Mr. Hands

mr hands reviewA silly title belies the maturity and power of Gary A. Braunbeck’s latest horror novel. Instantly, the MR. HANDS moniker brings to mind the five-fingered nemesis of Mr. Bill from those old, darkly comic SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE shorts. There’s nothing comic about this novel – but, boy, is it dark.

After a too-long prologue in which the framing story is set up – a mysterious guy in a bar tells the tale we read to the town sheriff and reverend – we’re introduced to Ronald James Williamson, aka never-captured serial killer Uncle Ronnie. Branded a “retard” by his unloving father, Ronnie discovered at a young age that he had a most peculiar gift: sensing and taking away the pain of children, simply by touching them. Of course, that touch can kill.

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BULLETS, BROADS, BLACKMAIL & BOMBS >> E Is for Evil (That’s Good Enough for Me)

bullets broads blackmail and bombsinfernal idol reviewSince this is column number 66 and the chances of me getting to column number 666 is slim, I figured I’d make this a horror column. There are plenty of other sites out there that will do a better job than I – namely The Groovy Age of Horror, which we are all fans of here at BOOKGASM. So indulge me as we go into the world of evil statues, ghosts and Ronnie James Dio lyrics.

INFERNAL IDOL by Henry Seymour – Here’s something you don’t see with a book this type: a relevant cover. Yes, that African statue is a huge part of this 1967 novel. It opens with a old English gentleman named Alastair Newton dying from some bizarre ailment. No one can figure out how his heart just stopped.

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SEARCH ME >> 7.07

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

search terms july 07

Reading Comics: How Graphic Novels Work and What They Mean

reading comics reviewWhether you’re already forehead-deep into the graphic storytelling world or an uninformed newbie looking for an entry point, critic Douglas Wolk makes a great case for comics in READING COMICS: HOW GRAPHIC NOVELS WORK AND WHAT THEY MEAN.

Although lots of single-issues series are discussed, a majority of the works Wolk discusses and dissects are of the graphic novel format (or at least paperbound collections of previously published singles). From all the evidence he’s seen, he proclaims that the true “golden age” of comics isn’t its days of infancy, but right now.

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American Detective

american detective reviewDetroit P.I. Amos Walker returns in his 19th full-length case in Loren D. Estleman’s AMERICAN DETECTIVE.

It begins on a simple note: Darius Fuller, retired Major League Baseball pitcher, has an adult daughter who will be gaining control of a trust fund in two months. She’s been dating a man her father thinks is a heel and dollar-chaser, and he wants Walker to talk the guy into accepting $50,000 to get out of the young woman’s life. Fuller is on the edge of financial ruin – that pesky IRS – but he has squirreled away some undeclared cash for emergencies.

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kop reviewIn his debut novel KOP, Warren Hammond combines two genres that work so well together: science fiction and hard-boiled noir. For the record, it feels like 70 percent noir, with 30 percent being sci-fi terms and setting. However you split it up, it’s well-crafted, and that’s all you should need to know.

Detective Juno is a crooked and dirty cop, and makes no bones about it, since all the cops on the force on the planet Lagarto are. It’s a way of life for them to survive on their meager pay. He’s not the type who won’t solve a case if he is bought off, but he does take his cut to look the other way.

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A Dog About Town

dog about town reviewAfter many years and multiple series of mysteries featuring brilliant felines, now we get a few that feature canines as intrepid detectives. J.F. Englert’s A DOG ABOUT TOWN is actually written from the dog’s point of view. The dog in question is Randolph, a somewhat chubby purebred black Labrador, who is pictured very charmingly and appropriately by Dan Craig on the cover.

Randolph is a literate dog, and this makes him special even among other dogs. All dogs can communicate thoughts and interests, but they don’t all have the focus and concentration to form complete sentences and paragraphs of exposition. Randolph can, but of course, he is limited by his species’ restricted vocal cords and peculiar form of body language.

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There But for the Grace of God: Survivors of the 20th Century’s Most Infamous Serial Killers

there but for grace of god reviewAnglers and hunters all have stories about “the one that got away.” So do serial killers. Fred Rosen tells some of these stories in THERE BUT FOR THE GRACE OF GOD: SURVIVORS OF THE 20TH CENTURY’S MOST INFAMOUS SERIAL KILLERS.

Seven survivors of Derrick Todd Lee, Dennis Rader, Bobby Joe Long, Ted Bundy, Richard Speck, Jeffrey Dahmer and David Berkowitz are profiled in this 304-page book. I’m sure Rosen pitched good intentions to his publisher, but the book falls flat with me for many reasons.

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James Bond in the 21st Century: Why We Still Need 007

james bond smart pop reviewEdited by Glenn Yeffeth, Smart Pop’s JAMES BOND IN THE 21ST CENTURY: WHY WE STILL NEED 007 is, obviously, a collection of essays about everyone’s favorite literary and cinematic super spy. It should be pointed out all of them were written before CASINO ROYALE came out; keep that in mind, since some of the discussions in the book might have turned out different.

Out of all its essays, I found only one lacking, and it’s so early in the book, you likely won’t mind since that leaves so much enjoyable stuff left. The book is broken down into four groups: “The Real Bond,” “Debates,” “Beating Bond” and “Bond in the 21st Century.”

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Dark Warrior Rising

dark warrior rising reviewPeople used to talk of the STAR TREK Corollary of Three, where you mention two familiar elements, then add a third unfamiliar element in order to give that third element some credibility. An example would be: “Everyone respects the great leaders of the universe, such as George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Kangar Shaz of the planet Blexo.” Problems come when writers concentrate solely on the third unfamiliar element, and don’t provide the reader with any hooks of familiarity.

This mars the first 50 or so pages of Ed Greenwood’s DARK WARRIOR RISING, a tale of dark elves who live under the surface of the earth, and periodically raid humanity to use as slaves. Greenwood obviously has thought long and hard about his elven society, but he tries to cram too many of the unfamiliar details into the opening pages of the story. It is only when he begins to explore the life of one particular human slave – the Dark Warrior of the title – that we can hook into the story, and start to become emotionally involved in the subterranean world of Niflheim.

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