Category Archives: Books

“No, Clare, it’s the Mormon Tabernacle Choir making their annual obscene phone call.”

30. The Christmas Killer – Patricia Windsor

This one started reeeeaaallll slow. I was like, “This is a slasher film abbreviated into book form for young’uns, set the scene quickly,” but it definitely sped up eventually. Psychic twins (one is more psychic than the other), a Poinsettia on each body, a town weirdo with clues, a killer who managed to remind me of Black Christmas, young love, and foreshadowing for that time the slug slowly blorped out of Barb’s mouth- there was a lot in The Christmas Killer and it turned out pretty decent. Definitely worth reading, in July or otherwise.

Twiglet munches on the Christmas cucumber.

Mixtape:

1. “at” – Kauan
2. “23 December 1979” – Pentagram Home Video
3. “Christmas Is Now Drawing Near at Hand” – James Elkington
4. “Twenty-Fifth Day of December” – Middle Georgia Four
5. “How to Make Gravy” – All Our Exes Live in Texas
6. “A Mother, A Father, A Baby” – Dixon Brothers
7. “Christmas Carol, Christmas Ray” – Jon Langford and His Men of Gwent
8. “The Christmas Song” – Raveonettes
9. “Blue Christmas” – Elvis Presley
10. “Christmas Time Is Here” – Vince Guaraldi Trio
11. “Christmas 1995” – James Horner (Jumanji)
12. “Oh Holy Night” – Apocalyptica
13. “Red Water (Christmas Mourning)” – Type O Negative
14. “khot” – Kauan
15. “Death May Be Your Christmas Gift” – Rev. A.W. Nix

 

Present that’s not really a present number two – Horace! As Martin from George Romero’s Martin! But herbivore style.

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He’s most dangerous when he’s being pleasant.

29. 13 More Tales of Horror – A. Finnis, ed.

And so we shall commence the unholy terror that is the “Christmas in July” theme month. For the rest of this month, the YA horror will be set at Christmas and the mixtapes will be somewhat lackluster because I’m not really a fan of Christmas music. I tried. I really did. And I filled in some large gaps with Kauna’s deeply gloomy metal opus treatment of the Dyatlov Pass incident. Holiday spirit!

There are also sort of presents. Sort of in that they do not become presents unless you buy them and they are only available online. I am way more like Krampus than Santa, I do like hooves and horns and subversion. And if you want “presents” from me in person this year, come to SUPERCON July 12-15 in Fort Lauderdale and Geekcraft Expo St. Louis July 28&29. I won’t have my horns on, my hooves will be hidden, and I probably won’t bring my switch, so it’s painless every way but monetarily.

Present Number One – A very specific sale! Smashwords is having their 2018 Summer/Winter Sale (Hemispheres) and I have discounted the entire Squirrelpocalypse Trilogy by 25% !!! !!! !!! So, if you have been tempted to read my ridiculous trilogy of lab experiments, gore, and friendship, now would be a good time to get it. Take advantage until July 31!

covers-touching.jpg

I mean, just imagine this on your virtual bookshelf for a total of $8.97. …$8.97? What have I done? Get It Here

We begin with a non-Christmas themed book, the second of the Point Horror short story collections, 13 More Tales of Horror, and the mixtape just includes one Christmasy thing – a song/sermon from the Reverend A.W. Nix from the “Death May Be Your Gift” Christmas compilation. Cheery!

“The Cat-Dogs” – Susan Price – So the font that they used for the title pages for each story is straight out of Scooby Doo. Thankfully many of the stories are a bit less predictable than the average Scooby episode. “The Cat-Dogs” is one way to learn the lesson of not bringing home any stray animals you find – especially not if you find them in a bag in the forest. Bringing them home just gives them a better chance to eat you and all your relatives. There was a particularly nice scene in the forest at night in this one. Disorienting.

“The Piano” – Diane Hoh – This is one seriously manipulative haunted piano.

“The Devil’s Footprints” – Malcolm Rose – This story was very weird and refreshing for me as an allergic asthmatic who has had many people say “I don’t smell anything” and “It’s fine” when my canary senses are firing on all cylinders telling me to run from the bad air. A Halloween party, a devil, a house computer named Brian that keeps warning the occupants only they don’t listen…it’s another metaphor for climate change that some people don’t want to listen to because they aren’t personally effected by it. Yet. I’m excited to see the hoof prints leading away from their house someday.

Murderface and Pickles would’ve listened to Brian the house computer.

“Softies” – Stan Nicholls – An interesting concept, but a bit smashed into the short story format. I could easily see this expanded with one of those “stuffed animal with a bloody knife” horror paperback covers. Would’ve been cool. As it is, it didn’t invoke my consistent childhood nightmare that my toys would get mad at me. Thanks a lot, Child’s Play TV trailer, they were all I had.

“The House That Jack Built” – Garry Kilworth – It is really hard to know what to do when you’re stuck by the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. If you’re in the wrong place, you’ll end up as an evil talking house’s manservant.

“The Station With No Name” – Colin Greenland – One thing I haven’t mentioned is that this collection is very UK-specific. I’m used to my Point Horror being very U.S.-oriented because the U.S. is a major source for teenager-based horror in fiction and real life. But I did get my MA in England and London happens to be my favorite city on earth, so it wasn’t too hard for me to get into these. This story involved the UK version of tagging and a station that hadn’t been open since WWII…because it’s super haunted. “The bombers got the line.”

Murderface wonders about these children who can’t stop spray painting their own first name onto things. If it was her name or Pickles’ name she’d get it because those are cool names.

“Something to Read” – Phillip Pullman – True hell is not being able to turn the pages because you’re non-corporeal.

“Killing Time” – Jill Bennett – Don’t move that alarm clock, or you’ll have to answer to that creepy dude on the hill who keeps telling you the earth needs blood. Really, the old gods need to get some new tricks – like the ones that did the Christmas crafting on Supernatural. Wreaths and pipes for everyone followed by brutal tooth pulling and other assorted bleeding!

“J.R.E. Ponsford” – Graham Masterton – I always expect a level of vulgarity from Graham Masterton and frankly, this was downright sentimental. I was extremely perplexed when the characters died in a way that was borderline off-page for Masterton. What the hell, Graham? Vulgarity is totally for teens.

“The worst part was when he mentioned an ear turning to ‘red gristle.'” Pickles summarizes the grossest part of “J.R.E. Ponsford” for Murderface so she doesn’t have to be disappointed by Masterton for teens.

“The Buyers” – David Belbin – This was not a horror story, it was a kidnapping story that definitely needed more zazz. Now, I know that in the Library of Congress classification system kidnapping and murder are close together, but that’s not all you need for horror.

“Closeness” – Chris Westwood – Guarantees of “FOREVER” are not for the faint of heart. It’s almost always better when they turn out to be unintended lies in a relationship too.

“The Ring” – Margaret Bingley – I would say this was a case of “Be careful what you wish for,” but when Kate wanted that ring, she didn’t want it because she thought it would allow her to hear all the horrible things her family and friends were thinking about her on her birthday. She wanted it because it was pretty.

“Bone Meal” – John Gordon – Texas Chainsaw Massacre-light for the UK includes way more dusters. Dusters.

Murderface and Pickles never answered the door. So they never had to murder anyone just for showing up.

Mixtape:

1. “Skogens Hamnd” – Finntroll
2. “Under My Chin” – The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster
3. “Cellophane” – METZ
4. “Mickey Mouse and the Goodbye Man” – Grinderman
5. “Moths” – Wolfmen of Mars
6. “Patterns of Evil” – Electric Wizard
7. “16 Psyche” – Chelsea Wolfe
8. “Someone’s in the Wolf” – Queens of the Stone Age
9. “King of Bones” – Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
10. “Evil” – Grinderman
11. “Scratch at Your Skin” – Ice Dragon
12. “Begin a New Life on Christmas Day, Pt. 1” – Rev. A.W. Nix

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“Look, it’s just a little inconvenient. …it’s just a little blood. It’ll wash out.”

33. Road to Nowhere – Christopher Pike

Rule of the road number one – If the people who want to pick you up when you’re running away from home are named something even remotely close to “Poppy Corn” or “Freedom Jack,” don’t get in the freaking car. Really, rule number one should be “Don’t get in the car.” Pike certainly does have a way with names, but of course, so do I. This is the first book of his that inspired me to parody him with Danger Crumples in the roles of author and cover model (and if there was any text to go with my painting, subject). I love a road trip story and this is certainly a trippy one…Poppy Corn. Really. I don’t think I’d want to spend my runaway time with Poppy Corn. Or Freedom Jack. Usually the dudes that are focused so hard on their “freedom” are total jerks. Teresa the main character should’ve thought of that.

Danger Crumples never wanted to run away, so he didn’t have to worry about the rules of the road, he did know how to call shotgun though, it was impressive once I figured out what he meant by that particular whistle.

Mixtape:

1. “Chrome and Hot Leather” – Brass Hearse
2. “Adrenochrome” – Sisters of Mercy
3. “Dead Love (So Still)” – Widowspeak
4. “Drawing Down the Moon” – Blood Ceremony
5. “Bwamba’s Rambles” – Zydepunks
6. “Road to Nowhere” – Talking Heads
7. “How Dare You” – Electric Six
8. “Mjod (BBC Sessions 2010)” – Kvelertak
9. “Doomsday” – Kasabian
10. “Good View of the Violence” – Electric Six
11. “The Friend Catcher” – Birthday Party
12. “Wild Witch”- Restavrant
13. “Dead End Justice” – Runaways
14. “Come & See” – Protomartyr

 

Art Intrusion #199:

Here he is…road tripping to an unspecified location. The painting itself has sold…but it is available on stuff and things including metal prints on my Redbubble page.

 

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“Ask me anything. I took two years of high school.” – Kassandra with a ‘K’

37. Daughters of Darkness – L.J. Smith

Moving in to the house next door is a very perilous thing to do. It doesn’t matter who you’re next door to – paranoid Tom Hanks in a bathrobe (I can’t remember his character’s name in The Burbs), Gladys Kravitz, Charley Brewster, Valerie and Courtney…whomever, it’s going to end up with somebody getting all up in your business. And if that business is hiding out from your brother, Night World patriot Ash Redfern, well, this is a Night World book so he may just get distracted by finding his soul mate because she read Pride and Prejudice and give a dramatic speech long enough for you to go back on the lam.

Peregrine and Merricat are on the lookout for rogue werewolves, vampires, goats, warlock Julian Sands, and lovelorn teenagers.

Mixtape:

1. “A Warning on the Occult” – Pentagram Home Video
2. “A Pox Upon You” – Wolfmen of Mars
3. “Savage” – Electric Citizen
4. “Patterns of Evil” – Electric Wizard
5. “Black Dress” – Brass Hearse
6. “Lord of Misrule” – Blood Ceremony
7. “Lilith” – Devil Electric
8. “Hexed” – Terrortron
9. “Night Witches” – True Widow
10. “Children of the Grave” – Black Sabbath
11. “Eighties” – Killing Joke
12. “Della Strega” – Wolfmen of Mars
13. “Dirty Women” – Black Sabbath
14. “Triple Stones” – All of Them Witches
15. “Escape to the Lair” – Terrortron
16. “An Exploration of Black Magic” – Pentagram Home Video

 

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“Oh! Fuck the fuchsia it’s Friday!”

13. The Mall – Richie Tankersley Cusick

Trish is working in the mall at Muffin Mania, it’s very Fast Times as she’s flirting across the food court (you can call it “The Eatery” all you want, we all know what it really is) with Storm at Pizza Park. Storm Reynolds isn’t who he says he is. He’s not a porn star as his name would imply, but he’s not who he seems and for some reason he continually clamps Trish’s arms and steers her places. Very controlling behavior-preview, Storm. He also drives too fast.

Trish has two friends, which keeps the focus on a few characters – her, Nita her shoppin’ friend that works in a clothing store, and Nita’s twin Imogene who works in the bookstore and wears…Glasses!…clearly she will never die. She also has a total bitch for a boss, Bethany, who sucks at communication and controlling the bustling atmosphere of Muffin Mania.

The other male characters are both weird and/or quirky. Wyatt, who speaks in riddles and wears a jean jacket with the sleeves cut off, totally sparks Imogene’s interest and therefore Nita’s, so she goes all 80s movie villain girl and tries to get his attention. He actually reminds me a little bit of the only person named Wyatt I know, except for the jean jacket thing.

The real villain of the piece goes a little bit more 70s giallo in his approach to stalking teenage girls – I couldn’t help but picture him with black gloves at all times. He hides in the mall and wears a series of disguises to keep his eyes on Trish at all times. His introduction is asking her for a honey muffin, later telling her boss he hit her car and she needs to come look at it, then when she gets outside and finds nothing happened to her car he calls on the payphone next to it and when Trish picks up he tells her the honey muffin tasted like her – Ew. – and ratchets up the creepery, staring, and random disguises from there. Ratchets up to kidnapping and ice pick murder, even.

If Trish would’ve just stayed in Kyle Kinane’s joke and never left that birthday party at Benihana, none of this would’ve happened. She would’ve had a choo-choo train made of onions instead.

Sure that hairy-armed guy in the gloves seems to be just nicely walking his fingers around, Ozma, but don’t take him up on his offer to pay your ballet school tuition.

Mixtape:

1. “Silently Stalking” – All of Them Witches
2. “Shadowman” – Devil Electric
3. “You Are the One” – A Place to Bury Strangers
4. “Don’t Let It In” – Wolfmen of Mars
5. “Bounce House Demons” – Chelsea Wolfe
6. “X” – Brass Hearse
7. “The Fear” – Pulp
8. “Venus in Furs” – Electric Wizard
9. “In Death (I’ll Love You More)” – Brass Hearse
10. “When I Was Bleedin'” – Dax Riggs
11. “If the Coffin’s Rockin’, Don’t Come Knockin'” – Terrortron
12. “Jam It in the Hole” – Electric Six
13. “Unflattering Lights” – Wolfmen of Mars
14. “Ur Djupet (Out of the Depths)” – Finntroll
15. “1985” – Kvelertak

Art Intrusion #485 – I have a Threadless store now!! It’s in progress, but it exists! The images are relatively large!
Threadless

Art Intrusion #486 – The newest item on both my New Threadless store and my Forever Redbubble store where you can totally buy stickers (!) is a Bi Pride flag I designed for a friend of mine who needed a Pride flag to reflect her love of red (and I, as a printmaker, recognized that process red aka magenta is actually already part of the bi flag so I whipped this idea up and printed it post haste because I love printing in process red and doing special images for my friends). It turned out pretty cute and I totally made her a tea towel so she can have this little binicorn in her kitchen reminding her what month it is now and to always be proud. Then I printed a more-magenta version to share with anyone who wants one to add to their own lovely flag collection. Happy Pride!

Bi Pride - RachelESmith

The Binicorn, waving proudly in the breeze.

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“Please explain to me the scientific nature of the ‘whammy’.”

28. The Dreamstalker – Barbara Steiner

Twins. There’s always an evil one and one just trying to live her life and have a boyfriend who isn’t her brother, the dream-murderer. Sorry. Spoiler there, but this book is from 1992 and I guessed the killer within the first dream sequence. He’s no Freddy, let’s just be clear on that. Kerr the evil twin is pretty overdramatic and keeps trying to force his sister to ice skate. And not go to college. And never leave him.

Thaddeus never wanted Pammy to leave him either, but thankfully they weren’t twins so he didn’t have to haunt her dreams or make her think she was a murderer in an elaborately petty plan to make her stay. She never left him out of mutual respect and the confines of guinea pig housing instead.

Mixtape:

1. “Black Mass” – UNKLE
2. “Anger” – Catalogue
3. “Black Dream” – Samhain
4. “Ghost of Me” – Electric Citizen
5. “Soul on Fire” – Danzig
6. “This Modern Curse” – Espectrostatic
7. “Cruising for Mortals” – Terrortron
8. “Keep Your Dreams” – Suicide
9. “De Profundis (Out of the Depths of Sorrow)” – Dead Can Dance
10. “They’ll Clap When You’re Gone” – Chelsea Wolfe
11. “Things You Wouldn’t Like” – Wolfmen of Mars
12. “Drive-In Moonlight” – Terrortron
13. “We Use the Same Products” – Electric Six
14. “The Weeping Willows” – Espectrostatic
15. “Calling Them All Away” – Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
16. “With You in My Head” – UNKLE

 

Art Intrusion #172:

This silkscreen is a Pickles parody of an artist whose work I very much enjoy – Steven Rhodes. He parodies 1970s children’s book covers and often brings in some evilly hilarious subversion, my kind of thing exactly. His version, the original, non-guinea pig parody version, called Pyrokinesis is available in many forms but I got my pin of it from the Creepy Co. of Chicago (love them so very dearly as well). I am not selling any of this silkscreen online, it will only ever be available from me in person and so there are two opportunities coming up to get a white version (very limited)…or…

A blinding purple version that didn’t scan very well! There’s also a Freddy Krueger-looking green one and some various blues. The ink really glows in person and it hurts my eyes. Come attempt to barter for one at SUPERCON in Fort Lauderdale or at the GeekCraft Expo in St. Louis both during July!

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“Doritos, No Doz, bennies, crystal meth.”

25. Thirteen – T. Pines, ed.

While we wait for climate change enhanced hurricanes or nukes to kill us all, I’m keeping in theme with short stories – for the summer! It’s YA Megamix Summer V: The Revenge, now featuring short story collections and a lot more art promos because I’m taking to the other states this summer and bringing my guinea pig art and generally melancholic demeanor to SUPERCON in Fort Lauderdale, July 12-15th and the Geekcraft Expo St. Louis July 28-29. If you want to come tell me how little you enjoy my longer posts in person, be sure to buy a postcard or threeve while you’re at it. Yay!

So, Point Horror, best imprint ever, did three short story collections of thirteen stories each and the first one is called Thirteen…yep. It features such Point luminaries as Lael Littke, D.E. Athkins (to me, it will always be Deathkins), A. Bates, and, um, some dude who wrote about a painting called Jay Bennett. Yes, Jay, paintings can be terrifying but the process of painting is the true source of horror.

We begin with the first in a set of bookend stories by Christopher Pike which may be the best work of his I’ve read. It weirds me out when short stories are better than novels; even though it shouldn’t *cough* Stephen King. In this case, it might have to do with the phone being involved so much. I’m very nostalgic for a time when we didn’t have the ability to constantly get a hold of each other and I like handset and answering machine-based intrigue. Yes, I’ve seen Bells, apparently known in the U.S. as Murder by Phone, a way too obvious title. I think there could’ve been a happy medium between “Bells” which says nothing and “Murder by Phone” which says too much.

Pike did a great job of making the annoying girls competing over some greaser-dressing new dude with his own mixtape both fun and really bitchy, so I was all for “Collect Call.”

Most of Christopher Pike’s novels don’t make “the sense,” at least, they’re just as sound in my Danger parodies as they are in book form. Danger might even be a bit more serious. Here he is with Horace at a rollicking party for two on my couch. They’re both pretty serious about partying and my couch.

The second story in the collection is by author of Prom Dress, The Watcher, and like nothing else, Lael Littke. “Lucinda” involves a sunken town, some graduation day regrets, and a love triangle. It was decent and a little murky.

“The Guiccioli Miniature” by the aforementioned Jay Bennett reminded me a lot of the movie version of Don’t Look Now. It’s set in Venice and involves some weird dude accosting the main character on the street, so that might be why. It is an extremely short entry, and was just, well, not very much in the usual vein of Point Horror, also like Don’t Look Now. I didn’t manage to get mad about the mention of painting theft, which tells you a lot about how engaging this was. As a painter, if someone stole any of my paintings, I’d consult some psychic sisters staying nearby, put on a red hooded coat, and stalk through all those canals until I got it back…

Horace and Danger Crumples are in quite a few of my paintings, so they fully support me going Don’t Look Now on hypothetical painting thieves.

“Blood Kiss” – Deathkins! – Well, sometimes people give vampires bad names. This one’s name is Ken. This story was fun and I know Deathkins could’ve done better than to name a vampire Ken. The immortal Ken. Yeesh.

“A Little Taste of Death” – Patricia Windsor – Bizarre little tale about a bad girl staying with her grandmother. When I stayed with my grandmother during many summers, I did not take candy that would seal my fate from strangers. Granted, on a farm the strangers are mostly cows, so it was easy to accomplish this. We also played the Dastardly and Muttley in their Flying Machines game. And Smess.

“The Doll” – Carol Ellis – Little hands killing people in your dreams…that’s exactly what I’d expect if a doll just randomly showed up in my house. Especially one of those porcelain numbers with the blank facial expressions. Give me Ginny with her gorgeous pout or give me her pony! Or death, I think that’s how that was supposed to go, but I love my Ginny pony and now my secret is out. It’s really cute.

“House of Horrors” – J.B. Stamper – Sometimes it’s not a bad thing to not have friends at work. Especially if your “friends” are really just locking you in a horror house overnight to be dicks. If your making friends story seems like it might have any chance of ending with “and they were never seen again after hanging out with wax figures,” avoid that. Friends who just want to scare you are not real friends, they’re insecure jackasses.

Horace and Danger, real friends to the end.

“Where the Deer Are” – Caroline B. Cooney – A trippy kind of subdivision horror.

“The Spell” – R.L. Stine – “I hypnotized all three of you that day at the Pizza Palace.” NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.

“Dedicated to the One I Love” – Diane Hoh – Another thing that used to cause so much heart fluttering – having a song dedicated to you on the radio. While your friends were totally listening. So they knew. And then like, the whole school would know. Because everyone who was anyone listened to certain shows on the radio. But like with anything that can cause heart fluttering or public humiliation, watch out for when the dead start doing it.

“Hacker” – Sinclair Smith – Sometimes I feel like Sinclair Smith is a bit of a hack, so, I wasn’t surprised by anything in this story other than the ingenious use of plants. My problem is that once the villain is found out, they tend to get really loud and crazy, like they’ were holding back until this teenager found them and they have no clue about being arrested or not admitting how obvious your evil plan was even though you were all covert and smart throughout the rest of the story… The typing in all caps is really the kicker here, though. Quit yelling at everyone. Quit.

Danger and Horace make ingenious use of the back of my couch. They never type in all caps. There is no preferred typing scheme for whistles, wheeks, rumbly purring, and little chuckles.

“Deathflash” – A. Bates – I like A. Bates. I feel like when I’m reading an A. Bates story, some level of control is being exercised over the concept. Even in this weirdo entry about an amorphous thing. I’m glad the main character was concerned for the cats, and it is unfortunately realistic to name them “Sunshine” and “Sparkle.” My guinea pigs are lucky my disposition is not so light. Danger Crumples totally would’ve ended up being “Star Beast.”

“They Boy Next Door” – Ellen Emerson White – This was a pretty kickass story and I liked it a lot. I’ve been around the kind of guy who thinks taking out their insecurities on you is a good idea and as I told one of them, “Don’t powertrip at me, I’m not going to do anything you tell me to and you chose the wrong lady to be insecure at.” It did not go over well, but then again it didn’t go over well to me when he tried to tell me I’m supposed to tell him when I’m going to desensitize a book. Not even, son. I will do what I have to when I need to. Don’t take your shit out on other people. Especially women.

And the other bookend, “Collect Call II: The Black Walker” (slash missed opportunity for a way better subtitle). Quit trying to get girls to tell you you’re such a great musician! Let them come to you and tell you. If you’re good, they will. I never directly lie about what I think about someone’s music. If I don’t like it, I’ll say it’s interesting and not explain why. I had to do that once when a song without words or anything resembling musical form was played for me by my drunk boyfriend and he told me it was “for me.” I wish that hadn’t been for me. But I said it was “interesting” because it was interesting to me that he would make something “for me” that involved nothing about music I actually enjoyed. I should’ve taken it as a bigger omen.

Mixtape:

1. “The Otherworld” – All of Them Witches
2. “Feel Good Hit of the Summer” – Queens of the Stone Age
3. “Tales of Mystery & Isolation” – Wolfmen of Mars
4. “Electric” – Boris
5. “Diabolos ’88” – Samhain
6. “Ghosts of Victims Past” – Terrortron
7. “You Don’t Own Me” – Lesley Gore
8. “Wind up Toys” – Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats
9. “Destruction Makes the World Burn Brighter” – Chelsea Wolfe
10. “Holy Christos” – King Dude
11. “Hamlet Pow Pow Pow” – The Birthday Party
12. “Age of Oil & Wax” – Live Skull
13. “Kiva” – Burning Tapes
14. “Dance with Dark Forces” – Electric Six
15. “Killer in the Streets” – The Raveonettes
16. “The Trouble with Being Born” – The Great Tyrant
17. “All Murder, All Guts, All Fun” – Samhain

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“Mayberry meets Deliverance”

72. The Two-Bear Mambo – Joe R. Lansdale

Florida is missing and Hap and Leonard have to go deep into racist-ville to figure out what the hell happened to her. Dealing with super racist southern towns (even in Texas, which is, of course, its own very special place) seems quite apropos in the current decade… It’s weird to know that racism still affects so much of how the country is run. It’s damn depressing and I don’t even know the half of it. Lansdale always deals with “the way things are” in these areas with frankness and I’ve always appreciated Leonard’s take on things I never had reason to contemplate within the corners of the world I’ve occupied.

I can easily agree with the other characters that the way Leonard destroys the crack house in this one is definitely “the best one yet”  though- that’s for sure. A shiny spectacle for Christmas if ever there was one involving a crack house. Plus there’s a seriously dark and rotten scene dealing with an exhumation and a full on flood in here. This very dark entry in the Hap and Leonard series is dealt with in the third season of the Sundance network show and I’m definitely a fan.  The first episode of this season gave me the impression that they’re definitely playing up some of the caustic humor and that’s important when everything gets as dire as it does in this book, but they still don’t stay away from that Leonard Pine-frankness (or the Christmas ants, even though I’m undermining my own point there) that makes it not a dodge or minimized. It may be material from the 1990s, but it’s always going to be timely as long as the bullshit that is the KKK keeps being an existing thing instead of just a terribly stupid and horrific part of history.

This season was just amazing even if I didn’t especially like the ending’s changes from the book. This show definitely hits the spot that Justified left open for crime and cleverness, and I sincerely hope they continue to have seasons. All the seasons.

Ozymandias and Danger Crumples are my little mystery solving duo. One southern pig and one northern pig, trying to solve mysteries from their tiny little world. Hopefully they will also learn the dance for “Double Dutch Bus” like those dudes in Leonard’s living room on the show.

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City News and Books on December 10, 1988

52. Deadly Sleep – John Applegate

The cover features a teddy bear in a bed brandishing a bloody knife in the air – awesome. The story features an overly worried middle aged man who can’t control himself when he sleeps. There’s also some business stuff – boring. Who hasn’t woken up as a dad in the suburbs, wondering if they killed someone the night before? It’s the stuff of a million excuses and a million insurance fraud murders. So garden variety.

It’s okay, Horace, you can snuggle back in free from fear, there’s no middle aged suburban dads around.

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Beware those who peaked in high school.

2. The Tarot Spell – Willo Davis Roberts

Stuck in a fantasy land of her own making, “unpretty Catherine Sorenson” demonstrates one possible outcome of never leaving your hometown after high school. She always wanted to marry that popular douche Jason, and, after years of caring for an elderly man, the elderly dude dies, she inherits, and she finally gets her chance to marry for looks and pipe dreams instead of love. Yay! What fun!

Unsurprisingly, Jason sucks, but she has a friend whose house suddenly burned down to talk to about how weird it is trying to integrate with rich folks who keep asking you for money. That friend also demonstrates another option for townies who stay, extreme bitterness.

Anyway, between Jason sucking and bitter friends lay the unpredictable fortunes to be found in a tarot reading and frankly, I just feel bad for Catherine even though she’s imaginary. She should’ve taken that inheritance and gone somewhere else; somewhere she wouldn’t have been told she’s just unpretty and couldn’t expect anything out of life except a large amount of anxiety attacks and people using her. Jeebus.

Pammy took care of Thaddeus as they both aged – he aged a little faster – and inherited a corn hut, quite a few stuffed animals, and no failing lumber mills.

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