Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Books I Read in 2018, Part 1

Once upon a time, I used to read damn near constantly.  I mean, all the damn time!  It was rare for a week to go by without me finishing a book, and not uncommon for me to finish two or three.
  
I have no idea how I managed to do that, apart from the fact that I didn't spend 129 hours per day on my PC, fucking about in way or another.  Whatever the case, I miss those days; for any number of reasons, really, but the reading-like-a-champ thing is one of the biggies.
  
Anyways, I'm hoping to make 2018 a better year for reading than 2017 was.  And my first act of 2018 reading has been to begin making a dent in my to-be-read shelf.  There are some books that have been sitting there for far too long, among them a number of books I was given as gifts.  It always makes me feel like a prick to not read a book somebody gives me.
  
So, a resolution has been made: get them motherfuckers read, not because I feel obliged, but because I want to AND feel obliged.  I had no initial intention of blogging about it; but then I thought hey, why not?  Some of these might be of interest to y'all, and anyways, there'll be some King (and King-adjacent) reading sprinkled in there, as well.
  
We begin with something that's at least more or less in the horror genre:


Memnoch the Devil by Anne Rice
  
  
  
  
My friend Randy gave me this for my birthday all the way back in 2016, which shows what a piece of shit I am.  He also gave me Job by Robert Heinlein, which I read in a more expedient fashion (but will not cover here, great read though it was).
  
I'd never read anything by Anne Rice before this, and part of me found it weird to dive into a series in the middle.  This is the fifth novel in Rice's Vampire Chronicles, and left to my own devices, I'd never consider skipping the first four.  But it's not a bad idea to occasionally shake up one's preferred method of doing such things; and anyways, Randy assured me that it would read fine on its own.
  
He wasn't wrong.  I sense, after finishing Memnoch, that I'd probably benefit from reading the other novels, but I sense also that this is a singular novel, and that it was of benefit to read it in isolation.


It's a good piece of work, and it might be good enough to motivate me to seek out some of Rice's other novels one of these days.

The story (spoiler alert!) goes like this: Lestat, a centuries-old vampire, is stalking a potential victim.  He's been stalking this "Victim" for some time, enjoying reading the man's thoughts and also enjoying taking part by proxy in the man's fraught relationship with his daughter.  She is a televangelist; he is a drug dealer and assassin.  He's also exceedingly wealthy, and has amassed a large quantity of religious artifacts that he wants to give to her as a legacy.  Lestat eventually kills him, drinks his blood, and is visited by his ghost in a surprisingly corporeal form.  The ghost begs Lestat to safeguard his daughter, Dora, and Lestat agrees.  He visits her and is entranced by the smell of menstrual blood coming from between her legs; he entertains thoughts of consuming this and thereby feeding without harming her.

Hey...!  Hey, where are you going?  Come back!  I'm just getting to the good part!

Anyways, Lestat has been feeling that he himself is being stalked, and he's afraid it is by the Devil.  He's 100% not wrong.  The Devil -- who prefers not to be called Satan, but wishes to be called by his true name, Memnoch -- has a job offer for Lestat: join him as his Prince and aide.  In order to convince Lestat that he (rather than God) is the hero of the story, Memnoch more or less gives Lestat the complete history of history, and even takes him on literal trips to Heaven and Hell.

The bulk of the novel is devoted to Memnoch simply telling stories, which means that Lestat is kind of only there to (essentially) say "Uh-huh" and "No way!" and "The fuck outta here!" and "Holy shit!" and "Seriously?"  I don't think he actually says any of those things, but my point is, Lestat is a walking, talking, blood-sucking peanut gallery for most of the novel.  I didn't too much mind this, because all the theological stuff was fascinating.

I didn't follow a lot of it, to be honest.  And most of it didn't stick to me.  This is not Anne Rice's fault; I'm just not that great a reader, unless I'm intently focusing on what I'm reading.  Taking notes helps.  But I was merely reading this for pleasure, and so my focus was not as intent as it would have needed to be in order for the content to truly stick to me.  This old brain of mine ain't what it used to be, guys, and what it used to be was never all that grand.

Interestingly, Lestat experiences a version of the same experience while in Heaven, in that he is able to read "books" that explain the entirety of existence, only to have the understanding of them fade from his mind as he leaves them behind.  For me, I enjoyed and resonated with all of this stuff while I was reading it; but it did begin to recede from me once I finished whatever page I was on.

It's fascinating stuff, however, and I can only applaud Rice's ambitions.  It's a novel that almost certainly rewards repeat readings.

Date of completion:  January 8
Grade:  A


Strange Weather by Joe Hill




I published my thoughts (in brief) on this one in a separate post.  The even-briefer version: it's good, with at least one of the four novellas clocking in as a classic, probably a second one right behind it, and two flawed but worthwhile entries lagging behind.
  
Date of completion:  January 11
Grade: A


The Trap by Tabitha King




I published a separate review of this one, which can be found here.  In case you're not interested in that, I'll say this: this is a very good novel, and a brutal one at times.  It's about a family that is not experiencing the best of times, and how their temporary splitting apart worsens things by a considerable margin.

If I believed in trigger warnings, I'd give you a few related to this novel.  But I don't, so you get none.

Date of completion:  January 17
Grade: A-


Koko by Peter Straub




Peter Straub's serial-killer thriller about Vietnam veterans trying to locate and apprehend a former member of their platoon (who is engaging in some non-sanctioned wetwork) is not a tale of the supernatural or the fantastical at all, which did not stop it from winning a World Fantasy Award.  And anyways, there's a lot of weird stuff in it, so it might actually BE a fantasy.  Who can say for sure?

If that description befuddles you, this might not be a novel for you.

But it was definitely a novel for me, as this post conveys (rather poorly, if I do say so myself).

Date of completion:  January 25
Grade:  A+


Mystery Walk by Robert R. McCammon




This 1983 McCammon novel is one of my favorites by him.  Not necessarily one of his best, mind you (though it's definitely good and has numerous moments of greatness); but one of my personal favorites, for reasons I detailed here.

The story is about Billy Creekmore, a young man who has the ability to see ghosts and help them get over the pain of their deaths.  Did this get written many years before The Sixth Sense?  Yep.  Not that the two are very similar; they're really not.  But, you know, while we're here and all.

This eventually brings him into conflict with the son of a revival-tent preacher; the preacher's son has the ability to heal the sick and wounded, and while you might think that would make him and Creekmore natural allies, you'd be wrong about that.

Date of completion:  February 1
Grade:  B+


Last Train From Perdition by Robert McCammon




We shall now find ourselves dwelling in the realm of McCammon for an extended duration.  That was not my intent; I'd intended to move along to a Max Allan Collins book.  But McCammon is signing at a bookstore within driving distance in a few weeks, and I'd like to attend; and I kind of feel obliged to catch up with as many of his recent novels as I can before I go.  Not necessary except in my own head, probably; but in my head, it feels pretty damn necessary, and so that's where we stand.

Anyways, it means I get to spend a few weeks mainlining Robert McCammon books, so in this game, I'm comin' out a winner.

Last Train to Perdition is the sequel to I Travel By Night, the rip-roarin' good time of a novella McCammon published in 2013.  It's a Western about a bounty-hunting vampire, and Last Train to Perdition is more of the same, except maybe even better than the first installment.  It's relatively short, and is primarily comprised of an extended train ambush that is about as desperate and hopeless as a fan of Westerns could ever want it to be.

The vampiric bounty hunter, Trevor Lawson, continues to be a fun pulp-style hero, and McCammon introduces several excellent new characters here to back him up.  He's still partnered up with Ann, the sharp-shooting young human who was introduced toward the end of the first novella; she's arguably a bit underserved here, but it's a promising partnership nonetheless.

All signs point toward the series continuing, and for my part, the sooner the next installment arrives the better.

Date of completion:  February 5
Grade:  B


Blood In Your Ears by Kevin Quigley




A peek behind the curtain: at the same time I'm working on this post, I'm working on several others, including a lengthy one that takes a stab at detailing the history of King audiobooks.  Kevin Quigley is not merely one of the world's foremost King experts, he's probably THE foremost expert on King audiobooks.  The foremostest one I know of, at least.

So I figured it made sense for me to buy a copy of his e-book Blood in Your Ears, which is a chapbook-length exploration of the subject, focused primarily on the books narrated by King himself and by Frank Muller.

Right up my alley, that approach.

I learned a lot of stuff from reading this book, including:

  • That there is a Recorded Books release from 1987 called The Author Talks: Stephen King.  I knew about that, but I did not know that it contained a King-narrated version of "Mrs. Todd's Shortcut."  I need to hear this, stat!  I need to hear the interview segments, as well, actually; I've never been able to find a copy of this release.  So if you're reading these words and have a way of hooking a brother up, hook a brother up.  It'll be good karma!
  • That the initial releases of the King-narrated audiobooks of both The Gunslinger and The Drawing of the Three came initially in limited editions (800 copies, signed by King).  Limited-edition audiobooks: God save us.
  • The book reprints a Tyson Blue review of the audio Gunslinger.  Blue's review appeared originally in the August 1988 issue of Castle Rock, and if I'm reading it correctly, it's telling me that the audio version actually made it into stores BEFORE the mass-market trade paperback.  Or perhaps Blue was reviewing a copy provided to him early.  I don't know, but let's call it a possibility.
  •  There is evidently a version of the audio cassette edition of Mid-Life Confidential that includes King reading his essay "The Neighborhood of the Beast."  This was REALLY news to me.  I've got that audiobook, and "The Neighborhood of the Beast" is nowhere to be found on it!  There is, instead, an interview with King (and a few of the other Remainders) that sounds like it might have been recorded in a green room before or after one of the band's performances.  So now, I gotta find a fuckin' copy of the version that has "The Neighborhood of the Beast" on it!  The work of a King collector ain't NEVER goddamn done, man.
  • Frank Muller's audio version of The Green Mile was released serially, in conjunction with the chapbooks.  I had no idea of this!  I thought the complete version was the only one!  Very cool. Less cool: the need I feel to find the individual versions.

The real draw of the book, though, is Quigley's analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the various audiobooks he covers.  I'm sure there are places one can find critiques of audiobooks that cover the aspects specific to that medium: the ways vocal performances enhance or detract from the prose as written by the author.  However, I'm not aware of another major work that focuses on King audiobooks, which makes Blood in Your Ears essential -- and very rewarding -- reading for a guy like me.

If there's a drawback, it's that there are plenty of titles Quigley doesn't talk about at all.  Don't get me wrong; I don't blame him, and he admits that he's more interested in a streamlined approach than a comprehensive one.  I mention it only so as to say that his analysis is so keen that I would like to be able to refer to it for EVERY King audiobook.  In other words, I'm greedy.

But that's on me, not on Kevin Quigley!

Date of completion:  February 7
Grade:  B+


Drawn Into Darkness and Ink In The Veins by Kevin Quigley





I also checked out three more Quigley-penned e-books, two of which I'll cover simultaneously, since I read them back to back during the course of a single day.

Drawn Into Darkness is focused on King's history with comics.  There isn't an enormous amount of it, but there's more than you might be familiar with even if you're a slightly-more-than-casual fan. Quigley even covers some of the nonfiction writing King has done for comics and comics-adjacent titles, such as an essay for Batman #400 and his introduction to The Far Side Gallery 2.

Ink in the Veins is not, as it sounds like it might be, essays on the subject of King; instead, it's a sort of overview of book-length studies of King and his work.  A book about books about King, in other words.  That sounds mildly ridiculous, but it isn't; it's well worth keeping tracking of the history of critical thinking about King.  Here, Quigley begins with the work of Douglas E. Winter in the early eighties and goes right through to Hans-Åke Lilja's work in the teens.  Also profiled (and, in most cases, interviewed): Michael R. Collings, Tyson Blue, Tony Magistrale, George Beahm, Stephen J. Spignesi, Bev Vincent, Justin Brooks, and the late, great Rocky Wood.

To say that this is a niche interest is an understatement; this is a niche within a niche.  But odds are good that if you're reading this site, you've heard of several of those names.  If so, you might well enjoy Ink in the Veins, in which case, welcome to the club!  I enjoyed this quite a bit; having read books by most of those Quigley profiles, it was nice to gain some insight into their particular approaches.

Date of completion:  February 18
Grade:  B- (Drawn Into Darkness), B (Ink in the Veins)


Chart of Darkness by Kevin Quigley




Our final Kevin Quigley chapbook is Chart of Darkness, an obsessive's look at the history of King books on the New York Times bestseller chart(s).

It's terrific to have all this information in one place.  I had a dim sense of a lot of the information Quigley presents here, but by no means was I familiar with all of it.  I was unaware, for example, that The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer had been a #1 bestseller.  Not technically a King novel, of course; but still in the family and therefore of interest.

There are plenty of other fun facts scattered throughout, as well.  Quigley does well with presenting context for some of them; if a novel failed to go to #1, there might be a reason for it, such as behemoths like The Bridges of Madison County, The DaVinci Code, or Harry Potter being in the way.

In other words, this is a well-researched piece of work that -- as I hinted -- might only be for some of the true obsessives among King fans.  As one of those, I appreciate the hell out of this chapbook's existence.

The only downside is that it's several years out of date now.  One can hope an update will eventually be produced, but even if it isn't, this one immediately landed on my own list of indispensable works about King .

Date of completion:  February 19
Grade:  A-


The Border by Robert McCammon




Robert McCammon's 2015 sci-fi novel The Border is next up on our list.  I wrote about it here, which is also true of the next two books in this post.
 
Date of completion:  February 20
Grade: A-


He'll Come Knocking At Your Door by Robert McCammon




An illustrated version of one of McCammon's best short stories.  If you're a fan of Halloween, you need this.  NEED it.
 
Date of completion:  February 20
Grade:  A


Tales from Greystone Bay by Robert McCammon




A three-story collection of tales that previously appeared in anthologies edited by Charles L. Grant.  Known collectively as the Greystone Bay Chronicles, I've read only McCammon's contributions (one of which I read for the first time here).

Date of completion:  February 21
Grade:  A


Full Bleed Vol 1




At some point in 2017, I contributed to a Kickstarter campaign for Full Bleed, a would-be quarterly periodical -- you can't really call this thing a magazine, given that it's an oversized hardback clockign in around 200 pages -- from IDW Publishing.  IDW is the comics company that publishes all of Joe Hill's stuff, among their other titles.

What drew me to chip in the $25 or so that I contributed was the promise of an exclusive interview with Stephen King by IDW CEO Chris Ryall.  And the "lost interview" with Alan Moore -- a Truth Inside The Lie favorite (if you didn't know that already) -- sure didn't hurt none, either.

Well, the project funded fully (and then some), and eventually they sent me the first volume.  I was strongly tempted to just read the King and Moore interviews and shelve the book away otherwise unexplored.  Does that make me an asshole?  I wouldn't rule it out; there are probably other things that do the trick more capably, but is that on the list?  The fact that when I buy magazines, I typically read only whatever article or story prompted the purchase?  Yeah, I think so.

As soon as I had the thought to do that with Full Bleed Vol. 1, I decided not to.  I went to all the trouble to help (in tiny fashion) fund the thing; what sort of patron would I be if I simply ignored the vast majority of the contents?  And anyways, this kind of ties in with a ledge I made myself a few years ago and have managed not to break: if I buy a story anthology, I am self-required to read the entire book.  If Full Bleed doesn't count as a magazine, then it must count as a book, and therefore I'd be, should I read only parts of it, guilty of violating the Full Anthology Consumption Directive of 2014 or whateverthefuck.

I'm an asshole, but I'm not a monster, and so when my copy of Full Bleed came in, I placed it on my to-read-soon shelf, and waited for its time to come around.

Turns out, it's a fine periodical, or book, or magazine, or quarterly, or anthology, or WHATEVER you want to label it.  The contents are mostly excellent.

Here's the thing.  I'm a man of varied theoretical/potential interests.  In practical-application terms, I'm a know-nothing who basically restricts himself to reading Stephen King and watching Star Trek episodes from a gajillion years ago.  I don't feel bad about that, except when I do feel bad about it, which is rarely but basically anytime I'm forcefully reminded of how many other things there are in the world to be interested in.  At those times, I feel REALLY bad about it.  So Full Bleed is kind of a good-news/bad-news type situation in that it's got terrific content but also bums me out with The Road Not Taken blues.

Because reading this, I'm reminded that with just a few nudges in one direction or another, I could have been just as passionate about alternative comics, or punk rock, or international travel, etc., as I am about Stephen King.  Some other version of me got interested in the history of newspaper comic strips and that was all she wrote, that was what I obsessed over from that point forward.  That version of me might have read this issue of Full Bleed and thought, you know, Stephen King sounds pretty fucking cool; I bet some other version of me could have been a huge fan of that guy.

THAT'S what this issue of Full Bleed was like.

Here's a look at the contents (and beware spoilers for The Sopranos, weirdly enough):

  • "Teenage Boy" by Erin Nations:  an autobiographical mini-comic about a transgender man that made me feel like I kind of understood what that might be like; and there's a Stand By Me cameo, so we'll count that as King-relevant for blogging purposes
  • "Trading with the Enemy" by Ted Adams:  Adams is the CEO of IDW Media, and this is a nonfiction piece he wrote about attending the Havana International Book Fair.  It was an eye-opening trip full of both positives and negatives.
  • "Bird" by Joe R. Lansdale:  A short story by Lansdale about two boys who try to nurse a bird with a broken wing back to health.  Funny and sad, emphasis on both.  As I say every time I read anything by Lansdale, I've really got to read more of this guy's work.
  • "San Diego and/or Bust!" by Gideon Kendall:  Another autobiographical mini-comic, this one about a couple of guys who are hired to drive a trailer full of comics from New Jersey to San Diego for Comic Con.  It's interesting how the graphic medium can make mundane things seem hyper-real and dripping with heroism and/or villainy.  Not my favorite piece in the book, but it rang true to life and the art is good.
  • "Rubble & Blood" by Whitney Phaneuf:  An interview with Carla Bozulich, a punk-rock icon who I'd never heard of.  But lookit, her name is on the cover, right underneath Stephen King and Alan Moore, so she must be a big deal.  And this interview instantly made me want to know everything there is to know about her.  Will I follow through on that desire?  Nope, sure won't.  Well, probably not.  I doubt it; there's just no time for new interests in this dojo.  But the interview makes me WANT to, and any interview that can accomplish that cold must be a pretty good interview.  Give Phaneuf some credit for that; she's clearly super thrilled to be interviewing Bozulich, but not too intimidated to get good stuff.
  • "Following the Thread" by Josh Bayer:  Subtitled "A Roundtable Discussion on Traditionalism and Alternative Comics," that's possibly a mislabeling.  I don't really know; this just sounds like a guy talking to a few artists about comics they were influenced by.  And that's fine!  This was a fun read, and I was intrigued by some descriptions of the work of Bill Mauldin, of whom I had never heard, but who was apparently a big deal back in the day.
  • "A Shot in the Dark" by Jarrett Melendez:  This nonfiction piece is partially a love letter to Japan in general, but is mostly a description of a specific visit to a specific bar, where a wonderful time was had by all.  See, dammit, some other version of me loves Japan and goes there frequently and is very jealous of this writer's experience!  This version of me is kind of jealous, too.
  • "The Dugout" by Jen Vaughn:  Another autobiographical mini-comic, this one about a young girl breaking a finger while playing softball.  Good art, and surprisingly grody at times.
  • "Redrawing Conclusions" by Abdulkareem Baba Aminu:  Subtitled "When American Comic Books Get Nigeria Wrong," this is the sort of piece that is apt to rile up 'muricans.  You know the ones I mean.  Anyways, I thought this was fascinating.  I'll be honest: I know nothing about Nigeria.  I know nothing about any other African nation, either; it ain't just that one.  And yes, I'm aware this is a failing on my part; it's a huge continent, bustling with varied peoples and varied nations and varied peoples with those varied nations, which is why it's not merely wrongheaded but ludicrous to think of "Africa" as a single land.  I know that.  But beyond knowing it, my knowledge is slender to the point of nonexistence, and so it fascinated me to know that while Nigerians get super stoked any time an American comic book mentions their nation, they also get super bummed any time the writers and artists are sloppy in their depictions.  Which makes perfect sense; why wouldn't they be?  Nigeria is a varied place, not (apparently) considerably less so than, say, New York.  I was glad to learn that, and I was also glad to learn that apparently Nigeria has a thriving comic-book fandom.  See?  I'd have missed out on that if I went straight to the King interview and then tossed the book aside mostly unread.
  • "The Lost Alan Moore Interview" by Gavin Edwards:  See below; I'll be covering this in a slightly more fulsome manner than most everything else in the issue.  All I'll say for now is, if I weren't already an Alan Moore fan, I betcha this interview would have shoved me forcefully in that direction.
  • "Tony Soprano Is Dead. Long Live The Sopranos" by Ryan J. Downey:  Basically a piece about the influence of The Sopranos on the television shows that followed it, along with an incorrect assertion that Tony dies at the end of the series, which he definitely does not, because the point of the final episode is that life goes on and the point of the series (arguably) is that a guy like Tony simply has to learn to live with the fear that he could be gunned down at any second, so why would the final episode subvert that message by actualizing his fear?  That's just not the point.  Anyways, The Sopranos is fucking awesome and I'm long overdue for a rewatch.
  • "Assorted Selections from the Histories of Herdotus & The Babylonian Revolt" by Mark Russell:  A relatably-written couple of history lessons.  Pretty great, actually.
  • "Great White" by Kim Dwinell:  A presumably-autobiographical comic about the author trying to decide whether the threat of great white sharks in the ocean is severe enough to put her off surfing at her favorite spot.  Not in a hypothetical sense; in a literal "there are more great whites here than ever" sense.  I wouldn't go in the ocean if you paid me to do so.  Well, wait ... how much are we talking?
  • "Tales from the Comic Crypt: Talking Comics with Stephen King" by Chris Ryall:  As with the Moore interview, I'll cover this in more depth below.  It's a good interview; not a stand-out, necessarily, but good.
  • "Nice and Scary" by Shawna Gore:  A reminiscence of artist Bernie Wrightson, who passed away last year as a result of having brain cancer.  The text is excellent (and is focused on how nice a guy Wrightson evidently was), but the art by Wrightson is exquisite.  There's a painting that is so good it literally made me gasp when I saw it.
  • "The Lost Boys of the U-Boat Bremen" by Phillip Kennedy Johnson with art by Steve Beach and lettering by Ken Bruzenak:  The first chapter of what I presume will be a serialized comic within the pages of Full Bleed, this is a story about dark doings on a Nazi U-boat.  Now, part of me wonders if maybe we could do without reading about sympathetic Nazis in the year 2018; I can't deny that I had that reaction.  But this goes in a kind of an Indiana Jones direction, which I'm all for, and the art is good.  So while I squinted at this skeptically, I ended up enjoying it reasonably well.
  • "The Park":  This is a two-page spread which directs you to the website jamesamenic.com, which, when I attempted to visit it, redirected me to ameniccommunications.com, which itself gave me a 404.  But I think it was a custom-designed 404, meaning that I think this is some sort of viral malarkey.  Pass.
  • "The Getaway" by Paul Tremblay:  A short story about a pawn-store robbery and the attempted getaway from the scene.  Pretty good.
  • "Me & 42" by Arvind Ethan David:  David tells the story of how he became associated with Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency (an IDW-produced television series based on the Douglas Adams novel).
  • a gallery of paintings by Heather Gwen Martin
  • "Wednesday Night Is ... Clam Night!" by Gideon Kendall:  A one-page recipe in comic format.  Seems delicious!

There are evidently firm (though unreleased) plans for a Vol. 2, and when that happens, I'll be onboard.  This was an enjoyable read more or less top to bottom.

Now, let's take a closer look at the interviews with Alan Moore and Stephen King, in that order.

The Moore interview was originally conducted in 2006, with the intent that it appear in Rolling Stone.  That ended up not happening (for reasons that are not mentioned here and are completely unknown to me and probably not as ominous as we'd all kind of prefer that they be), and so at long last, the interview has seen the light of day in Full Bleed.  WITH Moore's permission, one hopes; though, again, that is unclear.


art by Peter Bagge


At this point I feel I  need to make an admission: I wish I was Alan Moore.  Or maybe not literally Alan Moore, but somebody whose voice is identical to Alan Moore's, whose facility with the English language is as precise as Moore's, whose beard is as awesome as Moore's, whose grumpiness is as righteous as Moore's, whose cheerfulness is as honest as Moore's, and whose talent is at least a fifth as profound as Moore's.  None of these things are ever going to happen, and despite that, I'm never put into a despair of jealousy when I read an interview with the man; I'm instead oddly self-satisfied by the style of person whom I am unable to resemble.

If I were to quote the best bits of this interview, I'd basically end up transcribing the entire thirteen-page piece.  That seems like it'd be overkill, so I won't do that.  Instead, I'll transcribe a few bits that I simply can't bear not to transcribe:

  • On the subject of first encountering Glycon, the second-century Roman snake god Moore worships:  "It looked awesome -- it had a wonderful self-satisfied look of celestial smugness on its face.  You've got this creature that has a semi-humanoid head with these sleepy eyes, long blonde tresses, and this whip-thin body.  It's like a second-century Paris Hilton in many respects, but with a much sweeter disposition.  Christians saw these ancient civilizations as idolators because they appeared to worship statues.  What they were in fact doing was meditating upon images of the gods so that they could become more like them and take on their attributes.  I saw some things in Glycon that I recognized and responded to -- probably the smugness and the hair."
  • On the subject of artist Austin Spare:  "He had a stroke that paralyzed him down one side when he was caught in the Blitz.  He trained himself to draw using the other hand -- and then he got all the abilities back from the side of his body that had been paralyzed and could draw equally well with both hands.  And he lived in a stinking hovel surrounded by cats."
  • On the subject of visiting London in the sixties:  "I remember going to the London Zoo and finding that a bit unnerving -- I didn't like seeing animals in cages -- except when there was an elephant that evacuated its bowels all over one of its keepers spectacularly.  I shall never forget that."
  • Asked whether he was worried about the stigma of being a pornographer (this was around the time his pornographic book with artist Melinda Gebbie, Lost Girls, was published):  "One reporter, her opening question to us was, 'If even one pedophile were to molest a child because of this book, what would your reaction be?'  I said that my reaction would be one of incredible surprise, because as far as I understood, pedophiles and sex criminals are guided by their own psychopathologies rather than by pieces of literature they happen to have read."
  • On smoking a LOT of weed:  "I am in many ways an incredible drug puritan.  The first time I was ever in California, I was at some party at the San Diego convention.  I thought, 'This is a wonderful, sunny place.  It seems like it hardly ever rains.  Why does everybody have a cold?'  Just a trifle naive.  Then I went to one of the washrooms and I got it.  I thought, 'These are the city people that Ma and Pa told me about.' "
  • Asked if he has ever read James Joyce's novel Finnegan's Wake:  "Has anybody?  I'm in awe of Joyce, but the reason why it's the greatest book in the English language is because it's beyond criticism because nobody's ever read it.  I've read passages from it, but I don't know anybody who even claims to have finished it.  Some of the bits that I've read of Finnegan's Wake, it's like he's disrupting language and allowing prophetic visions to creep in.  There's one very strange bit where he's talking about atomic fission.  That's not unusual because he did keep up-to-date on scientific papers, even if this wouldn't have been heard of in the 1920s.  But he's talking about all this stuff with atomic power and then he starts talking about somewhere that would be called 'nogeysokey.'  And you think, 'Did he just say Nagasaki?' "
  • On the subject of the first chapter of Voice of the Fire, which is written in a sort of pre-verbal form of communication:  "People have asked me why, in the first chapter of my first novel, I decided to write it in some form of sub-English that readers would certainly find off-putting.  The best answer is that I wrote it that way to keep out the scum."

Bless your heart, Alan Moore.

Next up:


art by Sebastian Gomez


I feel bad for saying this, but compared to the Alan Moore interview, this one with King comes off like pure fluff.

But if you've ever heard Alan Moore speak, you know that he tends to speak in what seems to be perfectly-formed prose more often than not.  So it's a high bar to clear, giving a better interview than he does.
  
This one with King definitely does not clear that bar, but let's not hold that against anybody except Alan Moore, for being so awesome, the sumbitch.
  
King's interview is essentially a survey of his admittedly-limited career in the comic-book industry.  It covers more or less the same territory as Drawn Into Darkness, the Kevin Quigley chapbook we discussed earlier.
  
There is some interesting stuff, including:
  
  • King's divulging of the first comic book he ever read;
  • a good anecdote about King's mother's stance toward comics;
  • King's not being able to recollect for sure whether or not he personally worked on the Bizarre Adventures adaptation of "The Lawnmower Man";
  • the revelation that the son of Jack Kamen (who drew the cover for the Creepshow comic book), Dean Kamen, invented the Segway;
  • King's assertion that he "never wrote a goddamn word" of the Creepshow comic (which does not seem to jibe with statements Berni Wrightson, the adaptor, made); 
  • some kind words for Scott Snyder, creator of American Vampire;
  • some kind words for the Marvel adaptation of The Stand;
  • to thought-balloon or not to thought-balloon;
  • and the mention of an idea King has for a comic-book series called Afterlife.  It is unclear whether this is related to the short story "Afterlife," and King gives no details.

So all in all, a pretty good interview, but not one that will redefine your notions about anything, except maybe King's possible non-involvement in the Creepshow and "Lawnmower Man" comics.  (By the way, the artist's portfolio for The Lawnmower Man includes handwritten notes and suggestions from King to artist Walt Simonson, so King 100% DID work on it.  According to Simonson, King wrote the script personally, and the evidence backs Simonson in this case.  King's coke days strike again!)

Date of completion:  February 25, 2018
Grade: B+


Quarry's Climax by Max Allan Collins



 

I don't have much to say about this novel, except to point you in the direction of the review of it Dog Star Omnibus did last year.  It's covered there in better detail than I'd be prepared to do here.

However, I do have a few things to add:

  • I loved it and now want to read every other novel in the series.  I am unlikely to actually do so, but I wouldn't rule it out, because frankly, it is liable to bother me if I don't.  So we'll see.
  • The novel's hero -- Jack Quarry* (*not real name) -- is a professional assassin and amateur cocksman who is really picky about the syrup-to-water mix on his favorite soda, Coca-Cola.  I got no desire to kill people, but otherwise this guy is basically who I wish I could have been when I grow up, and anyways, some people do need killing, I can't deny it.  Ha ha, seriously, though, most fountain Cokes are terrible; you got to treasure the good ones.
  • The cover art above is by Robert McGinnis, whose work was previously covered by yrs trly here.  I've liked a lot of what I've seen from McGinnis in the past, and if I take my glasses off I like the cover to Quarry's Climax just fine.  Mavis never holds a gun in the novel, as far as I remember, but that's fine.  What I object to is that as presented here, that's less a hot semi-nude woman than it is (seemingly) a tall white who is posing as what it believes to be a hot woman, presumably for the purposes of inveigling this corner of humanity for its own nefarious purposes.  It's kind of a convincing disguise, except the left foot seems to have not been fully finished, and there's just nothing to be done about the neck.  Why they'd bother coming all the way from the Pleiades for this I do not know, but anyways, that's a great ass.
  • Max Allan Collins is a name I've been familiar with for something like thirty years now.  Until now, I'd only read a few things he wrote.  Shamefully enough, the first was the novelization to the movie Dick Tracy; the second was an anthology of Dick Tracy short stories he edited.  I think I might have even read one of his Dick Tracy novels, but I would not swear to that.  I know writers of tie-in books like this are sometimes sensitive about people only knowing them from those works, but I've always figured that they need not be; after all, there was something about those books that stuck for me, and sufficiently that decades later I still know their names.  That ain't nothing; and it wasn't the case for every writer of tie-in books that I read.  This leads me to conclude that Collins must have done an above-average job with those books.
  • Oh, and I did also read his graphic novel Road to Perdition years later.

Date of completion:  February 28
Grade:  B+

*****

And that's it for the first of these keeping-track-of-my-reading posts for the year.  The tally: nine full books, plus six others of chapbook/novella length.  Not a bad scorecard, that; I believe that's probably about twice as many books as I read in all of 2017.

I doubt the second post in this series will be marked by quite as much activity, though.  Or at least, it will take more than two months to get to the same level.  Reason for that is simply that I'm about to enter into a period of time with the King-scripted film Sleepwalkers.  Oh happy day.  I know, I know, I've mentioned this project several times recently; well, this time, it's on.  I'm watching the movie as soon as I hit publish on this post.

Just as a peek behind the curtains, here's what the process of writing about that movie is going to be like:

  • first, I'mma watch the damn movie, just for "pleasure";
  • then, I'mma watch the damn movie again for the purposes of taking notes;
  • THEN, I'mma watch the damn movie again again, for the purposes of collecting screen captures.  This part usually takes a few days, since once the screencaps are harvested (a time-consuming process in and of itself) I have to then crop them so as to give them as uniform a look as I can manage.
  • THEN I will write the post; or, as the case could well end up being, posts.  We'll see.
  • I might even read and review the screenplay, which a fellow collector sent me a while back.  I'm undecided about this; since the screenplay has never been published, I'm not sure it'd be kosher to write about it here.  Either way, I will definitely be reading it.

Bare minimum, this will all take a week.  Happily, I've got a week of PTO beginning this Friday, so I believe it ought to be doable.  I'd also like to be able to squeeze in a reading and review of the literally-just-released Robert McCammon novel The Listener during that week, but on that score, we shall see.

Either way, that's the next actual book I'm reading.  Speaking of which, I got to meet McCammon earlier today -- yesterday, technically -- at a book launch event for The Listener.  I did a little write-up about that, and toyed with the notion of appending it onto the end of this post.  Seems more logical to append it to the beginning of the review of The Listener, however, so that's the actual plan.

I mention all of that because I am an egotistical fuck who can't bear not to so as to properly contextualize this: after The Listener, I am going to dip over to my other blogs for a bit and write at least one post for each.  Might end up being two for each; I'm feeling a distinct lack of James Bond and Star Trek in my blogging life.  So during that process, won't be much reading getting done.

Still, I think that's okay.  I'm doing pretty well as a reader so far this year, and I have to say, that pleases me.  This is how it ought to be; a little Bond-and-Trek blogging time will be only a pause in that rejuvenated push, not a digression from it.

And when that push resumes post-break, it will be with a King-novel deep-dive: Gerald's Game to be specific.  I might even do a back-to-back with that and the one that follows, Dolores Claiborne.  In fact, that's EXACTLY what I will be doing.  Ought to be plenty of time to get that done before The Outsider lands in late May.

Things to look forward to!

See you then.

16 comments:

  1. Duuuude, I totally remember the audio of Gunslinger came out before the book! I had forgotten that until I just read this! Oh man I remember standing in the book store mulling if should spend the money for it. Man that was agony hahaha!
    I wish there were more physical McCammon audio books. I liked The Border it was very sci-fi-y and weird. A little depressing though. Your review was spot btw.
    Did you see Annhilation yet? I thought it was a classic, that director is no joke! I thought it was way better than the book which rarely ever happens.
    -mikeC

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    1. Oh, cool! Verification that the audio came first -- nice! Do you happen to remember if they followed the same pattern with "The Drawing of the Three"?

      I assume you ended up buying "The Gunslinger"...? I had the same agony, as I recall, but it was affordable enough that I eventually was able to save up for one. I couldn't afford the "Needful Things" and "Nightmares & Dreamscapes" sets, though, so I didn't get those until years later, off eBay or whatever.

      I know several McCammon audiobooks came out yesterday, including "The Listener" and "Mystery Walk." Not sure any of them got physical releases, though. It's too bad, but I guess it's just not viable for non-bestselling authors to have stuff like that.

      Regarding "Annihilation," no, I have not seen it. I'd like to, but probably won't due to time constraints. Heck, I haven't even seen "Ex Machina" yet! Shameful.

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  2. Haha no, I think I had maybe listened to one audiobook, Thinner, at that point and I couldn't understand why anyone would listen to a book instead of read it.
    I just sat in my room and stared out the window while it played, I was like "Do people really do this?" Of course I could ride my bike to work then.
    Now I listen to about 20 a year and read maybe 5. Such is life.

    Have you talked to Hunter that runs the MCCammon site? He's a cool dude, lots of great McCammon info. I'm not big on digital audiobooks unless they are super cheap but I did listen to Boy's Life and Gone South off itunes this year bc it was the only way to listen to them and I had never read Gone South, which was ok. I was happy Boy's life is the classic I remember it being.

    -mikeC

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    1. I actually had an opportunity to chat with Hunter in person last night, but missed out on doing so on account of there being other people doing the same thing. I was at McCammon signing, which was a lot of fun.

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  3. (1) That's cool you got to meet McCammon - looking forward to the Listener post, along with the others you mention.

    (2) I should really try again with Anne Rice. One of these days, I'd like to revisit every author I ever once wrote off as not for me, just to see if 40something-me has a different opinion. Not just Rice but Sidney Sheldon, Frederick Forsythe, Dean Koontz, the list is long. (All very different writers obviously, not grouping them together except under the 'authors I should revisit' umbrella.)

    (3) Regarding the tall white alien agent on the cover of QUARRY'S CLIMAX, you're absolutely right about that left foot, but the neck looks fine to me. She's one of those long-necked, long-limbed types. Or, I should say, she is impersonating one.

    (4) Those Moore interview excerpts are wonderful. You're right, too - Moore seems to think/ speak with the same elegant prose and sentence structure he brings to his writing; it certainly makes for fascinating reading/ listening.

    Good start for 2018! Myself, I've read THE FOREVER WAR and I reread LUNAR PARK and maybe something else? I can't recall. Slow start for me.

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    1. I read "Lunar Park" when it came out. I don't remember a thing about it, except that I liked it.

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  4. "because the point of the final episode is that life goes on and the point of the series (arguably) is that a guy like Tony simply has to learn to live with the fear that he could be gunned down at any second, so why would the final episode subvert that message by actualizing his fear?"

    I don't really agree with that being the point of the series, therefore I think one could believe Tony probably does die without the show undercutting itself thematically. I don't think there is a definitive interpretation, but the show does drop some heavy hints in the preceding episodes. I'm referring specifically to Tony's conversation with Bobby on the boat re:death, and Sil's experience witnessing a killing before he even hears the gunshot.

    I think it's fair to interpret the last shot as the end of the central charter's consciousness, especially considering the number of Tony POV shots in that particular scene.

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    1. Sure, it can be interpreted that way; Chase deliberately structured the episode so as to permit for either interpretation. For me, though, the series is about mundanity of life persisting even when the rest of life is cranked up to 11.

      Also, the lyrics of the Journey song specifically state that "it goes on and on and on and on," and I don't think the song works if Tony dies.

      It's a moot argument, of course; both of us are correct.

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  5. Always love hearing your thoughts on books. I definitely want to give Koko a read. I actually just put up my review on Strange Weather, and I'd love for you to look at it if you have the time.

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    1. I read it, and mostly I think we're on the same page with it; I like it a bit more than you did, though. I've got the same criticism of the end of "Rain" (way too tidy), although my mind was changed about that somewhat when I listened to the episode of the Stephen King Cast devoted to that book:

      https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/stephen-kingcast/e/52876856?autoplay=true

      He also made me appreciate "Snapshot" WAY more than I had before.

      Might be worth a listen for you!

      I left a comment on your blog, by the way, but then somehow it got lost when I hit publish. That's been known to happen with Blogger, dadgummit.

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  6. Man, I love some of those McCammon covers! Especially Last Train to Perdition and He'll Come Knocking at Your Door! I miss covers like these.

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    1. "He'll Come Knocking at Your Door" is a great story, and this edition has art that totally justifies making it its own thing. It's basically the same dimensions and layout as Cemetery Dance's edition of King's "The Dark Man," but -- for my money -- about ten times better.

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  7. I need to get more McCammon and read his stuff.

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    1. I'm only halfway through his newest, "The Listener," but so far I'd say that you could do a lot worse than begin there.

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  8. Mr. Burnette:
    Have you ever read any Spider Robinson?
    I know I've mentioned this to you before, but I think you would enjoy Andrew Pyper. See if you can wrangle up a copy of The Guardians or The Demonologist.
    What are your thoughts on Moorcock? Elric specifically.
    Ray B.

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    1. I've never read anything by either Spider Robinson or Michael Moorcock, sad to say.

      Too many books, too little time!

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