DOUG’S DIGS >> Alligator

Unearthing buried treasures from pulp literature’s yesteryear!

There was a time within living memory when James Bond was new. The first Bond novel, CASINO ROYALE, was published in 1953, and by the time the ninth volume in the series, THUNDERBALL, came out in 1961, the books had made author Ian Fleming a rich man. When President John F. Kennedy, in a LIFE magazine article that year, named FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE as one of his favorite novels, and Fleming sold the film rights to 007, everything was in place for Fleming’s enshrinement in the Pop Literature Hall of Fame.

And, of course, a visit from those Merry Pranksters at THE HARVARD LAMPOON.

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Animals in the Zoo

Editor’s note: We don’t review short stories on their own, but when Akashic Books asked us to participate in a crowdsourced review of Joe Meno’s DEMONS IN THE SPRING collection, we couldn’t say “no,” and were assigned “Animals in the Zoo.” Akashic invited 20 literary blogs to review one of 20 stories from the paperback edition; you can see the results here, with exclusive commentary from Meno.

Ever seen the 1965 family comedy ZEBRA IN THE KITCHEN, in which a kid opens all the zoo cages to free their residents, who cause playful havoc? Joe Meno’s “Animals in the Zoo” is like that. What about the 1977 horror film DAY OF THE ANIMALS, in which the beasts of the forest terrorize and slaughter unhappy campers? Joe Meno’s “Animals in the Zoo” is like that, too.

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My Monkey’s Name Is Jennifer: Volume Two

If nothing else, MY MONKEY’S NAME IS JENNIFER: VOLUME TWO proves the axiom that monkeys equal comedy. At least part of the time. Like when the titular monkey is introduced to the jungle life by an ape via a song-and-dance number that contains the lyrics, “When you’re hungry grab a banana to eat / No need to wait in line our life is fucking sweet! / Out in the jungle we have not a care / Throw your feces up in the air!”

In Ken Knudsten’s thin graphic novel from Slave Labor Graphics, Jennifer is actually a neutered male who is treated like a girl — a human, even — by young, cute, blonde Kaitlyn. As the book opens, they’re both in bed sick, and mucus is flying everywhere.

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The AFTERLIFE Evolution

Getting a first novel published is never easy. Merrie Destefano found that out with AFTERLIFE: THE RESURRECTION CHRONICLES, the first in a planned trilogy from Eos/HarperCollins. Here, she recalls AFTERLIFE’s ever-changing life cycle in its journey from brain to book.

I wish I were one of those people who could slam out a book in three months, whose first draft was pretty near perfect. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. The truth of the matter is, I drive my writing group nuts. What book is this, they’ll ask after I start reading a few pages for critique. Oh, it’s the same book, I’ll tell them, just completely different.

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Stars and Gods

Mention “Larry Niven” and the immediate response from any seasoned science-fiction reader is “RINGWORLD.” Not for nothing, as that novel and the series it inspired has worked it way to “classic” status in the contemporary hard-SF world. But his fans know that there is a lot more to this inventive author, as evidenced by STARS AND GODS, the latest grab-bag compilation of his recent writings.

Like earlier Niven collections N-SPACE, PLAYGROUNDS OF THE MIND and SCATTERBRAIN, Tor’s STARS AND GODS brings together an assortment of novel excerpts, short stories, articles and miscellany, representing his output from the past six years.

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bullets broads blackmail and bombsHere’s another column of books that have been waiting to be read far too long. I mean, I’ve got stacks upon stacks of books to go through, and not all groups of three can have a cohesive theme. Sometimes you take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have a real shitty TV sitcom. But this is more about reading, not viewing, so let’s see what I’ve pulled out of the piles for you this week.

HIDEAWAY by Maurice Procter — Going ass-backward into a long-running series is never an easy read, especially when the book in question is actually the last of the bunch. With this 1968 entry, there were plenty of times where I was left in the lurch, but I can only blame myself. No, wait: If the publisher clearly stated this was book number-so-and-so, I would have picked up something else.

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TRAILER PARK >> Tales from the Boneyard

Whatever happens in Vegas, dies in Vegas. Or something like that, with TALES FROM THE BONEYARD, a 48-page comic-book anthology debuting at Nov. 6’s 2010 Vegas Valley Comic Book Festival. Roll the dice and check out the trailer:

Pirates of the Levant

Do you miss the nautical novels of Patrick O’Brian, adventurous tales of the sea, and doughty warriors involved in daring escapades?

Can you handle a shift in ancestry and time from Englishmen fighting during the Napoleonic Wars to Spaniards wreaking havoc in the 17th century?

If so, then you should be reading Arturo Pérez-Reverte and his series of books featuring Captain Alatriste, the latest of which is PIRATES OF THE LEVANT, translated into English by Margaret Jull Costa.

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The Ocean Dark

Jack Rogan’s debut novel certainly doesn’t read like an author’s first mystery, deftly combining the supernatural — or preternatural, or simply the natural, but the unknown — with a decent amount of smuggling, FBI drama, deception, sex and blood and gore, if not necessarily in that order. Sound like the perfect combination for a read-it-in-one-day thriller? It is, and I did.

THE OCEAN DARK sets itself apart from your typical cop thriller from the get-go: A group of fishermen smuggling guns through the Caribbean sets a rendezvous near an unknown and uncharted island. When they arrive at the specified location, they find the shallows filled with decades worth of shipwrecks — sailboats and schooners, cruise ships and fishing boats. The sound of strange songs across the water seems to predict doom and gloom — rightly so, because soon, all but one of the sailors are dead.

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BOOK WHORE >> 9.28.10

book whoreShe’s back each Tuesday, pimpin’ out notable new releases to place on your radar, so let the tempting plot descriptions begin!

POWER DOWN by Ben Coes — A major North American hydroelectric dam is blown up and the largest off-shore oil field in this hemisphere is destroyed in a brutal, coordinated terrorist attack. But there was one factor that the terrorists didn’t take into account when they struck the Capitana platform: crew chief Dewey Andreas. Dewey, former Army Ranger and Delta, survives the attack, rescuing as many of his men as possible. But the battle has just begun. While the intelligence and law enforcement agencies scramble to untangle these events and find the people responsible, the mysterious figure of Alexander Fortuna — an agent embedded into the highest levels of American society and business — sets into play the second stage of these long-planned attacks.

THE HEIR OF NIGHT by Helen Lowe — In the far north of the world of Haarth lies the bitter mountain range known as the Wall of Night. Garrisoned by the Nine Houses of the Derai, the Wall is the final bastion between the peoples of Haarth and the Swarm of Dark — which the Derai have been fighting across worlds and time. Malian, Heir to the House of Night, knows the history of her people: the unending war with the Darkswarm; the legendary heroes, blazing with long-lost power; the internal strife that has fractured the Derai’s former strength. But now the Darkswarm is rising again, and Malian’s destiny as Heir of Night is bound inextricably to both ancient legend and any future the Derai — or Haarth — may have.

THE PYRAMID OF DOOM by Andy McDermott — An international TV audience waits breathlessly as archaeologists prepare to break into a long-hidden vault beneath the Great Sphinx. But student Macy Sharif has already made her own shocking discovery: a religious cult raiding the site. Their prize? A map that will lead to something far more astounding: the lost pyramid of Osiris. Framed by corrupt officials, Macy goes on the run, trying to reach the only people who can save her before she is silenced — permanently. American archaeologist Nina Wilde, once a renowned scientific explorer, now all but blacklisted by her colleagues, is trying to rebuild her reputation. But Macy’s plea for help will send Nina and ex-SAS bodyguard Eddie Chase on the ultimate treasure hunt.

JANE AND THE DAMNED by Janet Mullany — Aspiring writer Jane Austen knows that respectable young ladies like herself are supposed to shun the Damned — the beautiful, fashionable, exquisitely seductive vampires who are all the rage in Georgian England in 1797. So when an innocent (she believes) flirtation results in her being turned — by an absolute cad of a bloodsucker — she acquiesces to her family’s wishes and departs for Bath to take the waters, the only known cure. But what she encounters there is completely unexpected: perilous jealousies and further betrayals.

THE OXFORD BOOK OF PARODIES edited by John Gross — Parodies come in all shapes and sizes. There are broad parodies and subtle parodies, ingenious imitations and knockabout spoofs, scornful lampoons and affectionate pastiches. The classics of the genre are all here, but so are scores of lesser known but scarcely less brilliant works. At every stage there are surprises. Proust visits Chelsea, Yeats re-writes “Old King Cole,” Harry Potter encounters Mick Jagger, a modernized Sermon on the Mount rubs shoulders with an obituary of Sherlock Holmes. The collection provides a running commentary on literary history, but it also looks beyond literature to include such things as ad parodies, political parodies and even a scientific hoax.

Buy them at Amazon.

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