The End of the Story: The Collected Fantasies of Clark Ashton Smith, Volume 1

endstoryIn the first of five volumes, Night Shade Books brought the works of a classic fantasist to a new generation with THE END OF THE STORY: THE COLLECTED FANTASIES OF CLARK ASHTON SMITH, VOLUME 1, first published in 2007 but now in a trade-paperback reprint edition. Putting the stories in chronological order is the right idea to do, but having read any of Smith’s works before, it left me a little bewildered.

A frequent contributor to WEIRD TALES, Smith has been compared to Edgar Allan Poe and as a contemporary of H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard. But as I read these stories, it became quite clear that Poe was the heaviest influence. That’s not to say all these stories take place in days of yore, though there is a healthy serving of that type.

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EURO COMICS ROUNDUP >> Crazy Good

runlikecrazyFantagraphics continues publishing Jacques Tardi’s gloriously visceral adaptations of the gritty Jean-Patrick Manchette novels with RUN LIKE CRAZY, RUN LIKE HELL. I was worried (and still am) that the Eurocomics line of Fantagraphics fell by the wayside after the untimely death of Kim Thompson, but this black and white and bloody volume is a knockout return to form, capably translated by Doug Headline and designed to match their earlier volumes.

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Empire of Imagination: Gary Gygax and the Birth of Dungeons & Dragons

empireimaginationEMPIRE OF IMAGINATION: GARY GYGAX AND THE BIRTH OF DUNGEONS & DRAGONS by Michael Witwer is the first (amazingly) full-length biography of the co-creator of the seminal pencil-and-paper role-playing game DUNGEONS & DRAGONS, and the creator of hundreds of fantasy products, including games, novels, articles and other contributions.

A maker of worlds, his influence can be found throughout popular culture, and not just in the realm of computer and video gaming which would be much, much less without the foundation of D&D, but in movies, television shows, and books in and out of the fantasy genre.

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Gestapo Mars

gestapomarsVictor Gischler is one of those rare genre authors who effortlessly shift from offbeat but realistic stories (GUN MONKEYS, THE DEPUTY, and others) to wild, reckless flights of demented science fiction and horror (GO-GO GIRLS OF THE APOCALYPSE, VAMPIRE A GO-GO, and his several comic book works).

His latest novel, GESTAPO MARS, is … well, the title alone tells us we’re in for another crazy ride. This one, however, is reminiscent of the kind of classic, over-the-top pulp series that inspired the formative years of so many contemporary authors (including Gischler himself).

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The Killing Lessons

killinglessonsNovelist Glen Duncan (THE LAST WEREWOLF, I, LUCIFER and several others) adopts the pseudonym Saul Black for this latest work, THE KILLING LESSONS, his entry into crime thriller territory. Whatever the author’s name, the novel is an intense and intimate journey into the minds of a serial killer and the police detective dedicated to finding and stopping the killing spree.

As the novel opens, two men suddenly appear at the isolated Colorado farmhouse of Rowena Cooper. One man carries a shotgun, the other a long bladed knife. Rowena’s worst fears are quickly confirmed as the men attack her and her teenaged son.

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Hollow Man

hollowmanMark Pryor takes a break from his international Hugo Marston series with his latest novel, HOLLOW MAN. It’s a stand-alone that traces the aftermath of a heist gone wrong, and features one of the most unique main characters ever encountered in crime fiction.

Dominic, the novel’s first-person narrator, was born in England but lives and works in Texas as a prosecutor. After hours he’s a musician – a singer/songwriter who plays guitar. He’s also a sociopath. For years he has hidden his condition and leads a seemingly normal life, while dreaming of one day paying off his debuts and becoming a full-time musician in Austin’s club scene.

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EURO COMICS ROUNDUP >> Kneale Before Me

chateletClumsily named, but utterly spectacular in content, CHÂTELET STATION, DESTINATION CASSIOPEIA, the latest adventure in the Valerian and Laureline sequence is a doozy. Ninth book in this long-running series, the storyline of this two-volume episode is complex, running two parallel narratives across lightyears in space and time as our spatio-temporal agents are once again attempting to save the fate of the universe.

Odd and possibly dangerous manifestations are popping up in Paris of 1980, and Valerian is sent to investigate the mysterious goings-on. At the same time Laureline runs around the other side of the galaxy, hundreds of years in the future, digging into the ancient past of ages old alien civilizations.

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The Cinematic Misadventures of Ed Wood

edwoodmisadvI thought that Rudolph Grey’s now-classic NIGHTMARE OF ECSTASY was the only book one needed to read about Ed Wood. I was wrong.

Andrew J. Rausch and Charles E. Pratt have proven as much with THE CINEMATIC MISADVENTURES OF ED WOOD — not a biography, but a film-by-film examination of the crazed career of the legendary “bad” filmmaker. What sets it apart is the authors’ assertion that while Wood’s talent could not match his ambition, his passion is worthy of respect. After all, here we are, decades later, still watching and talking about his much-maligned movies, even if his reputation is not entirely earned or fair. For example, as wanting it is in polish, 1959’s PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE is hardly the worst picture ever to grace the cinema screens, as it has been called.

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Those We Left Behind

thoseweleftSince the setting of Stuart Neville’s latest novel is Belfast, it is tempting to think of it as a new addition to the Irish author’s “Belfast Novels” that established his reputation (THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST, STOLEN SOULS and COLLUSION). But THOSE WE LEFT BEHIND has less to do with “The Troubles” and more about emotional dependency and the unyielding quest for the truth behind a shocking crime.

Eight years ago Ciaran Devine made headlines as the 12-year-old murderer of his foster father and was known as the “schoolboy killer” in the local Belfast press. Ciaran’s older brother, Thomas, was also at the murder scene covered in blood. But it was Ciaran who confessed to Detective Chief Investigator Serena Flanagan.

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