So in my never-ending quest for groovy tunes I stumbled upon these 2 absolute gems from the early 70's. Power of Zeus was an American band from Detroit and the 1st hard rock band on Motown's Rare Earth label.
Los Dug Dugs are a Mexican rock band and their song Smog is killing me right now! Dig it.
I just got a sweet double disc from Isaac Hayes featuring the soundtracks to both Tough Guys, with Hayes, Lino Ventura, and Fred Williamson, and Truck Turner. Two killer albums loaded with smooth and tight, funky jams. After just a handful of listens this song from Tough Guys has stood out as my favorite:
I can't recall having read a more thrilling adventure narrative than the first 200 pages of Fenimore's classic novel. The rest of the novel doesn't stand a chance. That's not to say a reader should put it down when Bumppo and Co. reach Fort William Henry. Last of the Mohicans is Cooper's second tale featuring his most endearing character Nathaniel Bumppo, or The Leatherstocking. This one is set about 40 years earlier than The Pioneers and the action occurs during the French and Indian War. I heartily recommend this book for lovers of great literature and adventure stories.
Thomas Ligotti-Noctuary This collection of weird tales creates strong moods and images in the mind of the reader. Ligotti is more interested in delving into the twisted psyches of his characters than creating a straightforward narrative. This he does extremely effectively. For fans of Lovecraft, Hodgson, Clark Ashton Smith, Robert Chambers, August Derleth, et al.
William Lindsay Gresham-Nightmare Alley
Gresham's twisted tale of guilt, greed, and sexual obsession, (are there any more important motivations for a noir tale?), is set amongst the world of carnys, spiritualists, and other charlatans looking to make a buck off the gullible during the 1940s. Stan Carlyle is a young man with a loaded past looking to make a splash, first as a carny huckster, then as a mentalist, and finally as a spiritual leader. Like all novels of this ilk it's good, guilty fun. This was filmed with Tyrone Power.
Arkady and Boris Strugatsky-Monday Begins on Saturday Another strong satire from the Strugatskys. (Sorry, I'm running out of steam here)
Path Into The Unknown-Best of Soviet Science Fiction A nice collection of stories from a variety of Soviet authors including two from the Strugatskys, one of which was culled from their collection Noon: 22nd Century.
It's hard to imagine 70's cinema without John Cazale.
Make a top ten of 70's movies and there's a good shot Cazale will be in around 3 of those movies. Did the guy even make a movie that wasn't great? No, my friend, he did not! Need proof? Look at his complete feature filmography:
I watched Sergio Martino's Torso for the first time the other night and was smitten by the killer's first victim, actress Patrizia Audutori. She only appeared in a handful of films, but I will be actively seeking them out. Groovy!
Being a huge fan of Del Toro's cinema I knew it would simply be a matter of time before I got around to reading this. First and foremost you can absolutely feel the cinematic quality to this book, and while flawed, I did ultimately enjoy it on a pulpy level.
The authors do a fine job of building tension early on, and the characters are mostly appealing, if somewhat cliched.
For me, the biggest problem here is that the climax felt rushed. While the book was moving along at a nice clip, it was as though the authors realized that they needed a big scene all of a sudden to wrap it up and justify the succeeding volumes. If fast-paced, pulpy writing appeals to you, then this will also.
James Fenimore Cooper-The Pioneers I finally pulled this volume off my unread shelf, delved into the first novel and was rewarded with a richly textured, beautifully painted portrait of life in the wilds of upstate New York near the end of the 18th Century.
The Pioneers is the first of Cooper's Leatherstocking novels and much of what is written about the burgeoning town that serves as the setting of the novel, was culled from Cooper's own reminiscences of his father and the founding of Cooperstown, New York.
The novel beautifully juxtaposes the lives and philosophies of the white settlers and the natives, who were quickly being crowded out. Cooper never judges either perspective, and explores, much earlier in history that I had thought extant, ideas of conservationism and proper use of nature.
A beautiful novel, and one that has me salivating for the remaining Leatherstocking tales.
Graham Joyce-The Facts of Life Graham Joyce is one of my favorite contemporary novelists, but the multiple-award winner seems little known here in the U.S. This is the 7th novel of his that I have read and they are all well worth the time and effort.
The Facts of Life tells the magical tale of the Vine family, the mother, her seven daughters and their spouses, and her youngest daughter's newborn, illegitimate son Frank, and is set during the hellish, blitzkrieg raids over England during WWII.
Joyce writes lovingly of the family's personal trials and tribulations and, as he does so deftly in most of his books, sprinkles it with just the right amount of the supernatural. Heartily recommended.
Kenneth Fearing-The Big Clock Written in 1944, The Big Clock is a swiftly-paced noir set in the publishing world. While it lacks the swagger of Hammett or Chandler, the grit of David Goodis, or the psychological depth of JIm Thompson, The Big Clock strings you along its not too many pages and drops you off unruffled, but entertained.
Kirill Bulychev-Gusliar Wonders I have read quite a bit of Soviet science fiction, and after the Strugatskys, Kirill Bulychev is probably the best of the bunch. This collection of short stories, half of which are loosely connected through their locale and central character, is full of insight, comic touches, clever circumstances, and assured writing. If you have exhausted the works of Boris and Arkady Strugatsky, which I nearly have, give Bulychev a try.
Robert Kirkman-Invincible Volume 5-The Facts of Life Invincible is off to college, falling in love, battling supervillians, foiling plots, and ultimately finding time for his mom. Good stuff.
Another heavyweight of the Italian soundtrack, Armando Trovaioli has composed for over 200 films. His soundtrack for Una Magnum Special Per Tony Saitta is absolutely one of the best Poliziotteschi scores ever, which pretty much makes it one of the greatest overall. Check out the track Blazing Magnum:
Robert Kirkman-The Walking Dead Volume 13 Too Far Gone
Kirkman keeps the tension high as the survivors begin to assimilate and splinter within their new community. These can't come fast enough.
Mac Carter-The Strange Adventures of H.P. Lovecraft Vol. 1 Quirky, but unsatisfying comic about H.P.Lovecraft and the fictional origins of some of his stories. I'm a huge Lovecraft fan, and that might be a detractor here as it is hard to swallow Lovecraft as the individual portrayed within. I'll give Vol. 2 a shot and reappraise.
Neil Gaiman-The Graveyard Book Neil Gaiman is a supremely talented storyteller. Combine that with his obvious erudition and you get some damn fine books. The Graveyard Book, geared for younger readers, is a clever and fun read throughout.
Edward Anderson-Thieves Like Us Early noir novel is good, simple storytelling that, in many ways, is similar to Bonnie and Clyde. I really enjoyed the characters speech, cadence, and dialect. This was filmed as They Live By Night is 1948, and again by Robert Altman in 1974.
Boris and Arkady Strugatsky-Hard To Be A God This Strugatsky novel is set on a planet that has not yet advanced beyond a phase similar to our Middle Ages. Envoys from Earth have become assimilated to observe, but not interact. Though they are sickened by the barbaric society they observe, they are forbidden from intervening, hence the title. The novel's central ideas explore how the progress of science and civilization is often stymied by religious and magisterial oppression.
Dan Simmons-Ilium I've read a lot of Dan Simmons and this was really one of my favorite novels by him. A seriously epic space opera that is concluded in an even longer sequel entitled Olympos. I'm not even going to attempt a plot synopsis here, but suffice it to say that if big scope, epic sci-fi is your thing, you'll probably like this.
I heard this when watching The Kids Are All Right last weekend with the wife. It only appeared in the film for a minute or so, but I loved the sound, found out who it was, and it immediately went into high rotation around the household. This is a great live version.
McCoy's murder tale of a young couple and the dance marathon they entered doesn't really justify even the short length of the novel. This story could easily have been told in far fewer pages. The dance marathon routines become tedious, and I found it hard to believe the male protagonist found it necessary to "put her down."
Robert Kirkman-Invincible Vol. 3 & 4 The tone of this superhero series continues to become grimmer and grimmer after a somewhat light-hearted beginning. I like it.
Philip K. Dick-Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? I tried to read this when I was 13 after sneaking in to see Blade Runner, but couldn't do it. It only took me 29 years to finally get back around to it. Dick's novel is quite different from the film, as to be expected, but no less successful. The thing I appreciated most about this book is that it helped me understand the movie better. This is actually one of Dick's better novels, but it is pretty straight-forward and doesn't contain the mind-fuckery he likes to play with in his greatest works.
Wilkie Collins-The Woman in White The Woman in White was a far better read than The Moonstone, which I read last month. The characters were more interesting and far less annoying and the suspense was sustained to a far greater degree. I have more of Collins novels and will be checking them out sooner or later.
Ted McKeever Library Book 3-Metropol Image comics has collected some of McKeever early creator-owned series and republished them in handsome hardcovers. I read all of these series in the 90's, but it's cool to have them all bound in a single volume and the stories are well worth a second read. This apocalyptic tale of battling angels and demons is pure McKeever; distinctive art, good storyline, and engaging characters. Indie comics don't get better.
Stephen King-Full Dark, No Stars It has been awhile since King has really hooked me, but these four stories all succeed. These stories are lean and mean and show that King, when working within a limited palate, can still bring it.
Brian K. Vaughn-Y The Last Man Deluxe Hardcover 4
Volume 4 of 5 starts to bring many of the storylines together. Still engaging, fun stuff.
Wolf People are an amazing band. Check out my previous post of their video for 'Tiny Circle'. They have just released their first studio album entitled Steeple and it absolutely rocks. Check out this delicious live version of Dorney Reach from the album
This month started off with an early novel of the Strugatsky's. Written before the brothers began to write more social science fiction, Space Apprentice applauds Soviet ideals of work and how work fulfills the individual and helps center the individual into his or her place in society. Yet is there a tongue to be found within a cheek here? Hard to say. This novel is far more straight-forward than later works, yet still contains the warmth and humanity also found in later, and far more satirical and subversive works. A success? Definitely.
Wilkie Collins-The Moonstone The Moonstone, claimed by many to be the first mystery novel, is as much a novel of manners, as evidenced by its foremost narrator, as it is a mystery novel. Collins book is told from around five or six different perspectives, but the one that dominates the narrative, that of the old servant Betteridge, whose whole life philosophy can be found between the pages of Robinson Crusoe, is so strictly observant of place and propriety that the story sometimes suffers. I'm a huge fan of fiction from the 19th Century, but Collins pedantic tone is sometimes quite irritating, particularly through Betteridge's mouth. The detection is also very much founded on assumption instead of facts. For all that, I did quite enjoy this book, my first by Collins, and am looking forward to The Woman in White in November.
Robert Kirkman-The Walking Dead Volume 12 Life Among Them The survivors find themselves being incorporated into a seemingly perfect community on the outskirts of D.C. This volume keeps you waiting for what is wrong in this community, but it never comes, in fact, at the end it seems as if our heroes might be on the verge of spoiling something good themselves. I am really looking forward to 13.
As a side note, the premiere of the TV series last night was a fun and faithful adaption of the series first couple issues.
Robert Kirkman-The Astounding Wolf-Man Volume 1 Well I've been walking with the dead for a couple years now, and I started Invincible a couple months ago, so when I found this at a used book store I jumped all over it. Kirkman seems to be on a roll these days and who am I to say stop already. The Wolf-Man seems another success, and I am seeking out Vol. 2.
Eric Powell-The Goon Volume 6 Chinatown and the Mystery of Mr. Wicker I love Powell's The Goon, but had left off reading it for reasons I can't exactly explain, so when I found this, in a nice used hardcover edition I grabbed it. Powell gives some backstory to The Goon character in this volume along with the usual monsters, dames, grifters, and gangsters that usually fill these pages. Why did I ever stop?
William Gibson- Spook Country What I really liked about Gibson's Spook Country was the quick-hit, snap shift from one character's perspective to the next. Gibson never lingers long with one character and this plays well, specifically when tension mounts, as when a few of his, at first, disparate threads begin to converge on the streets of New York. Gibson spins a simple, yet seemingly complex yarn of espionage and cultural exploration that tantalizes with the questions it asks, but has difficulty in ultimately achieving the heights it aspires to. But for me its always been about the trip, not the destination.