Contrary to popular belief (and my dreams), BOOKGASM is not my day job. (All that magic happens on nights and weekends, folks!) But at my day job as managing editor of Oklahoma’s largest and greatest alternative weekly, I review books, too. As it’s tough to write two reviews (much less one!), most of those titles never see ink here. Here are 19 — fiction and nonfiction, good and bad — I covered there in 2009.
THE SANDMAN: THE DREAM HUNTERS by Neil Gaiman and P. Craig Russell — It’s a graphic-novel adaptation of Gaiman’s earlier novella, with Russell providing the lovely art, all keying off the story’s Asian influence with a style that resembles Japanese woodcuts, right down to their subdued colors. It’s a solid, spellbinding tale.
HIGH MOON by David Gallaher and Steve Ellis — This weird Western is a mash-up of cowboys and werewolves. Each third tells its own story, with the subsequent tale moving that plot forward, rather than regurgitating. It makes for an unpredictable read — one that mutates as its incorporates elements of steampunk and mysticism.
WHEN YOU WERE A TADPOLE AND I WAS A FISH: AND OTHER SPECULATIONS ABOUT THIS AND THAT by Martin Gardner — Gardner’s latest book may be a hodgepodge of odds and ends, but it still adds up to an entertaining read: light on his famous mathematical puzzles and problems, and heavy on his opinions on politics, religion, science and literature. But don’t worry: There’s some fun scattered about, too.
DRUNK: A COMIC ABOUT BAR STORIES edited by Michael Ogilvie, Sean Russell and Michael Todoran — Those whose social life centers around the magic elixir of alcohol have their share of bar stories. Now there’s a whole illustrated collection of them in this limited-edition, adults-only hardcover. Forego your bartender tips to buy one.
TRICK ‘R TREAT by Marc Andreyko — When the TRICK ‘R TREAT movie got shelved, that affected WildStorm’s plans to publish a simultaneous four-issue comics adaptation. Now with TREAT on DVD, WildStorm has collected its never-printed series into one trade paperback. Like the film, it’s a blast, worth another knock on the door each and every fall season.
WTF? COLLEGE: HOW TO SURVIVE 101 OF CAMPUS’S WORST F*#!-ING SITUATIONS by Gregory Bergman and Jodi Miller — Few books for the student body come cruder. Yeah, I know it’s supposed to be taken lightly. But it’s also supposed to be funny. And, unless you’re a loyal MAXIM subscriber or Tucker Max disciple, it’s not.
SHERLOCK HOLMES ON SCREEN: THE COMPLETE FILM AND TV HISTORY by Alan Barnes — Barnes’ book is like any of the regular movie guides published annually, only focused on one subject. Each title bears perfunctory credits before getting into a history, a summary and a critical analysis. The more visible and memorable the film, the more Barnes has to say; these have their plots even further broken down into “The Mystery,” “The Investigation” and “The Solution.”
HALLIWELL’S THE MOVIES THAT MATTER by David Gritten — Welcome to the first recession-era edition of HALLIWELL’S. No longer clocking in at 1,400 pages, this one’s been truncated to just more than 700. That means a lot of titles have fallen by the wayside, but the film-snob attitude sure didn’t! This is the kind of work where “preposterous” is used as if it were the word “the.”
POPULAR FICTION PERIODICALS: A COLLECTORS’ GUIDE TO VINTAGE PULPS, DIGESTS, AND MAGAZINES by Jeff Canja — If this were just a price guide, one couldn’t recommend it beyond the pulp cult. Luckily, it’s more. Canja gives a brief, but thorough history of these magazines, some 35 pages’ worth, from dime novels to pulp digests and the few titles that remain today. And then there’s the cover art. Oh, the cover art!
THE HANNIBAL FILES: THE UNAUTHORISED GUIDE TO THE HANNIBAL LECTER PHENOMENON by Daniel O’Brien — Originally released in 2001, the book extensively covered the productions of Michael Mann’s MANHUNTER, Jonathan Demme’s THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS and Ridley Scott’s HANNIBAL, but now is brought up to speed in a new edition that includes Brett Ratner’s RED DRAGON and Peter Webber’s HANNIBAL RISING.
TRUE WEST: AN ILLUSTRATED GUIDE TO THE HEYDAY OF THE WESTERN by Michael Barson — The book doesn’t intend to chronicle the history of the real American West — only its mythic one. It does so wonderfully, spotlighting the genre across a variety of media, including movies, television, music, novels, comics and merchandise. It works as an art book, as well as one for the department of pop-culture history.
BATMAN: WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE CAPED CRUSADER?: THE DELUXE EDITION by Neil Gaiman and Andy Kubert — This hardback comes highly recommended. Gaiman is one of the medium’s all-time great scripters, and he defies and subverts expectations with this one, alternately puzzling and poignant. So WHATEVER HAPPENED? You’ll want to know, especially since the story is pulled off with this much panache.
FILTHY RICH by Brian Azzarello and Victor Santos — This is the first title to be released in the new Vertigo Crime line of small-sized, hardback, black-and-white graphic novels, and is so steeped it is in the loving basics of classic noir, you’ll almost swear James M. Cain had something to do with it.
ABSINTHE & FLAMETHROWERS: PROJECTS AND RUMINATIONS ON THE ART OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY by William Gurstelle — Guys who consider MYTHBUSTERS to be appointment TV might warm to this oddball piece of nonfiction, which aims to put a smile on science, if a rather mischievous one. Trouble is, it’s heavier on the RUMINATIONS than the PROJECTS, taking an awful long time to get to the good stuff.
GIG POSTERS VOLUME 1: ROCK SHOW ART OF THE 21ST CENTURY by Clay Hayes — Anyone who doesn’t consider the posters to be “art” because of their disposable nature is dead wrong. And this hipper-than-thou book proves that, oversized page after oversized page. Each 11-by-14 page is perforated, so if you find one that sears your retinas — and any self-respecting music fan will find dozens — it’s already suitable for framing.
SAMURAI FILMS by Roland Thorne — Never seen a samurai flick? Grab this book and start filling your Netflix queue. From the 1950s to today, Thorne offers a host of great suggestions to taking in some cinematic exploits of kung fu’s smarter, older brother.
THE BEST OF 2000 AD: HUNDREDS OF CLASSIC STRIPS FROM THE GALAXY’S GREATEST COMIC — This heavy hardcover contains nearly 400 pages’ worth of comics culled from issues of 2000 AD, a weekly magazine that’s been a staple of British sci-fi for more than 30 years, featuring such characters as Judge Dredd, Strontium Dog and Rogue Trooper.
SAGA OF THE SWAMP THING: BOOK ONE by Alan Moore — For me, Moore’s finest work in comics lie with DC’s muck-encrusted antihero. Those who already own the work in paperback may think an upgrade isn’t necessary, yet this hardcover boasts his very first issue, #20, which has never been reprinted before. These tales remain enchanting ones of love, loss and outright fright, 25 years later.
MISSION CONTROL, THIS IS APOLLO: THE STORY OF THE FIRST VOYAGES TO THE MOON by Andrew Chaikin and Alan Bean — From historical perspective to addressing the problem of pooping in space, MISSION CONTROL is a special book, made all the more so by the accompanying paintings of Alan Bean, Apollo 12 astronaut. The middle-aged man I am was turned into a kid again absorbing its every page. —Rod Lott
Buy them at Amazon.