Spy: The Funny Years

spy the funny years reviewSpy magazine’s influence on my writing, my sense of humor, my career, my life cannot be understated. From that fated day I stumbled upon a 1988 issue in a Buy for Less grocery store in Oklahoma City of all places, I was hooked. Never before had a magazine been created seemingly just for me. Never mind I had spent a grand total of 10 days in New York, which served not only as the magazine’s home but the recipient of most of its well-aimed arrows – its unique mix of satire, investigative reporting and design went straight to my heart.

So why, then, did I hesitate to read SPY: THE FUNNY YEARS, a warts-and-all account of its dozen years of existence? Because the chintzy powers that be at Miramax Books ignored my two requests for a review copy? Perhaps.

Read more »

LOUIS’ SERIOUS ISSUES >> 1.31.07

louis series issuesScouring out the weekly singles scene … in comics!

immortal iron fist 1 reviewTHE IMMORTAL IRON FIST #1 (Marvel) I don’t care who it is – give a D-list Marvel character a new book, and I’ll be first in line to try it out. You can have your Spider-Mans and Captain Americas, but for me, the best, most intricate, most interesting characters are the ones that tend to stay in the shadows of the biggies. In the past few months, we’ve seen the returns of Blade, Moon Knight and now, after about six failed relaunch attempts in the past decade, it’s time for Danny Rand – aka Iron Fist – to get a gritty new feel, courtesy of writers Ed Brubaker and Matt Faction. Seamlessly interweaving the history of the Iron Fist lineage with the current Iron Fist whipping a whole army of Hydra operatives, this is a great start to the series. Wisely, they are going for a darker, Daredevil-esque style that works very well with the character.

Read more »

SEARCH ME >> 1.07

Our monthly depressing look at the search terms that bring pervs to BOOKGASM!

search terms january 2007

Head Game

head game reviewTim Downs’ latest thriller, HEAD GAME, begins like no other: Its first chapter is almost entirely wordless, rendered as a six-page comic-book story, in which a man draws his own suicide note – what we’re reading, ostensibly – before taking his own life.

That man, we learn, was named Kirby. Along with pal Cale Caldwell and Capt. “Pug” Moseley, he was part of a propaganda mission for the United States in the first Gulf War, charged with creating and dropping surrender-style leaflets over enemy territory. They did their job well, but Kirby’s untimely, tragic death suggests it was not without a price.

Read more »

BULLETS, BROADS, BLACKMAIL & BOMBS >> A Scanner Lightly

bullets broads blackmail and bombsFinally! I got my hands on a scanner, with thanks to my landlord Jon. What this means for you, dear reader: No longer do I have to search around online for covers. This opens up a whole new world of content, since there has been a stack of books for which I could not get covers. It also means we’ve hit a real low point in this column’s storied history; just look at book numero uno if you don’t believe me.

bounty hunter 1 reviewTHE BOUNTY HUNTER #1: THE DEADLIEST PROFESSION by Tiny Boyles and Hank Nuwer – Here it is, folks: the classiest book in my whole collection. When I purchased this fine tome, I knew this was bottom-of-the-barrel material. Was I far off in that assumption? In a word: nope.

The 1981 novel is a low-rent aggressor-type, based on a real character – that would be said Tiny. Our hero Tiny – that’s really him on the cover – is a hulking, 380-pound bounty hunter. He’s no religious freak like a certain TV bounty hunter with a really awful haircut. The hard case that Tiny and his crew have to bring in is a Charles Manson-esque leader of a outlaw Mormon death cult in Utah. Let that sink into your heads, people.

Read more »

Closing Time and Other Stories

closing time reviewJack Ketchum is very rarely off his game, and I’m delighted to say he is in top form in CLOSING TIME AND OTHER STORIES. This too-thin collection from Gauntlet Press brings together 17 hard-to-find gems, one previously unpublished piece and the brilliant title story, which won the 2003 Bram Stoker Award for long fiction. It’s so good I can almost picture the other finalists drowning their sorrows together in the hotel bar … before the ceremony even began.

It should come as no surprise to his fans that Ketchum pulls off feats of violence and poignancy with equal aplomb, as in “Olivia: A Monologue,” collected here, but those only familiar with novels like THE GIRL NEXT DOOR and especially OFF SEASON will find themselves pleasantly moved reading these stories.

Read more »

The Sweeter Side of R. Crumb

sweeter side of r crumb reviewEvery comics fan of a certain age or level of degeneracy owns at least one book or comic by Robert Crumb. Since he bummed a ride to San Francisco in 1967, and later that year began his ascent to “America’s Best-Loved Underground Cartoonist” status, Crumb has published a seemingly endless number of comics and books, the latter mostly reprint after reprint of the former.

In his brief introduction to THE SWEETER SIDE OF R. CRUMB, signed as by “Mr. Nicey-Nice Himself,” the artist insists that his work is not beloved by the ladies. Perhaps they don’t appreciate his patronizing tone, or think the joke it conveys is worth the grating condescension.

Read more »

Lucky at Cards

lucky at cards reviewAs the title of Lawrence Block’s LUCKY AT CARDS has it, Bill Maynard is good with kings and queens, mostly because he has an ace up his sleeve. When caught cheating in Chicago, his angry poker mates do a number of his teeth and tell him to leave town. So he does, with the intent of staying long enough only for a dentist to fix his choppers.

But when the dentist invites him to his friends’ regular poker game, the money-hungry Bill sees an easy target – namely Murray Rogers, a wealthy lawyer who’s all too trusting. And then Bill meets Murray’s wife – she of the “hooker’s hips and queen-sized breasts and a belly that had just the right amount of bulge to it” – and sees her as an easy target, too … just with an entirely different objective in mind, one involving an area below the belt.

Read more »

Ghost Rider: Road to Damnation

ghost rider road to damnation reviewGhost Rider has generated more origin stories than your neighbor’s cat has pumped out kittens. GHOST RIDER: THE ROAD TO DAMNATION is among the latest, and since it’s written by PREACHER‘s Garth Ennis, it’s worth a look. The art by Clayton Crain will knock you back on your heels as well, with its Bruegel-esque visions of hell splashed across the pages in fiery oranges and reds.

Ennis’ version of Ghost Rider’s birth and fate doesn’t add anything startling to what we’ve already been told: Johnny Blaze, a stunt motorcycle rider, trades his soul in exchange for the extended life of a dying pal. The deal remains the same even if the identity of the one to be saved differs from telling to telling. Blaze then becomes the Ghost Rider.

Read more »

Midnight Premiere

midnight premiere reviewSince the advent of motion pictures, horror has been linked closely – inexorably, even – to the medium. Cemetery Dance’s anthology MIDNIGHT PREMIERE, edited by Tom Piccirilli, celebrates that mutually beneficial marriage of the terrifying and the visual. Offering an angle unique from previous horror fiction collections delving into film, PREMIERE includes contributions from actual B-movie personalities.

But it’s the big boys that make this book such a treat, starting with Gary A. Braunbeck’s “Onlookers,” which works wonders with a “lost film” conceit, right up to its unsettling final page. But Jack Ketchum immediately shows him up in the disturbing department with “Elusive,” about a man’s ill-fated attempt to try to catch a horror flick everyone raves about. Whether in theaters or on video, his protagonist is unable to see it, as if it were cursed. The true reason is chilling.

Read more »

Next Page »