M. Wayne Miller’s Art for Merkabah Rider 2….

Merkabah Rider: High Planes Drifter is out now, revamped, with a new short story, brand new cover by Juri Umagami and interior art by M. Wayne Miller.

So how about a preview of M. Wayne Miller’s interior art for Merkabah Rider 2: The Mensch With No Name?

Here’s the illo for ‘The Infernal Napoleon.’

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Merkabah Rider: High Planes Drifter Is Now Available

After a long hiatus, Merkabah Rider, the greatest weird western about a Hasidic gunslinger tracking the renegade teacher who betrayed his mystic Jewish order of astral travelers across the demon haunted Southwest of 1879 is back in print and Kindle on Amazon.

Featuring new interior illustrations by M. Wayne Miller and cover art by Juri Umagami.

“Ed Erdelac’s  Merkabah Rider is equal parts Tolkien, Leone, and Lovecraft and yet manages to remain completely original, and that is quite an accomplishment. This is a FANTASTIC series. – Geof Darrow, Eisner Award winning creator of Shaolin Cowboy and Hard Boiled.

“The Rider is a fabulous character, in all senses of that word, and Erdelac’s a fabulous writer. High Planes Drifter contains all the demons, ancient gods, and gunplay a lover of weird westerns could want, but told from an angle no one else has touched before. Where else are you going to find a Jewish Doctor Strange packing heat in the old west? Nowhere, that’s where. This is crazily entertaining stuff.” – Daryl Gregory, award-winning author of Pandemonium and Spoonbenders

“Riding out of the Old West comes the Merkabah Rider, a Hasidic gunfighter who owes his provenance as much to the nasty inhabitants of Elmore Leonard’s westerns as he does his piousness to Robert E. Howard’s Solomon Kane. This highly original episodic series breathes new life into the overworked western with tight action, inglorious heroes, and unpredictable plots.” – Weston Ochse, award-winning author of SEAL Team 666 and Scarecrow Gods.

“I don’t have any hesitation in calling Merkabah Rider: High Planes Drifter the pinnacle of the Weird West genre, and one that will be hard to surplant.” -Sci Fi and Fantasy Reviewer

“Edward M. Erdelac’s Merkabah Rider: Tales Of A High Planes Drifter is without reservation one of the best Weird Westerns to roll into town in the last decade, if not the best.” – Cory Gross, Voyages Extraordinaires

 

Now available! Give it a read, tell your friends! Thanks, all!

https://www.amazon.com/Merkabah-Rider-High-Planes-Drifter/dp/1721011234/ref=sr_1_cc_1?s=aps&ie=UTF8&qid=1531386889&sr=1-1-catcorr&keywords=erdelac+merkabah+rider

My Favorite Americans: Temple Lea Houston

Every July 4th I dedicate this space to a person in American history whom I admire. I’ve peppered this space with bold men and women who stood up for just causes and risked life and limb, often making the ultimate sacrifice, often standing against the unjust policies of this very government. John Brown, Silas Soule, Mary Elisabeth Bowser, Geronimo….

But this year I felt like a lighter entry, and so I turn your attention to the mostly unsung offspring of Sam Houston, the Old Raven and Father of Texas. Sam Houston is a fascinating guy, perhaps a man worthy of this space in his own right, but it’s his son Temple Lea I’m concerned with here. I wrote a screenplay about him years ago that nobody’s taken to yet. Maybe one of these days.

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Anyway, Sam Houston died when Temple was three years old, having abdicated the governorship of Texas after refusing to swear loyalty to the Confederacy.  Temple was the only one of Houston’s eight children to be born in the governor’s mansion. At thirteen he landed a job on a cattle drive to Great Bend, Kansas, and caught a steamboat all the way down to New Orleans working as a night clerk.

In New Orleans he met Texas Senator James Winwright Flanagan, an old friend of his father’s, who secured him a job as a page in the Senate in Washington DC, where he worked for three years.

He graduated with honors in law and philosophy from Baylor in 1880 after completing his courses in nine months and became the youngest practicing lawyer in Texas at 20 in Brazoria, where he met his and married his wife (on St. Valentine’s Day), Laura Cross. Maybe he was brilliant, or maybe his pedigree accelerated his career. His father was beloved, after all.

An announcement in the Brenham Weekly Banner about the graduating class of Baylor reads;

“He is a young man of steady, temperate habits and a hard student; he won the J.M. Williams medal for the best logical speech on commencement day. Temple stands upon the battlefield of life with high aspirations, and we believe, with energy to carry them through.”

He was already a renowned orator, and in 1882, at the age of 22, he was appointed district attorney for the 35 Judicial District of Texas, which comprised 26 unorganized and wild counties of the Texas Panhandle. Settling in Fort Elliott and later Mobeetie in Wheeler County, this is where his personality starts to shine in the accounts. Riding far and wide through his district, he shunned hotels, preferring to sleep outside, often in the various cattle camps, where he got the nickname Lone Wolf of The Canadian. He was a good father to his five children, one of which, Louise, only lived two years. Contrary to the popular practices of the time, he reportedly never beat them.

Maybe there was something about growing up in the huge shadow of his father that induced him put on such a big show.

“He loved clothes,” his wife Laura wrote. “He would dress up in a yellow-beaded vest, Spanish caballero-style trousers and sombrero with a great silver eagle on it, and go to Kansas City on railroad business. Of course, he attracted a lot of attention. When people asked why I let him dress that way, I would say, ‘That’s why I married him – because he was different.’ ”

Around this time the story got out that he bested Bat Masterson and Billy The Kid in a shooting contest in Tascosa. The story’s almost certainly apochryphal as Henry McCarty was already dead by now (unless you subscribe to the Brushy Bill Roberts theory). Maybe he let it out himself, or at least, didn’t deny it. It was true that he was a sure shot with his nickel plated pearl handled pistol, a skill that would come into play later.

Defending hapless cowboys became a staple of his early career. Supposedly he was appointed to the defense of a young horse thief, and begged the marshals to give him time alone with his client advise him.

After a few minutes the marshals broke into the room to find Temple sitting alone, the window open.

“Well boys,” he said, “I gave him the best advice I could give.”

In 1884 he was elected to District 19 of the Texas Senate for a single term. Asked to speak at the dedication of the Texas State Capitol, he wowed constituents, who pushed him to run for U.S. Senate.

When he expressed his own doubts about carrying a statewide election, somebody urged him to ‘just stand on your father’s name, and you will win.’

Outraged, Temple declared;

“A man is only what he makes himself!”

He departed the meeting and refused the opportunity.

“I care not to stand in the light of reflected glory. Every tub must stand on its own bottom.”

Maybe he saw that he could never shake his ‘son of Sam’ appellation in Texas.

In 1893 he participated in the Oklahoma Land Rush, and settled with his family in Woodward, Oklahoma, leaving Texas behind, much to the ire of the notoriously proud populace. He became an attorney for the Atchison Topeka-Santa Fe Railroad.

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Temple’s Home Office

He befriended Kwahadi Comanche chief Quanah Parker, and the Comanche were reportedly frequent guests in his home, pitching tipis in his backyard when they passed through town. He was a collector of Indian artifacts, and an expert on Aaron Burr and Napoleon.

 

In Oklahoma, his legend grew by leaps and bounds, and numerous amusing anecdotes about him pop up.

One of the most famous is his bizarre defense of a hapless horse thief who gunned down the horse’s owner before he had a chance to draw.

Approaching the jury box, Temple asked the jurors to consider the reputation of the deceased as a notorious gunman, and the fear with which the defendant (“an ordinary, hard-working citizen….little experienced in the use of firearms”) regarded him.

He explained that the victim was “so adept with a six-shooter that he could place a gun in the hands of an inexperienced man, then draw and fire his own weapon before his victim could pull the trigger—like this!”

Temple then proceeded to draw his own revolver and rapidly fan six shots (all blanks) at the startled jury, whose members fled in every direction, jumping out the courtroom windows and following the onlooker out the doors into the street.

The judge threatened Temple with contempt, but he apologized, explaining he only “wanted to show what speed this dead man possessed.”

After the restoration of order, Temple’s defendant was quickly found guilty….but he immediately motioned for a mistrial, citing that the jury had dispersed and mingled with the crowd, and was at such time no longer properly sequestered. He won his mistrial, the case was heard again with an impartial jury and a new judge, and Temple won his client’s freedom.

Not every case turned out so well.

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He developed a rivalry with the Jennings clan, lawyers Ed and John and their father, Judge J.D.F. Jennings. Arguments between the legal teams in a property case in October 1895 grew heated, with Temple proclaiming Ed Jennings ‘grossly ignorant of the law’ and Jennings calling him a liar and lunging at him. Guns were drawn, bailiffs separated them, and court was adjourned.

Temple and ex-sheriff Jack Love went over to Jack Garvey’s Cabinet Saloon, and at nine o’clock the Jennings brothers entered, backed by their cousin, a gambler named Handsome Harry. The Jennings brothers went directly to Temple and Jack Love’s table, whereupon Temple suggested they settle their business outside.

“We can settle it inside,” Ed purportedly said, and the two attorneys drew their guns, one of the first shots knocking out the lights.

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Al Jennings

Whether Temple killed Ed Jennings with a shot to the head or his brother John accidentally killed him somewhere in the ensuing gunfight (in which fifteen to twenty shots were reportedly fired) is unclear, but Temple (acting as his own defense) was acquitted for acting in self defense. John Jennings, wounded in the shoulder left lawyering. His brother Al Jennings swore revenge, but never made good on it (although possibly he tried – later in Enid, Temple was blown from his saddle by an unseen shooter. He had been carrying a thick copy of the Oklahoma Statutes though and the book stopped the bullet) going on to a middling outlaw life and a career as a consultant in early western movies, once getting into a brawl with the actor Hugh O’Brien.

A year later, the Jennings patriarch Judge J.D.F Jennings, passed Temple’s eleven year old son Sam coming home from school in front of his house and spit in the boy’s face. Temple marched up to him (again, in the Cabinet Saloon), pressed the muzzle of his gun to the judge’s chest, and killed him.

He pleaded guilty, saying “It was my life or his,” and was fined $300.

The greatest moment of Temple Houston’s career, for which he is most remembered, is undoubtedly the legendary Plea For A Fallen Woman, also known as The Soiled Dove Plea.

In 1899, a woman named Minnie Stacy was charged with prostitution, and told the judge she had no money for an attorney, or for bail.

Temple, in court for another case, but in earshot, stepped forward and asked to defend her. He took her aside for ten minutes, and then delivered this address to the court, entirely extemporaneous;

Gentlemen of the jury: You heard with what cold cruelty the prosecution referred to the sins of this woman, as if her condition were of her own preference. The evidence has painted you a picture of her life and surroundings. Do you think that they were embraced of her own choosing? Do you think that she willingly embraced a life so revolting and horrible? Ah, no! Gentlemen, one of our own sex was the author of her ruin, more to blame than she.

Then let us judge her gently. What could be more pathetic than the spectacle she presents? An immortal soul in ruin! Where the star of purity once glittered on her girlish brow, burning shame has set its seal and forever. And only a moment ago, they reproached her for the depths to which she had sunk, the company she kept, the life she led. Now, what else is left her? Where can she go and her sin not pursue her? Gentlemen, the very promises of God are denied her. He said: “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” She has indeed labored, and is heavily laden, but if, at this instant she were to kneel before us all and confess to her Redeemer and beseech His tender mercies, where is the church that would receive her? And even if they accepted her, when she passed the portals to worship and to claim her rest, scorn and mockery would greet her; those she met would gather around them their spirits the more closely to avoid the pollution of her touch. And would you tell me a single employment where she can realize “Give us our daily bread?”

Our sex wrecked her once pure life. Her own sex shrink from her as they would the pestilence. Society has reared its relentless walls against her, and only in the friendly shelter of the grave can her betrayed and broken heart ever find the Redeemer’s promised rest.

They told you of her assumed names, as fleeting as the shadows on the walls, of her sins, her habits, but they never told you of her sorrows, and who shall tell what her heart, sinful though it may be, now feels? When the remembered voices of mother and sisters, whom she must see no more on this earth, fall again like music on her erring soul, and she prays God that she could only return, and must not — no — not in this life, for the seducer has destroyed the soul.

You know the story of the prodigal son, but he was a son. He was one of us, like her destroyers; but for the prodigal daughter there is no return. Were she with her wasted form and bleeding feet to drag herself back to home, she, the fallen and the lost, which would be her welcome? Oh, consider this when you come to decide her guilt, for she is before us and we must judge her. They (the prosecution) sneer and scoff at her. One should respect her grief, and I tell you that there reigns over her penitent and chastened spirit a desolation now that none, no, none but the Searcher of all hearts can ever know.

None of us are utterly evil, and I remember that when the Saffron Scourge swept over the city of Memphis in 1878, a courtesan there opened wide the doors of her gilded palace of sin to admit the sufferers, and when the scythe of the Reaper swung fast and pitiless, she was angelic in her ministering. Death called her in the midst of her mercies, and she went to join those she tried to save. She, like those the Lord forgave, was a sinner, and yet I believe that in the days of reckoning her judgment will be lighter than those who would prosecute and seek to drive off the earth such poor unfortunates as her whom you are to judge.

They wish to fine this woman and make her leave. They wish to wring from the wages of her shame the price of this meditated injustice; to take from her the little money she might have — and God knows, gentlemen, it came hard enough. The old Jewish law told you that the price of a dog, nor the bite of such as she, should come not within the house of the Lord, and I say unto you that our justice, fitly symbolized by this woman’s form, does not ask that you add to the woes of this unhappy one, one only asks at your hands the pitiful privilege of being left alone.

The Master, while on Earth, while He spake in wrath and rebuke to the kings and rulers, never reproached one of these. One he forgave. Another he acquitted. You remember both — and now looking upon this friendless outcast, if any of you can say to her, ‘I am holier than thou’ in the respect which she is charged with sinning, who is he? The Jews who brought the woman before the Savior have been held up to execution for two thousand years. I always respected them. A man who will yield to the reproaches of his conscience as they did has the element of good in him, but the modern hypocrite has no such compunctions. If the prosecutors of the woman whom you are trying had brought her before the Savior, they would have accepted His challenge and each one gathered a rock and stoned her, in the twinkling of an eye. No, Gentlemen, do as your Master did twice under the same circumstances that surround you. Tell her to go in peace.

The jury acquitted Minnie Stacy unanimously after a few minutes’ deliberation.

Word of the speech traveled beyond the Oklahoma Territory, and the court stenographer was inundated with requests for copies.

Newspaper lauded it as “the most remarkable, the most spellbinding, heart-rending tear-jerker ever to come from the mouth of man.” It was even put on display in the Library of Congress.

The story goes that Minnie Stacy became a washerwoman in Canadian, Texas and died there in the 1930s, a reformed Methodist.

As for Temple, there was talk of a gubernatorial nomination, but days before his 45th birthday (and two years before Oklahoma statehood) he suffered a brain hemhorrage that left him blind and confined to bed, possibly brought on by years of suffering from St. Anthony’s Fire, a bacterial infection that drove him in his later years to intemperance.

Texans had a long memory, and while the Dallas Times-Herad declared backhandedly that he was ‘a chip off the old block, he had great gifts and strong passions. The gods were kind to him — he was not kind to himself.’

Contemporary attorney R.B. Forrest, said of him, “He could touch a heart of stone in painting its sorrows. He seemed to feel the agonies of others and portrayed them with electric power.”

The novelist Edna Ferber modeled her character Yancy Cravat after Temple Houston in the 1929 novel Cimarron, which was adapted twice in 1931 (and won the Academy Award) and 1960.

Maybe sometimes you don’t have to have a hand in world changing events. Sometimes it’s enough to show compassion in life, to be a good father, a good friend, to say the write words when they’re needed, and hope you’re a good son. Volatile, bigger than life, but very human, Temple Lea Houston’s one of my favorite Americans.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Published in: on July 4, 2018 at 1:07 am  Comments Off on My Favorite Americans: Temple Lea Houston  
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Merkabah Rider: High Planes Drifter Up For Preorder

The Rider rides again!

The re-release of Merkabah Rider: High Planes Drifter hits Amazon July 12th and the ebook is currently up for preorder.

I know a lot of people prefer the format, but for long time fans, I’d really urge you to hold off and wait for that paperback copy (it will release the same day) to see the lavish design  work by Shawn King of STK Creations. It’s really a nice looking book, to say nothing of the four interior plates by the great M. Wayne Miller and the High Plains Drifter-inspired cover by Juri Umagami.

Published in: on July 3, 2018 at 7:30 am  Comments (3)  

Merkabah Rider Gear On Teepublic

Get official Merkabah Rider gear over on Teepublic – you can purchase a nifty t-shirt featuring the cover image by Juri Umagami for High Planes Drifter, with or without the titles.

30% for the first two days.

https://www.teepublic.com/t-shirt/2792331-merkabah-rider-high-planes-drifter-cover?utm_source=designer&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=caledre

Published in: on June 15, 2018 at 11:42 pm  Leave a Comment  

DT Moviehouse Review: The Offence

Time once more for my blog feature, DT Moviehouse Reviews, in which I make my way through my 200+ DVD/Blu-Ray collection (you can see the list right here) and decide if each one was worth the money. I was previously doing this alphabetically but decided, since I was watching some of these anyway, to review them out of order. Today I take a look at The Offence.

Directed by Sidney Lumet

Screenplay by John Hopkins

Tagline: After 20 Years, What Detective Sergeant Johnson Has Seen And Done Is Destroying Him.

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What It’s About:
British police Detective Sergeant Johnson (Sean Connery) beats a suspected child molester, Kenneth Baxter (Ian Bannen), to death in an interrogation room and is suspended. Through a series of flashbacks, we learn the truth of what pushed him over the edge.2862866

Why I Bought It:

Forget his seminal James Bond, forget Ramius in The Hunt For Red October, forget Ramirez, forget William of Baskerville, Daniel Dravot, or Malone in The Untouchables; forget the innumerable charming, memorable characters in Sean Connery’s long career – this is his finest performance, though admittedly, it’s a difficult role to warm up to.

openingThis is Rashomon in one man’s mind; a story about the varying degrees of personal truth which are uncovered as a single desperate action plays out again and again; something that in the hands of a lesser team of creators might have been a simple character defining moment of righteous outrage, but gradually becomes something more tragic and renal. The Offence is a sharp character study that distills the totality of a man’s existence into the actions of one night, and does it masterfully.

We are introduced to Johnson in the interrogation room, beating an already bloody suspect, kicking the chair out from under him as he tries to collapse into it, and letting him fall as his fellow officers burst into the room. Johnson is a man who has just leapt over a personal precipice, and for the rest of the runtime, we follow his rapid psychological descent. Johnson is a cop who has exposed himself again and again to the very worst society has to offer. He is a monster, but Connery makes him a not an entirely unsympathetic one.

In the first of three flashbacks, we backtrack to what has brought him to this dark place. When a fourteen year old girl turns up missing (the latest in a string of child abductions and molestations), Johnson seems to take the case as a personal affront, and pursues it with furious determination. As part of a police search party, he personally discovers the missing girl, Janie Edmunds (Maxine Gordon) cowering in the woods at night.

critique-the-offence-lumet6She is hysterical, and obviously in physical distress. Johnson restrains her. There’s something in Johnson’s treatment of the girl that’s unseemly. His attempt at calming her almost plays like a molestation itself. He exerts his formidable bulk to straddle her, hold her down. He clamps his hand over her mouth to stifle her shrieking, but finally softens and wraps her in his coat.

During the ambulance ride, he attempts to question her, but she begins to wail about her pain. Johnson asks the paramedic to hold off sedating her so he can question her, but the man shoots him a disapproving look and does so anyway.

Arriving at the police station, he finds an elderly female witness giving her statement. When he learns the woman saw Janie with a stranger out in the field a full four hours earlier, he flies into a rage and storms into the interrogation room, where the inspector has decided to let the suspect they’ve just picked up, Baxter, a man with muddy clothes and thin bloody scratches on his forehead, cool in the stir.

Johnson returns, dismissing the uniformed guard on duty, and the beating plays out again.

We next see the aftermath, as Johnson is suspended and sent home.

offenceDuring the drive, Lumet gives us our first visual cues as to Johnson’s mental state, as he imagines a series of heinous, unconnected crime scenes apparently spanning his career from a beat cop on up to detective. He pictures various bloody, beaten women, a man with his head through a windshield, a rotting corpse hanging from a tree, the bloody arm of a mewling toddler protruding from a crib, and a man apparently being pitched off the roof of a building (possibly by Johnson himself).

He returns home to his put upon wife (Vivien Merchant, in an understated, but noteworthy performance), and begins to drink, though he laments that each drink seems to make him more sober, and indeed, more brutally honest and self-reflective. He confesses to her his crime, then berates her for not being beautiful, for not listening, for not being something good he could come home to. Finally, when she begs him to let her in, to share his woes with her, he launches into a heinous litany of atrocities so terrible she excuses herself and vomits.

This sets Johnson off into an increasingly incoherent tirade that begins with her not being able to simply listen to him, to accusations that she would rather make love to Baxter, all while the scene of his discovery of Janie replays in his mind, yet slightly altered, where he seems to be caressing her face and ravishing her.

The police arrive at his flat to inform him that Baxter has died, and he must now be questioned by the Superintendent (Trevor Howard).

The Superintendent questions Johnson about the incident in the interrogation room, and gradually taps into his broken state of mind. Johnson is baffled as to how his superior managed to keep his personal life separate from the things he’s done and witnessed.

theoffence4The beating plays out in full now, from Johnson’s attempt at coercing Baxter into a confession, to the realization that Baxter lures him into, which ultimately sets him off. He has pursued this crime with such an extreme level of violence that it points to self-hatred.

“Nothing I have done can be one half as bad as the thoughts in your head,” says a bloodied, gloating, impish looking Baxter, who is probably guilty of the rape of Janie, though it is never discovered for certain. “Don’t beat me for thoughts in your head – things you want to do.”

Johnson, in a moment of extreme weakness, collapses against his prisoner and says miserably;

f669e-the-offence-sidney-lumet-1972-l-hod3ch“I can’t stop thinking. Help me.”

When Baxter laughs and calls him pathetic, Johnson unleashes all his pent up frustration and rage, even striking at his fellow policemen when they enter and attempt to take him into custody. Like a wild animal he shakes them off, and stands as they stare up at him, agape, the fluorescent lights flickering.

“It makes me sick what you did,” says the Superintendent in the present time. “And what you are turns my stomach.”

“Everything I’ve ever felt. Ever wanted to feel,” Johnson confesses. “I had to hit him again.”

This movie was based on a stage play by John Hopkins, and was part of the bribe Connery demanded of the studio to return as Bond in Diamonds Are Forever, a role he had grown tired of by then. The studio agreed to produce two movies under a million dollars for Connery’s production company, but I believe The Offence, shot for about 385,000 pounds, so underperformed that the studio reneged.

tumblr_p5nbvmxLvx1vei2veo3_1280Lumet directs everything with minimum interference, lending the whole production that stark, 70’s verite style, well-suited to the subject matter. The flashbacks to the titular offence seem to be depicted in steadily clearer focus though, as the initial sequence plays out against some kind of soft spot on the lens, or a superimposition of a ceiling light that produces a weird, mersmeric, unfocused effect.

As I said, the thing really that makes The Offence worth seeing is Connery’s total commitment to the engrossing subject matter. This is not his typical movie star fare, but for my money, it’s his greatest performance in a lifetime of great performances.

Best Dialogue/Line:

“All those bodies. Bodies stinking swollen black putrid with the smell of death. Shattered, splintered bones. Like filthy swirling maggots in my mind. Eating my mind.”

Best Scene:

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In my opinion, the scene from which the above dialogue is culled; that somber, brutal scene where Johnson tries to force an emotional connection with his wife. Both actors are stellar in it, and it’s actually more cringe inducing than any of the physical violence depicted in the rest of the movie.

Would I Buy It Again:
It’s dark stuff, and not something I watch often, but it’s worth seeing Connery in a rare, nuanced performance, so yes.

Merkabah Rider: High Planes Drifter Art

Here’s a sneak peek at some of the interior art M. Wayne Miller’s producing for my forthcoming re-release of Merkabah Rider: High Planes Drifter (yes, I’m dropping the ‘Tales’ from the title – it’s vestigial. Har har).

 

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Published in: on May 18, 2018 at 8:31 am  Leave a Comment  

My Personal Library

Have seen a few other authors post these. Pics of my bookshelves at home.

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Flashman, Barsoom, Bierce…I think my Aubrey-Maturins are behind here.

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Western Frontier History

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Tolkien, Civil War, oddments

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Some of my favorite fictions

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Folklore – Including the two books that most inspired my Merkabah Rider series and one of my prized possessions, an 1895 edition of H.A. Guerber’s Myths of The Northern Lands

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Egypt/Rome/Biographies

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Arthuriana/Japan/Oddments

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Matheson/Bradbury/Shaft etc.

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Horror/Fantasy/My dad’s Explorer’s manual/DnD minis

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Fiction/some mis-shelved stuff

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Holmes/Mystery/Odd stuff

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Spillane/Westerns/a couple of gifted books

Not pictured: All my own books, graphic novels, a complete set of Dark Horse’s editions of Lone Wolf and Cub (the first signed by Kazuo Koike), a couple shelves of Ian Fleming, Robert E. Howard, The Shadow, The Spider, G-8, Lovecraft, and The Avenger books that got packed away in anticipation of a move that hasn’t happened yet…

Published in: on April 26, 2018 at 4:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

Jeff Carter’s Criterion

Hey gang, turning my blog over to old friend and fellow author Jeff Carter, so he can tell you about his superhero novel Criterion from Crossroads Press, the fine folks who recently reprinted my novella collection With Sword And Pistol….

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Hello Erdelmaniacs, thanks for having me back in the dusty confines of Delirium Tremens. I’ve been thinking about some of the influences on my new ‘Grimdark’ superhero novel Criterion.

The story for Criterion evolved from my short story ‘From the Barrel of a Gun’, featured in Humanity 2.0 alongside Ed’s outstanding novel ‘Perennial’. My main characters in both that story and my book are unpowered mortals.

Of all the sidekicks, cheerleaders and mascots, ‘Cadet’ is the only non-powered character that tries to fight super-humans. As you can imagine, this leads to a lot of good ol’ fashioned ass whoopings.

While I enjoy an unstoppable character like Kick-Ass or Dark Man, those guys are like Terminators. They feel no pain.

I love a character that feels pain and presses on. Deckard in Bladerunner. Brendan Frye in Brick. Bruce Willis in Die Hard and Last Man Standing. Frodo in Lord of the Rings. There are so many examples I won’t bother to list them all, because I’m here to tell you about the best.

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Ninja Scroll (1993), alongside Akira, was among the first wave of ‘japanime’ to hit American nerds and melt their faces. If you haven’t seen it, it’s about Jubei Kibagami, a wandering swordsman dragged into murderous intrigue. Caught between a group of monstrous killers and a government spy, he will stop at nothing to protect a woman he can never have.

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Jubei’s got mad skills, but he is only human. He bleeds, breaks bones and loses teeth. If he has a superpower, it’s the ability to fight through the pain.

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Ninja Scroll is noir fiction. Jubei suffers as a pawn of powerful forces. He suffers because he does the right thing. He suffers because he fights for love.

“The noir hero is a knight in blood caked armor. He’s dirty and he does his best to deny the fact that he’s a hero the whole time.” – Frank Miller

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As Manga has so often taught us, if you ain’t spittin blood you ain’t trying.

I hope I have captured some of that struggle in my new book. If you like desperate heroes, over the top action and freaky villains you should check out Criterion.

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Criterion is available now in print and digital here:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Google Play

Smashwords

iTunes

Crossroad Press

 

Published in: on April 16, 2018 at 8:49 am  Comments (1)  
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Infinte Jest and Most Excellent Fancy: Saying Goodbye To Geoffrey and Toys ‘R Us

“Let’s go to Toys ‘R Us, Dad!” my just-turned eight year old daughter Willow suggests for probably the thousandth time, as I head for the bathroom for a shave and a shower before embarking on the grocery shopping.

“With what money?”

“I’ve got money!” she calls from the living room.

Oh right, the birthday last Saturday.

“I’m going for groceries. Not today.” And then, I don’t know why, as an afterthought, I mention, “You know, it’s closing.”

“What?” says my daughter.

“What’s closing?” asks my wife.

“Toys ‘R Us. All of ‘em. Here in America anyway. Probably everywhere.”

A quick shower later, I come out dressed to find Willow with her arms crossed over the back of the couch, head down….crying as if her kitten just died.

My wife’s furiously researched my claim on Google and confirmed it.

And in that moment I realize what a momentous thing is happening, and how much this toy chain has meant to me and to my children.

How many times have I found my errands hijacked by my son or my daughter because I’ve relented, letting them squander their hoarded birthday and holiday dollars on blind bags of Shopkins or Nerf blasters or some other inscrutable plastic doodad. It’s not the most responsible thing, but every time, I’ve thought back to my own childhood and the instances in which I harassed my Aunt Vicky or my mom and dad to make an unscheduled (or in my case, carefully plotted) detour to Toys ‘R Us, just to look, just to look, promise, so I know what to ask Santa for, so I know what to put on my birthday list and then maybe McDonald’s (for hamburgers with no pickles, onions), knowing full well that I could maybe make a convincing case for a single GI Joe or Star Wars figure if I make them understand it’s the last one on the shelf and it might not be around come September or December.

It’s very likely why I’m no good with money to this day.

So, I relent again, because I realize it’s probably the last time. The stores could be closing in a couple weeks.

“Here,” says my wife, pushing a couple of coupons into my hand.

Willow’s already got her coat on.

Every year since their birth the kids have gotten little postcards from Geoffrey the Giraffe congratulating them on another year alive and exhorting them to come celebrate at the REAL happiest place on Earth.

Sorry Disneyland, I’ve never had to contend with the beating sun or a two hour line pressed by sweaty bodies or overpriced and underwhelming food during an afternoon at TRU. It’s just a fact. I’d take the white air conditioned action figure aisles over the line to get on Star Tours or Pirates of The Caribbean any day of the week.

Maybe growing up in the Midwest far from Disneyland or Disneyworld has something to do with it. Disney is an event, like going to a cousin’s wedding or a water park. It’s a strange place, full of strange people, a rush to do everything, see everything, you can’t completely relax. Toys ‘R Us is a familiar staple, close as a trip to the park.

A rainy day in the Valley becomes the last day for two die hard Toys ‘R Us fans to visit the undisputed mecca of childhood avarice. Child’s World, KB Toys, just flashes in the pan. The sun could never set on Toys ‘R Us, I thought. But here we are.

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We present my daughter’s birthday coupons at the service counter, where a pleasant kid blows up a mylar birthday balloon weighted with an orange plastic Geoffrey token, a paper pink birthday girl crown, a little sealed Lego package with a tiny buildable birthday cake I’ll probably skewer my foot on later, and a squishy dog-toy style birthday cake with Geoffrey’s face on it.

In the time it takes to outfit my daughter with all this, three adults come to the counter and ask if it’s true, that Toys ‘R Us is really closing.

“Corporate tells us tomorrow,” the kid helping me says.

“Just wanted to know,” says one guy.

“That’s been happening all day, hasn’t it?” I say.

“All day.”

My daughter goes skipping off, balloon bobbing, to nab items from the shelves and meticulously run them back and forth to the price scanners until she’s figured out how to get the most for her twenty one bucks (and a couple dollars over no doubt), leaving me alone to wander the aisles and hazy childhood memories.

Something else you just can’t do at Disneyland.

Vince Guaraldi’s Linus and Lucy is playing jauntily over the speakers and I’m thinking of how my grandkids may never know the simplicity of the Peanuts, and now, they will definitely never know the fun of turning the corner and ogling an end cap of Castle Greyskull playsets, or trying the action on a boxed Nerf gun, or straddling a display bike, or sitting in one of those electric pedal cars.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESWe live in an apartment and it’s the closest any of them have ever come to owning one. My grandfather bought me a green jeep with an orange seat and a white plastic pedal I could mash and send myself burring up and down the driveway of our suburban home till the juice ran out and I had to plug it into the outlet on the outside of the garage. The big goggle eyes moved when you turned the wheel. It matched his own green Jeep, a vehicle he’d always wanted since he’d driven one in World War II, which the family pitched in and bought him one birthday.

I always preferred the blue manual pedal car with the red fenders and the yellow steering wheel my Dad got me though, as I could kick furiously at that thing and send it flying up and down the concrete. A quick jerk to the right and I’d go spilling into the grass like The Fall Guy.

Both got from Toys ‘R Us.

I never had this birthday club thing my kids were enrolled in, but I remember going on a Saturday morning to see the characters in the aisles. These were special events announced in the sale papers (which, like my kids, I would pore over every week, especially before Christmas, circling what I wanted with a black marker, sometimes adding an amount of stars commensurate to the intensity of my desire for that particular toy). He-Man and Skeletor, Princess Leia and Luke, Hawk and Destro from GI Joe, Papa Smurf. I remember I brought a pad of paper to get their autographs but He-Man, in his head to toe latex muscle and mask, didn’t have the fine manipulation ability to use a pen.

Normally shopping trips to Sears or Montgomery Wards or something with my parents, I’d go in the single toy aisle and hang out till they were done. Toys ‘R Us, I was there for me. It was the only time the role was reversed.

I remember walking through corridors of GI Joe and Star Wars toys. I remember the 1983 going to the end cap to rifle through the pegs for a brand new Luke Skywalker in his black Return of the Jedi costume. Found a buddy from school already there, Tommy O’Connor – literally the first or second kid I’d met in Kindergarten. We were both there for the same thing, and while our parents stood nearby with their hands in their pockets, muttering to each other, Tommy and I meticulously combed those pegs for what felt like a solid half hour….till he found it. The only one they had.

And he handed it to me.

I keep wondering if his dad was really pissed.

I lost touch with Tom through high school but ran into him again at a community college and reconnected. Kenner I think, had just started remaking Star Wars figures. I went to Toys ‘R Us and got him a Jedi Luke for his birthday.

I decide I’m going to get one last TRU gift for each of my kids who aren’t there, and I decide it has to be the ‘last one’ of whatever it is. The inevitable liquidation sales haven’t begun yet, so the bargain hunters and the mercenary second hand dealers haven’t descended on the store to pick the shelves clean yet. That’ll happen some cold morning at five AM, like crows alighting from the trees on fresh roadkill. I don’t like to think about it.

I quickly find something for my son Auggie. Playmobil has been a standard toy line in our household. The girls have a castle on their bureau packed with characters with from every genre you can think of. Cowboys and samurai and African shamans cavorting with princesses, vampires, robots, fairies, and veterinarians. My son has a new Ghostbusters firehouse, the first license the German toy manufacturer has ever pursued (which now has me worried – why have they felt the need to pursue a license, and did they choose Ghostbusters because they thought the female version was going to blow up? Have they taken a hit? If I lose Playmobil so close to Toys ‘R Us and Prince, I’m through). I find a single Egon Spengler in his Ghostbusters 2 regalia. The only one I’ve ever seen, the only one on the shelf. So that goes in hand.

For my thirteen year old, who’s moved past the halcyon days of Toys ‘R Us touring and now wants nothing more than iTunes cards to buy more Babymetal tracks for her i-whatever, anime and comics, I find a single Kamala Khan/Miss Marvel action figure. We’ve been getting the tradepaperbacks from the library and she loves the character. Easy pick.

By this time Willow has found me half a dozen times via Daddy-Daughter echolocation (“Dad?” “Yep!” “Dad?” “Yep!” “Dad?”), appearing each time with her arms full of pink and purple boxes. At one point she has the brilliant idea to exploit a buy one get one free brand offer, buying a five dollar toy to get a twenty five dollar playset for nothing, until I explain to her that’s not how the deal works, and she slinks back to her machinations, slightly dejected but unbowed in her determination to wheel and deal.

And then I think, maybe I’ll just get something for myself.

Nothing big.

I head over to the Schleich section.

Oh you know what is, you’ve just forgotten, or you haven’t been to a Toys ‘R Us in a while.

It’s the little section situated between the toddler toys and the books (in the Burbank store anyway) where they keep the shelves of detailed rubber animals. Right next to the Animal Planet dinosaurs and the oversized dragons and yetis.

Schleich is mostly known, I guess for horses. My eldest daughter had a brief thing for them after she saw Spirit, that Dreamworks movie about the palomino in the old west with Matt Damon’s voice. You haven’t seen it? Go watch it now. It’s way better than I’ve made it sound.

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Schleich, another German toy company – they’re just the best – also makes beautifully detailed little rubber statues of practically every animal you can think of. I quickly find my favorites, tigers, wolves, orangutans, but there are plenty of them. They’re having a buy one get one at 40% off sale, so I could conceivably get two…and then I spy the peg of boxed Geoffrey the Giraffe figures by Schleich.

Geoffrey’s changed from the way he used to look when I was a kid. He was more childlike. They’ve smoothed him out, made him more cartoony.

The world of awesome began with a sky filled with stars and a very special giraffe. Geoffrey ™ learned his destiny was to bring fun to kids everywhere – and so, by following some magical stars – he found a new home, and new friends, at Toys R Us ™ Lean more about his journey at Toysrus.com/Geoffrey.

So says the legend on the back of the box, and it’s repeated in German, Spanish, Polish, French, and three other languages I can’t identify. One of them possibly Portuguese.

So that goes in hand.

I narrow my 40% off figure to a grinning, spotted hyena and a cool orange octopus. I go with the octopus.

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My daughter (“Dad?” “Yep!”) finds me. She has what she’s sure is twenty one dollars of toys ready for the checkout and is ready to go.

It turns out it’s twenty five dollars.

“Oh yeah. Taxes.”

I used that one too when I was a kid.

I snap one more pic of her outside the store. Can’t fit the whole sign.

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She giggles when she sees it.

“Toys.” Then, a little somberly as we cross the parking lot hand in hand for the minivan, which will soon be brimming with bags of groceries. “Where will the toys go to rest in peace now?”

“Huh?” I say.

“You know, they can rest in the packages. Nobody plays with them there.”

Ever since Toy Story she thinks of the secret lives of toys.

Who doesn’t?

I never thought I’d lament the passing of any international corporation, but here I am in the parking lot, squeezing my daughter’s hand, weighed down by nostalgia, looking over my shoulder at those rainbow letters and that backwards R like I’m leaving home, or an old friend.

I hear later that the demise of Toys ‘R Us might be the result of some slimy, walking clichésof hedge fund managers/venture capitalists playing the economic laws, saddling the company with insurmountable debt so as to make a killing off the bankruptcy in some way far beyond my ken (and my daughter’s Barbies). The usual creeps, out to make a buck off the backs of employees and patrons no matter what. It’s almost comforting to believe in some cabal of 80’s slicko Gordon Gecko villain bringing about the downfall of Toys ‘R Us, rather than admit to competition from the evil but undeniably convenient Amazon being to blame.  It’s likely both.

But if the hedge fund thing’s true….well, if ever there were Grown Ups, in the grayest, most detestable sense of the word, it’s gotta be these guys (Edit: https://boingboing.net/2017/11/30/merry-christmas-2.html) and (http://fortune.com/2018/03/09/toys-r-us-bankruptcy-why/)

As for me,

“I don’t wanna grow up,

I’m a Toys ‘R Us kid,

They’ve got a million toys at Toys ‘R Us that I can play with

From bikes to trains to video games, it’s the biggest toy store there is,

I don’t wanna grow up, ‘cause maybe if I did,

I couldn’t be a Toys ‘R Us kid

More-games-more-toys-O boy!

I wouldn’t be a Toys ‘R Us kid.”