Sunday, November 16, 2014

It's Only Death

Its Only DeathIts Only Death by Lee Thompson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When he was a teenager, Elmore James Jackson killed his father, a cop, in an attempted bank robbery and has been on the lam ever since. When his sister contacts him, saying their mother is dying of pancreatic cancer, James heads home to find a number of people want him dead...

I got this from the fine folks at DarkFuse via Netgalley.

This is one of those books that's hard to quantify. Is it a noir tale at redemption? Is it about family and loss? Does it emphasize that we all make our own choice and life is a circle? Or is it about a bunch of fuck-knuckles doing each other dirty?

Yes. I'd say it's all those things.

When James rolls into town, it sure seems like he's going to be rolling out in a pine box. Killing his father six years earlier threw his family life off the rails. His once angelic sister is a stripper. His father's old partner is gunning for him. His sister's douche bag boyfriend and his biker pals have it out for him. His only ally is the guy whose been pining over his sister since they were kids and even that's not on solid ground.

It's hard to root for a screw-up sociopath but Lee Thompson does a great job making me feel sympathy for James. When almost every character in the book is a gaping asshole, James is the least assholish, I guess. It would have been easy for Thompson to use the tale's setup to do the Jack Reacher-style tough guy rolls into town and becomes a gun-toting super hero on all the bad guys but it doesn't go down like that. It's Only Death is more or less a bleak tale about facing the music and getting what's coming to you.

That's not to say there isn't bloodshed. I'm pretty sure everyone is dead or dying by the end apart from one or two characters. There is gunplay, brutal fisticuffs, knives, and even an alligator. It wasn't a long book but I was pretty worn out by the end of it.

It's Only Death is a bleak dysfunctional noir tale that only someone with the last name Thompson could write. Four out of Five Stars.

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Friday, November 14, 2014

The Art of Growing a Beard

The Art of Growing a BeardThe Art of Growing a Beard by Marvin Grosswirth
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Art of Growing a Beard is a book about the history, selection process, and maintenance of beards from throughout history.

I got this from Netgalley.

This book was written in the 1970's and has been reissued. It is also a hilarious text on all aspects of bearded life and essential for the bearded or wannabe bearded gentleman.

Did you know we haven't had a bearded president in over a century? Or that it's perfectly acceptable to draw beards on photographs of oneself when selecting your beard? Or that the perfect accessories for a goatee are a string tie, mint julep, and a pillared mansion in some state of decrepitude?

Grosswirth also covers the impact growing a beard will have on your life, be it increased attention from the opposite sex or giving you an air of authority.

The Art of Growing a Beard does show it's age a bit. It was written in the 1970's and 70's slang and attitudes are prevalent, which makes it even more hilarious, in my opinion.

If you have a beard, know someone with a beard, or want to know someone with a beard, you will find this book both informative and hilarious. Four out of five stars.

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Macaque Attack!

Macaque Attack!Macaque Attack! by Gareth L. Powell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In the wake of the Gestalt's defeat, Ack-Ack Macaque is now the leader of an army of uplifted monkeys and wandering the multiverse. When cyborgs from Mars launch an asteroid at earth, which foul-mouth cigar chomping primate are they going to call?

I got this from Netgalley and it was damn sweet!

Here we are, the thrilling conclusion to the Macaque Trilogy. When the backup consciousnesses of Celeste and her minions wake up on Mars, they send Earth a present in the form of a giant asteroid. Sure enough, Ack-Ack is up to the challenge of going Armageddon on its ass, once he finds his way back from a different reality, that it.

I find it amazing how Gareth Powell took a fairly ridiculous premise, that of a cigar-chomping macaque fighting in WWII and turned it into a three book cyberpunk epic featuring parallel worlds and things of that nature. What could have been a hilarious novella about an ass-kicking simian morphed into a fantastic trilogy featuring such heady topics as quantum physics, nanotechnology, virtual reality, and what it means to be alive.

For a book featuring an ape with a mouth like a sailor, this bastard is a pretty serious tale. Entire timelines are destroyed, lots of shit blows up, and a certain woman has to say goodbye to her husband. The increasingly world-weary Ack-Ack finds he'll be facing the most brutal battle of them all: Fatherhood.

It's hard not to like a series book that prominently features a super-intelligent, gun-toting, chain smoking macaque. Not only that, the Macaque trilogy also features such winning ingredients as clones, cyborgs, parallel universes, nanomachinery, personality backups, homages to pulp sf, hive minds, and uplifted primates, most of which have foul mouths. Even though it was left open-ended, this fuck-knuckle was a very satisfying conclusion to the tale of Ack_Ack Macaque. Four out of five stars.

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Friday, October 17, 2014

Angel of the Abyss

Angel of the AbyssAngel of the Abyss by Ed Kurtz
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When a reel from a legendary lost film is discovered, Graham Woodard flies out to LA to help restore it. However, complications arise when the film goes missing and the owner gets herself murdered. But what does all that have to do with Woodard's ex-wife?

I got this from DarkFuse via Netgalley.

Angel of the Abyss is a short novel. "Modern Hollywood Noir" would be a handy label to slap on it. The timeline shifts from the past, when Gracie Baron was making The Angel of the Abyss, to the present, when Graham Woodard is hired to restore the legendary lost silent film.

First off, I have to admit that this book probably arrived at the wrong time for me. Consequently, it felt like I was reading it forever. There was nothing wrong with the book but it was definitely not a "drop everything" kind of read. It was more like a "I'll read this during the Cardinal game and maybe while I'm trying to fall asleep" kind of read.

Anyway, the shifting viewpoints keep the tension mounting. While I've never heard of Ed Kurtz prior to this, he knows how to use his noir conventions. He surprised me with quite a few of his twists and I should have seen the ending coming but he still got me. While the modern era plot thread was my favorite, I loved Ed's Hollywood noir dialogue during the Gracie chapters. There was a lot of action and both plot threads kept me interested when I made time to read.

Like I said earlier, I'm pretty sure this was a case of wrong book, wrong time for me. Since it's a DarkFuse release, I was expecting horror rather than noir. I still enjoyed it, though. Three out of five stars.



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Thursday, October 9, 2014

Facial

FacialFacial by Jeff Strand
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Once the hitman he hired to kill his wife's lover finishes the job, Greg kills the hitman in his office. Fortunately, his brother is suddenly in need of a fresh corpse after finding a dead lion in his basement. Then things get a little strange...

I got this from DarkFuse via Netgalley.

I'm a big fan of both Jeff Strand and DarkFuse so this one was a no-brainer when it showed up on Netgalley. It was neither my favorite Jeff Strand book nor my favorite DarkFuse publication but it was still entertaining.

So, what would you do if you went into your basement and found a lion carcass with a talking face beneath it? Yeah, we've all had that problem a few times but Jeff Strand is the first one to write about it. Strand is the Christoper Moore of horror. He can take things like serial-killing and make them hilarious. I kept chuckling when Greg and Carlton were discussing killing and such. Felicia was also pretty hilarious. There were a ton of funny one-liners in this little novella.

I'm a fan of bizarro fiction but this one was almost too weird for even me. The face was part of the floor and every time it ate another head, another face appeared on the floor. Interesting but I was expecting a lot more in the way of explanation when the tale wrapped. Still, it was a pretty entertaining read. Three out of five stars.

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Friday, October 3, 2014

Brisco

BRISCO: The Life and Times of National Collegiate and World Heavyweight Wrestling Champion JACK BRISCOBRISCO: The Life and Times of National Collegiate and World Heavyweight Wrestling Champion JACK BRISCO by Jack Brisco
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Brisco is the biography of professional wrestler Jack Brisco.

I was interested in this book for a long time but wasn't in a hurry to read it. I've had a mixed experience with Crowbar Press's wrestling books in the past. I almost quit reading it since it was almost 20% of the way through before Jack transitioned from amateur wrestling in his college days to the professional ranks.

However, I'm glad I stuck with it because it wasn't too bad. It was better written than most of Crowbar's offerings. Another strong selling point for me was that at the time it was written, Jack Brisco had been out of the wrestling business for something like 30 years and didn't have to worry about burning any bridges since he was doing fine financially.

Brisco covers Freddie Joe Brisco's rise from dirt poor roots in Oklahoma to NCAA wrestling national champion, and to his breaking into professional wrestling. Too much time was spent in his college days for my taste but I persevered.

Once Jack goes pro, things take off. He talks about being brought into the Funk's territory of Amarillo just to make Terry Funk and Dory Funk Jr. look good. His time with Eddie Graham in the Florida territory is given the most coverage, both in ring and out. He also mentions who screwed him out of pay, noteably Fritz Von Erich, The Sheik, Jim Barnett and even the head of the Florida territory, Eddie Graham.

Brisco seemed like he was still trying to protect the business a bit, like a lot of old timers, but still covers a lot of the backstage stuff, like how he got $25,000 dollars plus $8k a day working for a week in Japan and dropping the title to Giant Baba, only to win it back before the tour was over. He also mentions taping all that money, in cash, to his body to sneak it through customs.

His stories cover a lot of the wrestlers from his hay-day, like the Funks, Rick Steamboat, Jay Youngblood, Wahoo McDaniel, who broke Jack's nose with a headbutt. Jack's days as part owner of the Florida and Georgia territories and eventually selling out to Vince McMahon are pretty much how his career ends. I love his retirement story and don't want to spoil it.

My usual gripes about wrestling books, Crowbar's in particular, apply to this one as well. There was too much pre-wrestling and not enough road stories, although I liked the one about Terry Funk wrecking two cars in one night and the one about Don Muraco not being able to find his car in the airport parking lot because it had two feet of snow on it.

Three out of five stars, although your mileage may vary.


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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Go Home, Oaxaca. You're Drunk.

Go Home, Oaxaca. You're Drunk.Go Home, Oaxaca. You're Drunk. by Jason R. Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Remember you were in college and one of your friends was in a band that you were afraid sucked so you avoided seeing them at all cost? That's how it is when one of your Goodreads chums writes a book. However, my fears were unfounded. Not only is Jason Koivu a funny guy and gentle lover, he's actually a darn good writer.

Go Home, Oaxaca. You're Drunk is a travel journal about Jason and his wife living like entitled college kids in Oaxaca, Mexico, for a month and a half. Supposedly, they are there to work, but it seems like they're living the high life to me. Aside from an unfortunate bout of the grizzly shits, Jason makes it sound like an amazing place to visit.

Normally, I find travel books as uninteresting as listening to someone describing a dream they had but Jason Koivu, Esquire, has a way with words, as smooth as a Tequila shot first thing in the morning. I had no trouble staying engaged while he described Mexican plumbing, hunting for a laundromat, and sharing the travel tip of throwing away your clothes before returning home. I found myself getting sad along with him as the Koivu clan's time in Mexico ran out.

Four out of five stars. I'm deducting points since they didn't eat any roasted grasshoppers or attend a donkey show on the trip.



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