Only the Wicked

onlythewickedBlack Gat Books is Stark House Press’s reissue series of notable crime fiction in mass paperback format. Among its initial titles is ONLY THE WICKED, the fourth novel of Gary Phillip’s series featuring black, contemporary Los Angeles-based private investigator Ivan Monk. It’s a wonderful opportunity to discover both this impressively talented but too often neglected crime author, well as this excellent but short-lived series.
 
Old man Marshall Spears was, along with Ivan Monk, one of the regulars you’d find hanging out at the Abyssinia Barber Shop & Shine Parlor in Los Angeles almost every day. No one paid much attention to Old Man Spears, so when he drops dead one afternoon it comes as a surprise to everyone to learn that Spears played in the Negro Baseball League – along with Monk’s cousin Kennesaw Riles. But nobody in Monk’s family mentions Riles, due to his questionable testimony that put civil rights leader Damon Creel in jail for murder back in the 1960s.

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6 Halloween-Ready New Releases Awaiting You to Treat Yourself

futuristicviolenceFUTURISTIC VIOLENCE AND FANCY SUITS by David Wong — Nightmarish villains with superhuman enhancements. An all-seeing social network that tracks your every move. Mysterious, smooth-talking power players who lurk behind the scenes. A young woman from the trailer park. And her very smelly cat. Together, they will decide the future of mankind. Get ready for a world in which anyone can have the powers of a god or the fame of a pop star, in which human achievement soars to new heights while its depravity plunges to the blackest depths. A world in which at least one cat smells like a seafood shop’s dumpster on a hot summer day.

asylumASYLUM by William Seabrook — This dramatic memoir recounts an eight-month stay at a Westchester mental hospital in the early 1930s. William Seabrook, a renowned journalist and explorer (the first to use the word “zombie” in an English text), voluntarily committed himself to an asylum for treatment of acute alcoholism. His sincere, self-critical appraisal of his experiences offers a highly interesting look at addiction and treatment in the days before Alcoholics Anonymous and other modern programs. This edition of the soul-baring narrative features a new graphic novel-style introduction by Joe Ollmann, who also created the cover art.

seizenightSEIZE THE NIGHT: NEW TALES OF VAMPIRIC TERROR edited by Christopher Golden — Before being transformed into romantic heroes and soft, emotional antiheroes, vampires were figures of overwhelming terror. Now, from some of the biggest names in horror and dark fiction, comes this collection of short stories that make vampires frightening once again. Edited by NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author Christopher Golden and featuring all-new, blood-curdling stories from such contributors as Charlaine Harris, John Ajvide Lindqvist, Scott Smith, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Michael Kortya, Kelley Armstrong, Brian Keene, David Wellington, Seanan McGuire, and Tim Lebbon, the anthology is old-school vampire fiction at its finest.

youreavampireYOU’RE A VAMPIRE — THAT SUCKS!: A SURVIVAL GUIDE by “Count” Domerick Dicce — Being bitten by and turned into a vampire isn’t the glitz and glamor that Hollywood makes it out to be. In fact, one out of five newly turned vampires will succumb to a slew of easily avoidable and common pitfalls within their first few months as a nightwalker—tempting garlic-laced Italian food, silver jewelry, and anything with an SPF below 1,000 will have to go. As an answer to this tragic loss of undead life, this is the definitive how-to guide that just might save your pale, ice-cold skin. This helpful tome will cover everything from Vampire 101 — such as hunting, feeding, and getting used to your new powers — to Vampire Graduate Studies — such as coffin selection, the ghoulish world of vampiric social hierarchy, and the universal Laws of the Vampire.

madnesscthulhuTHE MADNESS OF CTHULHU edited by S.T. Joshi — Sixteen stories inspired by the 20th century’s great master of horror, H.P. Lovecraft, and his acknowledged masterpiece, AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS, in which an expedition to the desolation of Antarctica discovers evidence of an ancient ruin built by horrific creatures at first thought long-dead, until death strikes the group. All but two of the stories are original to this edition, and those reprints are long-lost works by science fiction masters Arthur C. Clarke and Robert Silverberg. Others include John Shirley, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Melanie Tem and Harry Turtledove.

howzombiesHOW ZOMBIES CONQUERED POPULAR CULTURE: THE MULTIFARIOUS WALKING DEAD IN THE 21ST CENTURY by Kyle William Bishop — Since the early 2000s, popular culture has experienced a “Zombie Renaissance,” beginning in film and expanding into books, television, video games, theatre productions, phone apps, collectibles and toys. Zombies have become allegorical figures embodying cultural anxieties, but they also serve as models for concepts in economics, political theory, neuroscience, psychology, computer science and astronomy. They are powerful, multifarious metaphors representing fears of contagion and doom but also isolation and abandonment, as well as troubling aspects of human cruelty, public spectacle and abusive relationships. This critical examination of the 21st-century zombie phenomenon explores how and why the public imagination has been overrun by the undead horde.

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A Cold War

acoldwarMystery author Alan Russell’s latest novel, A COLD WAR, is a story of abduction and survival that engages you in spite of its frequent predictability. But when the story takes an unexpected turn in the last several chapters, the results are unfortunately unsatisfying.
 
Nina Granville, the novel’s protagonist, has lead a pretty charmed life for as long as she can remember. Then her life got even better when she met and got engaged to Terrence Donnelly, a Congressman with a promising political future. When a business trip to Alaska occurs, Nina hopes it will provide a brief rest from the whirlwind surrounding the planning of her marriage and the media spotlight she shares with her fiancée.

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Razzle Dazzle: The Battle for Broadway

razzledazzleJust how dishy is RAZZLE DAZZLE: THE BATTLE FOR BROADWAY? Let’s put it this way: Bob Fosse’s ego is far from the largest.

Michael Riedel’s decades-spanning account of Broadway’s epic bounce-back from calamitous times isn’t gossipy for the sake of being gossipy. It’s gossipy because its very subjects trafficked in rumors and scandal and all-around scuttlebutt. Their business depended upon it. Ribald and ruthless people, they themselves were blabby … and greedy and duplicitous and all that jazz.

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Silver Screen Fiend: Learning About Life from an Addiction to Film

SSfiendPBTruth is, every hopeless film addict has a story like comedian/actor Patton Oswalt shares in SILVER SCREEN FIEND. The difference is we’re not famous, so who wants to hear it?

Okay, okay, so Oswalt’s knack for making an anecdote as compelling as it comedic may have something to do with it, too.

Because of this, anyone who has experienced the near-orgasmic, adrenaline rush (don’t deny it) of a movie projector flickering to life as the lights fade away — along with your disbelief — will find themselves in lockstep with a kindred spirit …

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The Best American Mystery Stories 2015

bestmyst2015Renowned mystery fiction editor/publisher and series editor Otto Penzler presents THE BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES 2015, the 19th edition of the annual anthology. James Patterson, creator of the Alex Cross, Women’s Murder Club and Michael Bennett series, edits this newest edition and joins the distinguished roster of past editors that includes Robert B. Parker, Lawrence Block, Donald E. Westlake, James Ellroy and several other notable stars of crime fiction.

Patterson, one of the few genre authors whose popularity and prolific list of works make him as familiar a name to fans as to those who only occasionally read crime fiction, has gathered an impressive collection of stories by both established authors and some up-and-coming writers as well.

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One Man’s Flag

onemansflagDavid Downing is known for his thriller series featuring John Russell of which there are six novels, all the titles of which end with the word “Station.” He also has penned a new series of books featuring British Secret Service operative Jack McColl. The first book was entitled JACK OF SPIES, and the new one is ONE MAN’S FLAG.

I missed the first one but it sounds like a doozy. Jack gets involved with spying during World War I, meets a journalist named Caitlin Hanley with ties to the IRA, falls in love with her, and then apparently betrays her by reporting her terrorist-minded brother to his spymaster. Hanley has of course left McColl, who is wondering if he just screwed up the best thing in his life by playing with cloaks and daggers.

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4 New Entertainment Titles, from The X-Files to Stephen King

xfilesfaqWith one of the ’90s’ most iconic television series just a few months away from returning to the tube, now’s the time for THE X-FILES FAQ. (The jury, however, is still out for that subtitle: ALL THAT’S LEFT TO KNOW ABOUT GLOBAL CONSPIRACY, ALIENS, LAZARUS SPECIES, AND MONSTERS OF THE WEEK — I mean, what the hell is a “Lazarus Species”?) John Kenneth Muir, who also penned 2013’s HORROR FILMS FAQ for Applause’s ongoing pop-culture line of guides, has the unenviable job of distilling a decade-plus of content into a single trade paperback, yet rises to the challenge by refusing to do what the average reader might expect: give an episode guide. Although Muir does tackle many episodes, he tends to do so in thematic groupings while exploring what made THE X-FILES click (and sometimes not). Later chapters tackle the guest stars, the two movies, the official spin-offs, the countless knock-offs and, yep, the porn parodies. The truth is in here.

greatshowdowns3A sequel to 2013’s GREAT SHOWDOWNS: THE RETURN (itself a follow-up to the previous year’s THE GREAT SHOWDOWNS), Scott C.’s GREAT SHOWDOWNS: THE REVENGE features dozens upon dozens more of drawings of depicting some of pop culture’s greatest adversaries. That’s it: They just stand there facing one another, whether “they” are the characters of FATAL ATTRACTION, CHILD’S PLAY, ROAD TO PERDITION — heck, even the Steve Coogan/Rob Brydon foodie comedy THE TRIP! And that’s fine, because Campbell — that’s what the C stands for — is a wonderful illustrator; his drawings radiate with immeasurable charm, even when they’re of some of the most evil A-holes the screen has seen. But not everything is decipherable, and there are no words, no captions, no legend at the end to let you know who was who. Not knowing can be frustrating, even if the unknowns number few. To be technical, not everything is a showdown, either. I’d hardly call Jiro dreaming of sushi anything approaching conflict.

skingcompanionGiven that its subject is alive, kicking and ridiculously prolific, the St. Martin’s Press trade-paperback release of THE STEPHEN KING COMPANION: FOUR DECADES OF FEAR FROM THE MASTER OF HORROR marks the third edition of George Beahm’s work, and he’s clearly in danger of busting through the page count of what publishing technology currently allows; as is, it stands at a mighty 624. Although it bears some resemblance to Hans-Åke Lilja’s 2010 brick from Cemetery Dance, Beahm’s is far better written and better packaged, thereby transcending what could have been merely a reference title to pluck off the shelf only if Google failed you. Instead, Beahm’s book can be consumed as an actual narrative or in pieces; it works both ways. Supplemented with a wealth of essays, interviews, sidebars, photos, Glenn Chadbourne’s illustrations and a gorgeous, full-color section of Michael Whelan’s paintings, this COMPANION resides in a netherworld of not quite a proper biography and not exactly a trivia collection, yet it should satisfy King’s fans looking for either or both. No stone in King’s career path — books, movies, van accidents — appears to have been left unturned.

hollywooddeathFrom title alone, your first instinct is to make fun of something like HOLLYWOOD DEATH AND SCANDAL SITES: SEVENTEEN DRIVING TOURS WITH DIRECTIONS AND THE FULL STORY — SECOND EDITION. Then you realize that, dammit, author E.J. Fleming has done so much research and homework that snark turns to respect. Although the 17 of the title doesn’t sound like a lot of stops, note that those are “tours” — a term Fleming doesn’t take lightly. Arranged between district groupings like Sunset Strip, Brentwood and The Palisades are some 650 sites! The generally curious and the downright morbid can maneuver their way through Fleming’s succinct and exacting instructions, fully fleshed out with the historic, tragic details about the site in question, be it a home in which a celebrity expired or a spot marking one’s murder. From superstars and up-and-comers to everyone I could think of (Rebecca Schaeffer? Dominique Dunne?), they’re all here. It’s not quite as macabre as you’d think it to be; sorry if that disappoints you. —Rod Lott

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Carter & Lovecraft

carterlovecraftJonathan L. Howard, author of the Johannes Cabal series, as well as a few young adult novels, presents CARTER & LOVECRAFT, the first title of a promised series of mysteries set in contemporary times but influenced by the mythos and fiction created by the ever-popular and influential horror master H.P. Lovecraft.
 
But don’t expect some creepy, slimy minion of Cthulu, or any of the other of Lovecraft’s Elder Gods, to be the cause of the trouble in this debut. Howard’s take on Lovecraft and his influence is unexpected and somewhat unique – and one of several reasons why this inaugural title is noteworthy.

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The Best American Comics 2015

bestamercomics15Even with nine years behind the series run, THE BEST AMERICAN COMICS 2015 is brimming with surprises and discoveries — not the least of which comes from guest editor Jonathan Lethem. A giant of the literary field (i.e. 2003’s comics-inspired THE FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE), the novelist takes the road less traveled by drawing his introductions to each themed section. They’re whimsical and charming and the opposite of what I’d expect from a mighty man o’ letters — yes, even one who has scripted Marvel Comics.

Available in hardcover — no paperback! — this 2015 edition marks Bill Kartalopoulos’ second go-round as series editor, and he’s the guy responsible for the shift to presenting like-minded contributions together, rather than the previous annual collections’ seemingly random shuffle.

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