Thursday, September 29, 2011

Interview at Manga Maniac Cafe

Here's an interview I did at Manga Maniac Cafe, mostly talking about my upcoming "weird" western novel (January)--DUST OF THE DAMNED, about my studly "wolfer" Uriah Zane hunting werebeasts with the lovely Angel Coffin and the less lovely and somewhat annoying Jesse James, and sparking witches an' such.

Let me assure you that no drugs aside from PBR were abused during the writing of this novel...

Saturday, September 24, 2011

It Takes an Englishman (and Peckinpah)

I feel like an ambulance chaser.  I went to see the modern version of this brilliant movie today merely to see the gore.  Not the gore in the movie.  Gore in movies I became inured to after seeing THE EXORCIST when I was 12 and then had to get up early the next morning--January in Wahpeton, North Dakota, 42 below--to deliver papers all by myself in the bone-chillingly cold darkness with every adult in town, including my own parents, sleeping off hangovers incurred at the Elks Club the night before.  Believe me, I replayed the green barf and levitation scenes so many times in my head that by the time I was done plowing through hip-deep snowdrifts, my brain was as numb as my toes.

No, the gore I'm talking about here is the gore of another bad Hollywood remake.  This time a remake of one of my favorite Peckinpah movies.  Yep, they screw it up bad.  Really bad.  This one should have been titled THE DUKES OF HAZARD MEETS HOLLYWOOD 90210.

It's just so freakin' unimaginative and predictable.  Oh, crackers, of course!  Why didn't Peckinpah think of using the crackers so much closer to home as villains than those toothless, stout-swilling Brits!

The original is one of the few movies that really got under my skin in a nasty way, and stayed there.  It's one of those "taboo" type movies that grabs every male watching it by the balls, and squeezing hard by asking:  "What would you do, mate?"

This one doesn't ask any of those questions.  The rape scene, so powerful in the original movie because we know she likes it and is really wondering what life would have been like with the guy currently raping her and feeling a little disappointed that she hadn't married the idjit but also hating herself for, at the same time, having an orgasm...well, here it's just another rape scene.  We've seen 'em before a million times.  And all the power is drained out of this one by the quick-cutting between the rape and her weak-tit husband lugging a 30.06 around in the woods.  The rifle's almost bigger than he is, of course.  More the size of a certain appendage of the fella currently enjoying himself in his home...

I just hope no kitties or bambis were hurt in the making of this boring piece of crap.  Because not one deer deserved to die.  (Don't force me to join PETA!)  Now, the humans--I hope they suffered.  Especially James Woods.  I hope his indigestion after chewing every bit of scenery within sight stays with him a long, long time.

That'd make ole Sam smile.

Let me sum up my review of this moronic sack of burning dog doo by making this observation, which I feel fully qualified to make:

No true American redneck would have enough initiative to wreak this much havoc.

It takes an Englishman.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Pulp Writer

This is one of the most enjoyable books I've read this year--an autobiography by a writer who wrote for the pulp magazines of the 30's and 40's.  Mostly western pulps, but Paul S. Powers wrote a little bit of everything.

I have to admit that I have not yet read any of Powers's fiction--I have the recent collection of his short work, RIDING THE PULP TRAIL, on the way--but I found his autobiography a real gem.  It's written in a simple, rather charming style that seems very contemporary though it was written back in the 40's.  It's full of colorful anecdotes illustrating the tough row that Powers hoed on his way to becoming a published writer in that harrowing economic period of the last century.  After growing up in Kansas, he lived the hard life of the working writer, roaming the Southwest, as fiddle-footed as any Western hero.

Powers leaves a lot out of this memoir--his bouts with alcohol and depression, family feuds, failed marriages--but his granddaughter, Laurie Powers, fleshes all that out in her introduction, which, believe me, does not at all smack of hero-worship as you might expect from a granddaughter writing about her grandfather.  (And, truth be told, makes me a little glad I don't have any grandchildren myself!)  She is sometimes disarmingly frank about his problems.  ("Grandpa, from what I knew, was erratic, moody, and withdrawn...")  And to my mind she a little unfairly compares him to his more "gregarious" and "successful" brother, George, who became a psychiatrist, but I reckon that's my own toes feeling stepped on.  If he'd been gregarious, he'd likely have never been a writer...

Laurie also explains how she discovered her grandfather's work in the first place a long time after his death in 1971.  Both her introduction and Powers's memoir together reveal the complex life a very complicated, troubled, and amazing man.  It also depicts how he and his family both suffered for his craft.

Other writers like myself can probably empathize and sympathize better than anyone else.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Great, Overlooked Western--Jason Kilkenny's Gun

I do so much reading, sometimes wading, through so much fiction and nonfiction that I sometimes forget what truly great writing looks like.

When I read this over-the-top wonderful western novel, first published by Tower Books back in 1981, with a cover that did nothing to set it off from the rest of the pack so was promptly forgotten, I was reminded that words and sentences in the hands of a great or near-great writer can pack the wallop of a quick-jabbing boxer.  Good writing is hard to define, but you know it when you read it.  You sort of hold the book a little tighter, and all the sights and sounds of the world beyond the book grow dimmer and quieter, and you feel the throb of life a little deeper in your bones.  (Now, that's an interactive medium--screw the video games!)  And it makes me, at least, want to try to write half that well myself!

JASON KILKENNY'S GUN has a theme similar to that of SHANE--a young man's hero-worship of an older man good with his shooting irons.  Only, JASON KILKENNY'S GUN is better than SHANE.  It's rawer, meaner, more humane, more intense, and more emotional and violent than SHANE.  It grabs you by the throat and it makes you grit your teeth while you wait to see what happens between the boy Josh, his father and his uncle and the brutal bounty hunter, Rance Savage, who rides so unexpectedly into their lives and changes them all forever.

In SHANE, we pretty much know what's going to happen, don't we?  I mean, it's Disney.  In this book, we don't.  And we're damn worried.  JASON KILKENNY is a cross between George Stevens and Sam Peckinpah with a good dose of the existential grittiness of DEADWOOD tossed in.

Here's how well Kit Prate (who's a woman, I feel compelled to add) handles violence.  It's an example of the fine writing from an intense scene (from the "teaser" at the front of the original Tower publication:

Josh rose up from his chair.  He stood, transfixed, watching Savage.  The manhunter was talking, his voice soft, and as he talked, the other men at the bar began to back away.  And then there was only Savage; Savage and the cowhand.

The cowboy panicked.  He reached out suddenly with his right hand, sweeping the glass from the bar.  "You ain't takin' me, Savage.  Goddamn you!  You ain't takin' me!"  He backed up half a step, his left hand dropping to his holster.

The cowhand never completed the draw.  Savage reached out with his left hand, smashing the whiskey bottle against the bar.  Savage's massive right hand closed tight around the cowpuncher's gun arm.  Forcefully, he pulled the man to him, as if he were lifting a rag doll.

There was a scream.  Sudden, high-pitched, like an animal in great pain.  There was a growing circle of red on the cowboy's shirt; bright red, just above his belt buckle.

Here's how she handles sex between the young man, Josh, and a whore.  *(To warn the squeamish, this is vivid!)*

The gates opened.  He emptied himself, pouring his seed into the girl, onto the crumpled sheets.  Again and again, the length of his stubborn hardness tingling with the same torturously pleasant itch of a thousand miniature electrically charged fingers.  It was even better than before; more intense.

Satisfying.  He withdrew himself and rolled off the girl, welcoming the feel of the mattress at his back.  He was at once exhausted and completely exhilarated.

The girl sat up, searching among the blankets for her clothing.  Her hand disappeared beneath the coverlet, and she laughed, withdrawing the bottom half of the boy's longjohns.

They dressed in silence, suddenly shy at their nakedness, their backs to each other.  Josh felt the girl's fingers on his neck, and he leaned into her touch.  "Leona," she said, working the curl at his ear between her fingers.  "My name's Leona."  She was quiet again, stroking his neck.  "I want you to come again, boy."  She laughed then, muffling the sound with her closed hand as she realized the double meaning in her words.  It was no lie.  She did want him to come again.  To her.  In her.  "You hear me, boy?"

Damn, that's good.  Ain't it fun to read a good book?!

JASON KILKENNY'S GUN is, for my money, one of the four or five best westerns ever written, and Kit Prate, who lives in Wisconsin with her kids and grandkids and will admit to not being a spring chicken anymore, deserved to be more prolific and would have been if she hadn't had to work a more dependable and predictable job to feed her family.  Well, now she's retired from the BIA, and I hope she continues to give us more books like JASON KILKENNY.  You can find most of her stuff, including another great one LONG RIDE TO LIMBO, published by Western Trail Blazer, on Amazon.


Monday, September 5, 2011

Whoever Wrote This Longarm Oughta Be Hanged!

Or is it "whomever?"  Anyway, he needs to be hanged!  Or so his ex-wife has often said though she also maintains that hanging would be too good for him...whoever the poor devil is....

But you can get your hot-off-the-press copy today!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

C.L. Moore Takes it to the House!

Sorry about that, but it's football season, and while I don't care for the game the way it's played on both the pro and college levels anymore--it's an over-hyped business not a game!--I do tend to have the games on, and the lingo infiltrates my brain.  But this post is about the late, great C.L. Moore, whom I've been rereading lately.

Catherine L. Moore was probably the first woman to write over-the-top sword and sorcery stories, and she was a contemporary of Robert E. Howard's, publishing her own equally great pulp in Weird Tales back in the 30's and 40's.  I like Howard a lot, but I think I like Moore even better because, as written on the back cover of the Planet Stories edition of her Northwest Smith yarns: "Moore revealed a vast imagination, beautifully descriptive prose, and a throbbing sensuality rarely matched by her male counterparts."

That's not an exaggeration.  I read her most famous Northwest Smith tale again last night--"Shambleau"--and sat marveling at the nimble way she fashioned sentences, bringing scenes and emotions to dazzling life.  These are essentially westerns set on Mars and Venus and other planets as they were imagined back in the pulp days, but they're westerns with an otherwordly eroticism and mystical charm that no one ever did better than Catherine L. Moore.


Thursday, September 1, 2011


I and my alter ego, Frank Leslie, each have a book out around now. One is another Cuno Massey novel--the first one of which is being developed into a feature film by several different production companies--and the second is a tale about half-breed drifter, Yakima Henry, named with a nod to the legendary stuntman Yakima Canutt. I hope you enjoy!