Category Archives: book

Johnny Worthen’s Beatrysel

This is the superb first novel from author Johnny Worthen, a man whose knowledge of the occult bleeds into his work, educating and illuminating.

It is also a tale of love and horror, refreshingly set against a modern day background of the American Northwest.

This is a horror romance that manages to inform as well as entertain, worth reading. You can buy the book here.

Hey Kids, Comics!

In the planning stages for years, my friend Rob Kelly, who you might know better as the writer and co-creator of the fabulous webcomic Ace Kilroy and the founder of The Aquaman Shrine, has finally released Hey Kids, Comics! True-Life Tales from the Spinner Rack.

Hey Kids, Comics! is a collection of essays, compiled by Rob Kelly, about the love and nostalgia of comics. These stories, by media and industry professionals like Alan Brennert, Glen Weldon, Evan Narcisse, Steve Englehart, J.M. DeMattieis, Paul Kupperberg, Elisabeth Rappe, Sholly Fisch, Doug Slack, and Roxanna Meta, among many others, are experiences and remembrances of the joy of comics.

I love this book, and I’m so proud of my friend for putting this together. I can’t recommend Hey Kids, Comics! enough. You can check out Ray Cornwall‘s and my interview with Rob Kelly on The GAR! Podcast here, and you can buy the book here. Check it out.

Derrick Ferguson’s Dillon and the Legend of the Golden Bell

I have known Derrick Ferguson a long time as an online friend, and I’m proud to consider him a friend, even if we’ve never met in real life. For those of you out who think I’m an authority on film, I bow to Derrick as a master. He’s given me great writing advice over the years, but none so informative as the lessons I have learned simply by reading his work.

There’s a story I’ve told Derrick, and I guess (I’m really thinking positive here) the whole world as well on the GAR! Podcast, about a visual aid I was using at a point where I was trying to write in a pulp style. It was a sign I taped over my desk that read “I want to be Derrick Ferguson when I grow up.” That’s how well the man knows his genre. Derrick knows pulp, and he knows it so well, he has created a pulp hero for a new age – Dillon.

Dillon is a man who would make Doc Savage proud to know him, that’s how pulp he is. He is a man of skills, of integrity, of style, of exotic and mysterious background, he’s a lover, he’s a fighter, and most importantly he is a man of his word. Dillon is that rare entity in this dark world of ours – he is a likable hero we can root for, and a man who will win for the right reasons.

In the second novel (although it doesn’t much matter in what order you read the books) in the series, “Dillon and the Legend of the Golden Bell,” this pulp hero for a new age faces all the threats and situations that make the genre special. He must find an ancient artifact of great power, stop a civil war in an exotic island nation, and save the entire planet from the coming of a demon, along the way fighting femme fatales both human and shape-shifting, jet pack soldiers, warring airships, giant barbarian kings, and old fashioned tough talking gangsters. This was a hoot.

When was the last time you read a book that was fun? When was the last time you read a book where you cheered out loud for the hero? Where you hissed the bad guys? Where you laughed at the quips of the good guy? This is the book (books), and the hero for you. Check out “Legend of the Golden Bell,” and the rest of the books in the series, as well as all of Derrick’s other work. It, and he rocks.

Re-Reading The Shining

I am reading “The Shining” again for the first time in thirty-five, thirty-six years. Amazing how far author Stephen King has come, and so odd to see simple wording and point of view errors he would never make today. It is also something to marvel to read a simpler King, but also what may be a more sinister King.

Back in 1977, I started reading the big hardcover version of “The Shining” first, which my mom had borrowed from my book enabling big sister. It seemed like a historical romance from that cover, almost giving off a “Dallas,” “Dynasty” or sweeping John Michener vibe. There was the big hotel on the front (and back) cover looking almost similar to Tara from Gone with the Wind, painted images of the man, the woman, and the child, and the hedge animals. My sister needed her copy back, so then I bought the paperback at the local grocery store. That was a gray book with a blank boy’s face on it, and that’s the copy I still have today.

I remember plowing through it rather quickly, on the front porch swing during the days, and in bed before sleep, which defiantly came. This was King’s third book, chronologically at least, and I’m pretty sure I knew he was something special even then, that he was subversively teaching me writing skills and techniques. All that and he was a joy to read.

And what attracted me most of all, was that he wrote about writers. There’s the interviewer in “Carrie,” Ben Mears in “‘Salem’s Lot,” and now Jack Torrence. I could relate, and now I was hooked for a lifetime. Both my own and King’s, as writers would continue as protagonists and even antagonists for dozens of novels to follow, notably the nebulously aligned Harold Lauder in my favorite King novel, “The Stand.”

The young Stephen King plays fast and loose with perspective and point of view I’ve noticed. As an editor (and yes, I know how presumptuous this is), there are more than a few things I would have corrected in the book regarding POV. Let’s just say, he did get better. Much better, or at least as good as one of the best selling novelists of our era can be.

Young Danny’s perspective and understanding of things is a puzzle of complexity. Does he know and understand because of his psychic abilities? Or does he for the sake of storytelling? King walks a very fine line here, most times opting for the latter, and weaving a tighter more terrifying tale for the reader.

There is one difference I noticed in my Nook copy of “The Shining” however. The word REDRUM written in a graphic in my original paperback copy of the book, but not in my Nook copy. It was missed. Back in the day, tricks like that, raised and/or cut out covers, or the multiplying flies above chapters in “The Amityville Horror,” made books in the late 1970s a little bit more special.

There is also the matter of Jack Torrence’s alcoholism. At the time “The Shining” was released the public was unaware of King’s own struggles with old devil drink. This fact in retrospect lends a frightening realism to what was already horrific in the book. We knew King was a teacher, spent time in Colorado, but now, we can’t help but wonder… was he abusive as well? Dare I ask – did he harm his wife and family? Just how autobiographical is “The Shining”?

King has always made the distinction with Stanley Kubrick ‘s film version, that he had written a book about a haunted house, but the director made a movie about domestic violence. What if he protest-eth too much? What if King insisted on that because Kubrick hit too close to home? My intent is not to make accusations, mind you, but to report the extra dimension facts about the author’s life bring to the work. It certainly made some of it uncomfortable to read.

The sequel to “The Shining” has been a rumor that has floated around for years. It became just a little bit more real when Kung finally gave it a name, “Doctor Sleep.” When he wrote it and announced a release date, then things got hot. “Doctor Sleep” is scheduled for release today, and there’s also a preview at the end of my Nook copy of “The Shining” as well.

Richard Matheson 1926-2013

We have truly lost one of the legends of the writing game. Celebrated multiple award-winning author Richard Matheson passed away this weekend, surrounded by family and friends. He was 87.

Even if you didn’t know his name (shame on you!), you know his work. Here is just a sampler – the following movies are all based on his work – The Incredible Shrinking Man, Somewhere in Time, What Dreams May Come, Real Steel, Trilogy of Terror, The Box, Loose Cannons, The Legend of Hell House Burn Witch Burn, Jaws 3-D (hey, a paycheck is a paycheck), and the these last three, all based on the same novel, The Last Man on Earth, The Omega Man, and I Am Legend.

That’s not all, all of the good “Twilight Zone” episodes that weren’t written by Rod Serling, they’re all Matheson too. He wrote hundreds of short stories and books, and countless hours of television in many different genres, including episodes for “Star Trek,” “Combat!,” “Have Gun Will Travel,” “Thriller,” and “The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.” Other than “The Twilight Zone,” possibly his two greatest contributions to television were the Steven Spielberg-directed Duel and The Night Stalker, which became a fondly remembered cult TV series.

We have lost another legend.

Ray Manzarek 1939-2013

Amidst a whirlwind of false death rumors about the man, it turns out that music legend, and former member of the Doors, Ray Manzarek, has passed away. In a German hospital from cancer, the founder and keyboardist for the Doors is dead at 74.

This is a gut punch to me as strong as the passings of John Lennon, Kurt Cobain, or Warren Zevon. Ray Manzarek is a voice from my youth. I wasn’t cognizant for the first coming of the Doors, but their revival in the late 1970s, due to many factors, was strong in my formation.

There was AOR FM radio looking for music to play and not wanting to touch disco or new wave or punk, and began to mine the sixties for music, delivering the Doors to the forefront once again. There was the book, that everyone in my suburban white drug culture high school read – “No One Here Gets Out Alive” by Jerry Hopkins and Danny Sugarman – that made a legend of the late Jim Morrison.

There was, and is, some hardcore realist inside me that knows that Morrison was just a sullen alcoholic bully, but it was Ray Manzarek that created the legend, wove the tale, built the rock god, and manifested the Lizard King from the ground up. Whatever Jim Morrison was, Ray Manzarek made him.

I remember listening to Jim Ladd and his Sunday night “Innerview” interviewing Ray Manzarek multiple times, as he told apocryphal and supernatural tales of Jim Morrison, building the legend word by word. Manzarek talked of the Native American shaman who possessed Morrison as a child, the concept that he might not be dead, and all sorts of fantastic stories of the legendary Doors, fact and fiction. And he did it all the finesse of a master radio manipulator. Ray Manzarek would’ve made Orson Welles jealous with these performances.


For decades, Manzarek kept the infamous Doors alive, both on radio, and in sales, as he maintained his own career as well. He created a wonderful rendition of “Carmina Burana” with Philip Glass, as well as producing several albums for LA punk band X. He also worked with Echo and the Bunnymen and Iggy Pop among others, and even toured with Ian Asbury of The Cult in place of Morrison in a version of the Doors.


His charismatic personality, his fabulous storytelling ability, and his unique keyboard creations will live on for decades to come. We have truly lost one of the rock and roll legends. Long live Ray Manzarek and the Doors. Hopefully he’s jamming with the Lizard King right now.


Lowcountry Bribe by C. Hope Clark

LOWCOUNTRY BRIBE by C. Hope Clark has the best opening line I have read in quite some time: “O-positive primer wasn’t quite the color I had in mind for the small office, but Lucas Sherwood hadn’t given the décor a second thought when he blew out the left side of his head with a .45.” I was hooked.

Hope’s descriptions don’t end with that beautiful Tarantino-esque opening. In what sounds at first like the last thing I would ever read – an agricultural mystery in the Deep South – Hope delivers fast paced, easy reading, absolutely compelling prose. Her sense of place and people put you there, and the tension and twists don’t let you put the book down. I read it in one sitting, and I don’t do that often. I loved the characters, and the edge. And this is coming from someone for whom mysteries are just not in the wheelhouse.

Carolina Slade Bridges is a strong female protagonist, a good woman drawn from equal parts Dashiell Hammett, Patricia Cornwell, and Elmore Leonard. She’s tough, she’s harsh, she’s by the book, and quite often, she’s Hope Clark herself – or at least the woman, mentor, and friend I have come to know after a decade of interviewing her at The Writer’s Chatroom. It’s no secret the book is loosely based on real events, but how close, no one’s talking. Any way you slice it, Slade (don’t call her Carolina) rocks, and I can’t wait for the next installment – TIDEWATER MURDER, due next month. Four stars out of four, highly recommended.

Buy the book here, and be sure to come by The Writer’s Chatroom this Sunday evening for a chat/interview with the author.

James Herbert 1943-2013

Stephen King may have always been the king of horror since his emergence in the mid-seventies, but for a while at the same time, there was one man who outsold King in horror in the UK. I discovered James Herbert around 1980, and found him to be a suitable rival to King. Where King took his time, Herbert seemed to go right for the jugular. He was a similar writer but with a more canny sense of the horrific and the repulsive – a true master of the genre.

His books, The Fog (unrelated to the James Carpenter film), The Rats and its sequels, and especially The Dark were early influences on my writing just as much as King in that genre. He was extremely prolific, pumping out a book a year during the 1980s and slowing down as the years went on.

Author James Herbert passed away yesterday at the age of 69. The man will be missed, but his work will live on. If you’re a fan of King, I urge you to seek out Herbert’s books, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised, and horrified.

Weird Flavors of Lay’s Potato Chips

The Super Cops

The Super Cops ~ Okay, I have to admit, when I first saw this movie back in the mid to late seventies I felt tricked. The name of the movie is ‘Super’ Cops, and the movie posters, TV advertising, and even the novelization said it was about the real life Batman and Robin. What an awful thing to do to a ten year old. If you promise me Batman and Robin, I’d better get Batman and Robin.

Sadly, there’s really none to be found here. In the footage of the real cops at the beginning, Dave Greenberg is wearing a red and white Batman t-shirt. In the midst of the movie there’s a sequence where neighborhood kids tease Greenberg, played by Ron Liebman, and Robert Hantz, played by David Selby, calling them Batman and Robin. That’s about all you get. Of course it doesn’t help that “Batman” TV show writer Lorenzo Semple Jr. scripted the film. I felt tricked. I wanted superheroes.

Batman and Robin on the wall in their only cameo.

That said, this true story of two unorthodox cops in Brooklyn, who both the citizens and the press dubbed Batman and Robin is a intriguing and entertaining one. The story of Greenberg and Hantz is pretty typical of the 1970s cop movie, lighter fare than the similar and earlier Serpico. There’s also a bit of “Charlie’s Angels” in there as well, because the two are patrolmen who want to be more.

While it is funny and entertaining, sadly there’s very little actual chemistry between Liebman and Selby. And Selby’s bug-eyed staring into the camera is just unnerving and a little bit creepy. It might’ve made a half decent TV show rather than a movie. Some of the humor is forced, juvenile, and seems to be desperately in need of a laugh track. That might help it actually. Worth a watch if nothing else is on, or as a time capsule for the 1970s. It’s no Batman and Robin, ya know?