Butcher Bird

butcher bird reviewWhen you see blurbs from Pat Cadigan and William Gibson on a book, it better be something special. And Richard Kadrey’s BUTCHER BIRD does manage to live up to its blurbage, providing a remarkably edgy look at alternative worlds living in concert with our human experience.

Yes, this is one of those books where the protagonist’s eyes are opened to the fact that demons and hellbeasts walk among us. But sometimes they are actually in our world under a disguise, and sometimes their world impinges on ours, but we are completely unaware as to their existence. There are multiple spheres of existence that overlap, each with the other, and only certain individuals are able to see these other spheres, and move between their respective planes of existence.

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Five Roundabouts to Heaven

five roundabouts reviewAfter being out of print for more than 20 years, FIVE ROUNDABOUTS TO HEAVEN gets a well-deserved reissue. This is considered one of John Bingham’s greatest works, and who am I to disagree? A former MI5 agent, Bingham is also a master of the crime novel.

The story is pretty straightforward: how a normal man like Philip Bartels can arrive at the idea of murdering his own wife. We are told the story from a close friend of Philip, a schoolboy chum of his named Peter Harding. If this plot seems simple, you are mistaken, since Bingham has crafted a true classic.

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SEARCH ME >> 8.07

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

search terms aug 07

The Intruders

intruders reviewINTRUDERS alert! For what certainly will prove to be one of 2007’s strangest reads in mainstream crime fiction, reach for THE INTRUDERS by Michael Marshall. Even if it may not emerge as a year’s best-ender, it will not fail to confound and surprise – both on purpose.

Bear with me: Jack Whalen is a former cop turned photographer/author, who lives seemingly happily and childless with his wife, Amy, in Washington. One day, a tangential friend from his past named Gary Fisher shows up, seeking his help/advice/perspective in a strange home-invasion murder case.

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From Hell to Midnight

from hell midnight reviewFROM HELL TO MIDNIGHT. What a great title for a traditional Western. Too bad this novel isn’t exactly a traditional Western.

Most of Richard S. Wheeler’s books should be described that way, but most of them contain elements that move them to the head of the line. Wheeler is a fine writer with a sense of tragedy underlining the melodrama that is the genre’s great appeal. Even this book, which is a comedy, hints at tragic circumstances: One woman, we learn, has been used repeatedly as a “poker chip” in her husband’s gambling.

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A Spy by Nature

spy by nature reviewAfter six years of being published over in England, Charles Cumming’s debut novel A SPY BY NATURE makes it to our shores. It’s a taut thriller of how one becomes a cog in the greater spy world.

Alec Milus is a young man whose has been working for a petty con man, selling advertising for a journal that is sent just to the people who buy advertising. Alec works on commission and makes a living, but he understands this is a total dead-end future. Then he is approached by a family friend about working in the foreign office. What this person means by “foreign office” is really MI6: the British version of the CIA.

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QUICKGASM >> 8.29.07

quickgasmBecause time isn’t always kind: economic reviews in a world full of waste … and today, an all-comics edition!

hookah girl reviewMarguerite Dabaie offers a few quick glimpses into the life of a Palestinian living in America in her autobiographical comics collection THE HOOKAH GIRL AND OTHER TRUE STORIES: VOLUME 1. These eight brief confessionals and remembrances include watching the elder women in her family rolling grape leaves; the time her one-legged, surly uncle scared everyone at her birthday party; an incident in which someone told her an anti-Palestinian joke, not knowing she was one; and indifference as to which perspective of her race she feels she is most like. Even with political overtones, Dabaie’s work is loose and funny. And with a range that veers from cartoony to near-photographic, this girl can draw!

scarface devil disguise reviewFrom the first two issues of SCARFACE: DEVIL IN DISGUISE, it’s evident that comics is an ideal medium for telling a prequel story of cinema’s favorite coke dealer, Tony Montana. It shows him as a young boy in Cuba, being left behind by his mom and meeting his right-hand man Manny. It also shows him as a young man, being tortured and practicing a hobby of decapitating his enemies. The only downside is that the book constantly jumps back and forth throughout time, so no definitive story yet has taken shape. Instead, we get fragments that eventually will add up to a finished whole, kinda like channel-surfing. For rabid fans of Brian De Palma’s movie – and there are plenty, although I’m not one of them – this should satisfy. Joshua Jabcuga’s words accurately capture the film’s grimy tone, and Alberto Dose makes his nice art cinematic with slightly washed-out colors.

showcase batman 2 reviewPick up SHOWCASE PRESENTS BATMAN: VOLUME 2 if you liked VOLUME 1, because it’s 500 more pages of the same 1960s insanity and inanity, obviously both influencing and influenced by the then-phenomenal TV show. In these adventures from DETECTIVE COMICS and the Caped Crusader’s own title, Batman and Robin grapple with doubles, a Hulk-ish Blockbuster, flying rocketmen, a guy in a cheap skeleton costume (even in the courtroom!), a guy with a wolf’s head, the Riddler and even that hot bitch Poison Ivy. In the craziest story, Joker’s sidekick is a dwarf named Gaggy. In the silliest story, our heroes fight The Eraser, a man with a mask shaped like – yep – a giant pencil eraser. In the most self-referential story, writer Gardner Fox breaks the fourth wall to directly address the reader, asking what would happen if Batman died? And in just about every story, the boys throw out a pun while fighting (example: Robin kicks a baddie and quips, “Now I’ll serve up a helping of soles!”). Oh, and Alfred the butler comes back to life. Sometimes overly wordy, but fun for all.

mammoth war comics reviewHeavy in subject matter and weight, the David Kendall-edited THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF BEST WAR COMICS is a multicultural, decade-spanning anthology of 26 tales of rarely glorified combat from real-life battles both old and new. It opens with Keiju Nakazawa’s “I Saw It!,” a slightly primitive but knowing account of being a child in Hiroshima when America dropped the bomb. Other highlights include two late-career bits from Will Eisner, John Severin’s WWII-set “Souvenirs!” and a short Vietnam saga from Archie Goodwin and Joe Orlando. The best part is the color section in the middle, reprinting three Dell comics in color – yellowed pages and all! – from AIR WAR STORIES and COMBAT, all drawn by Sam Glanzman. You’ll learn more about Pearl Harbor from his story than any textbook. What’s interesting is that no matter what decade, what country or what mindset – mainstream, indie or underground – the entries come from, the message pretty much stays the same: War is hell.

other side reviewSpeaking of that, more than any movie I’ve ever seen or any book I’ve ever read, Vertigo’s five-issue THE OTHER SIDE brings the horror of the Vietnam War home. The fact that it holds eerie parallels with what’s going on in the world today makes it that much more powerful. Written by Jason Aaron and drawn by Cameron Stewart, the graphic novel tells the story of two soldiers on two different sides: one American, one Vietnamese. Though they’ve been conditioned by their respective countries to hate one another, they actually have a lot in common: fighting someone else’s war. Then there are the rotting corpses that hang around and tell the cornpone hick to kill. This is harrowing stuff, expertly penned and illustrated. –Rod Lott

Buy it at Amazon.

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The Princes of the Golden Cage

princes golden cage reviewOkay, so it doesn’t look promising. The very apt cover looks straight off a bodice-ripper; the text is filled with flowery, purple descriptions of lush jewels and fabric; and the back cover states it’s an “amazing mix of romance, mystery, and occult adventure.” What have I gotten myself into now?

Well, actually, a pretty darn good read. THE PRINCES OF THE GOLDEN CAGE from Nathalie Mallet and Night Shade Books may not be your normal fantasy cup of tea, but it has an intriguing concept, and enough going on with its characters that you might look forward to a sequel.

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bullets broads blackmail and bombsdog day afternoon reviewAs you can guess, we’re covering three books that were all made into movies in the 1970s, when things like “CGI” and “blockbusters” were not even thought of yet. This column easily could be called “UHF Days,” since all three films were shown all the time on my local TV station. Two of these books should be known by all from their movie versions; the third should be.

DOG DAY AFTERNOON by Patrick Mann – “Attica! Attica!” is what Al Pacino was yelling in the middle of the street in one of the great moments of the movie. I think most people know the plot: that of Littlejoe and his pal Sam robbing a Brooklyn bank. Even with everything planned out beforehand, Littlejoe has it all blow up in his face.

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The Best of Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet

lady churchill rosebud wristlet reviewDoing a zine is hard work. I should know. But the hard work is worth it when it results in a book deal. But I wouldn’t know about that. Yet.

For married writers Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant, all that blood, sweat and Xerox bills pays off with the publication of THE BEST OF LADY CHURCHILL’S ROSEBUD WRISTLET, collecting the cream of the crop from their biannually published zine’s first decade. Certainly this is one of the strangest anthologies of the year, and at times, one of the most rewarding.

Although you’ll also find poetry, film reviews, fake advice columns, random lists and other miscellany within, WRISTLET is mostly about short fiction, and – no surprise for anyone familiar with the editors’ own work or that of their famous friends they’ve called upon to contribute – speculative fiction at that.

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