Friday, March 30, 2012

Lost Souls By Clive Barker

Originally published in an Anthology entitled Cutting Edge, Clive Barker has posted his short story featuring mainstay Harry D'Amour on his website.

Click Harry and Dorothea to read for free

Those with Kindles can easily turn this into a pdf to be read as a document.  While not his best work, I have a true soft spot for Harry.  This is a short tale that emphasizes how horrible the odds are against Harry.  While the resolution may upset some readers it has a very noir/pulp feel to it.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

M.R. Interviews...Trent Zelazny

 "Trent Zelazny is off and running. I have someone new to admire." -Joe R. Lansdale
 High Praise from a Master, please welcome Trent Zelazny

Tell us about To Sleep Gently. How did the character of Jack Dempster emerge?

To Sleep Gently was my first serious try at writing crime fiction. I’d decided that True Love equaled Film Noir, then from there the books that inspired it. Jack Dempster had been a character in my head for a while, just kind of putzing around. Maybe he was serving time, I dunno. He evolved into a character that was much of who I actually am, and who I want to be. I did terribly in school, not because I was stupid but because I hated school. I hated the school I attended and eventually dropped out, but somehow there were people who believed I had some sort of college degree—go figure. So, like me, Jack is very smart, but also incredibly stupid. He’s a lot tougher than I am. I’m kind of a pussy. I was glad he finally got out of stir or whatever and tapped on my shoulder and said, “Hey, okay, ready, gotta story to tell you.”

The story of Blake Gladstone moves from Fractal Despondency to A Crack in Melancholy Time. Was this planned, or were you just not finished with the character?

Long story. I’ll try not to be boring about it. Initially I wrote Fractal Despondency and sent it to my agent. While she had it and gave it a look-see I wrote a novella called Shadowboxer. My agent got back to me and said she liked Fractal, but thought it was very bleak, and that the length was not a very saleable length, which figures, as it’s probably my favorite length to write. So I’d finished Shadowboxer and sent it to her, and got the same feedback on that one: bleak, weird length. Then she suggested putting the two together and working it into a novel. That’s where A Crack in Melancholy Time came from. When she suggested it, ideas bloomed, and I worked both novellas together, using Blake Gladstone as the lead and Kealan Donovan from Shadowboxer as a secondary character. As a full-length novel, A Crack in Melancholy Time was the end, and I thought it was pretty cool and sent it to my agent. She did not think it was pretty cool, and thought I had good stories in there than I had now screwed up. So I pulled them all apart again. If you read Fractal Despondency and then A Crack in Melancholy Time, you’ll see there is a gap between stories. A few people have asked me to write more about Blake, but he’s obviously not a series character. I think about writing what happened to him while back in Florida, which would be the middle, but it seems like a strange way to do a quasi trilogy. But I was glad I wrote Melancholy Time. It gave me a bit of peace giving him an ending like that, rather than the one in Fractal.

Your latest Novella Butterfly Potion begins with the character of Perry waking up in a strange place unsure how he arrived there. For this story did you have the answers Perry was seeking, or did you uncover them with Perry?

I uncovered them with him. I wrote the first quarter or so really excited, and then the thing just stopped dead. I remember the exact paragraph it stopped at, and I’d thought Fuck, I was really digging this one. I let it sit for about a week and looked at it again, and Perry wanted to go again. So I let him, and he took me on a journey I didn’t really expect but related too very well. The rest of it pretty much wrote itself from there.

Your work seems very character driven. Is this an intentional choice?

Good question. I don’t think it’s intentional but it’s the way I write, I guess. The characters take over. Seems the more I concern myself with plot, the more often I wind up putting the piece away, unfinished. I’m not anti-plot or anything, but my characters don’t typically give a rat’s ass about whatever plot I’ve come up with.

Who working today are you most eager to find new releases by? Why?

Top of my list is Joe Lansdale. Man, that guy can write. I just read his newest, Edge of Dark Water, and it’s awesome. He’s the guy who showed me that I could write anything I wanted, that I could be honest with my fears and my anger and so on. My early stuff, a lot of it is very derivative of Lansdale. Also Kealan Patrick Burke (yes, he’s the namesake for the character in Shadowboxer). He has a great way of writing unsettling things with a very touching whisper to it all. I love that about his work.

What fictional character had the greatest impact on you?

Parker. Richard Stark’s aka Donald E. Westlake’s Parker character. I’ve read them all, many of them multiple times.

What writer has had the greatest impact on your style? How So?

There are a couple. Lansdale is one. David Goodis and Cornell Woolrich are the others. What Lansdale showed me about honesty and so forth, Goodis and Woolrich (especially Goodis) showed me in ways I personally related to, big-time. I think if you read my more recent stuff, you can very easily see their influence. More than their stories, however, it’s the way they write, the language that really grabs me.

Do you have anything new coming down the pipeline you would like to share?

I recently wrote a short play called “Not Any Little Girl”, which will see its first performance here in Santa Fe at the end of April. I’m really excited about that. Got an email yesterday from one of the actors saying it reminded him of Raymond Chandler. Needless to say, I was tickled about that. I have a short story called “The Digital Eidolon that Fits in Your Pocket” coming out in Warren Lapine’s anthology Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, and am about to start reading Fractal Despondency for an audio release. I’m also getting near the end of editing my first anthology, A Splintered Mirage, which has a lot of great writers in it. Too many great writers to only list a couple here, but I think it’s going to be a fantastic book.


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Comb's Lair

Thanks to Troy Mccombs over at Comb's liar for the support.  Follow the arrow for more. 

Flawed Favorites...Lord of Illusions

Clive Barker wrote and directed Lord of Illusions, following one of his recurring characters Harry D'Amour.  Barker describes the character as such, "I've traveled a long way with Harry D'Amour. He first appeared in a story I wrote almost a decade ago now, 'The Last Illusion'. Since then, I've recounted his life and troubled times in two novels and some short fiction. I've not made the road very easy for him. His destiny, it seems, is to be in constant struggle with what might be loosely called 'the forces of darkness', though he claims he'd be quite content investigating insurance fraud. His reluctance is, trust, part of his charm. He's not a Van Helsing, defiantly facing off against some implacable evil with faith and holy water. His antecedents are the troubled, weary and often lovelorn heroes of film noir - private detectives with an eye for a beautiful widow and an aversion to razors."

Mr. D'Amour first appeared in 1986's Volume Six of the Books of Blood in the short story, 'The Last Illusion.' Barker would use the character again in the short story 'Lost Souls,' and later in both The Great and Secret Show and Everville.

Lord of Illusions combining some of my favorite story/genre elements the film noir detective and a world of supernatural horror.  While some my be off put by some of the enigmatic qualities of the movie, such as what's with Harry's weird back tattoo and the brief flashes to an exorcism case. I applaud Barker for allowing the character to retain a sense of mystery. The film has magic, illusionists, cults, a classically styled pulp detective, fortune tellers, a mysterious femme fatale, and supernatural horror.  This film was made for me, and maybe you too.  

What I cannot defend is the weak resolution to the main conflict, minor spoiler alert, it sucks.  The main villain is also weak especially compared to some of Barker's other creations. 

If you push past this you have a well layered and structured mystery with a detective that investigates within a supernatural horror film. 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Dark River Press Reviews Where the Dead Fear to Tread

" ...jam-packed with great action sequences and wonderfully horrific monsters that will chill you to the bone."

 Click above for Michael Juvinall of Dark Rivers Press review of Where the Dead Fear to Tread

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Blade Runner Tee Fury art by Matt_Dearden

Click the image to buy this amazing Blade Runner T by Matt_Dearden, available for a limited time only.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

M.R. interviews...Chuck Miller

Please Welcome Chuck Miller to Cutis Anserina

Tell us about your character Black Centipede. 

The Black Centipede was originally conceived as a cross between William S. Burroughs and the Shadow, with a dash of Doc Savage. (Black centipedes are a loathsome centerpiece of Burroughs' novel "Naked Lunch.") Like Doc, he makes his home/headquarters in the top floors of the tallest skyscraper in the city; he is addicted to the use of clever gadgets of his own invention. The Centipede shares Burroughs' enthusiasm for orgone accumulators, the cut-up method, and quoting Shakespeare, as well as a certain unfortunate vice they both have in common with Sherlock Holmes.

He's kind of difficult to sum up in a few words. He took a strange path to become a crime fighter, and he does it for reasons that are not entirely clear even to him.  In the origin sequence, he is a boy of 16. His friendship with H.P. Lovecraft and a strange encounter with Lizzie Borden make him aware of what he calls a "Dark Power" operating beneath the visible surface of the world. He becomes a crime fighter almost by accident. He is a pretty ruthless individual, and he is not at all deep or introspective. He does what he does joyfully, and sort of revels in the violence. He suffers from absolute self-assurance, which can be a very dangerous thing. I do plan to have his character evolve as the series progresses, and we will see the beginning of this in the second book.

He was originally intended as a marginal character in a comic book I wanted to do some 20 years ago. That never got off the ground, but the Centipede and a few other characters wouldn't quit loitering around in my head. I did a short novel a couple years ago based on that comic book idea, but it didn't turn out to be very good at all. So I decided to do some short stories featuring some of the peripheral characters. The first one of these was a Black Centipede tale called "Wisconsin Death Trip." It's set in 1957 and deals with the Centipede's involvement in the curious case of Ed Gein. It was fun to write, and I have maintained the practice of having several "real life" characters appear in almost all the Centipede stories. The first novel features H.P. Lovecraft, Lizzie Borden, Frank Nitti and William Randolph Hearst. The second book, "Blood of the Centipede," which I just finished, includes Amelia Earhart, Aleister Crowley, Fatty Arbuckle and Bela Lugosi.

In the Centipede's fictional world, he is not only a real-life crime fighter, he is the star of a monthly pulp adventure magazine that presents highly-sanitized accounts of his adventures. This has arisen from a deal he worked out with Hearst. The public perception is that the Black Centipede is a heroic paragon of virtue, while the truth is a little less rosy.

Creeping Dawn: The Rise of the Black Centipede is your first release starring the Black Centipede.  Does this series have an established end point or are you taking it book by book?

I don't have any real end in mind. The first book is set in 1933. The Black Centipede is still alive and active in 2012, and he's in remarkably good shape for a 101-year-old. I'm concentrating on his early career right now, but I have a very loose timeline worked out up through about 1970. I wrote a novella set in the 50s, which is a tribute to the old EC horror comics, and guest stars Doctor Fredric Wertham and EC publisher William M. Gaines. I don't know when that one will see the light of day, but it's a favorite of mine.The interesting twist is that Dr. Wertham is an enthusiastic supporter and fan of horror comics, while Gaines is hell-bent on destroying the industry. And we find out why that is in a story that also features the notorious murderer Albert Fish, who was examined by Wertham at one time. Lots of dead people coming back to life and wreaking ironic revenge.

How do you define the, “New Pulp Movement.”  What do you feel separates pulp from neo pulp?

Well, it is certainly on a much smaller scale, and caters to a fairly specialized audience. In the original heyday of pulp, the 20s through the 40s, the magazines were very popular and widely read. For the creators then, I suppose, it was more of a business than an artistic endeavor. Writers like Lester Dent (Doc Savage) and Walter Gibson (The Shadow) were cranking out more than a novel a month. Obviously, today, the audience for these stories is much more specialized. It is a much smaller part of popular culture than it once was. The people who are into it are not just casual fans, they are people who grew up reading pulp, if not during its heyday in the 30s and 40s, by way of the paperback reprints that were very popular in the 60s and 70s.

The New Pulp, then, is derived from the old, but I think it takes a more reverent attitude toward the characters, who are now beloved icons rather than cheap entertainment. The storytelling is, on the whole, more sophisticated. The people doing it today are not doing it for a living in the same way the writers of the 30s were. Then, it was all about the volume of material produced. Now, more care is taken. It is done by and for people who see pulp as an important cultural treasure rather than a cheap mass commodity.

Do you feel the old pulps slowly faded away or were replaced by something else?

A little of both. Like the superhero comic books that were their heir apparent, the heroic pulps kind of petered out after World War II, and were gradually replaced by a number of different things. I think television played a part in the decline of the pulp magazines as cheap mass entertainment. The pulps' direct successors, comic books, have had their ups and downs. They have survived, but their mass appeal has dwindled. Superheroes are very popular in the movies right now, but the comics themselves have nowhere near the audience they once had.

Also, while the heroic pulps were in decline in the 40s, the science fiction pulps hung on and evolved. And one of the main publishers of the sci-fi pulps, Ray Palmer, got in on the ground floor of the "flying saucer" craze in 1947, and started Fate Magazine, devoted to "true" tales of the paranormal. This was a genre that really took off. It was as though a lot of readers and publishers were turing from subjects that were unequivocally fictional to fantastic things that just might possibly be true.

Who was the most influential classic pulp author to you personally?  Why?

That would probably be Walter Gibson, who wrote most of the Shadow pulps under the name Maxwell Grant. That's mainly because of the influence he had on writers that influenced me. The Shadow was a direct inspiration for Batman. Lester Dent, the main writer on Doc Savage, was also very influential. You can find echoes of Doc Savage in most of the early superhero books. Superman in particular. The two characters are very different on the surface, but the inspiration is very obvious. They both have the same first name, Clark; similar nicknames-- Man of Bronze/Man of Steel; the Fortress of Solitude was lifted from Doc.

Strictly for me personally, it would probably be Lovecraft, though.

Who do you feel are some of the strongest neo pulp authors today?

There are quite a few good ones. I can't possibly mention all the good work that's going on, but there are a few that stand out for me.

Barry Reese is doing some great work. He has two characters, the Rook and Lazarus Gray, that hark back to hero pulps like the Shadow and the Avenger. The Rook stories in particular have strong supernatural elements that were absent from most of the popular pulp hero stories of the past. But he blends these things very well. And, in a way, it is very traditional, since there were lots of horror pulps in the 30s and on up. That was H.P. Lovecraft's element. I believe there are very few people working in New Pulp today who would not list Lovecraft as a significant influence. Tommy Hancock at Pro Se has started a multi-generational hero saga which is very intriguing. This story ties the pulp-era heroes in with the later comic book era superheroes. The first volume is called "Yesteryear." I believe he intends to make it into a trilogy. Derrick Ferguson is also very good, and he's done quite a few things. He has two main characters he writes about: Fortune McCall and Dillon. Those two are very popular. Don Gates is a relative newcomer. His first novel, "Challenger Storm: The Isle of Blood" came out just a few months ago, and it's a good one. Other writers I would recommend include Sean Taylor, Nancy Hansen, Van Plexico, and many, many more.

A good place to learn about all of this would be the All Pulp blog:

Who would you recommend take a chance and try neo pulp?  What would be a good starting place for them?

Well, I think the best starting place would be "Creeping Dawn." That's just my own personal view. But seriously, there is a lot of stuff out there, a wide variety of subjects and styles. I think there's something for just about anybody. I would suggest going online and taking a look at the Pro Se Productions site. Airship 27 Productions is another company that's doing a lot of good things. There are enough samples and excerpts available for a potential reader to find something appealing.

What does the term ‘hardboiled’ mean to you?

I've never been entirely sure what was meant by that. I guess it's a lot more gritty and harrowing than over easy or sunny side up. Most of my stuff is scrambled, with bits of shell left in it.

Do you have anything coming down the pipeline you would like to share?

I have a few things coming up. I'm doing several stories for the Pulp Obscura line. This is a really cool project Pro Se Press is doing with Altus Press. For some time, Altus has been reprinting stories about a number of old, obscure pulp heroes from the 20s up through the 40s, all of which are now in the public domain. Pulp Obscura is a new line featuring new stories by contemporary writers starring these heroes. This will involve a couple dozen writers. The first volume, "The New Adventures of Richard Knight," is already out. The first one of mine is an Armless O'Neil story, which I just finished. That will be out in a couple of months. The next one of those I'm working on is the Griffon.

I also have something coming out from Pacific Noir Press, the first in what might become a series, "The Bay Phantom Chronicles." The second Black Centipede novel is done and will be out later this year. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Fatale by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips

Previously Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips teamed up to bring comic readers the noir infused crime tales of Sleeper, Criminal and Incognito.  Together the team is taking their noir sensibility to a mystery revovling around cults and a femme fatal who does not seem to age.

The mystery unfolds in two separate, but related narratives 50 years apart.  In the present Nicolas Lash a crime reporter is lead astray, by the same woman his grandfather mystery novelist Hank Raines  was involved with.   Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips prove the maturity of the comics medium telling a slow burn mystery that is involved enough to warrant re-reads of the released issues.  Every panel contains an incredibly and classically dark image with dialogue that crackles with energy. 

If you have any affinity for comics, noir or slow burn horror I cannot recommend this series highly enough.

M.R. Interviews... Eric R Johnston

Please Welcome Eric R. Johnston to Cutis Anserina  

Tell us about The Twins of Noremway Parish?  What types of readers do you think this novel will appeal to?

The Twins of Noremway Parish is a novel that takes place in the distant future. The world is run-down; the land is dry, parched, and dead, and there are only a few human settlements left in the world. There was a war with beings collectively known as the Darkness. They have one goal: bring chaos to the world.
There is one being from a group of god-like entities that had survived since the beginning of existence that attempts to restore order to this chaos. He is a Story Teller. These Story Tellers spin tales, making sense of all the disparate things around them, developing a cohesive narrative that has a certain elegance, a pristine order.
The novel begins with the Story Teller narration, but he is soon captured by the Darkness who seek to use his powers to tell another story, one that will tear apart the fabric of the universe. The story changes, becoming dark, evil.
The Twins of Noremway Parish deals a lot with tradition and injustice. These people have their own religion, one that I made up, but it is an off-shoot of Christianity and Catholicism. I have borrowed phrases, titles, roles, and religious edicts from a variety of places to create something unique, yet familiar.
The story itself really follows the parish Friar, Decon Mangler, often referred to as “Brother Decon” and the Parochial Vicar, Teret Finley, known as “Sister Teret.” They are the male and female religious leaders of the parish, and being such must keep a certain innocence about them. When a pair of infant conjoined twins are found in the cathedral, they decide it would be best for the twins if they raised them as mother and father themselves. This leads to a social uproar as it becomes clear that, to some within the parish, tradition, even a tradition that makes no sense, is more important than thinking about the actual well-being of these children.
This novel is intended for college-educated readers. I think it has mass appeal in the sense that there is a big mystery here. 

What was your inspiration for this story?

The original idea was to write a story about a pair of conjoined twins who run away to join the circus, but as I started writing, I thought it would be far more interesting if I created an entirely different world. In so doing, I have to create a culture and backstory for these people. The story evolved from that need to create something new.

Tell us a little about the dichotomy between The Story Teller and The Darkness.

Story Tellers are these beings that maintain order in the world. They narrate every story that is told, and keep the wheels turning. The Darkness wants to create chaos, to destroy the world, to make it nothing buy a shapeless, chaotic void.

The Twins of Noremway Parish tackles quite a few heavy issues.  Were you at all concerned you would alienate some readers, or that the themes would overwhelm your characters?

The characters do become overwhelmed. The reader will be too, but if I did my job right, they will stay with the characters until the end. I am not concerned at all about alienating readers. If someone is turned off by a heavy-handed message, they are free to read something else. Heavy messages is what I’m all about.

What author do you feel most influenced you?  How? 

Stephen King influenced me the most. His writing style and skill at developing characters has informed my writing. I strongly believe that character comes before anything else. You could have the most exciting plot, but if your characters are boring or unsympathetic, no reader will follow them. 

What fictional character had the greatest impact on you?

Roland Deschain, the gunslinger from Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. He is mysterious, brooding, and just so damn cool. This character has haunted me since the first time I read The Gunslinger, eighteen years ago.

Do you have anything new coming down the pipeline you would like to share? 

In a few months, my publisher will be releasing a novel called Harvester: Ascension, a book I co-authored with a friend of mine. It is a science fiction novel about an alien invasion. This novel, too, deals with some heavy issues, from being a statement about the highly inflammatory political rhetoric we’ve seen in recent years, to concepts in religion and spirituality.
Following that, will be the release of the sequel to The Twins of Noremway Parish, a novel called The Book of Ragas.

Eric R. Johnston was born and raised in the Flint area of Michigan. He was raised to appreciate science and history. Eric's father was an "in-home Carl Sagan," explaining the nature of the cosmos in easy to understand terms, teaching his children about stars, planets, worm holes, and black holes.

His introduction to science fiction came in the mid-1980's with reruns of the original Star Trek series. In fact, his earliest memory of going to the movie theater was to watch Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home in 1986. The following year saw the debut of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and he was hooked on science fiction.

In the following years, he became an avid reader and writer. He developed a love for the science fiction, fantasy, mystery, and horror stories that were popular in the early- to mid- 1990's. Bruce Coville, R.L. Stine, Christopher Pike, and others. Eventually his tastes grew into more sophisticated writing such as Stephen King, J.R.R. Tolkien, Arthur C. Clarke, Michael Chricton, Ray Bradbury, among many others.

He wrote his first complete short story when he was in 8th grade. It was a simple tale about a group of teenagers who try to conjure up the spirit of a recently deceased super model. The story bordered on sadistic and entered the realm of the obscene, but it was an interesting foray into the world of creative fiction.
In college, he double-majored in English and History, taking an emphasis in American Literature and American History. He then earned a teaching certification in secondary education, teaching Social Studies and English. Currently, writing is his full-time job, but he substitute teaches, a combination of long-term teaching assignments and day-to-day assignments, and during the summer he teaches a remedial reading course.

He lives in both Davison and Attica Michigan with his fiance, his daughter, and two step-daughters.