It Came To Modesto Now Appearing In Atomic Age Cthulhu!

Hey hep cats, now on sale from Chaosium is Atomic Age Cthulhu, Lovecraftian madness in the 1950’s from editors Brian Sammons and Glynn Owen Barass.

Check out the table of contents –

“Bad Reception” by Jeffrey Thomas
“Fallout” by Sam Stone
“Little Curly” by Neil Baker
“The Terror That Came to Dounreay” by William Meikle
“The Romero Transference” by Josh Reynolds
“Within the Image of the Divine” by Bear Weiter
“Names on the Black List” by Robert Price
“Yellow is the Color of the Future” by Jason Andrew
“Eldritch Lunch” by Adam Bolivar
“Professor Patriot and the Doom that Came to Niceville” by Christine Morgan
“Fears Realized” by Tom Lynch
“Unamerican” by Cody Goodfellow
“The Preserved Ones” by Christopher M. Geeson
“Rose-Colored Glasses” by Michael Szymanski
“Day the Music Died” by Charles Christian
“Putnam’s Monster” by Scott T. Goudsward
“Operation Switch” by Peter Rawlik
“The End of the Golden Age” by Brian M. Sammons & Glynn Owen Barrass

My story, It Came To Modesto, sprang directly from my love of 50’s monster movies, particularly the American International Pictures I Was A Teenage Werewolf, I Was A Teenage Frankenstein, and How To Make A Monster. The original title of this story was I Was A Teenage….well, I won’t spoil it with the name. There’s definitely a bit of The Blob in there too.

Rambler-Rebel-1957-adgoldenhawkAnyway, it involves a seventeen year old kid, Georgie Colato, trying hard to fit into his new peer group in Modesto, California and running into a lot of resistance due to his mixed Italian and Mexican heritage. Georgie works most afternoons at his dad’s garage, and when a customer skips town and leaves his ’57 Rambler Rebel behind, Georgie takes it out nights, dreaming of racing it professionally. When Georgie butts heads with Jimmy Lucas, the captain of the high school football team over the attentions of a girl, Debbie, Georgie decides to pit the Rebel against Jimmy’s cherry red Studebaker Golden Hawk, with Debbie as the prize.  Yet during the race down the rural interstate on the outskirts, Jimmy pulls a fast one and Georgie wrecks, losing his arm in the crash.

Yet when he awakes in the basement of a strange house, the arm is restored….and he is not alone.

modestoOther inspirations behind It Came To Modesto are obviously Rebel Without A Cause, and my own father’s brief career as a drag racer in the late fifties/early sixties. He used to tell me stories about his car, a souped up Ford called the Grey Ghost. He street raced it until it was totaled in an intersection collision. I think I picked Modesto as the story’s setting after reading a bit about filmmaker George Lucas’ life changing crash in the 60’s, the one that steered him permanently from the career path of race car driving.

Here’s an excerpt —

Georgie couldn’t help staring at the girl’s swaying backside as she crossed the room to the wheeled cart sitting in a puddle of water next to the freezer.

She pushed it back to the table. When she stopped beside Golovkin, she reached into the tray and lifted a plastic bag about the size of a pillow. Sloshing inside it was a shifting mass of what looked like something shoveled off the floor of a slaughterhouse. It was pinkish and gray, and changed whenever Georgie tried to focus on it, all nipples and knuckle bones and a sudden bloom like an ear or a black animal eye popping open, rolling in between a pair of lids and then disappearing.

The whole mixture was swimming in some bloody liquid, like the drippings of defrosted chicken, and seemed to be constantly moving, though the girl wasn’t shaking the bag. Maybe it was the gas again, playing tricks on his eyes.

He laid his head back and closed his eyes to stop the spinning world.

Golovkin’s voice droned into his Dictaphone.

“The Freygan method was an unwieldy undertaking, and made no considerations for the psychological effect of symbiosis. The end result was oft-times uncontrollable, savage. Working from the recovered Greenwood notes, I have streamlined the treatment considerably, substituting the use of parabolic reflectors with an infusion of vita-rays and a catalytic compound developed by the Mi-go. Combined with the regular introduction of Liao-gas to encourage psychic adaptation, the first stage of the process is for the most part, quite painless.”

Georgie looked from the old man to the girl. She was leaning over, upending the bag. The weird stuff was sliding slowly from it, plopping wetly, like a quaking afterbirth into the tray. With it came an awful, fishy stink.

Somehow his bandages had been unwrapped. It was shocking to see the point where his left arm simply ended in a ragged stump. He couldn’t see the wound well, but the lack of his left arm was enough to make him whimper.

The girl slapped the gas mask over his face. He breathed deep reflexively.

His eyes went to the girl, lingered tantalizingly on her form. She was older than him. Maybe a college girl. He could see the white mounds of cleavage through her open jacket, straining against the black top she wore beneath. Her lips were so red.

When the mask came away, his head slumped to the table, no will in him to lift it.

His eyes went to the silver tray.

Something dragged itself ponderously over the lip. It bubbled and boiled. The bubbles sprouted a dozen tiny human eyes that rolled and blinked. It flopped down onto the table and oozed towards his stump.

He wanted to scream but he couldn’t summon any effort.

He felt a sharp tug at his shoulder then. A vertical fissure had opened in the mound of fleshy ooze, wide enough to fit around his stump. The edges of the opening changed multiple times. At one point it sprouted shaggy hairs, and mimicked a pair of giant lips, and then it rippled and diminished.

He felt nauseous. Then something was in his mind. Not the voice of Golovkin, not his own confused thoughts.

Something new.

teenageror

———-

Atomic Age Cthulhu is on sale now!

Atomic-Age Cthulhu: Tales of Mythos Horror in the 1950s (Chaosium Fiction)

Atomic-Age Cthulhu: Tales of Mythos Horror in the 1950s (Chaosium Fiction)

Buy from Amazon

MechaWest Kickstarter Is Live!

Deadwood-copyA howling westerly wind blows down the center of a wide, dusty street, carrying with it a vagabond tumbleweed and the unmistakable smells of gun oil and fear.

A lone figure steps off the boardwalk into the street, lowering the wide brim of his hat against the wind. Shutters and doors slam as he passes, as if any of them can shut out the violence that’s to come.

The man’s spurs clink on the heels of his boots, the tail of his duster flaps and balloons behind him, offering hints of the tools of his trade. Poised like blunted horns in the holsters tied to his legs are the walnut grips of a pair of .44 pistols.

The man reaches the center of the street and hooks his coat behind the butts of his pistols.

“Alright, marshal!” he roars, elbows bent, fingers stroking the handles of his revolvers. “You called down the thunder, now come on out and catch the lightning!”

There is a whirring, hissing sound, and big shadow falls across the man in the street.

The shadow of his hat brim recedes as he cranes his neck upward, and his narrow eyes widen.

BLAM!

The shot echoes, a tremendous cannon crash that rattles the windows and makes the horses kick over the troughs and roll their eyes and scream all up and down the avenue.

When the dense, acrid cloud of smoke clears, a pair of smoking boots and a charred hat turning in place like a fallen penny in the middle of a dark patch of scorched ground are all that’s left of the gunman.

A clanking conglomeration of iron and steel, three times the size of a man, twirls a massive, smoking Colt revolver on its armored finger, then drops it into a holster the size of a steer on its jointed, rust spotted hip.

The metal man’s face creaks open and a grizzled looking man with grey whiskers and a star on his vest grins a yellow grin.

“Looks like you came underdressed to this occasion, Billy,” the marshal says through his cheroot….

photo-original

Readers of this blog will be aware of my fondness for and recent rediscovery of tabletop roleplaying games. Well, I went and wrote one.

This is MechaWest, bringing the anime giant robot suit action of Heroic Journey Publishing’s Mecha roleplaying game system to the American Old West. Here high noon showdowns are fought in lumbering iron suits, powered by chugging boilers burning coal and wood. Cowboys race among lowing cattle in fleet footed rooster walkers, ready with lasso launchers, branding irons and barb wire clipper arms, and Indian Iron Killer Societies eschew the white man’s technology, using ingenious guerrilla tactics to bring shining blue and gold cavalry mecha crashing to their literal knees.

In the alternate history of MechaWest fighting mecha have been around since the Napoleonic Wars in the form of elegant clockwork suits of oak and tin worn by officers and gentlemen duelists, moving jerkily up and down the lines of battle with large flowing capes, and sweeping through lines of infantry with gargantuan rapiers.

But when American engineer Robert Fulton places a steam engine into an old clockwork knight the gilded age of gentlemanly dueling ends and a new era of mechanized warfare begins. The first mecha see service in the Mexican War of Independence, new iron armored suits effectively retiring the Army of Spain and their outdated clockwork mecha.

MG-1-033-6In the subsequent Mexican American war, gunsmith Samuel Colt invents a repeating fire weapon that turns each mecha into a walking battalion. Then abolitionists John Brown and Frederick Douglass seize a squad of mecha from the federal armory in Harpers Ferry, Virginia and lead an army of free slaves into the West Virginia mountains, forming the free state of New Africa and touching off the American Civil War. When blue and gray machines clash, the conflict is catastrophic.

The harsh necessities of the post-war American West mother strange inventions, from the circling Steel Schooners of the pioneers to transforming mecha-trains that dig their own tunnels and transform to fight off robbers.

Quanah_Parker_c1890calamity-janePlayers in MechaWest can work for a cattle baron’s outfit, piloting swift iron giants with to herd beef across hostile Native American lands, or as the Iron Killers, elite warriors who bring down the white man’s metal machines with whatever resources they can muster. Maybe riding as an Iron Ranger, splitting their time chasing Indians and bringing justice to marauding outlaws are more their bag, or perhaps dodging the law in a rattletrap mecha held together with baling wire and burning moonshine, sporting the latest illegal weaponry is more their style.

When the ‘Chinese Freemen Syndicate’ seizes the mines and railroads they worked to build en masse and fort up in their Celestial Territories with flame throwing Dragon Mecha and daring highbinder pilots, the possibilities open up even more. Do the players want to play as a band of Chinese agents in exotic, sought-after mecha? Do they want to plays as the US Cavalry, mounting punitive expeditions against marauding tribes or besieging the Celestial Territories for much needed resources?

Independent warlords, cattle barons and criminal organizations all seek to rule the frontier with steam driven iron fists. And amongst every faction pass the Gunfighters, deft pilots-for-hire, each with their own agenda.

This is the era of MechaWest…

Written by myself and Jeff Carter, and based on Chris Perrin’s core rpg system Mecha, with Wayne Humfleet and Mark Reed.

We have thirty days to reach our art and production goal. Please head over there and kick a buck.

http://kck.st/1AdS0Li

 

Published in: on March 11, 2015 at 10:17 am  Leave a Comment  
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Coming In August From Random House: Andersonville

Now up for preorder is my Civil War supernatural horror novel Andersonville.

As we entered the place, a spectacle met our eyes that almost froze our blood with horror, and made our hearts fail within us. Before us were forms that had once been active and erect;—stalwart men, now nothing but mere walking skeletons, covered with filth and vermin. Many of our men, in the heat and intensity of their feeling, exclaimed with earnestness. “Can this be hell?” – Sgt. Major Robert H. Kellogg, 16th Regiment Connecticut Volunteers, May 2nd, 1864.

In 1864, thousands of hopeless Union prisoners, wasting away to nothing in the overcrowded, disease-rampant confines of Camp Sumter military prison, prayed for a way out.

One man fought to get in….

I’m very excited to see this book finally coming your way in August.

More details about it as the release date approaches.

You can preorder it here.

Andersonville

Andersonville

Buy from Amazon

Corrupts Absolutely Returns!

Hey all, a while back I appeared in a dark superhuman fiction anthology called Corrupt’s Absolutely, compiled by editor Lincoln Crisler and featuring fiction from Jeff Strand, Weston Ochse, Peter Clines, Tim Marquitz, Malon Edwards, Wayne Helge, Cat Rambo, and a ton of other talented folks.

My own contribution was a story called Conviction, which you can read about here.

Corrupts Absolutely is back with a brand new publisher (Ragnarok, which will be putting out my novella collection With Sword And Pistol later this year) and brand new cover art. There are also a couple brand new stories included in this edition.

So if you missed it on the first go-round, here’s your second chance.

Corrupts Absolutely?

Corrupts Absolutely?

Buy from Amazon

Thy Just Punishments in That Hoodoo, Voodoo That You Do from Angelic Knight/Ragnarok

Today editor and author Lincoln Crisler delivers another bouncing baby anthology, THAT HOODOO, VOODOO THAT YOU DO: A DARK RITUALS ANTHOLOGY with the help of Angelic Knight/Ragnarok Publications, the same fine folks who’ll be bringing you my novella collection WITH SWORD AND PISTOL this August.

Hoodoo-Front

The book has a great lineup (and an excellent cover by Shawn King and Joe Martin) –

“Sa fè lontan / Long Time, No See” by Sarah Hans
“Young Girls Are Coming to Ajo” by Ken Goldman
“Into the Mirror Black” by Tim Marquitz
“Severed” by Brandon Ford
“Afflicted” by A.J. Brown
“A Little Bit of Soul” by Craig Cook
“Coughs and Sneezes” by James K. Isaac
“Secret Suicide” by Amy Braun
“Wounds” by Greg Chapman
“Sturm und Drang” by Jeff C. Carter
“Shades of Hades” by E.J. Alexander
“For Love” by DJ Tyrer
“Gingerbread Man” by Rose Strickman
“Johnny Two Places” by Mark Mellon
“The Seed” by N.X. Sharps
“Late Payment” by Jake Elliot
“Masquerade” by C.A. Rowland
“Lessons from a Victory Garden” by Jason Andrew
“The Projectionist” by Timothy Baker
“The Right Hand Man” by J.S. Reinhardt
“Paper Craft” by Leigh Saunders

For my own offering, THY JUST PUNISHMENTS, I reached back into my own Roman Catholic upbringing for a tale of murder and (I hope) laughs.

It’s inspired by a throwaway line by Ward Bond in THE QUIET MAN (“I’ll read yer name in the Mass!”) which refers to the old belief that reading the name of a live person in the requiem for the dead portion of the Mass will result in their untimely death.

I was an altar boy in a Polish parish, and for this story, recalled a lot of the various draconian sisters, slightly inebriated priests, and disapproving old parishioners I have known.

THY JUST PUNISHMENTS concerns the matter of South Boston pastor Father Tim O’Herlihey, a bitter old racehorse aficionado who feeds his gambling addiction by regularly enacting a dark and blasphemous ritual under the noses of his parishioners, reading the names provided to him by a contract killer for the Southie Irish mob and then splitting the profit with him when the victims wind up dead. But when the neighboring parish closes for renovations a crotchety old lady named Mary Ladhe starts paying peculiarly close attention to his doings, and Father Tim finds himself matching wits with a lady of the Old Country, of the Old Magic….

Here’s an excerpt.

————————-

Twenty bucks later he had a black rooster in the kitty carrier and was on his way back to the church.

The sun had gone down and Eladio had locked up the church, but Father Tim had his keys.

He locked the door behind him, went into the sacristy, and changed into his vestments, taking the old red iron knife that had been his great uncle’s from the lock box at the bottom of his closet. He took the carrier out to the altar and lit the candles.

He laid out the chalice, missal, and the black corporal, and began the orate fratres.

“Orate, fratres, ut meum ac vestrum sacrificium acceptabile fiat apud Deum Patrem omnipotentem.”

The greatest injustice to the Roman rite had been the Vatican’s abandonment of Latin. His uncle had always told him that old words had power, and English diluted that power.

sanctuaryHe had loved the old Latin mass since his boyhood, and as an altar boy had not confined himself to the responses, but memorized even the priest’s words. Indeed, he had imagined himself not a mere server, but a kind of acolyte in the sacred traditions, a boy-priest on a mystic path. He sometimes fancied in his most blasphemous moments that the opulent house of God with its marble floors and golden accoutrements was his own throne room.

Then once during a particularly early mass, he had mistakenly dashed the silver paten against the edge of the altar and the Holy Eucharist had fallen to the floor. Just a clumsy, daydreaming boy’s mistake, but the entire congregation had let out a collective gasp that had colored his cheeks and ears.

The disapproving scowl of Father John as he stooped over to retrieve the Host by hand had solidified his embarrassment, and to make matters worse, Sister Doligosa had slapped him in the sacristy when he’d returned to change out of his cassock after mass.

“You serve like a cowboy,” the wrinkled old woman had scolded.

He’d been eleven, and run from the church with stinging tears.

He’d been something of a bad boy after that, smoking, profaning, drinking, fleeing wholly from the church in frustrated anger. He had decided that in that moment of innocent clumsiness, he’d been afforded a glimpse at the true nature of so-called believers; that they put more stock in pomp and ritual than in the true love of God.

Hypocrites.

Yet his dear mother had been worried at his turn around, and sent him off to spend time with his great Uncle Patrick, a priest himself from the old country, though of a decidedly different kind than any he’d ever met before or since.

Uncle Patrick had seen the anger in the boy, and one day coaxed the story of why he’d all but abandoned his faith.

To Tim’s surprise, Uncle Patrick had said;

“It’s entirely right you are, Tim. The world is populated wholly by dumb bleating sheep with no understanding whatsoever of the power of the Mass. The Mass is nothing less than magic, Tim. Magic passed down to us from the agents of the gods. And through it,” he said, touching the side of his red nose and winking one sky blue eye, “those with the knowing can bend the will of the angels to our own purpose.”

Tim recited the sursum coda,  sang the trisanctus and the hosanna, and then unlocked the carrier and took out the twitching black cockerel.

Now, with relish, he lifted the clucking chicken high with the iron knife and recited the consecration, the ultimate blasphemy, naming the fowl the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.

The knife was a relic of the Old Religion, Uncle Patrick had said, given to a monk named Finnian by one of the legendary Tuatha De, the magic folk of Old Ireland, Tuan mac Cairill.  The story was that the monk had sought out Tuan and preached the Gospel to him. Tuan had told the monk of his own gods, and that the monk Finnian had realized the folly of Christianity, and pledged himself to Tuan’s instruction. Tuan, knowing that Christ had conquered his people, saw an opportunity to keep their memory alive and strike at the Church from within. He bestowed Finnian with the sacred sacrificial knife, and the monk became the first of a secret line of priests who paid lip service to Christ but honored the old gods, and perverted the Mass to their ends whenever they could.

And so Tim had become the latest of that ancient line.

He passed the sacred knife of Tuan beneath the beak of the rooster and lets its blood piddle into the chalice.

When it was drained, he raised the brimming cup of blood and the dead animal carcass again to the empty church and proclaimed;

 “Per ipsum et cum ipso et in ipso est tibi Deo Patri omnipotenti in unitate Spiritus Sancti omnis honor et gloria per omnia saecula saeculorum.”

He recited the rest of the rite of transubstantiation, broke the chicken’s neck symbolically, and laid it on the paten.

Then, he recited in Gaelic the age old curse;

“Michael O’Bannon –

No butter be on your milk nor on your ducks a web

May your child not walk and your cow be flayed

And may the flame be bigger and wider

Which will go through your soul

Than the Connemara mountains

If they were a-fire.”

He raised the cup to his lips and downed the warm iron-tasting blood.

That night, as ever, he roasted and ate the chicken.

—————————-

I’m very proud of this story and hope enjoy it.

It can be gotten here –

That Hoodoo, Voodoo That You Do: A Dark Rituals Anthology

That Hoodoo, Voodoo That You Do: A Dark Rituals Anthology

Buy from Amazon

Sláinte chuig na fir, agus go mairfidh na mná go deo!

Happy 109th, Robert E. Howard

Today would’ve marked the 109th birthday of my favorite writer, Robert E. Howard. As ever, I turn Delirium Tremens over to the master, with an excerpt from his Lovecraftian terror tale, The Black Stone.

rehsolo

Black-stoneI came out into the glade and saw the tall monolith rearing its gaunt height above the sward. At the edge of the woods on the side toward the cliffs was a stone which formed a sort of natural seat. I sat down, reflecting that it was probably while there that the mad poet, Justin Geoffrey, had written his fantastic The People of The Monolith. Mine host thought that it was the Stone which had caused Geoffrey’s insanity, but the seeds of madness had been sown in the poet’s brain long before he ever came to Stregoicavar.

A glance at my watch showed that the hour of midnight was close at hand. I leaned back, waiting whatever ghostly demonstration might appear. A thin night wind started up among the branches of the firs, with an uncanny suggestion of faint, unseen pipes whispering an eerie and evil tune. The monotony of the sound and my steady gazing at the monolith
produced a sort of self-hypnosis upon me; I grew drowsy. I fought this feeling, but sleep stole on me in spite of myself; the monolith seemed to sway and dance, strangely distorted to my gaze, and then I slept.

I opened my eyes and sought to rise, but lay still, as if an icy hand gripped me helpless. Cold terror stole over me. The glade was no longer deserted. It was thronged by a silent crowd of strange people, and my distended eyes took in strange barbaric details of costume which my reason told me were archaic and forgotten even in this backward land.
Surely, I thought, these are villagers who have come here to hold some fantastic conclave–but another glance told me that these people were not the folk of Stregoicavar. They were a shorter, more squat race, whose brows were lower, whose faces were broader and duller. Some had Slavic and Magyar features, but those features were degraded as from a
mixture of some baser, alien strain I could not classify. Many wore the hides of wild beasts, and their whole appearance, both men and women, was one of sensual brutishness. They terrified and repelled me, but they gave me no heed. They formed in a vast half-circle in front of the monolith and began a sort of chant, flinging their arms in unison and
weaving their bodies rhythmically from the waist upward. All eyes were fixed on the top of the Stone which they seemed to be invoking. But the strangest of all was the dimness of their voices; not fifty yards from me hundreds of men and women were unmistakably lifting their voices in a wild chant, yet those voices came to me as a faint indistinguishable
murmur as if from across vast leagues of Space–or time.

Before the monolith stood a sort of brazier from which a vile, nauseous yellow smoke billowed upward, curling curiously in a swaying spiral around the black shaft, like a vast unstable snake.

On one side of this brazier lay two figures–a young girl, stark naked and bound hand and foot, and an infant, apparently only a few months old. On the other side of the brazier squatted a hideous old hag with a queer sort of black drum on her lap; this drum she beat with slow light blows of her open palms, but I could not hear the sound.

The rhythm of the swaying bodies grew faster and into the space between the people and the monolith sprang a naked young woman, her eyes blazing, her long black hair flying loose. Spinning dizzily on her toes, she whirled across the open space and fell prostrate before the Stone, where she lay motionless. The next instant a fantastic figure followed
her–a man from whose waist hung a goatskin, and whose features were entirely hidden by a sort of mask made from a huge wolf’s head, so that he looked like a monstrous, nightmare being, horribly compounded of elements both human and bestial. In his hand he held a bunch of long fir switches bound together at the larger ends, and the moonlight glinted on
a chain of heavy gold looped about his neck. A smaller chain depending from it suggested a pendant of some sort, but this was missing.

The people tossed their arms violently and seemed to redouble their shouts as this grotesque creature loped across the open space with many a fantastic leap and caper. Coming to the woman who lay before the monolith, he began to lash her with the switches he bore, and she leaped up and spun into the wild mazes of the most incredible dance I have ever
seen. And her tormentor danced with her, keeping the wild rhythm, matching her every whirl and bound, while incessantly raining cruel blows on her naked body. And at every blow he shouted a single word, over and over, and all the people shouted it back. I could see the working of their lips, and now the faint far-off murmur of their voices merged and blended into one distant shout, repeated over and over with slobbering ecstasy. But what the one word was, I could not make out.

In dizzy whirls spun the wild dancers, while the lookers-on, standing still in their tracks, followed the rhythm of their dance with swaying bodies and weaving arms. Madness grew in the eyes of the capering votaress and was reflected in the eyes of the watchers. Wilder and more extravagant grew the whirling frenzy of that mad dance–it became a bestial and obscene thing, while the old hag howled and battered the drum like a crazy woman, and the switches cracked out a devil’s tune.

Blood trickled down the dancer’s limbs but she seemed not to feel the lashing save as a stimulus for further enormities of outrageous motion; bounding into the midst of the yellow smoke which now spread out tenuous tentacles to embrace both flying figures, she seemed to merge with that foul fog and veil herself with it. Then emerging into plain view, closely followed by the beast-thing that flogged her, she shot into an indescribable, explosive burst of dynamic mad motion, and on the very
crest of that mad wave, she dropped suddenly to the sward, quivering and panting as if completely overcome by her frenzied exertions. The lashing continued with unabated violence and intensity and she began to wriggle
toward the monolith on her belly. The priest–or such I will call him–followed, lashing her unprotected body with all the power of his arm as she writhed along, leaving a heavy track of blood on the trampled earth. She reached the monolith, and gasping and panting, flung both arms about it and covered the cold stone with fierce hot kisses, as in
frenzied and unholy adoration.

Wolfshead565The fantastic priest bounded high in the air, flinging away the red-dabbled switches, and the worshippers, howling and foaming at the mouths, turned on each other with tooth and nail, rending one another’s garments and flesh in a blind passion of bestiality. The priest swept up the infant with a long arm, and shouting again that Name, whirled the
wailing babe high in the air and dashed its brains out against the monolith, leaving a ghastly stain on the black surface. Cold with horror I saw him rip the tiny body open with his bare brutish fingers and fling handfuls of blood on the shaft, then toss the red and torn shape into the brazier, extinguishing flame and smoke in a crimson rain, while the maddened brutes behind him howled over and over the Name. Then suddenly they all fell prostrate, writhing like snakes, while the priest flung
wide his gory hands as in triumph. I opened my mouth to scream my horror and loathing, but only a dry rattle sounded; a huge monstrous toad-like thing squatted on the top of the monolith!

I saw its bloated, repulsive and unstable outline against the moonlight and set in what would have been the face of a natural creature, its huge, blinking eyes which reflected all the lust, abysmal greed, obscene cruelty and monstrous evil that has stalked the sons of men since their ancestors moved blind and hairless in the treetops. In those grisly eyes were mirrored all the unholy things and vile secrets that sleep in the cities under the sea, and that skulk from the light of day in the blackness of primordial caverns. And so that ghastly thing that the unhallowed ritual of cruelty and sadism and blood had evoked from the silence of the hills, leered and blinked down on its bestial worshippers, who groveled in abhorrent abasement before it….

Read the full text here….

http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks06/0601711.txt

Published in: on January 22, 2015 at 4:21 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Merkabah Rider Tales Of A High Planes Drifter……Adios

Howdy ‘lil boychicks and maidels,

My contract with the publisher of Merkabah Rider: Tales Of A High Planes Drifter, the first in the Merkabah Rider series (read all about that here), has ridden off into the sunset, so all those that are out there in the ether (and there are a lot) and the used paperback copies putzing around on Amazon, bookfinder, and ebay are all there will be for the foreseeable future.

I do have a limited number of hard copies on hand which fifteen bucks American (via Paypal) will part me with. Just email me at emerdelac(at)gmail.com if you want to work that out. That’s fifteen bucks shipping included, and I’ll sign it for you as well.

Books two, three, and four remain numberless, but in the next two years as their respective contracts expire, they’ll be going into a Disney-like moratorium as well, so grab ‘em while they’re red hot.

-Adios

merkabahrider

In other news, it looks like in addition to my forthcoming short story appearances (I’m counting four right now), I’ve got two new releases scheduled for August, a new novel, Andersonville, and a novella collection, With Sword And Pistol.

More on those later.

Published in: on January 7, 2015 at 9:51 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

Jake Elliot’s The Wrong Way Down

Happy New Year, all and sundry. I’m lending my space to my buddy author Jake Elliot today. He’s talking about his latest book, which entails a subject near and dear to my heart, as I’ve just completed an Arthurian fantasy novel, The Knight With Two Swords, which deals in part with the loss of the Holy Grail and I hope to have coming your way sometime this year.

Jake’s taking on a Grail-esque subject in a new and interesting way….

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wrongwaydown

Today, I’ve hijacked Ed’s blog. Mwah-ha-ha-ha!  I’m Jake Elliot, a most rotten soul if ever there was one. Consistently, I force undeserving characters into terrible calamities and abandon the wounded in unimaginable darkness. When I hear their cries, I snicker. Unlike Ed, I’m a real jerk.

Similar to Ed’s Merkabah Rider series, I write ‘odd’ fiction. Ed owns the corner on Unique Westerns, so I write epic fantasy added with a seasoning of horror—just a tiny bit, but enough. Also similar to The Rider series, I like spiritual themes.

Since The Wrong Way Down does not happen on Earth, it is easiest to compare the story to a darker version of King Arthur’s quest for the Holy Grail. Let’s pretend the Holy Grail had been found. It is easy to speculate that if the Church had such a holy item, the Church would keep the Grail safe and hidden. Or…maybe a fantastical and benevolent church would present the Grail to the public at a pilgrimage shrine, somewhere off the beaten path and secluded.

What if two thieves break in and steal the Holy Grail? What if one thief is caught while the other got away? What would the 13th century Church do to reclaim a magnificent treasure like the Holy Grail? Would they play nice? What if the Church sent the wrong people to fix the problem and they instead made an even bigger mess?

That is the premise of The Wrong Way Down.

Popalia is the young priestess selected to escort the captured thief to the nearest military garrison where the thief will be tortured until confessing the treasure’s whereabouts. Lucky for the thief, the burglar escapes. With no time to spare, impetuous Popalia makes a rash decision. Can she recapture the thief before she gets too far away? Hmmm, probably not—but damn if she isn’t going to give it try.

In return for her blind faith, I’m going to put the poor girl through all kinds of hell.

She won’t go alone. Popalia will have others to drag down beside her. Her most trusted friend, Wynkkur, (pronounced When-Cur, not Wank-er,) is a self-taught sorcerer. He sucks at casting spells. He’s one of the worst wizards I’ve ever read in a book. Popalia will also hire a couple mercenaries to help her reclaim her church’s stolen relic, but they seem a little unscrupulous at best. Maybe they’ll rob her too—I don’t know.

That’s all I’m saying. I’m going to leave you hanging right there. Like I said, I’m a real jerk.

However, if you desire, you could read the first several pages of The Wrong Way Down for free by following this link. –Amazon link.

Jake’s Blog is here too.

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Published in: on January 1, 2015 at 10:33 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Coyote’s Trail On Sale For 99 Cents

The Kindle edition of my psychosexual revenge western novel Coyote’s Trail is on sale for 99 cents today and tomorrow. You can read an excerpt HERE and purchase it HERE. 

You might also check out the excellent cover by artist Daniele Serra, who currently has a graphic novel, I TELL YOU IT’S LOVE with Joe R. Lansdale out.

Published in: on December 27, 2014 at 5:45 pm  Leave a Comment  

DT Back Issues: Unknown Soldier (1997)

1983-1995 (the Copper Age) was the height of my comic book collecting, and a great time to discover the medium.  Starting with Larry Hama’s GI JOE: A REAL AMERICAN HERO for Marvel and gradually segueing into TRANSFORMERS and GROO THE WANDERER, I started frequenting comic shops and began to pick up anything that caught my eye. The mid 80’s saw the release, in rapid succession, of Frank Miller’s WOLVERINE (with Chris Claremont), THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, Alan Moore’s V FOR VENDETTA, WATCHMEN, and THE KILLING JOKE, and other positively seminal works in the field.

But I don’t wanna talk about them. I’m by no means a scholar or expert. I got out of comics for the most part when I started college, only popping in now and then since to pick up the occasional trade collection. All those books have been written up and dissected by far more qualified people than me, and you can look them up anywhere on the internet.

I’ve decided I’d like to revisit comics I’ve kept in the long white boxes in the back of my closet, titles that for whatever reason may not have been the most popular, and indeed, were likely forgotten for the most part, or mostly went underappreciated. I don’t know that I’m talking about rarities, or anything. I wasn’t really an underground comics guy. I’m talking more about mainstream gold that for whatever reason floated off down the creek. Stuff like Andy Helfer’s SHADOW, MARSHAL LAW, Steve Gerber’s FOOLKILLER miniseries from the 90’s, John Wagner’s BUTTON MAN, and Evan Dorkin’s MILK AND CHEESE. Here’s a list of everything I’ve covered so far. 

Unknown_Soldier_v.3_1Today I wanna draw attention to Garth Ennis and Killian Plunkett’s four-issue miniseries UNKNOWN SOLDIER from DC/Vertigo in 1991.

I have never read the original incarnation of the Unknown Soldier comic. The only time I remember ever seeing the character was in ads on the back of THE SHADOW in the 80’s and interspersed in the pages of an issue of GI COMBAT or maybe MEN OF WAR or WEIRD WAR TALES. I actually thought he was a part of Sgt. Rock’s squad or something. The only thing I ever knew about him was that he was in GI fatigues and his face was swaddled in mummy-like bandages. He was supposed to be some kind of battle-scarred master of disguise.

ssws168 unknownHaving never read the original series I have no idea if there’s a level to Ennis’ miniseries I’m missing. Are the various elderly characters mentioned and depicted (like the General, or the Soldier’s handler, Boothe) recurring characters from the first run? The series is pretty self-contained and each of the characters backstories are succinctly told, so I don’t know. It doesn’t suffer in the reading from a lack of acquaintance with the Unknown Soldier’s previous adventures.

Unknown_Soldier_1997_4_cover_3321I think what induced me to pick up the series were Tim Bradstreet’s full color covers. I became aware of Bradstreet during my Vampire The Masquerade days, when he did a series of stark and devilishly good illustrations for White Wolf. I met Bradstreet once when I was in high school at my local comic shop and still have the quick little profile sketch he did in the cover of one of my RPG books.

Vtm3-Brujah Ennis, I was familiar with from Preacher, of course, a series for another time on this blog.

The story opens with the debriefing of a CIA black operative, Agent Clyde, being reprimanded by his superiors for refusing to liquidate two ten year old Latin American witnesses to a company-led Green Beret assassination. Clyde explains not killing the kids, deflecting every interrogative with cold reasoning. The American team was heavily disguised, and never spoke a word. But he finishes up with an ill-advised (considering his profession) moral jab that if part of his mission parameters included the murder of innocent children, his superiors should have made that clearer in the mission briefing. Exiting his reprimand, his shadowy handlers curse him and make the decision on the spot that he’s not cut out for black ops work.

An unspecified amount of time later, Agent Clyde is driving a desk in an office environment full of noncombatants, among which he is something of a pariah for his boy scout demeanor and nose to the grind stone super patriot work ethic.  It seems Clyde, in the midst of a mundane investigation into something called California First, returns from a meeting and boots up his computer to find a name has been added to his list of POI’s (which is mostly populated by thinly disguised Simpsons characters – Lionel J. Hotz, Ken Bruckman, Seymour Skinner, Robert Terwilliger), Joshua Markewicz.  Interdepartmental inquiries as to why Joshua’s name has appeared on his list hit a brick wall, so Clyde heads out to interview the new guy, finding, to his bewilderment, a very old guy, languishing in a retirement home, suffering from Alzheimer’s.

lookwhatourenemyhasdoneClyde soon figures out that Joshua has never had any knowledge of the tax dodging group he’s been tied to, but admits that this is the second CIA agent to question him in the past year, not about California First, but about The Soldier.  He then proceeds to relate the same story to Clyde, about how as a young grunt during the liberation of Dachau concentration camp, he witnessed the arrival of a soldier with a bandaged face riding with three high ranking officers. This Soldier becomes enraged at the sight of a mass grave of dessicated Jewish corpses and raves that ‘If this is what our enemies do – if this is what America must fight – then we are ALWAYS right! And anything we do IS RIGHT!” as he grabs Joshua’s machinegun and proceeds to gun down the captured German camp guards. One of the generals orders a radio man to call command and tell them that Codename Unknown Soldier has ‘totally fucking lost it’ and then proceeds to rifle butt the maddened mystery man into unconsciousness.

Clyde returns to the office perplexed. A database search for Unknown Soldier draws a blank but earns him an immediate phone call from his superior, asking him what he’s doing on the computer and ordering him back to work.

In a seedy apartment whose furnishings consist mainly of guns, ammo, and a fax machine, an unbalanced young woman named Screwball aims out her window with a high powered sniper rifle at various passersby apparently out of sheer boredom until a call comes through telling her to silence Joshua Markewicz and ‘put the frighteners’ on Agent Clyde.

In Clyde’s apartment, he receives an unexpected visit from one of his coworkers, a female agent named Wallace with whom he’s up to now shared a mild flirtations. No dark ulterior motives here. Wallace shows up just to invite Clyde to a coworker’s party. Clyde offers her a cup of coffee by way of assent. While brewing up the joe he hears via news report that the retirement home he just visited that afternoon has partially burned, claiming Joshua Markewicz. Wallace comes into the kitchen at the same moment that a bullet comes through the kitchen window and shatters Clyde’s coffee cup, killing Wallace.

ennis_usoldier02_08 Screwball is taken to task by her handler for accidentally killing Wallace, and put on Clyde’s trail, which begins in earnest when he finds three more names mysteriously added to his investigation list. The bulk of the story is then Clyde finding and interviewing the people on his list, hearing their reminisces of brief encounters with the Unknown Soldier (he instigates civil war in Iran, disguises himself as General Westmoreland in order to force a Green Beret unit to massacre a group of Cambodian civilians, and, after destroying a Sandinista hospital, almost singlehandedly fights off fifty guerrilla fighters deep in the jungles of Nicaragua). Typically, soon after the interviews, the witnesses wind up dead at the hands of Screwball.

As Clyde’s journey progresses, Ennis takes a page from Preacher and has him imagining conversations with an idealized spectre of the murdered Wallace, which becomes a device for bringing Clyde’s internalized thinking to the fore, yet also reinforces his naivety/humanity. For an espionage agent, Clyde is more Captain America than Unknown Soldier, decrying the dark deeds of his peers and finally the Soldier himself. When Screwball fails to kill Clyde, a backup wetworks team bursts in to finish the job, and Clyde finds himself on the run with Screwball, tracing the Soldier all the way to his personal handler in the CIA, Boothe, the same guy who put Screwball onto Clyde.

As humanistic and questioning as Clyde is, Screwball is sociopathic and unquestioning of her orders, until they personally contradict her own well-being. She has no compunctions about murdering Boothe’s butler and later his entire family in their sleep. Boothe provides a tantalizingly brief but satisfactory origin story for her. She cut her own parents’ throats at the age of eight and was recruited by the agency, who thought she’d be perfect for wetworks. “They were right,” he observes.

In a way, I guess Screwball and Clyde are two facets of the ‘perfect’ American operative. Clyde is the clean-cut, hardworking, idealistic American boy, blonde haired and blue-eyed – the guy the public likes to think of as the defender of democracy. Screwball is the unquestioning, violent ‘dark side’ of the espionage game, and a counterpoint to Clyde. She’s dark haired (and short cut, the antithesis of the typical moralistic female archetype) and a woman, crude spoken and punk rock-y.

Of course neither of them have anything on the Unknown Soldier himself, when they finally meet.

Desperate to learn more, Clyde (in, I admit, a bit of a leap in logic for plot’s sake) decides to disinter his predecessor in the quest for the Solider, Agent Anderson, hoping against hope that Anderson left something on his body that could help. While Clyde is digging in the rain and having a debate with Wallace in his imagination, The Soldier dispatches the uber-competent Screwball without a fight, proving himself every bit the apex predator he has been made out to be.

img061The Soldier then confronts Clyde in the rainy grave of Anderson, revealing it was him that added all the names on Clyde’s list, without Boothe’s knowledge, because he wanted Clyde to learn about him, and understand him, and finally, to replace him.

Because after fifty years of doing his duty like Screwball, without question, the Soldier can’t do it anymore.

And his reason is Project Winterthor.

The General, the same one present at Dachau during the Soldier’s epiphany, called the Soldier to his deathbed to make what amounts to a final confession. He describes a secret meeting in 1945 between himself, a CIA agent, and a cadre of top Nazi officials. Hearkening to Operation Paperclip, the Nazis regale the Americans with evidence of their technological breakthroughs, which are lacking only America’s nearly unlimited resources to proceed into the practical application stage. They promise to put a man on the moon by 1949. Their only request is safe and secret extradition to South America where they will continue their work under American supervision, along with Adolph Hitler himself.

The Americans agree to terms.

So the United States agrees to fund the survival of the Third Reich in exchange for technological advances, not even cutting England in on the deal, which leads to the unexpected death of the German would-be conspirators when an uninformed, routine RAF patrol shoots them down over the Swiss-German border.

But this becomes the Unknown Soldier’s second epiphany. He smothers his former commanding officer to death in his hospital bed, enraged by what he takes as personal betrayal of his ongoing mission. It all began with hatred for the Nazis as the ultimate evil in the world, and Hitler as its beastly architect, and the government’s willingness to deal with that ultimate evil, for the Soldier, invalidates his justifications for every evil he has committed in America’s name since.

THE SOLDIER: A lifetime spent groping in the guts of horror, in it up to my elbows, committing atrocity to order. And five years ago, discovering Winterthor, knowing at last that the regime that gave me those orders was….tainted.

Winterthor is the reason the Soldier kills his first choice, Agent Anderson, believing the knowledge of the failed conspiracy will dishearten Anderson as it did him. Yet he can no longer afford to keep the history ‘clean’ with Clyde.

THE SOLDIER: The need remains for the one man who can make a difference. The war that I spoke of continues even now. The enemeny has not left us. America’s obligation to do what is right does not end because her masters flirt with devils. There must be someone to accept that obligation. To hold it as a clean, untarnished truth. There must be a soldier….

img058In a way, Clyde and Screwball are the two extreme halves of the Soldier himself. The Soldier is motivated by duty and a real human outrage at the extreme inhumanity of the Nazis, whom he lumps in with all the enemies of America itself.  In the Soldier’s simplistic worldview, if he is outraged, and he is American, than the ideals of America are good, and if the enemies of America are capable of such horror, than all who oppose America must be evil. All actions against evil then, must be justified. But in this, he becomes Screwball. Violent and sociopathic, incapable of making his own moral decisions if they contrast with the will of his superiors.

He totally misunderstands Clyde because while Clyde is a patriotic America soldier and proven assassin, he tellingly defies his superiors’ immoral order in the opening scene. He can still choose between good and evil without relying solely on the paradigm of nationhood to define his morality.

The Soldier is baffled when he lays what to him, is a logical destiny for Clyde at the agent’s feet, and Clyde chooses to utterly reject it, speaking fondly of Wallace and the promise of a woman’s smile, the notion that there are good things in the world.

CLYDE: You justify regimes every bit as bad as the ones you fight against. You want me to do your work even though you no longer believe in it yourself. You would have concealed your loss of faith in what you fight for, and you expect me to carry on as if I’d never learned the truth. Well sir, you are NOT an American soldier. I deny your legacy. I will not let you wash the blood off your hands onto mine.

And with that, Clyde takes out his pistol and shoots himself.

In this, Clyde teaches the Soldier a lesson which in the final panels, leaning on the flag atop the tomb of the unknown soldier in Arlington, he acknowledges.

Clyde is the true American, unsullied by the dark machinations of politicians and the fog of fanaticism.

img059What’s brilliant to me about this miniseries is that it hardly features the title character until the last issue, and by that time his reputation has been built up so much that you’re sort of champing at the bit to finally meet him. Ennis effectively ratchets up suspense and stakes without ever showing you the object of everybody’s obsession, using only original characters. It’s sort of like a story I once heard Ricardo Montalban tell, about how he was dubious about appearing in Wrath of Khan until he read the script and realized that despite his comparatively meager amount of screen time, every time Khan wasn’t center stage, every other character was talking about him.

It’s in effect, a cold war style mystery thriller, with one unfairly marked man pursuing a line of inquiry for the sake of truth to his own detriment and against the will of unsavory, conspiratorial forces all around him.

The series’ titular character reminds me a bit of a dark Captain America. Consider this, in my favorite bit of dialogue, when Boothe describes the Unknown Soldier –

CLYDE: What is he? Some kind of superhuman assassin?

BOOTHE: No. He’s seventy-five years old, Agent Clyde. He’s in ULTIMATE human condition. He’s been up to his neck in the bloodiest, darkest, most shameful corners of US foreign policy since 1942….but he’s just a man.

It sounds like a description of Cap, doesn’t it? And in a way, this whole conspiracy thriller reminds me of the recent Winter Soldier movie (or rather, Winter Soldier reminded me a bit of this).

img060Killian Plunkett’s art is gritty and wonderfully textured, with the almost lost art of inking showcased perfectly. Every wrinkle of clothing, every strand of hair, every slash of rain is vividly realized. I’d love to see the original black and whites, but I also have to praise colorist James Sinclair’s choices, especially in the ultimate episode, which takes place within a limited palette due to the rainy setting.

The series is collected in trade paperback and listed as (New Edition). No idea what that means, or there’s anything added to it, but I recommend checking it out. In this current climate where nationalism and patriotism are used as tools to not only exploit and distract the poor and oppressed, but to justify all levels of horrendous acts and behavior, I believe this one still has something relevant to say.

unknownsoldieropening

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