Saturday, April 22, 2006

Horror of Dracula

Yes, while you're using your Netflix membership to get obscure black and white European movies with subtitles, I'm wallowing in trash. But for some reason I just felt a need to see Horror of Dracula again. It's one of the best-known of the Hammer horror movies, and for good reason. Christopher Lee is great as Dracula, the best ever in my opinion. And Peter Cushing is the definitive Van Helsing. (We won't even speak of Hugh Jackman.) The Victorian period detail is superb, the score is rousing, and the color photography is wonderful. What more could you want?

Oh. The story. Well, let's face it: the plot has undergone some radical changes from Stoker's book. That's okay. The spirit remains. And while I was bothered by a couple of little inconsistencies, they didn't bother Judy at all. So why complain?

While Horror of Dracula was considered ground-breakingly gory when it first appeared (1958), I think current audiences for horror movies would find it bland. There's really very little blood, and the director never goes for the gross-out scene. It's all rather tasteful, which I think works in the movie's favor. Take a look at the looks on the faces of those sexually repressed Victorian women when Dracula approaches. That's really all you need. Anything else would be overkill, so to speak. Check it out.

Friday, April 21, 2006


Todd Mason has alerted me to MooTube. Toward the end of his life, my father developed an interest in Texas Longhorn cattle and bought a few for his ranch. My brother still has some of them on the property.

(Wallis, TX; April 20, 2006) — Joining the stampede to create new content platforms, PBS today announced the launch of, the first 24/7 inside look at the daily life of Texas Longhorn cattle. Beginning April 20th, visitors to the site will get an exclusive, bovine’s-eye-view, as wireless cow-cams, attached to the Longhorns’ collars, reveal the day-to-day intrigues of life on the range.

Your Homeland Security Tax Dollars at Work

Is this a great country, or what?

From the Washington Times: Fire departments are using Homeland Security grants to buy gym equipment, sponsor puppet and clown shows, and turn first responders into fitness trainers.

The spending choices are allowable under the guidelines of the Assistance to Firefighters grant administered by the Homeland Security Department, which has awarded nearly 250 grants since February totaling more than $25 million out of the current spending pot of $545 million.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff vowed to redirect grant spending based on risk of a terrorist attack, but Congress has ignored his pleas, federal officials say.

"The administration has not supported the funding for physical fitness equipment as part of the fire grant program," says Marc Short, Homeland Security spokesman. "Physical fitness is an individual responsibility."

The Bush administration has specifically asked Congress not to allow funding for physical fitness, but the members who run Congress' appropriation committees keep inserting the language into the department's budget, officials say.

No Comment Department

Phony doctor gives free breast exams?|? "MIAMI (Reuters) - A 76-year-old man claiming to be a doctor went door-to-door in a Florida neighborhood offering free breast exams, and was charged with sexually assaulting two women who accepted the offer, police said on Thursday.

One woman became suspicious after the man asked her to remove all her clothes and began conducting a purported genital exam without donning rubber gloves, investigators said."


The new issue of Demolition is ready for your reading pleasure. Here's the line-up of writers: Sarah Weinman, Jennifer Jordan, Kim Harrington, Patricia Abbott, Sandra Ruttan, Aliya Whiteley, J.T. Ellison. Check it out here.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

The Drummer -- Anthony Neil Smith

So if you're Anthony Neil Smith, how do you follow up a novel like Psychosomatic? In my comment on that one, I believe I said that anybody who read it would be eager to see Smith's next book. Here it is.

The Drummer is about, well, a drummer, whose name isn't really any of those he goes by in the novel, so we'll just call him Merle, which is one of them. In the late '80s, Merle was in a Heavy Metal band called Savage Night (and they have a song called "A Hell of a Woman"). The band was making a lot of money, or so they thought, but then the IRS came calling. Merle decided that rather than face up to that ordeal, he'd disappear. And so he did.

Now it's fifteen or so years later, and the former lead singer for Savage Night has tracked Merle down in New Orleans. He wants Merle to sign on for a comeback tour. Merle wants to remain anonymous where he is. This leads to the singer's death and to Merle's realization that someone else has been on his trail even longer than the singer. The novel switches from present to past and back again as Merle begins drug- and sex-fueled odyssey through the mean streets of pre-Katrina New Orleans (and down the labyrinthine ways of his own mind). It's tense, dark stuff, a great follow-up to Psychosomatic, and entirely different. Be on the look-out for this one or pre-order it here. You can even read a chapter for free.

And you can read an interview with Smith on Tribe's blog. Check it out.

Happy Birthday, "The Murders in the Rue Morgue"!

From today's edition of "The Writer's Almanac": In 1841, on this day, the first detective story was published. In his story "The Murders in the Rue Morgue," published in Graham's Magazine, Edgar Allen Poe created mystery's first fictional detective, Auguste C. Dupin. The story introduced many of the elements of mysteries that are still popular today: the genius detective, the not-so-smart sidekick, the plodding policeman and the use of the red herring to lead readers off the track.

Inside the Graybar Hotel

Supermaxed - about supermax prisons in the USA: "An informational and educational Website about Supermax and Maximum Security Prisons . . ."

Check out the photos of Pelican Bay State Prison, for example. (Link from Neatorama.) | Woman Allegedly Smuggles Grenade Into Jail

You can't fool Alberto Uribe, by golly! | Woman Allegedly Smuggles Grenade Into Jail: "SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador — A Salvadoran woman was detained after she tried to smuggle a military grenade and marijuana hidden in her vagina into the country's main prison, authorities said Wednesday.

Officials subsequently raised the security level at jails across the country, prison system spokesman Alberto Uribe said, adding the discovery showed 'the inmates are planning something.'"

The Devil's Halo -- Update

In my post on The Devil's Halo (here), I forgot to mention that there's a terrific website for the book. Check it out.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Babes in Space

Some nice covers from the SF pulps and digests here. Just not enough of them. A tip of the space suit helmet to Todd Mason for the link.

I've Got a Little List

Guardian Unlimited Film | News | Film of the book: top 50 adaptations revealed: "As anyone who has seen any version of Anna Karenina knows, a great book does not necessarily make a great film. And while The Godfather was a great movie, was it a great novel? Probably not.

These and other debates went into deciding a longlist of what are deemed the 50 best film adaptations of all time. Organised by the Guardian, a panel of experts has drawn up the list, which will be voted on by the public. The chains Waterstones and Borders are also involved and will promote the books in shops."

The Top 50 aren't in any particular order. There's one I've never heard of, and American Psycho is on the list. So what does that tell us?

Hooray for Stark House!

The most exciting thing about this list is the "almost complete" Harry Whittington bibliography. I can't wait.

Here are the upcoming titles for the next few months from Stark House Press for your consideration:
Whisper His Sin / The Evil Friendship by Vin Packer
1933586052 -- $19.95 -- trade pb -- April
Two gay/lesbian suspense novels based on true crimes of the 50's--the Fredan Wepman Champagne Murders in New York, and the Parker-Hulme matricide in New Zealand.
The Deadly Dames / A Dum-Dum for the President by Douglas Sanderson
1933586060 -- $19.95 -- trade pb -- May
Two hardboiled detective thrillers set in Montreal. Dum-Dum has never before been published in the U.S. and features Sanderson's only series character, Mike Garfin.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers: A Tribute ed by Kevin McCarthy & Ed Gorman
1933586079 -- $19.95 -- trade pb -- June
A reprint of the original book published in 1999 by Boulevard, with a new interview with Kevin McCarthy, essays by Dean Koontz and Stephen King, and interviews with Dana Wynter, Philip Kaufman, Robert H. Solo, W. D. Richter, Abel Ferrara and more.
A Night for Screaming / Any Woman He Wanted by Harry Whittington
1933586087 -- $19.95 -- trade pb -- July
Two exciting noirs from this very prolific author, including a new introduction by Whittington expert, David L. Wilson, and a (nearly) definitive and exhaustive bibliography.
Coming up later this year:
An Air That Kills / A Stranger in My Grave by Margaret Millar
Wild to Possess / A Taste for Sin by Gil Brewer
My Lovely Executioner / Agreement to Kill by Peter Rabe
Look Behind You Lady / Venetian Blonde by A. S. Fleischman

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Noir Night Update (from the MBTB Newsletter)

"Noir Night 2006"
Only 13 days until the noir invasion...
Steve Brewer / Ken Bruen / Reed Farrel Coleman / Bill Crider / Peter Speigelman / Jason Starr
Monday, May 8, 6:00 p.m.

Authors visiting for this event include Shamus Award winner Ken Bruen (A Fifth of Bruen; Bust; Priest; The Dramatist), Shamus Award winner Peter Speigelman (Death's Little Helpers), Anthony Award winner Jason Starr (Lights Out; Bust), 2006 Edgar Award nominee Reed Farrel Coleman (Hard-boiled Brooklyn; The James Deans), Steve Brewer (Whipsaw; Bank Job), and Houston's very own Bill Crider (A Mammoth Murder). This will be the official launch party for A Fifth of Bruen (by Ken Bruen; Busted Flush Press; trade paperback; $18), a collection of Ken's early, pre-crime fiction, including: Martyrs, Funeral, Shades of Grace, Sherry & Other Stories, All the Old Songs and Nothing to Lose, and Upon the Third Cross / A Time for Serena-May -- all in one, 380-page volume! Murder By The Book is the ONLY bookstore in Houston to stock A Fifth of Bruen, so request your copies now! You also need to get to Noir Night to learn of some exciting news from Busted Flush Press.

The Devil's Halo -- Chris Fox

When I was a much younger guy, I read spy fiction by the metric ton. Trucks just backed up to my door and dumped it out. I couldn't get enough. Reading The Devil's Halo reminded my of why I got so much enjoyment from those books: exotic locations, a resourceful hero, great gadgets, and plenty of action, and a sense that the writer was having a great time telling his story.

The setting is the day after tomorrow, 2010. Economic espionage is the big thing, and Terry Weston's one of the best spies in that line, a master of disguise and tougher than you think. His latest job seems simple enough: Go to Russia and recover a pirated movie. As you might suspect, it's not that simple at all. Things start to happen almost at once. Talk about one damned thing after another! This is a fairly long novel, but the pace is relentless. It just never lets up. Weston is soon joined in his escapades by his wife and their six-year-old daughter, and before you know it (but after a plethora of close calls), they're hijacking a Russian spacecraft to make their escape and come back to the U.S. And that's just the beginning. It turns out that there's a lot more at stake than just a pirated movie, and things are going to get a lot worse before they get better.

Which calls for a SPOILER ALERT! Don't read this. Go read the book instead. Because by the end of the book, things don't get better. This isn't a James Bond movie where the hero saves the world just before the digital clock shows 00:00. Weston and his wife do all the right things, but nobody will listen to them until it's far too late. END SPOILER ALERT!

Fox uses a mixture of first- and third-person narration, which might bother some people. I mention it only to say that it worked just fine for me. Some writers can get away with it (Fox can), and some stories require it (The Devil's Halo is one of them). I have a copy of the British edition. I believe the book will be published in the U.S. in June, so if you're looking for a rollicking good read, check it out.

Monday, April 17, 2006

More Breaking News

Brownwood Bulletin: "Robert E. Howard centennial celebration planned for June

By Gene Deason — Brownwood Bulletin

CROSS PLAINS — Fans of fantasy fiction writer Robert E. Howard have been returning to his hometown for 20 years, but Cross Plains is expecting the largest crowd ever in June for the centennial of the author’s birth.

“A centennial celebration is only going to happen once in your lifetime, so you don’t want to miss it,” said Era Lee Hanke, president of Cross Plains Project Pride.

Howard created the fantasy hero Conan, who decades later captivated a new generation in the 1982 movie “Conan the Barbarian.”

She said the Robert E. Howard United Press Association is joining the organization she leads in co-hosting the annual Robert E. Howard Days. The amateur press association founded in 1972 is dedicated to the study and discussion of Howard and his writings.

Registration forms and a tentative schedule of events for the three-day centennial set June 8-10 were mailed to interested individuals last week.

Featured as guests of honor at this year’s event will be Glenn Lord and Roy Thomas.

The agenda is still being finalized, but among the scheduled activities are the viewing of Howard Payne University’s Howard book collection, a bus and walking tours of Cross Plains, a reading by Howard biographer Mark Finn from his new book, a screening of a portion of a Howard documentary by Ethan Naht/, tours of the Howard homestead museum and panel discussions by a group of Howard scholars."

The interesting thing about Howard Payne University's Howard book collection is that nobody really cared about it until Dr. Charlotte Laughlin joined the Department of English. Charlotte went through the library and pulled out Howard's books, which were in the stacks for general circulation. Some of them had already left the library in one way or another. I'm glad to see that they're being cared for now.

Breaking News!

United Press International?-?The Washington Times, America's Newspaper: "Elvira pitches reality show

Apr. 17, 2006 at 3:08PM

Cassandra 'Elvira' Peterson wants to find a new 'Mistress of the Dark' with a reality TV show.
Peterson is pitching a macabre reality show that would have contestants compete for a one-year contract to portray 'Elvira, Mistress of the Dark,' the character Peterson created more than 25 years ago, The Hollywood Reporter said.

Peterson is joined in the project by her manager, Eric Gardner, as well as Stuart Krasnow of the 'Weakest Link' and 'American Idol' producer FreemantleMedia North America.

Peterson pointed to the many portrayers of Bozo the Clown in explaining her need to shed her goth robes and makeup, saying, 'Obviously, I don't want to be walking around dressed up like Elvira when I'm 105 years old.'

Krasnow said the show would blend comedy with the macabre.

'We're looking at a show where the cast is going to be sleeping in coffins in a pretty scary place and part of the production will be shot in Transylvania,' he said. "

My opinion: No one can replace Elvira.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Silver City

First of all a tip of the fedora to Kevin Burton Smith for writing a thoughtful review of this movie and sparking my interest in seeing it. Hey, you can just click on the link, read Kevin's review, and save yourself the trouble of reading mine.

However, if you're still here, I do a thing or two to say. I liked Silver City quite a bit. I thought it worked just fine both as political commentary and as a private-eye story. And in fact, I wasn't bothered at all by the little mini-lectures that popped up from time to time because the movie was structured like a mystery novel, and the lectures seemed to me to fit right in with the plot. I've read similar things in novels by people like Ross Macdonald and Raymond Chandler. And John D. MacDonald and even Ed McBain. You'll have to see the movie and find out if you agree. Kevin mentioned Chinatown in his comments, and I think the comparison is apt. Silver City has that kind of atmosphere and that kind of ending.

Some people might complain that the movie's too tied to contemporary events and characters (the comparisons are maybe too obvious) and that therefore the movie's limited in its appeal. I don't know why that should be true. It seems to me that even if you had no idea that the characters on the screen were supposed to represent certain current politicians and political operatives, the story still carry you along. The idea of corruption at all levels is timeless enough to interest people in twenty or thirty years, I'd think. But I'm no prophet, nor was meant to be. Have a look at Silver City and see what you think.

Sounds Like a Bargain

From the Calgary Sun: World Wrestling Entertainment has announced the biggest celebrity guest appearance in the history of sports, the history of entertainment and, probably, the history of the world.

At the Backlash pay-per-view April 30, God will make his pro-wrestling debut.

Yes, WWE is advertising the actual God -- of Old and New Testament fame -- will be taking part in a grappling match and, for just $35, you can witness a moment previously thought to be reserved for sometime around the Second Coming.

Big Mystery*File Update

MYSTERY*FILE ON-LINE: "April 15. GARY PHILLIPS. A Pro-File interview by Ed Gorman with the author of the PI Ivan Monk novels plus many other works of tough, hard-boiled crime and mystery fiction.

April 15. SERIES CHARACTERS ON TV. Part Five of Marvin Lachman’s continuing series on mystery series characters who have been portrayed on television. Authors P through Z are included in this, the final installment.
Now that each section is complete, the list will soon be published in final form, with all parts together, along with any corrections and additions which have been discovered. You are encouraged, says Marv, to send along any that you have found as soon as possible.

April 15. CHARLES WILLIAMS. Jamie Sturgeon has spotted what may be a previously unknown (and uncredited) TV adaptation of one of Williams’ novels. Follow the link to learn more.

April 15. Added to the checklist below is a crime novel by Dean Owen published in Finland but apparently never in the US. Juri Nummelin gives us the details. Also added are three new cover images."

How Many Can You Answer?

Why is the sky blue? Facts you should know: "Think you know you know your science? Recently, several science gurus -- Nobel Prize winners, institute heads, teachers and others who spend most of their time thinking about science -- were asked, 'What is one science question every high school graduate should be able to answer?'"

I'm embarrassed to admit that I missed two of these.