Happy 110th Birthday, Robert E. Howard

4PalmTreeI’ve been enamored with Robert E. Howard’s writing since seeing his name in the credits of Conan The Barbarian and hunting down as many of the Frazetta and Vallejo illustrated paperbacks of his work as I could find in the local used bookstore.

His works have set my imagination racing from the time I was twelve or so.

I blogged a while back about the three pop culture items I would waste money on to mark my career milestones as a writer, and the first tier was the Father’s Sword famously forged in the opening of the John Milius movie to the hammering strains of Basil Poledoruis’s monumental score. 

As many of you who follow this must know, I sold my first major professional rate novel, Andersonville, to Random House’s Hydra imprint a couple years ago, and it was published last year, putting me, for a time, ahead of Stephen King in the horror category on Amazon. Yep, I was King for a day.

I really wanted to mark this achievement with my first really foolish purchase of the big old Father’s Sword Windlass put out, but we were in a shaky financial state in Chateau du Erdelac around that time, and my better judgment won out.

I was supremely surprised then, this past Christmas, when one of my two gifts came in a weighty oblong box. My wife and eldest son had gone ahead and chipped in for the sword. On top of that, my uncle, who has always sort of poked fun at my writing aspirations and been pretty blunt in his critiques of my work (he’s not really a fan of ‘weird’ writing), carved a sturdy, rich wood plaque to hang it from and marked the date on the back.

No pics yet, as I haven’t had the time to hang it yet. I’ll post it here when I do. But it was a great gesture.

Anyway, whenever my creativity or enthusiasm wanes, I return to the well that Howard sank. This year, it was partially inspired by the re-reading of the Conan series authors Howard Andrew Jones and Bill Ward did over on Jones’ blog. 

As ever, I have no new praise to heap upon Howard. Every year here at Delirium Tremens, I let the master’s words speak for him.

This year, on the occasion of his birthday and perhaps in celebration of my ‘taking up the sword,’ I present my favorite passages from the King Conan tale The Scarlet Citadel. Conan has been unseated from his throne of Aquilonia by his enemies and a plotting wizard, replaced by a despotic prince and locked away in a dungeon of horrors presumed dead by his subjects and the rest of the world.

In his absence his kingdom wavers at the brink of chaos….
Jayem_Wilcox_-_The_Scarlet_CitadelWhile Athemides pleaded with Trocero, the mob still raved in the city with helpless fury. Under the great tower beside the royal palace the people swirled and milled, screaming their hate at Arpello, who stood on the turrets and laughed down at them while his archers ranged the parapets, bolts drawn and fingers on the triggers of their arbalests.

The prince of Pellia was a broad-built man of medium height, with a dark stern face. He was an intriguer, but he was also a fighter. Under his silken jupon with its gilt-braided skirts and jagged sleeves, glimmered burnished steel. His long black hair was curled and scented, and bound back with a cloth- of-silver band, but at his hip hung a broadsword the jeweled hilt of which was worn with battles and campaigns.

“Fools! Howl as you will! Conan is dead and Arpello is king!”

What if all Aquilonia were leagued against him? He had men enough to hold the mighty walls until Strabonus came up. But Aquilonia was divided against itself. Already the barons were girding themselves each to seize his neighbor’s treasure. Arpello had only the helpless mob to deal with. Strabonus would carve through the loose lines of the warring barons as a galley-ram through foam, and until his coming, Arpello had only to hold the royal capital.

“Fools! Arpello is king!”

The sun was rising over the eastern towers. Out of the crimson dawn came a flying speck that grew to a bat, then to an eagle. Then all who saw screamed in amazement, for over the walls of Tamar swooped a shape such as men knew only in half-forgotten legends, and from between its titan-wings sprang a human form as it roared over the great tower. Then with a deafening thunder of wings it was gone, and the folk blinked, wondering if they dreamed. But on the turret stood a wild barbaric figure, half naked, blood-stained, brandishing a great sword. And from the multitude rose a roar that rocked the towers, “The king! It is the king!”

Arpello stood transfixed; then with a cry he drew and leaped at Conan. With a lion-like roar the Cimmerian parried the whistling blade, then dropping his own sword, gripped the prince and heaved him high above his head by crotch and neck.

“Take your plots to hell with you!” he roared, and like a sack of salt, he hurled the prince of Pellia far out, to fall through empty space for a hundred and fifty feet. The people gave back as the body came hurtling down, to smash on the marble pave, spattering blood and brains, and lie crushed in its splintered armor, like a mangled beetle.

The archers on the tower shrank back, their nerve broken. They fled, and the beleaguered councilmen sallied from the palace and hewed into them with joyous abandon. Pellian knights and men-at-arms sought safety in the streets, and the crowd tore them to pieces. In the streets the fighting milled and eddied, plumed helmets and steel caps tossed among the tousled heads and then vanished; swords hacked madly in a heaving forest of pikes, and over all rose the roar of the mob, shouts of acclaim mingling with screams of blood-lust and howls of agony. And high above all, the naked figure of the king rocked and swayed on the dizzy battlements, mighty arms brandished, roaring with gargantuan laughter that mocked all mobs and princes, even himself.

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Published in: on January 22, 2016 at 11:48 am  Leave a Comment  
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What’s Coming In 2016

Happy New Year All. Just a swift post to let you know what to expect from me this year writing-wise.

First off, I’m experimenting with Patreon, so head over to here and check that out. Five bucks a month gets you a brand new never before (or very little) seen short story from me. This month it’s a little story called The Mound Of The Night Panther about the secret history of the mound city of Cahokia and how it was brought down by weird happenings.

Next up will likely be my short novel Perennial, appearing in Emergence, the first of Ragnarok Publications’ new shared world superhero universe, Humanity 2.0. It’s about a man who gains incredible abilities but also has his physical aging process halted at age fourteen. That’s him on the cover, Pan. It features a scenario that is basically Die Hard with a skyscraper full of supervillains.  You can read more about that here. 

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At some point early this year I’ll be sharing novel space again with author Willie Meikle in Canadian publisher April Moon Books’ new James Bond pastiche series, Bond: Unknown. Entitled Mindbreaker, this one’s a 1960’s era Lovecraftian mashup with Bond being seconded to an ultra secret branch of the service to chase down the abducted Princess Royal and stop an obscure Corsican cult’s plot to activate a prehistoric weapon. I’m an immense Bond fan, so this is one I’m looking forward to you all reading, as despite the Cthulhu stuff, it’s very much written with Fleming in mind. Were you aware the 16th century mystic philosopher and mathematician John Dee signed his letters to Queen Elizabeth 0-0-7? Ian Fleming was. You will be too…

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I’ll have a few short story appearances scattered throughout the year, in books from Golden Goblin Press and possibly Chaosium, and, if things work out, a new Star Wars story (keep your lightsabers crossed for that).

Then in the last part of the year you’ll see my Arthurian fantasy debut The Knight With Two Swords again from Ragnarok, which is a high fantasy retelling of the story of Balin Le Savage from Mallory and a slew of other sources.

I’ve also dipped my toes back into the screenwriting waters this year, with the hopes of putting out a short film at some point. We’ll see how that goes.

Hasta pronto!

Remembering Tartakovsky’s Clone Wars

titleWith the release of The Force Awakens imminent, Star Wars saturation has reached critical levels, with BB-8 appearing on bunches of oranges at the grocery store and Princess Leia having her own line of cosmetics or something. I don’t know. I haven’t had broadcast television or cable in over 15 years so I’m not quite as inundated as my friends on Facebook seem to be.

But it’s inevitable that my own thoughts turn to a Galaxy far far away.

Like a lot of people I’ve had my heart lifted to soaring heights and dropped to shatter like an Adegan crystal by George Lucas’ much imitated and revered saga. I’ve even enjoyed adding to the EU juggernaut in the days before the House of Mouse took over. Actually, I think the check for my last effort, the short story Hammer, which briefly introduced the franchise’s first racially Black Dark Jedi (would’ve been a Sith had the story developed later) in the pages of Star Wars Insider might’ve come via Disney. I’m not sure.  I managed to work portmanteaus of my wife and all my children into my beloved Star Wars before all of it was officially regulated to Legendary status.

I don’t know if the new Star Wars will be good or not. I’ve got to wait till Christmas Day to form that opinion.

But I’ll always love the original Star Wars, whether it is or it isn’t.  And in 2003, something came about that brought that warm, exciting feeling back for a while, something that seems to have gotten a bad rap over the years in certain corners of fandom, which isn’t deserved at all.

tumblr_noay9njdSW1te20ggo1_1280.pngFrom 2003-2005 the very talented Genndy Tartakovsky of Dexter’s Laboratory and Samurai Jack fame was given carte blanche by George Lucas and Lucasfilm Ltd. to fill in the mysteriously absent events of the much anticipated Clone Wars between Episodes II and III via a series of 20 three minute, (mostly) traditionally animated mini-episodes on Cartoon Network.

I didn’t expect a whole lot from these vignettes. I barely remember Nelvana’s 2D animated forays into the Star Wars universe. How much story and feeling could you possibly pack into a bunch of three minute, action-oriented cartoons?

It turns out, a whole lot. More than has been in Star Wars for a long time.

I had forgotten the Nelvana cartoons. Tartakovsky had not. He incorporated some of those old designs into the look of the droid characters in his series. He hadn’t forgotten much of anything. Certainly not the most important thing about Star Wars.

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Star Wars is itself an homage to 30’s space pulp and adventure movies. Star Wars is a new coat of paint on old ideas. Star Wars does not work when Star Wars homages itself.  That’s like a third generation dub, or a movie based on a video game which was itself a barely disguised homage to another movie. The quality of the story begins to degrade as the generations copy themselves.

For Star Wars to be interesting, it has to be familiar, and yet, show you something you haven’t quite seen before.

suitingupIt’s also not for kids. It’s a family series, yeah. But that means adults can find it entertaining as well.

Tartakovsky’s Clone Wars got that.

Clone Wars isn’t just a continuation of the prequels, it isn’t just a nostalgia trip in a Galaxy Far Far Away. It’s the old magic Lucas infused in ’77 with the adventure serials of his own youth. It’s Top Gun, Lawrence of Arabia, classic pirate movies, Bruce Lee kung fu flicks, anime, wuxia, and probably a thousand other things I’m sure I recognize but can’t call to mind, all filtered through the rose-colored macrobinoculars of Star Wars.

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Tartakovksy, like Lucas, is steeped in film lore. He tells his story cinematically, with little dialogue. Action informs character, not plot.  Clone Wars is full of wild action, imaginative sequences, and it’s easy to dismiss it as superficial. It’s not. Not at all. There are amazing character moments peppered throughout the series which say more in milliseconds of screen time about the characters than has been said previously with minutes of film and pages of dialogue in Attack of The Clones and The Phantom Menace.

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As a kid I watched not only Star Wars, but the old making of documentary, From Star Wars To Jedi, and one bit from Mark Hamill’s narration I have always retained. Spoken against the backdrop of the gathered Rebel Alliance fleet in Return of the Jedi as the Millenium Falcon banks gracefully back and forth, it goes;

“The Star Wars style is based on two things. The editing pace of sequences…and the speed of movement through the frame. Of course we sometimes slow down to catch our breath, and to reflect on the often astonishing beauty of our imaginary world. But not for long.”

I think in the prequels, there was a lot of lingering on the masterful work of the FX crew, the beautiful alien backdrops, the smooth lines of the ships, even the graceful physicality in the lightsaber fights. In the opening of Revenge of The Sith, Obi Wan and Anakin’s fighters take us on a drifting tour of an immense ship to ship battle in high orbit, weaving dreamily in and out of exploding hulls and swarms of automated fighters, spinning through hails of green and red laser bolts.

This is quite lovely, but it’s not the Star Wars style. Neither is the thick blocks of dialogue.

spacebattleTartakovsky’s Clone Wars takes its cast and setting from the prequels, but its style is informed by the original trilogy. Spaceship battles are cluttered affairs, so blindingly fast you have to freeze frame to take it in at times, like the climactic fight at the end of Return of the Jedi, still, for my money, the best filmed space fight of the series. Tartakovsky’s version of the battle over Coruscant seen in the beginning of Revenge of The Sith, like his establishing shots of the awesome Mace Windu sequence on the plains of Dantooine is like the depiction of the Battle of The Five Armies in Rankin and Bass’ Hobbit cartoon. It’s a swarm of angry termites, just raging fleas circling frenetically each other until the camera zooms in to the crowded space, focusing on a bit of the combat, capital ships zipping in out of hyperspace to collide and explode against others already there. It’s a logistical nightmare and it’s awesome.

lancingWitness the speeder bike/swoop gang battle between the IG-86 droids (a nice throwback design to the IG-88 bounty hunter from Empire) and Obi Wan and his mounted clones.  The mounted fighters clash into each other like the knights in Brannagh’s Henry V or Gibson’s Braveheart, or the horse charge in Kurosawa’s Ran or Gunga Din, or a John Ford cavalry scene. Just blurs of motion and one bit of nastiness in the foreground (in this case, a droid pierced by a broken lance head, shattering to fragments and bouncing along the ground as the combatants whiz by unconcerned in the background).

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And has the imagined balance between medieval knight or samurai and quasi-mystical David Carradine Taoist monk ever been depicted so spot on as here? Putting Obi Wan in partial trooper armor and having him lead a mounted charge of lancers against the hulking Durge and his droids is just perfection.  Tartakovsky looks not only to his own influences, but those Lucas has cited in interviews. The foot battle between Kenobi and Durge is out of a Kurosawa samurai movie.

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During his clash with Kenobi, Obi Wan slides his speeder bike sideways, mimicking the classic Kaneda bike shot featured on so many posters and t-shirts in the early 90’s. This isn’t just a pointless shout out, it’s a clever visual hint to the true nature of Durge, who, when revealed as an amorphous, regenerating flesh monster out of his armor later, is right out of the end of the groundbreaking anime Akira by Katsuhiro Otomo, clearly an inspiration to Tartakovsky’s unique animation style.

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Clone Wars opens with a squad of ARC troopers attacking the droid army’s artillery installation high on a building in an advanced cityscape. Stormtroopers have never appeared more fearsome onscreen anywhere before or since. They execute their attack in precision commando fashion, knocking out tanks and droids. We’re in the middle of an old school military movie. Tartakovsky masters the small scale action sequence without having to resort to lightsabers. Again, as was the philosophy of the old West End Games RPG, Star Wars works best when familiar things from the real world are translated into Star Wars-ese. Instead of calling for a UAV to give them a birds eye view of the terrain, one of the clones throws up a little beacon sphere like the one Luke trained with in on the Falcon in the first movie. Then he produces a handheld device which projects a neat little 360 degree hologram of the city. In these few seconds, Tartakovsky has masterfully married the old (beacon) to the new (little holo-projector as established in the prequel movies) and the real world (military UAV/drone).  This is part of the brilliance of Clone Wars. It does a lot in very little time.

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Most surprisingly, the episodes accomplish some brilliant character moments in the span of seconds. A look, like the one Amidala gives to Anakin through the window of her apartment as he departs with the army. She puts her hand to the glass and says more than a two dozen stilted platitudes.  Thirty seconds or so are devoted to Obi Wan just trying to find a dry space to sleep in his command tent on a rain soaked world. Yoda mind controls one of Amidala’s subordinates to divert their ship to aide a pair of besieged Jedi, and the guy repeats his command Obi Wan fashion (These aren’t the droids you’re looking for) but in Yoda’s reversed syntax.  How great is the knighting ceremony of Anakin, when he comes into the council chamber expecting another dressing down and finds himself surrounded by lit lightsabers? His pride is palpable, even on a deceptively simple 2D face, when Yoda, King Arthur fashion, strikes off his padawan braid with his lightsaber and declares him a full-fledged Jedi.

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One of my favorite depictions of the master manipulator Palpatine is in Clone Wars, in the scene where General Grievous attacks his office guards, intent on kidnapping him. Palpatine backs away, his face a mask of fear as Grievous slaughters his clones. As soon as he enters the shadows of the corner, his mock fear falls away to an expression of aloof disinterest, as he’s planned all of this, of course.

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The climactic lightsaber battle at the end of the first season between fallen Jedi Asaaj Ventriss (wonderfully voiced by Grey Deslisle) and Anakin atop the familiar Mesoamerican style pyramids of Yavin IV is a great example of characterization through action. Anakin’s ever-increasing anger begins to overcome him, the emotional volatility of the sequence starting with the sizzling of rain on the lightsabers and reaching a crescendo as the light of the red and blue weapons contrast in the utter darkness of the temple, casting the characters in aligned shades (and remember, this is the location of the celebration at the end of A New Hope).

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Anakin loses his blue saber, takes up one of Asaaj’s red ones, and ultimately drives her to her apparent death under the light of the looming red moon. Anakin is bathed entirely in red, the traditional color of the Dark Side in Star Wars, having given himself over to the Dark Side to defeat her.  This on the surface simple duel does more to explain Anakin’s fall than the entire prequel trilogy, but not content with that, on a primitive world in a later episode, Anakin undergoes his Jedi trial and hallucinates his own eventual destiny in the flickering cave paintings on a wall as he inhales hallucinogenic volcanic gases.

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I’ve read a good deal of negativity leveled against the power levels of the Jedi in this series. The Mace Windu episode is always held up as evidence of the unbelievability of Clone Wars. It’s really one of the most memorable action scenes in any animated work of the last ten years. I don’t understand how anybody can watch it and not thrill to the artistry at work. Mace Windu and his clones face an army of super battle droids on a grassy field when an immense seismic tank arrives and proceeds to stomp on the troops, flinging the survivors in every direction on tides of disturbed earth. This is a great bizarre superweapon, well in the Star Wars wheelhouse. Mace loses his lightsaber and has to take on the droids with his bare hands, pummeling metal and shredding steel, using the Force to disassemble automatons and then ripping their fellows to pieces with the makeshift shrapnel. There’s a great overhead shot of Mace turning and dispatching oncoming droids one at a time that’s right out of Fists of Fury.

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Lucas has in the past cited, I think, the wuxia knights of Hong Kong cinema as inspiration for the Jedi. Chang Cheh’s Venom Mob and the warrior monks of the Shaw Brothers classics come immediately to mind when watching the thrilling Jedi battles in this series. In those old movies, long haired mystic warriors leapt from rooftop to rooftop, up and down stalks of bamboo, and took on dozens of enemies, driving them back in awe with their martial prowess. If you like that kinda stuff, you’ll love it here. It’s an obvious inspiration. The battle between Shaak Ti and the Magnaguards reminded me of Michelle Yeoh staving off hordes of bandits in Wing Chun.

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That’s not to say that Clone Wars is nothing but a slew of familiar homages. It’s thrillingly fresh and imaginative. There’s a great underwater battle sequence early on, the aforementioned speeder bike lancers, and my favorite, a spaceborne boarding action between a failing capital ship and a droid vessel. Jedi Saessi Tiin dons a somewhat familiar looking exposure suit and leads his deep space clones in leaping across space to the other ship. As half the troopers charge along the hull destroying turret emplacements, the Jedi cuts his way in and leads his boarders to the bridge, cutting down droids till he grabs the ships’ wheel controls Errol Flynn style and jerks it starboard.

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The character of General Grievous was introduced to great effect here, so great, in fact, that his comparatively lackluster depiction in Revenge of The Sith disappointed both my son and I at the time.

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There was an explanation I sort of liked that Tartakovsky’s Clone Wars existed in the Star Wars universe as a kind of underground animated media presentation made by the young boy who witnessed Mace Windu’s battle on Dantooine and gave him the jug of water at the end (that being a reference to an old commercial where a boy passes a refreshment to football star Mean Joe Green after a game), sort of an underground cartoon made as protest against the oppression of the Empire. I suppose this was meant to pacify the fans who didn’t care for the series and to explain its existence once the new, more realistically grounded 3D Clone Wars series began.

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Tartakovsky’s Clone Wars was an exciting show that perfectly captured the look and feel of classic Star Wars more than anything since the original trilogy, and still managed to update it for a modern family audience. Although it’s been mostly forgotten and I suppose shelved with the rest of the Legends brand for good or ill, in my mind, it’s still the iteration to top. If The Force Awakens can at the very least match its heart, imagination, and cinematic savvy, it’ll be worth a watch.

Here’s hoping.

Andersonville On Sale For 99 Cents

If you’ve been waiting to pull the trigger on my historical supernatural novel Andersonville from Random House Hydra, it’s on sale for 99 cents till December 19th.

In 1864 30,000 half starved men pray for a way out of Andersonville prison, unaware they are about to become accomplices in a dark ritual enacted by a madman to turn the tide of the Civil War.

One man, Black Dispatch agent Barclay Lourdes, fights his way in to stop it.

http://www.amazon.com/Andersonville-Edward-M-Erdelac-ebook/dp/B00TWDZZGK/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1449855452&sr=8-1&keywords=andersonville+erdelac

“[Edward M.] Erdelac makes a heady brew out of dreadful true events, angel and demon lore, secret societies, and the trappings of Southern gothic novels. This is thoughtful horror at its best, and not at all for the faint of heart.”Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“The true story of Andersonville is one of unimaginable horror and human misery. It’s a testament to his unmatched skill as a storyteller that Edward M. Erdelac is not only able to capture that horror but to add another level of supernatural terror and reveal that the darkest evil of all resides in the human soul. Highly recommended to fans of horror and history alike.”—Brett J. Talley, Bram Stoker Award–nominated author of That Which Should Not Be and He Who Walks in Shadow

Andersonville is a raw, groundbreaking supernatural knuckle-punch. Erdelac absolutely owns Civil War and Wild West horror fiction.”—Weston Ochse, bestselling author ofSEAL Team 666

“Edward M. Erdelac is a master of historical reinvention. In Andersonville, he peels away the façade of history to reveal the horror and sacrifices that led to the end of the Civil War. Clandestine operations, mystical battles waged unseen, and unlikely heroes combine to save a nation, not only from itself but from the demonic forces threatening to tear the whole of existence asunder. Forget what you know about the War Between the States, this is the story we should have been taught.”—Tim Marquitz, author of the Demon Squad series

“If you took a tale of atmospheric horror by Ambrose Bierce and infused it with the energy of Elmore Leonard, you would come close to what Edward Erdelac has accomplished with Andersonville. But even that combination would sell the novel short. What Erdelac has done is not just splice genres together but create his own voice in telling of the horrors, real and supernatural, inhabiting the most infamous prison camp of the Civil War. This is U.S. history seen through the eyes of the tortured dead, told with amazing skill by an author who knows how to create genre literature with a purpose.”—C. Courtney Joyner, author of Shotgun and Nemo Rising

“Those who have enjoyed Robert McCammon’s historical novels featuring Matthew Corbett should find quite a lot to enjoy here, particularly if they’re looking for a more straight-up horror-based historical read.”—Michael Patrick Hicks, author of Revolver
 
Andersonville definitely stands out . . . with its nuanced language, complicated characters, engrossing narrative, and subtle commentary on the past and the present.”LitReactor
 
Andersonville may not have been the book that I thought it would be when I started, but it became more than I had hoped for. I would highly recommend this book for fans of alternate history fiction novels as well as for fans of quiet horror.”Examiner.com
 
“Read this if you want a gritty, reality-based horror story, if you are fascinated by the Civil War, or if you just want to dive into a story that is both provocative and perfectly chilling.”—Bibliotica

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Poetry With A Splash Of Blood

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Japanese author Yukio Mishima poses at his home in Tokyo, Japan, on Sept. 10, 1966. (AP Photo/Nobuyuki Masaki)

“Perfect purity is possible if you turn your life into a line of poetry written with a splash of blood.”

Today marks the passing of one of the finest writers I have ever read, Mishima Yukio, best known for his Sea of Fertility tetralogy, but particularly beloved by me for The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea, The Sound Of Waves, Sun and Steel, and The Temple Of The Golden Pavillion. 

Mishima came to manhood during the fall of Imperial Japan, seeing the Emperor renounce his divinity through the eyes of one deemed unfit for military service. A latent homosexual with artistic aspirations discouraged by his strict father, he grew into one of the most important literary voices Japan has ever produced.
But it was perhaps inevitable that a man with his background who would write –
 
“Most writers are perfectly normal in the head and just carry on like wild men; I behave normally but I’m sick inside.”
-would not shuffle quietly out of life.
Perceiving the Westernized Japan as a country that had lost its samurai soul, he formed a group of young male kendo enthusiasts and political activists he called the Shield Society, in the hopes of re-establishing the manhood he believed his nation had forfeited at the end of World War II, and perhaps, aspiring to the impossible definition of masculinity he had fallen short of in his boyhood.
On this day November 25th in 1970, he marched his four most loyal followers, including his lover, into the office of a general of the armed forces under the pretense of showing him a rare 16th century katana. He took the officer hostage while his men drove off his aides with swords, then had the man assemble his troops in the courtyard.
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Mishima stepped out onto the balcony and addressed the gathered soldiers, urging them to stand up and seize control of their country for the glory of the Emperor. The soldiers reportedly jeered up at him as a pair of helicopters circled low overhead, their mechanical droning drowning out his passionate words.
He stepped back into the general’s office, knelt on the floor before the bound and gagged general, stripped off his tunic, and drove his sword into his own belly, disemboweling himself in the traditional manner of seppuku.
His lover standing behind him in order to act as his kaishakunin, strove to sever his head and end his pain, but only succeeded in striking his shoulder and back and cutting his neck deeply.
Mishima begged that his agony be not prolonged.
Another follower took the sword from his fellow and struck off Mishima’s head with one blow.
Mishima, like a samurai, seemed to live for death. I don’t know if he truly believed his call to arms would be successful, but I do think he had long planned a glorious death for himself, to end his life as a line of poetry with a splash of blood. In the end, he must have been disappointed by the failure of those around him to facilitate his desire and to live up to his ideal, much as I suppose, he felt he had disappointed his own father.
Whatever his reasons, he was an admirable writer, and his death was as strange and beautiful as his work.
A small night storm blows
Saying ‘falling is the essence of a flower’
Preceding those who hesitate

Yukio Mishima
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DT Moviehouse Reviews: Casino Royale

Time once more for my blog feature, DT Moviehouse Reviews, in which I make my way alphabetically through my 300+ DVD/Blu-Ray collection (you can see the list right here) and decide if each one was worth the money. A bit late to tie into the release of Spectre, here’s Daniel Craig’s first outing as 007, Casino Royale.

Screenplay by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade

Directed by Martin Campbell

Tagline: None

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What It’s About:

casinoroyale_commentary1In the wake of earning the 00 prefix, MI6 agent James Bond (Daniel Craig) follows a twisting trail of a Ugandan terrorist organization’s millions back to criminal financier Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkselsen). After foiling Le Chiffre’s plan to double his money via the destruction of an international airline, Bond and Treasury agent Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) are tasked by M (Judi Dench) with going head to head with the desperate Le Chiffre in a high stakes game of Texas hold ‘em at the Casino Royale in Montenegro to keep the money out of the terrorists’ hands and force the financier to give up his shadowy criminal employers.

Why I Bought It:

The first James Bond movie I ever saw was Live And Let Die on broadcast television with my parents. While I was impressed by the alligators, Tee-Hee and the voodoo, the ‘kissy stuff’ was a big turn off, and I would roll my eyes as further installments aired over the years, dismissing James Bond as a romance series. In the 90’s I rediscovered Bond via GoldenEye, and was completely arrested by the character (enough to jump at the chance to write him – more on that in a later post). I never did get into Roger Moore much, but I went back and watched the rest of the series, and finally read the musty, water-damaged old Ian Fleming paperbacks from my dad’s college days, which totally outshone the series in my mind, and despite my excitement for the character, I detected the gradual split between the superior books and the films, probably right around You Only Live Twice, with a brief return to form in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and, in terms of feel anyway, parts of Timothy Dalton’s run. Brosnan’s subsequent outings departed from reality and left me a bit cold, so when Daniel Craig and this movie were announced, I didn’t rush out to see it.

The first time I did catch it was in the break room at my then job.

CASINO-FIGHTThe opening of Casino Royale brought the thunder. Shot in brutal, stark black and white, we’re treated to the ‘origin’ of Bond, or at least, the initial two kills which earn him his license to kill. This sequence was an epiphany for me. The savage bathroom fight is harsh and dirty. This is Ian Fleming’s scar-faced assassin, terrifying in one instant and magnetic in the next, as we cut to his confrontation with the rogue section chief. In contrast to the bleak, disheveled whiteness of the restroom, Bond emerges from blackness like a shot out of the Third Man, neat, cold, merciless as he cuts off his quarry’s advice with a suppressed bullet.

Casino_Royale1-e14016479285401.pngThen, like Dorothy stepping out of her house into Oz, the screen floods with brilliant colors and the opening strains of one of the fiercest Bond themes since Live And Let Die, the skin prickling You Know My Name by Chris Cornell. The lyrics are pure Bond. Are they a continuation of the section chief’s warning to the fledgling assassin, or are they a weathered, cold hearted Bond speaking dismissively to Le Chiffre or to his younger self?

Arm yourself because no-one else here will save you
The odds will betray you
And I will replace you
You can’t deny the prize; it may never fulfill you
It longs to kill you
Are you willing to die?

The coldest blood runs through my veins
You know my name

blue-white-etc (1)I wrote a bit more extensively about the awesome opening title sequence here for Hasslein Books, so I won’t spend more time on it here.

This was new, this was brilliant. This wasn’t the erudite playboy delivering Schwarzeneggerian quips and lasering comic book bad guys with his wristwatch. This was Fleming’s Bond, stepped right out of the book from which this movie takes its name.

And yet, on that initial viewing, I went from riding high immediately to despair as Bond wound up chasing an African bomber through a construction site in a crazily over the top parkour sequence. I was wrong, this was still comic book stuff. I went through the rest of the flick half-lidded, guffawing at one point when, after a furious fight in a stairwell with two machete wielding Ugandans, Bond discovers the shaken Vesper sitting in the shower fully dressed, sits down next to her, and proceeds to suck her fingers. And Texas Hold ‘Em? Bond’s game is Baccarat. Texas Hold ‘Em is for hillbillies and Vegas rats in hoodies with sunglasses.

I didn’t go see Quantum of Solace (a real shame, because next to this, it’s my favorite Craig outing), and only went to Skyfall because a friend from out of town wanted to see the Cinerama Dome on Vine and chose Skyfall as the movie.

I enjoyed Skyfall, and it induced me to revisit Casino Royale.

If I could kick myself in the head, I would.

Casino Royale isn’t quite Ian Fleming’s Bond, but it’s pretty dang close. It follows most of the plot of the book, even if Craig’s Bond is given a bit of an out by M at the end, so he’s not quite the same cold hearted bastard he is at the end of the book, which, if I’m not mistaken, ends with the line “The bitch is dead.”

picture-of-sebastien-foucan-in-casino-royale-large-picture.jpgThe plot is taut, the action gripping. That parkour chase through the construction site I dismissed in my first viewing is absolutely killer, with Sebastian Foucan (and his freerunning doubles) moving with sublime kinetic grace as Bond pursues his character like a juggernaut, smashing through drywall and finally chasing him down to an embassy which he leaves in flames. The crash of the DBS V12 when Bond nearly runs over Vesper in the road is spectacularly shot, and the tense battle inside a sinking Venetian edifice is a great climax.

Casino_Royale_(120).pngGone are the campy sexploits of stiffly mugging Bond. This is the cold blooded international assassin, slipping a blade into a man at a museum exhibit in the midst of unsuspecting civilians, downing a whisky to quell the shakes after battling to the death in an empty stairwell, then cleaning his cuts and chaning his shirt in time for the next multimillion dollar hand down in the casino. The only gadget on display is a believable adrenaline shot and dashboard defibrillator, the closest thing to a joke in the wake of the action an exultant but exhausted grin as a terrorist mistakenly blows himself up instead of the world’s largest jet liner.

Daniel-Craig-as-James-Bond-in-Casino-RoyaleYet despite the superhuman feats Bond pulls off, this is not an untouchable superman. This Bond doesn’t shrug off bullets or car crashes. He nearly succumbs to poison, and after suffering grueling ‘advanced interrogation techniques’ at the eager, sadistic hands of Le Chiffre, he earns a hospital stay. Likewise, this Bond, we are to assume a young Bond early in his career, still feels enough for Vesper’s betrayal to cut out his heart in the end. We’re witnessing a crucible firing. The fat is cut away, and at the end, the man who blows out Mr. White’s knee and stands over him with a silenced submachinegun, truly is Bond, James Bond.

Casino_Royale_(99).pngThe supporting cast of Casino Royale is fabulous. Of course Judi Dench’s return to the role of M is welcome (if a bit puzzling in terms of series continuity, until you arrive at the conclusion that these should basically be viewed and enjoyed the same way as the Godzilla series, where the origin and basic tropes are the same and each subsequent installment unrelated, groups of miniseries within the overall series). Eva Green believably pulls off the arc of a seemingly inexperienced field agent who is also in league with the Devil the whole time, alternately vulnerable and necessarily cruel, tragically beautiful and regretful. This is the movie that introduced me to the great Mads Mikkelsen, whose bleeding-eyed Le Chiffre seems as cool as the other side of the pillow when he’s at the table playing with other people’s money, but is suitably sweaty and frantic when those people come to collect. His scenes with Bond around the table are terrific, and the cringe inducing torture sequence appropriately hard to watch. Jeffrey Wright’s been a favorite actor of mine since Ride With The Devil, and his turn as series mainstay CIA agent Felix Leiter is a welcome casting choice. I like him here and in Quantum of Solace, and have missed his return since. I especially like Giancarlo Giannini in the role of Rene Mathis, a likable, sophisticated mentor for Bond whose loyalty is called into question late in the game. Bond movies are known for their lovely actresses and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the absolutely stunning Caterina Murino as Solange, the satiny, neglected wife of one of Bond’s kills who pays the ultimate price for betraying her slimy husband’s doings.

casino-royale3.jpgAs for Daniel Craig himself, he’s the best Bond since Timothy Dalton, and captures the look and feel of the literary 007 possibly better than any of his predecessors. Sure he’s a sophisticate and a connoisseur of various fineries, but the drinks and the pills are holding him together, and beneath that veneer he’s the scary killer smashing through the dry wall to get at you. Those freakin’ eyes!

james-felix

Best Dialogue/Line:

The initial exchange between Vesper and Bond.

Vesper Lynd: All right… by the cut of your suit, you went to Oxford or wherever. Naturally you think human beings dress like that. But you wear it with such disdain, my guess is you didn’t come from money, and your school friends never let you forget it. Which means that you were at that school by the grace of someone else’s charity: hence that chip on your shoulder. And since you’re first thought about me ran to “orphan,” that’s what I’d say you are.

[he smiles but says nothing]

Vesper Lynd: Oh, you are? I like this poker thing. And that makes perfect sense! Since MI6 looks for maladjusted young men, who give little thought to sacrificing others in order to protect queen and country. You know… former SAS types with easy smiles and expensive watches.

[Glances at his wrist]

Vesper Lynd: Rolex?

James Bond: Omega.

Vesper Lynd: Beautiful. Now, having just met you, I wouldn’t go as far as calling you a cold-hearted bastard…

James Bond: No, of course not.

Vesper Lynd: But it wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine. You think of women as disposable pleasures, rather than meaningful pursuits. So as charming as you are, Mr. Bond, I will be keeping my eye on our government’s money – and off your perfectly-formed arse.

James Bond: You noticed?

Vesper Lynd: Even accountants have imagination. How was your lamb?

James Bond: Skewered. One sympathizes.

Best Scene:

Casino_Royale_(9).pngHas to be that opener, one of the best of the series.

Dryden: How did he die?

Bond: Your contact? Not well.

Dryden: Made you feel it, did he? Well, you needn’t worry. The second is…

VWIP!

Bond: Yes. Considerably.

Would I Buy It Again: Yessir. Though I think I’d like to hunt down that European cut, which is a bit more brutal, I hear.

Next In The Queue: Chato’s Land

DT Moviehouse Reviews: The Car

Time once more for my blog feature, DT Moviehouse Reviews, in which I make my way alphabetically through my 200+ DVD/Blu-Ray collection (you can see the list right here) and decide if each one was worth the money. Today, in keeping with the Halloween season, I review 1977’s The Car.

Screenplay by Dennis Shryack, Michael Butler

Directed by Elliot Silverstein

Tagline: What Evil Drives….The Car?

the-car-movie-poster-1977-1020465734

What It’s About:

When a string of hit and run killings by a mysterious and apparently driverless black car plague a desert community, Sherriff Wade Parent (James Brolin) and his deputies are baffled. When the killings escalate, Wade’s girlfriend, plucky schoolteacher Lauren (Kathleen Lloyd) becomes the Car’s next target.

THE_CAR_1977-300x199

Why I Bought It:

I saw The Car on TV as a kid so young I couldn’t remember the name of it (duh!) or much of anything about it except that it was an evil car, all black. In later years, hearing about Stephen King’s Christine, I sought out the John Carpenter movie thinking it had to be it, because how many killer car movies could there possibly be?

But nope.

So The Car led me to my OTHER favorite killer car movie, Christine.

vlcsnap-2011-08-19-15h25m30s2131But this is the original, and after finally rediscovering it a couple years ago, I had to add it to my collection. I love this movie. I love the singular design of the vehicle. It’s up there with Mad Max’s Interceptor, the General Lee, Zebra 3, KITT, and the ’66 Batmobile in terms of iconic movie and TV vehicles for me. The big hooptie Cadillac styling, the gnashing teeth grill and goggle eye headlights that look like the staring eyes of a psychopath. Imagine Darth Vader was a car. That Guillermo Del Toro is driving around in a replica of this thing makes me extremely happy.

But more than the look of the car itself, everything in this flick works for me. It’s a perfect storm that takes me all the way back to the barely remembered 1970’s of my youth. Yeah, it’s just Jaws with a car. Yeah the premise is crazy. But so what? It’s a blast to watch, very well made, with a great cast of supporting actors and a proto Bakshi Lord of The Rings score by Leonard Rosenman.

The leads are an appealing couple. Brolin is suitably masculine and charming, sort of a second tier Burt Reynolds with kids. Kathleen Lloyd is pretty sexy, a more wholesome version of Sarah Silverman. Part of what’s interesting about The Car to me is how destructive the monster is on the lives of the protagonists. The movie’s so fast paced you barely have time to consider where the characters all end up by the time the credits role. It’s actually a pretty tragic movie if you consider the butcher’s bill.

the-car-6Every member of the cast portrays an interesting, believable individual. I like that there’s a kind of love triangle going on between the wife beating RG Armstrong’s Amos, his wife Margie (Elizabeth Thompson), and Deputy Everett (The Godfather’s John Marley) that never gets resolved because the Car has little regard for human relationships and isn’t concerned with plot points. Then you’ve got Robocop’s Ronny Cox as a deputy who falls off the wagon when he learns of the death of a kid he knew, and John Rubinstein in a quick bit as a French horn playing hitchhiker dreaming of getting picked up by a hot older woman who’ll take him water skiing. There’s tough Navajo cop Denson (Eddie Little Sky) and Donna the dispatcher (Geraldine Keams –Little Moonlight from The Outlaw Josey Wales), all memorable, well realized characters, called to mind all off the top of my head, proving what a fine job all the actors and writers did, bringing their A game to a B picture.

7-the-car-1977-george-barrisThen there’s the biggest selling point. The stunts. I don’t know how many cars they went through to film this movie, but there are definitely more than a few scenes where the Car gets trashed. In one of my favorites, it roars headlong at a pair of squad cars only to veer hard and go rolling across the tops of the police, totaling them in a fireball and speeding off unscathed.  It drives off a cliff, it blows through a living room, it smashes into a cemetery gate post, announcing its presence with an air horn blast as distinctive in its way as the notes of the Jaws theme.

What the heck is it? Possessed by Satan? Why the heck does the Devil strike this little town in the form of a car? What is the impetus? Amos abusing his wife? Yet he’s one of the only characters to come out OK in the end.

I don’t know. Probably best not to dwell too deeply on it. It’s an entertaining movie. My son and I love to watch this thing and then re-enact every crack up with his Matchbox cars.

Maybe that’s it. Maybe Satan’s just playing with his Matchbox car.

Best Dialogue/Line:

Best Scene:

Would I Buy It Again: You bet.

Next In The Queue: (probably in time for Spectre) Casino Royale

The Wood of Ephraim On Tales To Terrify

Tales To Terrify recently got Rish Outfield to dramatize my Lovecraftian sword and sorcery story of Biblical proportions, The Wood Of Ephraim, which appeared recently in Swords And Mythos from Innsmouth Free Press. Read about the story RIGHT HERE.

Turn out the lights and give a listen below. Cool way to kick off the Halloween season a bit early. My story starts at the 27:00 mark.

http://farfetchedfables.com/far-fetched-fables-no-72-dean-francis-alfar-and-edward-m-erdelac/

Absalom_catches_hair_in_tree_1219-102

Crocodile In 18 Wheels Of Horror

Eric Miller, Stoker nominated editor of the Hell Comes to Hollywood books has a new trucker-themed horror anthology, 18 Wheels Of Horror through his Big Times Books imprint.

STORIES INCLUDE:
A DARK ROAD by Ray Garton
RISING FAWN by Brad C. Hodson
NEVER LOST AGAIN by Joseph Spencer
BIG WATER by R.B. Payne
DOWNSHIFT by Daniel P. Coughlin
SIREN by Eric Miller
WHISTLIN’ BY by Shane Bitterling
LUCKY by Del Howison
HAPPY JOE’S REST STOP by John Palisano
PURSUIT by Hal Bodner
BEYOND THE BEST SEASONING by Meghan Arcuri
TAKE THE NIGHT by Janet Joyce Holden
KING SHITS by Charles Austin Muir
CARGO by Tim Chizmar
SLEEPER by Ian Welke
THE IRON BULLDOGGE by Michael Paul Gonzalez
ROAD KILL by Jeff Seeman
Dig the cool distressed early 80’s style paperback cover.
18wheels
My story, Crocodile, concerns a hapless truck stop Pizza Hut counter girl with big dreams who, one fateful night, encounters a real live dreamy vampire boy.
Except he’s not quite the fairy tale she expected….

She gushed a lot, babbled out to him her whole life story, all her daydreams, her secret surety that some of them were real, her boundless delight in vindication. When she was finished, she begged to know his story.

He told her his name was Brendan, but that he had once had another name back when he’d been mortal, ‘in Bible times.’  He told her he had come from a wealthy family of merchants. He had befriended a young Roman soldier named Messala who one day rose to the position of provincial governor. When the Romans had marched into his city, Brendan and his mother and sister had been standing on a roof and accidentally knocked a loose piece of tile down into the street. The tile had hit Messala and for the offense, Brendan had been sentenced to slavery, chained to an oar on a warship while his family was imprisoned in a Roman dungeon. During a sea battle with Egyptians in which their ship was sunk, he had saved the life of the Roman captain and been freed, then granted Roman citizenship in gratitude.

Soon after he’d learned that his family had died of leprosy while he’d been away. He renounced his newfound citizenship and instigated a revolt, leading an army of gladiators to the palace of his former friend. He ran him down with a chariot.

As he told her this, tears spilled down Gwendolyn’s face. What tribulations he had faced! His life could have been a book itself, maybe even a movie.

8531442650_7448acc7af_b (1)Heartbroken by the death of his mother and sister, Brendan had for a time found love in the arms of a slave girl he had freed from Messala’s house, but the gladiator army was ambushed by the Romans and they were both taken prisoner and crucified. He said the greater suffering had been to watch her die slowly just out of his reach. Then that night as he hung on a cross, a pale traveler had come upon him. Seeing he was still alive, he had taken a ladder from his cart, set it up against his cross and climbed it. Brendan had thought the man intended to cut him down and save him out of pity, but he had been a vampire, looking for an easy meal. A passing cohort of legionnaires had surprised the stranger, and he had run off, but not before his bite had infected Brendan. Using his new supernatural strength, he had agonizingly freed himself from the cross and hid from the rising sun in a cave.

He said he had never been back to Italy since.

“And that’s why to this very day….I still hate wops,” he finished, brushing her hair from her face. “You know, you remind me of her, the slave girl who died. She was a Trojan.”

“What was her name?” she asked.

“Helen.”

Then, as it was near dawn, he got up to leave.

She begged to see him again, and he swore that she would, sealing the immortal promise by leaning in and kissing her softly. It was like licking an ice cube, or a patch of snow. His breath smelled metallic, like the groaning pipes beneath the sink. When they parted from that first, wonderful kiss, her breath roiled in a little white cloud in his sad smile, across his deep dark eyes, brimming with a pain and sorrow that seemed to span the ages.

She knew right away that she loved him. Who else could she ever love?

That night she dreamed of him in green tights and a red feathered cap, circling the ceiling of her bedroom and smiling down at her.

She went right back to work because she knew he would be there at the end of her shift. She knew because of the kiss.

And he was. Every night afterwards he met her in the parking lot. Sometimes they drove, mostly they walked, and talked, and kissed. He told her all about the long life he had lived all over the world, about all the people he had known through history, Genghis Khan, Abraham Lincoln, even Sherlock Holmes.

He held her till she shivered in his cold arms (but he was always a perfect gentleman, even though sometimes she sort of wished he wasn’t), and he answered every question she had about vampires.

All but one.

“When will you take me to your lair?”

“Soon,” was all he said, and drew her closer, taking in her scent with a flare of his nostrils, then kissing her deeply.

She always knew the time would come.

And tonight it had.

She had somehow woken in the morning knowing this would be the night they would be together at last. She had packed an outfit in the car and changed before she clocked out. A sexy black top with lace trim and her best jeans, her Victoria’s Secret panties, the red ones with the matching bra. She had worn perfume for him too, something with a name she didn’t dare try to pronounce in front of him for fear he’d laugh at her.

She’d brought condoms. She wasn’t sure if she could get pregnant, but it was best to be safe. Did vampires cum? She didn’t honestly care if he did get her pregnant. She would gladly have his child, but she didn’t know how he felt and thought it best to wait until another time to bring it up. She thought she might like to bear his child before he made her a vampire, just in case vampire women couldn’t have babies.

She wondered if Brendan’s baby would be a half vampire, like Blade.

If he was, would other vampires hate him? She would teach him or her to be good, to love both halves of him or herself, to accept him or herself first.

She had never thought to ask him about other vampires. Had he met any in his travels? There would be time enough to ask later. All the time in the world.

Brendan would turn her, and they could travel the world together, all three of them, see the things she never thought she’d see.

Well, everything except Italy maybe.

——————–

Saturday, October 3rd, I’ll be signing copies of 18 Wheels Of Horror along with several other authors at Dark Delicacies on Magnolia in Burbank, from 2-4pm. http://www.darkdel.com/store/p224/Sat,_Oct_3rd_@_2_pm:_18_Wheels_of_Horror.html

Hope you’ll swing by and say hey.

————————-

Pick up 18 Wheels here – http://www.amazon.com/18-Wheels-Horror-Trailer-Trucking/dp/0990686612/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1442517539&sr=8-1&keywords=18+wheels+of+horror

Thorne & Cross Take Two

As some of you may know there was a technical glitch last Thursday that booted everybody from the Thorne & Cross show. We’re trying it again tonight at 5pm Pacific/8pm Eastern, so tune in below.

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/authorsontheairradio2/2015/09/15/edward-erdelac-joins-thorne-cross-haunted-nights-live

Published in: on September 14, 2015 at 10:29 am  Leave a Comment  
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