The Last Quarry

the last quarry reviewReturning to his popular hitman character, Max Allan Collins provides the sixth and perhaps final Quarry adventure in THE LAST QUARRY. And with this being Hard Case Crime’s zippiest and most effortless read yet (and sporting the sexiest cover, no less), I now I have another whole series to investigate, dammit.

Don’t take “effortless” to mean “worthless,” because the thin novel is rippling with brutal violence and surprising sexuality. Essentially retired from the hired-hit game, Quarry lives quiet at an isolated Minnesota resort lodge, which he takes care of for the owners during off-season. Trouble comes back to his idyllic life when, during a late-night trip to a convenience store, Quarry sees a former client buying snacks and Tampax. Because this acquaintance is gay, Quarry wonders what use he could have for feminine hygiene products, and tails him to a cabin, where he finds his answer in the form of a kidnapped woman being held for ransom.

Quarry saves the day, but demands the ransom anyway for the hell of it. The girl’s father is a Ted Turner-esque media magnate named Jonah Green, who soon offers Quarry a job: eliminating Janet Wright, a hot young librarian with an abusive boyfriend. Because a quarter of a million dollars beats a 401K any day, he takes it. Thus begins an episode of surveillance, revenge, passion, double-crossings and more revenge. A lot is packed into under 200 pages, and I savored every turn.

With thought-out plotting and biting wit (one woman wears jeans so tight “she wouldn’t have to remove when she next went to the gynecologist”), Collins makes it look all so simple. But that’s part of the gambit, and we surrender to his machinations through each well-timed twist. With verve and economy, Collins writes like many of his old-school idols, and when his work is as strong as this, deserves to stand alongside them. He’s an underrated author who pumps out some real gems; with THE LAST QUARRY, it’s damn time you took notice. –Rod Lott

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bonus xxx-cerpt“Her confusion didn’t leave, but she began to smile, wide, a kid Christmas morning, seeing her gifts. Her gift to me was dropping the blankets and sheets to her waist. The cute cupcake breasts had pierced nipples with rings, like beer cans waiting to be opened. … She was a beautiful piece of ass, no question, and even with those rings in them, the titties were as cute as puppy dogs.”

OTHER BOOKGASM REVIEWS OF THESE AUTHORS:
THE WAR OF THE WORLDS MURDER by Max Allan Collins

Anonymous Lawyer

anonymous lawyer reviewLike most folks, I hate lawyers. F. Lee Bailey? Scum! Johnnie Cochran? Glad he’s gone. When Enron defense attorney Michael Ramsey was hospitalized earlier this year for a blockage of his carotid artery, I was rooting for the blockage. I’m a fan of prosecutors who lock up bad guys, but the rest of ‘em can go to hell. The cover of ANONYMOUS LAWYER appropriately shows an attorney with devil horns mounted atop his head.

Jeremy Blachman has created another despicable attorney for me to hate. The anonymous lawyer of his novel is a pompous and bigoted hiring partner in a corporate law firm. He is all about making money, exerting his power and advancing his career. Nothing else.

Anonymous admits his deficiencies by saying, “There are a lot of things I’m terrible at, like being a human being.” Among the people on his shit list are fat people, “service providers” and his wife and kids. He especially despises anyone in his firm who hasn’t yet made partner, as he views them as second-class citizens. The only person he seems to have an affinity for is his niece, and that’s only because she’s attending Yale’s law school. He also disdains chain restaurants in favor of more exotic cuisine. In describing Applebee’s, he states, “I ate there once. There is no part of a pig called a riblet.”

With no real friends or confidants, Anonymous finds an outlet for venting his pent-up feelings by setting up an online blog, on which he writes about his job and the internal workings of the firm. In fact, the entire book is written as a series of blog entries and e-mails. While it was a clever idea for Blachman to present the narrative in this fashion, it isn’t original; Lucy Kellaway’s WHO MOVED MY BLACKBERRY?, released this spring, is written as a series of emails.

Due to his bitching and moaning about the goings on of his firm and co-workers, revealing his true identity would most certainly jeopardize his career and his dream of one day being named chairman of the firm. He laments the fact that summer interns always seem to have high ideals of saving the world and doing virtuous pro bono work. “Give me a little time and I’ll squeeze that ‘helping people’ crap right out of you,” he tells them.

One of the most revealing posts discusses the fact that when a female attorney gets pregnant, her number of billable hours decreases, reducing the firm’s profitability. Therefore, the clinic in the basement that quells the pesky problem is viewed simply as a fiscal responsibility and seems to present no ethical issues for him or the firm. The blog entries are peppered with ultra-contemporary references to DEAL OR NO DEAL, FAMILY GUY and Sudoku puzzles, which were fun but I fear will be woefully outdated in six months.

In an attempt to keep his identity a secret, Anonymous takes creative license with certain details on his blog. He sometimes lies outright to show himself in a more favorable light to his readers, many of whom are law students referred to the blog by his niece. He refers to co-workers and colleagues not by name but by descriptive attributes. Among them are The Suck-Up, Harvard Guy, The Girl Who Dresses Like a Slut and The Word Processing Guy Who Used to Be Under House Arrest. Oh, and there’s The Jerk, Anonymous’ arch rival and chief competition for chairmanship.

The blog becomes increasingly popular and Anonymous becomes even more concerned that a co-worker might discover his true identity, and the inevitable happens when a couple of them do. The book’s thin plot suddenly thickens as Anonymous tries to avoid being outted as the blogster while at the same time politicking, plotting and scheming to be appointed to the newly vacated chairman position.

A testament to Blachman’s ability as a writer is the fact that even though I hated Anonymous and everything he stands for, in a weird kind of way I wanted him to succeed and have the happy ending. ANONYMOUS LAWYER has a crafty conclusion that made me smile. I’ll admit I didn’t “get” it right off the bat, but a quick e-mail to the author remedied this. (The fact that I didn’t immediately understand the ending should not be considered a reflection on Blachman, but instead is proof of my occasional dimwittedness.) The storyline was a bit slow in taking off, but once it did, I was drawn into it and stayed hooked until the end.

The book is supplemented with a very entertaining blog at www.anonymouslawyer.blogspot.com (on which the book is based) and the fictional firm’s very funny web site at www.anonymouslawfirm.com. –Ken Davis

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F. Paul Wilson’s The Keep

f paul wilson\'s the keep comic reviewThough I’ve never read the original novel or seen the subsequent film, the comics adaptation of F. PAUL WILSON’S THE KEEP makes me want to. Because if either captures half the atmosphere and sense of dread present in this five-issue miniseries, the experience would be well worth it.

Scripted by Wilson himself with art by Matthew Smith, THE KEEP is the story of a foreboding, castle-like fortress in the Transylvania mountains. During World War II, German soldiers run across it, mess with it and, as a result, die by it. Each night, a sinister force within the structure’s bricked walls summarily beheads one of the troops. Ironically, they are forced to consult a Jewish professor to help unravel its mysteries and save what’s left of their hides.

the keep comic reviewFor the first two issues, we’re kept in the dark about most of those mysteries, making for an entirely intriguing and suspenseful read. Once the cat is let out of the bag (metaphorically speaking, of course – you don’t think the monster would be a cat, would you?), the narrative downshifts a little, but leaves other threads dangling to be wrapped up in the finale. As strong as this story is, Smith’s art really sells it. Minimalist and stark, drawn with lots of shadows, his work is pitch-perfect, emboldened by an unusual color scheme that is limited purposely to black and blue, except for the occasional scene involving blood, in which the red ink is rightly spilled.

My love for Wilson continues unabated. His foreword explains both why he agreed to tackle a project he really didn’t have the time for and why he so detests the Michael Mann version of his novel. Here’s hoping we’ll see more of Wilson’s work properly adapted to film and comics in the future. –Rod Lott

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Fun with Bookgasm (and aged Charo flesh)

charo naked nudeI knew this would happen.

As soon as Ryun Patterson jokingly mentioned looking for nude Charo photos in a recent installment of his FRIDAY AFTERNOON REGASM, I knew it would only result in it showing up on our monthly roundup of search terms that bring surfers, lurkers and perverts to our site. But I didn’t expect 157 of those surfers, lurkers and perverts to have such a thing for Medicare-eligible coochie-coochie.

Oh, well – at least a couple of you (literally, a couple, if you scroll to the bottom) remain interested in books. And two for “fun breasts,” as if there are breasts that aren’t. Without further ado, the full results for July…

199 uschi digard
140 charo nude
104 evangeline lilly nude
63 bookgasm
57 jessica biel nude
53 evangeline lilly naked
24 jessica biel naked
24 mimi rogers
20 sexy movies
19 michael c hall
18 james frey
17 mimi rogers breasts
17 charo naked
15 kristin chenoweth nude
14 scary movies
10 devil’s rejects
9 dean koontz frankenstein book three
9 mimi rogers nude
4 kristin chenoweth naked
4 nude jessica biel
3 horror books
3 godzilla
2 jimmock
2 fun breasts
2 the dark tower
2 don’t open this book

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FRIDAY AFTERNOON REGASM >> 7.28.06

friday afternoon regasmOur end-o’-week roundup of what you missed while working for The Man!

Welcome to the special Sunday-afternoon hangover edition of your FRIDAY AFTERNOON REGASM. I have to admit, with our editor Rod vacationing in Hotlanta, I was a little bit leery about skipping the normal Friday afternoon thing. Could I still be hilarious on a Sunday? Would the Sabbath have an effect on my savoir faire Thankfully the answers are, respectively, yes and no. My funnybone is intact and my savoir faire is everywhere*. Now there was a literal crapload of content last week, so we’d best get crackin’.

MONDAY >> 7.24.06
Last week began on a newsy note: The NEWSGASM reporting team had a bunch of bits and bites for us, including cool new DC Comics stamps, the U.S. release of NIGHT WATCH (finally), a short story collection for JONATHAN STRANGE fans, and some intriguing announcements from the Hard Case Crime folks, whom we love.

Mark Rose ushered in last week’s excellent crop of book reviews with a look at DEAD WRONG by J.A. Jance. (With a title like that, do you really have to write “A Novel of Suspense” at the bottom of the cover? Really?) This is apparently the 12th book in a series that is extremely popular despite my never having heard of it. Rose found everything all too color-by-numbers, however, and although he dismisses this criticism as “nitpicky,” I wouldn’t cast his aspersions aside that easily.

Rebecca Brock stepped into the fray as well Monday, calling the plot of THE BETRAYED by David Hosp “simplistic and hopelessly muddled.” Now, I’ve been called that before, and it’s not a good thing. It seems that the book lacks a spark, and it prompted a variety of unfavorable noises from Ms. Brock. That’s not good, people.

fake dog poopIn Monday’s fourth (count ’em, fourth!) piece of juicy content, Bruce Grossman let us in on a little secret: The book 54 by the Italian pseudonymous authorial collective (pretentious enough for you?) known as Wu Ming is a piece of crap. Now I know why I don’t like Mondays: That’s where all the crappy books are.

TUESDAY >> 7.25.06
Mark Rose gave it up for one of the masters of suspense Tuesday, praising Henry Slesar and his novel MURDER AT HEARTBREAK HOSPITAL, despite nagging-plot-hole hindsight. There are literally thousands of Henry Slesars out there in America right now: experts in their craft who are literally unknown by the rest of the world. Let’s raise our mimosae and toast the unknown authors of America!

man from atlantisDespite his jet-setting intercontinental responsibilities, Rod Lott got a word in edgewise Tuesday and rampaged over the rest of the week, starting with a look at FINDING ATLANTIS: A TRUE STORY OF GENIUS, MADNESS, AND AN EXTRAORDINARY QUEST FOR A LOST WORLD by David King. This book looks awesome, chronicling the life of a professor who ate, slept and peed Atlantis. If you’re going to be obsessed with something, pick something cool to be obsessed with.

In keeping with the BOOKGASM philosophy that we must pimp Paul Malmont’s THE CHINATOWN DEATH CLOUD PERIL at least once a week, Bruce Grossman’s BULLETS, BROADS, BLACKMAIL & BOMBS went back to the source with a look at a quartet of books by Walter Gibson and Lester Dent. As I’ve said before, I’ve read every one of the Bantam Doc Savage reissues at least once, along with all of the Avenger series and a decent amount of The Shadow paperbacks, and I’ve always been surprised that while James Bama nailed every single Doc Savage cover that he did, The Shadow gets no such consideration. Consider, for example, the covers of THE SPOOK LEGION (Doc Savage) and HIDDEN DEATH (The Shadow). Digressions aside, Grossman liked both of those books, along with THE CZAR OF FEAR and THE DEATH GIVER. Just one more note on these guys: While Doc Savage and The Shadow comics have varied widely in quality, Howard Chaykin’s Shadow miniseries and the 19-issue (non-Chaykin) ongoing series that followed is the best of the bunch. I’ve got the whole set, if anyone cares to come over and read them.

WEDNESDAY >> 7.26.06
Speaking of comics, Rod Lott was all over the seventh FABLES collection, ARABIAN NIGHTS (AND DAYS). I love the general premise of FABLES, proving once again that good writing and good ideas are still hanging around in comics despite the industry’s ongoing efforts to the contrary.

Lott was less effusive in his review of PUZZLEMAN by Christopher Alan Broadstone. It seems that describing a scent as “cum-fishy” is a bit over the line. Memo to Broadstone: Yes it is, and please don’t say it again. I get it, but you missed the boat on the whole splatterpunk thing. I got over that in junior high.

THURSDAY >> 7.27.06
squirm dvd reviewInteresting factoid: My wife, who is a foreigner (that is, not American) and thereby strange, hates worms. She’s as afraid of worms as I am of the “literary fiction” shelf. Thus, I must buy THE CONQUEROR WORMS by Brian Keene and read it aloud at every opportunity. As Rod Lott wrote in his review, it might not be the pinnacle of horror fiction, but what other worm invasion book is better? Anyone?

There will never be a trade paperback for WESTERN TALES OF TERROR, and that’s just one of the reasons why we think they’re so fucking awesome. This comic never sacrificed its ideals for commercial profit, thereby ensuring its demise. Savor the indie goodness while you can, because I doubt they printed a ton of them.

FRIDAY >> 7.28.06
We don’t run many really negative reviews here on BOOKGASM, mostly because we’re really choosy about what we review. Anyone who’s ever written one can tell you that bad reviews are the slam dunk of the critical world, but we’d rather only read books that we like. It’s a surprise, then, that we were had by so many books last week that we didn’t like. But why should Friday’s review be any diferent? Rod Lott was genuinely dismayed by the lack of quality contained in HORROR: THE BEST OF THE YEAR 2006 EDITION. With the exception of stories by Joe Hill and Clive Barker, Lott found the stories within to range from just okay to terrible. That’s too bad, because horror needs all the help it can get, and these big anthologies are important gateways for readers.

That’s it, folks. I have a ton of chores posted on my refrigerator for me to do today, and “I’m writing the weekly roundup” is not considered a valid excuse from chores in my house. See you later. –Ryun Patterson

*Too much setup for an obscure joke? Probably.

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Horror: The Best of the Year 2006 Edition

horror best of 2006 reviewAfter unfortunate delays, the anthology HORROR: THE BEST OF THE YEAR 2006 EDITION is finally available. Even with curbed expectations, I had to ask upon completion, “That was the best you could find?”

With two notable exceptions, the stories here most cover a narrow range from marginal to dreadful. And not dreadful in the “ooh, that was spooky” way, but “ugh, that was terrible.” Right off the bat, let’s just let Joe Hill and Clive Barker off the hook. No need to sweat it out over the commercial break, fellas, because you two are safe.

Hill – who I didn’t know until recently is the son of Stephen King – writes about “The Cape,” a well-worn blanket which inexplicably gives a boy the power of flight. He never becomes a superhero, but certainly struggles; it plays like the flipside to UNBREAKABLE, with a most disturbing ending. It comes from his short-story collection 20TH CENTURY GHOSTS, which has been garnering raves and now I can see why. Meanwhile, Barker’s “Haeckel’s Tale” shocked me yet again – we covered it last fall as part of the DARK DELICACIES anthology – so its inclusion is certainly merited.

Then there’s another level of stories that are merely okay. Into this category fall the likes of Joe R. Lansdale, Simon Owens and Nicholas Royle, who write about murder, grief and hauntings, respectively. Richard Bowes’ “There’s a Hole in the City” is a moving but clunky examination of New York life in the days after 9/11 … but is it horror? I don’t think so.

And then there are the tales that seem like they stemmed from a fiction writing class, on the day the professor assigned them to try something experimental and eschew plot and lucidity in favor of wowing the reader with pretentious sentences. Too many of the book’s 17 contributors stumble into this group, so there’s no need to name names. A few make so little sense, the only thing scary about them is that they were ever considered horror in the first place.

Needless to say at this point, I’m disappointed in John Betancourt and Sean Wallace’s inaugural edition. I read a ton of short horror fiction last year, and even most of the bad ones were better than a majority in this collection. It’s not that I want to see a volume of stories I’ve already read; far from it, I’d love to be exposed to new writers with whom I’m unfamiliar. But this edition dares me to pursue their works further. I still look forward to next January’s 2007 EDITION, in hopes the editors will get back to the scares and avoid the snores. –Rod Lott

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OTHER BOOKGASM REVIEWS OF THESE AUTHORS:
THE ULTIMATE FRANKENSTEIN edited by Byron Preiss and John Gregory Betancourt

Western Tales of Terror

western tales of terror review 1Hoarse & Buggy Productions’ WESTERN TALES OF TERROR title didn’t go over big in the comics marketplace, folding last year after just five issues. This should surprise no one considering the immediate commercial strikes against it, as it was a comic that was:
1) a Western;
2) horror;
3) an anthology;
4) an indie; and
5) in black and white.

Which is a real shame, because it prevented people from seeing how damned good it was. For anyone who harbors fond memories of DC’s WEIRD WESTERN TALES (or even EC’s trailblazing TALES FROM THE CRYPT), it comes highly recommended. It even has its own host, Dead Cowboy Pete – the Dry Gulch version of the Cryptkeeper – who introduces each issue and piece with grave warnings like, “This time we got some stories that’ll curl your arm hair and straighten your public hair. So sit back, relax, and put on your pissin’ pants, so’s you don’t ruin your church clothes. God hates a person what smells like piss.”

WESTERN TALES OF TERROR’s debut issue kicks off with your standard showdown story given a supernatural twist. There are also grim morality (or should that be mortality?) tales involving quicksand and an army deserter, before the title’s first series character is introduced: Hector Plasm. A creation of Benito Cereno and Nate Bellegarde, Plasm is a manga-haired gunfighter and swordsman who protects people from baddies of every dimension. Steve Niles – arguably western tales of terror review 2the biggest name of the bunch – tells the revenge-minded “Reckon This” with his trademark black humor. And almost the entire latter half is consumed by the first of the three-part “Phineas’ Gold,” in which a deformed bank teller with a “pig hand” (think Chris Elliott in SCARY MOVIE 2) is on the run with a gang of robbers who filched his bank thanks to his inside knowledge. It’s a great setup for the chapters to come.

Issue #2 continues “Phineas’ Gold” – written by Joshua Hale Fialkov and Porter McDonald, with ace art from Scott A. Keating – with the gang encountering zombie injuns in a cave, and there’s another amusing Hector Plasm tale. You also get a saloon piano player who witnesses a gruesome slaughter, a gallows builder and a gold thief who has the unfortunate luck to run across a comely ghost and her giant ant-lions. And if you’ve been wondering why no stories have been centered around a whore-filled bordello yet, worry no more.

western tales of terror review 3Issue #3 begins with “Ghosts of the Past,” which is more about mood and tone than horror and humor, and there’s nothing wrong with that every once in a while. But then it’s back to the usual mix of kidnappers, Bigfoot, vampire cowboys, monster hunters and barroom bloodshed, before “Phineas’ Gold” wraps up in an ever-appropriate double twist ending.

western tales of terror review 4A new two-parter begins in WESTERN TALES OF TERROR #4: “The Mineshaft,” from Fialkov (also the series’ editor-in-chief, it should be noted) and artist Mark Dos Santos. It’s about a mining expedition for buried treasure that turns out to be guarded by a giant dragon. The shorter stories concern Native American ghosts out for revenge and a whore on her “job interview,” giving a trial run to a grotesque, rib-slurpin’ fat man. Special notice must be given to Stuart Moore and Jason Copland’s “Other Folks’ Trouble,” the finest piece out of the entire title’s run. Like an Old West take on the film GO, it follows six different townspeople – including the sheriff, the priest, the bartender and the hooker – as they bicker at one another over the course of one morning. Their stories intersect in strange and hilarious ways, and naturally things don’t end nicely, but you’ll have a ball even when the blood starts flowing.

western tales of terror review 5Finally, the series closes with issue #5, with “The Mineshaft” wrapped up as the anti-hero battles the dragon and the Chinamen who serve as her guards. The other pieces involve a Confederate widow who doles out curses, frontier cannibalism, magic, wolfmen, gunfights and a poker game where the stakes are death. Niles also returns with “Gold Miners’ Slaughter,” a standard zombie tale amped up by Scott Mills’ unusual, quasi-Fisher Price style of drawing.

Whether taken separately or as a whole, WESTERN TALES OF TERROR’s five issues showcase a variety of art and solid storytelling from an array of indie talent. It’s all for fun, and fun’s all you get, so it’s a shame it couldn’t continue. I’ll admit I could have that fun much earlier during the title’s actual run, but I’m a wait-for-the-trade kinda guy. Unfortunately, H&B states there will never be a trade release; fortunately, they’ve made all five issues available at a nice discount, so I bit. Hard. Drew blood, too. –Rod Lott

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The Conqueror Worms

conqueror worms brian keene reviewAfter a couple of well-received zombie novels, Brian Keene turns to an apocalypse of a different kind with THE CONQUEROR WORMS. It’s been raining non-stop for more than a month in the small town of Punkin’ Center, W. Va., where elderly widower Teddy Garnett lives a lonely life and raises cattle. One morning, he sees the early bird getting attacked by a worm, and then his carport is invaded by countless numbers of the slimy, slithering things. Then he sees far bigger holes burrowed by far bigger worms, big enough to eat people and collapse houses.

Meanwhile, over in Baltimore, the city has flooded to catastrophic proportions, forcing the lucky ones left to loot for their continued existence. We follow an intrepid band of survivors, a Rainbow Coalition mishmash that includes kids, gang members and an old coot by the name of Salty. When they’re not fucking or fighting one another, they find themselves up against an underwater menace that Salty swears is “a Kraken” and another claims is H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu. Eventually, this group crosses paths with Teddy and his townspeople, just in time for the us-vs.-it showdown.

In books like TERMINAL, Keene knows how to keep you turning those paperback pages. But THE CONQUEROR WORMS sounds more like an idea for a 1950s Saturday-morning matinee than a horror novel. That’s the biggest problem with the book: Worms aren’t scary. Even giant ones. The very concept carries a hint of self-parody, but Keene’s treatment is serious. His weakest point remains dialogue – I cringed at every “bro,” “dawg” and misguided, homespun analogy – but even with its faults, it remains intermittently entertaining. So while it’s not up there with his strongest works, it’s not to be automatically ignored. I stuck with it because there’s a certain novelty to a worm-invasion novel (seriously, how many of those have you read?) even if the entirety isn’t exactly satisfying. –Rod Lott

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OTHER BOOKGASM REVIEWS OF THIS AUTHOR:
TERMINAL by Brian Keene

Puzzleman

puzzleman reviewThe PUZZLEMAN of Christopher Alan Broadstone’s debut novel is a hideously disfigured stranger, so named because his body parts don’t quite match up to one another. For instance, his eyes are different colors, one of his hands is a woman’s and his head is described as having the shape of a half-deflated basketball with one side kicked in. In short, Puzzleman – also going by the less snappy name of Conundrum – is not the sort of chap you want invading your dreams and scooping out your uterus.

So pity poor Amanda, a divorced sculptor still reeling from the SIDS death of her only child. She initially encounters the Puzzleman after buying a lone earring from a street vendor because the piece of jewelry is so unique: a globe millions of intercrossed wires that never looks the same twice and sometimes sparks. It also makes her sick – establishing vomit as a recurring theme – and leads her to strange episodes of drunken delusions.

Meanwhile, her ex-husband Erik lives in squalor in an underground tunnel, his legs freshly cut off. His only salvation is the occasional injection of heroin supplied by his old college history professor, the nearly retired John Rainbow. Through a bizarre set of circumstances, Amanda and Erik reunite and get thrown into Condundrum’s “pipeworld,” into which one enters via a giant sphincter. And so do the professor and his long-lost German love, who made love in a vat of grapes the day they met decades ago.

The moral of the story? Avoid street vendors; shop at Amazon.

Despite the book going overboard in the abhorrent-odor description department (with “cum-fishy” and “vaginal caviar” being among the most, um, imaginative repeat offenders) and having an over-reliance on internal monologues, I was with PUZZLEMAN for most of its ooey-gooey ride to the depths of hell. Through a vivid imagination, Broadstone has the ability to elicit uncomfortable reactions, and I wanted to see how all the story’s pieces fit together (if you’ll forgive the most obvious pun).

Where it lost me was halfway through, when the entire mystery of Conundrum is explained in a 50-page stretch as the professor consults textbooks, unearthing secrets with roots in cryptology, mythology and Biblical times. And after that, with all the characters stuck in pipeworld, the narrative shifts gears into somewhat of a loop, as they all are menaced in a variety of manners as they seek escape. It’s not that this second half is bad – indeed, those who delight in viscera and gore will find plenty to wade in – but it does not live up to the ambition of all that comes before it.

That said, as a horrific whole, it satisfies. And with Broadstone being a filmmaker, I hope to see it someday as a movie. –Rod Lott

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Fables: Arabian Nights (and Days)

fables arabian nights reviewHard to believe Bill Willingham’s FABLES has been around long enough to already merit a seventh trade paperback collection, but here it is nonetheless, in the form of FABLES: ARABIAN NIGHTS (AND DAYS).

Four of the six consecutive issues from the acclaimed, award-winning Vertigo series within comprise the ARABIAN NIGHTS story arc, with the New York headquarters of the Fables (those classic storybook characters living, breathing and hiding in our modern-day world) visited by their Arab emissary, the esteemed Sinbad. The strapping young sailor takes a shine to the American Fables’ way of life, which upsets his slave-loving sidekick, who unleashes a djinn to slaughter all his enemies, thus placing him in total power.

Meanwhile, Prince Charming – Fabletown’s reigning mayor – makes a move for Deputy Mayor Beauty, and it’s probably for the best that her husband – Sheriff Beast – doesn’t find out. Yet.

Those who have never read FABLES may think it all sounds childish. It’s not. And here’s a glimpse as to why: The other two issues tell the story of two of Gepetto’s wooden puppet creations, Rodney and June. They fall in love and want to be made human so they can express their love carnally, which doesn’t go over well with Rodney’s peers: “Do you know what meat does? They shove dead animal and plant matter into one hole and shit runny, stinky, disgusting, worm-infested dung out of another! Several times each day!”

Just when it seems that this story stands alone from the regular FABLES characters, it takes a rather unsuspected turn that I hope plays out in future issues. Since the level of quality from issue to issue is about as solid as today’s comics come, I look forward to them all. –Rod Lott

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OTHER BOOKGASM REVIEWS OF THIS SERIES:
FABLES: HOMELAND

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