Category Archives: Books

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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Mysteries for Mother’s Day

It can be said that a lot of my art work and commentary on this blog involves setting up Danger Crumples to solve mysteries. The inspiration for all of that mystery concern – my mother. I grew up in a home full of books that is currently slightly more full of books and the shelves I stared at the most were filled with Joe R. Lansdale and Elmore Leonard and Agatha Christie mysteries with pretty excellent and confusing titles. In third grade I got way into The Happy Hollisters, a series about a family where the kids are consistently running around solving mysteries, including one spectacular “whistle pig” mystery. In fourth grade I graduated to Nancy Drew and she has proved to be quite the inspiration for my art and picture captioning ever-since.

So to honor my mother and her never-ending support of my art and writing and guinea pig lifestyle, I’m letting everyone in on the works that her love of mysteries and books and Danger Crumples in particular inspired. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!

This is the first print I managed using my current method after several years out of college, it is inspired by the cover of The Hidden Staircase. Danger and his flashlight have been evolving ever since.

 

This year I finally started a parody project that I’ve been contemplating for ages and ages and ages – Danger Drew Mysteries. The first work I did for the series was a parody of one of my favorite Nancy images, the end papers of one particular edition of the series. As soon as I finished this painting, I realized that it was for my mother, even though I had a different one planned for her.

Danger Drew spying on a very suspicious digging Finny. If you don’t recognize this design, you had new Nancy.

And of course, the next step was to parody the most inspiring cover ever put on a Nancy Drew book (including that weird one with the manta ray-looking ghost or whatever it’s supposed to be that I haven’t quite figured out how I want to parody yet)… The Hidden Staircase.

Of course in my artistic universe, we cannot parody without changing the title to fit the guinea pig essence of what I do, and Danger Crumples’ name is just so adaptable. Therefore I give you number 9 in the series: The Crumpled Staircase.

One aspect of these paintings that is not visible in the scan is that I’ve painted all the edges so that the canvas looks like a very, very realistic book. So realistic. It is not hard to paint tiny letters and images on the edges of canvas at all. Nope. Nothing but perfection from me. Anyway…there’s a spine, there’s a textblock, there are Hansa yellow borders, there’s a little Danger with a magnifying glass silhouette and it gave me my second favorite way to sign my work visibly besides having a gravestone, signing as the author. I am an author, so, it’s a funny on the many levels. Many!

When I first thought of the idea to make my Nancy Drew parodies look more like real books, I got a very strong reaction from another mother, the one who graciously does a lot of the photoshop help that I desperately need when my paintings are too big to scan in one go, and so I did number 19 in the series for her. Happy Mother’s Day to her as well!

The Clue in a Broken Basket is my approximation of the time she took care of Danger while I was moving and he broke out of his temporary laundry basket housing and had to be wrangled. I know he was trying to do his own version of Homeward Bound but he ended up under a futon – he just looks so triumphant though.

 

I do love end papers when the time is taken to put some effort into them and the Nancy Drew series has had several iterations that are pretty lovely. My favorite being the larger image above, which originally is Nancy watching some suspicious farmer digging, but the other end papers I particularly love feature line drawing versions of covers. I’ve done a couple of these, but the only one that I’m currently putting up is the first one, a version of The Spider Sapphire Mystery that I have since realized totally does not have a spider in it. I don’t know what kind of bug that really is, but it is not a spider.

Danger’s confused about what kind of bug that is too.

The latest of the cover parody paintings I’ve finished was heavily influenced by my main take-away from the Nancy Drew mystery stories – that she has a charge plate. For quite some time I had no idea what that was. She has a pudgy friend, her dad’s a lawyer, and she uses a charge plate a lot.

Maybe the charge plate won’t help this time, Danger. The best thing about that whole charge plate confusion – it’s an older version of a credit card – MY MOM GOT ME ONE! So, I can also solve mysteries using a charge plate. Mine has an alizarine crimson case, and is depicted in this painting.

Mystery of the Crumpled Swamp is the only (currently) Danger Drew painting that will make its way into the wild. It will be visible and available for purchase in all its booky glory at Supercon in Fort Lauderdale, July 12-15th, so start planning now. Now. I certainly need to do more of the planning as that’s the first time I’m taking Guinea Pigs and Books somewhere I can’t easily drive to. Paintings on a plane – it’s a recipe for massive anxiety. More of the line drawings like the “Spider Sapphire” Danger Crumples will be available as blind paintings, too, so, you can try and find the guinea pig ones. I won’t tell you which are which. And check out this exhibitor directory – I’m totally in there.

Of course, I know lots of guinea pig people can’t follow my gallivanting all over the Midwest and now South, so all the paintings I’ve put up are on my Redbubble so that you can find them on stuff and things. I’ve also linked to their individual pages in weird ways in the image captions.

Happy Mother’s Day!

 

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Cult cookies.

7. Waking the Witch – Kelley Armstrong

I read the Otherworld series in a very random order, and this was the first witch-focused book I read. I didn’t know Savannah’s back-story from Stolen and I definitely recommend reading that before reading this one. It would’ve been nice to have some frame of reference for how Armstrong deals with witchcraft before reading Waking the Witch. Armstrong has a lot of characters in her Otherworld series, so even the minimal summaries left me a little lost because I hadn’t at least read Stolen. I can also tell you that my “review” of Stolen will not help you. No it won’t.

Savannah is a likeable protagonist and she’s headstrong but manages to be fun to follow along with as she tries to solve some witchcraft-adjacent murders in a small town. She has good investigative skills (and now I know how she learned them, now, so much later) but still acts like the twenty-one-year-old she’s supposed to be and that was an improvement over Armstrong’s YA work for me, where it felt like she was consistently talking down to the audience. So now I know she can represent slightly-above-youth youths without being patronizing.

Ozma: Plucky, ready for action. Peregrine: Sleepy, ready to send Ozma into the fray.

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Well, he’s not wrong with that subtitle.

20. Make Something Up: Stories You Can’t Unread – Chuck Palahniuk

There are several stories in this collection that I won’t forget.

Especially “Red Sultan’s Big Boy,” I got halfway through that one while waiting for an appointment – I predicted accurately where it was going, and I had a hard time not spewing that forth during my appointment because, well, I had just the right friend to tell about that story, but I had to finish it first.

Belvedere was not that friend.

I am not sure how I feel about his new choice to use animal names for characters. During the story about the poor monkey (I mean, “Monkey”) marketing the cheese it seemed novel. But I feel like Flamingo got pretty screwed over in a later story and frankly, it put a very, very weird set of pictures in my head. There’s a newish Sanrio character, a red panda named Aggretsuko who hates her job and sings metal kareoke and works with a gorilla and a hippo who won’t stop showing baby pictures and…I just don’t really want Palahniuk’s animal characters in the same office block as Aggretsuko. I like her and don’t want her to suffer anymore than she already has to in order for me to identify with her. She’s got a super cute rage face.

Belvedere also has a super cute rage face.

“Cannibal,” well, the less said about that story of high school romance, the better to surprise. If you got through the one with the pool drain, you’ll get through “Cannibal.” High school kids can certainly suck.

Belvedere never went to high school. He didn’t suck.

Anyway, as usual, Palahniuk aims for the uncomfortable and reaches it, digs into its abdominal cavity, and pulls out a spleen and that is why I read him for the most part. I will take the named animals over the freshly invented languages that made Pygmy and Tell-All harsher to get through though, as long as he leaves guinea pigs and red pandas out of it.

No, really, Belvedere agrees with me. Leave guinea pigs out of it. You don’t know what they do well enough to give them jobs. Barely anyone seems to.

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Loners in groups.

35. The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion – Margaret Killjoy

Vengeance demon! Fun! This was a strangely stiff bit of punk fantasy. There were a lot of conversations that slowed the narrative, even though it’s extremely short. I was originally interested because of a description I found that mentioned the book was quite weird and set in my home state. Being in Iowa doesn’t have anything important to do with the story as far as I can tell now, having read the whole thing. Fine.

I did quite like the onset of the weirdness and the vengeance demon was quite cool. The characters were interesting, some of them fit stereotypes of people who want to tell you about how great communal lifestyles are…like the Manson Family… You know, like, everything should be free – this is both a stereotype and something I’ve mainly heard from rich people who have rejected being rich, except for the, like, money from their parents part. They don’t really want to “live like common people do.” Thankfully, there were also characters with a little more dimension, although a couple of them never appeared in the story while alive. And the story took place right at a point of conflict in the town that revolved around how irritating it is to actually work together and have leaders and how an entire community’s priorities rarely line up smoothly. Overall, I give it the bread with jelly on it scratch n’ sniff sticker- “Grape Stuff.” I might also be tempted to stick the individual roller skate one on the side so that the edge is hanging off – “Keep Rollin’,” as this is a series and I will certainly read book two. Does anyone really know what that skate was supposed to smell like?

Danger Crumples, seen hoarding the resources of Ozymandias. Guinea pigs are technically social animals, but they totally let the hierarchy get in the way. All the time. Herd politics. They get that weird sticker that’s an incredibly realistic pickle and just says “GOOD WORK” in the semi-blandest of fonts, which signals they’re shit at working together beyond begging for treats within ten minutes of having finished their previous treats.

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Somebody read some Lansdale and put their own spin on it…

8. Midnight Crossroad – Charlaine Harris

There seemed to be a lot of possibility in Midnight, Texas. There are antiques, a diner, vampires, a psychic…a bunch of townspeople who are probably all hiding supernatural connections and secrets… It’s not entirely True Blood in Texas, but it’s also not totally set apart enough to not feel a like True Blood in Texas – complete with TV deal and vampire. I thought about watching the show, after all, the beginning seasons of True Blood were bloody, ridiculous fun, but I still haven’t. I also thought about reading more of this series, but I still haven’t. Midnight Crossroad just had a little too much scene setting and not enough story for me. I don’t want to know that you’re setting up a series, I want a whole. A solidly conclusive whole story, at least on some level that I felt Midnight Crossroad was lacking.

This is Merricat’s “Interrogating Pawnshop Workers in Texas” face. So intimidating.

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“Show me your teeth” – Lady Gaga

34. Sharp Objects – Gillian Flynn

Although I do feel that Gillian Flynn is contributing something very important with her unlikeable heroines, when I read Sharp Objects I started repeating the phrase “beautiful, but damaged” in my head. I felt like the main character could easily be reduced to just that phrase and I was very annoyed with that.

Sharp Objects is Flynn’s debut and perhaps the irritation I felt is a result of an overzealous editor reducing what she wanted to do to tropes, but, maybe not. Maybe she was just being cliché with her narrator in her first novel, it’s impossible to tell. And I have to say that she utilized the trope of returning to one’s hometown in a better way in Gone Girl, where she threw the out of place feelings onto the sociopathic outsider and bullshit hometown-heroed the townie husband.

Murderface is beautiful, but sleepy.

 

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Somebody’s watching that coffee and contemplation.

32. Stalkers – Ed Gorman & Martin H. Greenberg, eds.

One of the nice things about libraries is that they sometimes make purchases from smaller publishers and those things stick around…waiting for their chance. Stalkers was published by Dark Harvest of Arlington Heights, IL in 1989.

It features authors of horror novels for the most part, several of which wrote books on my shelves that I haven’t yet read, like J.N. Williamson. Williamson’s story “Jezebel” was very moralistic but also captured the feeling of being watched when you’re really not doing anything worth watching as a lady very well.

Pickles was constantly doing something worth watching. Here she is, looking alert.

Some I forgot about, like John Coyne (The Legacy aka that book/movie poster with the cat head sticking out of the green, zombie looking hand that scared and intrigued me as a child). Coyne’s story “Flight” was one of the weirder ones. A man takes off with his child when he’s totally not supposed to and ends up in a cabin with a paranoid old coot and it gets very bizarre from there. Features ye olde proverbial “They.”

Some I hadn’t heard of, like Michael Seidman, the editorial director of Zebra…a publisher that probably would have published me back in the day and stuck lots of weirdo skeletons on my covers. Oh, to go back in time. Seidman’s “What Chelsea Said” was a creepy little urban nightmare. Bumbutt.

Edward D. Hoch, “The Stalker of Souls” was an academic mystery. I haven’t read any of the Sherlock Holmes stories, but I got that vibe from it nonetheless. The reveal was a little tiresome, but the atmosphere leading up to it was great and very on theme.

Belvedere raises his head while being accused of nefarious plans by Pickles. Again. She’s the guinea pig Sherlock. Sort of. Not really. She’s far too cute and not nearly addicted to heroin enough to be Sherlocky.

The story that stuck with me the most has its own introduction, an oddity for short story collections, usually there’s just a short paragraph introing the author (if that, and sometimes the contributor bios are in the back). The introduction discusses how long Dean Koontz had the idea and other situations where the story didn’t work out to be published and it’s a nice insight. I’ve read one Dean Koontz book, The Funhouse, it was written under a different name and it was weird but didn’t make me want to dig in to the rest of his catalog. I think my main turn off, as usual, is the font they use for his name. It doesn’t appeal to me.

Anyway, now I’m a little more intrigued. I will at least always look for his stories in more of these weird little horror story anthologies because “Trapped” played right into my worst stalking fears and also hit several areas of my interest – isolated homes, mad science corporate bullshit gone awry, smart heroines who don’t freak out, a hero very much like Chief Hopper… But as I was saying, those worst stalking fears – RATS. Genetically engineered rats who are even smarter than rats already are. Also bigger. And they cut off your phone while staring at you with their beady little eyes. And they thought about the car. And they’re huge and white with red eyes. And of course there was a fucking illustration for that story. NO. I try not to show fear around real rats because I appreciate how smart they are, but, No. Also, rats are not afraid of people. They like people.

Pickles hides from smart rats in her hay. According to a 1921 book about pets I have, rats hate guinea pigs, so she doesn’t really need to.

 

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“He traveled through time in an awesome custom van” – Hamlet 2

22. Lamb – Christopher Moore

Jesus’ unaccounted for years as told by Biff, his childhood friend. This book explains why there are Easter bunnies and that alone is a reason to read it…but it’s not my favorite Moore. Maybe because I don’t, like, really know biblical stories particularly well. Although one time I was reading a Buzzfeed listicle and I found a posting that said Jesus’ name somehow translates to being “Oily Josh,” which makes a lot of sense in the context of this book.

Thaddeus knows there are Easter bunnies because the people in Jesus’ area had not been to South America to find the Easter piggies. They wouldn’t let him try out for Cadbury bunny, he may be a little bitter.

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