds and through gumption, guile, street smarts, luck and strategically applied violence survives if not triumphs. The difference between noir and hard-boiled fiction is the difference between Tom Piccirilli’s The Dead Letters and his Headstone City. 13 Bullets certainly has its dark, noir moments, but the overall feel is less horrific than like a crime adventure novel with teeth.

    I've been chided for calling something a beach read, but even so that’s what I would call this. But there's the beach read you walk away from wondering if it has drained away IQ points, and there's the beach read that may not be substantive but is entertaining. For me, 13 Bullets is the latter: The story is handed to you on a platter (little subtlety of approach or subject), the characterization is adequate and with Caxton maybe better than adequate, and the prose is straight-forward and appropriate for the story being told, a story that is developed with some intelligence. Some of the plotting feels a bit TV-movie-ish to me, but in spite of that Wellington does a good job of balancing the elements of action/adventure and horror.

    One caveat: While I would not call 13 Bullets excessively gory given the premise, if you're squeamish about the physical manifestations of extreme violence, know that Wellington does not avoid such descriptions, though I don't feel he dwells on them either.


    More contemporary vampires:

    Fright Night


    “The Wide, Carnivorous Sea” by John Langan


    Next: The Stress of Her Regard by Tim Powers
     
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2012
  20. Rob B

    Rob B \m/ BEER \m/ Staff Member

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    Interested to see your thoughts Randy. I finished it a couple of days ago and while I admire elements of it, I couldn't fully connect with it. Doing a quick google search of other reviews I did not find one bad review of the book.