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Mbfg (Mbfg)
Username: Mbfg

Registered: 09-2010
Posted From: 80.5.8.49
Posted on Tuesday, January 01, 2013 - 08:26 pm:   

As requested, a fresh What Are You Reading thread for the new year. I took the liberty of opening it, hope that's okay with everyone.

And yes, happy new year!

I'm starting the new year with a surprise, "Little Women". Very compelling and readable.

Just finished the Autumn 2011 BFS Journal (the one with the Clive Barker cover) and found it to be a remarkably good issue. Some fantastic stories in there, including excellent tales from our own Joel Lane and John Forth, as well as a corker of a collaboration from Allen Ashley and Douglas Thompson.

Cheers
Terry
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David_lees (David_lees)
Username: David_lees

Registered: 12-2011
Posted From: 2.96.196.29
Posted on Wednesday, January 02, 2013 - 12:47 am:   

I've been dipping into short stories from Demons by Daylight and William Gibson's Burning Chrome, mainly because I can't decide what novel to get started on next.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Wednesday, January 02, 2013 - 03:31 pm:   

Breaking my run of mysteries (but not the 1970's) by starting Joseph Heller's Something Happened (1974), as my first novel of the new year. So far, and but some few pages in, I'm discovering it to be a breeze-to-read paranoid hilarious black comedy....
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Ramsey Campbell (Ramsey)
Username: Ramsey

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 92.8.22.28
Posted on Wednesday, January 02, 2013 - 04:25 pm:   

Reading Jeremy Dyson's unsettling Haunted Book.
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Des (Des)
Username: Des

Registered: 09-2010
Posted From: 86.140.212.104
Posted on Wednesday, January 02, 2013 - 04:37 pm:   

HIDDEN FACES - the only novel of Salvador Dali.
Brilliant, so far.
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Mbfg (Mbfg)
Username: Mbfg

Registered: 09-2010
Posted From: 90.200.197.29
Posted on Wednesday, January 02, 2013 - 06:09 pm:   

Sounds intriguing Des. I didn't know he wrote a novel.

Craig - I loved "Something Happened".

Finding "Little Women" to be an interesting piece of social history (and a great story!). The novel is an extreme example of the sort of homespun philosophy sadly distorted into a near facist fantasy by the T-Party element, but also in existence as a very real life-view which, in its moderate form, encapsulates one of the things that is essentially good about America.

The book is overladen with overt moralising but there is a sharp edge, the US Civil War raging in the background, references to lost sons.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.25.8.31
Posted on Thursday, January 03, 2013 - 07:23 pm:   

Just started MOON AND SIXPENCE by Somerset Maugham.
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John Llewellyn Probert (John_l_probert)
Username: John_l_probert

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.152.14.127
Posted on Thursday, January 03, 2013 - 08:59 pm:   

Jan 1st: We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

Jan 2nd: The Tainted Earth by George Berguno (Egaeus Press)

Jan 3rd: Just started the NYRB collection of Robert Sheckley's short stories
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Mick Curtis (Mick)
Username: Mick

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.184.138.239
Posted on Thursday, January 03, 2013 - 09:28 pm:   

You're going at a fair old pace there, Lord P.! Will you be able to keep that rate up for the rest of the year? :-)
Looked at the Dyson novel in The London Review Bookshop on saturday but forgot to buy it by the time we got around to leaving so I'll pick that up another time. I did buy The Sisters Brothers as mentioned in the other thread; loved it.
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John Llewellyn Probert (John_l_probert)
Username: John_l_probert

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.152.14.127
Posted on Thursday, January 03, 2013 - 09:44 pm:   

Goodness me no! But I'm making the most of my last week of sick leave!

If you fancy a posh decadent read I can recommend the Egaeus Press books (there are three now). Lovely books and splendid reading.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 109.150.18.3
Posted on Thursday, January 03, 2013 - 10:36 pm:   

Just started on Let the Old Dreams Die by good old Lindqvist
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Friday, January 04, 2013 - 02:43 am:   

Hey, I'm loving Something Happened, Terry! A book I can't wait, at any given moment, to get back to. I see the Vonnegut influence, and I'm assuming the vice-versa: makes sense these two were (from what I remember reading somewhere) good friends....
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Mbfg (Mbfg)
Username: Mbfg

Registered: 09-2010
Posted From: 80.5.8.49
Posted on Friday, January 04, 2013 - 10:58 am:   

Craig...
They were indeed friends. Vonnegut appears in Heller's last (and not great - ill-advised sequel to "Catch 22") book.

All...
Just finished "Little Women". It was, as I said, interesting. On one hand, like eating an entire jar of honey, sweetened with a tablespoon of icing sugar and tin of nestle's condensed milk, on the other, a glimpses of what was really going on at the time and what it was to be considered a "Good Woman" - you didn't whistle, run around, lay on the rug to read, in fact, the character of Jo's progress from tomboy-hood to young lady-hood was seen as something worthy rather than the dilution of true character and individuality. Alcott was no Austen but I did actually enjoy the read.

John...
Hearing you utter the name Robert Sheckley is like hearing that someone has found the letters from my first true, long-lost love!

Cheers
Terry
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John Llewellyn Probert (John_l_probert)
Username: John_l_probert

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.152.14.127
Posted on Friday, January 04, 2013 - 11:07 am:   

Aha!

I now also have Mr Joel Lane's WHERE FURNACES BURN on the go as well.
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Giancarlo (Giancarlo)
Username: Giancarlo

Registered: 11-2008
Posted From: 95.75.77.156
Posted on Saturday, January 05, 2013 - 07:20 am:   

Reading "The Complete Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde", Nail Gaiman's "The Graveyard Book" and "M is for Magic". I enjoy reading "young adult" oriented books sometimes. On the supposedly adult side, Aaron Dries's "House of Sighs", from the new Samhain imprint.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Saturday, January 05, 2013 - 08:10 am:   

I love Oscar Wilde's fairy tales! The ones I've read. They remind me of Tolstoy's tales in the same vein, equally worth seeking out.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.25.8.31
Posted on Friday, January 11, 2013 - 09:52 am:   

MOON AND SIXPENCE by Somerset Maugham was great. Elegant and arch.

Just started LORD JIM by Joseph Conrad. Ooh, another lush prose stylist.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.167.145.210
Posted on Friday, January 11, 2013 - 09:58 am:   

Currently reading Turgenev's Spring Torrents - not brilliant so far - and dipping in and out of Let the Old Dreams Die - which is an excellent collection of stories.

Lindqvist has always managed to throw amazing scary set pieces into his books so it's no real surprise that his short story telling is rather good indeed. The story about the woman who finds the dead body and decides to keep it is my favourite so far.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.167.145.210
Posted on Friday, January 11, 2013 - 09:59 am:   

Contrast that with the pedestrian love story that is the first 40 odd pages of Spring Torrents, you can understand why I'm unimpressed with the alleged classic.
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Mbfg (Mbfg)
Username: Mbfg

Registered: 09-2010
Posted From: 212.219.63.204
Posted on Friday, January 11, 2013 - 01:45 pm:   

Gary

I've read both of those. I agree, Maugham was a consumate story teller. Have you read "Of Human Bondage"? One of my favourite novels.

I found Conrad's "Lord Jim" a demanding novel in the sense that if I lost ocncentration for a moment, I would not know who was actually telling the story at that point, the narrator or someone else who was narrating a part of the tale to the narrator. A powerful tale though. I have always wanted to tackle "Heart of Darkness" and "Nostromo". Books for 2013 then.

Oh, just started "Extended Play: The Elastic Book of Music". How I miss Elastic Press.

Cheers
Terry
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.25.8.31
Posted on Friday, January 11, 2013 - 01:53 pm:   

OHB is on my list, Terry.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Tuesday, January 15, 2013 - 08:24 am:   

Finished Something Happened. Good God, have I ever read such an unrelentingly depressing novel?! I go with Vonnegut's assessment: Heller's novel is a black comedy, with all the comedy removed. And just when you think it can't get any darker... it brushes the limits of horror, revealing it is a dystopian place, a dark mind indeed, we've been visiting all along. Egad. I need something much lighter to cleanse my palate....
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Tuesday, January 15, 2013 - 11:49 am:   

E.F. Benson chilled me to the bone last night - yet again - with one of the best, most original and tangibly convincing as well as philosophically sound "weird monster" stories I can recall reading; "And No Bird Sings" (1926).

His complete 'Night Terrors' collection is one of the crowning achievements of horror fiction, imo. Up there with Poe, Bierce, James, Lovecraft, Aickman, Campbell, Klein and anyone else you care to mention.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Tuesday, January 15, 2013 - 11:58 am:   

The beauty of Benson's stories, and what makes them unique in the field, are their variety and the accompanying backbone of serious philosophical theorising that he consciously injects into each one. The man convinces us that the incredible soul terrors he writes of are possible and, indeed, feasible in a universe of infinite possibilities and limited human knowledge. This man understood the Truth of The One like no other author of weird fiction. Where M.R. James sought to entertain by the fireside Benson was more interested in making us question the very nature of reality around us. He succeeded magnificently!
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Wednesday, January 16, 2013 - 03:51 am:   

Back to mysteries, alas. But I desperately need something (relatively) less-dark. Finally going to read Josephine Tey's The Daughter of Time (1951), which has made any number of top-tens for "Best Ever" mystery novels lists (often occupying the #1 slot!).
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Mbfg (Mbfg)
Username: Mbfg

Registered: 09-2010
Posted From: 212.219.63.204
Posted on Wednesday, January 16, 2013 - 12:58 pm:   

Just finished "Eetended Play - The Elastic Book of Music". Some very, very good stories, some okay, but over all highly recommended.

About to start "Atonement"

Cheers
Terry
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 129.11.77.197
Posted on Wednesday, January 16, 2013 - 01:12 pm:   

Blimey, LORD JIM is dense. Like chewing through a leather jacket. But absorbing, nearly there . . .
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Mick Curtis (Mick)
Username: Mick

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.184.138.239
Posted on Wednesday, January 16, 2013 - 04:31 pm:   

I've not read LORD JIM, but I have read a few others by Conrad. I recall HEART OF DARKNESS feeling like an 800 page monster of a book, even though it's only about 110 pages long. Gripping stuff though.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.25.8.31
Posted on Wednesday, January 16, 2013 - 07:49 pm:   

Finished it. Thank God. Not my thing, really. But glad I read it.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Thursday, January 17, 2013 - 11:30 am:   

Been meaning to say, Gary, that I haven't read anything else of E.F. Benson beyond his ghost stories. But judging by them he was a sublime writer with a visually evocative prose style, delicious wit and a fascinating intellect. Only seven tales left and I'll be sorry to finish this collection. Perfect reading for these cold winter nights.
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Mbfg (Mbfg)
Username: Mbfg

Registered: 09-2010
Posted From: 80.5.8.49
Posted on Thursday, January 17, 2013 - 11:53 am:   

Gary

Exactly the way I felt when I read "Lord Jim".

About 30 pages in Ian McEwan's "Atonement". I have deliberately avoided the film because I wanted to read it. I like McEwan's work, especially the painful detail and heartbreak of "On Chesil Beach" and the horror of "The Innocent" - because you just don't see it coming.

Cheers
Terry
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.25.8.31
Posted on Friday, January 18, 2013 - 04:13 am:   

Try QUEEN LUCIA, Stevie. It's hilarious.

Terry, I've read a lot of McEwan, but find him a bit . . . leaden. I much prefer the sazziness and mordant wit of Amis. But I enjoyed THE CHILD IN TIME.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Friday, January 18, 2013 - 04:48 am:   

2/3's through The Daughter of Time. I'm sure so much more's being lost on me than I even know—it's all British history, Scottish history, Scottish/British life of the 1950's, etc. Very easy to read, engaging, if odd novel... but in its own way, another depressing tale, by one of its overarching themes: All history is lies, lies damn lies. A cynical bent, worming through prose as brisk and cheery as can be imagined. Maybe it's just the state of mind I'm in, which I'll admit's kind of depressed lately as it is....
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Friday, January 18, 2013 - 11:37 am:   

Only five E.F. Benson stories left so will probably finish the collection this weekend then I intend to start into the complete unexpurgated Conan collection by Robert E. Howard. Can't wait!

Also nearly finished 'Fury' - an ingenious sci-fi thriller that must have been hugely influential (not least on Alfred Bester) - and two thirds through 'Free Live Free' which is a weird, baffling and engrossingly unpredictable melange of noir crime, fantasy and extremely funny character comedy reminiscent of Donald E. Westlake's comic crime novels and yet completely Wolfean in tone.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.25.8.31
Posted on Friday, January 18, 2013 - 01:42 pm:   

Just started MIDNIGHT'S CHILDREN by Salman Rushdie. Lush.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Friday, January 18, 2013 - 04:37 pm:   

(as an aside to what I'm reading: I file this under one of Tony's strange coincidences—I had not even the slightest inkling any of this was going on, when I picked up this Tey novel.... http://www.news.com.au/top-stories/remains-of-richard-iii-appear-the-have-neen-f ound-in-leicester/story-e6frfkp9-1226557038899 )
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Carolinec (Carolinec)
Username: Carolinec

Registered: 06-2009
Posted From: 92.232.244.38
Posted on Friday, January 18, 2013 - 05:05 pm:   

Been dipping in and out of various anthologies, as I usually do. Recently completed the following:

David Howe's "Talespinning". Yes, I know David is more widely known for his non-fiction, especially Doctor Who stuff, but he has written a little fiction too. Now I'm sure David would be the first to admit he isn't in Ramsey's class as a fiction writer, for example, but this is an entertaining easy read. Good fun!

"His Own Mad Demons" by David Riley (I must have a thing about writers called David at the moment!). Again, not your cerebral horror, but a collection of very good stories in the Pan Book of Horror style. I know most of these from the Black Books of Horror, but it's nice to revisit them. Enjoyed this!

I've also started Jeremy Dyson's "The Haunted Book". Now this IS one which would appeal to many of you here, I reckon. It's an amazing book, very well written. Contains Dyson's fictional accounts of purportedly true contemporary hauntings in the UK. In a way, it's kind of semi-autobiographical too. And, though I haven't got that far yet, looking later into the book it seems to take on a life of its own and transform into the same "haunted book" of the title. Very clever! I'd highly recommend this.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 80.239.243.49
Posted on Saturday, January 19, 2013 - 07:20 pm:   

Good news. The critical essay that accompanies my edition of Spring Torrents takes up the last quarter of the book which means that I only have 50 more pages of this exercise in bland storytelling left. The story is bland, the style of writing is bland, the whole thing is tedious in its blandness. It's not as turgid as the last 'great' russian novel I tried. It's quite readable in comparison but it has nothing to recommend it particularly. I'm still trying to find any of the 'beautiful' prose people bang on about when this book is discussed.
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Mbfg (Mbfg)
Username: Mbfg

Registered: 09-2010
Posted From: 80.5.8.49
Posted on Saturday, January 19, 2013 - 07:57 pm:   

Gary...

"Midnight's Children" is a wonderful swirling whirlpool.

I've never read any Amis would you believe(Kingsley yes, but not Martin).

I'm really enjoying "Atonement" - the tension ramepd up steadily and effectively. It's the slow burning detail that I like about McEwan.

Cheers
Terry
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.25.8.31
Posted on Saturday, January 19, 2013 - 08:37 pm:   

Martin is the dog's bollocks, Terry. I like Kingsley, too. But his son is something else. Everybody has their perfect author, someone who ticks every box of "entertainment needs", and he's mine. Funny, dark, intellectual, weird, virtuosic.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 31.54.11.58
Posted on Sunday, January 20, 2013 - 12:33 am:   

It's unusual for me to finish a book and say thank fuck for that but with Spring Torrents that's exactly what i just did. Bland beyond bland, its only redeeming feature is that it's only 150 pages long - but it still took me more than a week to read it.

I wouldn't object to the blandness of the prose as much except for the fact that everything i've seen about this book says it's a fantastic example of Turgenev's masterful prose... If that's as good as he gets I certainly ain't bothering again. If there'd been a half decent story i might have forgiven it as well. But the story was more bland than the prose. He meets a girl, spends nearly 100 pages falling in love with her (while from a modern vantage his relationship with her 14 year old brother is rather suspicious) before he goes off to try to sell his estates and shags the woman he's trying to sell them to and is so wracked with guilt he follows the woman he cheated with to Paris and lives a life of misery as her serf and gives up on any chance of happiness in his life.

There was enough actual story to make a 5 page short story. Instead we get 150 pages of nothingness.

Time to read something good instead.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 86.24.62.55
Posted on Sunday, January 20, 2013 - 02:59 am:   

You've actually made me want to read that book, Weber, because it sounds quite moving.

Perhaps the problem is not with Turgenev (whom I have never read) but with yourself and your attitude to love.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.25.8.31
Posted on Sunday, January 20, 2013 - 07:24 am:   

Ha, Weber, you sound like John Self at the opera.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.212.230.226
Posted on Sunday, January 20, 2013 - 11:06 am:   

There was zero style to the writing. It was the literary equivalent of one of those tasteless rice crackers. If you're going to write a book with virtually no plot, you need to be a great writer and infuse the pages with magical wordplay. I know a few writers who can make ordinary humdrum existance into something hypnotic and unputdownable on the page. Jon Mcgregor or paul Auster for example. Turgenev just doesn't have that spark. Even King managed to hook me with the love story in 11.22.63, making that more of a focal point for the story than the Kennedy assassination.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 80.239.242.133
Posted on Sunday, January 20, 2013 - 12:40 pm:   

Spring torrents spends 100 pages with him falling for one girl, 45 pages with him not falling for the other woman but shagging her anyway and 5 pages of whining about how shit the rest of his life was because of it. It's impossible to have any sympathy for him because he's so wet. The writing breaks all the rules about show don't tell and has incredibly irritating tense changes between paragraphs for no discernable good reason.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 2.30.203.120
Posted on Sunday, January 20, 2013 - 01:26 pm:   

Nothing dates faster than romantic literature, because nothing is so culturally contingent and non-universal as love. A few years ago I went to see Letter From an Unknown Woman at a local cinema (which very occasionally shows 'classic' rather than new art films) – hailed as a timeless classic, deeply moving, heartbreaking etc etc, and found it such maudlin sentimental tosh I felt embarrassed to be among those leaving the cinema when it had finished. Nice photography of course.

'Show don't tell' is a late 20th-century literary idea, maybe a good one but it owes a lot to the existence of cinema and television.

Also, if you're not predisposed to respond emotionally to a book or film it can be easier to see manipulation of the reader/audience where others see true insight. I have that problem with a lot of stuff.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 2.30.203.120
Posted on Sunday, January 20, 2013 - 01:28 pm:   

I tell a lie, one thing does date even faster than romantic literature, and that's anything acclaimed as 'timeless'.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.25.8.31
Posted on Sunday, January 20, 2013 - 02:36 pm:   

>>>'Show don't tell' is a late 20th-century literary idea

I tried reading some Balzac last month and couldn't get beyond the opening chapter, which read like the stage directions Shaw used to illuminate the published manuscripts of his plays. Exposition? Just a bit.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 86.24.62.55
Posted on Sunday, January 20, 2013 - 09:52 pm:   

Just finished the complete ghost stories of E.F. Benson with a heavy heart. Never again will I be able to experience these tales anew. But better that than die without having read them. The man was a brilliant writer who clearly loved the genre but had great fun subverting it and injecting his own wonderful theories of how such impossible things, that we all wish were true, might actually be so. I salute you, sir, wherever you are.

Gary, the collection includes several hilarious, yet chilling, comic-horror tales that leave me in no doubt 'Queen Lucia' is as pant-wettingly funny as you claim.

Now for the Cimmerian barbarian and all Robert E. Howard can throw at me...
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 31.54.11.58
Posted on Monday, January 21, 2013 - 01:54 am:   

And for my next read - a bit of SP Somtow - Forgetting Places.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Monday, January 21, 2013 - 06:54 am:   

Reading now The Thin Man, by Dashiell Hammett (1934); and luxuriating (after last partaking of the experimental style that was, for him [and imho], The Maltese Falcon) in that good old familiar Hammett way of telling a story....
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.212.230.152
Posted on Monday, January 21, 2013 - 10:10 am:   

Somtow must be slacking. It took till the middle of page 2 for him to reel me in hook line and sinker. He normally catches me on the first page. After only 50 pages of this book it's already impinged on my dreams last night.
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Peterc (Peterc)
Username: Peterc

Registered: 12-2012
Posted From: 86.168.97.224
Posted on Monday, January 21, 2013 - 10:59 pm:   

'Light Shining in the Forest' by Paul Torday. I've not read it yet but I think it will appeal to many horror fans.
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Protodroid (Protodroid)
Username: Protodroid

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 213.233.148.13
Posted on Tuesday, January 22, 2013 - 12:35 am:   

"Head Into the Dark". An anthology allegedly written by ghosts and transcribed by mediums (media?). I still can't tell if it's supposed to be factual or merely facts fictionified, but nowhere on the blurb does it crack a smile. I was very edutained.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.25.8.31
Posted on Tuesday, January 22, 2013 - 09:46 am:   

Still on MIDNIGHT'S CHILDREN. Boy, this guy can write. But what a lot of words. It doesn't feel a chore, though. The bouncy rhythms and constant humour keep it fresh and compelling.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Tuesday, January 22, 2013 - 12:30 pm:   

I'm surprised you weren't impressed by 'The Maltese Falcon', Craig. For me it belongs with Hammett's other masterpieces, 'The Glass Key' & 'Red Harvest', while 'The Dain Curse' & 'The Thin Man' are markedly lighter, but still great fun, entertainments.

I'll make a point of reading the two short story collections I have sometime soon. In the mood for shorter works at the minute. Blame E.F. Benson.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Tuesday, January 22, 2013 - 12:41 pm:   

Just finished 'Fury' (1947) by Henry Kuttner and very impressive it was too. Clearly inspired by Heinlein's 'Methuselah's Children' (1941) it nevertheless took the idea of genetic "immortality" in a future race of human beings (homo immortalis, perhaps?) to a whole new level and presented an ingeniously plotted noirish revenge thriller that virtually formed the template for Alfred Bester's masterwork, 'The Stars My Destination' (1956). The 1940s & 50s certainly was a golden time for new ideas and seeding influences amongst genre writers. Wonderfully imaginative stuff and with an unrelenting grimness of tone that fit well with the dark times the world had just gone through.

I have two collections of the best short stories of Henry Kuttner and will be proceeding to them anon.

Also three quarters through 'Free Live Free' (1984) by Gene Wolfe, which continues to confound and entertain, and after it his short story collections beckon too...
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Tuesday, January 22, 2013 - 01:29 pm:   

I'm trying to work out the most meaningful chronological sequence in which to read 'The Chronicles Of Conan'. While writing the stories Robert E. Howard was constantly flicking backward and forward in time - from Conan as a young thief to his later years as a King - so the order in which they first appeared does not seem the best way to read them. Does anyone know where I might find a list of the tales in chrono-story order?
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Tuesday, January 22, 2013 - 01:38 pm:   

Also just restarted my horror antho reading with what should have been the next in line; 'Oriental Tales Of Terror' edited by J.J. Strating. To be followed by 'The 22nd Pan Book Of Horror Stories' and Ramsey's 'New Tales Of The Cthulhu Mythos', then back to 'Scottish Tales Of Terror', and so on... sorted.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Tuesday, January 22, 2013 - 03:41 pm:   

No, I enjoyed The Maltese Falcon greatly, Stevie; I just thought the writing style he tried out with that one, incomparable to his other work—it felt clumsier, almost like it was an earlier novel. It compares to the rest of what I've read by Hammett, as Vonnegut's Player Piano does to the rest of his work, style-wise.

I'm loving The Thin Man, now halfway through: an easy-reading light (or, lighter—that cannibal bit was a disturbing interlude) fun mystery, that's actually (unlike Falcon) a significant departure from the famous film....
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Tuesday, January 22, 2013 - 03:52 pm:   

After a fun afternoon of research, and only including Robert E. Howard's own tales, I've come up with this chrono list:

1. The Tower Of The Elephant
2. The Hall Of The Dead
3. The God In The Bowl
4. Rogues In The House
5. The Hand Of Nergal
6. The Frost Giant's Daughter
7. Queen Of The Black Coast
8. The Vale Of Lost Women
9. The Snout In The Dark
10. Black Colossus
11. Shadows In The Moonlight
12. A Witch Shall Be Born
13. Shadows In Zamboula
14. The Devil In Iron
15. The People Of The Black Circle
16. The Slithering Shadow
17. Drums Of Tombalku
18. The Pool Of The Black One
19. Red Nails
20. Jewels Of Gwahlur
21. Beyond The Black River
22. The Black Stranger
23. Wolves Beyond The Border
24. The Phoenix On The Sword
25. The Scarlet Citadel
26. The Hour Of The Dragon [Howard's only full length Conan novel]

...and that would appear to be the lot.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Tuesday, January 22, 2013 - 03:58 pm:   

Yes, the lengthy pioneer cannibal story was a weird and highly disturbing interlude that appeared to have no relevance to the plot and had the smack of true anecdote about it. I wonder why Hammett included it? Or did I miss something?
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Tuesday, January 22, 2013 - 04:55 pm:   

I really am in a quandary as to how to describe 'Free Live Free'. Is it a crime novel, is it a comedy, is it a surreal fantasy??? Or is the whole thing one vast puzzle for the reader to solve? The beautifully drawn characters and unpredictability of the action make it compulsive but I really have no clue where this one is going or what the nature of Ben Free's treasure is... some profound metaphysical revelation is my best guess, at this point, which only makes the grubby double crossing of our cast of lowlife treasure seekers all the more potentially ironic. But this is Gene Wolfe and anything could happen.

Incidentally, I was well chuffed to see Wolfe's 'Solar Cycle' get a prominent part in the plot of a recent, typically excellent, episode of 'Fringe'. Add to that other recent references to 'The X Files' & 'Scooby Doo, Where Are You?' as among Walter Bishop's favourite TV shows and one can see these writers know their stuff and have a great sense of humour. The perfectly balanced comic relief elements of the show are just one of the things that make it so special.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 2.30.203.106
Posted on Tuesday, January 22, 2013 - 11:27 pm:   

Stevie, just looking at your chronological list makes me feel better about life in general. I reread nine of the stories (including three novellas) last year and look forward to the rest. Great to see them shorn of revisions, censorship and the pastiches that diluted the canon in the evil days of Roman tyranny. These are the true texts, by Crom.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Wednesday, January 23, 2013 - 11:17 am:   

Indeed, Joel. Gloriously un-PC delights await.

After this I must get the rest of Howard's material, if possible. He was one of the authors who made me the man I am!
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.37.199.45
Posted on Wednesday, January 23, 2013 - 01:16 pm:   

Un-PC perhaps but without the misogyny that taints a lot of pulp fiction. Conan doesn't dream of passive, subservient women. He lusts after sarky female warriors who could eat your average non-Cimmerian roughneck for breakfast. But even in his world it's Thanatos that has the last word.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.37.199.45
Posted on Wednesday, January 23, 2013 - 01:24 pm:   

Having said that, there is inevitably some utter nonsense in the Conan tales. It's impossible not to wince at the feral black men in 'Shadows in Zamboula'. And 'It's worse than you think' in 'Red Nails' (I won't explain the context) deserves some kind of bad dialogue award. But it's still better to read the raw REH text than someone else's idea of a more tasteful version.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Wednesday, January 23, 2013 - 02:30 pm:   

"Sarky [big breasted] female warriors" - exactly my kind of women, Joel!

I remember falling in love with the watered down, yet still wonderfully brutal and bloody, Conan texts in my childhood and would say they paved the way into more meaty adult reading. The first horror novel I ever read was 'Night Of The Crabs' (1976) by the irredeemable Guy N. Smith, at the age of 10! Thank heavens I discovered H.P. Lovecraft shortly after!!
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 80.239.243.107
Posted on Wednesday, January 23, 2013 - 02:35 pm:   

Guy Smith was Charles Grant's favourite horror writer.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Wednesday, January 23, 2013 - 02:38 pm:   

He certainly gave value for money as far as sex and violence goes... the man taught me all I know.
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Tony (Tony)
Username: Tony

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 212.140.118.61
Posted on Wednesday, January 23, 2013 - 02:49 pm:   

Phantastes by George MacDonald. Not perfect, but interesting and different.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Wednesday, January 23, 2013 - 03:32 pm:   

I agree, Tony. I found it a frequently beautiful, poetic work but ultimately frustrating due to the stream of consciousness lack of narrative and absence of concrete characters. The narrator was a complete non-entity from start to finish. What did you make of the haunted mirror ghost story chapter? I thought it was the best thing in the book and should be anthologised.

I had similar problems with 'A Voyage To Arcturus' - a dull, plodding, gloomily symbol-heavy anti-narrative populated by non-characters. Interesting that both authors were from strict Scottish Calvinist backgrounds.
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Tony (Tony)
Username: Tony

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 212.140.118.61
Posted on Wednesday, January 23, 2013 - 03:39 pm:   

Nice to see you here, Stevie... I haven't reached the ghosty bit yet.
I'm sad because certain passages of this book are great, but in the end it feels like a dream diary, or a collection of paintings done in words.
Are you keeping OK? I'm sorry not to chat much on the phone but it's gone out of monthly contract... :-(
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Wednesday, January 23, 2013 - 03:44 pm:   

I've never really been away, Tony. Was just busy over Christmas and now sat in at nights till pay day next week.

Yeah, that's a good way to describe the book; a dream diary published as a novel with passages of genuine visionary power and long unfathomable sections in between. I struggled through it but was glad I read it in the end.
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Tony (Tony)
Username: Tony

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 212.140.118.61
Posted on Wednesday, January 23, 2013 - 03:46 pm:   

I meant it was just nice to see you generally. :-)
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Tony (Tony)
Username: Tony

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 212.140.118.61
Posted on Wednesday, January 23, 2013 - 03:46 pm:   

You never lose your rag or anything.
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Tony (Tony)
Username: Tony

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 212.140.118.61
Posted on Wednesday, January 23, 2013 - 03:47 pm:   

I wish you'd come on facebook a bit more. In fact I think you've vanished off my list...
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Wednesday, January 23, 2013 - 03:50 pm:   

Thanks, you too, Tony!

To answer your question... whenever I find myself getting angry I like to switch over to the logical part of my brain and analyse the reasons then think out a better response. Wrath is one of the Seven Deadly Sins I'm least prone to. I'm more a victim of Sloth!
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Wednesday, January 23, 2013 - 03:54 pm:   

I've got out of the way of logging onto Facebook, Tony. Hardly ever check my page on there now. I think it's had its day. I do my online waffling here, mostly, as I think you're all a jolly nice bunch of chaps.
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Tony (Tony)
Username: Tony

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 212.140.118.61
Posted on Wednesday, January 23, 2013 - 04:02 pm:   

Facebook is good if you limit your friend amount. I've come to learn that. If you don't it's just like watching traffic go by.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.25.8.31
Posted on Wednesday, January 23, 2013 - 04:17 pm:   

When Stevie visited Leeds last year, you should have seen the mess he left. Tthe whole place was smashed up and there were no virgins left. That's right, he had sex twice.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Wednesday, January 23, 2013 - 05:17 pm:   

True... I'm even barred from The Peacock ffs!
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Tony (Tony)
Username: Tony

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 212.140.118.61
Posted on Thursday, January 24, 2013 - 10:40 am:   

Proto - where did you get that book?
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Thursday, January 24, 2013 - 11:15 am:   

Read Howard's fascinatingly detailed introductory history, 'The Hyborian Age', last night, along with the afterword detailing the various races that inhabit it, which provided the perfect appetite whetter for the stories to follow...

To read alongside that I've picked out Stanley Ellin's 'The Speciality Of The House And Other Stories'. The complete collection of his horror/mystery short stories. All 35 of them! Starting with the title story which I rank as one of the most perfect and deliciously macabre horror tales ever written. It's in my Top 10.

Needed something extra special to follow the E.F. Benson tome.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Thursday, January 24, 2013 - 05:17 pm:   

What are these versions of the Conan stories you're all talking about? Are you telling me the old Ace/Lancer purple-pages editions I read so long ago (and want to revisit, too) are not considered definitive?... What do I have to go buy now?!

Stevie, that particular Ellin collection, I'd picked up a couple of years back, and reading it cover to cover (though not in that order) was just one of the most enjoyable reading experiences... some authors' books (because it's a book-by-book thing I'm talking about) know how to hit all the pleasure-buttons; to read them is like sinking into a warm bath... for me, that was one of them....

The Thin Man is I'd say one of those, too! Almost done, mere pages to go, and have loved every page of it. Not the most unique of "mysteries," no, but Hammett's mastery is so far above the usual genre fare. It will be a day of weeping indeed—the way it was when I (say) exhausted Vonnegut's work—when there's no more Hammetts to conquer....
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Friday, January 25, 2013 - 04:33 pm:   

Finished The Thin Man, and my assessment is this: Okay, I loved it, every page of it, right down to the Dain Curse-ish extended and wildly-implausible explanation. But I'm also fully aware that this is pure genre, through and through. In this light, the sublimity of The Thin Man film, and the many that followed it, shines brighter: The films took but one undeveloped element of the novel, the relationship between Nick/Nora, and made it their focal point; as well, they emphasized broad comedy over genre (i.e., mystery [though they're damn fine mysteries, too!]). If I were forced to weigh the two against each other, the films are far better, and have staying power. The Loy/Powell dynamic is as engaging, alluring, and even romantic (i.e., representational of an ideal state, so rarely achieved in our fallen world) to this day—whereas the novel, alas, and I'm saying this as a devotee myself... more of a period-piece....
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 86.24.62.55
Posted on Friday, January 25, 2013 - 05:43 pm:   

As I said on reading it, 'The Thin Man' is the closest Hammett came to a straight Christie-like whodunit and is probably his most accessible and fun read. 'The Dain Curse' is his oddest and most far-fetched novel, being the closest he came to pulp horror.

The other three are his true masterpieces, imo, and 'The Glass Key' is the finest and the most disturbingly cynical of those. The Coen's 'Miller's Crossing' [one of their best films] was a loose adaptation of 'The Glass Key' that captured much of its grim yet gripping essence.

I've all of Hammett's short stories left, Craig, and then that's me done too. He defined the noir detective genre, with its concentration on realism rather than romanticism, but, for me, Raymond Chandler was its finest exponent. I'll be re-reading his entire output in the years to come.

As the finest modern inheritor of the true spirit of Hammett & Chandler I can't recommend enough the British author, Derek Raymond. No other writer of detective fiction has shown us as stark a glimpse of Hell on Earth as he.

But the best crime writer of them all, who always sided with the guilty and the insane, was Patricia Highsmith. No one else can touch her, imho.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 2.30.203.1
Posted on Friday, January 25, 2013 - 06:50 pm:   

Stevie, crime fiction fans tend to define Hammett and Chandler as 'hard-boiled' rather than 'noir', because their approach is realistic and pragmatic where noir was more paranoid, fatalistic and symbolic. Classic noir authors – Woolrich, Thompson, Goodis, Raymond – are writing dark psychological thrillers rather than mystery novels. However, I think there's a streak of early noir in Hammett, because of the allegorical and despairing quality of his stories. Great though he is, Chandler isn't noir.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 86.24.62.55
Posted on Friday, January 25, 2013 - 07:37 pm:   

No doubt I'm not using the textbook definition of "noir", Joel, but, for me, the word has always chimed with those films and works of fiction that rose out of Hammett's groundbreaking style and defined the realistically bleak and pessimistic crime stories, produced as popular entertainment, throughout the 30s-50s. I see Derek Raymond as very much a throwback to the pervading cynicism of those times. He wrote classically structured streetwise detective fiction, in the mould of Chandler, made shocking and relevant for a modern audience by the nightmarishly bleak subject matter he tackled with such graphic abandon. From what I've read of them, Woolrich, Bardin & Thompson were closer to Highsmith's model of crime writing - going one step further into nihilism by siding with the criminals.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Saturday, January 26, 2013 - 03:49 am:   

Not that it's definitive, but The Best American Noir of the Century (2001), with stories all hand-picked by James Ellroy, doesn't include either Hammett or Chandler. It does include Thompson, Goodis, and Woolrich, as well as Cain, Spillane, and Highsmith (and many more, of course; fantastic anthology, one of the best I've ever read, highly recommended). Fwiw.

I would like to read Derek Raymond, and will seek him out. I'm exactly reversed of you, Stevie—I read tons of Hammett short stories/novellas before now emigrating to his novels; and I've read virtually none of Chandler's shorter work, but every one of his novels (and, much as I love it all, and greatly, I find it's just a notch below Hammett). With the exception of Red Harvest, I'd say I just flat-out loved Hammett's shorter output, so far, much more than his longer work, Stevie... so you have immense treats in store for you there!
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.29.179.233
Posted on Sunday, January 27, 2013 - 12:12 pm:   

Midnight's Children was monumental. Really enjoyed it.

Now reading A SENSE OF AN ENDING, Julian Barnes' Booker prize winner. A long time fan of Barnes, me.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Sunday, January 27, 2013 - 05:08 pm:   

Taking a cue from Stevie, I'm turning to an old anthology, Ellery Queen's The Golden 13 (1970); a collection of each year's grand prize winner of the magazine's international competition, running from 1946—1957 & 1962. Recognizable names from various genres (Wellman, Woolrich, Ellin [with arguably his finest, "The Moment of Decision], Avram Davidson, etc.), and some whose names I'm unfamiliar with; I'm past halfway through now, and they're all so far deserving. But wow, one story just leaped off the page in its brilliance, from an author I've never heard of—Thomas Flanagan, "The Cold Winds of Adesta" (1952). One of the shortest stories herein, and in every way, sublime. Who is this author, and what else has he written?!...
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Mbfg (Mbfg)
Username: Mbfg

Registered: 09-2010
Posted From: 90.199.246.199
Posted on Sunday, January 27, 2013 - 08:10 pm:   

I've just finished "Atonement" and was wonderfully outflanked by the ending.

Gary...have you read any other Rushdie? I read "The Ground beneath her Feet" (or was it Earth?)a few years ago and was disappointed. Heard good things baout "The Moor's Last Sigh" though.

Just started Douglas Thompson's sf novel "Entanglement", which is a glorious swirl of imaginative imagery and ideas - "Gulliver's Travels" meets "The Martian Chronicles".
Cheers
Terry
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.29.179.233
Posted on Monday, January 28, 2013 - 09:05 am:   

Just Haroun and the Sea of Stories, Terry. Enjoyed that one. My partner's read them all and enjoyed each.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 86.24.62.55
Posted on Monday, January 28, 2013 - 01:33 pm:   

Read the first three Conan stories and I'm hooked all over again. Wonderfully vivid storytelling and far more gruesome than what I read as a child. Fantastically bloody fight sequences.

'The Tower Of The Elephant' is pure Lovecraftian cosmic horror and features an unforgettable battle with one seriously scary giant spider, the size of a pig and fast as lightning. Heart-pounding writing.

'The Hall Of The Dead' is a synopsis of an unwritten story that reads like a fairy-tale by the Brothers Grimm. Its few pages are more gripping than many a completed tale by lesser writers.

'The God In The Bowl' is a kind of primitive police procedural murder mystery with Conan as the chief suspect. The shock ending is pure blood freezing supernatural horror and the story includes the first mention of our hero's arch enemy, Thoth Amon.

Magical, breathlessly exciting stuff that has one's heart racing while flipping the pages.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 86.24.62.55
Posted on Monday, January 28, 2013 - 03:53 pm:   

As for Stanley Ellin:

"The Speciality Of The House" is one of those timeless horror stories that I could read over and over again and still find satisfying. It is perfection. The levels of suspense Ellin generates, entirely by suggestion and beautifully macabre understatement, are the work of genius.

"The Cat's Paw" is another perfect jewel of a story that would have made a particularly effective episode of 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents'. It is one of the most ingenious "perfect murder" plots I have read and has a particularly chilling coda. Donald Pleasence would have made a fine mild-mannered Mr Crabtree and Peter Lorre his sinister frog-like employer. I wonder has anyone actually tried it? <gulp>
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Monday, January 28, 2013 - 05:02 pm:   

Stevie - nope: many of his stories have been produced, but not that one. However, "Specialty of the House" was filmed twice for Alfred Hitchcock Presents, in the original run in the 1960's, and during its reboot in the 1980's....
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 86.24.62.55
Posted on Monday, January 28, 2013 - 05:09 pm:   

I'm also flying through 'Oriental Tales Of Terror' and think I'll dedicate a separate thread to the Fontana series. It's good to be back in short story land.

Almost finished Gene Wolfe's 'Free Live Free' and, not unlike 'An Evil Guest', it has taken a surprise turn into supernatural horror, making it virtually unclassifiable as a genre narrative. Where does he get his ideas from?
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 86.24.62.55
Posted on Monday, January 28, 2013 - 05:13 pm:   

I'd love to see that, Craig! I have the first three original series on DVD and it isn't among them. Watched them all last year. Fantastic show that is only bettered by 'The Twilight Zone' & 'The Outer Limits' (the best of the lot, for me). How I long to see 'Boris Karloff's Thriller'... but it isn't available here, sadly. Neither are the later Hitchcock's!
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 86.24.62.55
Posted on Monday, January 28, 2013 - 07:44 pm:   

Reading the Conan stories in chrono order, after Howard's historical introductions, that paint a vivid picture of his world and times, is definitely the best way to experience them.

When first we meet the Cimmerian barbarian he is a cocky youth arriving in civilization for the first time after growing up in the wild Northern wilderness. He tries plying his trade as a common thief in the kingdom of Zamora from where he flees, through Brythunia, to Nemedia in his first three escapades - encountering; lions, a giant spider, a Lovecraftian being from time and space, an evil sorcerer, a posse of mercenaries, reanimated zombie warriors, sadistic police guards and a terrifying demon from the very bowels of Hell.

Next up "Rogues In The House"... the story, in early 70s Marvel comicbook form, that first introduced me to Conan. I can still see it now.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 86.24.62.55
Posted on Monday, January 28, 2013 - 07:56 pm:   

Craig, I meant has anyone actually been tempted to try the "perfect murder" idea suggested in "The Cat's Paw"? I see no reason why it couldn't work. Even Sherlock Holmes would have a hard time unravelling that one. Frighteningly clever, hur hur.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Tuesday, January 29, 2013 - 03:39 pm:   

By strange coincidence the next two stories I read by Stanley Ellin were both made into early AHP episodes I watched last year!

"Death On Christmas Eve" is a subtly macabre tale of obsessive suspicion, that an apparently accidental death may not have been so, which has something of the flavour of Poe or Faulkner about it and ends with a sad little twist. The adaptation, entitled 'The Festive Season' (Episode 31, Season 3), appears to have been uncredited and was unnecessarily jazzed up to include a second "murder" attempt not in the story.

Then we have a rather far-fetched but entertaining black comedy tale of serial wife murder, "The Orderly World Of Mr Appleby", that was also adapted, and credited, with more success, in AHP Season 1 (Episode 29). The final twist is daft but irresistible.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Tuesday, January 29, 2013 - 05:03 pm:   

"The Cat's Paw" is something I'm going to have read over, Stevie, to see what you mean by the "perfect murder." I believe "The Orderly World of Mr. Appleby" was filmed a few times, for different series, too. (Btw, an aside: We have this channel here in the States called ME TV I discovered cruising through the channels... it shows old reruns of "Mary Tyler Moore," [the 1970's] "The Bob Newhart Show," etc. But every night, I noticed, they've been running Karloff's "Chiller"—I'm going to have to start paying more attention to that!)

I would love to see an anthology movie—I'd pitch it myself!—of Ellin stories. The ones I've already decided I'd pick are: "Specialty of the House," "The Moment of Decision," "The Blessington Method," "Robert," "The Nine-to-Five Man," "The Last Bottle In The World," and "A Corner of Paradise." At least, that's the list for today....

Meanwhile, nearly done with my own anthology; well-chosen, serendipitously, because I was looking to read right now anyway some very, oh, contemporary-feel-y TV/Film-ish fiction. And it's amazing how most of these stories, written in the 1940's/50's, seem so current! I discovered another near-perfect tale in "My Brother Down There," by Steve Frazee (who?!)—what a film that would make! But, alas, the story with the best title by far, turned out to be the worst of the lot so far: "The President of the United States, Detective," by H. F. Heard (who?!). What a dismal letdown! Not only did it have not a shred of the "detective" anywhere in it... would you believe it was a scifi piece about the Chinese melting the polar ice-caps?!... no, you would not....
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 86.24.62.55
Posted on Tuesday, January 29, 2013 - 08:49 pm:   

For me, judging by all I've heard and the authors whose tales were adapted and actors who appeared, 'Boris Karloff's Thriller' is like the Holy Grail of unseen TV from the classic era of anthology shows. Stephen King famously called it the best TV horror show ever made. I'd be taping every one if I were you, Craig, or, better yet, I'd order the complete box set, available in the States - you lucky people. I don't think it's ever even been shown on British television!
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Wednesday, January 30, 2013 - 12:05 pm:   

"Rogues In The House" was every bit as marvellous as I remembered and shows Conan growing in complexity as a character. No straight-laced hero this guy. He kills innocent bystanders without a flicker of emotion, just because they get in his way, yet honours a debt owed to someone who helped him escape from prison by taking on the murder of someone else he doesn't know, without question. But he balks at killing a "wench", who betrayed him to the police, and is satisfied with throwing her in a cesspool instead. The story itself is an ingenious twist on the lycanthropy theme, fully justifying its inclusion as a horror story in the famous 'Not At Night' anthology series back in the 30s (how I'd love to read them).
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Wednesday, January 30, 2013 - 12:35 pm:   

There then followed one of the cleverest and scariest doppelganger stories I have read. "Fool's Mate" by Stanley Ellin is right up there with Poe's "William Wilson" or "The Other Passenger" by John Keir Cross (imo, his story "The Glass Eye" provided the best episode of AHP Season 3; Episode 1 - with William Shatner, but I digress). A timid and horrendously hen-pecked husband takes up the hobby of chess and, not being allowed anyone to play with, becomes his own opponent, the identical but very different Mr White, who proceeds to take on a life of his own... with chilling results. This is another classic horror story almost as perfect as TSOTH. Ingenious and unforgettable!

But there's more... the next story, "The Best Of Everything" (1952), may very well, I would contend, have led to the creation of a certain Mr Thomas Ripley. The, again, ingenious plot, in scaled down form, is virtually identical to that of 'The Talented Mr Ripley', published a few years later! That's not to take anything away from Patricia (as if!) but this tale of a bitter young man, and talented forger/actor, looking in on the good life and spotting a way to become what he is not by cold blooded murder and the assuming of someone else's identity is... somewhat similar. TTMR remains a masterpiece, of course!
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.37.199.45
Posted on Wednesday, January 30, 2013 - 01:51 pm:   

Stevie – yes, 'Rogues in the House' is more fun than any reader really deserves.

The Not at Night anthologies are hard to find, with copies in mostly poor condition – they weren't made to last. And they're not worth it. At least, having read all but two of them, I can say all but two are not worth it. Some day I'll be able to say they are all not worth it. But I'll still be smiling.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.37.199.45
Posted on Wednesday, January 30, 2013 - 02:12 pm:   

I should add that most of my Not At Night books were obtained cheaply in the 1970s, before they were considered collectable. I got five of them in 1979 in payment for a day's unpaid work in a tiny bookshop in a subway that made most of its money from under-the-counter hardcore porn magazines. And it had a shelf of erotic fiction with the title 'GOOD BOOKS!' – the owner explained to me that it was for the old men who came in and asked him: 'Got any good books?'
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Ramsey Campbell (Ramsey)
Username: Ramsey

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 92.8.30.80
Posted on Wednesday, January 30, 2013 - 03:17 pm:   

That was Sam Strutt's favourite bookshop, Joel.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Wednesday, January 30, 2013 - 05:14 pm:   

Finished 'Free Live Free' and talk about being led a merry chase! I really can't say too much about the pay-off, other than that it is typically ambiguous and haunting, but the closest approximation I can make to the experience of reading this weird and wonderful adventure is to imagine one of Westlake's Dortmunder & Kelp novels spliced with 'A Confederacy Of Dunces' and a mischievous hint of Dennis Wheatley as imagined (in the mind's eye) by Stanley Kubrick in full on 'Dr Strangelove'/'A Clockwork Orange' mode while Hammett & Chandler look on from the wings aghast and Ray Bradbury mutters, "why didn't I think of that..." - or words to that effect.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Wednesday, January 30, 2013 - 05:44 pm:   

Craig, five novels in it is becoming clear to me what I get out of Gene Wolfe's writing. It is the clarity of the prose, the humour and the almost stream-of-consciousness sense of wisdom being imparted. It is as if hidden meaning lies behind even the simplest lines but without ever lapsing into pretension ala 'A Voyage To Arcturus'.

Wolfe's books are effortlessly entertaining for all their frequent (some might say constant) unfathomability.

In many ways I am reminded of what I get from Kurt Vonnegut and Joseph Heller. It's all in the wit and the wisdom.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Wednesday, January 30, 2013 - 06:04 pm:   

Do you still have them, Joel? I'd sell my right nut for those books!

Next up, tonight, because the mighty tome is too precious to take out with me, is, "The Hand Of Nergal" (a fragment) and "The Frost Giant's Daughter".
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 2.30.204.39
Posted on Thursday, January 31, 2013 - 01:19 am:   

The latter tale rules – for once, I mean that literally.

Stevie, I don't feel able to sell my Not at Nights, sorry. Pulp fiction is a passion of mine. Even misguided love is still love.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Thursday, January 31, 2013 - 03:59 am:   

Stevie, clearly I must get hold of Free Live Free then. I find much of Wolfe exactly like you describe, clear and concise and easy to follow... but maddeningly obscure, sometimes. (I believe I've made this request before, but someday, I would appreciate you reading his novelette "Forelson," and tell me what you make of it!)

And Ellin's addictively delicious, isn't he?

I have finished this Golden 13 anthology on a high note, with two absolutely phenomenal pieces of fiction. One, by yet another author I've never heard of, Alfredo Segre; I googled him, and the best I can discover, is that he wrote this short story I read, and one novel, back in 1948, Mahogany... long since OOP and forgotten, as is presumably, poor Alfredo. But it's sad, because he wrote the very best piece here, "Justice Has No Number" (1947)—an exceptional mystery (but Lord, so much more than that!) about an itinerant organ-grinder in Fascist Italy, who discovers one day a beheaded body... and how he solves the crime. This story could have filled the ranks of any "Best Of" short story collection of the last Century though, it's that good.

And then, a quite famous writer's winning entry: "Blessed Are The Meek," by Georges Simenon. Holy cow! Though published way back in 1948 (and set in France), this one was about as close to giallo as you can possibly get outside of a film—slap on even a middling Italian director and some bad dubbing, and on the strength of the story alone, you'd have a film that would surely contend with the best of them! Only Woolrich's had me more on the edge of my seat recently (and even he didn't pack the wallop of an ending!). It appears Mr. Simenon must have written this out as a novel, published the same year as the tale appeared, entitled Le Petit Tailleur et le Chapelier (English title: The Murderer)... I read the Amazon synopsis, and though it might potentially be a fine work in its own right, it surely destroys the delicious mystery and tension of this brilliant tale—if so, then sadly. That novel seems to have been filmed in 1982 as Les Fantômes du Chapelier, directed by Claude Chabrol—I've not seen, but I'm sure, a fine film; it also appeared earlier, as an episode in a TV series of the 1960's... but this story, as is, deserves adapting all on its own!
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Thursday, January 31, 2013 - 11:55 am:   

'Free Live Free' is primarily written in the style of a pulp detective novel from the classic period but the characters are wonderfully eccentric and what Wolfe puts them through is hilariously farcical, when he's not being downright weird. It all ties together in the end, kind of, but if you read it you'll see what I mean by ambiguous.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Thursday, January 31, 2013 - 12:02 pm:   

I'm exactly the same, Joel, and rather relieved, as I'm quite fond of my nuts.

"The Hand Of Nergal", with its tantalising mystery of a title, was an oddly haunting little two page snippet that gives the impression of several years having passed. Conan, grown weary of thieving, has drifted north again and we find him reduced to scavenging from a battlefield. He comes across an injured wench, caught up in the action, and is about to put her out of her misery with a sword thrust when something clicks inside him and he lifts her and carries her to safety instead. A pivotal moment of awakening, perhaps, for the former wild young barbarian. That's my reading anyway. How the rest of the story would have panned out we shall never know...
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Thursday, January 31, 2013 - 12:15 pm:   

"The Frost Giant's Daughter" has to be one of the most hauntingly beautiful things Howard ever wrote. It has the essence of primal fairy-tale about it. Conan, having arrived back in the snowy wastes of the North, has become a mercenary fighting with the yellow-haired Asgardians against their ginger neighbours, the Vanaheim, and we find him the lone survivor of a particularly bloody skirmish, but suffering from a severe head wound. What follows could be the hallucinatory vision of a dying man or a tangible intrusion into reality from the Otherworld. It is up to the reader to decide. But it involves bloody sword fights and an attempted rape that prove Conan is no gentleman... and makes one wonder what may ultimately have happened that other poor girl in the previous fragment.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.37.199.45
Posted on Thursday, January 31, 2013 - 01:32 pm:   

Yes – Farnsworth Wright rejected the story as showing an unacceptable side of Conan – but that darkness enriches the story cycle. In this story we have a glimpse of how much stranger and more mythic the Conan stories could have been. Still, there are some fine stories to come.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Thursday, January 31, 2013 - 02:45 pm:   

Next up is "Queen Of The Black Coast", Joel, which is another one I have great memories of...

Going back to 'Free Live Free'. The book ends with an explanation of the mystery that makes 'The Dain Curse' seem as convoluted as Dr Seuss. I'm still trying to work it out. Which, I believe, was entirely Wolfe's intention. You'll see what I mean.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.212.231.152
Posted on Thursday, January 31, 2013 - 03:12 pm:   

Finished the somtow book last night. It wasn't quite up to his usual high standards, maybe because it was a young adult book he didn't go as far as he usually does. Also the dialogue was grating in places, but at the same time it did sound like teenagers frequently talk... I've just started a quick reread of This Sweet Sickness by the incomparable Ms Highsmith.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 129.11.77.197
Posted on Thursday, January 31, 2013 - 03:39 pm:   

Finished the Barnes Booker winner, and enjoyed it. But I think Barnes has done better.

Now rereading Apt Pupil.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Thursday, January 31, 2013 - 03:41 pm:   

It's fantastic, Weber! One of my best reads of last year. She makes you experience the obsessive unrequited love of the stalker mentality like you're actually inside his brain with him... and empathising every anguished step of the way. I found it emotionally devastating!
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Thursday, January 31, 2013 - 05:00 pm:   

Trying to decide on something to replace 'Free Live Free' with. My plan for this year is to be reading no more than one novel at a time (and no gargantuan epics) along with two or three short story collections.

I'm steaming through the Conan and Stanley Ellin collections and about to start 'The 22nd Pan Book Of Horror Stories', having just finished 'Oriental Tales Of Terror' (of which more anon).

I'm heading into town tonight and may let fate and the second hand bookshops have the final say... I wonder what lies in store.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Thursday, January 31, 2013 - 05:15 pm:   

Weber, you've inspired me, because I'm bored, to have a quick appraisal of all the Patricia Highsmith novels I've read and to rank them in order:

1. A Dog's Ransom (1972)
2. The Glass Cell (1964)
3. The Cry Of The Owl (1962)
4. The Talented Mr Ripley (1955)
5. Ripley's Game (1974)
6. This Sweet Sickness (1960)
7. Deep Water (1957)
8. Strangers On A Train (1950)
9. The Boy Who Followed Ripley (1980)
10. Ripley Under Ground (1970)
11. Ripley Under Water (1991)
12. The Tremor Of Forgery (1969)
13. The Blunderer (1954)

Every one a literary classic, imo, that puts her in the absolute top rank of writers in the English language, irrespective of genre. Only another 9 novels to go plus her numerous short story collections. Life is good.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Thursday, January 31, 2013 - 05:29 pm:   

(btw, Stevie, I've logged 4 cover-to-covers so far this year, and by the end of January. That means I'm headed for about 50 books at this pace... which, frankly, I actually and highly doubt I'll be able to maintain....)

I fantasized briefly this would be the year of the big novel (starting as I did with Something Happened); but I think instead, alas, it will be the year of collections and anthologies, as Stevie predicted it would be with him—it better suits my writing plans for 2013, to be constantly circulating more and more scifi/fantasy/horror/mystery through my mind (er... such-genre stories, I mean).

I've begun Ripper!, edited by Gardner Dozois & Susan Casper (1988). And speaking of Somtow, Weber, just read "Anna and the Ripper of Siam," a humorous bit of grand guignol, that crosses The King and I with Jack the Ripper—fine writer, him! (Funny trivial aside, in that the little bio-bit at the beginning mentions Somtow living in "Van Nuys" [wonder if he's still there? though this was back in '88], but a short drive from me; it's actually just a brief [and increasingly blurred] sectioning of the massive San Fernando Valley—and no one ever wants to admit to the world at large s/he lives in Van Nuys. You say you live in Encino, or Sherman Oaks, or Northridge... but not Van Nuys!?!)

(Btw: There is a brief "Further Reading" page at the close of this Jack the Ripper original anthology; it mentions Ramsey's "Jack's Little Friend," from yet another Ripper anthology, Jack the Knife—which of your own collections is that one now in, Ramsey? So I don't have to go digging them all out, in order to locate....)
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Thursday, January 31, 2013 - 05:55 pm:   

I go through phases in my tastes, Craig, and the last couple of years I veered away from shorter works to read some mighty epics - 'The Devils', 'The Pandora Sequence', 'Imajica', 'The Wizard Knight', etc - but now I want quick fixes and lots of variety.

It was the sublime experience of reading E.F. Benson's complete ghost stories over Christmas that did it. I must go back and do a quick appraisal of all 54. Horror fiction doesn't get any better.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Friday, February 01, 2013 - 03:13 pm:   

Halfway through "Queen Of The Black Coast" and this is the best thing of Howard's I've read to date. It continues in the same beautifully stylised mythic vein as "The Frost Giant's Daughter" with Conan giving up the mercenary life to try his hand at pirating instead and meeting the woman of his dreams... and mine! The prose resonates with a primal power that has rarely, if ever, been equalled in the fantasy genre. I've been sitting here all day itching to get to bed tonight and finish it!
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.37.199.45
Posted on Friday, February 01, 2013 - 03:30 pm:   

You won't sleep. And not for arousal reasons. The ending will traumatise you. Read it earlier and then watch some Bugs Bunny cartoons and have a mug of cocoa.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Friday, February 01, 2013 - 03:37 pm:   

Also romped through another four Stanley Ellin tales. Every one a gem:

"The Betrayers" would have made a great Hitchcock movie as it reminded me of what made 'Rear Window' so memorable. A young man, besotted with his married neighbour in the apartment next door, convinces himself that her brutish husband has murdered her and disposed of the body. He turns amateur detective and uncovers... the last thing he ever expected. Wonderful!

"The House Party" is perhaps the most perfect example of an old supernatural horror theme that I have read... and one doesn't realise it until the very last page. Which sends you right back to the beginning to read it all over again. I can say no more than that but everyone has tried their hand at this one and none of them nailed it as Ellin did. The devil is in the detail.

But "The Moment Of Decision" is up there with the title story and "Fool's Mate", for me, as as close to perfect a short story as you will ever read. This is a psychological suspense masterpiece involving a riveting battle of wits between a master illusionist and his indomitably stubborn arch enemy, who makes him a wager to test his skills that he can't possibly refuse. Sheer genius with one of the most marvellously haunting and ambiguous pay-offs imaginable.

"Broker's Special" is another great little "perfect murder" tale that really should have been made into an episode of 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents'. It's a classic example of the old love triangle crime of passion that sees the cuckolded husband plot to kill off his rival and ensure his much younger trophy wife never, ever strays again. The twist may be predictable but the beauty is in the finely crafted suspense.

That's 10 out of 10 for Mr Ellin so far...
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Mbfg (Mbfg)
Username: Mbfg

Registered: 09-2010
Posted From: 80.5.8.49
Posted on Friday, February 01, 2013 - 09:00 pm:   

Just finished Douglas Thompson's "Entanglement". Highly recommended composite-type novel filled tales from man's first interstelelr exploration. As I've said before, "Gulliver's travel's" mixed in with "The Martian Chronicles" flavoured with a smattering of very H G Wellsian moments.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 86.24.62.55
Posted on Sunday, February 03, 2013 - 04:02 pm:   

And the first novel of 2013 to present itself for my delectation is, 'The Pyramid' (1967), by my favourite author, William Golding.

I know absolutely nothing about it...
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Sunday, February 03, 2013 - 05:29 pm:   

Stevie, you have essentially now completed Ellin's first short-story collection, which was titled Mystery Stories (1956). It's a first-rate collection of crime and horror and mystery, and certainly one of the best such-genre single-author collections of the 1900's.

I'm ripping my way through Ripper! (1988). Nothing so fine as the stories I encountered in the last collection, not so far. But all of them are competently fine. Alas, I remain rather unmoved again, by re-encountering one of Harlan Ellison's better-known short-stories, "The Prowler in the City at the End of the World" (Dangerous Visions, 1967); it did extremely little for me, if anything. I know I'm in the vast minority on this, well aware, but I just haven't found much of Ellison to be worthwhile; "The Whimper of Whipped Dogs" and "Croatoan" are finer than others I've read, but, mm... I dunno, maybe I've not read enough? He just doesn't do it for me, but I'd like to read more, to see if I'm missing out on gems. Does anyone else have an author that is acclaimed by the world at large, but to you, just seems like so much of not a whole lot?...
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 31.54.13.14
Posted on Sunday, February 03, 2013 - 06:06 pm:   

I have that Somtow story in the collection Dragon's fin Soup. I think i'll pull that down off the shelf to read later.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 31.54.13.14
Posted on Sunday, February 03, 2013 - 06:12 pm:   

Oh! that's a surprise - my copy of Dragon's Fin Soup appears to be signed by the author!!! I hadn't noticed that!
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Sunday, February 03, 2013 - 06:44 pm:   

Somtow's was one of the better ones in this antho, Weber. But there's still some left which might bedazzle me....
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Monday, February 04, 2013 - 11:07 am:   

Flying through 'The Pyramid'. After several pages I had to shake my head and check the cover to make sure William Golding was the author. This is like nothing of his I have read before. A charming and bawdy, laugh out loud funny coming of age drama set in a quaint English village and detailing the attempts of several cocky young men to outdo each other and be first to get into the knickers of the local nymphette, who has a great time playing one off against the other. So far his detailing of teenage angst and sexual awakenings has been bang on the money and has me grinning ruefully at some of my own similar antics at that age. After the stern religiosity and phallic symbolism of 'The Spire' this has come as rather a shock, refreshingly so.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Monday, February 04, 2013 - 11:42 am:   

You were right about "Queen Of The Black Coast", Joel. It details the central tragedy that comes to define Conan's life, and subsequent attitude to women. The ending had the hairs bristling on the back of my neck. It is perhaps Robert E. Howard's masterpiece!! The earlier stories of devil-may-care youth are now tinged with a bitter poignancy and our hero will never be the same again... <sniff>

Next up "The Vale Of Lost Women"... how apt.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 129.11.76.215
Posted on Monday, February 04, 2013 - 12:03 pm:   

KIM by Rudyard Kipling.
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Mick Curtis (Mick)
Username: Mick

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 195.59.115.60
Posted on Monday, February 04, 2013 - 12:28 pm:   

AXE by Terry Grimwood...
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.37.199.45
Posted on Monday, February 04, 2013 - 01:24 pm:   

Stevie – there, there. Dawn will come. Blood red and smeared with ashes, but it will come. John Clute (your polysyllabic alter ago?) raves about that story as well. It is remarkable. There's a similar arc of loss, grief and vengeance in one of the later Conan stories, though the context there is male friendship. (In my younger days I would have claimed that amounted to a homo-erotic subtext, but these days most of Dorothy's e-mails end up in my spam folder.)
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Hubert (Hubert)
Username: Hubert

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 178.116.60.39
Posted on Monday, February 04, 2013 - 03:11 pm:   

Just read Aickman's "The Same Dog" for the first time. Simple and yet intriguing. I wonder what RCMBers make of it. Is Aickman being studiously obscure, or am I missing something?
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Monday, February 04, 2013 - 05:09 pm:   

Aickman's perfectly judged ambiguity is what makes his stories - every one - so special, Hubert. Less is more.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Monday, February 04, 2013 - 05:16 pm:   

The name strikes a chord, Joel. Does he live in Belfast too?
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Monday, February 04, 2013 - 05:22 pm:   

'The Pyramid' is wonderful. I am reminded of the vividly painted and sweetly nostalgic childhood passages in 'Free Fall' but with sex as the principal driving force. The eventual parting of Evie's legs has to be one of the most erotic and yet innocently understated things I have read in a long, long time. It got me quite turned on over lunch!

One feels tragedy looming... but I hope not. I like these kids.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Tuesday, February 05, 2013 - 03:11 pm:   

With the brilliantly macabre "The Blessington Method" Stanley Ellin perfected yet another horror staple, this time with a touch of Kafka about it. Think of all those stories in which an ordinary middle class joe with a comfortable life is approached by some smartly suited and creepily affable representative of a mysterious organisation that offers to solve the one problem that would make his life perfect... a problem he may not even have consciously acknowledged until they pointed it out. This perfect little masterpiece joins David Ely's novel and John Frankenheimer's classic movie, 'Seconds', André Maurois' "Thanatos Palace Hotel", Stephen King's "Quitters, Inc.", etc in that satirical horror sub-genre, and is perhaps the finest of them all. The problem this time is how to get rid of an irritatingly fit and bothersome elderly relative who is an unwelcome drain on the family resources - humanely, painlessly and without any comebacks. If he only knew... One of Ellin's finest tales this ranks alongside; TSOTH, "Fool's Mate" & "The Moment Of Decision" as as close to perfection as makes no difference. Was this man incapable of writing a weak story?!?!
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Tuesday, February 05, 2013 - 03:29 pm:   

Rarely has the beauty and shame and excitement and fear of a first sexual encounter, and its emotionally disorienting aftermath, been so exquisitely and painfully communicated to a reader as in William Golding's increasingly sublime coming of age drama, 'The Pyramid'. This is poetry of a higher order than would have been thought possible to mortal man. The honesty, wisdom, compassion, humour, aching sadness and complete lack of sentimentality in Golding's prose is quite humbling. I'm getting all maudlin and misty-eyed here.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Tuesday, February 05, 2013 - 03:54 pm:   

Ellin would apparently go over every page he wrote with tedious precision, before moving on to the next, I read somewhere. It shows in his work. The only near pleasure I had in recent years, Stevie, discovering such artistically fine and wonderfully wicked short-stories by a single author between two covers, was my reading a couple months back of Highsmith's "cento" collection, Creepers.

I decided to stray from finishing my middling Jack the Ripper anthology, to re-read Jack Vance's rambunctious, Hugo-winning long novella, The Dragon Masters (1962). Ah, yes. What can you say about Vance? Except... I'm surprised to learn he's still alive! And still, apparently, writing. Sometimes, the world has good news.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Tuesday, February 05, 2013 - 04:28 pm:   

Stanley Ellin is solid proof of the quality over quantity maxim. Every story so far has been a stone cold classic and the sheer variety in the tales is an unexpected bonus.

I've not read any of Patricia's collections (that pleasure awaits me) but my introduction to her came via the Pan & Fontana horror anthologies way back in the 70s, Craig. Every time you saw her name below the title you knew you were in for a classic. She was as prolific a short story writer as she was a novelist. "The Quest For Blank Claveringi" has long been one of my all-time favourite horror yarns. Written in 1964 it reads remarkably like a Stephen King tale. She has that same knack of making impossible horrors seem tangibly convincing and was never one to shy away from the supernatural. I love her!
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 212.183.128.2
Posted on Tuesday, February 05, 2013 - 08:41 pm:   

I just got myself an Apple iPad and it is quite possibly the coolest thing I have ever owned!! This is my first post using said wonderful machine. Finally, Stevie is up to spec with tech!!
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Mbfg (Mbfg)
Username: Mbfg

Registered: 09-2010
Posted From: 212.219.63.204
Posted on Wednesday, February 06, 2013 - 09:31 am:   

Stanly Ellis - could you remind me of the name of the collection you're reading Stevie?

Struggled with "Kim" Gary. don't know why, it just irritated me after a while (love "The Just So Stories" though, and Kipling's poetry).

Just finished another of those marvelllous Elastic Press collections, "Another Santana Morning" by Mike Dolan. Light-touch, Bradbury-esque sf, containing some real gems.

Began Patrick Hamilton's "Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky" trilogy-omnibus over my corn flakes this morning. Less than twenty pages in and I am in love.
Cheers
Terry
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Wednesday, February 06, 2013 - 11:17 am:   

'The Speciality Of The House And Other Stories' by Stanley Ellin (1978), Terry. It collects all 35 of his horror/crime/mystery stories spanning the 1940s-70s. I have to agree with Craig that it is one of the finest single author collections I have read, and I'm only a third of the way through.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 129.11.77.198
Posted on Wednesday, February 06, 2013 - 11:36 am:   

Yeah, KIM was utterly boring. I dumped it.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Wednesday, February 06, 2013 - 03:23 pm:   

"The Faith Of Aaron Menafee" by Stanley Ellin is a laugh out loud funny black comic tale that completely rips the piss out of those godawful faith healing, Jaysus roaring, evangelical preachers who plague the US, and the poor witless fools who gibber and swoon in adulation before them. The Elmer Gantry wannabe in this tale gets one hell of a comeuppance at the unwitting hands of his greatest and stupidest worshipper - who believes him literally capable of miracles. A tale to warm the cockles of atheists and agnostics everywhere.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Wednesday, February 06, 2013 - 03:35 pm:   

And, in a complete change of tone, "You Can't Be A Little Girl All Your Life" is the bleakest and most disturbing tale in the collection so far. An intense psychological piece that puts one inside the mind of a traumatised rape victim and makes us feel all the anger, bewilderment and shame that she goes through in the face of unsubtle police grilling, the reaction of her enraged husband and the awkward silences and whispers that follow her everywhere. For once the final twist rather distracts from the power of the story and really could have been dispensed with. But this is still powerful compassionate stuff, especially for having been written in 1958.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Wednesday, February 06, 2013 - 03:48 pm:   

Just to be absolutely (anally) clear: the book Stevie's reading is a 1979 collection of previous collections (and other stories) by Stanley Ellin (not "Ellis"—a whole other writer, Stanley Ellis, but supposed to be a fine one, too); his first collection, Mystery Stories (1956) is comprised of the first ten short-stories of this here 1979 collection. Separating that one out, it was the one I singled out as one of the finest single-author horror/mystery/suspense collections of the last century. But either way, really.

Well, I better get back to this Ripper! anthology... it's not going to read itself. The very best so far (barring Bloch's famous tale) were the gritty, ultimately redemptive "Love in Vain," by Lewis Shiner; and my favorite of the bunch, a weird psychological horror with a dash of the otherworldly, "Old Red Shoes," by Stephen Gallagher. Two more authors I'm not previously familiar with....
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Wednesday, February 06, 2013 - 03:52 pm:   

This guy is such a great writer I'm going to keep an eye out for his novels after this. There are 15 of them in all:

1. The Big Night (1948)
2. The Key to Nicholas Street (1952)
3. The Eighth Circle (1958)
4. The Winter after This Summer (1960)
5. The Panama Portrait (1962)
6. House of Cards (1963)
7. The Valentine Estate (1968)
8. The Man From Nowhere (1970)
9. Mirror, Mirror on the Wall (1972)
10. Stronghold (1974)
11. The Other Side of the Wall (1976)
12. The Luxembourg Run (1977)
13. Star Light, Star Bright (1979)
14. The Dark Fantastic (1983)
15. Very Old Money (1984)

If ever an author needed rediscovered it is Stanley Ellin, imho.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 212.183.128.29
Posted on Thursday, February 07, 2013 - 02:45 pm:   

"The Vale Of Lost Women" continued in the same shockingly bleak vein as QOTBC and shows Conan to have descended into a near feral wild man state in the wake of his terrible loss. Years have passed and after plunging into the jungles of the Black Kingdoms he has fought his way to be one of the most feared warrior chiefs in the region... murdering, raping, pillaging and laying whole villages to waste with an army of heathen cut throats by his side. He learned his lessons in merciless savagery well, in his time with the she-devil, Belit, and it takes a chance encounter with a captive white woman from the civilised north to bring him back to his senses... kind of. By Crom, this is vicious meaty stuff that fair makes a man's blood boil with wild passions!! Throw vampire lesbians and a Lovecraftian monstrosity from the Outer Darkness into the mix and what's not to like. Fucking sensational fantasy writing that is most definitely not for pussies!! Can thews bristle? I think mine are, just thinking about this tale...

As for Conan's claims never to have forced himself on a woman, they show him to be a liar capable of shame rather than indicating any lapse in continuity by Howard, IMO. This tale and the preceding one chime eerily with my recent watching of 'Cannibal Ferox' (1981) by Umberto Lenzi and what it had to say about the white man and/or woman bringing their own brand of more calculated savagery to the wilderness with them than any primitive people could have imagined. This monumental story features an act of cold blooded treachery followed by mass murder that shows the Cimmerian in a worse light than I have ever seen him. This is no comic book hero! This is an all too human barbarian straight out of our wildest nightmares. No one writes like Robert E. Howard. Fucking no one! calm down, calm down...
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Thursday, February 07, 2013 - 04:50 pm:   

I read The Eighth Circle, Stevie. Compared to his short-stories, it's verbose—it stands apart from his usual fare much like (I use and reuse this, but it really is the best example) Player Piano stands apart from the rest of Vonnegut. Like that novel too, the payoff is worth it, but it's a long time getting there, and often seems—seems—to ramble (but it's to an end). Don't read this wrong: I greatly enjoyed it. But then, I'm a hardcore detective novel aficionado, who has a lot of patience when it comes to this genre.

I have secured both House of Cards and The Dark Fantastic: the former looks like a gothic drama, the latter like a nail-biting tensioner... the only reason I've not cracked either open, is that (again, unlike Ellin's stories) they're big and daunting... and after singing my fingers on Heller's Something Happened, and as well desiring specifically to read shorter works for now, I'm steering clear of the longer stuff....
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 86.24.62.55
Posted on Friday, February 08, 2013 - 02:16 pm:   

Already nearly finished 'The Pyramid'. It's a beautifully poetic yet deceptively effortless read that, as with all Golding's novels, I know I will return to again. The joy and confusion of that oldest of themes, the progression from childhood to young adulthood, what is lost and what is gained along the way, has rarely seemed more profound, in my experience. This has to be the author's most optimistic book, it is certainly his funniest, and has the flavour of autobiography about it, but there is a subtly hinted at air of tragedy too, more potent than the mere poignancy of nostalgic regret, that haunts every line. The principal character, Olly, is as decent and flawed and strangely heroic yet ultimately powerless as that more famous hero, Ralph. This is a lovely book. It reads almost like a rural English reimagining of 'The Catcher In The Rye', with the dark glamour of London ever beckoning...
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 86.24.62.55
Posted on Friday, February 08, 2013 - 02:23 pm:   

I read Conan and I crave a broadsword in my hand, a skull to split, a flagon to quaff and a wench to ravish.

Then I return to Golding's village of Stillbourne and I'm rolling in a haystack with a pretty young girl when I should be at my piano lessons.

Ah, the joys of literature...
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 86.24.62.55
Posted on Saturday, February 09, 2013 - 04:54 pm:   

"The Snout In The Dark" has to be one of the most tantalisingly frustrating unfinished tales ever left, erm, unfinished. It sees Conan having started to drift north again out of the savage jungle lands and back to the calming influence of civilization. He gains a post as Captain of the Royal Guard to Queen Tananda in Kush but political intrigues are afoot and a brutal assassination has been laid at her door, stirring civil unrest. We get a couple of glimpses of a terrifying monster summoned from Hell by a black sorcerer, that reminded me of the swinefolk in 'The House On The Borderland', but Conan never gets to battle it. These soul stirring fragments of lost glory make it easy to understand how so many writers since have felt almost duty bound to finish and expand on Robert E. Howard's tales. The originals remain untouchable, however, even in this cruelly truncated form. Let our own imaginations fill in the blanks...

Next up "Black Colossus" and some theories of my own...
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Des (Des)
Username: Des

Registered: 09-2010
Posted From: 86.130.100.94
Posted on Sunday, February 10, 2013 - 10:46 am:   

DEHISCENCE
by DP Watt
do NOT google search for images of the word 'dehiscence''!!
My real-time review:
http://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2013/02/08/dehiscence-by-d-p-watt/
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Mick Curtis (Mick)
Username: Mick

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.183.79.10
Posted on Sunday, February 10, 2013 - 12:32 pm:   

Are you re-opening old wounds, Des?
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 31.54.13.14
Posted on Sunday, February 10, 2013 - 01:04 pm:   

Finished This Sweet Sickness last night. it's amazing how, even though the attitudes of all the characters are so dated, the book still retains such a huge level of tension. Highsmith must be one of the absolute greats (at the risk of doing a Stevie).

Next up is a few more short stories from Let the Old dreams die and then I'll start on the Yiddish Policeman's Union by Michael Chabon - about which i know nothing more than the back cover gives away.
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Des (Des)
Username: Des

Registered: 09-2010
Posted From: 86.130.100.94
Posted on Sunday, February 10, 2013 - 01:17 pm:   

Old wounds sometimes reopen by their own volition, Mick, but if they have done so recently, it was before beginning to read this book and before looking up the meaning of 'dehiscence' in a dictionary! :-)
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 86.24.62.55
Posted on Sunday, February 10, 2013 - 02:41 pm:   

I really felt for the poor sod, Weber, even though he was a complete bloody idiot. The whole way through the book I wanted him to come to his senses or someone to help him, to give him the wake up call he needed. It's as much a great tragedy - worthy of Graham Greene, imo - as it is a superb psychological thriller. Patricia is a goddess who haunts my dreams. Did someone say something about naked pics of her on here?!!
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 86.24.62.55
Posted on Sunday, February 10, 2013 - 02:56 pm:   

One thing I'm always at great pains to avoid is to criticise any work of fiction for being "dated" in the attitudes and/or language of its characters. The attitude of the author is a different thing entirely and can always be best gauged by the moral stance of the message inherent in the narrative. A fictional character's choice of words or expression of commonly held beliefs of the time that we now find offensive should never be used to make snap judgements about any author's personal character read out of his/her time. The past is a foreign country and one must always guard against temporal jingoism, imho. Same goes for cinema and TV. The moral ignorance of an epoch is not proof of bad people.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Sunday, February 10, 2013 - 06:01 pm:   

Put paid at last to this anthology Ripper!. It ended on a high note, with a couple of noteworthy stories: Gregory Frost's "From Hell, Again" crammed an entire well-wrought and atmospheric supernatural horror film into a handful of pages; and Tim Sullivan's "Knucklebones" proved the most depraved, the darkest tale of the lot: trippingly told, with a vein of malicious glee, it was the perfect capper, one of the best stories herein.
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Mbfg (Mbfg)
Username: Mbfg

Registered: 09-2010
Posted From: 80.5.8.49
Posted on Sunday, February 10, 2013 - 06:54 pm:   

Dear Stevie
Interesting point. I have just finished the first in Patrick Hamilton's marvellous and atmospheric pre-war London trilogy "Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky". One thing marred it slightly, a hint of anti-Semitism, "A small and shabby Jew butcher" a gang of noisy "Jew youths with their too-tight suits..." and so forth. Nothing overt, but Jew, not Jew-ish, a word spat onto the page. It was endemic, Dickens created Fagin (the most non-Jewish Jew I have ever met), H G Wells mentions a “Jew landlord” in "The Invisible Man", indicating that the man was somehow disreputable, simply because he was a Jew. My grandmother admonished one of my aunts for describing, without rancour or intended insult, someone they knew as a Jew, telling her not to talk like that and using the Les Dawson mime technique for words she couldn’t bring herself to say out loud. Naming a person as a Jew, it seemed, was for my grandparent’s generation akin to calling someone a b*****d or worse.
It doesn’t make Wells or Hamilton rabid anti-Semites (unless they were, I don’t know, correct me if I am wrong) but authors simply uttering the casual, everyday racist comments, and displaying the racial stereotyping, spoken and believed by the general population at the time. They would probably been the same about anyone else who wasn’t white British.
I’m not excusing racism by the way, but supporting Stevie’s comment with an observation – just thought I better make that clear!

Cheers
Terry
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 86.24.62.55
Posted on Sunday, February 10, 2013 - 10:31 pm:   

It's easy to be judgemental from our self-defined "enlightened" stance when looking back over history and it's a form of modernist arrogance I've never been comfortable with, Terry. Human behaviour and attitudes are cyclical and there are just as many things those in the past would be horrified to observe about us, if they only could, with equal grounds for justification. I wonder what are the socially acceptable conventions we casually engage in now (and write about) that will be deemed morally repugnant in 100 years time? And what will they have socially evolved into that would horrify us! Who's to say which time is more right than any other time. Eternal truths of basic morality apply but there is a whole ocean of grey that covers the rest of human behaviour. My final point is that fiction and the authors who create it should be judged morally on the message not the language.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.212.231.131
Posted on Sunday, February 10, 2013 - 10:47 pm:   

What about Enid Blyton in her children's book the Three Gollywogs where the characters are called Golly, Woggy and Nigger and every story in the book revolves round the basis that they all look the same?
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 86.24.62.55
Posted on Monday, February 11, 2013 - 12:54 am:   

A sign of the accepted race distinctions of her time and of a certain lack of empathy. Were the gollywog characters seen to be inherently good or bad or merely amusingly different, Weber?

I am reminded of the Indian schoolboy character in Frank Richards' Greyfriars stories, called Hurree Jamset Ram Singh, and the Chinese schoolboy, Wun Lung. Silly joke names that now appear offensive but the characters were portrayed as real decent three dimensional human beings and Richards used them to educate his young readers about other cultures and to show them as just like us and equally worthy of respect.

I never read Enid Blyton, I'm rather relieved to say, but my own childhood would have been far poorer for not having discovered the multi-layered and genuinely character building brilliance of Frank Richards' school stories for boys - with all their stupefying un-PC'ness of language. The message was all and chimed perfectly with all my other boyhood favourites from Tolkien to Lewis and Christie, etc.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.184.107.55
Posted on Monday, February 11, 2013 - 03:05 am:   

The phrase that springs to mind in the way the gollywogs were characterised is "They all look the same to me guv". They were thieves as well and were constantly robbing things from people, including the house they lived in, which they stole by scaring the old man who lived there out of it in the first story.

My earliest reading memories are of Enid Blyton - Faraway tree, famous Five, secret seven, Five Find-outers and Dog, Noddy etc.

The three Gollywogs book is one I found in a friends house just a few years back and leafed through it out of interest. For a book aimed at the under sevens, its messages were pure casual racism.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.37.199.45
Posted on Monday, February 11, 2013 - 01:54 pm:   

China Mieville says somewhere that regarding racism in Lovecraft as being 'of its time' is "an unacceptable condescension to history". Political views are rarely uniform across a society. Lovecraft made it pretty clear in 'The Silver Key' that he felt his politics had isolated him in the literary culture of his time – given that said culture included Hammett, Faulkner and Hemingway (not that Lovecraft was in touch with any of those three), it's not surprising. He also told Sonia Greene that he had a 'reputation' for anti-Semitism – so clearly it was an aspect of his journalism that drew attention.

With someone like Blyton, a deeply reactionary writer, the social attitudes are not simply 'of their era' but are characteristic of a definite politics and attitude. What matters is not to condemn those attitudes but not to recognise that they existed and were not neutral, they amounted to a conscious intervention in the culture of children's literature. Children don't need to be shielded from racism in books but they should be encouraged to understand that it is racism, and know what that means historically as well as in the present. We can't draw an imaginary line between the past and our 'enlightened' times – these issues have always been contentious (look at the conflicts over the abolition of slavery, for example) and have always been political. No child should be encouraged to imagine that 'everyone' has ever believed anything in particular. Society and ideology have always been divided, and all forms of culture reflect conflict.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.37.199.45
Posted on Monday, February 11, 2013 - 02:07 pm:   

Apart from their having inspired the name of Grey Friar Press, I'm not sure why Frank Richards' novels were ever published outside of private adult book clubs. They are a rather mawkish kind of gay S&M porn. Even at the naive age of ten I was keenly aware that stories revolving around boys having their bottoms beaten with canes, with lots of excited dialogue about the beating, was a sexual matter. I preferred it when the boys caned each other (as happened occasionally) because that seemed more romantic. Those boys who deliberately misbehaved in order to receive the cane were clearly getting turned on. That was obvious to me at the time and it's still obvious now.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.37.199.45
Posted on Monday, February 11, 2013 - 02:10 pm:   

What is really striking, in retrospect, is that if the Billy Bunter books had dealt with mutual masturbation instead of caning, they would have been banned – yet to us, the former is sexually much more mild and 'vanilla'. That says a lot about the emotional disturbance of the public school world.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.37.199.45
Posted on Monday, February 11, 2013 - 02:35 pm:   

Sorry Stevie, "but not to recognise that they existed" should of course have been "but to recognise that they existed".
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 81.149.182.62
Posted on Monday, February 11, 2013 - 04:30 pm:   

The message you took from Frank Richards' writings was, ahem, somewhat different from the one I inferred, Joel. But it is heartening that you agree his point was to enlighten youth about other cultures... whether they be Indian, Chinese or the homosexual underground of his time. ;-)
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 81.149.182.62
Posted on Monday, February 11, 2013 - 04:51 pm:   

But then there already was an openly homosexual relationship included in Frank Richards' Greyfriars stories. That between the brutishly arrogant but inherently decent Herbert Vernon Smith and the effeminate and more intelligent Voice of his conscience, Frank Redfern, who eternally forgave him everything... Sigh.

My favourite character remains the doggedly loyal but maddeningly stupid Horace Coker. The story in which he saves Wingate's life on the cliff edge by not caring that his own is in danger and then blows it by using Wingate's gratitude to gain a place on the cricket team really had a profound effect on my moral sense as a nipper. They still are wonderful stories. Like fantasies from a world that never really existed in which Karma is a very real and potent force. As, of course, it really is...
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 81.149.182.62
Posted on Monday, February 11, 2013 - 05:27 pm:   

And Richards took great pains to show both boys habitual and puzzling disinterest in girls... "silly creatures".

Yet the rest of them were always out courting the little women from Cliff House School up the road. Apart from Bessie Bunter, of course. You thought Billy was bad... sheesh!

No offence, but have you actually read any of the Greyfriars stories, Joel?

My second favourite character was Bob Cherry, whose one goal was always to, ahem, bob for cherries. Yet, in one story, set in the Amazon jungle (don't ask) he saves a beautiful butterfly from a monstrous spider's web - and gets hopelessly lost for his pains. Again, had a profound effect on my consciousness and judgement of people at that age. Richards was one of the most genuinely good men I wish I'd had the pleasure to meet.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.37.199.45
Posted on Monday, February 11, 2013 - 06:49 pm:   

Yes, I read maybe half a dozen of them (though whether they were among the best I don't know).
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 86.24.62.55
Posted on Monday, February 11, 2013 - 08:29 pm:   

Harry Wharton is one of the greatest characters in literature. The model for Ralph in 'Lord Of The Flies' and every bit as much his own man as the mighty Conan.
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Des (Des)
Username: Des

Registered: 09-2010
Posted From: 86.130.100.94
Posted on Monday, February 11, 2013 - 09:14 pm:   

And Tom Merry, too.
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Des (Des)
Username: Des

Registered: 09-2010
Posted From: 86.130.100.94
Posted on Tuesday, February 12, 2013 - 10:41 am:   

I have now completed my real-time review of 'Dehiscence' by DP Watt:
http://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2013/02/08/dehiscence-by-d-p-watt/

and just started my real-time review of 'The Last Gold of Decayed Stars' by Colin Insole:
http://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2013/02/12/the-last-gold-of-decayed-stars/
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Tuesday, February 12, 2013 - 12:26 pm:   

I take it you were more of a Gem reader than The Magnet, Des. My favourite character at St Jim's (Greyfriars great rivals, just up the coast a bit) was, naturally, Arthur Augustus D'Arcy. I loved the way he spoke, very funny.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Tuesday, February 12, 2013 - 12:43 pm:   

Where the hell did I get Frank Redfern from? It was Tom Redwing, son of a sailorman and a scholarship boy (I think that meant poor), who doted on Herbert Vernon Smith (perhaps Richards' most fascinatingly complex character). Vernon Smith's battle with his inner demons and sense of the world as an inherently unfair and cruel place, with Tom the only decent thing in it, provided many of Richards' strongest and most affecting stories.

Anyway, back to William Golding. Darkness, in the form of deviant sex and the loss of innocence, has reared its ugly head in the sleepy, and not so idyllic as first appeared, village of Stillbourne. I knew he couldn't keep it light forever. Be finished this today or tomorrow.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Tuesday, February 12, 2013 - 03:16 pm:   

Robert E. Howard's "Black Colossus" was another magnificent mini-epic I'd rank as highly as "Queen Of The Black Coast" and sees Conan finally back in civilization and fighting as a mercenary in the beleagured state of Khoraja. Apparent intervention by the great god Mitra has him in the right place at the right time to be promoted to leader of the Khorajan army as it attempts to hold back an invading force from the East, led by the undead skull-faced sorcerer, Nahtok, The Veiled One. The ensuing battle really has to be read to be believed. It is one of the greatest and longest and most exciting sustained action sequences Howard ever wrote. I swear you can smell the iron tang of the gore and hear the clashing of steel and screams of the dying! Powerful scalp-prickling stuff that has one gulping in great lungfuls of air by stories end!!

The last two stories have seen a gradual maturing of our hero from his days of pirating and grief-stricken barbarity in the Black Kingdoms. Being given positions of authority, in which his men's lives are his responsibility, has somewhat curbed his recklessnes and shown him to be as naturally gifted a strategist as he is a hand-to-hand fighter. These are the first intimations of greater accolades and responsibilities for the former barbarian to come. A path to glory has been mapped out for him by the gods and every adventure, conquest and loss along the way would appear designed to ready him for his greater destiny. That is the surprisingly fatalistic message of Howard's Conan saga... that all of us, even the strongest and most independently minded, are merely pawns in the machinations of higher entities. I wonder if he read Dante?
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.37.199.45
Posted on Tuesday, February 12, 2013 - 07:13 pm:   

Howard read a lot. He spent loads of time reading. He spent no time drinking, fighting, wenching, travelling or any of the other things he wrote about. That gives his work its singular poignancy and broken intensity. He feels things in a way that you can't if they actually are your life, because then you get used to living with them. He feels things as revelation, as mystery, as the Grail. It's a great way to write, but not a great way to live.
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Mbfg (Mbfg)
Username: Mbfg

Registered: 09-2010
Posted From: 80.5.8.49
Posted on Tuesday, February 12, 2013 - 11:50 pm:   

Just started D H Lawrence's "The Virgin and the Gypsy and Other Stories". The collection includes "The Rocking Horse Winner", which I am looking forward to immensely. I love Lawrence's writing; the intensity and fluid prose and the way he can burrow into human emotion without turning the experience into melodrama.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Wednesday, February 13, 2013 - 12:25 pm:   

His was a sad life, Joel, but an inspired one.

There was a great article about Howard in a recent 'Fortean Times' with eye-opening photos of him and his mates fighting with makeshift swords and spears while dressed as barbarians. I see him as a child who never grew up and couldn't face life alone following the death of his mother. The more I re-read these Conan tales the more tragic a figure the great Cimmerian appears. Another lost soul seeking a place to belong and a meaning in life but with the indomitable strength to persevere that his creator lacked.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.37.199.45
Posted on Wednesday, February 13, 2013 - 01:58 pm:   

There are so many theories about why Howard committed suicide, from the faux-Freudian to the millennarian (John Clute speculates that he "realised the twentieth century wasn't going to work out") – but a suicide doesn't always have a specific cause, often it's more like a car crash, you lose control and the darkness takes over. As Fritz Leiber put it in his superb essay on Howard, "Conan went away and the brooding, puzzled Kull came back". Ironically, what was 'the matter' with Howard fed into the negative energy of his stories and made them magnificently desperate. The same is true of other writers and musicians who have not committed suicide – it comes down to such non-archetypal factors as support networks, phone calls from friends, medical help and sheer luck. The narrative of survival is as powerful, and as flawed, as the narrative of self-destruction.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Wednesday, February 13, 2013 - 03:47 pm:   

Not really a theory, Joel, just how Howard strikes me from what I've read and the family photos I've seen of him. Given his penchant for strikingly cinematic imagery with an epic dimension I can imagine him living vicariously through the golden age of silent cinema as well as the pulp literature he must have devoured. His childishly exuberant imagination must have been exploding with ideas that he lived out in his dreams and could not equate with humdrum reality. To me that seems obvious from his stories and what we know of him. In many ways he was one of the last great romantic writers, imho.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Wednesday, February 13, 2013 - 03:57 pm:   

The next story is one I've been really looking forward to re-reading; "Shadows In The Moonlight" is, if my memory serves me well, a classically structured and self-contained horror story with only two characters (Conan and his latest wench) and a terrifying monster that stalks them on an uninhabited island. I remember it scaring the bejeepers out of me as a kid yet, other than the broad set-up, I can recall none of the actual details. This is the one that got me hooked on Howard's storytelling as an impressionable pre-teen and, as such, is one of the most influential tales of my lifetime. Guess who'll be going to bed early tonight!
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Wednesday, February 13, 2013 - 04:04 pm:   

If I remember correctly this is the story in which everything Conan attempts to destroy the monster proves futile and for the first time in his life he has to face the terror of an unbeatable indestructible opponent with but one thing on its mind... his death. Kind of like 'The Terminator' scenario in a fantasy setting. I hope it's as good as I remember!
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Wednesday, February 13, 2013 - 04:18 pm:   

Finished 'The Pyramid' at lunchtime and must admit to getting a bit misty-eyed. It closes with the always irresistible narrative trick of having the main protagonist return for the first time as a world weary adult to the place of his youth and includes powerfully affecting flashbacks to his very young childhood, made unbearably poignant in their playful innocence when set against the events we know are yet to happen - that we have just read of - and that forever cloud every remembered sight and person. Another beautiful book of deceptive simplicity that peals away to reveal layer after layer of deeper meaning by the greatest English language author of the 20th Century.

Now, what to follow it with...
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 86.24.62.55
Posted on Wednesday, February 13, 2013 - 09:10 pm:   

Just plucked from my TBR pile:

'361' (1962) by Donald E. Westlake.

One of the great crime writer's acknowledged classics that I've yet to read. It was also one of the earliest works that defined his hard-boiled style and sounds like a gloriously short and sweet no nonsense revenge thriller.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Thursday, February 14, 2013 - 11:49 am:   

"Shadows In The Moonlight" was another cracking tale of non-stop blood curdling action but has left me a bit puzzled. It was and it wasn't the story I thought I remembered from my childhood. Yes, we have Conan and a comely wench being hunted by a monster on an uninhabited island but it isn't the indestructible behemoth I recalled and we also have a plethora of other characters in the form of a great opening swordfight with a white slaver and a band of pirates who land on the island as well and suffer a grisly fate. I must have been confusing two separate stories into one because I distinctly remember a similar Terminator-like plot involving Conan facing an unstoppable foe. No doubt it has yet to come...

Anyway, following the rout of his army this tale finds Conan at his lowest ebb. A naked fugitive hiding out in the bleak reed marshes, eating roots and rats, before fate throws him in with a beautiful runaway slave with whom he flees to a desolate island inhabited by... something horrible. Brilliant stuff!!
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Thursday, February 14, 2013 - 06:10 pm:   

Craig, can you send me your last email again? Something weird happened and I've lost it!
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Monday, February 18, 2013 - 05:20 pm:   

Wow! The crucifixion sequence in "A Witch Shall Be Born"... Jesus H. Christ!! What a man! What a writer! Only halfway through this story and already thinking (again) it may be the best one yet.

In the last few tales I've been detecting the encroachment of a raw kind of heartfelt spirituality that makes me wonder if Robert E. Howard may have been a closet Christian... of the genuine variety rather than the more common pseudo of the species. Is Conan more than just everyman that every man would dream of being but the Son of Man that gods, in their infinite wisdom, would have for their own? Interesting... Mitra's decree, the fate of the black ones in "Shadows In The Moonlight", the reference to Salome and, finally, the nailing up. Actually, I was as much reminded of our own Irish myths of Cú Chulainn, with vultures replacing ravens, as anything from the Gospels. Astonishing storytelling! In his own spare way Howard was the equal of Tolkien and I consider their achievements worthy of serious comparison.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 2.30.194.81
Posted on Monday, February 18, 2013 - 09:27 pm:   

I think Clute said the crucifixion scene was Howard's most famous passage. But I suspect the echoes of Christianity were partly an attempt to suggest that all myth-cycles are fundamentally similar and partly an attempt to provoke the readership – Howard was always trying to push the boundaries of what he could get away with, which is why some of his best stories were rejected by the Weird Tales editor.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - 12:50 pm:   

Two thirds through "A Witch Shall Be Born" now and it is indeed the finest of the stories so far. The structure, with the story told from various different viewpoints and Conan merely one of these, the complexity of characterisation of even the villains and side characters, the epic feel of the Dumas inspired plot and the feelings of raw anger and lust for justice that the action inspires in the reader make this novella a thing of pure magnificence, undiminished by the years, and, if anything, made more timeless by its shockingly un-PC imagery and language. A monumental achievement in literature that created a primal myth for our times. Again I say comparisons to Tolkien are justified. The path of spiritual self-discovery that Conan treads in these tales is far more profound and soul stirring than their pulp origins have allowed us to realise, imho. There was intent to do more than entertain and translate half-dreamed longings in Howard's fiction.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - 01:15 pm:   

Rattling through '361' and what a joy it is to read a straight brilliantly told revenge thriller that relies on the gutsy and completely convincing economy of the first person narration and dialogue and the strength of the "lust for justice" set-up and characters to draw us into what is basically a stock plot, but one with a tantalising mystery at the heart of it. An ex-serviceman returns home to be with his family and, with frightening rapidity, is plunged into a nightmare that robs him of all those he loves and the promised stability he had looked forward to... so what else can a trained killer do? Often imitated, never bettered at this kind of fiction, Donald E. Westlake was to crime what Heinlein was to sci-fi and Ramsey is to horror, imho. The man didn't know how to write a bad book.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.37.199.45
Posted on Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - 01:18 pm:   

I'm less keen on it – like 'Red Nails' it seems written to deliver high-octane violent sensationalism at a pulp level, with no emotional agenda beyond the Margaret Brundage cover. Its audacity and skill don't transcend the genre, they just deliver within it. It's not bad at all, but some other Conan stories have more mystery and darkness. Keep reading, Stevie...
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.37.199.45
Posted on Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - 01:19 pm:   

Er, my comment was about the Howard story...
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - 03:44 pm:   

But we see Conan at his best and his worst in a more complex way in this story than anything that came before (in the chronological story of his life). First the suicidal loyalty to Queen Taramis (again showing his infatuation with powerful women - following his education at the hands of Belit, the lucky "guy") and then the slap-in-the-face betrayal of the man who saved his life, Olgerd Vladislav, when revenge proves a stronger reason for living than loyalty. I can't wait to see how this all pans out.

The story is a masterpiece that shows Conan at a morally confused crossroads in his life - whether to give in to bitterness and embrace the dark side, yet again, or follow his destiny to greater glory! We all follow the same path through life, though, for most of us (including the author), somewhat less sensationally. It's called the defeat of the soul versus the attaining of wisdom. What comes after that will take care of itself and that is at the heart of the dichotomy between the "fuck you" attitude of Crom and the promise of Mitra. This is a Stevie theory and, as such, I disclaim any responsibility for anyone who takes me too seriously.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - 11:22 am:   

Finished "A Witch Shall Be Born" and the immense nature of Robert E. Howard's achievement in fantasy literature becomes ever more apparent. Salome has to be the greatest and scariest villainess ever to grace the genre. The thought of her presiding over her torture and debauchery sessions with her robes of human skin flapping about her while that hideous thing awaits her sacrificial offerings sent shudders through me.

Slowly but surely Conan is being dragged into the responsibilities of civilization and his innate cunning as a military strategist is beginning to outweigh his formerly irresponsible lust for blood. When one compares his bloodthirsty youth as a merciless buccaneer with Belit to the relationship between Salome and Constantius (what a bastard!) we can see just how far he has come.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - 01:10 pm:   

Next up "Shadows In Zamboula"...

'361' is revealing itself as more complex than was at first apparent. More than just a relentlessly brutal revenge thriller the story deals with that old noir standby of the dangers of digging too deep into the "sins of the fathers" and questions just how far family loyalty should go. It's the economy of Westlake's writing and the pace of the action that is most impressive. I wonder has this one ever been filmed? It seems a ready made lean and mean Hollywood thriller.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - 02:43 pm:   

And so back to Stanley Ellin and another two corkers read at lunchtime:

"Robert" is yet another classic horror theme nailed to perfection and given a clever twist that elevates it above the norm. This time it's the always popular "bad seed" story of the precociously evil child. A crabid old school marm, nearing retirement after a distinguished career, finds herself the victim of subtle mental persecution by the quietest and best behaved boy in the class, who may have murder in mind... or is it all in her imagination. A brilliant psychological horror tale of escalating paranoia that keeps us guessing until the very last page and has a killer pay-off.

"Unreasonable Doubt" is another of the author's irresistible black comedy stories with a delicious punchline. Here he posits a rather unlikely "perfect murder" scheme and provides a salutory warning to the reader never to eavesdrop on fellow travellers' conversations when on public transport. Very funny!
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Thursday, February 21, 2013 - 04:46 pm:   

Another great Ellin tale read today:

"The Day Of The Bullet" is a complete change of pace being one of those warmly nostalgic and ultimately moving Americana tales of a middle-aged man being shocked into vivid recollections of lost childhood friends and the end of innocence that could have been written by Ray Bradbury or Stephen King in "The Body" mode. Ellin's evocation of innocent boyhood adventures getting out of hand is quite sublime and the ultimate moral of the tale, about the corrupting influence of easy money, proves one of the most subtly chilling in the collection so far. The sheer variety of the stories herein and the "not knowing what to expect next" is a rare joy to experience.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Thursday, February 21, 2013 - 08:16 pm:   

Those stories in that book are indeed varied, Stevie—you're exactly right, you never know what will come up next! (Except that they will all be dark and somehow crime-involved.)

Finished an old anthology, the Isaac Asimov-edited More Stories from the Hugo Awards, Vol. 2 (but actually part 1—part 2 is called Even More Stories, etc., whereas Vol. 1 is a wholly separate double-volume—got that straight?). All noteworthy stories: "The Dragon Masters" by Vance as before mentioned, but "The Last Castle" was better (and my favorite here: I have a sneaky feeling Vance set this some centuries before the final age of his "Dying Earth" series, but nevertheless in the same... could you even call it timeline?). Gordon Dickson's "Soldier Ask Not" was political/intrigue-laden scifi, intelligent and provocative; Poul Anderson's "No Truce For Kings" a vision of war-torn post-historical California, sweeping and engaging; Larry Niven's short "Neutron Star" a clever puzzle encased in a fully 3-Act storyline; and finally I hit upon an Ellison tale I found simply superb, "Repent, Harlequin! Said The Ticktock Man": guess I've just been reading the wrong ones all this time....
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Friday, February 22, 2013 - 11:20 am:   

Halfway through "Shadows In Zamboula" and it's another fantasy-set horror tale being Howard's take on the old standby of the unwitting traveller (Conan) spending the night at a remote inn with a sinister reputation and a rather creepy innkeeper. It starts with an arrogantly unheeded warning about guests having disappeared there never to be seen again... Great stuff, as ever.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Friday, February 22, 2013 - 02:32 pm:   

Two more Ellins both marked by a folksy lightness of touch:

"Beidenbauer's Flea" is a seriously funny and charming anecdote about the downfall of the World's Greatest Flea Circus due to a passionate love triangle - between the clown, the strongman and a "beautiful" dancer - that ends in murder. There's more than a touch of Mark Twain about this one.

And "The Seven Deadly Virtues" echoes those wittily macabre tales of Edgar Allan Poe detailing encounters with the Devil in erudite human form. This time he's conducting a job interview for a rather sinister business firm that regards experience in the Seven Deadly Sins as just the qualities they're looking for... again, very funny but with a satirically dark edge.
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Stu (Stu)
Username: Stu

Registered: 04-2008
Posted From: 90.244.40.112
Posted on Sunday, February 24, 2013 - 11:07 am:   

The Dark World by Henry Kuttner (and possibly CL Moore).
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Mick Curtis (Mick)
Username: Mick

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 81.151.7.207
Posted on Sunday, February 24, 2013 - 12:43 pm:   

Pandaemonium by Christopher Brookmyre. I'm about 120 pages in, and still not too sure; the descriptive text seems to go on for page after page and although some parts really gripped, much feels a bit of a struggle. Probably me rather than the book though...
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Mbfg (Mbfg)
Username: Mbfg

Registered: 09-2010
Posted From: 80.5.8.49
Posted on Sunday, February 24, 2013 - 11:06 pm:   

Stu, read Kuttner's "The Dark World" a thousand years ago when I was about 15 and absolutely loved it. I've never read it since but it has stayed with me ever since.

I'm reading Sue Townsend's "Adrian Mole, the Cappuccino Years". Funny and a fascinating social document form those early days of Blair's Britain.

Oh, and just finished "Black Static 24" - some great stories in there.

Cheers
Terry
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David_lees (David_lees)
Username: David_lees

Registered: 12-2011
Posted From: 92.22.77.56
Posted on Sunday, February 24, 2013 - 11:37 pm:   

I'm reading Brookmyre's A Big Boy Did It And Ran Away right now. I have wondered if non-Scottish readers struggle with his work a bit, I'd guess there must be dozens of throwaway references that would be easily missed.
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Mick Curtis (Mick)
Username: Mick

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.181.210.93
Posted on Sunday, February 24, 2013 - 11:47 pm:   

It's not the Scottish side; it's the fact that in the book I'm reading each section seems to take a huge amount of descriptive work before anyone says anything, or the story moves on a bit. As I said, it's probably me not being in quite the right frame of mind, but I am seriously considering putting it asided for a few books...
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Ramsey Campbell (Ramsey)
Username: Ramsey

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 92.8.20.80
Posted on Monday, February 25, 2013 - 11:50 am:   

It's not just you, Mick - me too. He needs a good editor.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 80.239.243.228
Posted on Monday, February 25, 2013 - 12:41 pm:   

The only Brookmire I've read - all fun and games etc- I thought was funny and really well paced. I raced through it in a couple of days.
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Stu (Stu)
Username: Stu

Registered: 04-2008
Posted From: 90.244.44.199
Posted on Monday, February 25, 2013 - 01:22 pm:   

Terry, what I've read of The Dark World so far is very good. Big influence on Roger Zelazny apparently.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 86.24.62.55
Posted on Monday, February 25, 2013 - 11:35 pm:   

I was very impressed with Kuttner's sci-fi novel 'Fury', Stu, and found it almost like an early template for Alfred Bester's 'The Stars My Destination'. Bester knew Kuttner and cited him as a major influence. Have one other novel, 'Mutant', and two best of short story collections to read - all material being from the 40s & 50s. One of the great unsung pioneers of the golden era of sci-fi, IMO. His influence should be more widely acknowledged.
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Stu (Stu)
Username: Stu

Registered: 04-2008
Posted From: 90.244.32.2
Posted on Tuesday, February 26, 2013 - 11:40 am:   

I'm hoping to read his Elak of Atlantis stories at some point.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Tuesday, February 26, 2013 - 01:03 pm:   

Soon be finished '361' and it's given me the itch to read more of Westlake's early hard-boiled stuff. Pure action and gritty unpredictable realism right from the off with a nicely macabre undercurrent. The ice cold anti-hero has a glass eye and how he uses his affliction to frighten his victims, some of them to death, is chilling indeed. Wonderfully spare fast-flowing storytelling by a master of his craft.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Wednesday, February 27, 2013 - 12:26 am:   

"Ship of Shadows," by Fritz Leiber (1969)—winner of the Hugo Award for Best Novella that same year, too.

So the opening page introduces a ship floating out somewhere in the middle of space, where a talking cat wakes up the lone drunken ship-mate. Not gotten any farther, but... um, doesn't this sound like "Red Dwarf"?...
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Wednesday, February 27, 2013 - 02:01 am:   

Ha! Some ways in now—not even close! Whoa, though, this is heady stuff....

(Btw, I have a request for Stevie: Have you ever made a Stevie 10 Best Science Fiction Novels Ever list? I mean, your best opinion of the best ever—the topmost of the top 10; with all sub-genres included, no allowance for breaking down by category [e.g., American, or Space Opera]. If you ever get the time and inclination.... )
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Wednesday, February 27, 2013 - 12:20 pm:   

I could only make a Top 10 of the sci-fi novels that I have actually read, Craig. As with anyone. But within that field watch this space...

I actually think I've produced the same list on here in the past (possibly many times) but it is always prone to change as my reading of the classics advances.

Number 1, however, is easy and that's the six volume 'Dune Saga' by Frank Herbert (1965-1985), of which the first, 'Dune', is the greatest single book in the history of science fiction literature.

As with Tolkien, forget the rest of the franchise outside of the original works published within the author's lifetime. 'The Silmarillion' is the one exception to this rule that I allow.
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Stu (Stu)
Username: Stu

Registered: 04-2008
Posted From: 90.244.42.109
Posted on Wednesday, February 27, 2013 - 05:44 pm:   

Dune is great. Although I never got round to reading the sequels (aside from Dune Messiah).
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Thursday, February 28, 2013 - 06:21 am:   

Last time I tried reading Dune was in high-school... too long ago to contemplate... it may be time to go back to it again.

"Ship of Shadows" was a surreal-starting story, that ultimately ended up (to me) in Dashiell Hammett territory. Before finishing I had an apéritif I simply must mention, Theodore Sturgeon's blithely dark short tale, "Talent" (1953)—ha! Loved it! Now that's how you do a horror story....
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Thursday, February 28, 2013 - 12:46 pm:   

I'm still not sure of the correct pronunciation of "Atreides". Can anyone enlighten me?
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Thursday, February 28, 2013 - 01:23 pm:   

"Shadows In Zamboula' is one of the lesser Conan tales being basically an entertainingly fast paced stock horror story but one in which Conan is shown as the very antithesis of chivalry. He risks his life for a beautiful naked woman, and saves the life of her adored lover, under the express understanding that she will sleep with him after. Great atmosphere, great fight sequences, but acts as more of an interesting interlude in the Cimmerian's progression toward glory rather than providing any advancement.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.37.199.45
Posted on Thursday, February 28, 2013 - 02:10 pm:   

Well... he does know her game, and he's not just thinking with his jewelled sceptre. But his final 'grinned' explanation to the readers is Howard slumming it wie nie zufor. Everything in this story is in appalling taste, yet delivered with dizzying skill. It was probably the sheer irony of not getting paid, after stories like this had kept WT financially afloat, that eroded Howard's enjoyment of writing. To sell your arse is one thing, to have it stolen is quite another.
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Stu (Stu)
Username: Stu

Registered: 04-2008
Posted From: 90.244.44.191
Posted on Thursday, February 28, 2013 - 02:46 pm:   

Craig, is Talent the one with the kid with superpowers?
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Thursday, February 28, 2013 - 02:59 pm:   

You know I had to look that up, Joel, and would like to assure all our readers it alludes to nothing obscene.
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Ramsey Campbell (Ramsey)
Username: Ramsey

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 92.8.18.98
Posted on Thursday, February 28, 2013 - 03:28 pm:   

It's At-reed-ez, Stevie (forgive the childish phonetics!)
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Thursday, February 28, 2013 - 04:02 pm:   

That's the one, Stu! It reminded me most of that famous "Twilight Zone" episode—you know, "Don't wish me into the cornfield, Anthony"? I wonder if Serling cribbed it from this?...
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Thursday, February 28, 2013 - 04:20 pm:   

Synchronicity alert!! I've literally just ordered Season 3 of 'The Twilight Zone' on Amazon and this is the first thing I read on logging back in here. That episode still scares the crap out of me, Craig, and Mumy also starred in another of the scariest eps, "Long Distance Call", in which he is haunted by his malevolent grandmother who tries to coax him into joining her on the other side. TV doesn't get any better!
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Thursday, February 28, 2013 - 04:21 pm:   

Thanks, Ramsey! I've been saying At-rid-eez inside my head all these years.
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Stu (Stu)
Username: Stu

Registered: 04-2008
Posted From: 90.244.32.191
Posted on Thursday, February 28, 2013 - 05:03 pm:   

Craig, the Twilight Zone story was "It's a Good Life" based on the Jerome Bixby short story of the same name. I've only seen the TZ Movie version, but I'd like to see the TV version and read the short story.

Have you read "Star Light, Star Bright" or "Oddy and Id" (aka "The Devil's Invention") by Alfred Bester?
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 194.66.23.11
Posted on Thursday, February 28, 2013 - 05:29 pm:   

Finished The Yiddish Policeman’s Union last night and while I really do appreciate that it’s extremely well written and a damned funny spoof of the Chandleresque detective novel – with a fascinating alternate history thrown in for good measure, I can’t say I took huge levels of enjoyment out of it. But I think that’s my fault as my head isn’t in the best place it’s ever been lately. Light and funny just doesn’t float my boat at the moment so to speak.

There’s an old song which has been going through my head all day which has the lyric “going where the weather suits my clothes”.. in the spirit of that song, I’ve picked up a book that suits my mood better – The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold. Already the much darker tone of the narrative has me hooked and reading at a much faster rate than I could manage with the Chabon novel.
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Stu (Stu)
Username: Stu

Registered: 04-2008
Posted From: 90.244.32.191
Posted on Thursday, February 28, 2013 - 06:04 pm:   

Stevie, I just ordered Twilight Zone DVDs too. Looking forward to seeing all the episodes that I missed.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 212.183.128.157
Posted on Thursday, February 28, 2013 - 08:47 pm:   

The scariest bit of "It's A Good Life" is the the jack-in-the-box moment. Anyone who has seen it will be shuddering just now.
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Stu (Stu)
Username: Stu

Registered: 04-2008
Posted From: 90.244.39.227
Posted on Thursday, February 28, 2013 - 08:59 pm:   

The scariest bit of "It's a Good Life" is when Margo tries to help Tom and Barbara in their garden but falls in the mud.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Thursday, February 28, 2013 - 09:25 pm:   

Yeah, that's the one, actually—that's a good episode indeed! One of the best. And it is strangely like that Sturgeon story (which again, is just pure evil delight)....

I've not read those Bester stories, Stu; why do you mention them? Right now, I'm switching gears slightly, to polish off a short early Ruth Rendell (non-Wexford) novel, Vanity Dies Hard (1966). Needed me a mystery fix.
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Stu (Stu)
Username: Stu

Registered: 04-2008
Posted From: 90.244.39.227
Posted on Thursday, February 28, 2013 - 09:50 pm:   

They've got a similar "kids with superpowers" premise. Although now I think about it the protagonist in "Oddy and Id" might be an adult -- been a while since I read it.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 80.239.242.60
Posted on Friday, March 01, 2013 - 09:44 am:   

There's a treehouse of horror segment in the Simpsons based on that episode where Bart runs Springfield
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Friday, March 01, 2013 - 01:10 pm:   

Of course the best of all the "kids with superpowers" story is John Wyndham's 'The Midwich Cuckoos' (1957) and the scary as feck film version, 'Village Of The Damned' (1960).
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Hubert (Hubert)
Username: Hubert

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 178.116.60.39
Posted on Friday, March 01, 2013 - 02:30 pm:   

As much as I like Wyndham's novel, to me the best of the best is Eric Frank Russell's "I'm a Stranger here Myself". So superbly paranoid it could be a Phillip K. Dick story.
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David_lees (David_lees)
Username: David_lees

Registered: 12-2011
Posted From: 92.22.8.206
Posted on Friday, March 01, 2013 - 03:04 pm:   

Vanity Dies Hard? I don't think I could read that without picturing Bruce Willis in the lead.
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Mbfg (Mbfg)
Username: Mbfg

Registered: 09-2010
Posted From: 90.199.234.173
Posted on Saturday, March 02, 2013 - 07:35 pm:   

Hubert...

Eric Frank Russell, haven't read the one you mention but his novel "Wasp" is one of my all time favourites - a reverse paranoia story I suppose you could call it, the protagonist trying to cause paranoia rather than suffering from it.

Cheers
Terry
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Sunday, March 03, 2013 - 04:38 am:   

Stevie! I totally blanked on mentioning the bizarre coincidence last night! Referring to your Feb. 28 above entry: I turn on TV late last night, and the channel that shows once in a great while random "Twilight Zone" episodes (that also shows, btw, the occasional "Chiller"), was playing... wait for it... the episode with Billy Mumy getting the grandma ghost phone!!! How weird is that?!?
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Monday, March 04, 2013 - 11:42 am:   

Great spooky episode isn't it, Craig. I'd rank it as one of the finest ghost stories ever filmed.

Finished '361' at the weekend. What starts out as a straight "track 'em down and kill 'em" revenge thriller ascends to the levels of Shakespearean tragedy by some of the completely unexpected plot twists Westlake throws at us at perfectly timed intervals throughout the book. The anti-hero, Ray Kelly, an alcoholic ex-serviceman with nothing left to live for but payback, is made to wish he hadn't dug quite so deeply into his family's past. The ultimate unconscionable crime he is forced into, by one shock revelation after another, reveals him as one of the great tragic figures of crime fiction. A powerful and intensely moving one-off in Westlake's vastly impressive canon.

Now starting 'A Game For The Living' (1958) by Patricia Highsmith with absolutely no idea what it's about.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Monday, March 04, 2013 - 11:50 am:   

Like Mickey Rourke in 'Angel Heart'... if only someone had convinced Ray to just let it lie and walk away. I love these kind of whirlpool stories.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Monday, March 04, 2013 - 12:02 pm:   

Third through "The Devil In Iron" and I'm pretty sure it's the story I remembered about the unstoppable Terminator-like monster! Only got through the set-up and they haven't actually met yet but Conan has no idea the kind of trap he's walking into. The opening sequence of a hapless tomb-breaker unwittingly awakening something monstrous is a masterclass in scene setting and building tension right from the off. For once I'm actually afraid for the Cimmerian.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 2.30.194.120
Posted on Monday, March 04, 2013 - 01:06 pm:   

Yeah... pretty good story and darker than most of the Conan series. Nice to be reminded that Howard was a horror writer too. Don't be scared for Conan though. He can look after himself. You'll be knitting him gloves next.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Monday, March 04, 2013 - 01:18 pm:   

But if I remember rightly he actually feels mortal fear and hopelessness in the face of an unbeatable enemy for the first time in this story. It's that bit of the story that stuck in my mind as a child. To see our adult heroes as vulnerable human beings who show terror just like the rest of us is an unsettling experience for a 10 year old. Reminds me of James Bond showing fear in 'Goldfinger', when his crown jewels are threatened, but, where he bluffed his way to salvation, I can't for the life of me remember how Conan gets out of this one... roll on bedtime.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 135.196.115.78
Posted on Monday, March 04, 2013 - 04:04 pm:   

'A Game For The Living' has started with one of Patricia's most brutal murders, involving horrific mutilation, and we are immediately presented with an array of likely suspects all with something to hide. Could she actually be presenting us with a formula whodunit for a change?! Something makes me doubt it... but I'm hooked again already.
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Mbfg (Mbfg)
Username: Mbfg

Registered: 09-2010
Posted From: 80.5.8.49
Posted on Tuesday, March 05, 2013 - 12:24 am:   

Just started David Rix's intriguing "Feather" which is a collection of linked stories featuring his enigmatic, downright strange character who gives her name to the book. A few pages in and it's compelling, no idea where it is going.

Cheers
Terry
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Tuesday, March 05, 2013 - 11:08 am:   

"The Devil In Iron" is a cracking horror tale and I think my favourite in the collection so far. Not finished it yet but the atmosphere of dread Howard generates is palpable. It's disconcerting to see Conan alone and so out of his depth for a change. The growing fear and confusion he feels as he explores that mysterious green stone edifice, abounding in supernatural mystery, had my scalp prickling last night. An absolute corker!
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 86.24.62.55
Posted on Wednesday, March 06, 2013 - 02:41 pm:   

Finished TDII and what a pulse pounding masterpiece it is! Once the action starts, after the brilliantly creepy build-up, the excitement never let's up in what is basically an extended chase sequence, interspersed with some of Howard's most memorably vivid fight sequences, and made unforgettable by the moment of trapped resignation in that dead end room, with the "impregnable" door bulging inward, when Conan knows he has been bested and prepares himself to go down fighting. Then fate and blind luck intercede.

Khosatral Khel has to be Howard's most memorably frightening monster and reading this story I couldn't help but be reminded of the terrifying figure of Talos in 'Jason And The Argonauts' (1963). Like Ramsey's walking Christmas Tree the moment when that iron head swivelled round and those creaking limbs stretched into a hideous parody of life, to Bernard Herrmann's bone chilling score, is my earliest memory of being completely and utterly petrified by something alien and unexpected. I can recall hiding behind my Mum on the sofa and my strangled baby pleas of "Is it away yet?" as if it were yesterday. Stop motion animation has always terrified me ever since.

I think the reason this Conan story had such resonance with me as a child is because I felt the previously fearless barbarian, when faced with the devil in iron, had experienced something of the same terror that Talos inspired in me. Anyone for psychotherapy?
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 86.24.62.55
Posted on Wednesday, March 06, 2013 - 03:18 pm:   

My other earliest memory of terror at the unexpected was when I was maybe three or four and caught a large harvestman spider which I proceeded to innocently divest of its legs. All eight hair-like stalks and the horrible little button body with its wriggling mouthparts continued to move independently of each other on the eye level shelf in front of me! It was like all the pieces were coming to get me for pulling them apart. I ran screaming to my Mum and have been unable to control an involuntary shudder every time I see one of the things to this day. A mate didn't help, some years later, when he told me they suck your blood!! That's how phobias are made...
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.212.231.111
Posted on Wednesday, March 06, 2013 - 03:20 pm:   

With the enforced bed rest I've just been ordered to take for the sake of my lumbar spine, i think i'm going to finish the almost moon today. Very good it is too. It tells the story of the 24 hours immediately following a woman's murder of her elderly mother. Unfortunately I won't be able to follow this up with Lisey's story as intended as that's on a high shelf that I currently lack the ability to reach.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 86.24.62.55
Posted on Thursday, March 07, 2013 - 03:18 am:   

Time for a Stanley Ellin update:

"The Nine To Five Man" is the quietly chilling and admirably understated tale of a happily married man's sinister double life. While his doting wife thinks he's away at his routine office job in the city every day he is actually earning a living by... but therein lies the tale. And it isn't what you're thinking.

"The Question" is narrated by a self-proclaimed, and proud of it, electrocutioner - he's the guy paid to throw the switch in the State Pen, same as his father before him. Then his disappointingly liberal son asks him the one question about his job he never wanted to hear. A passionate and clever anti-capital punishment moral dilemma story.

"The Crime Of Ezechiele Coen" is an engrossingly intricate straight detective yarn. An American P.I. holidaying in Rome becomes obsessed with proving the innocence of a Jewish doctor who was executed by the Italian Resistance movement during the War, twenty years before, for allegedly betraying his comrades to the Nazi occupiers. A neat mystery expertly unfolded.

"The Great Persuader" is another spellbinding battle of wits yarn, not unlike "The Moment Of Decision", that involves a ruthless gangster, intent upon acquiring a property, meeting his match in a sweet little old lady who, with nothing left to lose, bets him everything she owns on a game of cribbage. A beguiling and witty story that proves the old adage about the bigger they are...

"The Day The Thaw Came To 127" is a seriously brilliant ECesque horror tale of the deserved comeuppance of a brutal landlord, who terrorises his slum tenement tenants, until they all decide to gang up and give him a taste of his own medicine. Blackly comic and with a magnificently macabre pay-off. Loved it!

"Death Of An Old Fashioned Girl" reads like a deliberately old fashioned Agatha Christie or Arthur Conan Doyle whodunit pastiche that presents the reader with a murder in an enclosed apartment and only five possible suspects, all of whom had their own reason to hate the victim, but not even Sherlock Holmes could have solved this one. This is Ellin in playful mood and is a richly entertaining mystery with a thoroughly satisfying and plausible resolution.

Eleven stories left in this mammoth and hugely enjoyable collection.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 86.24.62.55
Posted on Thursday, March 07, 2013 - 03:30 am:   

And now it's time for "The People Of The Black Circle"... don't remember this Conan story at all.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 2.30.198.243
Posted on Thursday, March 07, 2013 - 09:07 am:   

Sorry to hear about your back trouble, Weber. Have a good rest.

Stevie, you will love 'The People of the Black Circle'. And they will love you.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 86.24.62.55
Posted on Thursday, March 07, 2013 - 12:28 pm:   

Watch those tramadol, Weber! I remember drinking once while I was on them and almost ending up in the funny farm. Good gear!!
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 86.24.62.55
Posted on Friday, March 08, 2013 - 11:21 am:   

'A Game For The Living' is a clever subversion of the classic whodunit novel. Right from the first chapter I'm pretty sure I know who the killer is, though, nothing has been made explicit. I don't believe identifying the murderer is really Patricia's concern but she is rather more interested in detailing the psychological effect on the former friends who find themselves suspected and, to a man, for this was a brutally male crime, are thinking, "I know I didn't do it but could he have...?"

The Dark Queen of the psychological crime thriller has done it again!
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 86.24.62.55
Posted on Friday, March 08, 2013 - 11:25 am:   

Of course she could be taking me by the hand and leading me up the garden path with a girlish giggle and wouldn't that be fun...
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 80.239.243.209
Posted on Friday, March 08, 2013 - 11:33 am:   

Started on Swan Song by Robert Mccammon. A few chapters in and I'm intrigued to say the least.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 86.24.62.55
Posted on Friday, March 08, 2013 - 11:51 am:   

Saving the best till last, eh, Weber? I grew up loving McCammon's novels and still rank his masterpiece, 'They Thirst', as one of the greatest vampire novels ever written. I just wish some visionary director would rediscover it and turn it into a horror epic to rival the wonderfully cinematic nightmares it gave me as a teenager!
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.212.230.111
Posted on Friday, March 08, 2013 - 01:55 pm:   

It was just at the top of the pile. The choice was down to pure laziness rather than any recommendations. 100 pages in now and loving it.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 86.24.62.55
Posted on Sunday, March 10, 2013 - 06:57 pm:   

Halfway through "The People Of The Black Circle" and it's another epic of political intrigue, like "A Witch Shall Be Born", that sees four different factions battling for supremacy in the Kingdom of Vendhya, in the turbulent and brutal Middle East. Conan finds himself embroiled in their machinations having become a tribal chief among the nomadic hill people, whose allegiance is sought by the powers that be in the face of internecine plotting by Western spies on one side and devilish sorcery from the black magicians of the mysterious East on the other. A wonderfully complex tale this, told from various points of view, and in which no one side holds the moral high ground. Even Conan is shown as a ruthless opportunist who goes where the fates decree and is liable to change allegiance if survival dictates it.

There is one telling moment in which the Wazuli chief, Yar Afzal, reassures Conan's safety from his men, for, "They don't love you - or any other outlander - but you saved my life once, and I will not forget." A comment to sting the Cimmerian's conscience when we think back to his treacherous treatment of Olgerd Vladislav in similar circumstances but a few years before in "A Witch Shall Be Born"...
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.212.230.126
Posted on Sunday, March 10, 2013 - 08:51 pm:   

Already halfway through Swan Song and loving it. The fantasy elements are integrated really well into the harsh realities of the nuclear winter. I can honestly say I have no idea where he's going with it and how it's all going to pull together.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 86.24.62.55
Posted on Monday, March 11, 2013 - 02:44 am:   

Read the first novella length story in the Stanley Ellin collection, "The Twelfth Statue", and its myriad twists and turns have me even more keen to read some of his novels. This is fascinatingly set in the world of Hollywood filmmaking, with its sleazy back room deals and betrayal of artistic integrity, and introduces us to a particularly slimy big shot mogul, no doubt based on some real Hollywood personality, whose mysterious disappearance from the set of his latest blockbuster, being filmed on location in Rome, leads us into one of Ellin's most engrossing and tricksy mysteries and has a beautifully macabre conclusion that made me gasp with surprise and satisfaction. This is adult suspense storytelling of rare craft and perfection, IMHO.
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Mbfg (Mbfg)
Username: Mbfg

Registered: 09-2010
Posted From: 212.219.63.204
Posted on Monday, March 11, 2013 - 01:36 pm:   

Finished "Feather" by David Rix. ambiguous, multi-layered and highly entertaining.

Just started the hilarious "Vile Bodies" by Evelyn Waugh - who else oculd come up with a recently deposed prime minister named Sir William Outrage?

Chees
Terry
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Mick Curtis (Mick)
Username: Mick

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.148.135.208
Posted on Monday, March 11, 2013 - 02:33 pm:   

Halfway through 361, which I bought after reading Stevie's ravings above! Excellent read so far. I've read other stuff by Westlake but not this.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 86.24.62.55
Posted on Monday, March 11, 2013 - 02:55 pm:   

Robert R. McCammon perpetually suffered from unfavourable comparisons to Stephen King back when they both were in their prime but McCammon had the greater pulp energy of the two and his stories rattled along without ever feeling bloated or giving way to over ambition. King came to be seduced by his own success and diluted his talent over the years by believing he was omnipotent while McCammon kept delivering exactly what we wanted of him... raw visceral horror storytelling of rare impact and potently cinematic descriptive style.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 86.24.62.55
Posted on Monday, March 11, 2013 - 03:03 pm:   

I'll be interested to hear what you think of the ending to '361', Mick. It's a real shocker! Westlake is always a pleasure to read. His raw economy of storytelling and characterisation seemed to be like an instinctive gift to him. I've read loads of his stuff and he's yet to disappoint me. My favourites are his blackly comic crime novels, of which, 'Dancing Aztecs' is his finest and funniest.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.212.230.74
Posted on Monday, March 11, 2013 - 03:06 pm:   

The more recent king books have been right up there with the best of his early work. Under the Dome is easily on the same level as the Stand and 11.22.63 has the single best emotional heart in any of his books. There's only 2 of King's books I recall ever being disappointed with- that's a pretty good batting average. If I can reach it down from the shelf, my next read is Lisey's Story.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 86.24.62.55
Posted on Monday, March 11, 2013 - 03:11 pm:   

King is easily the better writer when at his best but McCammon is the more consistent and with the truer vision, Weber. It's like comparing the pulp brilliance of Robert E. Howard to the literary achievements of Tolkien. Both are great in their own sphere but very different beasts as writers.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 80.239.243.50
Posted on Monday, March 11, 2013 - 03:37 pm:   

The first Mccammon book I read was Boy's Life. It's a story of a boy growing up in a small American town with a murder mystery as a sub plot. There's a segment in that book that reads like a none too subtle message to his publishers to let him write something different. Iirc The central character meets a writer who wants to write a quiet story about his childhood but, because he's written pulp horror before, his publishers have insisted there be a dead body and a murder mystery in there with it. I thought it was really sad. It reminded me of when I met James Herbert at a signing and he told us all how, when he pitched the story for Fluke, the publishers wanted the dog to have rabies so it could have some horror content. It's a good job he had more swing with his publishing house than Mccammon had.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Monday, March 11, 2013 - 03:47 pm:   

Surely it didn't need be so hard for McCammon? Evan Hunter wrote as Ed McBain. Donald Westlake had Richard Stark. Harlan Ellison had Cordwainer Bird....

Just read a delightfully bizarre, way bizarre story in this new antho: "Narrow Valley," by R. A. Lafferty (1966). Left me thinking, "Wtf?!" But in a good way.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 86.24.62.55
Posted on Monday, March 11, 2013 - 03:57 pm:   

McCammon was primarily a pulp horror writer but as such was the finest at that style of writing of his generation, IMHO. I'm glad he went on to other things and you have me wanting to sample his books again, Weber, to see how they hold up.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 86.24.62.55
Posted on Monday, March 11, 2013 - 04:08 pm:   

I've enjoyed just about all of King's books that I've read. He is always the consummate storyteller and entertainer. But I've loved less and less of his works as the years have gone on. McCammon's writing I always loved. I'd rank his greatest book, 'They Thirst', as by no means the best horror novel of its era but it was easily the most unforgettably thrilling, IMHO.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.212.230.210
Posted on Monday, March 11, 2013 - 11:18 pm:   

720 pages in and things are going far too well for the good guys. 200 plus pages to go and the paths of the psychos haven't crossed with our heroes yet but they're on their way. Things could get bloody again very quickly. This is a damned good read and I can't believe how quickly I'm flying through it. This enforced bed rest does have its advantages.
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Mick Curtis (Mick)
Username: Mick

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.148.135.208
Posted on Monday, March 11, 2013 - 11:40 pm:   

Marc - I recall reading this when it came out on Dark Harvest books - it was a really enjoyable read.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.212.231.141
Posted on Tuesday, March 12, 2013 - 02:36 pm:   

Swan Song finished. What a great book. Despite the doorstop size of it, it never flags for even a page. It picks you up and drops you into pits of despair. In the last chapters I had no idea whether he was going to give up a happy or a sad ending to the book. Was there hope for humanity or not? I won't give spoilers but I was genuinely moved almost to tears in the last 2 chapters. My next book, because I think I need something less emotional is Paul Auster's In the Country of Last Things. I still don't want to climb up to get Lisey's Story down yet. I'll read that after the Auster.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 31.53.147.226
Posted on Tuesday, March 12, 2013 - 05:33 pm:   

The Auster book reads like a documentary on life in any given british municipality in 10 years if the tory scum are allowed to stay in power...
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 212.183.128.62
Posted on Wednesday, March 13, 2013 - 07:55 pm:   

'Swan Song' was indeed a great post-apocalypse sci-fi/horror novel, Weber, but wait till you read 'They Thirst'. There isn't a breathless second in that book that won't have you chewing your nails to the knuckles. Countless scenes and images from it are still stamped on my consciousness some 30 odd years after reading it. Pure pulp horror brilliance!!
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 86.24.62.55
Posted on Thursday, March 14, 2013 - 03:15 pm:   

Finished "The People Of The Black Circle". Has there ever been a more soundly thrilling epic in the history of fantasy fiction? This novella has it all. Memorable characters all battling to outdo each other, fascinating political intrigue, a suicidal quest into the mysterious East with horrible death waiting around every corner, great battle sequences with the stench of blood and entrails filling the air, long drawn out and vividly exciting sword fights, hideous monsters, a cult of terrifying black magicians dealing sorcerous death that freezes the blood, and more complexity and unexpected twists than any Conan story that has gone before. The imagery is spectacularly cinematic and the action breathlessly non-stop. Robert E. Howard's imagination continues to grow in its originality and power to stun the reader. This really should have been filmed in all its un-PC majesty back in the glory days of Hollywood cinema!! Simply incredible writing!!

Next up "The Slithering Shadow"... and one wonders how he can possibly top this one?
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 86.24.62.55
Posted on Thursday, March 14, 2013 - 03:55 pm:   

Stanley Ellin update:

"The Last Bottle In The World" is a great little suspense yarn involving an obsessive wine connoiseur's attempts to purchase the rarest bottle in the world from its owner, who refuses to sell. One wants to drink it while the other vows it shall never be opened. The payoff is deliciously cruel.

"Coin Of The Realm" is on the same quietly chilling theme as "The Nine To Five Man" as it involves a seemingly typical couple of happily married wide-eyed American tourists seeing the sights in Paris... until we realise what they are really there for. These stories are all about the deceptiveness of appearances and how the criminal fraternity, to be successful, must merge into their background and appear just like everyone else. They are stories to make one look at the person next to you on the bus or in a cinema queue and wonder...

"Kindly Dig Your Grave" is another ECesque tale of blackly comic poetic justice that sees a hard done by struggling artist gain sweet revenge on the callous dealer who continually rips him off. The twist is as irresistible as it is funny.

"The Payoff" has to be one of the most disturbing tales in the collection and again touches on the theme of the criminal, in this case a particularly vicious assassin, who blends effortlessly into the background as just another ordinary joe. The reason for the brutal murder he commits is only revealed on the last page and grows more monstrously cruel in the reader's mind the more one thinks about it. A particularly nasty one, this.

"The Other Side Of The Wall" sees the author back in horror territory again and deals with the old theme of the recurring nightmare encroaching on reality, as revealed by the desperate protagonist in an interview with his coldly analytical psychotherapist. The horrific twist ending is absolutely ingenious and has one rushing back to read the story all over again.

Only another five tales to go... then I fancy another horror collection by one of the greats.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Thursday, March 14, 2013 - 06:56 pm:   

It'll be hard to follow up that anthology, Stevie. One of my favorite antho-reads of the last ten years.

I'm just loving reading the anthology I am reading right now, I couldn't have created a more perfect one for me! And wow, they're varied. Just to mention one beautifully-rendered, mind-bending display: Philip José Farmer's "Sail On! Sail On!" (1952)—I'm unfamiliar with the famous Mr. Farmer, but this story alone, makes me want to read everything he's ever written!
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Mbfg (Mbfg)
Username: Mbfg

Registered: 09-2010
Posted From: 80.5.8.49
Posted on Thursday, March 14, 2013 - 07:15 pm:   

Craig...

Philip Jose Farmer was one of my favourite authors back when I was a spotty teenager. Due to his prolific output, his work was patchy, I have to admit. My absolute love was his "World of the Tiers" series - I think there were four books.

"The Alley God" was a collection of novellae, and also pretty nifty if my memory serves me right. "The Other Log of Phileas Fogg" and a sequel to "Moby Dick" (title eludes me) were also great fun.

His Riverworld series, a great idea, is both hailed and panned at the same time. I've only read the first two books, the first was terrific, the second, tedious.

Anyway, you've made me want to go back to PJF!

Cheers
Terry
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.147.143.221
Posted on Thursday, March 14, 2013 - 09:50 pm:   

The wind whales of ishmael is his sequel to Moby Dick.

World of tiers was 5 books but the last one had the most godawful ending it nearly put me off the whole thing. He has however, since written book 6 in the series - More than Fire and a tie in "meta version" called Red orc's Rage.

I loved the first 4 riverworlds but wasn't keen on number 5. I think the book of his that's stuck the most in my memory is Jesus on Mars.

It's always worth trying to spot where he inserts himself as a character in his books. It's amazing how many of his central characters have the initials PJF.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 2.30.205.46
Posted on Thursday, March 14, 2013 - 10:09 pm:   

"Next up "The Slithering Shadow"... and one wonders how he can possibly top this one?"

I'm not sure he ever does, Stevie, though there are some fine stories to come. There isn't a continuous arc of development. Derleth felt the Conan stories as a whole were inferior to the Solomon Kane and Bran Mak Morn series, and perhaps he was right, but so much went wrong for Howard in those last couple of years that it's hard to assess the reasons why. Perhaps he just got bogged down in a pulp format that never suited him. If only he'd lived into the era of paperback original novels... Ah, whatever. Read on. You can feel the hunger and the heartbreak behind the made-to-measure set pieces, like the darkness behind a cinema screen.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 86.24.62.55
Posted on Friday, March 15, 2013 - 03:47 pm:   

Flew through "The Slithering Shadow". Another highly atmospheric, scary and entertaining horror yarn with a particularly memorable monster and one of the longest sustained and goriest fight sequences yet. One can almost sense the author gritting his teeth and tearing the paper with his pen as he writes this stuff. It's sensational!!

For all his "seen it all" bravado Conan comes across as surprisingly prudish in this one as he and his latest paramour stumble into a den of drugged up sexual depravity ruled over by an amorphous demonic entity out of the Abyss. Barbaric and lustful he may be but decadent, never...
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 86.24.62.55
Posted on Friday, March 15, 2013 - 03:51 pm:   

Next up "Drums Of Tombalku"...
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.128.208.208
Posted on Friday, March 15, 2013 - 07:34 pm:   

Yet another diversion before I read Poor old Lisey's Story... Just started today on John Dies at the End by david Wong. This could be a difficult one to read on the bus as it's already made me laugh out loud (and I mean loud) 4 times in the first 10 pages.

The front cover review calls it a mash up of Douglas Adams and Stephen King - and it's right. I hope it continues to be this funny all the way through.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.212.231.176
Posted on Saturday, March 16, 2013 - 06:29 pm:   

And Lisey will have to wait still further. Just found the brand new Rupert Thomson book - SECRECY - in Waterstone's. Absolutely no choice but to buy it and put it straight to the top of my tbr pile.
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Mbfg (Mbfg)
Username: Mbfg

Registered: 09-2010
Posted From: 80.5.8.49
Posted on Sunday, March 17, 2013 - 08:11 am:   

All-but finished Evelyn Waugh's "Vile Bodies" and found it absolutely topping. Look here, you really must try it don't you know. I think you'll find it totaly laugh-making and all really rather shocking.

Okay, I'll drop the dreadful attempt at flapper-speak, and simply recommend this very slim novel because ti is full of very funny moments, and for the way it tears apart the "jazz age" by getting under its skin - not such a thin and superficial one either. The affected boredom and off-hand attitude, even to death itself, resonates with current culture, certainly among the youth I teach; I am so utterly cool, nothing bovvers me bruv innit - whereas inside most of the poor little lost lambs are scared stiff of just about everything in this bleak, cruel world they are growing up in. They are demonised and increasingly disenfranchised and not so adverse to the idea of work as the Daily Schmail and Daily Distress like to make out (some of my most attitude-ridden students work as cleaners or as general dogsbodies at the local 24 hour supermarket etc, they leave college in the late afternoon to go straight to their workplace where they sweep,polish or retrieve trolleys till late then are back at college in the morning).
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Mbfg (Mbfg)
Username: Mbfg

Registered: 09-2010
Posted From: 80.5.8.49
Posted on Sunday, March 17, 2013 - 08:12 am:   

Sorry, wrong thread for preaching, and I really must learn to write properly.

Cheers
Terry
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 2.30.193.158
Posted on Sunday, March 17, 2013 - 11:30 am:   

Sounds good, Terry – I've recently completed an Aickman re-read and likewise found that a useful reminder that the left doesn't have a monopoly on socially perceptive writing. And I remember my father (a lifelong Trotskyist) telling me that whereas among French writers the most innovative stylists tended to be left-wing, in Britain they tended to be right-wing. As I struggled to evaluate this claim, he added: "So we lose the Bataille but win the Waugh."
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 2.30.193.158
Posted on Sunday, March 17, 2013 - 11:40 am:   

Stevie, critical opinion is divided as to which is the best Conan story. Among the opinions that matter, Fritz Leiber says 'The People of the Black Circle' is the strongest whereas Karl Edward Wagner votes for 'Beyond the Black Border'. Both are pretty remarkable stories. John Clute prefers 'Red Nails', but he puts all the emphasis on one aspect of what most critics have judged an uneven piece of work.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 86.24.62.55
Posted on Sunday, March 17, 2013 - 01:06 pm:   

Everyone's opinion matters, Joel. For my money it's "The People Of The Black Circle" so far. An astounding story that packs more into its novella length than many a brick sized pseudo-epic. Surely more trees have given their lives futilely for the overblown fantasy genre than any other.

I do agree with you, however, that the only pulp fantasy writers who deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence as Robert E. Howard are Fritz Leiber and Karl Edward Wagner, as I've said on here many times before.

I promise a Stevie list once this mighty tome is finished and no doubt many enjoyable arguments to follow.
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Mick Curtis (Mick)
Username: Mick

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.148.135.208
Posted on Sunday, March 17, 2013 - 01:11 pm:   

Stevie - I finished "361" the other day - brilliant stuff - nice, terse prose, snappy plot. Cheers for the recommendation.
Now onto DARK WORLD from Tartarus...
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 86.24.62.55
Posted on Monday, March 18, 2013 - 05:50 am:   

Shocking ending wasn't it, Mick. Poor Ray...

Read three more Stanley Ellin tales:

"The Corruption Of Officer Avakadian" is one of his slight but entertaining jokey stories that features an infuriatingly by-the-book rookie police officer, fresh from the academy, getting a lesson in pragmatism from his grizzled old veteran partner. A tad far-fetched but funny.

"A Corner Of Paradise" is a descent into homicidal madness tale with a difference that warns what can happen when a new neighbour upsets the peace, quiet and sanity of a long term resident next door who wouldn't harm a fly. Another blackly comic and satisfyingly macabre ECesque horror tale.

"Generation Gap" is an oddly haunting warning to pretty young women against the dangers of hitch-hiking alone that is made all the more effective by not panning out at all how we expect it to. A sad little story that has the feeling of personal experience about its impassioned plea to reckless youth to please be careful out there...

Only two stories left and I'm going to miss being surprised by this great genre author.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 86.24.62.55
Posted on Monday, March 18, 2013 - 07:22 am:   

"Drums Of Tombalku" is another vividly written and frustratingly unfinished draft that introduces the character of Amalric the Aquilonian as chief protagonist, for a change, and good friend of Conan as they wander the desert wastes seeking adventure. There are two thrilling fight sequences not involving the Cimmerian that are amongst the finest and bloodiest Howard ever wrote but what he had planned for the rest of the tale we shall never know...

Next up "The Pool Of The Black One" and I can only hope to hear more of Amalric and the beautiful wench, Lissa of Gazal, whom he rescued from a fate worse than death.
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Protodroid (Protodroid)
Username: Protodroid

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 213.233.148.10
Posted on Monday, March 18, 2013 - 11:27 pm:   

GHOST STORY by Peter Straub. I've actually never read it.

I envy myself!
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 86.24.62.55
Posted on Tuesday, March 19, 2013 - 12:49 am:   

It's a masterpiece. One of the all time great horror novels ever written, Proto. You lucky, lucky man!
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Tuesday, March 19, 2013 - 01:46 am:   

... And I envy myself, reading this anthology! (A Treasure of Modern Fantasy, 1981). Every tale has been a gem; one of the best collections I've read. I'm not done yet, but I want to take the time to mention a few more that bowled me over:

"They Bite," by Anthony Boucher (1943), about murder and things unknown, as perfect a little horror story as you will get; "The Montavarde Camera," by Avram Davidson (1959), which also spins a tale of horror (here about a cursed camera), told in a way only Davidson can, he wrapping it up one glorious step beyond what any other horror writer would have ventured (Stevie, I'd lobby for you, looking as you are for single-author story collections, to seriously consider Davidson's Or All The Sea With Oysters, 1962); "Timothy," by Keith Roberts (1966), one of a series he wrote (that I'm unfamiliar with) about a teenage witch named Anita—this one having the flavor of (North American) Southern regional writing, like Faulkner or O'Connor, but set in some area of England I don't know; a quite deeply moving tale of a girl who casts a spell with long-term consequences....

But the one that blew me away was "Call Him Demon," by Henry Kuttner (1946); about a "Wrong Uncle" showing up at a crowded home, and what transpires when the children learn his dark secrets.... Wow! Stephen King's near entire output, could believably have been sourced in this one superb horror/fantasy story. Anyway, it's wrong of me to single out any single one, the whole is so fine—and still more to go!
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 86.24.62.55
Posted on Tuesday, March 19, 2013 - 01:52 am:   

"They Bite" is a brilliant and genuinely scary horror story, I agree, Craig. Highly original and years ahead of its time, IMO.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Tuesday, March 19, 2013 - 12:50 pm:   

Decided on my follow-up to 'The Speciality Of The House And Other Stories' - to be finished today - and I fancy a bit of quality Lovecraftian horror so it's 'The Mask Of Cthulhu' (1958) & 'The Trail Of Cthulhu' (1962) by August Derleth. Two collections of, I believe, linked short stories written between 1939 and 1953. Looking forward to being properly scared!
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Tuesday, March 19, 2013 - 04:55 pm:   

The last of Stanley Ellin:

"The Family Circle" is a sad little Southern Gothic family drama with a neat twist. This tells of your typical momma's boy, dominated by his terrifying mother and persecuted by his two chip-off-the-old-block sisters, who stumbles into another ECesque payoff without having to raise a finger... kind of.

And finally we have "Reasons Unknown" which finishes the collection on a disturbingly contemporary note as it details, with chilling understatement, just exactly what goes on in the mind of that mild mannered "invisible" office worker who walks into work one day with a pump action shotgun and levels the place. But the story isn't one bit cathartic, it's downright terrifying.

And that's your lot. The complete short stories of Stanley Ellin is an American literary classic that should be every bit as venerated as the works of Edgar Allan Poe, imho! A great genre author ripe for rediscovery...
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 2.30.203.43
Posted on Tuesday, March 19, 2013 - 10:06 pm:   

'"They Bite" is a brilliant and genuinely scary horror story, I agree, Craig. Highly original and years ahead of its time, IMO.'

In what sense years ahead of its time, Stevie? The 1940s was the decade of early Bradbury, Sturgeon and Leiber as well as some of Bloch's most original work. A lot of what was praised as innovative in later decades was heavily influenced by the best of that decade. 'They Bite' wasn't ahead of its time, it was just a classic example of what made its time great.

Sadly, I can't say the same for the two Derleth books you're about to embark on. The first story in Mask is as good as either book gets. The 'collaboration' The Lurker at the Threshold is a lot better.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Wednesday, March 20, 2013 - 12:40 am:   

Stevie, the best of-that-kind collection I read, like the Ellin one I mean, is again, Patricia Highsmith's Chillers—I'm sure you've already read that one, but if not, do so.

I'm really discovering what Joel says, how the 40's especially, were a wonderful golden age for horror and mystery. There's a lot of writers who I neglected, and it's a lot of fun catching up!

I'd also be leery about those choices for your next reading venture, Stevie. No, I've not read those two books. But like you, I'm very wary and careful about what I choose to dive into. And I've done some light research on Mr. Derleth (as well as read a story here and there)... and what I've encountered made me come to the conclusion, that as far as I'm concerned, he can wait, a long long time if needs be, until I've finished a whole lot of other books first... 'nuff said.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 2.30.193.144
Posted on Wednesday, March 20, 2013 - 12:48 am:   

Derleth has also been subject to a lot of disparagement (mostly posthumous) within the genre based on envy of his unique and monumental achievements as editor and publisher. His Lovecraft pastiches are the least memorable of his works in the weird fiction genre. His ghost story collections Mr George and Lonesome Places are very good indeed, and a selection of the best of Derleth would be a very fine volume.
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Craig (Craig)
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Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Wednesday, March 20, 2013 - 06:02 am:   

Yes, the Lovecraft stuff is what I'd be avoiding... but say in the notable A Catalog of Crime (1971), its editors Jacques Barzun & Wendell Hertig Taylor make a point of praising two Derleth novels, Murder Stalks the Wakely Family (1934) and No Future For Luana (1945), descriptions of which make them sound like books I'd enjoy reading—if they're even remotely attainable anymore....
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Wednesday, March 20, 2013 - 11:32 am:   

I'm a Lovecraftian diehard and have to agree that the first story, "The Return Of Hastur" (1939), pales beside anything Lovecraft wrote but still worked, for me, as an enjoyably atmospheric homage to the great man. It has the smack of wide-eyed juvenalia about it but is written with real respect and committment. I consider Derleth's pastiches as essential and perfectly entertaining reading, if only to educate myself in the evolution of the Cthulhu Mythos after Lovecraft's death. The Derleth stories contained in, possibly, the best horror antho of the 20th Century, 'Tales Of The Cthulhu Mythos' (1969), were amongst the strongest in the book and I'm sure there's enough quality in these two collections to make me more than happy.

I read "They Bite" in one of the Fontana Horror anthologies and it stood out head and shoulders as one of the most strikingly nightmarish and original horror stories of its period, that I have read. There is a vast amount from that time I have yet to read but if it is "typical" then, Wow!!
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
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Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Wednesday, March 20, 2013 - 01:26 pm:   

Craig, I'm collecting all the individual story collections of Patricia Highsmith and will possibly dig out the first of them, 'Eleven' (1970), after these Derleth books. It was very highly praised by Graham Greene at the time, who wrote the introduction.

Was nice to see Greene's own story, "The Destructors" (1954), play such a strong part in 'Donnie Darko' - watched again at the weekend. In fact, as I'm reading Patricia at the minute - her 'A Game For The Living' (1958) is a brilliant deconstruction of the whodunit genre - I think I'll dig out Greene's 'Twenty-One Stories' (1954) instead!
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

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Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Wednesday, March 20, 2013 - 01:36 pm:   

Joel, I read 'The Lurker At The Threshold' a couple of years ago and wrote about it on the then current "What Are You Reading?" thread. I thoroughly enjoyed it and thought the premise, in particular, was wonderfully original.
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Craig (Craig)
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Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Wednesday, March 20, 2013 - 02:33 pm:   

Another great, extremely short, creepily evocative horror tale I've come across in this wonderful old anthology, is Donald A. Wollheim's "The Rag Thing" (1951). But for a lyrical horror/fantasy that was almost tearfully moving, proved to be C.L. Moore's "Daemon" (1946); about a slow-witted, monstrously abused boy dragooned to serve onboard a ship (circa 18th or 17th Century) who sees every man's "daemon," good or bad—though he has none of his own. One wonders if Wolfe was inspired by this to create his "Soldier of the Mist"; certainly one of the best I've read here so far. The list of authors that must be gotten to, grows every day....
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Joel (Joel)
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Posted From: 217.37.199.45
Posted on Wednesday, March 20, 2013 - 02:50 pm:   

Well, 'The Bite' is better than typical but it's not unique – that was a brilliant decade for weird and noir fiction. Boucher, Bradbury, Wellman, Counselman, Bloch, Woolrich, Leiber, Sturgeon, Kuttner, Moore – the grail runneth over. To have been ahead of its time, a story written then would have to be a very long way ahead of ours.
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Joel (Joel)
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Posted From: 217.37.199.45
Posted on Wednesday, March 20, 2013 - 02:51 pm:   

'They Bite', sorry. Missed out the Y in my preoccupation with the when.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

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Posted From: 217.37.199.45
Posted on Wednesday, March 20, 2013 - 02:57 pm:   

Stevie, forgive my saying this, and it's not meant ironically, but sometimes your enthusiasm and appetite for quality genre material make me want to cry. Why do I so rarely feel like that these days? It puts me in mind of Richard Thompson's painful lyric:

When I see lovers holding hands and sighing
I hang my head for shame of doing wrong
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Wednesday, March 20, 2013 - 03:52 pm:   

It sounds to me, Joel, like there are less worlds for you to conquer?... Me too, like Stevie (speaking for him), I have so much that I've not read in the field, embarrassingly so for someone (me) I thought was so well-versed in it. So discovery is fresh and new and delightful. Also, it's easier sifting through the past than the present: editors and critics, years of assessment and analysis, ages of letting the decaying and worthless rot away to non-existence... leaves only the best to pick like low fruit.

I'd be depressed having to face but the fares of the present; where nothing is tested, too much is always on the plate; in a decadent age that necessarily has the past always threatening to overwhelm it (most art styles die eventually, exhausted of potential). I am grateful for my current, delicate enthusiasm: it is a blessing and I know a precious gift, to still find such joy in reading.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 212.183.128.6
Posted on Wednesday, March 20, 2013 - 04:20 pm:   

Joel, you're catching me in the midst of my second great surge in interest in genre material. I grew up on a diet of very little else and then spent most of my twenties and thirties actively avoiding genre fare in order to soak up all the "serious" classics that existed outside it - Dickens, Dostoevsky, Melville, Golding, Greene, Kafka, Camus and the like. When I hit my forties (I'm now 47) the old love returned full force and life started all over again. To think I only discovered my love of Robert A. Heinlein or Gene Wolfe or Dashiell Hammett or your own beautiful tales in the past few years is cause for celebration, to my mind, and has me wide-eyed with expectancy at what is surely yet to come...

Sometimes taking a sabbatical from the things we love is good for us.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

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Posted From: 212.183.128.6
Posted on Wednesday, March 20, 2013 - 04:26 pm:   

God knows what I'll be reading in my eighties... God willing.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

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Posted From: 212.183.128.6
Posted on Wednesday, March 20, 2013 - 04:38 pm:   

There's always going to be a greater amount of easier to sift out quality in the past. And growing bigger all the time.

Longevity tends to equate to quality. My 20 year rule is as good a way of avoiding ploughing through a surfeit of mediocrity as any other, IMHO. But rules were also made to be broken as authors like Christopher Fowler prove all the time.
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Joel (Joel)
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Posted From: 2.30.203.31
Posted on Wednesday, March 20, 2013 - 07:50 pm:   

Craig, it's not that I've run out of great stuff to read or that I no longer rate what I used to enjoy. It's like that Clark Ashton Smith story where the ageing sorcerer magically invokes the phantom of his lost love, and she is as beautiful and welcoming as before, nothing is missing, except he's too old to make it. I'm starting to get that "It's not you, it's me" thing with the best of stuff. Whatever, this is getting maudlin, I'm sorry...
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

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Posted From: 81.149.182.62
Posted on Wednesday, March 20, 2013 - 08:05 pm:   

Try making a list of your favourite genre authors, novels, short stories, films and TV shows, Joel, and really think seriously about why you rank them. It's a great exercise for rejuvenating that old enthusiasm and can lead to many a surprise when done with complete objectivity, as opposed too subjectivity.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
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Posted From: 81.149.182.62
Posted on Wednesday, March 20, 2013 - 08:08 pm:   

Where the feck did that extra "o" come from ffs?!
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 81.149.182.62
Posted on Wednesday, March 20, 2013 - 09:09 pm:   

Already have to disagree with you, Joel. "The Return Of Hastur" was marked more by enthusiastic imitation than anything else but the very next story, "The Whippoorwills In The Hills", is on a whole different level and a really excellent Mythos story, IMO.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

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Posted From: 2.30.203.31
Posted on Wednesday, March 20, 2013 - 09:25 pm:   

Nooo – it's a crude rip-off of 'The Rats in the Walls'. Ramsey has commented that the last paragraph made him want to head for the hills himself.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

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Posted From: 2.30.203.31
Posted on Wednesday, March 20, 2013 - 09:28 pm:   

'Where the feck did that extra "o" come from ffs?!'

You're not the first person to ask me that.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Thursday, March 21, 2013 - 03:19 am:   

These things are mysteries, Joel. For some reason, lately, my ravenous appetite to read, can't physically be met by actual reading: I want to read far more than I will be able to; than I am able to at any given moment. But then, there are those rare times... where I scan over these scattered bookshelves, their crowded books... and I desperately wish I had a flamethrower in my hands, its dial set to 451. The chemicals in the mind get jostled, things get screwy: the human condition. The joy and enthusiasm will come back to you, it must. How could it not?

Loved reading two wildly different, but thematically similar comedic fantasies—Robert Heinlein's "Our Fair City" (1948) about a spunky sentient whirlwind; and C. M. Kornbluth's "Thirteen O'Clock" (1941), about a guy thrown into a suspiciously modern-seeming fantasy universe. Both, as much as Hammett or Chandler (or "Boardwalk Empire"!) ever did, probe to the very depths of societal/institutional corruption, with biting and hilarious satire. Such delightful movies these two would have made....
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Thursday, March 21, 2013 - 12:00 pm:   

Halfway through 'A Game For The Living' and Patricia, as expected, has thrown me a wobbly with the apparent identification of the killer and everyone's hypocritical reactions to the revelation, given the brilliantly described air of mutual suspicion and accusations that went before the "confession".

I still think she's leading me up the garden path and that the real murderer is the guy I've suspected from Chapter 1. The book is set in Mexico City and deals explicitly with the theme of Catholic guilt and the moral dilemma surrounding the whole idea of the Rite of Confession. The influence of Graham Greene & not a little Fyodor Dostoevsky is all over it. One of her hardest to predict psychological thrillers so far... and that's saying something!
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Thursday, March 21, 2013 - 12:09 pm:   

I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed "The Whippoorwills In The Hills" as an above average non-Lovecraft Mythos story. It lacks originalty, sure, and still has the taint of eager enthusiasm in the unsubtle gush of references but I found the atmosphere and narrative structure irresistible and highly entertaining. Derleth only needed to rein in his slavish adoration of his mentor to make this a near perfect tribute and continuation of his legacy. I'm interested to see how his writing style evolves, if at all, in the rest of these collections. So far they're great fun without being in any way groundbreaking.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Thursday, March 21, 2013 - 04:06 pm:   

**** SPOILERS ****

I think the last paragraph of TWITH was meant to be a reflection of the narrator's hopeless insanity rather than a literal statement of fact. Lovecraft himself was forever using the tactic, most famously in "Dagon".

We know the whippoorwills weren't responsible as it is explicitly stated that he was found in the physical act of tearing the throat from the final victim. I enjoyed the yarn.

Halfway through "Something In Wood" and, so far, it's an even more slavish imitation of "The Call Of Cthulhu".
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Friday, March 22, 2013 - 01:19 pm:   

Finished "The Pool Of The Black One" and it's another brilliantly vivid and thrilling tale that once again shows Conan in a shocking light as a cold blooded killer devoid of conscience. There is an act of betrayal and murder here as bad as anything in his earlier career. If Conan were a character in a D&D game he would be chaotic neutral, with an idea of loyalty that only applies to those willingly under his power, as stories like this one, "Rogues In The House", "Queen Of The Black Coast", "The Vale Of Lost Women" & "A Witch Shall Be Born" attest.

The Lovecraftian creatures in this story are one of Howard's most memorably horrific creations. What they do to their victims, with hints of forced sexual degradation that are all the more disturbing for not being spelled out, had me wondering like never before just what was going on in the author's mind as he was writing these tales. The level of cynicism and cruelty in this one takes the breath away and Conan's own actions and motivations are just as indefensible as anything the Black Ones get up to.

There is an absolutely brilliant and indescribably bloody long drawn out battle sequence between Conan's usurped band of pirates and giant flesh-rending monsters at the climax of this story that had my pulse pounding like few passages of literature I have ever read. Absolutely sensational writing!!
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Friday, March 22, 2013 - 01:21 pm:   

Next up "Red Nails" which is another one of my great favourites remembered from childhood, with a magnificent heroine every bit as impressive and daunting as the mighty Cimmerian.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Friday, March 22, 2013 - 03:38 pm:   

So far the Derleth Mythos stories are entertaining and atmospheric but, I agree, the unsubtle and rather too gushing works of a young writer almost embarrassingly in thrall to his mentor. I believe he did much the same thing with Arthur Conan Doyle & Sherlock Holmes in his Solar Pons stories (of which I have only read one - "The Intarsia Box" in 'Oriental Tales Of Terror') - and found it fun but slavishly imitative.

I can't say the same about the two magnificent stories in 'Tales Of The Cthulhu Mythos' - "The Dweller In Darkness" & "Beyond The Threshold" - and am resting my hopes on them for more of the same quality to come in these two collections. Fingers crossed.
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Hubert (Hubert)
Username: Hubert

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 92.225.42.243
Posted on Sunday, March 24, 2013 - 01:14 pm:   

*****SPOILER******

The best part is yet to come, Stevie: at one point the army decide to nuke R'lyeh. I thought I'd die when I came to that bit.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.212.231.15
Posted on Sunday, March 24, 2013 - 01:55 pm:   

Been dipping in and out of Let the Old Dreams Die - Lindqvist's short story collection - for a while. They really are very very good stories. Brilliantly creepy and lots of genuine scares - as was to be expected. His novels always contain fantastic set pieces which would read well as short stories in their own right. Just started on the title story which links to the events in Let the Right One In. I needn't have worried about this. It's just as good as the others and is taking a clever route rather than being a straight sequel.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 80.239.243.193
Posted on Sunday, March 24, 2013 - 02:17 pm:   

And in other news, John Dies at the End is a modern classic so far. Laugh out loud funny on a regular basis but somehow with a scary story at the same time. I'll certainly be picking up the sequel - This Book is Full Of Spiders - next week after I've been paid.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 94.116.49.197
Posted on Sunday, March 24, 2013 - 05:58 pm:   

'A Game For The Living' has resolved itself into a fascinating "did he or didn't he" mystery thriller of the 'Jagged Edge' variety. I'm still convinced he didn't and that I know who the real killer is... and that Patricia knows that I know. Great book, as ever. God, I love her...
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 2.30.199.6
Posted on Sunday, March 24, 2013 - 09:39 pm:   

Stevie, I'm bemused by your description of Derleth's two stories in TotCM as 'magnificent' – they are far worse than anything in Mask. Have you read some actual for-real GOOD Derleth stories like 'Mrs Manifold' or 'The Lonesome Place'? I'm not sure how you come to be squandering your superlatives on his worst efforts.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 86.24.62.55
Posted on Sunday, March 24, 2013 - 11:11 pm:   

Come on, Joel, they are great horror stories. "The Dweller In Darkness", in particular, is one of the tales that always stuck in my mind from that antho.

Read the first three and a half in TMOC so far and they're gradually getting better while being in no way great.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 86.24.62.55
Posted on Sunday, March 24, 2013 - 11:14 pm:   

We talked about "Mrs Manifold" on here in the past as a great Poe-like horror story.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.37.199.45
Posted on Monday, March 25, 2013 - 01:53 pm:   

It's also a great Lovecraftian horror story in the vein of 'Cool Air' or 'The Picture in the House'. The beauty of it is that the entry in the ledger tells you everything – the rest is waiting for the inevitable to happen, which it does at a morbidly unhurried pace. The story shows that Derleth learned subtle lessons from Lovecraft in terms of ironic distance, creeping escalation and letting the reader know more than the narrator can (initially) work out.

I believe Derleth wasn't keen on alcohol. I could be wrong though.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Monday, March 25, 2013 - 04:07 pm:   

Halfway through "Red Nails" and it's another absolute belter of a mini-epic novella. The best in the collection since "The People Of The Black Circle". That opening chapter with the titanic battle for survival against the dragon/dinosaur was as fecking exciting as fiction gets. Then the change of pace to eerie supernatural mystery as they explore the ancient city of Xuchotl is masterfully done... before plunging into blood-curdling action and terror in the dark intermingled that had the hairs standing up on my head in bed last night. All other fantasy writers should just give up after reading tales of this timeless quality, imho.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Monday, March 25, 2013 - 05:20 pm:   

"Mrs Manifold" read more in the tradition of W.W. Jacobs or M.R. James, to my mind, Joel, with its ghostly ECesque revenge and obvious allusions back to Poe - in this case a cask of Madeira wine. I agree, it's a classic ghost story.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 86.24.62.55
Posted on Friday, March 29, 2013 - 11:10 pm:   

Finished Patricia Highsmith's 'A Game For The Living' (1958) and I was right about the killer's identity. This is a whodunit in which solving the crime comes second to the psychological exploration of suspicion among best friends and the difference in mind sets between irrational Catholic guilt and austere Protestant pragmatism. It is exceptionally well written and thought provoking with a kind of emotional suspense to see how things pan out for the beautifully drawn characters driving the reader on.

Time to pick a new novel...
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.212.231.122
Posted on Friday, March 29, 2013 - 11:24 pm:   

Sp somtow vampire junction or paul auster New York Trilogy
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 86.24.62.55
Posted on Sunday, March 31, 2013 - 01:07 pm:   

Decided on 'Plan For Chaos' (1952) by John Wyndham. His fabled lost novel that only saw the light of day in 2009. It involves a plot by Nazi survivors of World War II to forge a Fourth Reich using perfect Aryan clones. I love Wyndham's fiction and have read most of it so this will be a special treat.
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Hubert (Hubert)
Username: Hubert

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 178.116.60.39
Posted on Sunday, March 31, 2013 - 01:42 pm:   

I especially love Wyndham's short stories. As far as I know there are only two collections: The Seeds of Time and Consider Her Ways. The Wikithing mentions Jizzle, but I've never seen this. There used to be an excellent black and white biography on youtube, apparently no longer there.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 86.24.62.55
Posted on Sunday, March 31, 2013 - 02:00 pm:   

Good news, Hubert! I have six John Wyndham collections all with different stories:

Jizzle (1954)
The Seeds Of Time (1956)
Consider Her Ways (1961)
Sleepers Of Mars (1973)
Wanderers Of Time (1973)
Exiles On Asperus (1979)

And apparently there's one more, 'No Place Like Earth' (2003), which is all I need to complete the collection.
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Hubert (Hubert)
Username: Hubert

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 178.116.60.39
Posted on Sunday, March 31, 2013 - 02:38 pm:   

I've never seen them, Stevie. Are they as good as Consider and Seeds?
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 86.24.62.55
Posted on Sunday, March 31, 2013 - 03:11 pm:   

I picked the other four up quite recently, Hubert, in second hand shops, and have yet to read them. I believe 'Jizzle' is one of his best collections, written in his prime. The others collect pulp sci-fi stories from early in his career. I believe most were published in the American magazines of the 30s and 40s.
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Mbfg (Mbfg)
Username: Mbfg

Registered: 09-2010
Posted From: 90.192.166.64
Posted on Sunday, March 31, 2013 - 09:20 pm:   

Stevie

"Jizzle" contains some great stories. Read it a long long time ago.

Just finished a neat sf novel called "Exit, Pursued by a Bee" by Geoff Nalder. Clever concept, compelling, fast paced narrative overrdies the occasional purple paragraph.

About to start "Automatic Safe Dog", by the marvellously eccentric Jet McDonald.

Cheers
Terry
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Sunday, March 31, 2013 - 11:23 pm:   

Having finished that superb retrospective fantasy anthology, which I can't recommend enough, I've decided to take my own advice to Stevie, on the one hand, and have gone back to re-read Or All The Seas With Oysters by Avram Davidson (1962); and on the other, diving into The Simple Art of Murder by Raymond Chandler (the 1950 edition). So far, excellent all, summed up thusly: Davidson? Can't be beat, by anyone. Chandler? Can, but only by Hammett (and sometimes, Ross McDonald).
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 86.24.62.55
Posted on Monday, April 01, 2013 - 08:13 am:   

Finished "Red Nails" and it's definitely one of my all time favourite Conan stories and one of the best longer pieces of fiction Howard wrote. Along with the non-stop and mercilessly bloody action there is a fascinating level of political intrigue that is more complex and deeply thought out than anything that went before. Conan is as devious and mercenary as ever and he is more than matched by the wonderful character of Valeria, a buxom no-bullshit blonde haired female warrior straight out of every man's innermost dreams.

The portrait of the insanely warring factions of Xuchotl, locked in their endless blood feud in which trophies representing each enemy killed are more precious than life itself, is as perfect a depiction of the self destructive meaninglessness of bigotry as I have read anywhere. The sheer amount of detail the author crams into this novella about their customs and mythology once again puts to shame any number of brick-like fantasy tomes, po-faced in their immensity, that you could care to mention. Breathlessly thrilling, vividly imaginative and touched with genuine genius this is as good as fantasy writing has or ever will get!! I really can't decide between this one and TPOTBC.

Already well into "Jewels Of Gwahlur" and I'm missing Valeria already. Who could possibly play her in a film version? No woman I can think of... and boy am I thinking!

I can see how some could find the highly charged eroticism of this story, with its blatant use of lesbianism to tittilate the male reader, as somewhat offensive but I, for one, had no problem with it.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 86.24.62.55
Posted on Monday, April 01, 2013 - 08:30 am:   

Four chapters in and 'Plan For Chaos' is an entertaining, if somewhat cliched, noir thriller set in New York, so far. The typically Wyndhamesque narrator is a hard-nosed newspaper reporter investigating a string of suspicious deaths of beautiful blondes who all happen to look startlingly alike. I get the impression this is going to be one of those "deeper he digs" type conspiracy thrillers in which a seemingly innocuous initial death opens a festering can of worms on an international scale. It's a fast paced easy read that I'm very much enjoying.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 86.24.62.55
Posted on Monday, April 01, 2013 - 08:37 am:   

Two thirds through 'The Mask Of Cthulhu' and so far I have to agree with Joel - there is very little appreciable improvement in quality from the level of obvious fan boy writing. Fun but inessential. I know Derleth is capable of far better than this so, being an eternal optimist, I still hold out hopes of a hidden gem or two.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 2.27.144.202
Posted on Monday, April 01, 2013 - 01:56 pm:   

WARNING: SPOILERS FOLLOW.

Stevie, John Clute judges 'Red Nails' the most important Conan story – but really only on the basis of one element, the 'decline of the West' allegory of the city-state's civil war. That aspect is striking, and there's an impressive passage describing it – we're in much the same territory as late Lovecraft with that, of course. 'Red Nails' was the last Conan story Howard wrote, and Clute argues that it can be read as a kind of suicide note warning his readers that the world's future would be a terrible one.

However, other aspects of the story are less convincing, and it shows signs of having been cobbled together from disparate notes. The initial fight scene is there simply because Howard wanted to write it, not because it belonged in the story. The concluding fight scene, a crucial one, is rather silly – the introduction of an electrical device is worthy of Lionel Fanthorpe. Only the appearance of the one who returns (not to overdo the spoiler) gives the scene any kind of gravitas. And you don't have to find the lesbian erotic strand offensive to find it juvenile and poorly written – "It's worse than you think" is such an embarrassingly bad line of dialogue it's not even funny.

There are fine stories (one in particular) further down the chronological timeline, but 'Red Nails' suggests to me that Howard was losing faith in the Conan series and in Weird Tales (which owed him a fortune by that time), and was pouring his anger and frustration into the story without taking much trouble over the quality of the narrative or the prose. It is still pretty good of course – that goes without saying.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 86.24.62.55
Posted on Monday, April 01, 2013 - 03:29 pm:   

It was the weird death ray device wielded by that ghoulish figure from the catacombs that always stuck in my mind, Joel. I loved the way Howard had the self restraint to only show us glimpses of the devilish secrets the Xotalancas had unearthed. The skull mask, the hideous Crawler (its form largely left to the imagination), the pipes of madness and the fire wand, or whatever it was. Also the way the dragon in the forest was integrated into the story as their god, making Conan a slayer of immortals, made that brilliant opening sequence all the more memorable and meaningful with hindsight. The lesbian witch, Tascela, with her unspeakable designs on Valeria, has to be one of the most memorable villains we have encountered as well and I found her internecine battle of wits with Prince Olmec to be truly gripping. If you include the 'decline of the west' allegory, that Clute is dead right about, then the story appears even more monumental and not a bit cobbled together, IMO. I still can't decide... TPOTBC is more varied in its thrills and twists but 'Red Nails' is the tighter and more focused narrative. I really believe that, Joel, and not just disagreeing for the sake of it.

Meanwhile "Jewels Of Gwahlur" reads remarkably like a noirish crime thriller with all sides bidding to outwit each other and come away with the prize. It's actually reminding me a lot of 'The Maltese Falcon' with Conan in the lone anti-hero role of Sam Spade...and every bit as casually immoral and ruthless. Great stuff!!
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.150.133.146
Posted on Friday, April 05, 2013 - 03:33 am:   

WEll I finished John Dies at the End last night. It's very very funny but the midsection of the book is a bit flabby in places. Still it's good enough that I had no hesitation in buying the sequel - and it also managed to turn one of the running jokes into a really horribly creepy idea in the final chapter.

Started on After the Lockout by Darren Macann (I think) set in 1917 Ireland. It seems well written from the first couple of chapters but seems to assume indepth knowledge on the part of the reader about the lockout and other events in Ireland at that time about which I am almost entirely ignorant.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 212.183.128.178
Posted on Friday, April 05, 2013 - 12:17 pm:   

Finished "Jewels Of Gwahlur" and it's more of a slight entertaining romp than some of the more majestic tales that preceded it in Conan's career. The plot has various criminal parties ruthlessly outwitting each other in the hunt for the priceless treasure of the title and a memorable race of monsters that act as its guardians. The ending is noteworthy due to the moral dilemma it presents our mercenary anti-hero with and the decision he instinctively makes reveals him as having mellowed somewhat with the years into more of a chaotic good than neutral character. There is a certain nobility in the man that points the way to his later attainments and belies the comparison with Sam Spade, when having to choose a scheming woman over untold riches. A great yarn!

And now for "Beyond The Black River"...
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.37.199.45
Posted on Friday, April 05, 2013 - 01:45 pm:   

Brace yourself, Stevie. This is a dark, dark story.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.37.199.45
Posted on Friday, April 05, 2013 - 01:50 pm:   

Comparison with Sam Spade?

Spade = scrawny, urbane, unlaid, sarcastic.

Conan = ripped, barbarian, sexually prolific, sarcastic.

Think I see what you mean.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 80.239.243.191
Posted on Friday, April 05, 2013 - 04:37 pm:   

Any chance anyone here could give me a quick history lesson on 1917 Irish politics surrounding the Lockout?
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Mick Curtis (Mick)
Username: Mick

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.169.104.78
Posted on Friday, April 05, 2013 - 05:53 pm:   

Currently reading Jeremy Dyson's wonderful "The Haunted Book".
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Mbfg (Mbfg)
Username: Mbfg

Registered: 09-2010
Posted From: 90.200.197.59
Posted on Friday, April 05, 2013 - 06:07 pm:   

Just finishing Jet Mcdonald's wacky, savage and spot-on satire on corporate culture, "Automatic Safe Dog". I unreservedly recommend this book. It is funny, but bites as sharply as the canines of the title. It has shades of Kafka mixed in with a spoonful of Heller's "Something Happened", seasoned with the chaotic wonder of "Catch 22" and spiced with a pinch of Sheckley-ish humour.

Can't say I've heard about the lockout, but will look it up because I don't like to be ignorant about historical events.

Cheers
Terry
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Mick Curtis (Mick)
Username: Mick

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.169.104.78
Posted on Friday, April 05, 2013 - 07:20 pm:   

Some info here, chaps:-

http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/easterrising/prelude/pr05.shtml
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 212.183.128.178
Posted on Friday, April 05, 2013 - 10:55 pm:   

I think I've clicked what Wyndham is up to. The dialogue works as a very funny pastiche of American noir filtered through a distinctly British and respectable sensibility. Either that or it is unintentionally funny in the same way Gerry Anderson's shows were.

And this is my way of introducing my new favourite sci-fi show of all time and my new role model... 'Fireball XL5' is a children's programme made in 1962 that features an ethnically diverse crew exploring the universe in a starship piloted by Commander Steve Zodiac. This man taught Kirk everything he knows and could out chat him with any woman - no matter how beautiful or what colour her skin!

Sample dialogue:

Leggy blonde he has just rescued: "Oh, Steve, how can I ever thank you? Now I know why they call you the greatest astronaut in space patrol!"

Steve: "I think you're cute too."

Look to camera. Gleaming twinkle off his whiter than white teeth. Fade to black. And we're into the catchiest and silliest pop jingle theme tune I have ever heard! Just watched the first three episodes and I'm already in love.

Started a notebook of this great man's chat up lines already. Thank you, Gerry. You were a fecking genius!!
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 212.183.128.178
Posted on Friday, April 05, 2013 - 11:09 pm:   

He has a big rocket too!!
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 212.183.128.178
Posted on Friday, April 05, 2013 - 11:12 pm:   

And the tip comes off when he gets excited, although, that's where we thankfully differ!

I love this show so much. Just watch it. Pure escapism!
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 212.183.128.178
Posted on Saturday, April 06, 2013 - 02:12 am:   

But is the definition of escapism to consider oneself a puppet or an imaginative individual? People who escape the bonds of the apparent prison they seem to live within - called "life" - are the true heroes. Be it Conan, Steve Zodiac, Sam Spade, H.G. Wells, Robert A. Heinlein, Woody Allen, Frank Zappa or Stevie Walsh.

This Bolivian ganja really is great stuff!!
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Saturday, April 06, 2013 - 04:58 am:   

Thinking I understand the criterion (which I may not), Stevie, I'd add to that list: Socrates, Montaigne, Nietzsche, Van Gogh, and Ninja/Yolandi.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 2.30.198.237
Posted on Saturday, April 06, 2013 - 12:50 pm:   

And Sonic the Hedgehog. And Toffle. And Snufkin. My three role models.

No, 'escapism' is, for better or worse, not a real escape but just a step into a liberating dream that remains a dream. If Conan were an escapist he'd sit in a dungeon somewhere reading the adventures of Stevie Walsh, and occasionally saying "I should work out more".

There's nothing wrong with escapism as long as it remains an occasional diversion from the business of life, which is not so much escaping from the prison as leading a prison revolt, taking the guards hostage, and demanding freedom.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 212.183.128.178
Posted on Saturday, April 06, 2013 - 01:19 pm:   

That's a great idea for a story, Joel!!
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 212.183.128.36
Posted on Monday, April 08, 2013 - 08:29 pm:   

I can understand you hero worshipping Sonic the Hedgehog, Joel, as he's so adept at collecting rings, but who the fuck are Toffle and Snufkin? Or are they euphemisms?
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 2.30.198.227
Posted on Tuesday, April 09, 2013 - 12:15 am:   

Both Tove Jansson characters. Toffle overcomes existential alienation and travels through dark forests and across icy seas to confront the evil Groke and rescue the tiny, lonely Miffle. Snufkin is an itinerant musician who wanders across the frozen wastes while sensible folk are hibernating, and returns with tales of the aurora borealis and the strange creatures of the islands.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Tuesday, April 09, 2013 - 11:43 am:   

I only know the Moomins from the TV show (1977-82) and thought it was wonderfully surreal and imaginative. One of the best stop motion shows I have seen and with an otherworldly creepiness to it that really gets under the skin. Must see if the box set is still available.

It reminds me in tone of the works of Oliver Postgate, particularly 'Noggin The Nog'. I have most of his stuff on DVD and would rank 'The Clangers' as one of the finest sci-fi TV shows ever made - in all seriousness. I watch it all every few years, when I'm feeling nostalgic, and the magic of the show never lessens. The one in which the astronaut lands and tries to claim their planet, with its riches in soup, for the United States, is as incisive a critique of modern capitalist colonialism as I have seen. We must start a separate thread on political subversion within children's TV!
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.37.199.45
Posted on Tuesday, April 09, 2013 - 01:23 pm:   

Stevie, the Moomin books are 1940s and 1950s Finnish books that were translated into English in the 50s and 60s. I don't know anything about the TV adaptations except that they weren't drawn by Tove Jansson, which for me was a good reason for avoiding them.

The autumnal scene in Finn Family Moomintroll where Snufkin and Moomintroll say goodbye for the winter is one of my favourite prose passages, a haunting evocation of the vulnerability of friendship. So there.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Tuesday, April 09, 2013 - 03:34 pm:   

I only caught isolated episodes, out of context, back in the day, as I was a teenager by that time, but everything I saw of 'The Moomins' show was pure magic, Joel. It was made in Poland and dubbed into English and Tove Jansson herself had full artistic control over the look and atmosphere of the show and expressed herself very happy with the end result. It consists of exactly 100 five minute episodes, best watched in 4 episode chunks, that tell the story of the books entirely faithfully. If the box set wasn't now selling for over £60 I'd already have ordered it ffs!
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.37.199.45
Posted on Tuesday, April 09, 2013 - 04:03 pm:   

wow

like wow
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Tuesday, April 09, 2013 - 04:41 pm:   

My reaction exactly, Joel.

Oh dear, I feel a Top 10 coming on me...
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Wednesday, April 10, 2013 - 11:21 am:   

Finished "Beyond The Black River". Another absolutely brilliant novella with a new level of grim barbarity in its storyline of the overthrowing of a colonial settlement on the fringe of the wilderness by the bloodthirsty Pictish hordes. This one has a flavour of the Old West about it with Conan as the experienced tracker lending his services to the settlers but ultimately unable to hold back their complete annihilation. The friendship he strikes up with young woodsman, Balthus, is oddly touching without being in any way sentimental (as if!). The unrelenting horrors they go through together, as they find themselves stranded and stalked deep behind enemy lines in an unforgiving forest terrain filled with natural and unnatural dangers, shows Howard at the very peak of his powers as a writer of raw gripping adventure. It's certainly up there with "The People Of The Black Circle" and "Red Nails" as one of the author's greatest longer works of fiction and ends on a devastatingly bleak note that sees him almost wanting to punish the reader for having engaged with his characters so completely. This one has it all! Unforgiving in its brutality this is truly great fantasy adventure writing of a kind we will never see again. Phew...

Next up "The Black Stranger".
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Wednesday, April 10, 2013 - 11:39 am:   

Halfway through 'Plan For Chaos' and the action has really picked up as Wyndham plunges us into pure science fiction territory following the entertaining noir crime build up in New York. Our hero finds himself having accidentally infiltrated a super race of identical male and female blue eyed blonde Nazi clones who travel around the world in a fleet of flying saucers setting up some as yet unspecified masterplan for world domination. What makes his predicament all the more nightmarish is that he looks exactly like them and has no idea why or how! The suspense is razor edge as he tries to piece together what the hell is going on while trying to appear as if he already knows and it is the strength of the increasingly bewildered and frightened first person narration that really carries the book. Excellent stuff and incredibly ahead of its time coming a mere six years after the end of the war and decades before Ira Levin's strikingly similar 'The Boys From Brazil' (1976). I wonder was Wyndham even aware, in later years, of the contactee cult that still believes flying saucers are Nazi controlled and who couldn't possibly have read his unpublished novel?! Excellent stuff!!
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.212.231.1
Posted on Wednesday, April 10, 2013 - 12:06 pm:   

Finished After the Lockout last night. Although it's engagingly written it falls into a few traps which seriously lessen any impact it should have. Firstly - a major trap in historical fiction is hindsight. The two central characters seem to spend lots of time making predictions about what the future holds. The guy we're supposed to sympathise with appears almost psychic with his powers of prophesy. On the other hand, the bad guy of the piece spends half his time spotting on how inventions like the radio, car and telephone will never catch on. Another trap the writer falls into is one dimensional characters. The two leads have their opposite obsessions and spend their time talking about virtually nothing else. The third trap is the stock and cliched characters, the drunk come good, backward and regressive bishop, tart with the heart, brave freedom fighter, they're all in here and all one dimensional. Finally if doesn't seen to have done his research and thinks that a shotgun and a rifle are the same thing. Overall i can only give this 4/10 because of the many faults. It is a very easy read though
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Wednesday, April 10, 2013 - 12:22 pm:   

The Nazi flying saucers use a new form of stealth technology to avoid being detected on radar and have bases in remote locations dotted around the world. So Wyndham got there first with that idea as well! This would have made a cracking 50s sci-fi movie.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.37.199.45
Posted on Wednesday, April 10, 2013 - 01:44 pm:   

Glad you loved 'Beyond the Black River', Stevie, as I was sure you would. There seems to be more of REH in it than in any other Conan story – hence the quasi-Western feel. Indeed, from a critical point of view it has to be said that this just doesn't belong to the same world as the rest of the story cycle. But seeing as it's REH we'll forgive that and take this brooding, bleak, brilliant monolith of stark rage and despair as proof that 'slipstream' fiction wasn't invented in the 1980s, it was always there. The story's closing line is REH taking the reader by the throat and muttering, very quietly, "Now do you get it?"
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Wednesday, April 10, 2013 - 04:17 pm:   

It has me wanting to read more of Howard's western stories, Joel. No matter how un-PC they may be nowadays I can imagine just how dark, thrilling and action-packed they must be. I've only read one of them, "The Man On The Ground", and it was a western ghost story but did include an absolutely brilliant gunfight sequence that was as visceral as anything in the Conan stories. Are they available do you know?
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 81.149.182.62
Posted on Wednesday, April 10, 2013 - 08:04 pm:   

**** SPOILERS ****

This John Wyndham novel gets better and better and harder to predict with every chapter! I'm now into Part Two and from pulp adventure in the noir and sci-fi tradition we're now into the realms of sanity sapping terror involving revelations about one's birthright that recall Lovecraft's greatest work, "The Shadow Over Innsmouth". But this astonishingly prescient work is a hell of a lot more sociologically and historically interesting! They might be at it now for all we know!

This book creates its own modern paranoid mythology that makes perfect and terrifying sense. The question "What is your number?" never had a greater resonance outside of Orwell's '1984' - the book I now realise inspired this great novel. Wyndham was braver than Orwell or Bradbury but too brave for the publishers of his time. I salute you, sir, wherever you are and would kill a dozen Picts in memory of your shade...
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 2.30.193.164
Posted on Thursday, April 11, 2013 - 09:16 am:   

Stevie, the novella 'Vultures of Wahpeton' is in the Penguin Modern Classics (yay woo) collection Heroes in the Wind, and was also published as a short paperback in the US. I think Wildside have done a trade paperback of Howard's Western adventures but I haven't seen it. You've reminded me to read 'Vultures' – thanks!

As regards 'political correctness' in REH it obviously makes no sense to come at those stories with 21st-century expectations, but it's not unreasonable to use the likes of Jack London as a reference point. Socialism was very strong in the US literature of the 20s and 30s, as you know – probably stronger than at any time since, which makes it as much 'the views of the time' as anything else. But REH belongs to neither left nor right, he belongs to his own fierce bipolar clarity.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Friday, April 12, 2013 - 12:19 pm:   

Halfway through "The Black Stranger" and it's yet another utterly great novella that, so far, is every bit as exciting and crammed full of impossible detail as TPOTBC, RN or BTBR. I love the ones in which Conan is almost an incidental character and the story is told from various different viewpoints, as here. This is one of the best pirate stories I have read and works as a direct sequel to "Beyond The Black River" with its fantastic opening chase sequence as Conan is hounded to the point of death by a vengeful war party of Picts. Fantastic stuff!!
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.134.107.80
Posted on Saturday, April 13, 2013 - 04:30 pm:   

After the disappointment of a historical novel that was After the Lockout, I'm now 200 pages into Rupert Thomson's new book Secrecy and loving it.

This is set in 17th century Florence and is sumptiously written. Thomson manages to avoid all the traps than Macann fell into in his Irish novel. The characters feel like they belong in the time period. Any parallels with modern day culture remain just that, parallels, not some kind of psychic ability by the narrator.

And, as usual with Rupert Thomson's books, the prose is gorgeous, compulsive and utterly readable. At times poetic, but never lapsing into pretentiousness (pretention?). There is a reason that whenever he puts out a new book it goes straight to the top of my TBR pile.

Sample quote

"It was a happy time, the happiest I had ever known. Later, though, when I looked back, I saw that I had been living in a kind of dream state. But perhaps that's what happiness is: a suspension of disbelief or a willed ignorance, which, like held breath, cannot be sustained beyond a certain point."
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 2.30.194.72
Posted on Saturday, April 13, 2013 - 11:27 pm:   

Is that really just a 'sample' quote, Weber? It's the kind of quote you want to have tattooed on your face in backwards lettering so you can read it in the mirror every day. I've only read one Thomson novel, which I think was called The Book of Revelations, but it stunned me – that was a couple of years ago and I want to read more of his work, but for complicated reasons (to do with eyestrain) I read less than I used to. If you could recommend a couple of his novels I'd be grateful.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.134.107.80
Posted on Sunday, April 14, 2013 - 01:51 am:   

It's a well chosen sample quote... lets put it that way.

The first of his books I ever read was The Insult - chosen because as I was walking through Waterstone it fell off the shelf as I walked past. As I went to put it back the cover intrigued me so I checked the plot description on the back, which sounded like very much my kind of thing so i opened it to check the first couple of pages.

Half an hour and 40 pages later one of the shop assistants asked me if I was going to stand there reading it all day or did I want to buy it...

Anyway, it's the story of a young man who is shot in the head and loses his sight, until one night a miracle occurs...

The book of Revelation is one of my favourites. The ending is one of the most perfect I think I've ever read.

The Five gates of Hell covers some similar ground to the Blue Mask - and manages to be sexy and disturbing at the same time.

Dreams of Leaving is another Masterpiece - reminiscent of Jonathan carroll at his best, with extra drug use thrown in for good measure. The story of a village that no one is allowed to leave, and Moses who escaped as a new born baby when his mother put him in a reed basket and floated him down the river. This one had me laughing out loud one page and nearly sobbing the next.

Death of a Murderer - a young policeman is asked to guard the body of a notorious child killer on the night of her death. This one explores the undercurrents of British society in ways I can't recall reading anywhere else. Absolutely fantastic.

This Party's got to Stop - one of the most devastatingly honest feeling autobiographies I've read.

Soft - how many novels are ther where the hired contract killer is a more sympathetic character than an advertising executive? This dissects the world of advertising with razor sharp satire and real pathos.

All but 2 of his books are absolutely excellent IMHO. I wasn't sure about Air and Fire although I believe Gary Zed loved that one and Divided kingdom, although fantastically written, had too silly a central idea.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Sunday, April 14, 2013 - 02:54 am:   

Finished Avram Davidson's Or All The Seas With Oysters, still a beautiful collection of scifi, fantasy, and the just plain weird. I ended it on what I'd forgotten was such a chilling horror story, "The Sixth Season" (1960); bizarrely, it's only appeared originally in The Magazine of F&SF, then here in this collection—but nowhere else. Yes, I do believe, as time claims many another to the dust, in scifi & fantasy, Davidson's stature will not only remain, but rise....
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 2.30.193.151
Posted on Sunday, April 14, 2013 - 09:17 am:   

Thanks for the recommendations, Weber! I'll see what I can find.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Wednesday, April 17, 2013 - 03:12 am:   

Have gone back to dip into Gallery of Horror (1983), edited by Charles Grant, while rooting around for what next to read (or maybe I'll just stay with this). And chose to re-read two novellas—T.E.D. Klein's "Petey" and Stephen King's "Nona" (both 1979). Klein's could easily have been a much shorter story... but it would have lost so much, so. Whereeas King's, *sigh*, makes me wish I could believe every work he's ever penned is as chillingly beautiful as this one: I'd have piles of reading ahead of me. I'm by no means saying King's every word up to the present isn't—no, it's not King, it's entirely me... too uncertain to take the time and effort to find out....
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Wednesday, April 17, 2013 - 12:58 pm:   

Have to say "The Black Stranger" is truly magnificent and, I believe, surely the longest of the Conan novellas I've read so far. Nearly finished it and the mixture of bloody action and treacherous intrigue among the various groupings and shaky alliances - Conan, Zingaran soldiers, a shipful of buccaneers, a rival ship of pirates (apparently the two are distinct and hate each other) and ravening Pictish hordes - who are all in search of the lost Treasure of Tranicos, has been every bit as imaginative, thrilling and utterly compelling as any of the other novellas we've talked about. Add the supernatural horror element of the demonic horned "black stranger", whatever it is and whatever it wants with poor terrified Count Valenso, and you have just about as perfect a fantasy tale as has ever been written. And I have no idea how this one is going to pan out...
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 194.66.23.11
Posted on Wednesday, April 17, 2013 - 05:36 pm:   

Finished Secrecy by Rupert Thomson and it's an easy contender already for best book of the year.

Finally about to start on Lisey's Story by the rather marvellous Mr king.

If i can get hold of the new Joe Hill NOS 4R2 before I finish Lisey, I might read that as the follow up.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Wednesday, April 17, 2013 - 05:47 pm:   

I have a female friend who is a Stephen King fanatic - and lecturer in Art History, so she's intelligent - and she ranks 'Lisey's Story' as "easily" his best novel. She keeps pestering me to read it and I think I still have her copy somewhere. So I think you're in for a treat, Weber.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.134.108.83
Posted on Wednesday, April 17, 2013 - 11:44 pm:   

l

I love the surprises you find in second hand books sometimes. This is the blank page at the back of my copy of Lisey's Story.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.134.108.83
Posted on Wednesday, April 17, 2013 - 11:55 pm:   

dammit! Can't get a picture that will load. I'll try to scan it at work tomorrow
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.134.108.83
Posted on Thursday, April 18, 2013 - 12:14 am:   

l

try again
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.134.108.83
Posted on Thursday, April 18, 2013 - 12:30 am:   

A transcript-

I'm writing this on onw of the back pages at the back of my Stephen King book (its poo so far) It's 1.10am and I'm on lunch in the canteen. I'm packing tubes of toothpaste (dead exciting) but it's money as you are well aware.
Since I spoke to u on saturday morning, the whole situation has been going round + round + round + round in my head. Since then I've had the familiar feeling of a heavy heart. I thought we had struck some kind of middle ground an that everything was going o.k.. Over the year I have to think about how I approach you, and I'll be the 1st to admit that I went about things the wrong way, alas, it don't seem to matter wot i do or say, you don't want me. I got txtxs last wk, loads of 'em, about how you "couldn't wait to see me" How you were "missing me" + and then the last one was on Saturday morning. You said you wished I was with you 'cos you would "av me for b/fast". How top do you think that makes me feel? Brilliant, honestly. then I went out myself + got a paper, cigs + some eggs, bacon, mushrooms + tomatoes so as we wouldn't have to worry sunday morning. There's me, back in bed, daydreaming and trying to think how to make things a bit special for us. i even txt u to tell you could have a lovely lie in + B+B. I was gonna get flowers as well (the candles, champagne + bath bombs were already taken care of). So there's me, buzzin, away with the fairies, so I phone you
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.134.108.83
Posted on Thursday, April 18, 2013 - 12:30 am:   

And that's where it finished... i guess his/her lunch break finished
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 86.24.62.55
Posted on Thursday, April 18, 2013 - 11:21 am:   

Very sad.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 86.24.62.55
Posted on Thursday, April 18, 2013 - 12:59 pm:   

Finished "The Black Stranger" and I can't believe this short novel is not more highly thought of nor can I understand why it was rejected for publication during Howard's lifetime - only making its first unabridged appearance in print in 1987 ffs! Perhaps the scene in which the helpless child, Tina, is stripped and flogged might have been considered too shocking even for the 1930s but that most vicious of moments in all the Conan tales only makes this one all the more unnerving, IMO. It is a masterpiece every bit as impressive as "The People Of The Black Circle", "Red Nails" or "Beyond The Black River" and has the most cohesive and unpredictable plot of any of them. Howard gives us one thrilling action set piece after another, forever topping himself and leaving the reader gasping, until that apocalyptic final battle in the stockade when all sides meet their ultimate fate. This may turn out to be my favourite of all the Conan tales, with only four left to read!

Next up "Wolves Beyond The Border"...
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 212.183.128.157
Posted on Thursday, April 18, 2013 - 04:28 pm:   

Just finished John Wyndham's 'Plan For Chaos' (1952) and it belongs in the front rank of great British sci-fi novels, IMO. The book ultimately reveals itself as a cutting satire on the Cold War and fanatical dictatorship. A surviving branch of Nazi die-hards, bolstered by German scientific genius during the War years, comes up with a seemingly fool proof plan to gain world domination and the creation of a global Fourth Reich by craftily inciting nuclear Armageddon from behind the scenes and then moving in like identical ants to dominate the blasted aftermath. The one thing they didn't count on was the human spirit - and its innate selfishness - bubbling to the surface despite all attempts to stifle it by rejection of individuality in the form of appearance, name and social status. A fascinating allegory that would have made the times it was written in all the richer if it had only been published and debated over then. As it is the novel remains a brilliantly prescient time capsule of the rampant fears for the future that arose in the wake of the 1940s global madness. Wyndham deserves more acknowledgement as a prophet and as a uniquely British satirist of the first order!

Now starting 'The Thief Of Always' (1992) by Clive Barker for the first time. It looks and sounds wonderful and was his first book for children.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.134.107.224
Posted on Saturday, April 20, 2013 - 01:12 am:   

I wasn't sure at the start of the book, but I'm now getting quite hooked into Lisey's Story. The gradual reveal of Lisey's life with her ex is brilliantly done and there's an escalating sense of threat that promises great things for later.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 212.183.128.37
Posted on Sunday, April 21, 2013 - 01:45 am:   

Where's my mate, Joel?
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 2.30.194.114
Posted on Sunday, April 21, 2013 - 12:35 pm:   

Hi Stevie. Just posted something about Joe Hill. But I need to keep quiet. Medication issues making me rather confused and bad-tempered. Sometimes I behave like I'm drunk – though oddly, when I'm drunk I don't behave like that.

Just read an article in Wormwood arguing that H. Rider Haggard had a weird and fatalistic side at odds with his popular image as a writer of action-packed fun adventures. The same is true of Howard of course, but in Howard you really couldn't miss it. I don't know Haggard but the article makes him sound quite interesting.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Monday, April 22, 2013 - 11:41 am:   

I'd be interested to hear your opinion of "The Black Stranger", Joel.

Meanwhile, several chapters in and I'm wholly captivated by Barker's 'The Thief Of Always' (1992). It has that fast paced timeless fairy-tale quality that all the best children's fantasies share. I am reminded in no small measure of the early works of Alan Garner - yet again - and the stripped down yet vividly descriptive clarity of the prose is a joy to read.

A bored young boy, called Harvey, has been lured away from his dreary home life by a weird little grinning man, called Rictus, who appeared at his bedroom window carrying promises of fun, games and excitement in the Holiday House of Mrs Griffin, where every child's dreams come true. One can guess what's coming but in Clive's hands the beauty is all in the disturbingly tangible and creepy as fuck nature of his wild flights of imagination. The author's own admirably restrained illustrations bring his bizarre characters to life with startling immediacy that only adds to the visual impact of the action. Why this has gone over 20 years without being filmed is beyond me! The similarities to Rowling's 'Harry Potter' books (1997-2007) and Neil Gaiman's 'Coraline' (2002) hardly need pointing out.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Monday, April 22, 2013 - 12:17 pm:   

I'm only familiar with the film versions of Haggard's work, Joel. A few times I've been tempted to give him a try but fear of datedness has forever held me back. Anyone here have any direct knowledge of the man's work and how it holds up today?
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Ramsey Campbell (Ramsey)
Username: Ramsey

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 92.8.18.148
Posted on Monday, April 22, 2013 - 12:32 pm:   

Not direct, but Jenny still finds his work very interesting.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Tuesday, April 23, 2013 - 12:03 pm:   

Two thirds through 'The Thief Of Always' and will be finished it in no time. Above almost anything I have read by Barker this one proves what a born storyteller he is. I also now realise why the book has never been filmed. No one would touch it for fear of traumatising the kids it was intended for! This reads like a childhood nightmare come to life in the form of one of his longer 'Books Of Blood' stories. It is quite wonderful and scary as feck!
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Tuesday, April 23, 2013 - 12:19 pm:   

Finished the draft story "Wolves Beyond The Border". Narrated in the first person by an Aquilonian ranger on the borders of the Pictish Wilderness it tells of a brutal civil war that is tearing the country apart and mentions Conan as a barbarian usurper leading a popular uprising against the cruel King Namedides. It's a short but fascinating peripheral story that provides a vital clue to the most momentous moment in Conan's life thus far.

And I'm already well into "The Phoenix On The Sword" that sees the Cimmerian as the crowned King of Aquilonia - languishing in the Royal Court as he struggles with matters of state while wishing he was on a horse riding into battle. Be careful what you wish for, Conan!

At long last this story also introduces us to the Stygian black magician and fount of evil, Thoth-Amon, as he engages in a fiendish plan to assassinate the new King. Previously only mentioned in "The God In The Bowl", when Conan was but a young thief, he is one of the great villainous characters in fantasy fiction.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Wednesday, April 24, 2013 - 02:44 pm:   

Finished 'The Thief Of Always'. The fabulous ending made me sniffle and smile at the same time. It is one of the greatest children's fantasies ever written and certainly the scariest - topping Alan Garner's 'The Weirdstone Of Brisingamen' (1960) for unrelenting horror - even for this adult!

This book stands as one of the shining jewels in Clive Barker's bibliography. Okay, he nicked the lost time element from the classic kids' sci-fi film 'The Flight Of The Navigator' (1986) but we can forgive him that for the sheer originality of everything else on offer in this timeless moral fable for all ages. I loved it.

Now have to decide on a replacement novel.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Wednesday, April 24, 2013 - 02:56 pm:   

Also finished the suprisingly short - after all the recent novellas - "The Phoenix On The Sword". It's a great self-contained assassination plot tale that sees King Conan worryingly out of his depth and relying, like never before, on advisors and outside help to survive what has to be one of his closest brushes with death yet. I was struck by a nicely underplayed poignancy in the portrayal of the ageing barbarian warrior as not quite as agile or strong in face-to-face combat as he once was. If it hadn't been for the phoenix on the sword our saga would have ended here. Wonderful stuff and I can only hope this isn't the last we have seen of Thoth-Amon - a long lived and many adventured follower of the left hand path whose life story would be every bit as fascinating as the Cimmerian's.

Next up the penultimate tale, "The Scarlet Citadel"...
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.212.230.114
Posted on Wednesday, April 24, 2013 - 03:39 pm:   

Replacement novel - death is a lonely business by mr raymond douglas bradbury
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Wednesday, April 24, 2013 - 05:00 pm:   

Read it last year, Weber, and I agree it is one of his best novels!

Its sequel, 'A Graveyard For Lunatics' (1990), if I can find it, might not be a bad idea.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 212.183.128.253
Posted on Wednesday, April 24, 2013 - 07:13 pm:   

Onto the last story in August Derleth's 'The Mask Of Cthulhu' and Joel was right. The quality of the stories hasn't improved but there are some interesting insights into the philosophy behind Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos that agree with my own reading of the cosmology. Derleth's description of Yog-Sothoth as "The All-in-One and One-in-All" is a particularly striking example that I was quite chuffed to read!
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Thursday, April 25, 2013 - 05:21 am:   

Wasn't a huge fan of Death is a Lonely Business, myself; started off lyrical, but I felt Bradbury didn't know quite where to take it, so that it sort of unraveled by the end; and the writing style that so allures at the beginning, waxed extremely tedious for me by the close. I'm sure I'm in the minority.

Finished this Gallery of Horror antho. Some great little stories inside, an equal amount of tepid ones. The very best were the reprints (only six), and of the others, only those by Ramsey ("The Sunshine Club") and Morrell ("The Typewriter") stood out for me. Alas, I ended it on a facile and wretchedly written novella, by Eric Van Lustbader, "In Darkness, Angels": glaringly terrible writing from top to bottom—what was Grant thinking, including this?! I guess Van Lustbader was a hot writer at the time (warranting one of only three names on the cover [the other two being King's and Campbell's]); some thirty years on, those lurid paperback covers are yet burned in my mind (e.g., The Ninja, The Miko). Egad.

Speaking of, will probably be starting Charles L. Grant's 4th Oxrun Station novel next, The Grave (1981).
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 80.239.243.188
Posted on Thursday, April 25, 2013 - 10:36 am:   

Well Lisey has me well and truly in her spell now. About 100 pages to in and this take of a writer's widow breaking through the purple curtain of her hidden memories to the dark secrets of her husbands life and writing has woven its magic almost puffickly.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Thursday, April 25, 2013 - 11:25 am:   

Halfway through "The Scarlet Citadel" and the trials of being a King continue to beset Conan. This time he is himself the victim of a devious plan to usurp the crown by an alliance of the neighbouring countries of Ophir and Koth. I'm as far as the famous scene that sees him chained to the wall in an impregnable dungeon and having to feign death while a huge venomous serpent with foot long fangs slithers ever closer. Wonderful stuff, as ever.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Thursday, April 25, 2013 - 11:42 am:   

The first short novel I plucked from my box of surprises and have brought into work to start today is Graham Greene's seminal noir thriller, 'The Third Man' (1949). Interestingly, and perhaps uniquely, this was written before Greene got stuck into the screenplay of the rightly famous film, directed by Carol Reed, purely so that he could work out the atmosphere, characterisation and mood of the story. His almost obsessive attention to detail didn't half pay dividends!

This book also includes the short story, "The Basement Room" (1935), that went on to be filmed, again by Carol Reed, as 'The Fallen Idol' (1948). A stone cold classic thriller, with stunning performances by Ralph Richardson & young Bobby Henrey, that should be as famous as 'Odd Man Out' (1947) & 'The Third Man' (1949), imo. A trilogy of timeless masterpieces that represent British cinema at its absolute peak.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Thursday, April 25, 2013 - 12:32 pm:   

Also just started Derleth's 'The Trail Of Cthulhu' (1962) which purports to be "a novel". The book consists of five linked long stories written from 1944-1952. So far the quality is of the same superficially entertaining but wearisomely obvious nature as TMOC.

Derleth's enthusiasm outweighs his skill as a writer in these slavish imitations of the master. Subtlety and the art of hinting at unspoken horrors is paramount in weird fiction, imo, and Derleth is about as subtle as a punch in the face in these tales.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Thursday, April 25, 2013 - 05:15 pm:   

Flying through 'The Third Man'. The differences between the novel (the quality of which belies the speed with which it was written to order) and the finished film (that I've seen many, many times, including on the big screen) are utterly fascinating. For starters, Holly Martins is called Rollo Martins in the book, but Joseph Cotten insisted on the name change when it came to filming, and the written story is narrated dispassionately by Major Calloway (Trevor Howard's character), as he pieces the mystery together after the "death" of Harry Lime, rather than from Holly's bewildered point of view in the movie version.

To think that Greene could have knocked out such a startlingly original and gripping short novel in just a few months, at the instigation of Alexander Korda & Carol Reed (keen for an immediate follow-up to 'The Fallen Idol'), and went on to turn it into one of the greatest screenplays in cinema history is all the evidence anyone should need to confirm him as arguably the greatest English language author of the 20th Century. Quite remarkable!!
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.134.105.249
Posted on Friday, April 26, 2013 - 12:40 am:   

I bid thee all good night. i'm going to try to finish Lisey's story tonight as I have just over a week to try to finish that and this month's book club book - Sacred Hunger by Barry unsworth - which I didn't realise till I bought my copy, is over 600 pages... in small print
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Friday, April 26, 2013 - 02:05 am:   

Hey, I have The Third Man, too, Stevie... when you're done, rank it on that list you made, to see if it's worth me turning to it sooner or not.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 86.24.62.55
Posted on Friday, April 26, 2013 - 04:56 am:   

Dear God, the long sequence in which Conan escapes his bonds and wanders lost in the Hell pits of the Scarlet Citadel, encountering one nameless monstrosity after another, is surely one of the most frightening passages of weird fiction ever written. Powerful stuff, made all the more nightmarish by the author's restraint in only hinting at the form of some of the gibbering abominations that come shambling from the darkness to send the Cimmerian fleeing in soul blasted terror ever deeper... until, the thought of whatever rose from that slime walled pit is going to haunt me for quite some time. Truly spine-tingling horror writing that is the equal of anything from the pen of H.P. Lovecraft. Shudder...
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Friday, April 26, 2013 - 03:56 pm:   

Craig, 'The Third Man' is a short incisive crime thriller driven by a deceptively simple plot device that sets up an emotional whirlpool of character development. It is quite brilliant. Imagine Greene trying to write a short and sweet Jim Thompson or Donald E. Westlake thriller and injecting his own obsessions. That's what you have here.

Another difference is that Martins & Lime are English in the novel, not American, and the subtle insights into what made them such firm friends, right from their sternly British boarding school days together, when Harry took Rollo under his wing but always left him to take the blame, yet the idiot is too densely loyal to realise this, provide a depth and insight into the motivations and emotional responses of the characters that the film could only hint at. It may be a minor Greene but it is still a masterpiece of crime writing!
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Friday, April 26, 2013 - 04:09 pm:   

In this novel Greene approaches the problems of "blind faith" from a painfully personal angle. Martins believes implicitly in Lime's friendship and gives him his undying loyalty as a result - despite increasing evidence to the contrary. Yet it is Martins' very loyalty and faith that make him such a lovely, sympathetic character. The reader finds himself down on his knees praying to the ghost of Harry Lime for it all to be true and poor gormless Rollo not to have to face the reality of abject betrayal. Yet, ultimately, who betrays who? And who is eternally punished for it?

I read this book as a modern fable that imagines Rollo Martins as an apostle of the Antichrist, in the form of Harry Lime. However, unlike Manson's followers, this puppet assumes truly Christ-like proportions himself by taking on evil, submerging in it and coming out the other side with his integrity intact... even if his heart has been shattered. The price of faith. The price of love. Sigh.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Saturday, April 27, 2013 - 04:31 am:   

Great! Then I'll just have to read it, Stevie! I scanned a lot of the details above—I want to know as little about it (well, the novel version) as possible.

Speaking of Brit writers—have you or anyone read any John Collier? I found an abridgment of his collection titled Fancies and Goodnights (1965). He's one of those writers I think of as classic mainstream, but apparently more often ventures into thriller, suspense, the psychological, the fantastic. I still have a vivid memory of a dark-fantastic Collier tale I've not read since junior-high (still haven't reread either; but it's in here, too), back when I discovered it in one of the many Alfred Hitchcock anthologies: "Thus I Refute Beelzy" (1940)—it's chilling final line is unforgettable. The psycho-fantastic is what "Man Overboard" (1960) was, the superb one I recently read in that fantasy anthology. Here, I decided to start by sampling two very short stories that have been included elsewhere in noteworthy thriller/suspense anthologies (like those edited by Ross McDonald, and Dashiell Hammett): "Wet Saturday" (1938) and "The Touch of Nutmeg Makes It" (1941). Wow... both, tiny masterpieces; magnificent. I'm reminded in these most of the writing styles, the bending of genres, and the manner/method psychological dimensions are explored in the stories of authors like Shirley Jackson, Truman Capote, Patricia Highsmith, Stanley Ellin... Tony, in particular, I think you'd dig on Mr. Collier (if you're not familiar with him already).

(Weird coinky-dink, my suddenly thinking of Tony [as I did!] reading these two... I just got some spam mail from him, looks like something hacked his account. Anyone else? Someone should tell him....)
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 86.24.62.55
Posted on Saturday, April 27, 2013 - 11:15 am:   

I'm very familiar with John Collier's stories, Craig, as he's one of those "name" authors who crops up in older horror anthos all the time. When you see him in the contents list you know you're guaranteed at least one quality tale. I've seen a few of his stories adapted in 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents' as well. Charles Beaumont is another cracking author of the same reliable type, now largely forgotten, alas.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 2.30.205.167
Posted on Saturday, April 27, 2013 - 12:05 pm:   

Not forgotten, I think. Definitely not by the likes of me. Beaumont was a key figure in the California Group that included Bradbury, Matheson and Nolan. Beaumont's tragic early death, from a form of dementia probably caused by the medication (now withdrawn) that he took for chronic headaches, robbed the field of a great talent and a great enthusiast. Stories like 'Black Country', 'Miss Gentilbelle' and 'The Howling Man' are glinting igneous rocks in the landscape of modern weird fiction.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 212.183.128.94
Posted on Saturday, April 27, 2013 - 03:53 pm:   

Don't know if you realise this, Joel, but Charles Beaumont is also famous for writing many of the best scripts for 'The Twilight Zone', alongside Rod Serling and Richard Matheson. "The Howling Man" was a particularly memorable horror episode of his.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 212.183.128.94
Posted on Saturday, April 27, 2013 - 04:28 pm:   

Nearly finished 'The Third Man' already. It's a breathless page turner and the most purely plot driven thriller of Greene's I have read since his proto-slasher revenge thriller, 'A Gun For Sale' (1936). As a writer Greene had it all.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Saturday, April 27, 2013 - 04:36 pm:   

Indeed, Stevie! I'm gobbling these stories up like Tic-Tacs! Think I discovered another bounty of riches; from evil delights like "De Mortuis" (1942) and "Back for Christmas" (1939); to hilariously malicious moralities like "The Chaser" (1940) and "Little Memento" (1938)... yup, I'm just eating these up. What a great find! Do keep this book (or any collection of Collier's) up on your radar, Stevie.

Not as familiar with Beaumont's writing (though of course, know the name), so there's another one I will have to look forward to, thanks both!
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