Graven Images

gravenimagesJane Waterhouse takes us inside the little-explored world of a true-crime author in GRAVEN IMAGES, the debut title of her Garner Quinn series, now reissued in trade paperback. It’s a complex story of murder that impressively combines suspense with probing commentary on the nature of truth and its retelling after the fact.

Bestselling true-crime author Garner Quinn is attending the South Carolina trail of a murder suspect, the subject of her latest book, as the novel opens. But as the trial continues the media is dominated with reports of another crime. Popular and enigmatic artist Dane Blackmoor is accused of dismembering women and hiding their body parts in his lifelike sculptures. Everyone around her is certain Garner will make the Blackmoor story her next book. But Garner hesitates due her complicated past with Blackmoor.

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Warlock Holmes: A Study in Brimstone

warlockholmesAmerican author Gabriel Denning signs his name “G. S. Denning” to assume a more British persona in WARLOCK HOLMES: A STUDY IN BRIMSTONE, his comedy/horror version of Arthur Conan Doyle’s immortal detective. The concept is limited. So, not surprisingly, most of the humor in this debut work is forced and overplayed. Holmes purists, beware.
 
Like the Conan Doyle originals, Denning’s book is a series of short stories. In the title story Dr. John Watson meets and soon shares lodgings at Baker Street with Warlock Holmes. It isn’t long before Watson discovers his new friend’s unique ability. Holmes has an impressive – although often irritating – knowledge of demons. In fact, as Watson eventually learns, Holmes is possessed by the spirit of Professor James Moriarty, a master demonic criminal.

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EURO COMICS ROUNDUP >> Incal-culably Good

beforeincalIf you love comics, THE INCAL by Alejandro Jodorowsky and Jean “Moebius” Giraud, is an absolutely essential work. Its complex but highly entertaining creativity remains unparalleled in comics form, written by a madman in full control of all his faculties and illustrated by a visionary channeling his subconscious through his pen into sequential art. 

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The Audacious Crimes of Colonel Blood: The Spy Who Stole the Crown Jewels and Became the King’s Secret Agent

audaciouscrimesRobert Hutchinson has made a delightful career out of writing closely-grained stylishly written histories of various figures, both famous (YOUNG HENRY: THE RISE OF HENRY VIII) and others that may only be known to students of the era, such as the book under review, THE AUDACIOUS CRIMES OF COLONEL BLOOD. With Col. Thomas Blood, Hutchinson has a real corker of a character to describe.

In the late 1660s, Thomas Blood joined forces with a small group of other disaffected men and decided to overthrow the government and the King. They were largely ineffective, sometimes hilariously so, and Hutchinson relishes telling us the details of their failures. But they were still dangerous men. At one point, they nearly killed the Duke of Ormond, an act which brought Parliament and a hefty reward down on their heads.

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11/22/63

112263I haven’t been a fan of Stephen King’s novels for a long, long time.
 
Don’t get me wrong: His early books – SALEM’S LOT, THE DEAD ZONE, THE STAND, THE SHINING – are masterpieces. I would rank SALEM’S LOT as one of the top 5 vampire novels of all time. CUJO was a misstep (really, a whole novel about a rabid dog?), but Pet Sematary was good. Flawed, but good.
 
The early 1980s is when King’s work started to decline. Books with a thin premise more suited to a short story (CUJO, CHRISTINE, GERALD’S GAME) became full length novels. And the books that had an epic concept to carry a novel (e.g. IT) went on far too long. King’s novels became bloated and self-indulgent (TOMMYKNOCKERS, INSOMMNIA). What happened was, King became so successful that no editor would dare tell him to cut his work down.

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Murder on the Quai

murderquaiCara Black has written 15 previous novels featuring her Parisian female private detective Aimée Leduc, but her latest, MURDER ON THE QUAI, is a prequel to the entire series. It shows just how Aimée became a PI, giving up her medical studies, and following in her father’s footsteps. For those who love the series, this will be an especially refreshing entry, and for casual readers, you can treat it as a first step before you take on the rest of Leduc’s adventures.

In this tale, Aimée stumbles on her father talking to an apparently long-lost second cousin. This cousin wants pére Leduc to look into the execution-style murder of a local businessman. Aimée is intrigued, because the woman hints she may have know Aimée’s mother, who disappeared from father and daughter’s life long ago.

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Murder at the 42nd Street Library

murder42libraryLibraries have long been a favorite setting for murder mysteries. Michael Cart’s 2003 anthology IN THE STACKS includes Anthony Boucher’s short story “QL 696.C9” as one of countless examples of stories where murder occurs amidst the otherwise civilized and quiet housing of books and other reference materials.

Now Con Lehane, author of the popular mystery series featuring New York bartender Brian McNulty, continues this tradition with MURDER AT THE 42ND STREET LIBRARY, the first title of a new series introducing Raymond Ambler, librarian and amateur sleuth. And if this classically titled debut is any indication, it is a series that lovers of crime fictions will want to follow.

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May Showers You with 3 New Movie Books

marvelcomicsintofilmYou kids have no idea how good you have it! Avengers fighting Avengers in an all-out superhero melee in Captain America: Civil War? The comics-obsessed, grade-schooler me would’ve cut a bitch to see that! Alas, ’twas the ’70s, when we had to make do with Reb Brown on a star-spangled motorcyclemade for TV, no less! And yet, memories of those “golden years” are what makes McFarland & Company’s Marvel Comics into Film: Essays on Adaptations Since the 1940s such a blast to read. Edited by Matthew J. McEniry, Robert Moses Peaslee and Robert G. Weiner, the collection could just focus on the current Marvel Studios product and have plenty to write about, but luckily casts its net wider, to a point that may put off this generation’s fanboys weaned purely on the Phase One / Phase Two marketing initiatives alone — their loss! Being that kid who had to dream of a world of superhero movies, the standout pieces for me were those by Arnold T. Blumberg, David Ray Carter and Jef Burnham on, respectively, “the First Marvel Television Universe,” the aforementioned early Cap movies (including Cannon’s ill-fated 1990 version) and the “Small Screen Avengers.” That’s not to say other chapters didn’t tickle my four-color fancy, either, whether digging into the Conan the Barbarian franchise, Ghost Rider’s connection to Goethe’s Faust, Japan’s live-action Spider-Man series, George Lucas’ infamously character-misjudging Howard the Duck feature or David Hasselhoff’s turn as Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. Look, any textbook that unironically compares the Punisher performances of Dolph Lundgren, Thomas Jane and Ray Stevenson clearly is one kick-ass textbook. ’Nuff said.

deathbyumbrellaMachetes, finger blades, butcher knives? So passé. Menorahs, breasts and bongs are really where it’s at. And by “it,” I mean the means used to kill guys and gals in terror-tinged cinema. Co-authors Christopher Lombardo and Jeff Kirschner are like an overly morbid Casey Kasem, counting ’em down in Death by Umbrella! The 100 Weirdest Horror Movie Weapons, released by BearManor Media in the indie publisher’s usual dual hardcover and paperback editions. Separated by category (kitchen utensils, sports equipment, etc.), each tool of execution earns its own description of the gory details, but in setting up each kill, the co-authors actually are providing a full-fledged review of the movie in question, thus making the book more than a mere list. Lovingly written with verve for the viscera, Death by Umbrella is fun and funny as it covers scenes both iconic (Happy Birthday to Me’s shish kebab, which doubled as its poster art) and arcane (Discopath’s slabs of vinyl). Only a few times do the guys pull from outside the genre (Paul Thomas Anderson’s Oscar-anointed There Will Be Blood being the most egregious non-slasher), but we’ll forgive. After all, they can sate your curiosity surrounding DTV trash like Super Hybrid in order to save you from sitting through it.

encycweirdwestPaul Green’s Encyclopedia of Weird Westerns: Supernatural and Science Fiction Elements in Novels, Pulps, Comics, Films, Television and Games — Second Edition obviously aims for a niche-of-a-niche readership, and luckily for it, this reviewer happily counts himself among that group and, therefore, welcomes such a project that others may dismiss as “why bother?” waste. First published in 2009, this McFarland trade paperback moseys into your TBR pile with 47 additional pages so now we can read about more recent items, like the Jonah Hex movie. Green is not a critic — at least not within the confines of this book, which is a true encyclopedia as the title claims. Arranged from A to Z, entries are strictly factual in nature, ranging from one sentence to half a page. Success of these highly specialized reference texts is measured twofold: 1) that it includes every test you throw its way (the indie Western Tales of Terror comic book is here, as is NBC’s 1979 anthology show Cliffhangers), and 2) that it introduces you to obscurities so esoteric, they sound invented (Action Comics #311, the issue concerning “The Day Super-Horse Became Human”). Richly illustrated, most pleasingly with comic-book panels and pages, Weird Westerns errs only in the occasional questionable inclusion: Avatar, Mr. Green? —Rod Lott

Get them at Amazon.

The Preacher

preacherJournalist and biographer Ted Thackrey, Jr.’s fictional debut of the late 1980s introduced the enigmatic character known only as The Preacher (not to be confused with the long-running comic book character of the same name created by Garth Ennis). Now Thackrey’s novel THE PREACHER is back in print in a handsome trade edition.
 
The former priest who lost an eye while serving in the Special Forces in Vietnam now makes his living as a professional gambler, known at high-stakes poker games across the country as The Preacher. Then his annual tour of poker is interrupted when a friend and former seminary schoolmate summons him to the small dusty town of Farewell, New Mexico.

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EURO COMICS ROUNDUP >> Second Coming

5000kmManuele Fior’s 5,000 KM PER SECOND is a literary work of sequential art. It’s a thoughtfully composed, decades-spanning not-quite love story of its main protagonists, Lucy, Piero and his friend Nicola. Set in Italy and Norway and Rome, this is — despite the title — a quiet and subtle, but emotionally complex graphic novel about a relationship. The title underlines the difficulty of lining up your life with another, and how time and distance can cause it all to slip through your fingers if you don’t grab a firm hold when you can.

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