My Interview On Scifipulse.net

Nicholas Yanes was good enough to interview me over on Scifipulse.net. Go read it. Learn of my love of vampire hunting Daschunds.

http://www.scifipulse.net/edward-erdelac-on-his-career-and-his-novels-monstrumfuhrer-and-mindbreaker/

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Published in: on October 19, 2017 at 11:48 am  Leave a Comment  
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Reviews For Angler In Darkness

Publishers Weekly posted their review of my first short story collection, Angler In Darkness. 

Check it out here – https://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-553-39090-2

Cemetery Dance also posted theirs, a very in depth and positive take –

http://www.cemeterydance.com/extras/review-angler-darkness-edward-m-erdelac/

Published in: on October 17, 2017 at 4:05 pm  Leave a Comment  

31 Days of Halloween Horror Viewing

It’s that time of the year for Halloween fear. No pre-prepared watch list this time, I’m just jumping in and checking out stuff I haven’t seen. Follow along!

Day 1 – The Hand – So if CERN really did shunt a bunch of us into another universe, the fact that I had never heard of a Michael Caine movie by Oliver Stone in which a comic book artist’s severed hand goes around killing people is proof enough for me. After a really grisly and well done hand loss the movie meanders a bit, but remained watchable, if absurd.
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Day 2 – Sole Survivor – A woman emerges unscathed from an airliner crash, but is haunted by silent strangers stalking her everywhere. I found this to be a more consistently coherent It Follows. A bit of a slow burn, but enjoyable.

Day 3 – Gerald’s Game – I never read the book, but this movie is carried by its performances, particularly that of Carla Gugino. It’s a great and at times infuriating study of character, history, and gender, but the final scene in the courtroom is a bit pants, to use a funny expression from across the Pond. I understand it happens in the book, so I guess it’s a faithful adaptation.
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Day 4 – Pieces – The VHS box for this one has stuck with me for years. Absolutely bonkers giallo with some lovely ladies getting cut to…well….pieces. There’s a totally bizarre ethnic ‘kung fu’ joke in the middle of it for no apparent reason and the left field ending stinger has to be seen to be believed. This has got to be the single biggest influence on the classic parody movie Student Bodies.

Day 5 – Vampire Circus – I had been wanting to see this one for a long time and it was worth the wait. Top drawer Hammer movie about a staked vampire who lays a curse on his slayers which a band of odd circus performers/minions begin to enact in hopes of resurrecting their undead master. Some really inventive FX, beautiful actresses as always, and ingenious scenes of vampire slaying. This is gonna be a top watch for me for the season for sure.

Day 6 – Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde – Another late Hammer outing. London chemist Dr. Jekyll, seeking a life prolonging formula, figures out how to chemically change sexual characteristics (maybe because unmarried women live longer?) and promptly begins assuming a vampish, female form who may or may not be his darker self. Points for including both Jack The Ripper and Burke and Hare, but otherwise kind of middling.

Day 7 – Child’s Play 3 – Chucky, rendered to a molten blob at the end of Part 2, gets reconstituted into a new body when an unscrupulous toy manufacturer decides to re-christian the Good Guy line. I think I would’ve enjoyed this if it had been about Chucky running rampant through the upper corporate echelons as some kind of cathartic, anarchistic statement on the evils of unfettered capitalism, but instead he just went after Andy (this time play by Justin Whalin from the D&D movie) at a military school and I spent three quarters of the movie trying to remember if I’d seen this already or not. The always good to see Andrew Robinson was memorable as a weirdo military barber, but that’s about it.

Day 8 – Don’t Deliver Us From Evil – French film about two Catholic school girls who dedicate themselves to Satan. Their deliberate sins gradually escalate from minor pranks and infractions to their logical outcome. Widely regarded, it reminded me a bit of The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane. An engaging movie, but frankly, a bit too sleazy with the underage girls.
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Day 9 – Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde – Might be the low point of the ‘meets’ series for me so far. Just not particularly funny, though it has moments. And the song and dance routine of the suffragettes kicking up their heels and lifting their skirts like can can girls was pretty cringeworthy, even for a guy who likes Willie Scott the best of Indiana Jone’s lady friends. The boys are American cops inexplicably working in some kind of exchange program (a la Black Rain?) with the British coppers in Edwardian England. They get fired and wind up chasing Dr. Jekyll’s (Karloff) alter ego to try to get their jobs back. Costello turns into both a mouse man AND a Hyde monster.

Day 10 – Eyes Without A Face – There’s a reason this one’s got a Criterion release. A French surgeon, responsible for a car crash that leaves his daughter Christiane horrifically disfigured, sets out to make amends by kidnapping beautiful young girls with the help of his assistant and attempting to graft their faces onto hers with varying degrees of success. Incredibly well realized and astonishingly graphic for 1960, this is another top first time watch for me this year. I’m trying to talk my wife into going next Halloween as Christiane!

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Day 11 – Boys In The Trees – This Australian picture turned out to be less of a horror film as advertised and more of a dark fantasy. That’s not a knock on it. It’s a great little movie, about teenaged boys on the cusp of manhood, and in particular, two former best friends on Halloween night, one an aspiring photographer who compromises himself to fit in with the local crowd, yet has dreams of leaving their small town, and the other an imaginative, bullied pariah who doesn’t want to grow up. The two reason through why they drifted apart and the movie becomes a meditation not just on masculinity, but on identity and memory. Extremely well done and affecting. Almost as if written by a brokenhearted Ray Bradbury.

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Day 12 – The Resurrected – Dan O’Bannon captains this practical FX gorefest, loosely inspired by Lovecraft’s Case of Charles Dexter Ward and starring Chris Sarandon as the necormancy-obssessed doctor being hunted up by a private detective hired by his wife to figure out just what he’s been up to. Suprisingly moody and fun, with some neat lore and grotesque creations.

Day 13 – Personal Shopper – Kristen Stewart is a personal assistant for a Parisian celebrity, but she’s also a medium staying in Paris to hear word of her late twin brother. Then she starts getting mysterious texts on her phone urging her to give into her wild side. So I watched this because I’d heard good things….but it felt like three different stories vying for my attention, and Stewart’s character just wasn’t interesting enough to make me care about any of them. It was a total slog.

Day 14 – The Hour of The Wolf – Bergman’s a great filmmaker. The Seventh Seal and The Virgin Spring are amazing. This was pretty, but very, very boring.

Day 15 – Eyes Of The Cat – I stumbled across this one completely by accident (was looking for the Hammer movie, Shadow of The Cat). An ambitious hairdresser recruits the estranged bon vivant nephew of a clingy, ailing San Francisco socialite in a bid to alter her will then murder her and steal her millions. Seems pretty straightforward, except the nephew is terrified of cats and the woman’s will currently leaves her inhertiance to a mansion full of felines. When the (perhaps incestuous) aunt gets rid of all the cats and then a sack full of kittens so as not to offend her beloved nephew, one particular orange tabby seems to take a preternatural interest in the proceedings. Lots of neat twists and turns (perhaps, in the very end, just one too many), good dialogue, and some inventive camera work.

Day 16 – Frankenweenie – A first time watch with the kiddies. Not bad remake of the live action original, though I preferred the first iteration with Barret Oliver. The catpoo-o-mancy was a little much.

Day 17 – The Sorcerers – Interesting picture starring Boris Karloff and Catherine Lacey about a pair of married, aging scientists who invent a process that allows them to experience another’s thoughts and feelings, and exert a degree of control over them. The pair test their process on an unsuspecting London swinger, Ian Ogilvy, and proceed to push the experiments into new territories, Ogilvy blacking out when they take over. Lacey becomes more and more addicted to inhabiting Ogilvy….good movie.

Day 18 – The Berlin Syndrome – An Australian tourist winds up the the latest captive of a psychopathic German sports school teacher in east Berlin. A well done thriller.

Day 19 – Snuff – Weird ass schlock take on the Manson murders turned in the last five minutes into a faux-cinema verite ‘snuff’ film where the camera crew ‘unexpectedly’ films the director murdering an actress (who, if I’m not mistaken isn’t in the movie) on camera. Obvious head and hands through the bottom of the bed and fake body trick. I guess people fell for it back in the day.

Mindbreaker in BOND UNKNOWN from April Moon Books

Preorders for Bond Unknown from April Moon Books are live.

https://www.aprilmoonbooks.com/bond-unknown

Bond Unknown pits Ian Fleming’s creation James Bond against threats from the Mythos of HP Lovecraft in two novelettes, Mindbreaker from yours truly, and Into The Green from Willie Meikle.

IMAG0740 (1)I’m an longtime fan of James Bond, dating back to reading my dad’s old water damaged Fleming paperbacks from college, and later, the movies, so when April Moon set out to hire authors to write in the original literary continuity, I jumped at the opportunity with both feet.

Although this is an unlicensed mashup and I recognize the concept may be inherently absurd to diehard fans, I feel compelled to stress that I approached this with as much diligence as I have my Zora Neale Hurston stories or any of my historical fantasy novels. My primary sources in this case were Fleming and Lovecraft, and I hope that I’ve written something aficionados of either writer will enjoy. I know this isn’t the first foray into unlicensed Bond fiction either, and that other publishers have offered wry, postmodern interpretations of the character. I have no interest in nor patience for ‘deconstructions’ of Fleming, and can’t think of a bigger waste of time than writing about something I don’t innately love….except maybe reading it.  The draw in this was for me was putting Fleming’s 1960’s era Bond in a situation he could never be in otherwise. All that said, it was a helluva lot of fun to write, probably the most fun I’ve had writing in a while, and I hope you’ll give it a read.

In my offering, Mindbreaker, a royal princess is kidnapped from her private school in the English countryside and 007 is seconded to a classified subsection of MI6, headed by the enigmatic D. He is ordered to Egypt to locate two missing field agents on an archaeological dig along the First Cataract of the Nile, but soon finds himself in a race across the Mediterranean to stop an ex-SMERSH double agent and a dark occult organization from using the blood of a royal to activate a long dormant antedulluvian weapon left over from the ancient conflict between two unimaginable ancient civilizations.  It’s a mission that will test Bond’s mind and body, and bring him into contact with old friends and new, terrifying enemies.

Here’s an excerpt – –

“You came recommended.”

“By whom?” said Bond. Surely not M.

“Simone Litrelle.”

Solitaire. Bond had long wondered what had become of her. He leaned forward in his chair.

“She’s not here, 007,” D. said, with a hint of amusement. “She is assigned to one of our forward divinatory stations.  She only half believed in her abilities when she was recruited, but O Section brought out her powers quite admirably.”

Bond blinked. Divinatory?

“In answer to your query, you were selected partly because you have a favorable birth sign. And your code number. 007. Did you know that 007 was how the celebrated magus and intelligence agent John Dee signed his secret correspondences to Queen Elizabeth? The double 0’s represented his eyes, which he dedicated to her. And seven. A very fortuitous number. A god number in ancient Egypt. Seven days, seven seas, seven heavens, in antiquity, seven planets.”

“Yes and seven sins,” Bond said. He shifted in his chair, frowning.

“There are no coincidences, Bond,” said D. evenly. “Prior events in your life, as well as events prior to your life have been ordered whether by human or preternatural design to place you into a unique confluence of destinies. Have you studied your family history closely, Bond? Did you know that John Dee’s daughter Madinia emigrated to France and herself had a daughter named Marie by one Charles Peliot, a privy maid to Queen Henrietta Maria?”

“What in the hell are you talking about?” Bond exclaimed. He was babbling like that book-rabid fellow at the College of Arms, Griffin Or.

D. leaned forward, his eyes fervent behind the lenses, fingers interlaced now, that damnable ring glinting in the lamplight.

“Lineage aside, Bond. The death of your parents when you were eleven, your expulsion from Eton, your education at Canterbury and Fettes, and Geneva, all uniquely qualifying you for acceptance in the Special Service.  Which brings us to your career thus far. Your encounter with agent Litrelle in New Orleans, her subsequent recruitment and suggestion of you for this mission; the little bits of esoteric wisdom you’ve unwittingly picked up over the years from your first secretary Loelia Ponsonby and your housekeeper. The death of your wife and your subsequent brush with mental collapse. Yet through your reconditioning at the hands of the Russians and your unlikely recovery, you have proven yourself possessing of a remarkable mind, both malleable and resilient. All of these things have led you here. You truly are a blunt instrument, yet I believe you can also be tuned for more delicate work if need be. I have on occasion required the service of men of your ilk. Other 00 agents have sat where you are. I’ve never seen any of them again.”

“What is this?” Bond said finally, gesturing to his surroundings. “What is all this?”

“For as many years as you have been privy to the secrets of crown and country,” said D., “did you never suspect there were secrets even you, even your beloved M., weren’t told? Section O has existed in its present form since 1940, when my father convinced British intelligence that the war, like other wars before it, was being fought on multiple planes of perception, not only with modern technology, but with ancient tools which man has utilized since first he heard the word of God through His angels, and was tempted away by darker, older powers.  This is Occult Section, Bond. 00 fights in the shadows. O fights the shadows themselves.”

Bond smirked and rose from his chair. He badly needed a cigarette.

“Ridiculous,” he chuckled.

“Orbis non sufficit.”

“What?” Bond started.

“The World Is Not Enough. There are world within worlds, Bond. Can you peer outside this one? Will you shrink from what you see? I wonder….”

bondunknowncover

 

Published in: on September 14, 2017 at 4:51 pm  Comments (5)  
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My Top 20 Star Trek Episodes

no more tribbles

On the occasion of Star Trek’s 50th Anniversary, I shared my top 20 original Trek episodes of all time over on my friend John Kenneth Muir’s film critique site.

Check it out here!

http://reflectionsonfilmandtelevision.blogspot.com/2017/09/star-trek-anniversary-top-20-edward.html

Published in: on September 8, 2017 at 4:06 pm  Leave a Comment  

Angler In Darkness Is Out!

My first story collection, Angler In Darkness, is out now.

From the front cover:

acollection

From the back cover:

EDWARD M. ERDELAC, Author of Andersonville, Monstrumführer, The Van Helsing Papers, and The Merkabah Rider series presents his first collection of short fiction, spanning nearly a decade of fishing in the sunless depths of the imagination, some brought to light here for the first time.

A frontiersman of bizarre pedigree is peculiarly suited to tracking down a group of creatures rampaging across the settlements of the Texas Hill Country…..

A great white hunter is shaken to his core by a quarry he cannot conceive of….

A bullied inner city kid finds the power to strike back against his tormentors and finds he can’t stop using it….

Outraged plumbing plots its revenge….

Here Blackfoot Indians hunt the undead, the fate of nations is decided by colossal monsters, a salaryman learns the price of abandoning his own life, and even the Angel of Death tells his story.

EIGHTEEN ‘CATCHES’ FROM AN ANGLER IN DARKNESS

Now I decided to take a page from Punktown author Jeffrey Thomas’ promotional playbook and post the first paragraph/line of each story, one a day till release, so here are the openings of all eighteen stories…

Day 1 –
First story up is exclusive to the collection – The Mound Of The Night Panther, about a French trapper who discovers the ultimate fate of the lost Native American city of Cahokia…

Auguste Oudin had come down the Father of All Rivers to Illinois from Quebec three years ago in a forty foot canoe with the Seminarians and Henri DeTonti as a courer des bois, paddling, signing, and trapping for the young priests.

Day 2 –

Today it’s Killer Of The Dead, the first story I ever sold, about a pair of Blackfoot Indians tracking down the gang of vampires who slaughtered their village.

The boy puts his back to the tipis with their warm, glowing bellies, and he feels the smooth, cold stones beneath the trickling surface of the creek with his toes. The water is black but for the fat hunter’s moon reflected lazing amid the wavering stars. He is not afraid to be alone. He thinks the night shadows hide nothing that is not there in the day.

Day 3 –

Today we have Bigfoot Walsh, a weird western about a group of Texas Rangers sent to investigate a series of bloody killings in the hill country, and their tall, shaggy chief scout who, it turns out, is peculiarly suited to the task….

It was a cool spring night when the Texas Rangers rode out of the dark into Fredricksburg.

I remember because the people were out lighting the bonfires on the hilltops, and one of the Rangers, a dirty youth with rusty hair, asked me what they were for.

Day 4 –

Today it’s the first line of Devil’s Cap Brawl, which is about a Central Pacific Railroad crew dynamiting a mountain and releasing an immense creature long trapped within. A mysterious Chinese rail worker comes forward to stop it. It’s a weird western send up of 60’s Godzilla/Gamera movies with a dash of TV’s Kung Fu thrown in….

Joe Blas was so called because his papist upbringing in Drom, County Tipperary, had given him a knack for devising the most ingenious blasphemies anyone on either side of the Sierras had ever heard.

Day 5 –

Spearfinger, about a Cherokee policeman who chases a fugitive murderer up a mountain and comes down with something much worse.

Jimpsey Waterback knocked a spark from his pocketknife with a chip of flint and fanned the handful of smoking grasses with his hat till a single tongue of flame blossomed.

He hated to start a fire, but it was cold up on the mountain tonight. There was a cutting breeze hissing through the pines, causing the bones in his hands to quiver like hammer struck wire. He hoped his pursuers didn’t see or smell the flame. He had a long way to go before he got to Arkansas. The round, windy moon shining like a bullet hole in black canvas was working against him.

Day 6 –

Today it’s In Thunder’s Shadow, a story about an archaeologist in the field during the Bone Wars of the 1870’s tracking down an Arizona legend about a thunderbird, and the wily old hunter who’s not content with fossils.

September 25, 1876

To Professor O.C. Marsh, Yale College, New Haven, Connecticut

 

I have arrived in Delirium Tremens in Arizona Territory and met with the Drucker & Dobbs Mining Co.’s geologist, Elvin Planterbury, who contacted your office about the fossil he discovered in their main copper shaft. Fortunately Mr. Planterbury was able to preserve the specimen before it was broken up and sold off for the price of a few drinks. It is, in my opinion, a tarsal fragment from a large pteranodon (most probably longiceps). I have personally never seen a fossil so well preserved. Work in the mine has necessarily not been halted to await my arrival, and examination of the location at which the fragment was uncovered is impossible. I intend to survey the sedimentary substrate of the upper area of the surrounding Huachuca Mountains. I have hopes that should it prove fruitful, my work might warrant the assignment of a team from the Geological Survey. I was able to purchase a quantity of dynamite from the company as well as sufficient provisions and gear, but I shall likely require more funds to ship any samples I find for your appraisal.

Day 7 –

Today, in The Blood Bay, Jonas, living on his estranged father’s ranch after the death of his mother, pines for a wild, blood red mare. His father will only let him keep her if Jonas can get her to eat….

Jonas stood with his foot on the bottom rail of the breaking pen fence between Clem and Panos, watching Henry bust a three-year-old appaloosa the afternoon his daddy, Famous Fallon, rode up with the bay mare strung behind.

Famous had run out on Jonas’ mama when he was four years old and it drove her to drink. She’d often told him this, and his Grandma said it was so.

Day 8 –

The Exclusive, about a dogged frontier reporter in the last moments of his life who lands the interview of the century with history’s most accomplished killer –

Tom Cotter was no man to be trifled with. He had rustled Mexican steer along the border into a sizeable herd in his youth, and had built himself an empire as one of the first outfits to drive cattle to the Missouri railheads, putting beef in the bellies of starving soldiers during the War Between The States. He owned a good chunk of New Mexico, and was a king among cattlemen. There were senators that doffed their hats to him, and he in turn did their dirty work on occasion, sending out his hired villains to execute foreclosures on land he didn’t own, and gunning down those who tried to resist. He had a beef contract with the local Indian reservation which he rarely fulfilled, yet the government money filled his war bag every month on schedule just the same.

Day 9 –

Tell Tom Tildrum is the tale of a great white hunter relating a story of personal horror to gain membership in a strange, exclusive London club –

“Were the squabs to your liking, Captain Howe?” Bertrand asked, dabbing the grease from his lips with his napkin.

In truth, they had not been. I have never much appreciated the philosophy behind pigeons à la crapaudine; squabs masquerading as frogs. It’s a silly French concoction, a holdover from the old days when papists insisted that their fish be made to look like beef to ease the Lenten fasts. I’d had it once before, the first time I’d dined with the Prestons at Mundui on Lake Navaisha. A preposterous dish. I like my swine arse up and my pigeons on their backs. I’d said so before. That was why Kiki had taken such a liking to me. The American infatuation with plain speaking, I suppose.

Day 10 –

Mighty Nanuq is about an Inuit shaman passing on the secret of his power over Canada’s state sanctioned kaiju to his dubious nephew –

Hal Anawak shook hands with Lt. Governor O’Dea and smiled for the cameras, the bulbs popping off like a chain of lightning among the gathered crowd on the lawn in front of Governor’s House. Luckily his hooded eyes were naturally thinner than a white man’s. Nobody would know he was closing them.

George LeDuc would have thought that was hilarious.

But George was dead.

Day 11 –

A Haunt of Jackals, where a Mossad agent witnesses an attack on Israel by a pair of rampaging giant monsters instituted by a sinister enemy….

And I will cut off your carved images and your pillars from among you, and you shall bow down no more to the work of your hands; Micah 5:13

The jeep bounced along the rutted country road through the sultry Itapua countryside several kilometers north of Hohenau, packed with four men in dark clothes and harnesses strapped with weapons. Though it was a moonless Paraguayan night, the headlights were off, the driver trusting to the dual tube AN/PVS-5 nightvision goggles he wore.

This wasn’t going to be like Eichmann.

Day 12 –

This one’s from The Better To See You, a story I wrote from an idea my daughter had, an alternate telling of Little Red Riding Hood.

The girl watched her mother pack the last of the sandwiches into the pink picnic basket. She slipped the Cincinnati baseball cap her father had given her (because it was her favorite color; she had no interest whatsoever in baseball) onto her head and snatched up the wicker handle just as her mother closed the lid.

Her mother’s hand slapped down over her’s.

The girl looked into her mother’s eyes.

Her mother held up one finger.

“You know Grandma’s not well these days.”

Day 13 –

Today we have an excerpt from Conviction, the story of a persecuted kid in Chicago’s notorious Cabrini Green housing project who suddenly finds the power to strike back at his tormentors.

“Hello, Abassi,” the lady say, when I sit down. “My name is Daniela Orozco. Now, can you tell me why you were referred to me today?”

I just shrug, even though I know.

When she open the folder and slide the piece of paper with my drawing on it, I look down at my busted shoes.

“Your teachers are concerned about you,” she say, though I know really they just worried about they own selves. “Abassi?”

I look up, and her eyes are on me. I look away, but every time I come back, she still looking. She pretty.

“You’re a very good artist, Abassi,” she say.

Nobody never tell me I good at anything. It feel good. I wish the picture was something nicer.

I drew it in history class. We was learning about the minutemen. In the picture in the book they wore GD colors and they was all strapped in the street like they was bangin’. I thought about Lateesa. I drew the minutemen blowing up, like they swallowed bombs. Their triangle hats was on fire, their heads come off, some of ‘em. I drew my own punkinhead self in there too. I shouldn’t have. If I’d of left that out, nobody would’ve said shit.

“You told the teacher these were the minutemen,” she say, with her pencil on the bloody bodies. “But who’s this down here?”

She point to the little boy with the big head and the busted shoes.

I don’t say shit.

Day 14 –

Today we have ‘Crocodile,’ a story about a Pizza Hut cashier at a Flying J truck stop who falls madly in love with a vampire she meets in the parking lot. But vampires aren’t like the ones in the books she reads.

Gwendolyn could not entirely suppress the girlish shudder that began in the pit of her stomach and somehow spread through her torso to the tips of each extremity as Brendan took her hand in his and led her toward the forest.

Brendan.

Her dark angel.

Her Peter Pan.

His hand was cold, as if scoured by a winter wind, though it was a sultry August evening after a rain, the remains of it rising as steam off the moonlit pavement and hanging in the air. Yet despite his coldness, wherever he touched her, warmth spread as if kissed by an noontime sunbeam.

She followed him. She would follow him anywhere. Particularly tonight.

Day 15 –
In Philopatry, a Catholic priest contacts an old altar boy turned hitman and ex-convict, having learned the identity of a serial murderer stalking a South Boston neighborhood….

Nobody at O’Malley’s Bar took much notice of the old priest who came in from the stone cold November night, brushing the rain from his black hat and his dripping beige topcoat. It was a Tuesday, so there weren’t too many people there to take notice. The men were in their drink. The local stylenes, cackling their lipstick stained cigarette laughs crossed and uncrossed their cheetah print legs and paid him no more than a glance. Priests were like a fourth class of male, more unavailable than a married man or a queer even. O’Malley himself would only raise his eyebrows at the entrance of some colored guy from Roxbury. As long as this baby sprinkler paid for his drinks he didn’t care.

Day 16 –
Here’s the opening to Sea of Trees, a tale of a depressed Japanese businessman who wanders into the infamous suicide forest and learns the afterlife doesn’t offer the escape he had hoped for….

Manabu stepped out of his car and let the door close. He did not take the keys. The car was a rental and the Tocoo! agency in Fujiyoshida would want it back.

He took the hiking trail out of the parking lot and walked for an hour into the woods before he came to the No Hiking Beyond This Point sign and stepped over the rope to pick his way among the tangled roots
.
His mother had told him as a boy never to play in Aokigahara Forest, the Sea of Trees, because it was haunted by the miserable ghosts of those that every year wandered in here to die. It had been going on since back in the old days of the daimyos when the destitute families around Mount Fuji used the woods for ubasute, abandoning their elderly infirm to the elements in times of famine, to spare the remainder of the household.

Manabu’s mother had told him the Ubasuteyama story once.
This wasn’t in Aokigahara, but in Nagano somewhere. There was a famine, and a boy chose to carry his crippled old mother up to the mountain to leave her in the woods. He carried her very deep into the forest, perhaps thinking to lose his conscience too.

When at last he set her down, he saw that he might become lost himself on the way back down.

“Don’t worry, son,” croaked the old woman. “As you carried me, I spread out my hands and broke off the twigs of the trees. There is a trail of the broken ends behind you now to follow home.”

Manabu’s mother had ended this story by clasping both sides of his pudgy face in her hands and promising him that she loved him as much as the old women in the story had loved her son.

Manabu’s mother was two years dead now.

Day 17-
Almost there! Here’s an excerpt from Thy Just Punishments, the story of a South Boston priest who hires himself out as an occult hitman to the Irish mob to support his gambling habit….

The steady flow of sins petty and titanic, real and imagined, droned in hushed whispers through the confessional screen, punctuated each time by a myriad of variations on the Act of Contrition;

“O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins because of Thy just punishments, but most of all because they offended Thee, O Lord, who art all-merciful and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to sin no more.”

Father Tim O’Herlihey half-listened, doled out Hail Marys and Our Fathers, muttered out rehearsed advice when prompted, and checked the passing of every other minute on his watch, fighting to keep from laying his head against the finished wood wall and snoring. He squinted at his racing form and wondered if he could hit the ATM and catch the Blue Line down to Suffolk Downs in time for the last run.

The Bishop had promised him a new priest this month, just in time for him to saddle the poor bastard with Saturday confession and free him up for next month’s Belmont Stakes Day.

Of course, first he had to pull a stake together. There had been questions about the lightness of the parish’s tithe last month. He had thought he’d had a sure thing with this maiden horse Norfolk Enchants, but the stupid nag had busted its leg on a turn and thrown its jockey over the withers, losing to Peony’s Envy.

Day 18 –

The capper story, The Wrath of Benjo, is a take on the Japanese legend of the tsukumogami; that useful inanimate objects gain sentience after a hundred years. But what happens when they fall to disuse and can no longer serve their purpose?

Benjo wept bitterly as the rain struck the barred windowpane. 
Long had he gone hungry counting the tiles on the floor, staring at the dirty white walls, at the chromed hinges and latches of the gray stall doors. He had marked his time by the disgraceful yellowing of the paper rolls as they grew old, brittle and angry. He would council them to keep heart, to maintain their cleanliness, remember their duty and be watchful, but after many years the hunger and resentment had at last seeped into his heart too. The paper had shriveled and gone silent.

Even the attendant had ceased coming. He had resorted to cleaning himself as best as he could.

“Useless! Useless!” His cries bounced off the empty walls for the thousandth time, matching the lightning and the thunder.

For many years he had wiled away the lonesome hours imagining the luxuries he would bestow upon his next guest, if ever one came.

But that dream had died long ago. He knew only the ravenous hunger now….

 

Order here –

Mindbreaker: James Bond vs. Cthulhu Coming Soon!

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Coming late August from April Moon Books, my novelette Mindbreaker, side-by-side with William Meikle’s Into The Green in BOND UNKNOWN – two tales of 007 facing off against elements of the Lovecraftian mythos. Peep the cover by Mark Maddox!

In Mindbreaker, British agent James Bond (yes, that James Bond) finds himself seconded to a classified subsection of MI6 itself, assigned to track down a pair of missing field agents and stop a sinister occult organization from using the blood of a kidnapped royal to activate an ancient weapon of mass destruction.

Watch this space for more.

Published in: on July 7, 2017 at 4:33 pm  Comments (1)  
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Conquer Comes Calling In Occult Detective Quarterly #2

I’m pleased to announce the appearance of my story Conquer Comes Calling in the latest issue of Occult Detective Quarterly.

You can pick it up here –


https://www.amazon.com/Occult-Detective-Quarterly-Electric-Pentacle/dp/1546562370/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1496273691&sr=8-1&keywords=occult+detective+quarterly

My late cousin got me into the electric Shaft movies from the 70’s, which was my gateway to top notch blaxploitation fare like Blacula, Truck Turner, Superfly, and The Mack.

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It also led to my collecting and enjoying the criminally forgotten series of novels by Ernest Tidyman. They’re notoriously hard to find, so seriously, if anyone has a line on Goodbye Mr. Shaft or The Last Shaft, let me know. They’re the only two I need.

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I’ve also got a long abiding, completely fannish love for Len Wein and Gene Colan’s Marvel Comics character Jericho Drumm AKA Brother Voodoo which I share with about two other people I personally know of. I was thrilled when Daniel Drumm showed up briefly in the Dr. Strange movie.

I think my affection for BV began in an issue of Werewolf By Night, and was cemented by his reappearance (while afflicted with zombie-ism) in Marc Spector’s Moon Knight in the late 80’s.  I’ve always liked the fighting scholar types, and the more obscure knowledge they commanded the better. For a white suburban kid in Illinois, there was nothing more obscure than Haitian Vodoun.

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My character John Conquer is a fusion of the two, a street smart Harlem PI steeped in Hoodoo and West African shamanism.

He’s the cool black cat the Man calls when the cases get too far out.

The NYPD pays a call on a fortune telling numbers banker, and they’re taken aback when they find a miniaturized corpse floating in a lava lamp.

Only one man to call….

Here’s an excerpt. This is isn’t the last you’ll see of John Conquer.

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“Hang up, Carmody. You’ll wake up my secretary,” said Conquer, pulling the metal door shut behind him.

Carmody couldn’t have been more surprised if his own gun had jumped from its holster and shot him.

“John!” Lazzeroni stammered.

Lazzeroni was the quintessential NPYD gumshoe with a donut sack belly and bloodhound eyes from too many stakeouts, his tobacco yellow teeth hid by a bushy mustache, the remainder of his hair regulated to the back of his head and crannies of his drooping body Conquer didn’t care to dwell on.

“Easy boys,” Conquer said. “You’re in Harlem, remember? You’re bound to see more of us.”

“How’d you know….?” Carmody began.

Conquer plucked his business card from the cop’s fingers.

“Don’t need you callin’ me at all hours and hangin’ up,” he said.

“What brings you here, John?” Lazzeroni said, eyeing him sideways. “Just happened to be in the neighborhood?”

That was why Lazzeroni had bars on his collar, whereas Carmody just had dandruff.

“Serendipity, man. That’s my business.”

Carmody snorted, making a show of being unimpressed.

“Go watch the stairs, Mike,” Lou said to Carmody.

Carmody scowled and replaced the receiver. He went to stand on the landing, slamming the heavy metal door behind him. He coughed a few times.

“I get the feeling he doesn’t like you,” Lazzeroni quipped.

“You could fill a phonebook with folks Carmody don’t like. All the area codes would be 706 or 762.”

“We got word this fortune teller was running a numbers bank for King Solomon,” Lazzeroni went on. “We were on our way to talk to him when dispatch calls in a 10-71 at this address. Now you show me yours.”

“Maybe later,” said Conquer. “What’s the story? You wouldn’t call me just to say hi.”

“Aw, don’t be needy. Receptionist said somebody charged in here as they were about to close. She heard ‘em arguing and called it in. Then she heard shooting, so she ran out. Locked the security door out of habit.”

Lazzeroni went to the inner door and opened it.

A single barred window illuminated the space beyond, and the hunched shadow of a cat hissed on the sill, arched its back, and scrambled somewhere into the shadows growling lowly.

Conquer followed Lazzeroni in and shut the door behind him.

This was apartment space converted to office, or vice versa. The living room had been done up in fake gypsy crap the kind of sucker who shelled out his welfare check to a cat like Genie Jones would expect to see; a cheap table draped in a cloth festooned with magically delicious stars and moons, astronomy charts on the walls, astrological signs. A sparkling red and green beaded curtain led to where the all-knowing Genie kicked up his slippers after hours to watch Charlie’s Angels or roll a joint on the toilet, by the skunky scent just beneath the odor of patchouli smoldering in the ceramic Hotei Buddha incense burner, probably lifted from the counter of some Chinese restaurant.

It was a mess. The chairs were overturned, and the requisite crystal ball lay on the floor, cracked. Tarot cards were strewn everywhere, like somebody had busted up the world’s strangest poker game.

“So who caught a bullet?”

“Nobody, so far as I can tell,” said Lazzeroni.

“No stiff?”

Lazzeroni reached over and took a trilby that matched his raincoat off a lava lamp on a table next to the door and set it on his balding head. Why was it there?

“I didn’t say that.”

He snapped the light on, and the dim room was bathed in slow moving red amoebas that slid across the walls and ceiling like oversized blood cells out of Fantastic Voyage.  Projected on the walls, suspended among the amorphous red blots, floated the ghostly black silhouette of a man.

Conquer looked from the walls to the lamp itself. Bobbing in the glowing cylinder of the lamp like a buoy among the islands of molten wax was a tiny naked body. Some kind of fetish? He didn’t think so.

“I saw it before Mike did,” said Lazzeroni.

Conquer found the light switch on the wall, but nothing came on. He took a mini TeknaLite from his pocket and shined the thin beam up, saw broken glass and bullet holes.

“Found your shooting victim, Lou,” he said, then turned back to the lamp.

“Be serious, man. Is that real?”

Conquer pulled the plug on the lava lamp. The red blobs and the black ghost vanished.

“Give me something to hold this with. These things get hot.”

Lazzeroni gave him a pocket handkerchief. Conquer grimaced. With all the coughing he and Carmody were doing, he didn’t want to catch anything going around the stationhouse. Still, he carefully lifted the top. The bottlecap opening had been popped off and the miniscule figure had apparently been stuffed down through the opening. One of the elbows was bent the wrong way.

“How do we get it out?”

Conquer turned and dropped the lamp on the floor. It smashed.

“Jesus,” said Lazzeroni, flinching back as the wax splattered the shag throw rug and wood floor.

Conquer hunkered down, directing the light at the swollen little figure lying amid the wreckage.

The boiled flesh bubbled with blisters, the poached eyes bulged from the balloon face. If it was a model, it was a ghastly masterwork.

He took the spindly little arm between his two fingers. It was warm from the lamp. Gently squeezing, he felt the little toothpick bones grinding beneath the loose skin. It was like handling a broken chicken wing.

“It’s real,” he muttered, and took his penknife from his coat.

Six Great Foreign Westerns You Might Have Missed

A while back I did one of those lists, 7 Gritty Westerns You’ve Probably Never Heard Of, shedding light on a fistful of down and dirty 70’s era western movies in the cinema verite style which I hadn’t heard a lot of hooplah about but really enjoyed.

I recently watched a spate of fantastic western movies from the other side of the world and have similarly been inspired to list them here. I know some western fans tend to denigrate the efforts of non-American filmmakers in the original American art form, but they’re definitely missing out.  These pictures prove that some of the most innovative and interesting horse operas being made to day are being imported to our shores, just as in the early days of the much lauded Italian spaghettis.

1. Brimstone – If ever there was an anti-Searchers, it has to be Dutch filmmaker Martin Koolhoven’s sprawling, nihilistic epic about a crazed Reverend (Guy Pearce, in yet another great performance that by all rights should be a breakout part for him but like everything else he does, somehow isn’t given its due) relentlessly pursuing tongueless midwife Liz (Dakota Fanning) for reasons that only an attentive viewing of the slowly unraveling nonlinear tale as it unfolds make clear, and which I wouldn’t dream of spoiling here.

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Brimstone is a dark, demented masterpiece, almost a psychological horror movie, and the less you know about the plot going in the better I think it is. It demands patience, but definitely rewards the viewer with a tragic, operatic story in the best bloody, grand guginol style. The gradual reveal reminded me of Leone’s Once Upon A Time In The West.

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As I said, Pearce delivers an apocalyptic performance as the fanatic man of an increasingly mad and evil god. Emilia Jones gives a great turn, particularly for a young actress in such a stark, weighty part, and the cast is liberally peppered with vivid, memorable characters, including Kit ‘Jon Snow’ Harrington as a fugitive outlaw and Paul Anderson as a loathsome pimp.

2. Slow West -The joint British and New Zealand production of John Maclean’s Slow West presents one pie-eyed young Scot’s (Kodi Smit-McPhee, in a winsome, earnest performance) bildungsroman journey to reunite with his true love Rose (Caren Pistorius), who has fled the accidental killing of his own landowning father for the wilds of Canada. Jay, the kid, falls in with a cynical bounty hunter (Michael Fassbender) secretly out to collect a bounty on her head.

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Slow West is a lyrical coming of age story peopled by unique characters and featuring some absolutely eye popping cinematography.  There’s a great illusory action sequence of Ben Mendelsohn’s outlaw gang popping up from an unbroken field of tall golden wheat like whack-a-moles to exchange gunfire and then seamlessly vanish again that had my eyes bugging. Little moments are focused and lingered upon; blood pooling beneath a dead clerk, a nail catching on a corpse’s trousers as it’s desperately dragged across a porch so that a door may be shut against the hail of gunfire outside, the progression of a bright caterpillar across a camoflagued Indian warrior’s painted face. It’s a beautiful movie, and an affecting portrayl of innocence and responsiblity lost and regained.

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3. The Salvation – Kristian Levring’s lavish Danish western begins with an explanation of the migration of veterans of the Second Schleswig War of 1864, an event that harkens to the westward flight of Confederate veterans to Texas following their parallel defeat at the hands of the Union, to the American frontier.

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Mads Mikkelson’s Jon and his brother Peter (Mikael Persbrandt), having eked out a stable living, have sent for Jon’s wife and ten year old son after a separation of seven years. Tragedy strikes on the stagecoach to the homestead when a pair of violent ex-convicts board and force Jon off. Jon walks through the night in the ruts of the stage, finally discovering his son murdered and then his wife brutalized and killed. In short order he kills the two perpetrators, but finds that one of them was the brother of powerful local gang boss Delarue (a really oily and odious Jeffrey Dean Morgan), who takes the nearby town hostage until the killer of his brother is turned over to him.

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Sort of an alternate take on High Noon’s theme of the lonely good man against bad odds, I found the alternate viewpoint of Danish settlers really interesting and the action inventive and top notch.  There’s a particularly great bit involving a guy shooting through the ceiling of a hotel at a sniper on the roof and a can of kerosense that you’ll know when it comes.

Likewise, The Salvation’s look is really unique, eschewing the typical dull beige pallette of most modern westerns for a bright, brilliant sun baked hue of sandstone that really makes it stand out.

4. The Dark Valley – This bleak, moody German-Austrian revenge tale from Andreas Prochaska doesn’t take place in the American west at all, but I’m still including it here as it has all the trappings of the genre.

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The mysterious stranger, photographer Greider (Sam Reilly), who rides into the remote mountain town hiding a secret only to systematically unleash a hell that turns out to be well deserved in the final reel reveal reminds me a lot of High Plains Drifter, and its snowbound gloom recalls Corbucci’s classic The Great Silence.

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The Dark Valley is a quiet, brooding movie, where the violence comes smashing down like an unexpected avalanche.

5. The Proposition – John Hillcoat’s  wild Australian western, written by Nick Cave, takes place in a bloodsoaked 1880’s outback.  Police Captain Morris Stanley (Ray Winstone) offers captured bushranger outlaw Charlie Burns (Guy Pearce again) and his simple minded younger brother Mikey freedom in exchange for Charlie hunting down his murderous older brother Arthur (Danny Huston), a notorious killer feared even by the Aborigines, who call him The Dog Man.

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Sort of a western Heart of Darkness, we follow the progression of Charlie’s hunt for his near-mythic brother across a virtual hellscape, replete with black clusters of flies and savage, half-wild bounty killers (including a grizzled John Hurt) and bear cringing witness to his eventual, ultraviolent return when the particulars of the titular proposition go tragically, if not predictably awry.

960The Proposition is brutal and beautiful, a dark acid western in the truest traditions of the genre.

6. The Warrior’s Way – OK this one is a huge thematic departure from the rest of this list, but I can’t help it, I really enjoyed it. It’s essentially a frenetic HK-style action movie from South Korea and New Zealand, directed by Sngmoo Lee.

Sad Flutes (named for the sound of blood whistling from a severed neck) clan master assassin Yang ( Jang Dong-gun) destroys a rival clan at the orders of his superiors, but stays his hand from doing in an infant girl. In derelict of duty he flees to the western town of Lode, populated by ex-carnies, and there raises the girl, April, in anyonymity, befriending a dwarf (Tony Cox), the town drunk (Geoffrey Rush), and a local girl (Kate Bosworth), who seeks revenge against a murderous gang leader known as The Colonel (The Proposition’s Danny Huston again) for murdering her parents and brutalizing her.

When the Colonel and his army arrive to finish the job, Yang takes up his sword to defend the town. But the very act of arming himself draws the attention of his old clan master Saddest Flute (Ti Lung), and the Sad Flutes arrive to punish their own.

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The Warrior’s Way is a slick, insane weird western actioner where legions of bandanna wearing, duster-clad, Maxim toting stormtroopers essentially butt heads with the Korean equivalent of faceless sword twirling ninjas, and I get absolutely giddy watching the CGI mayhem unfold. Blood fountains and rains (literally), and for some there will probably be as much eye rolling as head rolling. It portrays an at times hilariously over the top hyper reality of painted backdrops and never-could-be characters, Geof Darrow-esque mass super-violence in the mode of chanbara flicks and manga. Very imaginative, but admittedly not for everybody.

It sticks out like a sore thumb on this list, but if you can watch a scene like the one below and get a kick out of it, you’ll enjoy it (definitely NSFW):

Any one of these is worth a view, and in my opinon, a purchase.

Angler In Darkness Is Up For Preorder

My first short fiction collection, Angler In Darkness, is now up for preorder in ebook formats. Release is scheduled August. The print version will follow close behind.

These are 18 stories running the gamut from fantasy, to dark adventure and horror, some in print for the first time, with a great cover by M. Wayne Miller and design by Shawn King.

A frontiersman of bizarre pedigree is peculiarly suited to tracking down a group of creatures rampaging across the settlements of the Texas Hill Country…..

A great white hunter is shaken to his core by a quarry he cannot conceive of….

A bullied inner city kid finds the power to strike back against his tormentors and finds he can’t stop using it….

Outraged plumbing plots its revenge….

Here Blackfoot Indians hunt the undead, the fate of nations is decided by colossal monsters, a salaryman learns the price of abandoning his own life, and even the Angel of Death tells his story.

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Currently available for preorder in a number of fine e-retailers.

books2read.com/u/3JK9zP