Vanishing Act: A Glimpse into Cambodia’s World of Magic

vanishingactHi, BOOKGASM Loyalists,

It’s me, sci-fi reviewer Ryun Patterson. It’s been awhile, I know. It’s not you; it’s me: work, parenthood and, like, 50,000 other perfectly good excuses have kept me away from reviewing books and contributing to the Solar Plexus Watch.

“WTF is this about?” you ask.

Well, it’s pretty simple, and I think it’s right up your alley. If you don’t know (it’s not like I ever shut up about it), I was a journalist in Cambodia from 1999 to 2003. There are a million fascinating things in Cambodia, both good and bad, but the big thing, for me, was the fact that here was a country where “sorcerer” is an actual profession, and people take magic very seriously. There are spirit mediums, magical tattooists and mystics who have led amazing lives just so they can practice a brand of magic that just isn’t anywhere else.

ryuntatA couple of years ago, I got a magical tattoo in a Cambodian temple, and the monks who enchanted the ink told me that the heyday of magic is over, and Cambodia’s magical traditions are fading. So I decided to write a book about it. Not just words, though — it’ll be an ebook full of photos, video and environmental audio as I cross Cambodia tracking down Cambodia’s remaining Sorcerers Supreme.

This is a new type of book, so I’ve decided to seek a new type of funding for the project: Kickstarter. We’ve made great progress so far, but I could use your support. So if you enjoyed my reviews, my best sci-fi yearly lists or my uninformed take on GOODNIGHT MOON, take a look at VANISHING ACT: A GLIMPSE INTO CAMBODIA’S WORLD OF MAGIC. You can get enchanted amulets, photos and more for your support — and if you don’t particularly like me, you can make me eat a spider on video. Thanks! —Ryun Patterson

After I’m Gone

afterimgoneFamilies have always been an important component in Laura Lippman’s impressive stand-alone crime novels. Some central crime always involves a family; how the family is affected by the crime supplies the story’s emotional drama. In AFTER I’M GONE, Lippman pushes this family element forward and takes a different approach to the crime involved.

Felix Brewer met 19-year-old Bernadette “Bambi” Gottschalk at a Valentine’s Day dance in Baltimore in 1959. Not long afterward, they were married. Felix runs a lucrative, illegal racketeering business, but always manages to keep his business affairs separated from his family.

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BULLETS, BROADS, BLACKMAIL & BOMBS >> Mexicali Blues

Fargobullets broads blackmail and bombsIt’s time once again to saddle up and ride into the Old West. This trip to the frontier will be a little different, since the first two books covered are ebooks from the fine folks of Piccadilly Publishing, who have been putting out some solid reissues. I figured it was damn time to cover a few. The third book is from a long-running series that a friend of mine who is not a fan of the genre swears by.

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Did You Notice?: The Wristwatch, Upside Down Gun, Power Pole and Tire Tracks in Western Film Stills

didyounoticeRetired schoolteacher Don Creacy has scoured untold stacks — if not warehouses — of studio-approved 8-by-10s from Hollywood’s early Westerns, looking for the odd and unusual in order to compile DID YOU NOTICE? Creacy obviously noticed, and he’s made an amusing pictorial collection for the dime-a-ticket film buff.

Understandably, one might assume that the 200-plus examples all illustrate movie mistakes, but not’s the case. Mistakes, however, are indeed in near-surplus, including such “oops” moments as a missing belt, anachronistic power cords, an unturning saw blade, an errant crew member and so on.

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The $11 Billion Year: From Sundance to the Oscars, an Inside Look at the Changing Hollywood System

11billionyearIn her first book, THE $11 BILLION YEAR, intrepid film journalist Anne Thompson takes the reader through the annual life cycle that awaits Hollywood studios’ products and scrappy indies: a circus of festivals and awards in which a movie’s success is far from a sure thing. No matter a film’s fate, its story is never dull, and the book serves as a time capsule of those projects vying for supremacy — critically and culturally, but above all else, financially — in 2012.

In its structure, her book reminded me of Peter Bart’s THE GROSS of 2000, which chronicled the hits and flops in the summer slate of 1998 with a juice-packed insider’s view. The difference is Thompson’s scope is IMAX-sized compared to Bart’s.

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The Resistance Man

resistancemanIn THE RESISTANCE MAN, Martin Walker’s sixth entry in his Bruno, Chief of Police series, Bruno is called to the house of an old man who has passed. Turns out he was in the French Resistance during World War II, so he is entitled to a special burial which Bruno arranges with the governing agency. Strangely, the man was clutching a large number of outdated currency, money that his less than mournful daughters could have used in life.

Bruno is called away from this to investigate a burglary that may have some serious consequences. The man burgled ran the Joint Security Committee in the Cabinet Office in Downing Street, and so an invasion of his home has the higher-ups very worried.

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Screens of Blood: A Critical Approach to Film and Television Violence

screensofbloodIn his introduction to SCREENS OF BLOOD, the Colorado-based Gregory Desilet writes that his book-length examination of violence of screens both silver and small does not approach the subject as harmful or harmless. That would be a most welcome perspective if it were true, but time and time again, the author appears to err on the politically correct side of harmful.

After all, according to him, watching crime shows on TV is bad for you — and not only for your health, but that of your community at large: “Fans of the DEXTER series … must weigh what viewing does for them against what it does to them.” Who wrote this, James Dobson?

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The Chinese Beverly Hills

chinesebevhillsAlthough this is the 14th title in his Jack Liffey mystery series, John Shannon remains one of the lesser-known Los Angeles-based crime authors working today. What’s all the more frustrating is that he is also one of the very best. THE CHINESE BEVERLY HILLS ably demonstrates why and stands as another noteworthy addition to this rewarding series.

A brush fire rages in the hills above L.A. and firefighting jumpers are dropped in the middle of it. One firefighter makes a horrifying discovery just as the flames threatens to overtake him.

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The Troop

thetroopThe goal of a really good pop mash-up is not to forget that you’ve heard this riff, not to see past the repetition of that particular plot device, not to ignore all the bits stolen from this Stephen King novel or that one. No, some of the pleasure comes from the way the text invites you to revel in your own expertise, sets up a call-and-response with the geeky fan/reader.

With THE TROOP, Nick Cutter (a pseudonym barely even trying to serve as a disguise) puts on that fake, porny name and a confident snarling smile, and takes no pains to cover up the novel’s debt to various predecessors.

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Rebellion

rebellionFormerly a Bow Street Runner (the precursor to British policemen), Matthew Hawkwood is now playing a game with much higher stakes. Assigned to a clandestine government organization, he is being sent to France to foment revolution against Napoleon Bonaparte.

REBELLION is James McGee’s fourth book in the Hawkwood thriller series, featuring nautical action to rival Patrick O’Brian, adventure to rival Edgar Rice Burroughs, and historical details and accuracy to rival … well, let’s just say it’s an awesome combination of Regency-period fact and fiction.

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