Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Catching Up with the Kings, Part 3: Joe Hill in prose

In blogging about my efforts to get current with the King family of writers, I hadn't intended to segregate the King brothers; it just happened that way as a result of when their respective books and stories were released.  But so it goes, and we now turn our attention toward big brother Joe Hill, and his novel The Fireman.

The Fireman is Joe Hill's fourth novel.  If you said it was his best, I'd not argue with you, and if you said it was his worst, I'd not argue with you.  My favorite is Heart Shaped Box, but not by a wide margin, and I'd need more time with all of them before I undertook a really-for-real ranking of them.

This most recent one is demonstrably the lengthiest, clocking in at nearly 750 pages.  Too long?  It's debatable.  I'd have kept right on reading it, though, probably for about another few hundred pages.  It may be that that is the only review that really matters.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Catching Up with the Kings, Part 2: Owen (and Kelly Braffet)

Lord knows why I felt moved to evoke The Dukes of Hazzard in titling this post, but such is the content of my brain.
Part 1 of Catching Up With The Kings was about me reading the Stephen King books I'd foolishly put off for the past year or so.  Parts 2 and 3, then, will focus on the achievement of a similar task as it regards the rest of the King family of writers, several of whom have, during that time, released works that I had blithely opted (temporarily) not to read.
In deciding what order to read the various books and stories in, I opted for a chronological-by-publication approach.  I'm not -- so far as I know -- clinically obsessive/compulsive, but I do find that I enjoy a chronological approach to things.  If nothing else, it allows me to easily make decisions like this one from time to time.  Coincidentally, all of the Owen King material was first out of the gate, and an anthology featuring his wife Kelly Braffet came soon thereafter, so I've elected to cover all of that in a single post.
We begin with:

Often, when I blog about anthologies, I briefly give an opinion of each story or essay.  I'm not going to do that with Never Can Say Goodbye; I suspect most of my readers will be uninterested.  And I don't know that there's a pressing need for me to hang on to my opinions (which is always a primary factor in my decision-making process as a blogger) on most of these essays.
This is not to say that I didn't enjoy Never Can Say Goodbye.  I thought it was moderately enjoyable on the whole, though I will confess to being relieved to have finished it.  In the end, it's inferior to the Jackson 5 song from which it -- probably inadvertently -- draws its title.  Is this an unfair thing for me to say?  Probably, but when and if I read "moderately enjoyable" books titled I Want You Back or The Love You Save, I'll say the same.  You give a book a title it will share with The Jackson 5 at your own peril.
Turns out, the book is a sequel!  Specifically, it's a sequel to Sari Botton's anthology Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York.  I did not know this, which is fine, since I only bought it for the Owen King essay.  Goodbye to All That has no essay by King, so it will not be covered here (although I might eventually buy a copy due to the fact that it's got a piece by Emma Straub in it).

King's essay is titled "Hot Time in the Old Town," and, at a mere four pages, it's rather brief.  It's always a bummer to buy a book like this for a specific author's work only to find something so brief.  But don't let the brevity fool you: this is a very good essay.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Catching Up with the Kings, Part 1: Stephen

If you follow this blog, then maybe you know that I've been putting off reading End of Watch (King's as-of-this-writing most recent novel).  The reasons for that are complicated and weird and not really of interest to anyone other than myself.  Despite that, I blabbed about them at length here.
They are not worth rehashing, so I won't rehash them, but it is worth mentioning again that the delay between the release of End of Watch and my sitting down to read it is by far the lengthiest on my personal record for a new King novel (assuming we are not counting King novels released prior to 1990 or so, when I became a Constant Reader).  That's been eating at me.  It's a thing that can no longer be tolerated, and so even though I have not achieved the weight-loss goals I informally set for myself as a prerequisite for reading End of Watch, I've decided to sit down with the novel and get current with King.
Thing is, I'd also fallen behind on a few other King books, such as the edited-by-King Six Scary Stories and the partially-by-King Hearts In Suspension.  Plus, there are also a few new short stories of his I haven't read, not to mention books and stories by the sons-of-King writers Joe Hill and Owen King.
Rather than dick around and try to write reviews of each of these things, I've decided to just run through all of it and leave some brief impressions of each here.  Not sure if that's the optimal way to do things, but it's what makes sense to me at this particular time.  I'll avoid spoilers in all cases; this is going to be fairly brief.
My first thought was to do it in chronological order by release date, but nah, damn that.  There's a novel by Stephen King in the world that I have not read yet.  There's no way to begin anywhere but there.
I was entertained by both Mr. Mercedes and Finders Keepers, but I'd be a liar if I said that either one ranked highly on my list of favorite King novels.  Maybe that created a bit of trepidation to get into the third one...?  I don't really think it did, but let's not rule it all the way out.

In any case, having finished it I would conclude that this is easily one of my least favorite King novels.  It's not awful; I enjoyed reading it, at least for the first two-thirds or so, while King's writing still felt engaged.  I'm not a huge fan of Bill Hodges, but he's okay; same goes for Holly Gibney.  The reason for that, I think, is that King himself loves both characters, and that love comes through onto the pages and -- for me -- is somewhat infectious.  But only somewhat, and it can only get King so far.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

About This "Castle Rock" Series...

Alternate titles for this blog post included "Can We All Just Chill the Fuck Out?" and "Settle the Fuck Down," but I correctly thought those might too condescending.  So I settled for something bland and inoffensive.  Good job, me!
I’m not one to judge a book by its cover.  However, I have no problem judging the cover by its art (ahem), nor do I balk at judging the message the cover seems to be trying to convey.  After all, whereas it might be true that a cover cannot ruin the book it is covering, it’s at least as true to say that a cover can on occasion do that book no favors.

With that in mind, let’s talk about Castle Rock, the super-secret anthology series for Hulu that is being developed by Bad Robot and Warner Bros.  
I had not planned to talk about it here, but my “Stephen King” Google Alert is pinging about once an hour with news of this series, and the sense I get from folks who care about such things is that a general sense of large-scale excitement is afoot.

Friday, February 3, 2017

An Interview with Jason Mayoh

Recently, I wrote a review of "Pinfall," the comic-book adaptation of the never-filmed Stephen King / George Romero story that was intended to be a segment of Creepshow 2.  I enjoyed the comic quite a bit, and reached out to artist Jason Mayoh to see if he'd be interested in answering a few questions about the comic.

Bryant:  This is probably a dumb question, but are you a fan of the Creepshow movies?

Jason:  In my opinion, two of the greatest horror anthologies ever made.

Bryant:  Tell me a bit about your history with those films.

Jason:  As a kid I remember staying at my older cousin's house and we rented both of them and watched them over the weekend.  I just loved the comic-book vibe to them.
Bryant:  How did your involvement with the Creepshow 2 Blu-ray from Arrow Video come about?
Jason:  Kind of a long story, but here goes...
I met George Romero as a fan at a convention [in 2005] when Land of the Dead came out.  At the time I had illustrated and created a five-page zombie pop-up book and showed it to him.
Pop Up Book of the Dead
He loved it and I was immediately put in touch with his manager, who informed me George wanted to write the story for it.  We went back and forth with different publishing houses, ultimately to no avail, as no publisher wanted to take a chance on what they perceived at the time to be a niche market.  At the time I was told pop-up books are a huge investment.  (Ironically I also showed Greg Nicotero back in the day, and now there is a Walking Dead pop-up book; go figure.)
Anyway, I was truly inspired by George's enthusiasm and continued to attend conventions he was a guest at.  I have the ultimate respect for George's career for the fact that during the majority of his career he operated on his own terms, for better or for worse, outside of the Hollywood system.  Perhaps because of that, George has had numerous undeveloped projects, including a film adaptation of The Stand by Stephen King.  Since the pop-up book I had always wanted to illustrate one of his unfulfilled stories.  Once I learned that there was an unfilmed segment from Creepshow 2 called "Pinfall," I couldn't resist!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Think of the Money I Save: A Review of "Pinfall"

Arrow Video recently released a 3000-unit limited-edition Blu-ray of Creepshow 2, and given that it had a handful of new bonus features on it, I -- being the sucker I am for maintaining a complete-films-of-King library at all times, and in the best possible editions -- was inclined to buy a copy.

What clinched the deal for me, however, was the news that the limited edition would contain a comic-book adaptation of "Pinfall."

What, you might ask, is "Pinfall"?

Friday, January 6, 2017

All the Way Around Robin Hood's Barn: "Revival" Revisited, Part 4

I'll be brief(ish): we are here today to get through this thing called Life.  Electric word, Life, it means... the remainder of the notes I took during my recent reread of Revival.  When I write these posts, I generally make an effort to focus them on a single theme or element, which means that there are routinely potential lines of investigation that fall through the cracks.  There still will be after this post, too, but I'll feel better about it, and that's what I'm shooting for with this one.
What I'm going to do is just proceed through my notes, and when I get to something that sparks my fancy, we'll talk about it.  So we'll go more or less in chronological order, although I am likely to bounce around a bit as needed.  I'm often inclined to use bulletpoints to structure such an unwieldy beast, but I think I'll break each topic apart with a line of asterisks instead.
Like so:
In Chapter I, Jacobs says to Jamie, "People have many ways to be lousy to one another, as you'll find out when you're older, but I think that all bad behavior stems from plain old selfishness."

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

All That Shit Starts With E: "Revival" Revisited, Part 3

Today, we'll conclude* our reappraisal of Revival.  There is plenty left to be said about the novel; I'm unlikely to even scratch the surface, but there are certainly a few things which stood out to me that I'd like to at least mention.
First up on the agenda: the theme of music that runs throughout much of the novel, which we are going to use as a Trojan horse to get us to an entirely different conversation.
Those who bought Revival as a hardback were greeted by an unexpected sight:
And once they recovered from the shock of seeing King with a mustache, they probably noticed that he was holding a guitar.  (For the record: I like the 'stache.  I think it looks pretty fuckin' cool on him.  Not as cool as that Danse Macabre beard from back in the day, but shit, man, nothing looks as cool as that thing.)  They might even have noticed that the neck of the guitar has little drawings of spiders all over it, which is kind of rad.
King's history with the guitar goes back farther than this hardback author photo, of course.  It can be dated to at least 1992, when King became one of the original members of the Rock Bottom Remainders, a covers band (formed by Kathi Kamen Goldmark) whose members were all authors.  King played guitar and provided some vocals.  There have been two books of essays written by its members: 1994's Mid-Life Confidential and the 2013 interactive ebook Hard Listening.  King provided outstanding essays for both, but of particular interest to us is "Just a Little Talent," from Hard Listening.