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.

King is a very witty and captivating writer, and his talents are on full display here.  The essay draws its title from an incident in which he and a friend, Scott, attended a matinee showing of The Aviator the winter it was in theatres.  The theatre inexplicably had the heat cranked up, and it ran at full force for the entirety of the three-hour film.  At one point, King looks over at Scott and sees sweat on his face, reflected in the light from the screen.  "My friend didn't look like he was watching a movie," King writes; "he looked like he was observing one of the nuclear tests at Alamogordo."

That anecdote comprises the first section of the essay, and King goes on from there to give us a bit of a recap of his history with the city, as well as a well-reasoned defense of it against a certain type of prevalent mindset.  It's a mere four pages, sure; but "Hot Time in the Old Town" packs more insight and wit into each of those pages than most of the other essays manage cumulatively.  It's good enough that even if I'd loathed the rest of the book, I'd feel like my money had been well spent.

With the possible exception of "Hot Time in the Old Town," my favorite of the essays was "The Muse of the Coyote Ugly Saloon" by Elizabeth Gilbert, a reprint of her GQ piece that inspired the movie Coyote Ugly.  She adds an introduction that frames the piece so as to allow it to fit in a bit more organically here.  Her words make me want to go to that saloon, and I don't even drink.  I do have a tendency toward inappropriately falling in love, though, so that makes sense.

The rest of the book consists of essays that one is apt to find to be lyrical and evocative at best, self-indulgent and smarmy at worst, and frequently all of those things simultaneously.  I've never been to New York (City) [or State], so I have no inherent love for it, apart from the extent to which it is a symbol of America.  And, perhaps, its setting as the location for most of the HBO series Girls.  [Sidebar: I fucking love that series, which recently concluded.  It's occasionally vexing for any number of reasons, and if you are put off by the thought of seeing Lena Dunham naked every episode or two, you want to stay far away.  Don't fash me none, though, and I think she's great on the show playing a woman who has quite a few issues.  But through all of that, I remained sympathetic toward her.  Also, Adam Driver is great.  Also, Andrew Rannells' character Elijah is an all-time great.  He's stupendously good, and somebody needs to be developing a George Michael biopic STAT just so he can play the role.  Sidebar endeth.]

I have no disdain for the city; I'm quite neutral, which might actually make me a decent choice to critique a book like this one.  And my critique is: it's written with a great amount of evident love, but is on the whole a bit self-involved and repetitive.  But, hey, I'm likely not the target audience; my assumption is that it would be widely enjoyed by the sort of people who wrote essays for it, and that people like me -- who read these essays and wonder if the main characters of the Marvel/Netflix shows would have similar feelings to those of the authors -- are barking up the wrong tree if we feel overly alienated by any of it.
I would say that in the objective sense, this is a fairly good book.  It paints a portrait of New Yorkers as much as of New York itself, and the way I see it, the city seems to draw people -- or, at least, writers -- who are a complicated and inconstant lot.  I was annoyed by this at times, but the cumulative effect of their words was that I felt a little bit closer to a city I have never visited.

That's probably a net win, wouldn't you say?

We now come to a couple of short stories.

The first, "The Curator," appeared in a 2014 issue of Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet (which, as the credit reads, is "made by Gavin J. Grant and Kelly Link," and if you don't know who Link is, you should fix that).  King's story was on editor T.C. Boyle's shortlist for inclusion in the 2015 edition of The Best American Short Stories; it didn't make the eventual cut, but that's still quite an honor.

Regretfully, I must report to you that "The Curator" did not gel for me.  This is not to say it's a bad story; in fact, I think it's a good story, and would recommend it to readers of this blog.  It's a rare (Owen) King foray into genre fiction, and reads almost like the end result of accepting somebody's challenge to write the sort of story his brother Joe might write.  That might be reductionist and presumptuous of me, so don't lean too hard on what I'm saying; that's just my knee-jerk categorization: magical realism of a moderately Hill-esque nature.
The story is set during a coup d'etat, but don't ask me where or when, because I have no clue.  The past, I think, but I wouldn't swear to that.  The titular curator is the story's main character, D, whose brother died years ago of some sort of illness that might or might not have been a plague.  The story is frustratingly vague on many of the details.  What's clear is that during college, D began a relationship with a man who would go on to become a lieutenant in the revolutionary army.  D, seemingly as the result of a fascination developed during a trip there earlier in life, wishes to work for the National Occult Collection; but it has been firebombed and gutted during the coup, so she settles for working next door, curating the abandoned and vacant National Museum of the Worker.

Also nearby is an abandoned embassy building, formerly occupied by a foreign government friendly with the one deposed during the coup.  It's also got a new curator of sorts: a burly executioner who is putting enemies to death inside, noisily and voluminously.  Meanwhile, D and the lieutenant have a lot of sex inside the museum, and mess about with the waxwork figures who represent the Workers; this sort of thing alternates with brief flashbacks telling the story of D's brother's death.

A lot of my response to the story is the product of the final few paragraphs, wherein the story seemingly takes a turn of some sort.  The turn -- if indeed it is a turn (and I'm not 100% convinced it is) -- just doesn't make sense to me.  What is happening?  I don't know.  Something to do with closets and cats.  Why is it happening?  Beats me.  Somebody gets killed for reasons that are utterly unexplained.  What does this have to do with the story of D's brother?  Something, without a doubt; but I couldn't tell you for sure, because the story doesn't tell me.  It's possible D herself doesn't know.

If that sounds like the sort of thing that might annoy you, then welcome to the club; please sign in and enjoy some punch.

It's entirely possible I misread the story and simply allowed the point of it all to elude me.  In deference to this possibility, I read the story a second time.  It didn't help.  The story has definite bright points, but in the end, I'm left with question marks where I'd prefer there be periods.  I'd also accept exclamation marks, or perhaps even a colon or semicolon.

And yet, certain aspects of the story have stuck with me the past few days since I read it.  That's typically a good thing to say about a story, and the fact that I keep thinking about D and her lieutenant, about the burly man with an imposing beard and the stench of death, and about a magician whose magic cabinet is mostly destroyed but somehow still working ... well, that must mean something, right?

Right.  So in the final-for-now analysis, I'd say that while "The Curator" frustrated me somewhat, it also energized me.  And as one of the very few fantastical works King has written -- another being the superhero tale "The Meerkat" (which I have never written of for this blog), and another still being "The Idiot's Ghost" (which I have) -- it provides some insight into what might be in store with Sleeping Beauties, Owen's upcoming collaboration with his father.  I'll be very curious to see how the two writers' styles merge.

Owen' story "Confederate Wall," which appeared a couple of years ago in Subtropics 19, is more in line with the sort of non-genre character stories readers of King's books We're All In This Together and Double Feature will recognize.  Here, he is doing what he seems to do best, which is drawing sharp portraits of deeply fucked-up people.

The story here involves a shipping-store (think FedEx Office, but not) manager who is obsessed with the idea that things made today have no permanence.  He then also becomes sort of fascinated by a Civil War era stone wall that is still standing in the back yard of a wealthy customer (who, somewhat implausibly, has invited him over with his son for his own daughter's birthday party).  The story revolves around the way in which this fascination plays out, and around the idea that not everyone would be fascinated with a wall, and if they were it might not be for the same reason.

"Confederate Wall" succeeds for me nearly totally.  I became invested in all of the characters, and felt at several points like shouting at them not to do the things they were about the do, because what the fuck are you doing, character?!?  I also felt like I understood most of them, which is both a good and a bad thing, but mostly a good thing; and even when it's a bad thing, it's a good thing in terms of my relationship with story, if that makes any sense.  Makes sense to me, at least!

Anyways, I'm happy to have added the pelts of these stories to my wall, as it were.  Both were rewarding in their way, and prove again that King is a significant talent.

Next up:

The graphic novel Intro to Alien Invasion was a new arena for King in several ways: it's not prose; it's sci-fi/horror; and it's a collaboration.

Of all the King-family books -- including the ones written by Big Steve -- I'd not read, the one that it most bothered me to have put on a shelf was Intro to Alien Invasion.  I had heard good things about it from friends, but apart from that, I was highly curious to see what Owen would do in a format as different (for him) as this one.
Having now finished it -- I ingested it in three sitting over the course of a couple of days -- I would assess it thus: arguably a bit too arch in places, but fun of a sort that -- attention Double Feature readers -- almost suggests a Sam Dolan screenplay directed by Booth Dolan at some point after the events of that novel loosened Sam up a bit.  (Joe Hill described it on the Three Guys With Beards podcast as being like a Troma film directed by Wes Anderson.  Pretty apt.)

It's worth noting that I almost feel King and Poirier's story/script is an afterthought in comparison to the illustrations of Nancy Ahn.  I liked Intro to Alien Invasion; but I loved the art.  Ahn is not a traditional comics illustrator, which is fine for any number of reasons, not least of which that Intro to Alien Invasion is not a traditional comic.  It's a graphic novel, and by that, I don't mean it's a bunch of individual comics that have been collected into a single book; no, it's an actual graphic novel, meaning a novel that came out as a single thing and just happens to be told via sequential art.

I'm always in perilously deep waters when I attempt to describe art or music (or other things I don't understand, such as politics, economics, golf, or veganism), so advance apologies to all who need one for the way in which I'm about to fuck this up.  Ahn's style is cartoony, but highly expressive, and her rubber-limbed characters are consistently delightful.  This is not by any means limited to this novel, either.  That link to her website is well worth following, and I can't resist but give you a couple of samples of things I found there that cracked me up:


I might actually have cackled at this.

We're not here to talk about the expression on the bottom cookie's face -- which is both haunting and haunted -- so let's try to focus not on that, or on those ropey creme teats, but on Intro to Alien Invasion.

The story is fairly simple: a sketchy astrobiology professor quasi-accidentally brings home some tainted soil from Siberia, and when the alien organisms hibernating inside it escape and begin running amok during spring break, several disparate groups of college students who have been trapped on campus by a hurricane are forced to band together to defeat the extraterrestrial menace.

If that sounds ridiculous, well, duh.  Of course it's ridiculous!  I wasn't joking earlier when I compared this to a Booth Dolan film: this is precisely the sort of high-concept shenanigan that would have served as excellent fodder for one of his C-list movies.  Here's the thing, though: Booth's movies sounded like they were fun; tacky, but fun, and in that sense they seemed to possess their own peculiar honesty.

I think much the same applies to Intro to Alien Invasion, but it has a sort of veneer of self-awareness laid over the top of it that arguably strips it of some of its sincerity.  This is the kind of story where one character holds up a Jeff Koons book to another at one point (they're deciding what books to use as blunt-instrument weapons), and is told, "The celebration of kitsch is pretty tired and gimmicky at this point."  As on-the-nose goes, that's a blackhead.

This is not to say that I disapprove.  On the contrary: I think that King & Poirier and Ahn are assuming that I'm going to figure out pretty quick that this is not From Hell I've sat down with.  They've customized the experience with that in mind, and in that sense, I don't think they go the on-the-nose route too often at all.  They only go there for real a few times, and mostly, they make it count, such as in this moment when a stereotypically dorky dork finds himself getting impaled by an alien/human hybrid:


Do I think that the creators of this graphic novel trust me to mentally substitute The Simpsons' Comic Book Guy here?  I do indeed; and I did.

Elsewhere, I think King/Poirier/Ahn get solid traction from leaning on their characters, who are sometimes sincere and laudable, sometimes repellent, sometimes walking cliches of a purposeful variety.  There is a rather sweet love story at the center of all of this foofaraw about gestation cycles and exploding flesh nodules and whatnot; that's its own kind of cliche (though I'd argue that the way it is handled is not), as is the fact that several subordinate love stories break out in orbit of the central one.  If those things bother you, this might not be the graphic novel for you.

Your inclination is likely to ultimately be governed by the execution, and in my opinion, it's solid.  Especially as regards Ahn's style, which frequently adds lovely little details that help the characters seem real, even when they are doing cliched things and behaving like they look (i.e., like cartoons).  Ahn isn't going for realism, but manages to achieve it on many occasions by running away from it.  That's a thing that can happen with gifted illustrators, and Ahn is certainly that.

Let's have a look at a few random pages that stood out to me:

The facial expressions in the upper-right-hand panel and the one beneath that are gold.  Animators sometimes talk about how good animation is akin to good acting; in fact IS good acting of a sort.  Good illustration is no different, I suppose, and if that's true, then Ahn produces some very good performances during the course of this novel.  (Oh, and don't think I failed to notice the Carrie reference.  I noticed.)

Bottom left panel: Stacey staring out a window at her roommate, Charlotte, passing by.  This is the novel's central love story.  No, it's not present purely by metaphor and implication; it's an actual thing.  I bought into it totally; Stacey is a sort of nerdy character, but also a determined and proactive one, and I found her to be very appealing.

I'd never heard of "trustafarians" before.  But of course that's a thing.  OF COURSE it is. 

Gina, the wheelchair-bound badass, is one of my favorite characters.  So disapproving; so relentless.  Where I work, I frequently see a team of college girls who are (I think) on a wheelechair basketball team.  They're incredibly goddamn hot, like regular hot women BUT ON FUCKING WHEELS, and therefore arguably better; fuller somehow, more accomplished, more like superheroes.  Gina made me think of them.

Anyways, I could go on.  There's a lot here to discuss, if only so as to point out places where I feel Nancy Ahn deserves two thumbs up.  Maybe one of these days, I come back to this novel and give it a fuller appraisal.
For now, though, I'll say that I enjoyed it, and am hopeful that if a movie is ever made, it will be animated in the style of Nancy Ahn.  
Well, we're caught up with Owen King now.  Let's turn our attention to the lady he turned into a King by marriage, novelist Kelly Braffet.  A short story of hers appeared in an anthology called The Highway Kind.

In case you don't know who Kelly Braffet is, let me clue you in: she is the author of the excellent novel Save Yourself, and she just happens to be married to Owen King.  Therefore, The Truth Inside The Lie considers her to be an honorary King, and is aware that that might make us kind of creepy and obsessive in some ways.  But, we figured we owed it to the family to at least give Braffet and read.  Is it our fault Save Yourself was fucking great and made us want to read other things by her?  Clearly, we've been spooked into referring to ourselves by the royal pronouns, but we do believe ourselves to be blameless in this regard.
Anyways, to the best of our my knowledge, The Highway Kind anthology includes the first piece of fiction Braffet has published since Save Yourself.  (One exception being the short story "Hung Up," which appeared on her website around the time Save Yourself was released in paperback.  It doesn't seem to be there anymore, which is a shame; it's a sort of nascent version of a scene from Save Yourself, and is well worth your time if you've read that novel, or even if you haven't.)

There are some big names in The Highway Kind, so let's run through the entire contents:

"Test Drive" by Ben H. Winters:  I'm not familiar with Winters, but this story is very good, and gets the anthology off to a promising start.  It's about a car-dealership manager who takes a guy out for a test drive.  It doesn't go as planned.  I love the opening lines: "I was giving it to this SOB with both barrels, boy.  I tell you -- I was laying it on thick."  I couldn't help but picture the manager as Bob Odenkirk and the test driver as Jonathan Banks, and that'll either make sense to you or it won't.  It made sense to me.

"Power Wagon" by C.J. Box:  I'm not familiar with C.J. Box, either.  Hey, I'll make you a deal: I'll mention it when I am familiar with the writers, and we'll all save a bit of time.  In any case, the author-bios section informs me that Box is a #1 NY Times bestseller, and I guess I can believe it based on this story.  It arguably overstays its welcome, but I enjoyed it quite a bit.  It's about a man and his wife, who are alone on the ranch where he deceased father used to live.  They are sorting out his accounts, and receive an unexpected visit from a former associate.

"Burnt Matches" by Michael Connelly:  This is the second straight anthology (In Sunlight or in Shadow being the previous one) that has contained a Connelly story.  That one contained a short story featuring his character Harry Bosch, and this one contains a story featuring his other prominent series protagonist, Mickey Haller.  You might know Haller from the movie The Lincoln Lawyer, in which Matthew McConaughey played Haller.  Apparently in the stories themselves, the same thing happens, except it's that McConaughey played Haller in a movie based on a "successful case."  I dig that sort of stuff.  I also dug the movie, and liked this story pretty well.  It's about Haller going on an unexpected ride in his Lincoln, with a former customer -- from an unsuccessful case -- in control.

"Runs Good" by Kelly Braffet:  The first three stories in this anthology were crime stories of one sort or another, and this one kinda/sorta turns into one, but only in a very mild and unmelodramatic manner.  It's -- surprise! -- a prequel to Save Yourself, which was not actually a surprise to me.  I knew the story featured one of that novel's characters (a Facebook post from Braffet plugging the release of The Highway Kind said so), but because I have a shit-ass memory, I could not immediately remember who Caro was and what she had done in the novel.  It came back to me pretty quickly as I read "Runs Good," though.  "Runs Good" peeks in on Caro years before Save Yourself, and finds her struggling to make ends meet with her schizophrenic mother while still in high school.  One need not have read Save Yourself for the story to work; it's a character piece that is unencumbered by political intrigue in the Galactic Senate, or trips to steal gold from dragons, or any of the things prequels are typically about.  (For the record: yes, I know The Hobbit is not a prequel.)  Instead, it's about a girl who serves a turkey club sandwich to a guy in a restaurant.  It's a good story that reminded me of people I've known, which is not entirely a plus, but certainly isn't a minus.

"Night Run" by Wallace Stroby:  Guy driving on a business trip nearly hits a dude on a motorcycle.  Dude gets angry, exhibits a bit of road rage, produces a gun.  And so forth.  Not a bad story, but I felt a bit uneasy by the morality, at least as I perceived it.  But by the last few sentences, I thought that maybe that was the entire point.  So yeah, definitely not a bad story.

"What You Were Fighting For" by James Sallis:   Sallis is perhaps best known as the author of the novel Drive, upon which the movie was based.  This story -- about a young boy in a wheelchair who remembers his father (a mechanic) being visited by a friend and former associate -- appears to be set within that universe.  And, like "Burnt Matches," the movie featuring that character got made in this version of reality!  That's kind of an interesting repeated oddity.  Not a bad story, but nothing that makes me want to go out and start collecting James Sallis novels.

"The Triple Black 'cuda" by George Pelecanos:  Pelecanos is a well-known novelist, but he's known to me for having worked on all five seasons of The Wire.  This is a solid story, melancholic and surprising.  Maybe a bit overstuffed with car lingo, but that's relative only to my own tastes, which have never run to the automotive.

"Fogmeister" by Diana Gabaldon:  Gabaldon is best-known for writing the Outlander series of novels, so it comes as no surprise that this story is a piece of historical fiction.  Not entirely fictional fiction, either; it's based on a Nazi-Germany auto accident involving a test car.  It's not bad, but I'd be a liar if I said I got much out of it.

"Whipperwill and Back" by Patterson Hood:  This is a story of redneck crime, which makes sense, given that the word "hood" is right there in the author's name.  It's about a couple of small-timers who tie a guy up in their trunk, and what comes of it.  It's a good read.

"Driving to Geronimo's Grave" by Joe R. Lansdale: Lansdale also had a story in the anthology In Sunlight or in Shadow.  It was called "The Projectionist," and I enjoyed it quite a bit, but had it figured as B+ Lansdale.  I speculated that A+ Lansdale would be something with which to reckon, and here's what I'll say about that: I'm pretty sure I'd give "Driving to Geronimo's Grave" an A at a minimum.  A+ is by no means off the table.  And guess what?  It IS something with which to reckon.  This story is flat-out fuckin' wonderful.  It takes place during the forties (I think?), and is about a brother and sister who are dispatched by their mother to make a several-days' drive to a farmhouse to pick up the corpse of an uncle who has died there.  He's being stored in a chicken coop until such time as they can arrive and take possession of the dead former deadbeat.  Along the way, they have an adventure of sorts.  I'm calling it now: this is the best story in The Highway Kind.  I've got something like five left to read, but nary a one of 'em'll be as good as this one, mark my words.  Despite that, Lansdale's name is nowhere to be seen on the book's front cover!  Shameful.  If this world were the sort where I had an abundance of time and money, I'd snatch up every Lansdale book I could find and begin plotting a time to conquer them all.  It's not that world, sadly, but who knows what might eventually happen?  Oh, and also: this story needs to be a movie, immediately.  I want that Ferris Buller looking kid from Stranger Things and the unbelievably badass girl from Logan, and then I'll also want Matthew McConaughey to play a role.  I'll take meetings for the director job.  Somebody send me $15 million and I will make all of this happen.

"Hannah Martinez" by Sara Green: A fairly short slice-of-life tale about a woman whose life hasn't exactly gone according to plan.  This one didn't blow me away or anything, but it comes to a satisfying close.

"Apache Youth" by Ace Atkins: An unsuccessful screenwriter takes a truck to his brother-in-law, who is across the country filming a werewolf-cop tv show.  Along the way, he ends up on an Apache reservation.  This one never entirely came together for me, but it's got some good ideas and charming moments.

"The Two Falcons" by Gary Phillips: A search for buried treasure (of a sort) intertwines with late-eighties racial unrest in Los Angeles.  This is another one that didn't really come together for me.

"The Kill Switch" by Willy Vlautin: I wish the main character laughed less frequently, but otherwise, this one is a winner.  It's about a house painter who buys a busted old Le Mans and is friends with a none-too-fortunate kid who lives next door.

"The Pleasure of God" by Luis Alberto Urrea: This strong tale is about a former prison guard who sets out to find a bit of vengeance for a misdeed committed by a former inmate.  The protagonist is an unsavory character -- a bad hombre, if you will -- and Urrea does a terrific job of sketching that aspect.  He also imbues him with occasional bits of sympathetic humanity, though.  Neither invalidates the other.

And with that, we've completed our look at The Highway Kind.  Fifteen stories, of which I would label six as being excellent.  Of the remaining nine, I'd say they are all fairly good, and several of them maybe a bit more than that.  That's a pretty good average. 

That's a recommendation, friends.

Best-in-show goes to the Joe Lansdale story, with Kelly Braffet's capturing silver.

I'll be back relatively soon with the third part of this series, focusing on Joe Hill's recent work.


  1. Mr. Burnette,
    I've never read any Owen King, but I intend too, thanks for the nudge. I'm looking forward to your next piece in this trilogy, as I have read several works by Hill.
    You will have to turn your sights to Michael Connelly sometime. I'm a big fan and I would like your take on some of his works.

    1. You can't judge an author by the movies based on his work, but I thought "The Lincoln Lawyer" was really good. I'm tempted to watch this "Bosch" series on Amazon, too; it's gotten good reviews.

      As for whether I ever read any of his actual books...? You never know. He's on my radar now, for sure.

  2. Patterson Hood is also the founding member and vocalist for the great southern rock band "Drive-By Truckers". Didn't realize he writes short fiction as well.

    1. I intended to mention that! I read that in the contributor-bios section, but forgot it. I'm not familiar with any of their music, but had heard of them.

  3. That anthology sounds pretty awesome! Nice write-ups. They're all on my list.

    1. It was definitely a good anthology. Probably better than the last one I read (the Edward Hopper one), if anything.

  4. Fantastic post. I've yet to read Owen's writing and am looking forward to Sleeping Beauties to get a taste for his writing.

    1. I'll be curious to see how much his style and sensibility is reflected in that novel. If his style and wit combines with his dad's storytelling sense, it could end up being something really special.

  5. I loved reading this. Great job! Are you going to do a post that focuses on Tabby's works?

    1. I've written about two of her novels:

      Small World (http://thetruthinsidethelie.blogspot.com/2013/11/a-review-of-small-world-by-tabitha-king.html)

      Caretakers (http://thetruthinsidethelie.blogspot.com/2014/06/a-review-of-caretakers-by-tabitha-king.html)

      I've not read any of her other novels yet. But I plan to, and as I was writing this post, I actually found myself thinking that I could just mainline the rest of them in sequence and then do it all as one post. Who knows whether I will or not, but it's an idea.

    2. Nice! That would be cool. PEARL is my favorite novel of hers; hell, it might be my favorite release from any of the King family members. That's a big claim, but it feels right.

    3. High praise indeed! Makes me look forward to that one for sure.

  6. Here are my takes on O. King's output in the following order:

    "Hot Time in the Old Time:

    The idea of hearing a King family take on a film like "The Aviator" is intriguing, to say the least. Haven't got a copy, but might have to acquire one just for the King piece.

    "Intro to Alien Invasion"

    1. Not bad call with Loyd Kaufman/TROMA. I've heard of both the director, and the films, yet have not yet seen one (quietly dons toilet seat of shame).

    2. My first thought as I read was that this needs to be a Cronenberg (whom I have seen) project (and yes, complete with the same drawings).

    3. I can't help but think King the Younger is channeling a bit of his Dad's "Creepshow" vibe with this outing.

    4. My favorite Gina moment:

    Gina: Rise and begone, dipts-t!

    M. Henceforth, I will be known as Mr. Mayo!

    Gina runs over M. with chair.

    5. On potentially semi-related note, Joe Hill once said the following in an interview: "I actually said at one point on Twitter about a year and a half ago, when I was working on NOS4A2, that NOS4A2 was my underlying theory of everything. That it makes an argument that the rest of my writing is acting from. And absolutely at some point—one thing I’d like to do is, in NOS4A2, we get this throwaway story about this girl who has a wheelchair, and once she’s in it, she has access to a unique power. And I’ve already got a whole novel figured out for that character, called The Crooked Alley. I don’t know when I’m going to write it, but I see the shape of that story very clearly.

    6. The interview in question can be found here (its an old one):


    7. Is it weird that the teacher character has Mark Hamill's voice in my mind?

    8. The graphic novel was a solid A effort in my mind, and I look forward to see if King will continue down this path. Apparently weird runs in the family (cue "Addams Family" theme).


    1. Very little of "Hot Time in the Old Town" is focused on the movie itself, FYI -- it's more about the experience of seeing it than about the movie, by far. Good stuff, though.

      1. I don't know that not seeing Troma movies is a badge of dishonor. They are ... not for all tastes, let's say.

      2. I'm not quite familiar enough with Cronenberg to say for sure, but he strikes me as a largely humorless filmmaker. Nothing wrong with that, but I'd hate to see a humorless version of "Intro to Alien Invasion."

      3. I'd love to read something from King about his Dad's work. And something else about his Mom's; I have a feeling he has actually been more influenced by her. But yeah, he's bound to have some feelings on "Creepshow."

      4. "Rise and begone, dipshit!" is a fine command.

      5. "The Crooked Alley," of course, feels like it might be influenced by "Cycle of the Werewolf" / "Silver Bullet." (Speaking of which, I think that one is absolutely RIPE to be remade.)

      7. Nope. I can imagine it as sort of a pathetic version of The Joker.

      8. Weird probably runs in every family; they just have the talent to make something out of it!