Friday, July 25, 2014

Too Similar?

Among my favorite writers of ghost and weird stories is yet another British author, John Gordon. Most of his work is considered for young adults, but almost all of it is exceptional in some way and can be appreciated by older readers. He excels at old-fashioned ghost yarns and for years I sought to buy a copy of his collection CATCH YOUR DEATH AND OTHER GHOST STORIES. But the copies I'd find were generally too expensive for my budget and I'd have to pass. Recently, I landed an original hardback copy, but as it has yet to arrive from the UK, I'll hold comments on the contents until it arrives (I'd read some of the stories therein, presented in the late Karl Wagner's YEAR'S BEST HORROR STORIES).

This week I read one of his more recent novels, THE FLESH EATER (1998). This is a young adult novel concerning a fellow in his late teens. I don't recall that his exact age is ever mentioned, but for some reason I assumed him to be between 17 and 19 years old. A likeable and physically imposing young gentleman with relatively wealthy parents who own a very large hotel in a village in the Fens. The hero, one Harry Hogge has the enviable quality of attracting pretty girls. And the girls are what get him entangled in a mystery that soon becomes rather dangerous and equally chilling.

The writing here is classic Gordon. Which is to say it's also classically Jamesian. The thing about the plot that eventually got on my nerves is that I realized about three quarters of the way into the novel that it's just a re-telling of "Casting the Runes" by M. R. James himself. It wouldn't have much bothered me except that it's so much like that classic story (the source material for the excellent film CURSE OF THE DEMON) that it got on my nerves. I could give it a pass if it had been a bit less like the story...but it is not. At a certain point the plots are pretty much paralleling one another.

Still and all, I'm glad I read it. I always learn something new about writing when I chance across a well-constructed novel. This is certainly a well written book, but I wish the plot hadn't been so much like something so famous from the author who has obviously most influenced Mr. Gordon.

 The creature, from CURSE OF THE DEMON.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Comics and Cats!

I'm way too tired and too busy to post much! No essays and no fiction excerpts! Sorry! Maybe in the next few days.

In the meantime, I picked up a nifty book for my collection. And here's a shot of our cat, Lilly, taking advantage of the nice warm bed after Carole got up to get ready for work. Lilly's no dummy!

As usual lately, I got a great deal on this book. I've been told that this issue contains the first professional comics work by John Romita, Sr.! I'm not sure, so I'll have to research it.

Lilly using the TV remote for a pillow! She's not particular!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Solo Backpacking Trips

I haven't taken a solo backpacking trip in a while. I'm beginning to plan for a multi-day backpacking excursion. To the extent that I'm not even sure when I'm going to take it. Likely it will be in the Fall. I doubt that I'll do any part of the Appalachian Trail because that place has become just way the heck too crowded for my tastes. There are some trail loops in the Great Smoky Mountains back country that I've wanted to traverse for some time, but again I'll have to make sure I won't be dealing with lots of people. I want some solitude, not bumping into big groups of people as I hike.

There are a couple of lesser used longer distance trails that I am also considering. The Art Loeb Trail has long been on my radar, and I'll check out doing a piece of that one. It's very high on my list of considerations. And there's the one that many people take when they don't want to deal with the AT crowds but want to hike for a number of miles without crossing over one road after another: Benton MacKaye Trail. And there's also the Bartram Trail.

I'm leaning toward the Art Loeb Trail because I could do the entire length of it in three days of moderate hiking. It would be easy for my wife to drop me off in the high country and pick me up where the other terminus lies at Davidson River.

We'll see. I just need to get out and find some solitude in the high country.

Middle Prong Wilderness.

With the exception of the cascade, all of these other photos were taken in the Southern Nantahala Wilderness on the NC/GA border. I'm not quite sure I recall where the photo of the small waterfall was taken.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Don't Forget the Fun Stuff!

Various stuff that has entertained and educated and amused me over the years. See if you can identify 'em all! No prizes for anyone, if you do!




Sunday, July 13, 2014

It Sold for HOW MUCH?!

Some years back, when I got out of the comic book retailing business, I swore off the industry. I didn't even want to write for the comic book industry anymore, abandoning my nascent career in selling comic scripts to various publishers. I was completely burned out on the literary/art form.

Years passed. For a long time I didn't so much as crack the covers of a comic book or enter the doors of a comic book shop. If I passed by a rack of comics in any kind of retail establishment I tended to ignore them.

But, somewhere along the way, nostalgia began gnawing at the old bones. So I picked up a few low-grade copies of The Amazing Spider-Man created/written/penciled/inked by Steve Ditko. I got a kick out of the books (I think they were issues #16 and #19), so I figured, 'What the heck? I could probably buy all of the Ditko issues in low to mid-grade without too much trouble'. So, I set about doing that.

Then I decided that I wouldn't mind owning a lot of the pre-hero Marvel comics that Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko created together, and I started collecting those, too. And then, I decided to take a crack at buying a complete set of Fantastic Four, but only the issues created/written/penciled by Jack Kirby.

I was, of course, hooked again on comics. And I've been at it for some time, carefully assembling a collection of the titles that I want the most and having no desire whatsoever to again enter the business of retailing at any level. But one of the things that amazes me is that I got back into it buying lower grade copies of the books I grew up loving. That way I could actually handle and read the books without having to worry about risking my "investment". And I do read my old comics, unlike so many who just pursue it as a kind of pure investment strategy, seeking to keep them in as high a grade as is possible

But something really weird has happened in the past couple of years. And it's that lower grade copies of the Silver Age books that I have been buying have exploded in value. Books that I thought would never be in high demand are just that. People are paying crazy prices for the kinds of books that I would once never have considered selling for anything more than pennies.

It's a crazy world.

My copy of Strange Tales 89, the first appearance of Jack Kirby creation, Fin Fang Foom. Kirby really liked alliteration.

My copy of Kirby creation Fantastic Four #8.

My copy of The Amazing Spider-Man #1, created by Steve Ditko.

My copy of Strange Tales #114. Captain America returns! (Or does he?!)

Saturday, July 12, 2014


Severed Press is currently running a sale on the ebook version of my novel, WITHERING.

Grab your copy now!

Wednesday, July 09, 2014


I just picked up this novel. NOOGIE'S TURN TO SHINE by Jim Knipfel. I like his work. Known mainly as the author of the autobiographical works SLACKJAW, RUINING IT FOR EVERYONE, and LEAVING THE NAIROBI TRIO, he has left the world of memoir for that of fiction. He seems to have some disdain for the fact that he wrote three autobiographical works before he was even forty, but the authorship of the mundane is actually fertile territory these days and it put him in the company of guys like Bukowski and Pekar.

Knipfel worked for many years in the world of small, independent newspapers and did some good work there. I recall that he did a great interview with Harry Crews in which his own personality came through and was not totally squashed by that of Crews; and that's a pretty damned big achievement, to my way of thinking.

Still, I really dig his fiction. The first one he did was THE BUZZING and that one was a real hoot. It was based partially on his experiences working for a (very) small newspaper and was jam-packed with irony. I highly recommend that one. So I've now picked up this newer work (2007).

The story features one Ned "Noogie" Krapzcak aka Crap Sack. He's a low-paid security guard for an independent company that installs and furnishes electronic cash machines. One day, after a $20 bill accidentally sticks to his shoe, the otherwise honest worker bee decides to start stealing money from his route of cash machines. Six million dollars into his scheme, he's found out and hits the road with his booty stashed in laundry bags. Yeah...he's not too bright.

It's a very good book. I really like Knipfel's style of writing. Terse and plain, with a fair number of movie references which I've always found odd for a guy who's going blind. The memories abide, I reckon.

I discovered Knipfel's work when I was winding down from a binge of the Beat writers. There's enough of that style in his work that it appealed to me then and it still does.

Give his books a try.