The Outlaw Album

THE OUTLAW ALBUM is the first collection of short stories from Daniel Woodrell, author of such notable and critically acclaimed novels as WINTER’S BONE (basis of the Academy Award-nominated film), THE DEATH OF SWEET MISTER and three early ones republished this past spring as THE BAYOU TRILOGY.

Like those novels, these stories are about people living in the remote rural Ozark areas of the Midwest. Also, the themes that so distinguish his novels — such as the desperate realities of family, the way your home defines your identity, and the odd justification of criminal and often violent acts — are all present here and often combined into a single story.

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The New Poverty Row: Independent Filmmakers as Distributors

It’s purely by accident that I started reading Fred Olen Ray’s THE NEW POVERTY ROW just an hour after watching the film MACHETE MAIDENS UNLEASHED! See, Ray’s book covers a lot of the same ground as the movies and their makers featured in Mark Hartley’s excellent documentary, so with strong mental pictures fresh on the mind, my appreciation of POVERTY ROW’s subject was heightened. I suggest you do the same. It’s a ton more fun than its rather blah title suggests.

A moviemaker in his own right, Ray relays the histories of seven indie production companies, including his own, whose names often are synonymous with their creators — Roger Corman and Sam Sherman among them. In doing so, readers get lots of little making-of stories sandwiched into one tasty dish.

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Cold Shot to the Heart

Crime novelist Wallace Stroby didn’t make us wait near as long for COLD SHOT TO THE HEART as he did for last year’s fine GONE ‘TIL NOVEMBER. Like that novel, this one — new to paperback — features a female protagonist caught up in the responsibilities of her profession and the complexities of her personal life. This time, however, the woman is not a cop.

Crissa Stone is a career criminal, and a very good one, too. She has to be, since women are a rarity in her filed. But she is a good as she is thanks to a strict set of rules she follows. Like never working a job too close to her New York City home, never rushing a job, and never working with the same crew.

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Dead of Night

Zombies, zombies, everywhere! Long a staple of horror movies, the living dead have recently lumbered their way to prominence on TV, in comics, novels and dozens of story collections. So why then should we pay particular attention to a novel with the innocuous title DEAD OF NIGHT? Because it’s from Jonathan Maberry, one of the most inventive and reliably entertaining authors currently mining the undead trend.

Desdemona “Dez” Fox, and partner JT Hammond, police officers in the small town of Stebbins County, Penn., are called one morning to the grounds of Hartnup’s Transition Estate, a local mortuary, for a suspected break-in. They find two horribly mutilated corpses, and evidence of a third gone missing. As Dez and JT inspect the grounds, the two bodies suddenly come back to life and attack them.

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Day of the Panzer: A Story of American Heroism and Sacrifice in Southern France

Jeff Danby’s DAY OF THE PANZER: A STORY OF AMERICAN HEROISM AND SACRIFICE IN SOUTHERN FRANCE should be an absolute treat for detail-oriented fans of World War II battles, wargamers and history buffs. He tracks in meticulous, but never boring detail the actions of L Company, 15th Regiment, U.S. 3rd Infantry Division as it invades Southern France.

That’s right: Southern France. This isn’t about Normandy; it’s the rare book about a different theater of action that isn’t always discussed.

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9 Completely Embarrassing Comic Books I Owned in My Youth

THE AVENGERS #239 (1984) — As all comic geeks know, The Avengers are Marvel Comics’ version of the Justice League of America — in other words, a team of superheroes fighting crime together, rather than individually. In #239, the likes of Hawkeye, Black Widow, the Beast and Black Panther comprise the lineup, joining forces to … appear on LATE NIGHT WITH DAVID LETTERMAN? Yep, the whole issue is about them guesting on Dave’s show, and the only thing more cringe-worthy than seeing Paul Shaffer in a Captain America shirt is seeing Dave foiling the bad guy by knocking him over the head with a giant door knob and exclaiming, “I guess that’ll teach you not to mess with David Letterman!” Too bad Jay Leno wasn’t on TV then — this crap is right up his alley.

CAPTAIN CARROT AND HIS AMAZING ZOO CREW! #1 (1982) — Cute animals as superheroes. The Plastic Man-esuqe Rubberduck. The Wonder Woman-like Yankee Poodle. The unending puns like President Mallard Fillmore. Geez, the shit I would buy when I was 11.

THE MARVEL FUMETTI BOOK #1 (1984) — “Fumetti” is Italian for “shit.” Or, more specifically, “photo-funnies.” This one-shot comic stars Stan Lee and the bearded, bespectacled nerds who comprised the Marvel staff at the time. Imagine if your high school chess club just went crazy with a couple rolls of B&W film and you’ve got the idea. The center spread with Lee lounging on a couch in a full Hulk outfit will turn you off centerfolds — and maybe even photography — for the rest of your life.

OBNOXIO THE CLOWN VS. THE X-MEN #1 (1983) — The abrasive, miserable, cigar-smoking Obnoxio was the mascot of Marvel’s CRAZY magazine, a short-lived MAD rip-off. I’m not sure why they wanted to team him up with their critically acclaimed band of mutant heroes, but they did, and here he helps Wolverine, Cyclops, Storm, Nightcrawler and the gang fight a villain known as Eye-Scream, so named because he can turn into, well, ice cream. Obnoxio celebrates their victory over the ne’er-do-well by putting a giant cherry on the guy’s head. Hee-larious, no? Here’s hoping the X-MEN film franchise doesn’t get so far that this is considered as a potential storyline.

POWER PACK #1 (1984) — By conversing with some sort of talking space horse, four kids become superheroes. They call themselves Gee, Lightspeed, The Energizer and Mass-Master (which sounds pornographic). Those names suck because kid superheroes suck. On the plus side, there’s an ad letting me know that my favorite Atari hits are now playable on my Texas Instruments computer.

SPIDER-MAN: CHRISTMAS IN DALLAS (1983) — When I was 12 years old, I went with my parents to Dallas for some reason. This comic book was in that Sunday’s DALLAS TIMES HERALD. In it, Spidey fights Kingpin! At Christmastime! In, uh, Dallas! And also makes a kid’s day by giving him a box of Crunch ‘n Munch. The last page says the next issue would have Spider-Man, Firestar and Ice Man at the Dallas Ballet’s production of THE NUTCRACKER. I’m sure that would’ve made this list, too.

SPIDER-MAN AND THE INCREDIBLE HULK: CHAOS IN KANSAS CITY (1982) — This is just like the Dallas thing, but was in THE KANSAS CITY STAR. Spidey and Hulk fight Kraven the Hunter in the Jones department store, which explains all the crudely drawn ads with kids in Britania jeans and Izod shirts.

SUPER-HEROES BATTLE SUPER-GORILLAS #16 (1975) — What’s sadder: That I forked over a quarter to read four stories about Superman, Batman, The Flash and Wonder Woman each fighting powerful apes, or that DC Comics had a quartet of stories laying around about Superman, Batman, The Flash and Wonder Woman each fighting apes?

SUPER-STAR HOLIDAY SPECIAL #1 (1980) — What were your Christmas traditions? Sipping egg nog by the fire? Making popcorn balls for the tree? Reading Batman in “Wanted: Santa Claus – Dead or Alive”? Yeah, mine, too (if you answered “yes” to that last one). This compilation of holiday-themed stories features Jonah Hex, Superboy, Sgt. Rock and the House of Mystery hosts learning the true spirit of the season through such plot devices as raccoons and candle-wielding nuns. Today, I’m more intrigued by Hawkman saving the life of a falling skydiver, who commemorates his close call by enjoying the “chocolaty cake, fudgy icing” of Hostess Cup Cakes. —Rod Lott

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Headstone

After confronting the devil incarnate (in last year’s THE DEVIL), you’d think the life and times of Jack Taylor, the Galway-based star of Ken Bruen’s series of novels, couldn’t get much darker or more foreboding. And you’d be wrong. HEADSTONE, the ninth and newest entry, is perhaps the most intense and startling to date. Thanks to some departures and expansions of its format, it is also amazingly one of the most richly rewarding of the series.

A group calling itself Headstone, formed and headed by a psychopath who insists on calling himself Bine, has a master plan to rid Ireland of what it sees as human deficiencies — in other words, all mentally and physically handicapped, alcoholics, homosexuals and selected members of the clergy.

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Rape-Revenge Films

Let’s get one thing right out of the way: If you’re looking for THE FRAT GUY’S GUIDE TO TOTALLY BITCHIN’ MOVIES WHERE CHICKS GET RAPED, BRO!, this is not that book, and thank God for that. Alexandra Heller-Nicholas’ RAPE-REVENGE FILMS is, as it cover states, “A Critical Study.” It may even be the FIEND magazine founding editor’s Ph.D. thesis, for all I know. If so, she deserves an A.

Heller-Nicholas examines the subgenre in such depth, you may not realize how many movies there were that qualified. Sure, there are the top-of-mind titles of Mier Zarchi’s I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE, Wes Craven’s LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT and Abel Ferrara’s MS. 45 (whose protagonist adorns the book’s cover), but those, the author argues, are just one type of the rape-revenge film.

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Mail-Order Mysteries: Real Stuff from Old Comic Book Ads!

Anyone who grew up reading comics in several decades ago remember those ads hawking all these cool things you could order. Or, better yet, a way to make money to win a bicycle. Of course, most people who answered these ads learned the most important lesson of their lives: There’s a sucker born every minute, and they read comic books.

Kirk Demarais’ great MAIL-ORDER MYSTERIES: REAL STUFF FROM OLD COMIC BOOK ADS! answers the lasting questions to those kids whose parents would not let them waste their time and money. And if you did, it’s a clear reminder of exactly what kind of crap you ended up with. Ironically, this book represents, without a doubt, some of the best money I ever spent.

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Promises to Keep

Charles de Lint is one of the finest contemporary fantasists writing today. His deeply emotional and intimate tales almost always revolve around our collective human nature, our fascination with and desire for an afterlife, and they contain an immense respect for the undiscovered magic and mystery that inevitably surround us. Filled with life lessons but never moralistic, his core concern seems to be that each of his characters must find their own worth, what they are worth to themselves and to others.

PROMISES TO KEEP is a Jilly Coppercorn and Newford novel, and tells the story of how Jilly was able to turn herself from a heroin-addicted prostitute into an aspiring fine artist, and how she was helped along the way by innumerable people who are now her friends.

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