Detroit Is Our Beat: Tales of the Four Horsemen

detroitisourbeatFans of the prolific Loren D. Estleman, especially his crime fiction, know that the city of Detroit figures prominently in his work. It is where his long-running and excellent Amos Walker PI series takes place, and is the location of several stand-alone works as well.

Now Estleman highlights his beloved home town in the years following the outbreak of World War II in DETROIT IS OUR BEAT, a collection of 10 short stories featuring the fictional Detroit Racket Squad – known more popularly to the local press and public as the Four Horsemen.

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Six Women of Salem: The Untold Story of the Accused and Their Accusers in the Salem Witch Trials

6womensalemMarilynne K. Roach uses an unusual, but effective, structure in her book SIX WOMEN OF SALEM: THE UNTOLD STORY OF THE ACCUSED AND THEIR ACCUSERS IN THE SALEM WITCH TRIALS. She laser-focuses on six individuals, all women, out of the 162 people (men and women) who were “dragged before the law.”

In the introductions, she gives each woman’s personal history from birth until the end of 1691, and includes a fictionalized (set off in italics) vignette from the woman’s life. In the middle part of the book, she continues with the short fiction, while providing a month-by-month blow-by-blow description of the events, trials and outcomes from January 1692 to May 1693, and then in the afterword, recounts the history of the six chosen women post-Salem witch trial.

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VHS: Video Cover Art

vhsvideocoverThomas Hodge’s VHS: VIDEO COVER ART is hardly the only book to lovingly collect outré boxes from the dominant home-video format of the 1980s and ’90s, but it’s the first to feature this eyebrow-raiser from the back cover of the 1986 sex comedy FREE RIDE:

Superglue is not a penis enlarging cream
See inside for details”

Woe be to the horny renter who couldn’t read, I guess.

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Forest of Fortune

forestfortuneJim Ruland’s debut novel, now out in paperback, doesn’t fit comfortably into any specific genre. There’s a supernatural element to the narrative, but not prevalent enough to call it a horror story. The protagonists are on seemingly endless downward spirals as in a noir mystery, but the thin plotline does not contain much mystery at all.

Instead, FOREST OF FORTUNE is a moody, atmospheric and seductive portrayal of three desperate individuals whose lives revolve around a Native American casino in Southern California.

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In the Shadows of Paris

inshadowsparisClaude Izner is actually the nom de plume of two sisters, Liliane Korb and Laurence Lefèvre, who are booksellers in France. They have chosen as their series protagonist one Victor Legris, who along with his Japanese partner Kenji Mori, Mori’s daughter Isis, and the whiny shop assistant Joseph (who is betrothed to Isis), run a quaint but thriving bookshop IN THE SHADOWS OF PARIS.

This book and its follow-up STRANGLED IN PARIS are the fifth and sixth book in the series. However, the latter was published in France in 2006, and while Wikipedia lists five more titles after that one, they have not yet been translated into English. That could be a bad sign.

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Claws & Saucers: Science Fiction, Horror, and Fantasy Film 1902-1982 — A Complete Guide

clawssaucersI won’t, but I could tell you in excruciating detail where I was when I found out about — and subsequently purchased — Michael J. Weldon’s THE PSYCHOTRONIC ENCYCLOPEDIA OF FILM. Same goes for Joe Kane’s THE PHANTOM’S ULTIMATE VIDEO GUIDE in 1989, not to mention many others across many years.

I bring it up only because had David Elroy Goldweber’s CLAWS & SAUCERS been published then instead of now, the ins and outs surrounding its acquisition forever would be imprinted on my brain. CLAWS & SAUCERS doesn’t have the personality to emerge as indispensable as those genre-centric film guides, but it generates the same nostalgic charge upon digging into it. Put simply, this huge, four-pound volume is just fun to flip through, whether to titles that pique your curiosity or at random.

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Memphis Ribs

memphisribsSouthern author Gerald Duff’s 1999 crime novel, MEMPHIS RIBS, is available again. So those who missed it the first time around can now acquaint themselves with Duff’s near-redneck but completely likable protagonist, J. W. Ragsdale.

Its May in Memphis, and that means the city is preparing for the tide of tourists who flock to the city to enjoy the annual International Barbecue Contest and Cotton Carnival. But then a series of crimes occur that threaten the festivities: a conventioneer is stabbed at an ATM machine, a gang leader and his girlfriend are executed, and a wealthy local businessman is killed in his own home while his bodyguard naps outside the door.

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5 Entertainment Books to Remember for Memorial Day Reading

beyondfearIn naming his new book, Joseph Maddrey chose the wrong preposition: BEYOND FEAR is about fear. What the Bear Manor Media trade paperback is beyond is the usual quality of film bios seen in the indie-pub field — miles above, no less. The subtitle teases REFLECTIONS ON STEPHEN KING, WES CRAVEN, AND GEORGE ROMERO’S LIVING DEAD, which is to say essays about these terror titans’ lives and work, but imbued with threads of personality from Maddrey (perhaps best known for 2004’s NIGHTMARES IN RED, WHITE AND BLUE and its subsequent 2009 documentary), all ridiculously readable. Romero actually represents just a smidge of the 336 pages, while Craven is more fleshed out, including a new-to-me nugget of how A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET almost was made for Disney Channel. Clearly, Maddrey’s heart and soul lie with King, and it’s a testament to the volume that even if Romero and Craven’s parts were shaved away, your money still would be well-spent. He provides an enlightening encapsulation of the writer’s entire career — peaks, valleys and coke-fueled bumps — with particular attention paid to each novel’s germination. I devoured it like Constant Readers do King’s books.

broadcasthysteriaIn the mood for a good debunking? Are you sure? Because you might be disappointed to learn that the Mercury Theatre’s 1938 radio adaptation of a certain H.G. Wells novel did not cause widespread panic after all. Note: The operative word there is “widespread,” because as A. Brad Schwartz proves in BROADCAST HYSTERIA: ORSON WELLES’S WAR OF THE WORLDS AND THE ART OF FAKE NEWS, uproar did result — just not in the teeming masses as legend has it. Kind of a book-length Snopes entry, but actually entertaining and readable, the Hill and Wang hardcover release makes its factual case while also delivering a stranger-than-fiction account of the real story behind the unreal story, full of eye-opening letters from listeners both outraged and amused. Given Welles’ eventual F FOR FAKE documentary on hoaxes and forgeries, one would think the filmmaker himself would appreciate Schwartz’s stats-backed correction of “history”; on the other hand, he certainly ate up the post-WAR attention.

christianhorrorDon’t assume from the title of his new book, A CHRISTIAN RESPONSE TO HORROR CINEMA: TEN FILMS IN THEOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVE, that Peter Fraser is condemning the entire horror genre; while many deeply devout consider such entertainment to be satanic at face value, Fraser finds interest — and even pleasure — in viewing depictions of the light and the dark. In fact, he argues for their co-existence, despite not having a particular affinity for scare cinema. (This will not surprise you when he admits upfront that WHAT LIES BENEATH gave him “night terrors.”) Just over half the book is devoted to old-school chillers, one of which grants the McFarland-published paperback its highlight: his discussion of 1973’s THE EXORCIST. As he writes, while William Friedkin’s classic conjures evil onscreen, “the paradox … is that the story was apparently written and put onto film to lead people toward the faith.” I’ve made that argument before to deaf and deeply religious ears, so it’s refreshing to read the same from an open (if too easily frightened) mind.

wrappedplasticAs news arrives of Showtime reviving (or maybe not) David Lynch and Mark Frost’s weird, wonderful TWIN PEAKS television series, Andy Burns’ WRAPPED IN PLASTIC: TWIN PEAKS arrives as part of the second wave of ECW Press’ line of Pop Classics paperbacks. Judged as a free-flowing, long-form essay stemming from one man’s mind, Burns’ book works; judged as a story of the show’s making, it fails. (But it’s not meant to be that, for which I steer you toward Brad Dukes’ oral history, REFLECTIONS.) Small in size and page count, but not intelligence, WRAPPED considers (and reconsiders) how damn risky the series was, its depiction of ultimate family dysfunction, and how influential it remains today in this age of “auteur television,” despite its all-too-brief broadcast life. Because the Pop Classics line lets its authors run wild, the results read deeply personal, if not always relatable; it depends upon your own love for each volume’s under-the-microscope subject. (For those keeping track, that has included SHOWGIRLS, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Elvis Costello, with Nicolas Cage to follow this fall.)

RKOhorrorIt is what it is: RKO RADIO PICTURES HORROR, SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY FILMS, 1929-1956. The hefty paperback from McFarland sees Michael R. Pitts covering every film that meets the book’s title criteria, from ADVENTURE GIRL to ZOMBIES ON BROADWAY. With even short subjects thrown in for good measure, the contents are presented alphabetically vs. chronologically. For RKO nuts — and believe me, they’re out there, given the studio’s runs with King Kong, Dick Tracy, Walt Disney, Val Lewton and Tarzan — the admittedly niche book should prove a welcome reference. For more general film lovers, only Pitts’ own critiques and historical perspective provide any sustenance, as IMDb has eliminated the need for comprehensive cast-and-crew credits, and I hear from a growing number of people that lengthy plot synopses are space-wasters as well. As per McFarland’s usual standards, original key art is widespread and tops. —Rod Lott

Get them at Amazon.

The Argento Syndrome

argentosyndromeAs a fan of Dario Argento myself, I feel as if Derek Botelho wrote THE ARGENTO SYNDROME just for me. Although Maitland McDonagh’s BROKEN MIRRORS/BROKEN MINDS is arguably the definitive book on the director famously dubbed (and derided) as “the Italian Hitchcock,” Botelho’s has the edge for pure entertainment value. Both books are musts for the filmmaker’s followers, as each takes a different tact.

While Botelho curiously fails to delineate Argento’s films on a year-by-year timeline, he covers Argento’s directorial efforts chronologically. Whether largely or nominally giallo (with one sex comedy sticking out like a sore penis), each movie merits its own chapter, from 1970’s wildly influential THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE to 2012’s imperfect but harshly judged DRACULA 3D.

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Susannah Screaming

susannahFans of TV police dramas remember The Streets of San Francisco (1972 – 1977) as the series that starred veteran movie and stage actor Karl Malden as an older, street-smart police detective partnered with a young, college-educated but inexperienced detective played by Michael Douglas, who would later become a major star on his own.

What is seldom remembered is that the pilot that launched the series was based upon the crime novel, POOR, POOR OPHELIA by Carolyn Weston. The setting and names were changed, but the main characters that drove the series were essentially Al Krug and Casey Kellog, the police detectives created by Weston.
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