The Transmigration of Bodies

transmigrationMexican-born author Yuri Herrera’s latest novel, THE TRANSMIGRATION OF BODIES, is just over 100 pages, yet amazingly accomplishes things expected of works twice its length. It creates an allegorical world populated with convincing characters, and relates its simple yet memorable plot in a relentless noir style (aided by Lisa Dillman’s insightful translation).

An unnamed Mexican city is suffering from a plague that has killed many of its resident’s. Those who survived stay indoors as much as possible, or wear medical facemasks if they dare venture outside.

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Monstrous Nature: Environment and Horror on the Big Screen

monstrousnatureIt took one childhood viewing of William Shatner taking on a small town’s Kingdom of the Spiders to make me an instant, lifelong fan of the horror subgenre of animal-attack films. Widening the scope to nature overall fighting back against an unappreciative and oblivious populace, Robin L. Murray and Joseph K. Heumann explore how these movies reflect how our culture grapples with our uneasy co-existence with flora and fauna, in their new essay collection from University of Nebraska Press, Monstrous Nature: Environment and Horror on the Big Screen. While I was primed for a highbrow take on a lowbrow topic, I was ill-prepared for how much fun it can be.

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EURO COMICS ROUNDUP >> Slate for Consumption

themetabaron1Continuing a long-running story in Alejandro Jodorowsky’s INCAL universe, THE METABARON — brand-new from Humanoids — is the first such volume with only a story credit to Jodo, while scripting duties have been given to Eisner nominee Jerry Frissen. Frissen, whose ZOMBIES THAT ATE THE WORLD gets a full recommendation from Euro Comics Roundup, is at his best a witty and clever writer, whose nomination to this job seemed at the very least an intriguing pick.

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Crime Plus Music

crimemusicAnyone familiar with Jim Fusilli’s work won’t be surprised to see him at the helm of CRIME PLUS MUSIC, an anthology of stories combining the world of rock and pop music with that of noir and crime fiction. Fusilli is the rock/pop music critic for The Wall Street Journal, as well as the author of eight crime and mystery novels.

So Fusilli asked several renowned crime fiction authors, along with a few new authors, to try their hand at incorporating music with their noir-tinged fiction. The results, not surprisingly, are as varied and unique as the authors themselves.

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The Fall of the House of Cabal

fallhousecabalFor fans of Jonathan L. Howard’s JOHANNES CABAL books, I’m sure you know what to expect, and you’ve already purchased the latest installment.

As for the rest of you, here’s a litmus test, of sorts. The acknowledgments page at the end of Jonathan L. Howard’s THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF CABAL states:

I acknowledge nothing, but the burnished shine of my own golden genius

If that line didn’t make you smile, then probably this series is not for you. But perhaps that’s not enough to judge. Try this section from the beginning of the book:

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The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2016

bestsff2016THE BEST AMERICAN SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY 2016 is the second annual collection of its kind, distinguished not only by its series editor, but also by a different guest editor (following the tradition set by several previous collections in other genres).

The guest editor for this latest collection is Karen Joy Fowler, an author popular both within science fiction/fantasy as well as mainstream works, such as THE JANE AUSTEN BOOK CLUB and WE ARE ALL COMPLETELY BESIDE OURSELVES. As might be expected, the resulting stories she selects for inclusion are as varied and exciting as their authors.

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The Big Book of Jack the Ripper

bigbookjackripperIt’s fitting that for his latest Vintage Crime BIG BOOK anthology, editor extraordinaire Otto Penzler has followed up 2015’s THE BIG BOOK OF SHERLOCK HOLMES STORIES with THE BIG BOOK OF JACK THE RIPPER. After all, despite one of them not being real, the two icons have met many times before, both in a theater (notably James Hill’s A STUDY IN TERROR and Bob Clark’s MURDER BY DECREE) and a library near you (Edward B. Hanna’s THE WHITECHAPEL HORRORS and David Stuart Davies’ THE RIPPER LEGACY, to name just two).

But at 865 pages, this back-buster belongs to the sultan of stabbings, as Penzler aims to make good on the book’s subtitular promise to be “The Most Complete Compendium of Ripper Stories Ever Assembled.” No shock here: He succeeds.

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The Best American Comics 2016

bestamericancomics2016For me, fall has not truly arrived until the annual edition of THE BEST AMERICAN COMICS arrives at my door. For everyone else, it takes pumpkin spice.

Perhaps I can convert more of you to my side? The 11th volume, THE BEST AMERICAN COMICS 2016, marks the 10th anniversary of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s series. While I doubt series editor Bill Kartalopoulos and guest editor Roz Chast had that in mind in selecting this year’s contents, as if that were the sole impetus for making this collection Something Special; as Kartalopoulos has demonstrated since taking over the reins with the 2014 book, setting the high bar is merely a going-in given.

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Quarry in the Black

quarryblackMax Allan Collins continues to chronicle the career of Quarry, the assassin-for-hire star of Collins’s long-running series (and recently a TV series on Cinemax). The latest title, Hard Case Crime’s QUARRY IN THE BLACK, focuses on the early stage of Quarry’s hit man vocation in the early 1970s. But thanks to the overriding theme Collins make it as applicable as this morning’s headlines.

The year is 1972, and Quarry gets a visit from his boss, known only as The Broker, at his A-frame house on Paradise Lake. Quarry has only been working for The Broker for two years, so the Broker wants Quarry to know that he is free to turn down this latest assignment, due to its unusual and highly political nature.

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Hold a Scorpion

holdascorpionMelodie Johnson Howe’s HOLD A SCORPION is the second book in her series featuring Hollywood actress Diana Poole (the first was CITY OF MIRRORS; there is also a collection of short stories titled SHOOTING HOLLYWOOD). Howe’s protagonist, Poole, is mostly believable, likable, has a strong personality with realistic deductive powers, and can certainly hold her own with greasy talent agents and narcissistic fellow actors. The pacing of the book and its brevity are also refreshing after so many 300+ page mysteries.

We start out with a bang, or maybe more with a sickening thud. Diana is standing outside her front door, adjacent to the Pacific Coast Highway, when she sees a woman on the other side waving to her. The woman sees a large black car pull up along the berm and then, deliberately, she walks into traffic and is instantly run over and killed. When Diana investigates the actual scene of the “accident”(?), she discovers a bejeweled scorpion, the very same scorpion that Diana’s mother had on her bedside table right up to the day she died.

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