With Sword And Pistol Is Back!

Following the closure of Ragnarok Publications a couple of my books went out of print. Well, I’m happy to announce that my four novella collection With Sword And Pistol is back in print at Crossroads Press.

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Published in: on February 24, 2018 at 11:38 am  Leave a Comment  

Amandla Ngawethu!

So I’ve been boning up on Black Panther in anticipation of the movie – have read the character’s two initial appearances in Fantastic Four, the Ta-Nehesi Coates run (too dry – didn’t care for it), Christopher Priest’s (innovative and cool but a little bit too pop culture-y at times for me), and now Reginald Hudlin’s (AWESOME). It inspired me to sit down this morning and write this.

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In Hudlin’s TPB there’s a really brilliant piece he wrote in the back, The Black Panther: A Historical Overview and Look To The Future, in which he writes –
“The Black Panther is the Black Captain America. He’s the embodiment of the ideals of a people. As Americans, we feel good when we read Captain America because he reminds us of the potential of how good America can be, if, of course, we have the convictions to live by the principles the country was founded on. As a black person, the Black Panther should represent the fulfillment of the potential of the Motherland.”
There’s a great exchange between King T’Chaka and a representative of a global economic conference in issue three…
Rep: Your Majesty, we’ll pay whatever price you set for your goods.
T’Chaka: They are not for sale until the spiritual advancement of the West catches up to their technological prowess. It would be irresponsible to share our scientific discoveries with you.
Rep: What? Are you calling everyone here irresponsible children?
T’Chaka: No. More like sullen teenagers who feel more mature than their behavior warrants. The fact that every conversation here is framed in terms of profit and power says it all…you could have made half these breakthroughs yourself, but there’s too much money to be made in misery. Why cure a disease when people pay for medicine? Why provide cheap energy when…
Rep: We get the point, T’Chaka. Heh. I’ve never met a socialist with a crown on his head before, but I guess there’s a first time for everything…
T’Chaka: Who gave you permission to use my first name?
Rep: I…I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to offend…
T’Chaka: I understand your frustrations in dealing with a black man who can’t be bought with a truck load of guns, a plane load of blondes, and a Swiss bank account, but hold onto what little class you have.
Rep: Your Majesty, I truly apologize…
T’Chaka: This meeting is over.
* * *
That scene really hit for me. It’s everything I hope the Black Panther movie is, and why I’m really nervous about it failing. Black Panther needs to be political as all hell, safeties off. I love that it’s on the cover of Time, and that people are excited for it. I love that it’s going to be a celebration of black culture, as Luke Cage was, and I hope it lives up to the cultural touchstone people really want it to be. But I hope it goes a step further. I hope it inspires people. I hope it blindsides them with a truth they themselves suspected, but one that needed to come in under their wires somehow; that a nation becomes great when it cares for its people. I hope people come away thinking….”hmmm….that wouldn’t be so bad. Why don’t we have that? (and I don’t just mean the flying cars)”
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Ah, it’s a lot of hope to put on a Disney movie about a comic book character. Probably way too much.
But so what?

Wakanda is a sovereign nation unconquered, great because of its dedication to instilling pride in and bettering its own citizens with education and innovation, who holds its leader to a strict moral principle which then inspires them to emulate that principle themselves. There’s no want, no ignorance, no lack of compassion in Wakanda. In elevating one, all are elevated. Wouldn’t Wakanda be a great place to live? Couldn’t we come together to make Wakanda wherever we are?

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Published in: on February 11, 2018 at 9:54 am  Leave a Comment  
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The Rider Rides Again

It’s been HOW long since I posted here? Too long.

Well, here’s the cover art for the forthcoming re-release of my Merkbah Rider series – HIGH PLANES DRIFTER (yeah, I’m shortening the title a bit).  The artist is Juri Umagami (whose Instagram is HERE).

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Sharp-eyed fans will see this is a canny homage to the classic western that inspired the title, Eastwood’s High Plains Drifter.

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Wait till you see what we have planned for next book, The Mensch With No Name. I’d spoil it, but I’d never FORGIVE myself….

This first re-release will feature an additional little seen Rider story, The Shomer Express, and interior art by M. Wayne Miller who did the covers for my novel Terovolas and my collection Angler In Darkness.

Coming soon….

Published in: on February 9, 2018 at 3:12 pm  Comments (9)  
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The 112th Birthday of Robert E. Howard

Today is the anniversary of the birth of Robert E. Howard, the Texas author who is best known for creating the character Conan the Barbarian.

I owe a great debt to Howard for inspiring my own work, and so, as every year, I celebrate here on the blog with an excerpt from the man’s writing.

This year I decide to eschew the usual blood and thunder and post a bit of Howard’s humorous work, something I don’t think people recognize as much.

I used to read this aloud to my wife while she was pregnant, and it used to induce such belly laughs I would momentarily fear an early trip to the hospital.

This is from A Gent From Bear Creek, which features Howard’s Lil Abner-esque character Breckenridge Elkins. In this excerpt you get a bit of Howard’s trademark action, but his sense of folksy humor’s really on display here. I love the various turns of phrase – reminds me of Mark Twain at times.

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After I’d gone maybe a mile I heard somebody in the trail ahead of me, and peeking through the bushes, I seen a most pecooliar sight. It was a man on foot, going the same direction as me, and he had on what I instinctly guessed was city clothes. They warn’t buckskin nor homespun, nor yet like the duds Mister Wilkinson had on, but they were very beautiful, with big checks and stripes all over ’em. He had on a round hat with a narrer brim, and shoes like I hadn’t never seen before, being neither boots nor moccasins. He was dusty, and he cussed considerable as he limped along. Ahead of him I seen the trail made a hoss-shoe bend, so I cut straight across and got ahead of him, and as he come along, I come out of the bresh and throwed down on him with my cap-and-ball.

He throwed up his hands and hollered: “Don’t shoot!”

“I don’t want to, mister,” I said, “but I got to have clothes!”

He shook his head like he couldn’t believe I was so, and he said: “You ain’t the color of a Injun, but–what kind of people live in these hills, anyway?”

“Most of ’em’s Democrats,” I said. “But I ain’t got no time to talk politics. You climb out of them riggin’s.”

“My God!” he wailed. “My horse threw me off and ran away, and I’ve bin walkin’ for hours, expecting to get scalped by Injuns any minute, and now a naked lunatic on a mule demands my clothes! It’s too dern much!”

“I cain’t argy, mister,” I said; “somebody’s liable to come up the trail any minute. Hustle!” So saying I shot his hat off to encourage him.

He give a howl and shucked his duds in a hurry.

“My underclothes, too?” he demanded, shivering though it was very hot.

“Is that what them things is?” I demanded, shocked. “I never heard of a man wearin’ such womanish things. The country is goin’ to the dogs, just like pap says. You better git goin’. Take my mule. When I git to where I can git some regular clothes, we’ll swap back.”

He clumb onto Alexander kind of dubious, and says to me, despairful: “Will you tell me one thing–how do I get to Tomahawk?”

“Take the next turn to the right,” I said, “and–”

Jest then Alexander turned his head and seen them underclothes on his back, and he give a loud and ringing bray and sot sail down the trail at full speed with the stranger hanging on with both hands. Before they was out of sight they come to where the trail forked, and Alexander taken the left branch instead of the right, and vanished amongst the ridges.

I put on the clothes, and they scratched my hide something fierce. I thinks, well, I got store-bought clothes quicker’n I hoped to. But I didn’t think much of ’em. The coat split down the back, and the pants was too short, but the shoes was the wust; they pinched all over. I throwed away the socks, having never wore none, but put on what was left of the hat.

I went on down the trail, and taken the right-hand fork, and in a mile or so I come out on a flat, and heard hosses running. The next thing a mob of men on hosses bust into view. One of ’em yelled: “There he is!” and they all come for me full tilt. Instantly I decided that the stranger had got to Tomahawk after all, somehow, and had sot his friends onto me for stealing his clothes.

So I left the trail and took out across the sage grass, and they all charged after me, yelling stop. Well, them dern shoes pinched my feet so bad I couldn’t make much speed, so after I had run maybe a quarter of a mile I perceived that the hosses were beginning to gain on me. So I wheeled with my cap-and-ball in my hand, but I was going so fast, when I turned, them dern shoes slipped and I went over backwards into a cactus bed just as I pulled the trigger. So I only knocked the hat off of the first hossman. He yelled and pulled up his hoss, right over me nearly, and as I drawed another bead on him, I seen he had a bright shiny star on to his shirt. I dropped my gun and stuck up my hands.

They swarmed around me–cowboys, from their looks. The man with the star got off his hoss and picked up my gun and cussed.

“What did you lead us this chase through this heat and shoot at me for?” he demanded.

“I didn’t know you was a officer,” I said.

“Hell, McVey,” said one of ’em, “you know how jumpy tenderfeet is. Likely he thought we was Santry’s outlaws. Where’s yore hoss?”

“I ain’t got none,” I said.

“Got away from you, hey?” said McVey. “Well, climb up behind Kirby here, and let’s git goin’.”

To my surprise, the sheriff stuck my gun back in the scabbard, and so I clumb up behind Kirby, and away we went. Kirby kept telling me not to fall off, and it made me mad, but I said nothing. After an hour or so we come to a bunch of houses they said was Tomahawk. I got panicky when I seen all them houses, and would have jumped down and run for the mountains, only I knowed they’d catch me, with them dern pinchy shoes on.

I hadn’t never seen such houses before. They was made out of boards, mostly, and some was two stories high. To the north-west and west the hills riz up a few hundred yards from the backs of the houses, and on the other sides there was plains, with bresh and timber on them.

“You boys ride into town and tell the folks that the shebang starts soon,” said McVey. “Me and Kirby and Richards will take him to the ring.”

I could see people milling around in the streets, and I never had no idee they was that many folks in the world. The sheriff and the other two fellers rode around the north end of the town and stopped at a old barn and told me to get off. So I did, and we went in and they had a kind of room fixed up in there with benches and a lot of towels and water buckets, and the sheriff said: “This ain’t much of a dressin’ room, but it’ll have to do. Us boys don’t know much about this game, but we’ll second you as good as we can. One thing–the other feller ain’t got no manager nor seconds neither. How do you feel?”

“Fine,” I said, “but I’m kind of hungry.”

“Go git him somethin’, Richards,” said the sheriff.

“I didn’t think they et just before a bout,” said Richards.

“Aw, I reckon he knows what he’s doin’,” said McVey. “Gwan.”

So Richards pulled out, and the sheriff and Kirby walked around me like I was a prize bull, and felt my muscles, and the sheriff said: “By golly, if size means anything, our dough is as good as in our britches right now!”

I pulled my dollar out of my scabbard and said I would pay for my keep, and they haw-hawed and slapped me on the back and said I was a great joker. Then Richards come back with a platter of grub, with a lot of men wearing boots and guns and whiskers, and they stomped in and gawped at me, and McVey said: “Look him over, boys! Tomahawk stands or falls with him today!”

They started walking around me like him and Kirby done, and I was embarrassed and et three or four pounds of beef and a quart of mashed pertaters, and a big hunk of white bread, and drunk about a gallon of water, because I was purty thirsty. Then they all gaped like they was surprised about something, and one of ’em said: “How come he didn’t arrive on the stagecoach yesterday?”

“Well,” said the sheriff, “the driver told me he was so drunk they left him at Bisney, and come on with his luggage, which is over there in the corner. They got a hoss and left it there with instructions for him to ride on to Tomahawk as soon as he sobered up. Me and the boys got nervous today when he didn’t show up, so we went out lookin’ for him, and met him hoofin’ it down the trail.”

“I bet them Perdition _hombres_ starts somethin’,” said Kirby. “Ain’t a one of ’em showed up yet. They’re settin’ over at Perdition soakin’ up bad licker and broodin’ on their wrongs. They shore wanted this show staged over there. They claimed that since Tomahawk was furnishin’ one-half of the attraction, and Gunstock the other half, the razee ought to be throwed at Perdition.”

“Nothin’ to it,” said McVey. “It laid between Tomahawk and Gunstock, and we throwed a coin and won it. If Perdition wants trouble she can git it. Is the boys r’arin’ to go?”

“Is they!” says Richards. “Every bar in Tomahawk is crowded with hombres full of licker and civic pride. They’re bettin’ their shirts, and they has been nine fights already. Everybody in Gunstock’s here.”

“Well, le’s git goin’,” says McVey, getting nervous. “The quicker it’s over, the less blood there’s likely to be spilt.”

The first thing I knowed, they had laid hold of me and was pulling my clothes off, so it dawned on me that I must be under arrest for stealing that stranger’s clothes. Kirby dug into the baggage which was in one corner of the stall, and dragged out a funny looking pair of pants; I know now they was white silk. I put ’em on because I didn’t have nothing else to put on, and they fitted me like my skin. Richards tied a American flag around my waist, and they put some spiked shoes onto my feet.

I let ’em do like they wanted to, remembering what pap said about not resisting no officer. Whilst so employed I begun to hear a noise outside, like a lot of people whooping and cheering. Purty soon in come a skinny old gink with whiskers and two guns on, and he hollered: “Lissen here, Mac, dern it, a big shipment of gold is down there waitin’ to be took off by the evenin’ stage, and the whole blame town is deserted on account of this dern foolishness. Suppose Comanche Santry and his gang gits wind of it?”

“Well,” said McVey, “I’ll send Kirby here to help you guard it.”

“You will like hell,” says Kirby. “I’ll resign as deputy first. I got every cent of my dough on this scrap, and I aim to see it.”

“Well, send somebody!” says the old codger. “I got enough to do runnin’ my store, and the stage stand, and the post office, without–”

He left, mumbling in his whiskers, and I said: “Who’s that?”

“Aw,” said Kirby, “that’s old man Brenton that runs the store down at the other end of town, on the east side of the street. The post office is in there, too.”

“I got to see him,” I says. “There’s a letter–”

Just then another man come surging in and hollered: “Hey, is yore man ready? Folks is gittin’ impatient!”

“All right,” says McVey, throwing over me a thing he called a bathrobe. Him and Kirby and Richards picked up towels and buckets and things, and we went out the oppersite door from what we come in, and they was a big crowd of people there, and they whooped and shot off their pistols. I would have bolted back into the barn, only they grabbed me and said it was all right. We pushed through the crowd, and I never seen so many boots and pistols in my life, and we come to a square corral made out of four posts sot in the ground, and ropes stretched between. They called this a ring and told me to get in. I done so, and they had turf packed down so the ground was level as a floor and hard and solid. They told me to set down on a stool in one corner, and I did, and wrapped my robe around me like a Injun.

Then everybody yelled, and some men, from Gunstock, McVey said, clumb through the ropes on the other side. One of ’em was dressed like I was, and I never seen such a funny-looking human. His ears looked like cabbages, and his nose was plumb flat, and his head was shaved and looked right smart like a bullet. He sot down in a oppersite corner.

Then a feller got up and waved his arms, and hollered: “Gents, you all know the occasion of this here suspicious event. Mister Bat O’Tool, happenin’ to be passin’ through Gunstock, consented to fight anybody which would meet him. Tomahawk riz to the occasion by sendin’ all the way to Denver to procure the services of Mister Bruiser McGoorty, formerly of San Francisco!”

He p’inted at me, and everybody cheered and shot off their pistols, and I was embarrassed and bust out in a cold sweat.

“This fight,” said the feller, “will be fit accordin’ to London Prize Ring Rules, same as in a champeenship go. Bare fists, round ends when one of ’em’s knocked down or throwed down. Fight lasts till one or t’other ain’t able to come up to the scratch when time’s called. I, Yucca Blaine, have been selected as referee because, bein’ from Chawed Ear, I got no prejudices either way. Air you all ready? Time!”

McVey hauled me off my stool and pulled off my bathrobe and pushed me out into the ring. I nearly died with embarrassment, but I seen the feller they called O’Tool didn’t have on no more clothes than me. He approached and held out his hand like he wanted to shake hands, so I held out mine. We shook hands, and then without no warning he hit me a awful lick on the jaw with his left. It was like being kicked by a mule. The first part of me which hit the turf was the back of my head. O’Tool stalked back to his corner, and the Gunstock boys was dancing and hugging each other, and the Tomahawk fellers was growling in their whiskers and fumbling with their guns and bowie knives.

McVey and his deperties rushed into the ring before I could get up and dragged me to my corner and began pouring water on me.

“Air you hurt much?” yelled McVey.

“How can a man’s fist hurt anybody?” I ast. “I wouldn’t of fell down, only I was caught off-guard. I didn’t know he was goin’ to hit me. I never played no game like this here’n before.”

Elkins_02_webMcVey dropped the towel he was beating me in the face with, and turned pale. “Ain’t you Bruiser McGoorty of San Francisco?” he hollered.

“Naw,” I said. “I’m Breckinridge Elkins, from up in the Humbolt Mountains. I come here to git a letter for pap.”

“But the stagecoach driver described them clothes–” he begun wildly.

“A Injun stole my clothes,” I explained, “so I taken some off’n a stranger. Maybe that was Mister McGoorty.”

“What’s the matter?” ast Kirby, coming up with another bucket of water. “Time’s about ready to be called.”

“We’re sunk!” bawled McVey. “This ain’t McGoorty! This is a derned hillbilly which murdered McGoorty and stole his clothes!”

“We’re rooint!” exclaimed Richards, aghast. “Everybody’s bet their dough without even seein’ our man, they was that full of trust and civic pride. We cain’t call it off now. Tomahawk is rooint! What’ll we do?”

“He’s goin’ to git in there and fight his derndest,” said McVey, pulling his gun and jamming it into my back. “We’ll hang him after the fight.”

“But he cain’t box!” wailed Richards.

“No matter,” said McVey; “the fair name of our town is at stake; Tomahawk promised to supply a fighter to fight O’Tool, and–”

“Oh!” I said, suddenly seeing light. “This here is a fight then, ain’t it?”

McVey give a low moan, and Kirby reched for his gun, but just then the referee hollered time, and I jumped up and run at O’Tool. If a fight was all they wanted, I was satisfied. All that talk about rules, and the yelling of the crowd and all had had me so confused I hadn’t knowed what it was all about. I hit at O’Tool and he ducked and hit me in the belly and on the nose and in the eye and on the ear. The blood spurted, and the crowd hollered, and he looked plumb dumbfounded and gritted betwixt his teeth: “Are you human? Why don’t you fall?”

I spit out a mouthful of blood and got my hands on him and started chawing his ear, and he squalled like a catamount. Yucca run in and tried to pull me loose and I give him a slap under the ear and he turned a somersault into the ropes.

“Yore man’s fightin’ foul!” he squalled, and Kirby said: “Yo’re crazy! Do you see this gun? You holler ‘foul’ just once more, and it’ll go off!”

Meanwhile O’Tool had broke loose from me and caved in his knuckles on my jaw, and I come for him again, because I was beginning to lose my temper. He gasped: “If you want to make an alley-fight out of it, all right. I wasn’t raised in Five Points for nothing!” He then rammed his knee into my groin, and groped for my eye, but I got his thumb in my teeth and begun masticating it, and the way he howled was a caution.

By this time the crowd was crazy, and I throwed O’Tool and begun to stomp him, when somebody let bang at me from the crowd and the bullet cut my silk belt and my pants started to fall down.

I grabbed ’em with both hands, and O’Tool riz up and rushed at me, bloody and bellering, and I didn’t dare let go my pants to defend myself. I whirled and bent over and lashed out backwards with my right heel like a mule, and I caught him under the chin. He done a cartwheel in the air, his head hit the turf, and he bounced on over and landed on his back with his knees hooked over the lower rope. There warn’t no question about him being out. The only question was, was he dead?

A roar of “Foul!” went up from the Gunstock men, and guns bristled all around the ring.

The Tomahawk men was cheering and yelling that I’d won fair and square, and the Gunstock men was cussing and threatening me, when somebody hollered: “Leave it to the referee!”

“Sure,” said Kirby. “He knows our man won fair, and if he don’t say so, I’ll blow his head off!”

“That’s a lie!” bellered a Gunstock man. “He knows it war a foul, and if he says it warn’t, I’ll kyarve his gizzard with this here bowie knife!”

At them words Yucca fainted, and then a clatter of hoofs sounded above the din, and out of the timber that hid the trail from the east a gang of hossmen rode at a run. Everybody yelled: “Look out, here comes them Perdition illegitimates!”

Instantly a hundred guns covered ’em, and McVey demanded: “Come ye in peace or in war?”

“We come to unmask a fraud!” roared a big man with a red bandanner around his neck. “McGoorty, come forth!”

A familiar figger, now dressed in cowboy togs, pushed forward on my mule. “There he is!” this figger yelled, p’inting a accusing finger at me. “That’s the desperado that robbed me! Them’s my tights he’s got on!”

“What is this?” roared the crowd.

“A cussed fake!” bellered the man with the red bandanner. “This here is Bruiser McGoorty!”

“Then who’s he?” somebody bawled, p’inting at me.

“I’m Breckinridge Elkins and I can lick any man here!” I roared, getting mad. I brandished my fists in defiance, but my britches started sliding down again, so I had to shut up and grab ’em.

Published in: on January 22, 2018 at 11:45 am  Comments (1)  
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The Six Demon Bag Podcast!

I have been remiss in not mentioning that I’m on a podcast!

The Six Demon Bag Podcast, with my friends, fellow writer Jeff Carter, editor Ryan Gerossie and videogame know-it-all Andrew Weary.

We stick our hands in a bag and pull out random topics on movies, video games, writing, all that kind of thing. Sometimes we’re even amusing.

We have just begun our second season, so take a listen. New episodes most Sundays. Link added to the right under ‘Other Ways To Find Me.’

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Published in: on January 10, 2018 at 9:40 pm  Leave a Comment  
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New Years Movie Roundup 2017

I didn’t get to the movies as much as I would have liked this year.  Missed out on a lot what with traveling and family. Slept on Mother!, Last Flag Flying,
Professor Marston And The Wonder Women, Lady Bird, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, The Disaster Artist, Happy Death Day, The Shape Of Water, Hostiles, All The Money In The World, and Molly’s Game.

However, there was a lot of great stuff released this year. My top ten new release viewings of the year were –

1. Blade Runner 2049 – I was never clamoring for a Blade Runner sequel, but Villeneuve’s masterful revisitation of Ridley Scott’s seminal dystopian noire was far and away the finest movie I saw in 2017. For the first time in years I sat through the end credits not because I was waiting for some cutesy fan stinger, but because I was completely flabbergasted by what I’d just seen and in awe of the achievement of everybody involved. An instant classic, even, I would venture to say, surpassing the original.
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2. I Am Not Your Negro – Documentary narrated by Samuel L. Jackson about the unpublished writings of James Baldwin regarding the civil rights movement in America. Literate and harrowing, this film should be required viewing not just for everyone trying to understand the histrionics of the racial divide in this country, but by every American period.
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3. Your Name (technically a cheat as it really came out end of last year in limited release) – What I expected would be a cutesy lark of an anime about a boy and a girl randomly switching bodies turned out to be the most moving and heartfelt fantasy film I’d seen in years, and easily the best Japanese animated movie to come along since Miyazaki. I was honestly riveted by the unguessable twists and sometimes dark turns it took.
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4. T2 Trainspotting – Another sequel I didn’t know I wanted till I was once again immersed in the lives of Ren, Begby, Sickboy and Spud. A punchy, raw, honest and at times hilarious look at the onset of middle age in characters who had so encompassed the frenetic wildness of youth. Seeing them again was like going home.
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5. Coco – Vibrant, glorious, passionate Mexican fable from Pixar about a boy who pines for a life of music in a family where past tragedies have driven all music from their lives. The comparison to the Del Toro produced Book of Life is unavoidable, but while there are some similarities, this stands admirably on its own as a loving meditation on family, art, and reconciliation.
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6. Brawl In Cell Block 99 – I wasn’t a fan of Bone Tomahawk, but S. Craig Zahler’s crime thriller followup about a reluctant crook forced to do dirt behind bars to keep his pregnant wife safe was a top watch, with a brutal, intimidating performance by Vince Vaughn, brilliantly cast against type – well, I can’t say that. Vaughn is a big guy, and it just took a stroke of genius from Zahler or his casting director to recognize in him the capacity for such a violent, physical role.
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7. Alien Covenant – A lot of people have completely hated Ridley Scott’s enigmatic prequels to the Alien franchise. I’m not one of them. I still think Prometheus is a flawed masterpiece, and I derived giddy enjoyment from the followup, which subverted my expectations of another mysterious exploration of the Engineers and instead presented itself as a grand guignol Hammer Frankenstein movie set in space while still continuing the underlying theological themes of its predecessor.
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8. Lego Batman Movie – Possibly the single funnest Batman movie ever made, sending up every iteration of the character while never devolving into mere thoughtless parody, and thus displaying more genuine love for the character than any filmmakers have shown thus far. And there was even a Gymkata joke. 

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9. A Cure For Wellness – This was a gem of a horror picture about a man trapped in a remote mountain sanitarium boasted some of the most staggering visual compositions outside of Blade Runner 2049 and perhaps Killing Of A Sacred Deer, but it was much maligned for a perceived tonal shift in the last reel. I didn’t get the hate. I was hypnotized by the dread and like Alien Covenant, found the ending appropriately Hammer-esque. I still can’t believe people preferred The Void to this. 

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 10. The Girl With All The Gifts – I might be the last guy on earth that’s still open to a good zombie movie. This one was very good, from its gripping opening to its Richard Matheson-esque denouement.
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Let’s hope 2018 brings some happy watching. Feliz ano nuevo.

The Knight With Two Swords from Ragnarok Publications

ADDENDUM:

So I’ve got to tack a few words on this post explaining why Knight With Two Swords hasn’t come out yet. Those with preorders will notice on Amazon that the release date has currently changed to February.

Some of you may know that Ragnarok Publications’ future is currently in doubt, that a lot of authors have moved their books to other presses. Given the amount of preorders this book has garnered (thanks to those who put their money up), I’ve talked it over with the current contract holders, and while Knight may not be released under the Ragnarok banner, it may still come out under a related aegis.

The short of it is, the book’s been delayed, but the book is in the hands of the designers and is basically just waiting on the business end to sort itself out. It’s absolutely not been canceled. It’ll be out next year with that cover you see below. You’ll know more when I do.  – EME

Coming soon, The Knight With Two Swords, my Arthurian fantasy novel about Sir Balin The Savage, the knight who, in Arthurian lore, loses the Holy Grail.

knight

Cover art by Chris Yabrough, Design by Shawn King

Balin and his twin brother Brulen grow up revering their dead father, a storied knight of the High King Uther’s time, but are held back from following in his footsteps by their mother, a priestess of the old religion whose capitol is the Isle of Avalon and whose chief defender is Merlin, the son of a demon. Brulen respects the old ways, but Balin submits to the will of the Christian God. When their mother is burned at the stake as a witch by fanatics, Balin blames the corrupting influence of Avalon, and Brulen declares war on the Christian priests. The two take very different paths to knighthood.

A new high king arises; Arthur, whose rule must unite pagan and Christian alike. Sir Balin, now known as The Savage, answers the king’s call, but in his heart, questions the presence of the shadowy wizard Merlin beside the throne. When a vengeful enchantress comes to court bearing a cursed sword and promises to make Balin the greatest knight in Albion if he will slay his beloved king, Balin sets out on a long quest that will veer between God and glory, love and madness, justice and revenge, and shake the land of Albion to its very foundation.

I think my first real exposure to Arthuriana was probably an early episode of GI Joe where Storm Shadow the ninja discovered Excalibur in a British castle and wielded it against the Joes. Not auspicious, maybe, but it stuck with me, and later I saw Boorman’s Excalibur, which made a huge impression on my adolescent sensibilities and rendered a good many of my early D&D characters insufferable paladins.

I read Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Mists of Avalon, but I think it was my aunt lending me her copies of Mary Stewart’s Merlin trilogy (The Crystal Cave, The Hollow Hills, The Last Enchantment, and the Mordred-centric follow up The Wicked Day) that made me finally seek out Mallory and de Troyes.

Of course the histrionics of Arthur are interesting, but I’ve always been drawn to the legendry of it, the enduring fantasy that’s come down to us through the ages, as Steinbeck was in his Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights.

This article on the NY Times, reprinting Steinbeck’s forward of his retelling is worth a look.  If I were a plagiarist, I would have copied the thing verbatim for my own as it sums up the affection I have for Arthur pretty well.

balinFor my own Arthurian novel, and my first leap from my usual horror and historical fantasy offerings to the classic sword and sorcery variety, I chose to retell Malory’s Sir Balin The Savage: The Knight With The Two Swords, a tragedy about the rise and fall of the best of Arthur’s knights, and the events that lead into the legend of the Holy Grail Quest we know so much about. It’s a legend that always resonated deeply with me, the story of a marginal hero, a tumultuous man striving always to be something better than what he is, a man raised to revere ideals which he himself as well as those he meets in the real world cannot possibly live up to, and the pain that ensues when he tries to force things to fit.

I’m very excited for you to read it. Here’s an excerpt.

—————————————————————————–

a1d83fc1695b40d74c64ef684fec8f7eLances pierced steel and muscle, lifting men screaming into the air. Others exploded with lightning cracks, pounding metal and pulverizing the bone beneath it. Limbs flailed wildly and without reason as evicted souls departed their broken, bloody cases.

The great ram and the wet hide canopy above it collapsed as the besiegers suddenly found themselves besieged.

In the initial tangle of retreat from the hammer charge, men died, bones snapping beneath iron shod hooves or the heavy boots of their own fleeing warriors. In the wake of the great push, the squires swarmed over the groaning wounded, dealing death as quick as the flicking tongues of adders with dagger edge and spear point.

A hundred and forty knights smashed into the numerically superior Saxons, and for one storied, effervescent moment, successfully drove them back. But behind them waited the dream crushing armored cavalry of Orkney and Norgales, and the hard knights of Snowdonia, led by Sir Segurant The Brown, two thousand strong.

These spread into a steel shield and thundered across the plain to catch the rebounding Saxon footmen and check Arthur’s spear point.

The forward knights of Camelot and Cameliard had lost their lances, and so those in the rear that had kept theirs intact, doubled their speed to take the front. Arthur, Kay, Bedivere, Balin, and Gawaine fell back and drew their swords.

Balin saw Geraint, Agravaine, and Gaheris fly past, leveling their lances as they went. He looked for Brulen, but did not see his brother.

Lance point met shield and plackart and helm as it had in hundreds of bright tournaments on the sunlit tiltyard before Camelot. But this was no war play now for token or gamble, and knights crashed to the ground with a tremulous cacophony of sound, some never to rise again. Horses screamed, pierced or broken legged, and flopped about the bloody field, rolling over their masters.

The superior force of Segurant caught and crushed the charge, then enclosed them like a fist, riding in with chopping swords and swishing flails to rake and batter those that had fallen and struggled to rise.

Excalibur and the Adventurous Sword rang out and struck alongside each other as they had only once before in forgotten times, until the melee became a writhing knot of steel clad riders and unhorsed fighters. Balin and Arthur were separated like leaves in a storm swift eddy. Balin blessed this turn. Every moment he spent at Arthur’s side, he feared the sword in his own hand.

There was no easy gauging the battle now. It took effort for Balin to remain in the saddle of Ironprow. At every turn the enemy came, faceless juggernauts of iron and steel, tarnished and bright, bloody and spotless, of every fashion, pauldrons heavy and winged, helms flowing bright plumes or flapping with silken ribbons, arms tied with soft remembrances of women who would grieve them before the sun set. Balin’s sword and shield met axe and mace, morning star and greatsword, until finally the latter caved and broke apart.

Then, Balin let slip his ruined shield and drew his second sword, or rather his first, the trusty weapon with which he had trained and been dubbed so long ago. He lay about him as he had at the crossroads, no longer giving any though to defense, merely turning and cutting, stabbing and slashing, casting himself heedless into the unending fray. He locked his knees and let the reins fly wild. Ironprow understood somehow, and wheeled and jumped, switching its master’s facing constantly, as if the worthy animal knew that the heavy, roaring thing on its back would meet and end every impending threat to its own sweaty hide.

A ring of armor began to form around Balin’s pitching mount as more and more Snowdonians took note of the wild enemy fighter in their midst and rushed forth to seize his life for their glory, meeting instead their own inglorious endings. Men swore vengeance at their fallen fellows and then swiftly joined them. Others lay whimpering final prayers as fresh dead came slamming down atop them, the foundation and brick of a wall of dead, with blood and viscera the mortar.

For an instant, Balin found respite, like a summoner safe inside his warding circle of steel-clad corpses. His swords had built a makeshift berm which destriers and coursers, and even the most battle hardened chargers balked to leap, fearing either the heavy scent of death or rolling eyes at the sight of the devil horse and its demon rider waiting on the other side like a consuming fire. New attackers dismounted to clamber clumsily over the dead and get at him.

rheadarbBalin saw beyond the clash of arms where the remainder of the spirit-broken Saxons, still thousands strong, milled anxiously, watching the fight, eager and yet fearing to join. They had not yet flowed through the broken gate of Carhaix, though. A group of Saxon chiefs and their mounted bodyguard hovered near the entrance, preventing their subordinates from looting.

No doubt as part of their pact with Rience, the city was being held for him to claim.

Balin looked across the field then and spied the King of Snowdonia and Norgales himself, tall in his saddle, freshly armed and in his beard-trimmed cape. He was behind a line of archers and footmen which seemed innumerable to a lone knight in the midst of his last stand. All his commanders were there with him too. There was the wraith-like King Lot beside him, and the bright blonde Osla Big Knife, all calmly watching their utter destruction from afar.

And behind them, empty grass, and that lone island of old trees.

Then above the ring of steel and the screams of men, a familiar voice called to him, “What is your name, knight?”

Balin looked down from Ironprow and saw a powerful, lone knight with a white beard and cruelly spiked pauldrons, bearing a bloody greatsword. He had cast off his bassinet and great helm. The knight stood insolently on the pile of corpses Balin had made. Though he was of their number, they were not his peers, and were but a footstool to his own purpose.

Sir Segurant The Brown. The greatest knight of King Uther’s Round Table of old.

“Sir Balin of Northumberland,” Balin called down.

No one else was coming in to fight him now. Segurant had claimed him.

“I am Sir Segurant The Brown. Step down into this arena you’ve made for us, Sir Balin,” he said, descending nimbly down the bloody limbs like a stair until he stood underneath the snorting muzzle of Ironprow.

Balin breathed heavy. His arms were trembling, hanging at his sides. Having given them a brief rest to observe the enemy, they had failed him now, perhaps thinking the fight was over.

But he could not let the challenge go by. Segurant may have been a great man once, but he was a servant of the Devil now, and his haughty pride was loathsome to behold.

“God grant me strength,” Balin muttered and leaned forward to kiss the mane of Ironprow before sliding out of his saddle to light upon the ground.

—————————————————————-
Before Arthur, there was Uther.
Before Lancelot, there was Balin The Savage.
Before the Holy Grail could be found…it had to be lost.

https://www.amazon.com/Knight-Two-Swords-Edward-Erdelac/dp/1945528540

Published in: on November 9, 2017 at 11:04 am  Leave a Comment  

Conquer Gets Crowned in Occult Detective Quarterly #3

Electric Pentacle has put out Occult Detective Quarterly #3 and with it, my character, cool 70’s blaxploitation occultist John Conquer returns, in Conquer Gets Crowned.

When a group of Harlem graffiti artists show up in Conquer’s office with a story about a monster prowling the subway tunnels where they practice their trade, Conquer is dubious, until one of the kids shows him a sketch of the thing in his notebook and he recognizes a mystic symbol emblazoned on its chest that no uninitiated kid with a spray can could possibly come up with on his own. Conquer hits the books and then hits the streets….time for Conquer to get crowned.

Here’s an excerpt, and the bee-you-tiful accompanying art from the talented Sebastian Cabrol.
conquergetscrowned

Somebody rapped on Conquer’s office door.

He groaned, kicked his shoes under the desk, and pulled his chair in. He wanted to tell whoever was outside to fuck off, but he couldn’t afford to turn anybody away or he wouldn’t be able to look at his pretty new receptionist for much longer. He’d already had to send her home for the day. The calls were just too few and far between.

“It’s open,” he muttered, hoping they didn’t hear him.

But they did.

He regretted answering at all at the first sight of the three ragged teenagers that shuffled in. Ripped jeans, hippy satchels, bomber jackets, black-smudged Converse. By the look of them, they had maybe a dime between them and they owed it to somebody. They smelled like they spent a lot of time in a garage, scooting under cars and inhaling car paint.

Two of them were young brothers, one big, black as a tire, hair in cornrows, the other tall and butter colored, so skinny his prodigious afro made him look like an oddball topiary.

The third was a heroin-scrawny, ludicrously smooth faced little white kid with dirty blonde angel curls and oversized blue eyes ready to melt at any minute. He was hugging himself like he’d just found out a pimp’s Cadillac had rolled over his puppy out on Lenox Avenue. His clothes and hair shrieked North Bronx.

“I gave to Helping Hand already this week, boys,” Conquer said, pushing back his chair again and relaxing a bit. “Shut the door behind you.”

“Yo,” said the tall one, who, Conquer noticed, was a bit cleaner and more Spanish than the other two, probably Puerto Rican, “is you the magic man?”

“Say what?”

“People say John Conquer the detective is a magic man. A doctor. Un brujo.”

Conquer lit a cigarette and looked down the length of it at the kid through a cloud of smoke.

“What people?”

“Mama Underwood. She said John Conquer takes care of a certain kinda trouble.”

“Yeah? What kind you got, kid?”

The Spanish kid turned to the white boy expectantly, but the kid just stared. That got to Conquer, that stare. He’d seen it in the eyes of kids in Quảng Ngãi Province in ’66. Kids who had seen shit they shouldn’t have.

The kid stepped gingerly past his friends, as if he was afraid Conquer would make a grab at him. He put a beat up notebook with a black cover on the desk, and his hand hovered over it.

Impatient, Conquer reached out and slid it closer, spinning it, flipping it open.

The notebook was full of that bubble letter rainbow squiggly shit that gave the Mayor and the pigs aneurysms and made every bus and train in the five boroughs a pastel-colored eyesore.

He paged through the nonsense quickly, disinterested.

“You want some free legal advice? Get rid of this thing. It’s incriminating –“

And then he cut himself off as he came to a startlingly weird picture. It was different than anything else in there, not stylized or colored with markers. This was done in pencil, various shades of gray. The kid had real talent, at least a future drawing those schlocky horror comics on the newsstand if he wanted it. The drawing was of a big-headed, long limbed thing ducking in the heavy shadows of a tunnel, cartoonishly big, black bug eyes shining out of the dark like a boogeyman. It gave him the creeps.

“That’s it!” exclaimed the Puerto Rican kid, stepping forward. “Yo, that’s the thing that killed Mad Bomber.”

“Who?”

“Our boy, Mike Bermudez, Mad Bomber. That’s what we called him.”

Mike Bermudez. That name sounded familiar.

“It got him in the One Tunnel,” said the black kid.

“What one tunnel?”

“Nah man, the One. On the 1 line? Between 137th and 145th? The station yard.”

The subway line. Then he remembered.

“That kid that got hit by a train a couple days ago?”

He had read about in the paper. These graffiti kids congregated in the underground train yards, where the city stored the cars overnight and off peak hours on the weekends, vandalizing the parked rolling stock in the dead of night. Apparently this Bermudez kid had slipped and fallen on the rail, knocked himself out, then got chewed up when the 1’s and 3’s rolled out for duty, before anybody noticed he was on the tracks.

“It wasn’t no train,” said the Puerto Rican kid, tapping the grotesque drawing in the graffiti book. “It was that. Baby Face seen it happen.”

Baby Face, obviously the quiet white boy. Mad Bomber.

“What are you all, some kinda gang?”

“Naw man, we don’t fuck with that shit,” said the dark one with the cornrows. “We All-city. NBA crew.”

He raised his eyebrows and glanced at their feet.

“Not with them shoes.”

“C’mon. We’re writers, man,” said the Puerto Rican. “We don’t flex, just bomb. That’s us,” he said, tapping one of the designs in the book, a jumble of letters incomprehensible to Conquer. “N-B-A. Notorious Bombs Away.”

“This is Rockwell 145, yo! W-A-R.” The dark one said, hyping his Puerto Rican friend, as though that should have made Conquer put his shoes back on. “And I sign Presto 125. They’re sellin’ our pieces at Franklin Furnace downtown, man. Sellin’ ‘em, you dig?”

“So what the hell does all that mean?” Conquer said, folding his hands.

“It means we can pay you, man,” said Rockwell, reaching into his school bag and taking out a brick of cash that made Conquer toe his shoes a little under the desk.

The kid set the brick down on the desk. It must have been a couple hundred bucks in small bills. It reeked of spray paint from the bag, but that would be the Freedom National Bank’s problem.

“What’s the job, kid?” said Conquer.

“Go down in the tunnel and get this motherfuckin’ thing that killed our friend.”

Conquer looked down at the book of doodling again, and took a good long look at the thing in question.  He was half-ready to write this off as some crazy ghetto bugaboo story when he saw the faint design etched on its naked chest. A circle with some harrowingly familiar characters. There was something in the middle of it, a jagged mark, like a wound.

He looked at Baby Face, who only stared at that picture.

“Baby Face,” he said, getting his attention with a snap of his fingers that made the poor kid flinch. He touched the mark in the center of the shadowy thing’s chest. “You really see this?”

“I seen it,” the kid said quietly, unable to keep the tremble out of his voice. “I really seen it. It come at us outta the dark. Picked up Mike like nothin’ and…”

“I mean this,” Conquer interrupted, tapping the symbol. “This right here. You saw this on its chest?”

Baby Face nodded.

“It had a cut in the middle even, like my uncle’s pacemaker scar.”

Conquer bit his lip and frowned. He looked at the others.

“You saw it too?”

Rockwell and Presto exchanged glances then shook their heads.

“It’s real, man!” Baby Face asserted.

“Yo, if Baby Face says it’s real, it’s real,” Rockwell said defiantly, but Presto pursed his lips and looked doubtful.

“Ease up, man, I believe you,” said Conquer. He stood up and slipped into his shoes.

The fact was, there was no way some kid from the Bronx could come up with an actual magic symbol like this outside of fucking around in Horrible Herman’s book shop on West 19th in Chelsea. Maybe not even there. If Baby Face’s drawing was accurate, this was weird, experimental shit; a mish mash of complex Abramelin ritual, obscure, dark necromancy, and Thai black magic he had seen on I&I in Bangkok during the war. It was like somebody was skimming from a pretty expansive black library, picking what they wanted from it, making something new and possibly way worse than any of its elements.

Sometimes he felt himself directed, put into the path of unrighteous things by old forces he couldn’t name but which expected him to correct them. Maybe old gods, maybe his busybody Dahomeyan ancestors. Maybe in this case it was just the old Hoodoo lady Mama Underwood, recognizing something beyond her understanding and pointing these kids in his direction.

Maybe.

But it wasn’t how he wanted to kick off his weekend.

Get Conquer and ODQ #3 right here and check out the mag’s other offerings from weird sleuthing  aficionados Brian M Sammons, Alice Loweecy, The Ever Lovin’ Willie Meikle and more.

https://www.amazon.com/Occult-Detective-Quarterly-Issue-3/dp/1979113343/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1509638355&sr=8-1&keywords=occult+detective+quarterly&dpID=51kG8ErSOGL&preST=_SX218_BO1,204,203,200_QL40_&dpSrc=srch

Published in: on November 2, 2017 at 9:14 am  Leave a Comment  
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My Interview On Scifipulse.net

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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