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What are you reading? — Page 47

Author
Time

Harper, Sue - The Dark Nest

There must be close to 50 stories here. Each, three pages in length, give or take.
This is not a book to plow through hurriedly, as if fulfilling your reading quota.
Rather, read 1-2 before retiring, or if you need a light breeze to dispel those cobwebs gathered whilst trying to translate that Abdul Alhazred manuscript you chanced upon at Thrift Town.
In “The Growler,” Clarissa’s … ahem … vagina finds her voice, and begins voicing her very strong opinions.
Middling actor Selina stumbles into onstage instability, drawing the attention of a new audience.
Sarah, a clever thing, juggles two suitors in “Doubling Up.” Back in the day, running two or more dates wasn’t an easy trick. They always find out. And when they do …
“The Promontory” finds the lone woman standing on the shore, narrowing her eyes, watching the small boat approach. Behind her, the landscape is nondescript. All she can do is wait.
I’m not even halfway into the contents. The book is filled with brief moods.
This must have been fun for Ms Harper to write, it certainly was to read.

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Collins, Max - Bait Money

First appearance of Collins’ “Nolan” character, criminal loner patterned after Westlake’s “Parker” and Willie’s “Sand.”
After surviving a botched hit, Nolan brokers a truce with Family members who hold a grudge.
He must pay $100K to brother of underboss he whacked years earlier.
Because of a Family contract, no pros will work with him, so he is forced to enlist amateurs.
Plot follows the last heist theme, with a lot of time devoted to establishing the caper.
Good read by a young Collins (age 20) before he placed Allan in his signature.
Followed soon thereafter by a sequel, Blood Money.


Collins, Max - Blood Money

Immediate sequel to Bait Money finds Nolan returning to the Family,
managing a small motel with lounge and pool.
An offer if extended for full reinstatement, a larger establishment to manage,
if he pays a hefty “consideration.”
All too soon, he learns someone found his stash and fled with it.
Guns are oiled, and the hunt begins.
Another fast moving, hard boiled yarn by a very young Max Allan Collins.

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Bruen, Ken and Starr, Jason - The Max

Who knew murder, decapitation, rape (male & female), prison riots, bribery, etc … could be so entertaining?
Big shaggy dog spoof featuring coke addled wannabee Max (aka: The M.A.X.) and his violent sexbomb girlfriend.
Great read of some of the stupidest crime characters.

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McCammon, Robert - A Little Amber Book Of Wicked Shots

Fellow intoxicants, line up your shot glasses.
A trio of stories, each prefaced with one of the author’s fave cocktail recipes.
In “Little Green Gown,” a traveling salesman checks into a swank Birmingham hotel.
New line of shirts and a new territory to start making commission.
In the lobby he sees a young girl. That’s how he likes ’em. Young. Real young.
The longest story, probably a novelette, takes place in Gotham.
“Message From The Overmind” trails the retired hockey enforcer, something of a legend.
Style is hard boiled, focusing on men who deal with pain stoically.
I enjoyed this most of the way, until everything went into fantasy island, then it lost me.
The final bit, “DST, Inc.” sells office politics, career revenge.
And hey, payback’s a bitch, ain’t it?

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Lorrain, Jean - Monsieur Du Phocas

The young, fashionable aristocrat Duc de Fréneuse (before he used the more common, Phocas) falls under the corrupting influence of a cynical, decadent artist.
Fortunately for us, he leaves behind his somewhat rambling journal with a stranger, whom he believes / hopes is of sympathetic disposition.
Drugs, debaucheries, old loves gone to seed, vipers and backstabbers.
Not Pooh Corner, this. Rather Dorian Gray with mentors less elegant than Lord Henry.
This is on par with Huysmans’ “À Reboirs” (I found Lorrain easier reading), and a milepost of the French fin de siècle.
The Tartarus edition has an excellent introduction, with numerous photographs of players of the era.

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Various (Editor: Pardoe, Rosemary) - The Ghosts & Scholars Book Of Mazes

“… a maze by any other name …”
Slightly more than a dozen stories that feel ideal for spring or summer months.
Per the title, these are tales set in or around mazes.
Sinister yew mazes, imperceptible turf mazes, spiral mazes, house mazes.
The center of each promises … treasure or the Minotaur?
In this volume, those who venture into the labyrinth, whether under pale moonlight or warm sunshine, generally do so without the usual laughter or bemused smiles.
No. Malevolence as a force hides in those constructs. Lurking with the patience of eternity.
Read these, then gaze at your own hapless gardening efforts, and consider yourself fortunate.

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 (Edited)

Stargate: Rebellion (Bill McCay)

As a tie-in novel, and a tie-in novel to a movie as flawed as Stargate, no less, Rebellion certainly isn’t a masterpiece. Character development for the returning characters from the film is nonexistent; the terrestrial villains are all one-dimensional and interchangeable; and continuity with the movie is sloppy (Having read the film novelization, I can tell McCay had, too, but hadn’t watched the film itself prior to writing this book.). On the plus side, Hathor is a decent villainess (a little shortsighted, perhaps, but still far more effective and intimidating than her SG-1 counterpart); the insight into the inner workings of Ra’s empire was refreshing; and I much prefer McCay’s cynical depiction of the US military to the naive depiction of SG-1 & its spinoffs. I highly recommend it to fans of the movie who don’t care for SG-1/are interested in a more film-faithful continuation.

★★★★★★★☆☆☆

Divergent Universes
Dreams of a Randy Git-Fiend

Make Off Topic great again.

Author
Time

Ewers, Hanns Heinz - The Hearts Of Kings

I had finished Ewers’ The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, including the historical extras found in the fat Side Real Press edition. On Side Real’s website, I found a link to AJNA Bound, and there, this book.
Slim book, nicely presented, with illustrations that match the darkly amusing novelette.
An elderly, perhaps dying, artist summons the Duke of Orléans, son of the King.
He has a life’s work of paintings he wishes to sell, and he informs the Duke that he, acting for the State, will pay his price.
The compositions, as described, and as illustrated, are repellent and yet irresistible.
The young Duke, a stand in for you and I, is slow to grasp exactly what is on offer.
Short decadent tale, told with glee by a madman.

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Copper, Basil - The Black Death

Young architect departs London and buys a partnership with a Dartmoor firm.
Repeatedly he is warned by various residents to keep off the moors.
Mind well, gentle reader, the moors soon draws him.
Copper could write yarns like this in his sleep, and yet this was the last Gothic novel he wrote, similar to Necropolis and The House Of The Wolf.
An old fashioned, atmospheric page turner set, to my mind, in the Edwardian age. (One of the residents notes the fad of the motor car in the city, declaring it will never succeed in Dartmoor.)
Perhaps more suitable in cooler months, but needs must …

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Ackroyd, Peter - The Last Testament Of Oscar Wilde

Oddly enough, I missed this book when it was published.
Then again, I was in profound financial distress in 1984.
Fortunately, while reading Green Book #6 (Swan River), interview subject, David Skal, referenced Ackroyd’s book and I directed my library to retrieve a copy for me.

Mr. Wilde is persuaded to keep a journal during his Paris sojourn.
This comes after the fame, after the trial, the imprisonment, after “The Ballad Of Reading Gaol”.
Written during the final four months of his life, Wilde reminisces on his life from childhood through school, from fame to infamy. Determination, temptations, reckless choices.
Ackroyd shows an uncanny ability to, chameleon like, capture Wilde’s voice, the sharp wit, fond recollections, and the weariness of it all.
(When mention was made of an Edison recording with Wilde speaking, I spent several hours searching for it.)
I found this to be an exceptional book, and consider it to be must-read, perhaps must-own, for Wilde devotees.

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 (Edited)

Tweddell, Benjamin - Sermons In A House Of Grief

“When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things …”

Problem is, childhood connections are often as strong as steel, and impossible to break from.
Controversial Professor Eskola delivers, apparently, his final, firebrand lecture.
Overnight, weariness has become overwhelming. Time to put this career, his second, to rest.
An encounter with an old colleague, childhood colleague, leads to an impulsive journey.
The train rumbles into the past, into a bitter childhood filled with memories that have begun flowering.
This brooding novella, set primarily in backwoods Finnish hamlets, is a troubling one of abuse and worship.
The sect of Kartanoism, with its terrors of the apocalypse, is neither more nor less relevant today.
Nor is the exploitation of children and the stripping of innocence.
Mr Tweddell has unearthed a distant sect (and perhaps still lingering) and given it wings. Black wings.
As always with this publisher, the book is a work of art in itself. Beautiful endpapers, haunting photos.

After reading, I began crawling through history’s rabbit hole of Alma Kartano and Tilda Reunanen, ending with the congregation Mansion.
True faith is ever the hard path.

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The Making of Star Trek the Wrath of Khan. By Allan Asherman. I wish someone would write a new making of book with all the available information that now exists. Or maybe even the deleted scenes and workprint being officially released by Paramount. The book is okay for its time. I guess i’ve been spoiled by the Rinzler books for the Star Wars trilogy and Indiana Jones. And now i want books like those for Star Trek and James Bond film series.

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 (Edited)

Jesus: Uncovering the Life, Teachings, and Relevance of a Religious Revolutionary (Marcus J. Borg)

IMHO, Borg makes a very compelling case for who the historical Jesus was and what his message really was about. Everyone who conflates conservative Christianity with Christianity in general — believers and non-believers alike — should read this for a new perspective.

★★★★★★★★★☆

Divergent Universes
Dreams of a Randy Git-Fiend

Make Off Topic great again.

Author
Time

Various (Editor: Valentine, Mark) - The Far Tower: Stories For W.B. Yeats

Homage to, inspired by, celebrations of the mystic and poet. Two roles that are missing today.
Early on, a family connection enables a young scholar to examine unfinished manuscripts. With unsettling consequences.
Next, in “Daemon Est Deus Inversus,” the prodigal son, a bitter wastrel, inherits the family home. And he finds messages from the past, which the modern era no longer leaves. Letters.
“The Shiftings” peers through an open door, from this world, if there is such a thing, and into the next.
The staircase beckons in “The Property Of The Dead”. Rising almost imaginably, the treads end under blinding moonlight.
There are other tales, all of high quality, including an engrossing Reggie Oliver, which afterward had me going, “Huh? That was fey.”
Therein is my difficulty. Most of these works slide along the border of faerie or fey, not the Disney sort, either. As an individual, I am observant, but I am not remotely “sensitive”.
Editor Valentine and writer Antonia bookend this collection with two insightful essays on Yeats.
Those more attuned with worlds outside our own will find greater depths throughout this collection.
This is also a beautiful book, gorgeous design, wonderful to hold.

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Ankerich, Michael - Dangerous Curves Atop Hollywood Heels

Entertaining volume of fourteen biographs on Silent film actresses.
Straight off, author Ankerich said he was going offtrack. He was not covering Pickford, Clara, sisters Gish and Talmadge, Theda. He was heading into forgotten territory.
I am a slight cinema buff, and that includes the Silent era, but I was only familiar with Barbara La Marr and Marie Prevost.
Most of these girls (and most were girls, enjoying success in their early twenties) were worked to death, and found solace in booze, philandering men, and double edged notoriety.
For the majority, their ends were pretty squalid.
Packed with photos, this makes essential, if perhaps specialized, reading.
Aside from typos and the usual “lack of editor” errors, the lure has to do with filmographies.
Yes, there are complete listings of anywhere from 30 - 120, depending on how busy the girl had been, but no marking of what was still available. Since roughly 70% of Silents are lost, it would be nice to know what I have a reasonable chance of finding.

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The Dreaming Jewels by Theodore Sturgeon

The first novel by Theodore Sturgeon. A little rough around the edges as is to be expected of an author’s first work. But an entertaining read with interesting characters.

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Stepping softly in a danger zone…