Our 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.
In 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!
Despite 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
Interesting 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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