Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Layoffs at Random House, Simon & Schuster


The economy has crashed down on an industry once believed immune from the worst — book publishing — with consolidation at Random House Inc., and layoffs at Simon & Schuster and Thomas Nelson Publishers.


"Yes, Virginia, book publishing is NOT recession proof," said Patricia Schroeder, president and chief executive officer of the Association of American Publishers. "It's sad day."


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Book Review: Holy Headshot!: A Celebration of America's Undiscovered Talent by Patrick Borelli and Douglas Gorenstein


Did you ever snicker at some hapless bride who trips and falls into her wedding-cake on America's Funniest Videos, only to feel guilty about finding humor in someone's humiliation? If so, then you might want to pass on this book. But for the rest of us insensitive jerks, HOLY HEADSHOTS will provide much more than a dirty little chuckle.

Collected are one hundred diverse, starry-eyed hopefuls with hunger and desperation on the breath, all-waiting for their big break. And for the lucky few, it comes in the guise of an extra on a afternoon soap opera, a local commercial pitchman, the lead in a community theater production of 42nd Street, or a supporting role on a direct to video horror flick. (While thumbing through, I did recognize some the actors from various projects; so now I have names to put to that faces in the crowd scenes on Law & Order and NYPD Blue.) Included with the 8x10 glossies are the actors' resumes, and some will give you chilling insights into their hopes and dreams (I'm looking at you Clement Dyer on page 34!)

This book is a must for anyone who ever dreamed of fame but woke up and got a civil service job.

Book Review: Marvel Masterworks Atlas Era Tales Suspense by Jack Kirby


Before a Gamma bomb was detonated in the dessert, or a young student had a fateful run-in with a radioactive spider at Empire State University, and even before Marvel was Marvel, Stan Lee was in the monster business.


Under the banner of Atlas Comics, Lee and the amazing talents of Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Don Heck, Matt Baker, Carl Burgos and Joe Sinnott assaulted young 1950s readers with bold five-page, nine-panel horror/sci-fi stories with surprise ending "inspired" by the Twilight Zone tv series. Some much so, Lee stated in an interview, "I used to get letters from readers `Hey, I just saw Twilight Zone, and they used one of your stories from issue so-and-so.'"


Marvel Masterworks Atlas Era Tales Suspense 1 beautifully reprints the first 10 issues of the title and brings out face-to-face killer robots, hulking behemoths the deadly Monstro, a killer Cyclops, invading Martians and many more oddball and off-beat menaces from the four-color universe - and beyond! This collection is a must have for vintage monster comic book fans who have also enjoyed Dick Briefer's The Monster of Frankenstein, Monster Masterworks and Zombie Factory.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Book Review: Valis by Philip K. Dick

Like most of Philip K. Dick’s novels, the main characters around which the story of Valis revolves are engaging, sympathetic, and mirrors of the social and psychological complexities faced by mankind. Unlike his other novels, however, the main characters in Valis are actually PKD himself. This results in the occasional switch from first and third person narrative, and several instances in which the author and the author surrogate interact with one another.

Valis (the name assigned by the main characters to their vision of God) is less of a novel than it is a fictionalized account of PKD’s own spiritual journey. Because of this, a good portion of the middle becomes bogged down with in depth descriptions of PKD’s theological views and theories. Anyone not well versed in Gnosticism and Metaphysical Theory will be tempted to skim several pages of text at a time, and might even debate whether finishing the book is worth the trouble. This will be especially true of readers who are only familiar with his early science fiction work and not prepared for a crash course in PKD’s exegesis. In some ways, Valis could be considered PKD’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, except the focus of this road trip isn’t the American Dream, but the True Nature of God.

Above all else, PKD is a master storyteller, and this is what saves Valis from being a stuffy and unintelligible pseudo-memoir about a spiritual journey. The uncertainty of the narrator’s true identity (both to the reader and the narrator), as well as the sympathetic nature of his plight and the conspiracy-drenched plot twists reminiscent of Robert Anton Wilson (whom PKD mentions in the book) will keep you interested enough to struggle through the denser passages. But you also find yourself riveted as you gain closer insight into the mind of one of the greatest science fiction authors of the last century.

Valis is a perfect snapshot of a time not so long ago, when there existed a movement of authors that eagerly blended the lines between science-fiction and spiritualism. It was a time when optimism regarding mankind’s future potential was almost intoxicating, and the experimental expansion of the mind and spirit were deemed as important as technological advancements. Looking back, it may seem a bit naive and fanciful, but it was also full of hope and wonder, two traits that seem to be lacking more and more with today’s sci-fi authors.



Reviewed by S. Michael Wilson

Friday, March 28, 2008

Mystery writer Truman, daughter of president, dies

Margaret Truman, the only child of former President Harry S. Truman who became a concert singer, actress, radio and TV personality and mystery writer, died Tuesday. She was 83.

For the complete article: http://www.cnn.com/2008/SHOWBIZ/books/01/29/obit.trumans.daughter.ap/index.html

Monday, March 24, 2008

Book Review: On Becoming an Alchemist: A Guide for the Modern Magician by Catherine Maccoun


Having read several self-help and personal-improvement books over the past few years, the recent trends are hard to ignore. Most of the books on the market covering these themes tend to simplify life changes and introspective reevaluation to the point of claiming it is as easy as saying ‘Yes I Can’. With the popularity of The Secret and guided imagery, even talking to yourself is taken out of the equation, and simply wishing or imagining personal improvements is supposed to be enough to bring about radical change.

So reading Catherine MacCoun’s book, On Becoming an Alchemist: A Guide for the Modern Magician, is a much needed breath of fresh air in what has always seemed a cliché and uninspired genre.

MacCoun’s title and subject matter may at first put some readers off with its references to arcane alchemical arts and magical properties. But what she has actually managed is to offer a fresh perspective into how people make choices, perceive the world around them, and live their lives. She does so by introducing us to an innovative blend of spiritualism and psychology, in much the same way that Alchemy itself blends scientific observation with objective mysticism.

Granted, chapters like the one that uses scenes and terminology from Harry Potter to illustrate a point may take the magician aspect of the book a tad too far for some people. But the message within is much more grounded in reality than some of the ‘guided imagery’ feel-good books cluttering the bookstore shelves these days.

The true test of any book of this nature is the ability of the reader to glean something constructive and useful from its pages, even if they do not buy into the author’s overall message. Readers of MacCoun’s latest will undoubtedly have no trouble walking away wiser and more aware, no matter their take on becoming a Modern Magician. And that, as they say, is magic.

Reviewed by S. Michael Wilson

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Arthur C Clarke, author of 2001: A Space Odyssey and prophet of the satellite era, dies aged 90


The science fiction writer Sir Arthur C Clarke - famed for his visionary predictions of the future - has died aged 90.

He will be remembered as someone who for more than half a century popularised scientific reality through science fiction, and who lived long enough to see many of his most outlandish predictions become first fact and then history.

In more than 70 books, countless short stories, articles, film scripts and TV shows, Clarke painted his vision of the future that may at times have veered towards the romantically idealistic but was nevertheless always grounded in plausible scientific reality.


He provided the inspiration for what some fans claim to be the best science fiction film ever made - 2001: A Space Odyssey.

There are two kinds of science fiction writers - those who paint a picture of alternative, future or alien worlds governed by fantasy and whimsy, and those whose fiction is rooted firmly in the laws of physics.

Clarke, along with his American contemporary Isaac Asimov, was firmly in the latter camp.

His stories were often little more than an excuse to air a technological or scientific postulation. Clarke's astronauts mostly eschewed the “warp drives'”and “wormholes” beloved of most sci-fi writers and relied instead on good old-fashioned rockets.

Clarke, who was wheelchair-bound, had been suffering from heart and breathing problems when he died in his adopted home of Sri Lanka at 7.30pm GMT yesterday, according to an aide.
In later life he had suffered from post-polio syndrome, a result of contracting a brief bout of the disease in his youth.

Astronomer Sir Patrick Moore paid tribute to his friend last night, saying: “He was a great visionary, a brilliant science fiction writer and a great forecaster.

“He foresaw communications satellites, a nationwide network of computers, interplanetary travel - he said there would be a man on the moon by 1970, while I said 1980 - and he was right.”


Born the son of a farmer in Somerset in 1917, Clarke was a radar specialist for the RAF during the Second World War and took up writing full-time in the 1940s.

In 1945, Clarke made perhaps his most famous and accurate prediction.

He wrote an article in Wireless World predicting that, one day, it would be possible to use satellites in fixed “geostationary” orbits, 23,000 miles above the Earth, as in effect giant radio masts, allowing radio, telephony and television signals to be relayed from any point on the planet to another.

Although this was a dozen years before the first satellite would be launched, Clarke had come up with the idea for worldwide satellite-broadcasts.

In keeping with his visions of a future that others could barely imagine, he coined Clarke's Law: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

In 1953, while scuba diving in Florida, he met Marilyn Mayfield, marrying her a fortnight later. But she left him six months later. Clarke settled in Sri Lanka in

One short story made him famous. The Sentinel - a tale of a mysterious alien race which had accelerated human evolution - was noticed by the film director Stanley Kubrick, who met Clarke in Trader Vic's bar in New York to discuss how it could be turned into “the perfect science fiction movie”.

From the roof of Kubrick's Manhattan apartment, the pair spotted a mysterious object tracking across the sky.

The UFO was, they decided, a good omen and they signed the deal. (The UFO turned out to be a secret Pentagon spy satellite).

The result was spectacular. 2001: A Space Odyssey, released in 1968, has been hailed by its fans as the best science fiction movie ever made; its detractors claim it is incomprehensible gibberish, especially the ending, which differs from Clarke's more straightforward original.

Unusually for a celebrity writer, Clarke was always highly approachable - he described himself as a “failed recluse”, holed up in his luxury Colombo home.

His phone number was listed in the Sri Lankan directory. Until his health really started to go downhill in the late 1990s, he would always answer calls from fans personally, often spending half an hour or more chatting away about space elevators of the possibilities of colonising the Moon.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Book Review: Killer's Payoff by Ed McBain

Killer's Payoff veers from the ensemble feel of the previous novels by adhering strictly to one crime, in this case the murder of a blackmailer. The lack of any secondary criminal investigations taking place in the background doesn't take away from McBain's usual layered narrative, as extra time is well spent exploring all of the different paths an investigation can take simultaneously, especially in a case complicated by victims that are as secretive than the criminals themselves. How do you track down and interrogate suspects to a blackmailer's murder, when even the innocent ones have something to hide?

The drama isn't as intense as in previous novels, which might explain the novel's absence of side stories to lighten the mood. Since the victim of the case is a criminal himself, the lack of sympathy allows for a lighter approach to the narrative that keeps the mood hovering between serious and humorous. The overall effect is that this installment comes off more like a straight Mystery novel, which can either be viewed as a welcome break in the series format or an unfortunate lapse in the author's recognized style.

Carella and Hawes take up the main brunt of the detective work, with Kling and Meyer doing their fair share, while Willis and Brown pull backup duty with minor roles such as stakeouts and wiretaps. Hawes actually spends a good portion of the novel flying solo, making up for earlier trangressions while gaining a reputation as a rather effective ladie's man by bedding a series of beautiful witnesses and strangers, offering a welcome change of pace from the serious love lives of Kling and Carella. McBain's stable of characters also grows beyond the precinct, as sympathetic informant Danny Gimp and the ex-husband of the previous novel's murder victim each lend a hand.
Reviewed by S. Michael Wilson

Friday, March 14, 2008

Press Release: Simon & Schuster Sets New One Week Record with Twenty-Four New York Times Bestsellers

On March 23, 2008, the New York Times bestseller list will include a record-breaking total of 24 separate bestsellers from various imprints of Simon & Schuster, Inc. The previous Simon & Schuster record was set on the December 24, 2006 list, which featured 21 separate bestsellers.

Of the 24 titles, four are the #1 sellers on their respective lists: Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult (Hardcover Fiction), Losing It By Valerie Bertinelli (Hardcover Nonfiction), The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory (Paperback Trade Fiction), and The Secret by Rhonda Byrne (Advice, How-to, and Miscellaneous Hardcover).

This bestseller accomplishment highlights the breadth of Simon & Schuster's publishing programs, with at least one bestseller in each of the eleven New York Times categories. These include new titles as well as many long-running bestsellers, including The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls (113 weeks), John Adams by David McCullough (29 weeks), 21: Bringing Down the House by Ben Mezrich (56 weeks), The Secret by Rhonda Byrne (61 weeks), and The Spiderwick Chronicles by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black (60 weeks).

Year-to-date, Simon & Schuster has had 55 New York Times bestsellers, six of which hit #1.
Simon & Schuster's New York Times bestsellers for March 23, 2008

Hardcover Fiction: Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult (Atria, #1) Duma Key by Stephen King (Scribner, #13)

Hardcover Nonfiction: Losing It by Valerie Bertinelli (Free Press, #1) An Inconvenient Book by Glenn Beck and Kevin Balfe (Threshold Editions, #10) The Heroin Diaries by Nikki Sixx with Ian Gittins (Pocket Books, #15)

Paperback Trade Fiction: The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory (Touchstone, #1) Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult ( Washington Square Press, #2) The Boleyn Inheritance by Philippa Gregory (Touchstone, #16)

Paperback Mass-Market Fiction: I Heard That Song Before by Mary Higgins Clark (Pocket Books, #2) The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory (Pocket Books, #10) Laced by Carol Higgins Clark (Pocket Star, #18)

Paperback Nonfiction: The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls (Scribner, #8) John Adams by David McCullough (Simon & Schuster, #11) 21: Bringing Down the House by Ben Mezrich (Free Press/Pocket Star, #14)

Advice, How-to, and Miscellaneous Hardcover The Secret by Rhonda Byrne (Atria/Beyond Words, #1) YOU: Staying Young by Michael F. Roizen and Mehmet C. Oz (Free Press, #5) Become a Better You by Joel Osteen (Free Press, #6)

Advice, How-to, and Miscellaneous Paperback The Speed of Trust by Stephen M. R. Covey (Free Press, #10)

Children's Picture Books Smash! Crash! by Jon Scieszka (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, #6)

Children's Chapter Books Tweak by Nic Sheff (Ginee Seo/Atheneum, #3) The Nixie's Song by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, #5) Glass by Ellen Hopkins (McElderry, #9)

Children's Paperback Books Legacy by Kate Brian (Simon Pulse, #5)

Children's Series The Spiderwick Chronicles by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, #2)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Book Review: Atom by Steve Aylett

This is the third book I've read by Steve Aylett, the first two being (in order) Slaughtermatic and Gothic Hall. Both of these are personal favorites of mine, which I eagerly force upon unsuspecting friends and family whenever possible. Compared to these two, however, his newest novel Atom falls short.

Now, this isn't a bad book, not in the least. The basic premise is that of a retelling of The Maltese Falcon in the future-cyber-surreal city of Beerlight, except that the mysterious object everyone scrambles after is not a black statue, but Franz Kafka's brain. That alone should give you an idea of the lengths of madness traveled, and Aylett does so with his gifted ability to throw unforgettable one-liners and curt descriptions at you until you're bruised and bleeding and begging for more. For this the novel is not lacking.

My only real problem was the lack of depth achieved. The characters (including our hero, Taffy Atom) run around only half defined and barely memorable as individuals. And the storyline felt thrown together, as merely an excuse to throw around the players. That's not always a bad thing, mind you, but Aylett is capable of so much more, and has proven it in the past. Slaughtermatic (which was only 20 pages longer) not only felt real and drew you into the bizarre and complex storyline and characters, but he even succeeded in drawing out the individual personalities of two people who were essentially the same person!

So, as I said, I'm not saying this is a bad book. I enjoyed it, and I recommend it to others, although new readers of his may want to try the other two titles I mentioned first. It is simply not his best. But here's to hoping it is his worst.
Reviewed by S. Michael Wilson

Monday, March 10, 2008

Book Review: The Crime Doctor by EW Hornung


Is an ape-like murderous thug blackmailing your girlfriend for her jewelry? Missing a few top-secret military blueprints? Plagued by a few pesky arsons and murders at your sprawling country manor house? Is an archfiend planning your death? Need to have a criminally insane member of the upper crust quietly spirited away to a private asylum before the bloodlust strikes again? If so, call the Crime Doctor.

In the mid 1800’s England was an empire. Under British colonial rule, Queen Victoria’s armies occupied twenty-five percent of the nations of this planet, implementing parliamentary law and English culture across the globe. No other fictional character bolstered the perception of Anglo-supremacy and Christian virtue than Sherlock Holmes, the UK’s foremost consulting detective. But in the early 1900s, the English empire started to crumble. Their involvement in the Boer wars, a difficult and bloody campaign that saw the conception of concentration camps for women and children, had the British citizenry equally divided between support and protest. Out of this moral ambiguity and social turmoil comes EW Hornung’s Crime Doctor, a man who himself crippled in that horrific campaign. He is not portrayed as a superman who needs the intellectual challenge of pursuing criminals to sway his boredom, but as an all too human solider, who after being cured of his injury that caused a personality imbalance, has a deep seeded desire to help his fellow man by the eradication of crime, by using any means at his disposal.

THE CRIME DOCTOR was critically acclaimed when first published but unfortunately Dr. Dollar’s thrilling adventures came to a halt shortly after because of the death of the author. Such the pity because the Crime Doctor is an intriguing character, one whom could stand shoulder to shoulder with Sherlock Holmes, Charlie Chan, Philo Vance as well as Hornung’s most popular creation, Raffles, the Gentleman Cracksmith.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Scribner Acquires Next Novel By John le Carré

Scribner and Pocket Books have acquired U.S. publication and audio rights to John le Carré's next highly anticipated novel, A Most Wanted Man. The announcement was made today by Susan Moldow, Executive Vice President and Publisher of Scribner.

Nan Graham, Vice President, Editor-in-Chief of Scribner, who will edit the book, negotiated the agreement with attorney Michael Rudell for the novel which will be published in October 2008 simultaneously with le Carré's longtime British publisher Hodder & Stoughton and with Penguin Canada. The acquisition of A Most Wanted Man marks a return for le Carré to Scribner who published his runaway New York Times bestsellers Single & Single (1999) and The Constant Gardener (2000), which later became the award-winning film directed by Fernando Meirelles.

Set in Germany, A Most Wanted Man is one of le Carré's most stunning novels, an urgent, contemporary story delivering readers deep inside the intelligence agencies operating in the "war on terror."

"We are thrilled to be publishing John le Carré again," said Susan Moldow. "A Most Wanted Man will remind readers why he is one of the most important writers of our time, offering his unparalleled and timely examination of the world's most pressing threat."

"Le Carré is in a class of his own and he's at the top of it here," added Nan Graham. "A Most Wanted Man is a fiercely intelligent take on the way we fight terrorism now and an extraordinarily moving story about the integrity of some of the men and women on the ground. The characters are as complex and compelling as any le Carré has ever given us."

"I'm pleased with this novel and encouraged by Scribner's enthusiasm," said John le Carré. "It was one of those books that, once started, seemed to write itself. The end took me by surprise, then scared me stiff."

John le Carré is the author of twenty novels -- many of them number one bestsellers -- including The Spy Who Came In From the Cold, The Constant Gardener, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy; The Little Drummer Girl,The Russia House, and The Tailor of Panama. His books have been translated into twenty-five languages and have been the basis for award-winning, format-bending films and television.

Book Review: Ku Klux Klan America’s First Terrorists Exposed


In the first part of the century, the Klan’s influence on the American way of life was omni-present. They gathered at high-profile gatherings like parades, political events and war rallies. Their posts warning all enemies of the US to beware of KKK justice was seen by hundreds of thousands in many newspapers of the day while from the pulpit preachers exalted their moral Christian virtues. They even appeared (in mockery and satire) in an “Our Gang” comedic short, Lodge Night, and a Walt Disney cartoon, “Alice and the Dog Catcher.” But through the decades the KKK ranks dwindled as their violent and racist tactics came to light. Because of shame and embarrassment, magazine articles and other popular culture media, both pro Klan and anti Klan, was censored or buried.

Ku Klux Klan America’s First Terrorists Exposed brings the reader back to the time when the KKK was still the subject of debate. Then as the title of the book suggests, exposes them as a ruthless band of subversives by first-hand accounts, investigative news reporting, and law enforcement agencies files. The period vernacular in this book can be offensive and shocking at times, but is necessary to convey the nation’s attitude at that time to its citizens of color.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Book Review: Amazing Fantasy THE TERROR of TIM BOO BA Omnibus vol.1


“Many are the wonders of the vast universe. But none so fantastic as… TIM BOO BA!” This bold statement scripted by Marvel’s founding father – Stan “the Man” Lee, foretells the terrible reign of the cruel reptilian dictator, who is finally bested by ….well, that would be telling, and unfair to the reader because most of this story’s charm, like many others contained in this volume, derides from Twilight Zone “inspired” surprise ending. Some much so, Lee stated in an interview with Will Murray regarding his Amazing Fantasy scripts, “I used to get letters from readers ‘Hey, I just saw Twilight Zone, and they used one of your stories from issue so-and-so.’”

Amazing Fantasy THE TERROR of TIM BOO BA Omnibus vol.1 beautifully reprints in their entirety: Amazing Adventures #1-6, Amazing Adult Fantasy #7-14 and Amazing Fantasy #15 -- that’s 416 pages (scripted and executed by Marvel’s A-list talent: Lee, Ditko, and Kirby) brimming with evil alien invaders, rampaging giant monsters, and the creation of Marvel’s greatest and most influential superhero -- Spider-man! This collection is a must have for vintage monster comic book fans.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Book Review: Give the Boys a Great Big Hand by Ed McBain

Patrolman Richard Genero, the beat cop who made the initial body discovery way back in The Pusher, strikes gold again when he finds a discarded flight bag containing a severed hand. With nothing to go on but a printless hand and a vague description of the person who left it, the bulls at the 87th need to pull clues and suspects from thin air to discover not only who the killer is, but who the victim was.

Nothing too far from the norm here, the boys do their fair share of legwork to track down paper thin leads, the main guys on the case being Carella, Hawes. and Meyer. Parker also appears long enough to start a fist fight with Carella, already putting him above Haviland as far as chaos potential. The fight starts when Carella sticks up for Frankie Hernandez, who spends his second appearance in the city defending The Cause from Parker's relentless bigoted comments.

Nothing too spectacular takes place in this episode, although it is the second book in a row that sees Carella losing his temper, from shouting at the reluctant Douglas King in King's Ransom to taking a swing at Parker here. While he has never been portrayed as the calm one of the precinct (that would be Meyer), he has never been this hot headed.

Reviewed by S. Michael Wilson

Monday, February 25, 2008

Book Review: The Heckler by Ed McBain

A naked man, dead from a shotgun wound to the chest, is found in the park by some children. At the same time, shopkeepers in the city are receiving crank calls by a "heckler" that threatens them if they don't move shop by the end of the month.

Could these two cases be connected? Apparently so, and although such a setup makes it obvious that these two storyline will intersect, an interest in the detectives of the 87th and their procedure keep it interesting. Also interesting is the first appearance of a new recurring villain, the Deaf Man. Playing Moriarty to the Precinct's Sherlock, the Deaf Man is a somewhat low-rent criminal genius, who works his vast plan to distract the city while robbing a newly constructed bank vault with a motley crew of second-hand crooks and punks. His role as Moriarty is blatantly pointed out by Kling, who mentions having just read The Red Headed League, a Sherlock Holmes story featuring a similar bait-and-switch scenario.

Possibly the most interesting thing about The Heckler is that in the end, he is not thwarted by brilliant detective work, but by a simple twist of fate and a moment of bad luck. McBain is refreshing in his willingness to show the limitations of the department, and how human error can sometimes work in its favor. This is especially evident when Kling practically solves the whole thing in reference to The Red Headed League, but isn't able to put his finger on its relevance until it is almost too late.

Also, over forty years later, the Deaf Man's plan to distract the police force by creating a state of panic and fear with simultaneous bomb attacks throughout the city seems all too possible.

Like King's Ransom, the narrative spends a bit more time than usual with the criminals involved. This is a relief in a book with a much lengthier time frame than his time compressed one-day scenarios, as it allows passage of time in the ongoing investigation while allowing us to skip the more dreary legwork.

Meyer opens and closes this story handling the Heckler calls, while Carella and Hernandez try to track down the identity and murderer of the naked man in the park. Carella is yet again nearly killed in the line of duty, raising the question of how many times can his imminent death be used as a plot point before it gets old.

Reviewed by S. Michael Wilson

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Press Release: HARPERCOLLINS TEAMS UP WITH DECLARE YOURSELF

HarperCollins Publishers will join forces with Declare Yourself, the national nonpartisan, nonprofit youth voter initiative aimed at empowering and encouraging America's youth to register and vote in the 2008 primaries and general election, to publish Declare Yourself: Speak. Connect. Vote. 50 Celebrated Americans Tell You Why (on sale: May 20, 2008) - a book to inspire, educate, entertain, and engage teens in the political process.
In the lead up to the 2008 presidential and general election, Greenwillow Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, will publish this collection of original essays and personal pieces about the importance of civic action. The contributors to Declare Yourself include young celebrities who will be casting their first ballot in 2008, comedians, actors, authors, athletes, musicians, political figures, and entrepreneurs. These well-known public figures will share their own experiences, relate personal anecdotes, and issue a call-to-action, encouraging young people to practice democracy and to register to vote for the upcoming election. Topics will range from "The First Time I Voted" to "Why the Personal is Political" to "Why Your Vote Counts," and more.
The book announcement comes on the heels of a record turnout of young voters in the recent Super Tuesday elections. MTV.com recently reported that, in practically every state holding a primary or caucus last Tuesday, youth turnout increased astronomically, doubling, tripling and even quadrupling the turnout in the 2000 and 2004 electoral seasons.
"We are excited and honored to partner with Declare Yourself and bring together this spirited collection of diverse and uniquely American voices," says Susan Katz, President and Publisher of HarperCollins Children's Books. "We are united in our goal, which is saying to young people: get informed, get connected, declare yourselves. Become lifelong voters.
"America Ferrera, star of the hit ABC show Ugly Betty, will act as the celebrity editor and spokesperson for the Declare Yourself book. In this role, Ferrera will write the introduction to the book and also support the book through media and public appearances.
Confirmed contributors for the Declare Yourself book include: Tom Anderson and Chris DeWolfe, Maya Angelou, Ryan Bingham, Bonnie Bernstein, Cheryl Burke, Meg Cabot, Nick Cannon, Sasha Cohen, Lauren Conrad, Chris Crutcher, Rosario Dawson, Kat DeLuna, America Ferrera, Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon, Anastasia Goodstein, Adrian Grenier, Hill Harper, Molly Ivins, Mike James, Marty Kaplan, Sean Kingston, James Kotecki, Nicole Lapin, Norman Lear, Maroon 5, Courtney E. Martin, Megan McCafferty, Naomi Shihab Nye, Hayden Panettiere, Amy Richards, Rob Riggle, Mark Ritchie, Henry Rollins, Atoosa Rubenstein, Stuart Scott, Holly Shulman, Amber Tamblyn, Aaron Tang, Aisha Tyler, Gabrielle Union, Sara Varon, Wilmer Valderrama, Alice Walker, Joan Walsh, Marcellus Wiley, and Judd Winick, and a piece by The Onion. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Declare Yourself's ongoing voter registration outreach initiatives.
"Exercising your right to vote is one of the most powerful-and personal-actions anyone can take in our country. We hope that sharing these very personal pieces will inspire millions of young people to vote for the first time-and write the next chapter in the on-going story of our democracy," says Norman Lear, founder of Declare Yourself.
In addition to HarperCollins Publishers, companies such as Cricket (Presenting Sponsor), Yahoo! (Premier Online Information Partner), MySpace (Premier Social Networking Partner), Google, Evite, Good Search, Clear Channel, Comedy Central, Good Magazine and American Eagle Outfitters have also signed on with Declare Yourself's 2008 campaign. Declare Yourself works closely with the most popular online destinations; young celebrities, sports figures and fashion designers; popular television shows; mobile content providers; retailers; video games; and media outlets to drive millions of young people, particularly first-time voters, to www.DeclareYourself.com to register to vote.
About HarperCollins Publishers
HarperCollins, one of the largest English-language publishers in the world, is a subsidiary of News Corporation (NYSE: NWS, NWS.A; ASX: NWS, NWSLV). Headquartered in New York, HarperCollins has publishing groups around the world including the HarperCollins General Books Group, HarperCollins Children's Books Group, Zondervan, HarperCollins UK, HarperCollins Canada, HarperCollins Australia/New Zealand and HarperCollins India. HarperCollins is a broad-based publisher with strengths in literary and commercial fiction, business books, children's books, cookbooks, mystery, romance, reference, religious and spiritual books. With nearly 200 years of history HarperCollins has published some of the world's foremost authors and has won numerous awards including the Nobel Prize, the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award, the Newbery Medal and the Caldecott. Consistently at the forefront of innovation and technological advancement, HarperCollins is the first publisher to digitize its content and create a global digital warehouse to protect the rights of its authors, meet consumer demand and generate additional business opportunities. You can visit HarperCollins Publishers on the Internet at http://www.harpercollins.com and www.harpercollinschildrens.com.
About Declare Yourself
Declare Yourself is the national nonpartisan, nonprofit campaign to energize and empower every eligible 18-year-old in America to register and vote in the 2008 primaries and general election. Partnering with leaders in education, the entertainment industry, popular online destinations and media outlets, the fashion industry and retailers, Declare Yourself registered more than 1.2 million people in the 2004 and 2006 elections at www.DeclareYourself.com. Declare Yourself, founded by Norman Lear, was launched in 2003 as the culmination of the Declaration of Independence Road Trip, a nationwide multi-media exhibit and tour of an original copy of the Declaration of Independence.

Book Signing: Otto A Berliner

Award winning author Otto A berliner to attend book signing at Horizons Restaurant in the Woodcliff Hotel & Spa, Fairpoint NY on Feburary 23 from 3:30 to 5:30 pm. Period WWII music will also be performed live.

The award winning author of 'The Cobbler of Normandy' will visit with fans, autograph copies of his book and invites everyone to attend. The Cobbler of Normandy, (historical fiction), tells the exciting story of 5 people working in occupied France to help the coming Allied Invasion defeat the Nazi occupiers in France. Fast paced and filled with the real dangers faced by the French Underground, The Cobbler of Normandy is based on real persons and events in WWII France.

Otto A Berliner was announced as the winner of NewBookReviews.org's Best Historical Fiction Book of 2007 Literary Award. The Cobbler of Normandy has received other critical acclaim.

NewBookReviews.org's 2007 Literary Award winners are determined by votes cast by the reading public and the editors of NBR.org for excellence in the literature.

Press Release: Simon & Schuster's Atria Books Acquires Flynn's Next Four Novels

CBS Films and Simon & Schuster/Atria Books -- both divisions of CBS Corporation -- have reached film and publishing agreements with best-selling author Vince Flynn for upcoming projects, it was jointly announced by Amy Baer, President & CEO of CBS Films, and Carolyn Reidy, President & CEO of Simon & Schuster.

Flynn is the author of nine best-selling novels, eight of which feature the popular character, counter-terrorism operative Mitch Rapp. There are over 10 million copies of Flynn's books in print in the U.S., and with his most recent book, Protect and Defend, he joined the ranks of those select few authors who can immediately claim the Number One spot on hardcover bestseller lists in their first week on sale.

CBS Films has optioned the rights for Flynn's Mitch Rapp character with the intention of creating a character-based, action-thriller movie franchise. Lorenzo di Bonaventura, who produced two of last summer's hits -- "Transformers" and Stephen King's "1408" -- and Nick Wechsler ("We Own The Night") are in negotiations to produce the films.

Flynn's new agreement with Atria and Simon & Schuster is a four book global publishing deal for all world rights, including translation and audio. The worldwide simultaneous English language publication of the first book in the agreement by Atria and Simon & Schuster companies in the U.K., Canada and Australia will take place in 2010. Flynn will be published under the direction of Atria Executive Vice President and Publisher Judith Curr, and Vice President and Executive Editorial Director Emily Bestler, who made the acquisition.

"We have always passionately believed in Vince Flynn's star potential as a bestselling author, and equally that his books deserved the even wider audience and exposure that can be reached through feature films," said Reidy. "That this comes about through our relationship with CBS Films is even more exciting for us, and we look forward to seeing Mitch Rapp on the screen, and many more Simon & Schuster properties developed in conjunction with CBS."

"One of my first goals for CBS Films was to find a character-based movie franchise," said Baer. "With the Mitch Rapp series, Vince Flynn has created a relatable, modern, post-9/11 hero for the action/thriller genre. It is an amazing collection of creative material that offers tremendous potential for a smart, energizing new film franchise with appeal to a wide range of movie-going audiences. The publishing world has always provided abundant source material for motion pictures, and we're fortunate that our corporate cousins at Simon & Schuster attract and nurture some of the world's best literary assets."

"Vince Flynn's career has been steadily on the rise since he self-published his first book, Term Limits, and together we've watched his popularity grow with every successive publication," said Curr. "Now readers and moviegoers alike can savor more of the thrilling insider insight and verisimilitude that has made him a favorite of average citizens and the national security operatives who protect us."

"I couldn't be happier with this deal," said Flynn. "Signing up for four more books, keeping the movie in the family with CBS Films and getting Lorenzo and Nick to sign on as producers … it's the outcome I'd always hoped for. Loyalty is a big thing to me. Simon & Schuster, Atria and Pocket Books have stood by me for 10 years and done a magnificent job publishing my novels. Lorenzo and Nick have been trying to bring Mitch Rapp to the big screen since 2004, so there is a level of commitment on their part that is very comforting to me. They understand Mitch Rapp, as does Amy Baer and her team. It is going to be a lot of fun watching CBS Films hit this thing out of the park."

"Vince has created an unbelievably unique and dynamic character in Mitch Rapp," said di Bonaventura. "Nick and I can't wait to bring him to the screen and we feel lucky to be doing this in partnership with CBS."

Sloan Harris and Ron Bernstein of ICM represented Flynn for the publishing and film agreements.

Monday, February 18, 2008

A forgotten talent - Theodora Keogh



One of America’s most interesting novelists died last month but her passing barely caused a stir in the literary world – only London’s Daily Telegraph recognized this writer’s achievements with a full obituary. Theodora Keogh, who was 88, died in North Carolina on 5 January. She was the granddaughter of Theodore Roosevelt but that wasn’t her main claim to fame. She produced nine novels in the 1950s and 1960s that stood out from the crowd for their challenging and dark subject matter.

Born in 1919, Theodora began her career as a dancer. She married Tom Keogh, a theatrical designer, in 1945 and went to Europe where they led a socialite lifestyle in France. She hung out with the Paris Review crowd, including founder George Plimpton and other literary figures, while Keogh designed costumes for stage and film, and also worked for Vogue magazine.

Meg - her debut novel - was published in 1950 and it concerns a 12-year-old girl who goes to an up-market private school but mixes with the wrong crowd from the streets. The heroine is raped. Many critics were taken aback by the storyline but Theodore was just getting started.

In 1952, she published The Double Door, which has a homosexual storyline - daring for the day. That same year saw the publication of Street Music where a music critic falls in love with a child criminal. The Fascinator (1954) concerned a young girl being seduced by a sculptor. In 1961, Gemini examined the taboo subject of incest in a story about twins. Her 1962 novel, The Other Girl, was a fictional account of the Elizabeth Short’s notorious ‘Black Dahlia’ murder in 1947.

Theodora Keogh didn’t write again after 1962 but her life was rarely dull. She divorced Tom, married a tugboat captain and lived in the Chelsea Hotel. She later moved to North Carolina and married again.

Theodora’s literary legacy is that she pushed the boundaries of acceptance in literature. She paved the way for many authors.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Manson's Murder Movies


“The last taboo would be to actually kill someone in front of the cameras.”
--Six years after Sharon Tate’s murder, Roman Polanski makes a cameo in CONFESSIONS OF A BLUE MOVIE STAR -- a film that includes a hoaxed interview with a snuff film director.

The television screen flickered to life showing a grainy and somewhat shaky close-up of a fifteen to eighteen year old Caucasian girl’s face. Her eyes are wide open and a strip of gray duct tape cris-crosses her mouth. The camera pulls back to reveal her naked torso handcuffed to a metal bed frame. Her head jerks side-to-side as low moans and the squeal of metal bedsprings can be heard. The camera pans down past the rest of her naked body and focuses on her feet -- each one wired to the ends of the bed frame.

The camera sways backward to show a larger view of the room... devoid of furniture, cracked crumbling plaster walls, black plastic trash bags cover the two windows. By the looks of the surroundings this was most likely filmed in an abandoned building -- maybe one located in your city or town. After some shaky camera movement, a large man wearing a gray sweat suit enters the picture. His head is covered by a blue wool ski mask. As he approaches the bed frame, the girl starts to twist and struggle.

The man beats the girl about the thigh and stomach with a closed fist. The camera swings around focusing between the impact spots of the punches and her face. The man then removes the bottom half of the sweat suit and rapes the girl. His hands are around her neck. Seven minutes later, he pulls his sweat pants to his waist and leaves the frame.

He returns moments later. The camera zooms in on his hand -- now holding gardening shears. He opens and closes them for the camera. The camera sways to the girls face. Her eyes are closed, and there is no indication of life. The man removes her nose and ears with the shears before cutting parts of her breast.

Four minutes later he rapes her for the last time before walking out of the camera’s view.

Moments later he returns with a hack saw and decapitates her corpse. He holds her head directly in front of the camera. It zooms in for a final close-up.

What you just read was the remembered transcript of a actual snuff film. The description of which was written in the least sensational style in the attempt not to arouse or inflame any unsound persons reading this article. It was viewed several years ago by Frank Schildener at the behest of a federal agent with whom he had a working relationship. It seems that this video was found by the Feds in the possession of a paroled sex offender in Frank’s caseload. Another video found in this creep’s collection was labeled BAGMAN TEN, in which a ten year old girl is bound and suffocated by a clear plastic bag placed over her head. Needless to say, Frank went above and beyond the line of duty to send “snuff-boy” back to prison. The sex offender later testified as the State’s witness against the people who sold these videos to him.

I asked Frank if these tapes could have been hoaxed. His response, “No Fucken way! As a Probation Officer in Newark, NJ, I have viewed autopsy photos of murdered children, victims of sexual assaults, and drug addicts so wasted they appeared to be inhuman. I’m not squeamish, but this display was more disgusting than anything I’d seen before or since. I know many people would like to claim snuff films, or now, video tapes, are merely special effects, but I will tell you this, if that was F/X, then the creator was both a sick pig and the possessor of technology dozens of years beyond Hollywood... and that’s not likely.”

Many people like to believe that snuff films are either nonexistent or the product of a lone murderer who is recording his violence so that he can relive them on a later occasion. They ite the evidence of SCREW magazine publisher Al Goldstein’s $25,000 bounty for anyone presenting him with a real snuff film, a reward that has never been paid to this date. These usually are the same people who deny any form of crime that they do not see before them or have immediate evidence of it’s existence. This brand of thinking has lead to the denial of the existence of the Sicilian Mafia, the sudden discovery of the cocaine derivative, crack (despite that it had been a common street drug for almost half a decade by then), and most terrifyingly, the underground market created for child molesters. In the latter case, child molesters are able to indulge their fantasies through illegal magazines, internet websites and even packaged tours of countries in which child prostitution is common.

“Pretty soon the girls would become victims of more than being sex objects. If outsiders moved in so easily for sex, they could just as easily started maneuvering some of the girls into heavier shit -- like chains, whips, blood-drinking, animal death and even human sacrifice.”
--Charlie Manson talks about some of the people he and his family met in Hollywood. From MANSON IN HIS OWN WORDS as told to Nuel Emmons

The term “snuff film” slipped into the backdoor of the American vernacular in 1971 when it was coined by author Ed Saunders in his assessment of the Manson homicides, THE FAMILY. Between its pages many startling claims are revealed. Saunders asserts that Manson and his band of true believers had in their possession three super-8 cameras at Spahn Ranch which they used to film many unusual events. According to ex-family member Vern Plumlee, most of the films made by Mason were “you know, just crazy movies.” A person tripping on bad acid, girls dancing naked around a bon fire slashing the air with knives, and the occasional orgy “with the added spice of a few famous faces and bodies”, would be shown on a screen made from a bed sheet at any given night at the ranch. I wonder who those “famous faces” were?

But not all of Manson’s films were harmless drug induced exploits of the free love generation. During one filming session a fifteen year old girl called Simi Valley Sherri was brutally raped by Manson’s clan with such savagery that Linda Kasabian (eyewitness to the Tate killing) declared, “The whole scene was perversion like I’ve never seen before.” Little did she know then that gang rape would be a cinematic appetizer for her leader Charlie.

Armed with the knowledge that photographic evidence of Charlie’s Family activity exists, Saunders went undercover posing as a New York pornographer with a taste for the bizarre. In no time at all he found an underground film broker who was selling seven hours of Manson’s porn films. The asking price for the films at the time of Manson’s pre-trial was a hefty $250,000.

He also discovered two most shocking rumors. The first: a man named Chuck, who claimed to be a close friend of “Family murder victim” Gary Hinman, maintained he had in his possession films of a “Malibu and San Francisco ax murders.” How pathetically ironic it would be if Hinman was involved with snuff activities at his beach house -- the same house where his own ear was sliced off by the sword wielding Manson before being stabbed to death by Bobby Beausoleil. Before the night of the Hinman carnage, Beausoleil had a promising film career of his own. In his first film he appeared as an angel in MONDO HOLLYWOOD with future “Family murder victim” Jay Sebring. Another time before the camera he and fellow Family member Gypsy played in the X-rated Western epic of rape, totture and murder, THE RAMRODERS. And in his most famous and only staring role, he acted opposite Church of Satan founder Anton LaVey (who play the devil as well being a technical advisor for Roman Polanski’s ROSEMARY’S BABY) in Kenneth Anger’s LUCIFER RISING. According to Bill Landis’ unauthorized biography of the 1960’s underground filmmaker, Anger himself had a run-in with the law in 1965 when he delivered raw footage of THE LOVE THAT WHIRLS to a local drug store for developing. The film contained scenes of a sadistic doctor “working guys over.” One of the masochists looked so beaten that the developer turned over the film to the police suspecting that “it was a possible snuff movie.” The doctor in the film was arrested and Anger was held for questioning. No charges were filed against Anger but all copies of the film were destroyed.

The second rumor: A famous New York artist purchased from a Los Angeles drug dealer a film “depicting the ritual murder of a woman.” (It is interesting to note that this passage only appears in the first printing hardcover of THE FAMILY, and in part two of this article you’ll find out why.)

Only after delving deeper into the muck of the porn film underground, Saunders finally unearthed an individual who witnessed a few of Manson’s snuff films. The anonymous source claims that Manson and his brood hooked up with a cult of devil worshippers known as the Process Church of the Final Judgment. Together they filmed nightly secessions at a unknown beach location that involved “two key Manson female followers” engaged in intercourse as blood from a recently killed dog is poured over their naked bodies. Another grizzly scene had a black-hooded group of five standing around the naked corpse of a decapitated woman. Saunders might have also suspected Hinman of being involved with this film due to the prior rumor, and also because of the snuff film’s location. He asked his source, “What was the name of the house?” Puzzled, his reply was, “It’s not a house. It’s just a beach.” Was Saunders trying to get him to implicate Hinman’s beach house? Maybe.

“We were invited to private parties in Beverly Hills, Malibu and other exclusive areas. A lot of the movie people shot up heroin, smoked opium, free-based and snorted cocaine... We had long ago chucked our inhibitions about sex, but chains, whips, torture, and other weirdness were not part of our routine.”
-- Manson enters Hollywood society, from MANSON IN HIS OWN WORDS as told to Nuel Emmons

Another interesting turn of events happened that could have advanced Manson’s snuff career just before Helter Skelter. Years before, Manson wrote the suicide-drenched tune CEASE TO EXIST for America’s favorite clean-cut band, the BEACH BOYS. With “death” not being part of the surf culture at the time, the group changed the lyrics to CEASE TO RESIST, now a song about sexual liberation -- groovy. Charlie wasn’t pleased with the change in context. He thought the children of the sixties would embrace his death-tripping vibes. Charlie decided that he wanted to be a rock star, so Dennis Wilson, friend and supporter of the Family, made a few telephone calls.

One of the people contacted was record producer Terry Melcher, the person that Roman Polanski rented the residence at 10050 Cielo Drive from. He and friend and soundman Gregg Jacobson took a ride to Spahn Ranch to hear Manson wail prison blues and folk gyrations on a beat-up acoustic guitar. According to Melcher’s side of the story, he took a pass on Manson’s musical talents, but, Charlie, and his ragged band of run-aways, interested Jacobson. He pitched a deal to Manson that he would produce a television documentary on Manson’s communal lifestyle. Charlie agreed.

During that time, Manson’s group ripped-off an NBC news truck. Though it is not mentioned, it is highly likely that this truck was sent to film Manson for Jacobson’s TV documentary. Charlie’s band got away with tens of thousands of dollars worth of broadcast quality video equipment. Equipment that could have made him a top player in the field of underground porn.

Shortly after the theft, the documentary was called off. Charlie had bigger plans in the works. (In 1978, Manson wrote a letter to a California newspaper claiming that Dennis Wilson supplied him with thousands of dollars worth of video equipment in order to penetrate a world-wide underground porno circuit. If Manson is telling the truth, Wilson could have been the one to encourage Jacobson to film a documentary about the Family in order for Charlie to steal the video equipment. Also the second part of the claim has Manson a fledgling player in a “worldwide” porno circuit. If this is true it is certainly not because Manson had an abundance of “pretty girls.” In fact his girls were so plain looking he couldn’t pimp them out as go-go dancers -- an idea he tried and failed. His only commodity would have been snuff films.)


SOURCES:

MANSON IN HIS OWN WORDS by Nuel Emmonns, 1986, Grove Press
THE FAMILY by Ed Saunders, 1971, E.P. Dutton and Co., Inc.
THE GARBAGE PEOPLE by John Gilmore, 1971, Omega Press
ANGER by Bill Landis, 1995, Harper Collins
KILLING FOR CULTURE by David Kerekes and David Slater, 1994, Creation Books

Monday, February 11, 2008

Book Review: WARTS AND ALL by Drew Friedman and Josh Alan Friedman

Around a million years ago, I owned a comic book shop. One day a local neighborhood jackass (who will go nameless) stumbled in with a wide grin and slides a paper underneath my unenthused eyes. The caption screamed:

“GROWN MEN WHO SELL COMIC BOOKS?! THEY ARE… COMIC SHOP CLERKS OF NORTH AMERICA”

The highly detailed illustrations of eight inbreed imbeciles stared up at me. Although I was being mocked, and in my own store no less, I was at a loss for a retort, for I was completely captivated by the artist’s rendering of the emotionally crippled and physically deformed comic shop brethren.
How apropos it was to find that this little artistic gem was from a book entitled WARTS AND ALL by Drew Friedman and Josh Alan Friedman. The Friedman brothers creates a surrealistic black and white stippled world of the greats and near greats; the famous and infamous, all thrown into outrageous settings and situations. My favorite: TOR JOHNSON IN NEW YORK!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Book Signings

Peter Walsh, star of “Clean Sweep”, signing copies of Does This Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat? on 2/11/08, 7:00 PM, at Borders Books – Old Country Road. Westbury, NY.
Kathie Lee Gifford, talk show host, will be performing and signing copies of Ask Me Again on
2/12/08, 6:00 PM, at Barnes & Noble – Lincoln Center. New York, NY.
Al Jarreau, jazz and pop star, signing copies of Love Songs on 2/13/08, 7:30 PM, at Barnes & Noble – Lincoln Triangle. New York, NY.
Kenny G will be performing and signing copies of Rhythm and Romance on 2/13/08, 7:00 PM, at Borders Books – Columbus Circle. New York, NY.
Idina Menzel, Tony Award winner and star of “Enchanted”, signing copies of I Stand on 2/14/08, 5:30 PM, at Borders Books – Columbus Circle. New York, NY.
Betty Buckley, Tony Award winner and star of “Eight Is Enough”, will be signing copies of Quintessence on 2/14/08 at Noon at Borders Books – Park Avenue. New York, NY.
Gary “Baba Booey” Dell’Abate and other cast members of “The Howard Stern Show”, will be signing autographs on 2/14/08, 1:30 PM, at Borders Books – Park Avenue. New York, NY.
Suzanne Vega, singer/songwriter, signing copies of Beauty & Crime on 2/14/08, 7:00 PM, at Borders Books – Columbus Circle. New York, NY.
Kathleen Turner, star of “Body Heat” and “Romancing the Stone”, signing copies of Send Yourself Roses… on 2/18/08, 7:00 PM, at Barnes & Noble – Lincoln Center. New York, NY.
Chuck Schumer, US Senator, signing copies of Positively American on 2/19/08, 7:00 PM, at Barnes & Noble – Court Street. Brooklyn, NY and on 2/25/08, 12:30 PM, at Borders Books – Broadway. New York, NY. WARNING: Do not get between the Senator and a TV camera!
Deborah Norville, host of ”Inside Edition”, will be signing copies of Thank You Poweron 2/21/08, 7:00 PM, at Borders Books – Columbus Circle. New York, NY.
They Might Be Giants, pop stars, will be performing & signing copies of Here Come the 1, 2, 3s
on 2/23/08, 2:00 PM, at Borders Books – Columbus Circle. New York, NY.
Valerie Bertinelli, star of “One Day At A Time”, signing copies of Losing It on 2/27/08, 12:30 PM, at Barnes & Noble – Fifth Avenue. New York, NY.
Attention Monster Fans.... Get your plane ticket!
Ray Harryhausen, Ray Bradbury, & Forrest Ackerman, 3 legends of science fiction, will be speaking & signing copies of their books on 2/25/08, 7:30 PM, at Mystery & Imagination Bookstore - North Brand Blvd. Glendale, CA.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Book Review: Killer Instinct by Jane Hamsher

The key to a really great "Behind-The-Scenes" book is an impartial perspective, and perhaps that is the one area this book falls short. Unfortunately, it isn't the only area.

Jane Hamsher can possibly be forgiven for not taking a step back and telling the facts without a personal slant to them; after all, she isn't a journalist, and this isn't really a straight forward making-of book (as the title says, its about the producers). What I can't bring myself to overlook is how badly one-sided and self-serving the book actually comes off as. To beleive this book to the fullest, you would have to go along with the idea that Jane Hamsher was the not only the sole reason this movie ever got made, but that it would have been a complete disaster if it wasn't for her. I really would have a problem with that, if she wasn't the one who kept underlining it as fact.

According to Jane, she was the lone sane voice amongst the madding crowd. She was responsible for the artistic choices that made the film great, and all of the decisions that made them happen. Of course, everybody else was wrong, so each choice she made was an uphill battle. Not just because she was the only smart and sane person, but also because she was the only woman amongst a crowd of stupid men.

Its sad, but it seems she spends half the time painting the ultimate feminist picture on how it took a woman to do a man's job. I'm sure in some cases that was true, but she makes it as if the weight of all responsability was resting on her shoulders. She seems to take great pleasure in repeatedly pointing out that she has to dress her own production partner, and shows contempt for the men that were afraid to let her on the set where convicted murdurers and rapists were running around loose "pretending" to riot. She also spends a great deal of time obsessing on Oliver Stones questionable attitude towards women, and successfully transfers those insecurities to most of the crew as well. Whenever someone disagrees with her, they are either stupid or afraid of a woman in power. Those silly men!

Between the holier-than-thou attitude and hear-me-roar male bashing, there was some great info on the shooting of the film, but not nearly enough. And what info there is must be taken with a grain of salt, when you realize that its all told to make her look good (see: perfect). If you want to hear a producer pat herself on the back (at the expense of everybody else involved in the film) over and over again than this is the book for you. If you want the real story on the making of Natural Born Killers, you might want to look elsewhere.

Reviewed by S. Michael Wilson

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

N.Y. Times reporter gets subpoena on book

A New York Times reporter has been subpoenaed to testify before a federal grand jury in Virginia about a book he wrote on the CIA.

James Risen's lawyer, David Kelley, said that the subpoena involves one chapter in "State of War" on the U.S. intelligence agency's efforts to get information on the Iraqi nuclear program, the Times said Friday.

"We intend to fight this subpoena, so we'll likely be engaging in some sort of litigation," Kelley said. "Jim has adhered to the highest traditions of journalism. He is the highest caliber of reporter that you can find, and he will keep his commitment to the confidentiality of his sources."

Risen and Eric Lichtblau won a Pulitzer Prize for national reporting for articles in 2006 on warrantless wiretapping. The book took off from that series.

The book was published by the Free Press, a division of Simon & Schuster. Martha Levin, the executive vice president and publisher, called the use of confidential sources "one of the bedrock principles of a free and open society."

Risen was ordered to testify Feb. 7 before a grand jury in Alexandria, Va.

Monday, February 4, 2008

THE ANGRY RED PLANET on DVD


Let's break the format of this blog so I can share with you some memories of a favorite childhood sci-fi flick now availble on DVD.


"SPECTACULAR ADVENTURE BEYOND TIME and SPACE... as CINEMAGIC TAKES YOU TO..." That is the tag line for AIP's 1960 super sci-fi spectacular, The Angry Red Planet, and as Walter Brennan used to say, "That's no brag, just fact!" Well, maybe just a little brag.

The two men responsible for creating this bizarre but enjoyable ride through space are Ib Melchior and Sidney Pink. Melchior, who in 1976 was awarded the Golden Scroll by the Academy of Science Fiction for Best Writing, served as the film's co-writer and director. Ib is also known for writing such films as LIVE FAST, DIE YOUNG, WHEN HELL BROKE LOOSE, JOURNEY TO THE SEVENTH PLANET, REPTILICUS, ROBINSON CRUSOE ON MARS, PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES, AMBUSH BAY and DEATH RACE 2000. The other conspirator was legendary B movie producer and co-writer, Sidney Pink. Sidney's thirty year body of work, also impressive, is too numerous to list completely, so here are some of the highlights. PRYO, SECRET AGENT 007, REPTILICUS, JOURNEY TO THE SEVENTH PLANET, BWANA DEVIL (the first color 3-D film), EXQUISITE CADAVER and THE MAN FROM O.R.G.Y. (!).

Ib Melchior was introduced to Pink by AIP actress, Nora Hayden. He quickly struck a deal with Pink to re-write the first draft of THE ANGRY RED PLANET, (then called INVASION OF MARS), free of charge if he would be allowed to direct it for scale. Pink happily agreed, but would soon regret his decision. Pink recalls after reading Ib's treatment, "Ib finished the script, but none of us were pleased with the results. He had shortened or removed action sequences and devoted too much time in the spaceship to talking and explaining. This would have been fine if we had a Billy Wilder to write the dialogue, but Ib was a far cry from Wilder." Pink then had to re-write the script back to its original action formula, but kept many of Ib's scientific data about rocketry and celestial navigation that added a greater sense of realism. Pink also found fault in Melchior's direction, or lack of it, "From the first hour on the set, it was evident that Ib Melchior could never get the picture done. He was unable to set up even his first shot, and we lost three hours before Stanley (Cortez, the film's cameraman) took charge. He quietly but firmly took Ib by the hand and issued his own orders through Melchior." Both men also share writing credit for REPTILICUS, a reunion which, much to Pink's chagrin was to link their reputations. As a result, AIP, considering them to be a writing team, brought them together for a third and last time for JOURNEY TO THE SEVENTH PLANET. Pink would later note that this last experience was not much better than the first. "As usual, Ib's script was wordy and full of banalities that hindered the action needed to keep the movie interesting. Ib thought the worth of the script was measured by the number of words and dialogue it contained." The reunion was not without some benefit, however. Pink admitted that Melchior did contribute the scientific data that gave JOURNEY TO THE SEVENTH PLANET, "...a touch of reality".

Sidney Pink retired from films in 1970 and is living in Florida, where he patiently waits for residual checks. Today, Ib Melchior is also out of the movie business and is living in California, where he writes spy thrillers based on his experiences as a spy during World War II for U.S. Military Intelligence.

The film starts without credits but the usual stock footage of the Capitol dome and then fades to the Pentagon (remember, N.A.S.A. wasn't around yet). a military motorcade comes to a halt as General Kreger exits and makes his way to a guarded conference room, equipped with standard B movie props like an American flag and a chart of the solar system. The General, head of the Mars Rocket Project, recites this somber statement to civilian advisors and top brass alike. "At 03:00 this morning the expeditionary X 1 rocket ship, missing for sixty one days was sighted by Mount Palamar drifting in orbit some 90,000 miles in space. All attempts to establish radio communications have failed so far. We don't know if anyone is alive aboard. The MR1 appears to be a dead ship...Gentlemen, the Mars rocket must be retrieved and brought back to Earth in tact."

The group seems to be amazed by such an impossible task. The situation seems hopeless until one professor remembers that the X 1 rocket has a remote controlled auto pilot. Once activated, it will allow the X 1 to land safely at a Nevada Air Force Base. If this is a true depiction of the early days of our space program, this would explain Sputnik. After a short jet ride to the base via stock footage we are bombarded with scenes of radar operators staring at their screens, airmen adjusting a satellite dish, a 1960's state of the art digital countdown, and countless other military tableaus. It seems that Pink received permission by the U.S. Air Force to film on one of their bases. After working on Pink's nonsensical script, this threat of realism was perhaps too much for Melchior to resist, for it seems to go on forever. Knowing Melchior's reputation for long winded scientific jargon, his camera crew is probably still there, sending reels of film back to the now defunct production company.

Through a vignette of newspaper headlines, we join all of America in wondering the uncertain fate of the four astronauts who manned the MR1. News reel film is shown on television of Colonel Tom O'Bannon, Air Force pilot and ladies man extraordinairre. It's extraordinary that he could fly the rocket with his hands all over his female co-astronaut, Dr. Iris Ryan. The beautiful biologist was portrayed by Nora Hayden, who just recently wrote the best selling sex book, HOW SATISFY A WOMAN EVERY TIME. Chief Warrant Officer Sam Jacob is the good natured strongman and class clown. Every sci-fi B movie of this time had it's man-child sidekick for comic relief just in case the monsters were not funny enough. Veteran character heavy, Jack Kruschen, plays this part to the hilt (he smuggles comic books aboard the rocket and claims Mars in the name of BROOKLYN!). And finally Les Tremayne, who provided the voice of Dr. Quest in the JOHNNY QUEST cartoon series, is aptly suited to play Professor Theodore Getell, designer of the rocket and the world's foremost authority on space travel. Did you think that General Kreger would send this crew up without someone like the Professor? After all, someone has to keep the rocket on course when the rest of the crew is busy monkeying around. A cursory examination of the crew's make up resembles another space traveling quartet, namely Marvel Comics' THE FANTASTIC FOUR. At one point in the film our astronauts are in danger of being exposed to cosmic radiation. In case you're not well read, cosmic radiation was the source of The Fantastic Four's superpowers. Is it possible the comic's creator, Stan Lee, was influenced by Pink and Melchior's classic? But I digress.

It's zero hour at the air base. We are again tortured by endless scenes of technicians adjusting telescopes, radar operators viewing a screen, and airmen waiting by jeeps for the landing of the rocket, some of whom are less than optimistic. When the rocket does land, it is greeted by a flurry of rescue personnel. The MR1's only survivors are an astronaut lying on a stretcher who's identity is hidden beneath a sheet and a dazed Dr. Ryan. They assure her he will be cared for, but she asks, "How do you cope with that?" The unknown crew member's oozing arm dangles from the sheet as he, and Dr. Ryan, are transported to the base hospital. Once there, the condition of the unknown astronaut is grim. A parasitic growth is spreading throughout his body, and being of unknown origin, the doctors are helpless to treat it. The only key to the puzzle rests with Dr. Ryan, who is suffering from shock and exhaustion. Semi-conscious, she is questioned by General Kreger and the Base doctor. Dr. Ryan can recall the forty seven days spent in the rocket's impressive control room and the landing on the planet's surface, but when she remembers seeing a Martian face at the rocket's porthole, she starts screaming uncontrollably.

The Doctor surmises that something Dr. Ryan experienced on Mars was so horrible that it's causing her conscious mind to block it out. Fearing that the alien infection may be contagious, possibly spreading beyond the base to infect all the people of Earth, the General is desperate for the information that's contained in Dr. Ryan's sub-conscious. He then proposes the doctor treat her with narco-synthesis, a drug that will cause her to remember facts under interrogation. The doctor warns the General that any information gained by this procedure will be colored by the patient's own perceptions of the events. The distortion may be great since the initial experiences were too horrible for her to cope with in the first place. There is also the added risk that, "her mind might snap if we forced her to remember the horror she so carefully obliterated from her conscious level." Of course we know there is no such drug called narco-synthesis. The only existing drug at the time that has the same effects was lysergic acid diethylamide, commonly known as LSD. During World War II the Nazis tested mescaline on prisoners at Dachau concentration camp. They were looking for a way to brainwash people, but soon found it was an effective tool for interrogation. After the war this project became known to U.S. Military Intelligence who, with the Central Intelligence Agency, continued the Nazi drug experiment using LSD on American service men. These experiments continued into the late 60's. It is altogether possible that Ib Melchior, being in Military Intelligence, knew of these classified experiments and incorporated them into the script. Could this be one of the touches of reality that Pink complemented Melchior for? Fearing for the life of her companion, our brave Dr. Ryan insists on the treatment and returns us to Mars.

The crew dons spacesuits and is ready to explore the surface, looking for the alien Iris saw at the porthole. An alien she describes as, "a huge distorted face with three bulging eyes!". Once outside, the film takes on a hazy red distortion to represent Dr. Ryan's drug induced remembrances of the Martian atmosphere. Pink named this process Cinemagic, and it was achieved by overlapping the positive and negative film print at a 45 degree angle, and then tinted with a red monochrome color. This procedure caused the film's budget to soar from $227,000 to $277,000, but was so effective that Pink used it again in JOURNEY TO THE SEVENTH PLANET and REPTILICUS. The Martian landscape is represented by sprawling earth-like vegetation and painted backdrops of weird plants and mountains (courtesy of Cinemagic's inventor and TARP co-producer, Norman Maurer, who was the son-in-law of The Three Stooges' Moe Howard.). The expedition turn potentially deadly when Dr. Ryan is entangled in a man, or in this case woman, eating plant. After being hacked to safety by a machete wielding O'Bannon, the group returns to the ship. Once there Professor Getell informs the group of his theory of a superior alien intelligence that controls all life on Mars. The others are skeptical of his theory until the rocket is discovered to have an ionic field surrounding it that prohibits radio communication to Earth.

The quartet returns again to explore the surface, looking for any signs of intelligent life. This time the trouble starts when Iris mistakes the legs of a forty foot spider/bat creature (designed by Mauer) for a clump of trees. The creature attacks the party, pinning Professor Getell between two rock formations. The creature is thwarted when Sam Jacob blinds it with his ultra sonic freeze gun, causing it to shamble away. The team continues their survey, until they are stopped by a lake of oily black fluid. Unprepared to cross it at this time, the group returns to the rocket, unaware that a three eyed Martian spies on them from a distance.

Back in the rocket's controlroom, Colonel O'Bannon is in concurrence with the professor's "alien control" theory and deems it to dangerous to continue the mission. The crew initiates blast off, but the rocket is held motionless by a Martian forcefield a hundred times more powerful then the rocket's jets. Now captives, the crew's desperation prods them to look for answers that may lie on the other side of the lake.

The astronauts paddle a rubber raft across the black Martian lake. With the aid of binoculars, they see the Martian city located in the center of the lake, containing buildings over half a mile high. The group is hopeful that they can reason with the Martians, and that they will be allowed to leave in peace. But as the raft floats closer to it, a huge amoeba-like blob bubbles to the lake's surface. The crew quickly paddles back to the banks and makes a run for the rocket with the amoeba still in pursuit. At this part of the film, we must say good-bye to Sam Jacob. Lagging only seconds behind, he gets absorbed into the blob's center, where it's internal acid will eventually dissolve him. Mars draws first blood.

Once safely aboard, Colonel O'Bannon notices a small piece of the blob is burning into the arm of his space suit and he quickly sheds it. Still panicked from the loss of Jacob, their run of bad luck continues when the team discovers that the blob has engulfed their ship and is eating its way though the hull. Stranded, it is just a matter of time before the blob reaches them. Their only chance is to reroute the radar's electricity to the outer hull, in hope that it will fry the menace. The computers ( $1,000,000 worth, supplied by the Burroughs Company for the film) are rewired to the outer hull and the switch is pulled. A million amps later, the blob is reduced to a pool of slime. Just then the forcefield is lifted as a ominous message begins to be transmitted through the rocket's radio. "Men of Earth, we of the planet Mars give you this warning. Listen carefully and remember...". The three eyed Martian face appears at the porthole again, and Iris faints.

The ship is enroute to earth as Iris wakes. The Professor, slumped at its controls, is dying from internal injuries he suffered from the force of lift-off. His last words are, "Tom...the cabin...the cabin!" Mars claims its second victim. Dr. Ryan enters the ship's cabin to find O'Bannon in his bunk unconscious His arm covered with green growth, she tends to him as the rocket continues its long voyage back to Earth. Her tale ended, we once again find Dr. Ryan is at the base hospital. Now that the doctor knows the source of O'Bannon's infection, they have a chance of saving him. Days pass, and with Dr. Ryan's help, the doctor kills the amoeba with mild electrical shock and the Colonel is miraculously cured. All is finally well until a worried General Kreger enter the hospital room and plays the message from the MR1's flight recorder. "Men of Earth, we of the planet Mars give you this warning. Listen carefully and remember. We have known your planet Earth since the first creature crawled primieval slime of your seas to become man. For millennia we have followed your progress. For centuries we have watched you, listened to your radio signals and learned your speech and your culture. And now you have invaded our home. Technological adults but spiritual and emotional infants. We kept you here deciding your fate. Had the lower life form on our planet destroyed you, we would have not interfered. But you have survived. .Your civilization has not progressed past destruction, war, and violence against yourselves and others. Do as you will to your own and to your planet, but remember this warning. Do not return to Mars. You will be permitted to leave for this sole purpose. Carry the warning to Earth. Do not come here. We can and will destroy you, and all life on your planet if you do not heed us. You have seen us, been permitted to see our world. Go now and warn mankind not to return." The planet Mars fills the screen as the credits roll, leaving today's viewers with the question, "What really happen to the Mars probe Viking?"

Friday, February 1, 2008

Hour of the Wolf Radio Show: Ron Goulart Interview



WBAI, NY's Peace and Justice radio Station just archived an interview heard on Hour of the Wolf sci-fi show with Ron Goulart , who discusses his life work of well over 200 books, including his Groucho mysteries and Tekwar novels (attributed only to William Shatner,) as well as his association with Philip K. Dick.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Book Review: Memos from Purgatory by Harlan Ellison

In 1954, Harlan Ellison moved to the Red Hook section of Brooklyn with the intent of joining a street gang, research for his next tome. His experiences as "Cheech" Beldone, from his ritual deflowering of one of the Baron Debs to an Indian knife fight with a fellow Baron, are harrowing and disturbing images of gang life in the 50's.
Although the "when you're a Jet, you're a Jet" ideals are now "cute" compared to gang life in the new millennium, it's still horrifying. Memos From Purgatory is actually two books in one; Book One:The Gang deals with his gang life, while Book Two: The Tombs is an account of an occurrence six years later in which Ellison spends 24 hours in New York's jail system. Set up and tipped off to the police by a disgruntled acquaintance, Ellison is held on weapons possession (stemming from the weapons from his gang days that he used as display on his lecture tours about the book). It's at this point Memos From Purgatory loses me. Whine, whine, whine. That's all Ellison does in this second half. He does admit that there are those out there who would question his frenzied reaction at being incarcerated for only 24 hours (and acting like it's 24 years), and I suppose I'm one of them.
The whole time I was reading Book Two: The Tombs, I kept thinking, "Man, Ellison, calm down." He gives a good overview of the miserable conditions of jail in the Big City and the screwed-up judicial system that accompanies it, but the overreacting is just too much. I heartily hand it to Ellison for having the nerve to join a street gang and write about it, but Book One: The Gang should have stood on its own. Book Two: The Tombs seems a senseless afterthought, more so when Ellison admits that the inclusion of a one-in-a-million chance meeting with the head of the Barons, a fellow jailbird, was a fictional device suggested by the original publisher because he felt there wasn't enough linkage between the two halves of the book. Well, there still isn't.
Reviewed by S. Michael Wilson

Monday, January 28, 2008

Book Signing: Madison Avenue Maxi by Ben & Elke Gazzara

Ben Gazzara, star of “Road House” and “Dogville”, and his wife Elke, will be signing copies of Madison Avenue Maxi on 1/30/08 7:00 PM at Barnes & Noble – Warren Street. New York, NY.

About the book:

When Ben Gazzara and his wife, Elke, reluctantly agree to adopt the pet dachshund their daughter no longer wants, the couple unknowingly takes a new member into their family.

Neither of the Gazzaras is a "dog person," and the sudden presence of a pet in the lives of these jet-setters appears at first uncertain. However, the ever-sweet, playful, and surprisingly smart Maxi immediately endears herself, and soon she becomes the Gazzaras’ unlikely "child" in the empty nest of their Madison Avenue townhouse. The little dog accompanies the pair everywhere — to the theater, restaurants, dinner parties, world-class hotels, receptions for heads of state, and even the dentist.

Madison Avenue Maxi is the story of a love affair between a dog and her owners. With heartfelt humor and a dog lover's eye, Gazzara chornicles Maxi's antics in Manhattan as well as at their second home in Tuscany and over travels to the French Riviera, Brazil, Spain, and other luxurious locales. Along the way she meets celebrities such as Roman Polanski, Gena Rowlands, John Voigt, Danielle Steele, Gay Talese, Peter Bogdanovich, New York's mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Frank Gehry. Madison Avenue Maxi is a warm, touching memoir of man — and woman's—best friend.

Book Review: 58 Minutes by Walter H. Wager

I would not have picked this novel up if it weren't for the giant "Basis For The Movie DIE HARD 2: DIE HARDER" plastered across the front cover. Not that I'm a huge fan of the movie, either, considering its the worst example of cookie-cutter-sequel garbage, far worse than the two films that followed it. However, I'm always interested in how novels differ from their big screen counterparts.

The first two chapters are pretty much what you expect. Flowering scene-setting description of the Big Apple in the winter, and a sharp and brutal introduction to the villains. The lead bad guy and all of his henchmen are what you expect, and are handled competently. They are cold and calculating, diverse and colorful, and most of all, deadly and ruthless.Then we meet the hero, and it all falls apart.The irony is bittersweet. In the Die Hard series, the selling point of the John McClain character is his lack of superhero credentials. He isn't the best there is at what he does, he's just the wrong guy in the wrong place at the wrong time, an ordinary man under extraordinary circumstances surviving by the skin of his teeth with a lot of luck and determination.

Now meet Captain Frank Malone. In just one six page chapter, we learn that Frank Malone is; a handsome blue-eyed blond,instantly intimidating, two-year best Ivy League Quarterback, an expert hand-to-hand combatant, NYPD pistol champion, cool under attack, admitted to both Harvard and Columbia law schools, a highly decorated hero, the youngest captain in the force, and recognized by all New York cops as a first-class commander, and powerful yet merciful role model.

Bored yet?

This kind of over-the-top jack-of-all-trades Super Cop, clones of which can be found littering Clancy-Lite terrorism thrillers like this by the dozens, are barely recognizable as human beings, let alone realistic characters that lend themselves to the reader's sympathies. When Doc Savage wannabes like Frank Malone swagger onto the scene, there's no doubt that the bad guys don't stand a chance. But where's the fun in that?

Thrillers usually work because we like to watch someone prevail against overwhelming odds, but stacking the chips in favor of a nearly perfect hero caricature leaves the reader betting on a sure thing, which assures a happy ending but destroys any real tension or suspense.

Reviewed by S. Michael Wilson