Tuesday, October 27, 2009

"A Touch of Dead" by Charlaine Harris

This is being billed as "Sookie Stackhouse: the complete stories", and as I've read the entire series, I was excited to pick this up. Not for long, though. Turns out there are only five short stories in this small, short, and altogether overpriced book. Even worse, I realized when reading the introduction by Harris that I'd already read two of the five stories. Sigh.

"Fairy Dust" starts off the quintet. Sookie is contacted by Claudine, a fairy that often frequents Merlotte's Bar, to investigate the death of her sister, Claudette. When Sookie agrees, she learns that Claudine is a triplet; Claudette and Claude are the other siblings. Claude and Claudette worked at a strip club, and Claude and Claudine are convinced that someone at the club murdered Claudette. Sookie's job is to use her telepathic powers on the three employees the fairies have kidnapped and thus suss out the culprit. This story first appeared in Powers of Detection, and it felt very familiar. Probably read it there or in a reprint somewhere.

"Dracula Night" is one I do remember previously reading. It's "Trueblood" meets "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" and hottie vamp Eric is stuck playing Linus. It's a cute little story, even if it casts Eric in a most unflattering light. This originally appeared in the anthology Many Bloody Returns, which was a pretty good book, if memory serves me correctly.

"One Word Answer" is the first time we meet creepy lawyer Mr. Cataliades. He comes to Bon Temp to inform Sookie of her cousin Hadley's death (she had gone vamp after running away from home several years earlier). He also informs her that she has inherited her cousin's estate. Sookie has a lot of questions about how Hadley died, and queries Mr. Cataliades driver, another vampire named Waldo. In the end, Sookie solves the mystery and meets a very important person in the vampire world. First appeared in Bite.

"Lucky" was a good little story, one that I didn't remember reading before. Surprisingly enough, it deals with an insurance agent and the whole idea of balance. It seemed like a mystery at first, but I really liked the way Harris wrapped it up. First appeared in the collection Unusual Suspects, which I don't recall reading (which doesn't mean anything, as I real a lot!)

Finally, we have "Gift Wrap" which first appeared in a great anthology called Wolfsbane and Mistletoe. It's an OK story, but on reading it for a second time, I found myself thinking that Sookie was, well, rather slutty here. It just didn't ring true the second time around. Still, not a horrible story.

So, here's the thing - if you're collecting the Southern Vampire books, yes, I would probably recommend buying this. Try your best to find it on sale, though, because at $23.95, I really do feel that full retail value is too much to spend on such a small book. This really could have been done as a trade paperback, thus saving the buyer probably anywhere from $5-$10. Better yet, if you're not collecting the books, just borrow this from your local library. It won't take much more than two hours or so to read the whole thing!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Last week of October 2009

Ah, yes, 'tis the season. For the "holiday" books to start hitting the stores, that is. If you follow this blog even a tiny bit, you know that I do not like the whole concept of holiday books. I find them to be cheesy and overpriced, and often they do nothing to forward a series along. Guess this is why I'm not in publishing, huh? Anyway, there are a few good titles coming out the last week of this fall month, so let's get to them, shall we?

"Angel Time: The Songs of the Seraphim" by Anne Rice. Jesus has left the building, and now Rice is concentrating on angels. Still fiction, but hopefully better than her works about the life of Christ. Had a few patrons try to read those and said while it was obvious that she'd done a lot of historical background, the stories themselves were very dry and boring. Egad! Also read a review of this in either EW or People (sorry, just got both yesterday and can't remember which mag right now!); said it was a pretty good story even if it was a bit preachy. I think I'll wait and see what the patrons have to say.

"Ayn Rand and the World She Made" by Anne C. Heller. This might be an interesting bio to read, especially if you like Rand and her works. I'll admit I have great aspirations to read "Atlas Shrugged" - until I remember how BIG that book is! I did finally read "Anthem", which was not only pretty good but also a much more appealing (and manageable) size.

"Emeril Quick and Easy" by Emeril Lagasse. I used to love to watch this guy cook. Sadly, I find myself bored now when I come across his show. It seems to be the same old thing each time. And "quick and easy"? I highly doubt it.

"The Gathering Storm (Wheel of Time series #12)" by Robert Jordan. I guess if you're a hardcore fantasy reader, this is the series to read. I know it used to be very popular about 10 years ago or so when I was still working at the used book store. I've had a few people inquire about this and when it's coming out, but not nearly as many one would expect for a series that was still well-loved. Time will tell...

"Grave Secret" by Charlaine Harris. Oooooh, now this is one I've been waiting for! This will be the fourth entry in Harris's Harper Connelly series, and I'm anxious to read it. However, I will admit a bit of fear as well; the last Sookie Stackhouse book was not very good. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that Harris still has enough time to do justice to Harper and her world.

"Last Night in Twisted River" by John Irving. Back to the "literary" guys. Never read anything by him, never wanted to.

"Matchless: A Christmas Story" by Gregory Maguire. Maguire has hit the big time with his book "Wicked", especially after they turned it into a musical. What some may not know is that he's done several juvenile fiction pieces as well. This might be a holiday crossover for him - hard to say. The only problem I see with this is that the original tale of the little matchstick girl is not a happy holiday tale. And this year I just think people are going to want happy endings.

"Nigella Christmas" by Nigella Lawson. Love this woman! Have never made any of her recipes because, again, they are not easy cooking, not for me, anyway. But I think she's a brilliant person to watch - she obviously loves food (never trust a skinny chef!). I think the best part is listening to her descriptions of the food she's working with, truly poetic. But... this is a holiday book. Sigh.

"True Blue" by David Baldacci. Another patron favorite. Never read him, but I'm told he's good.

"You Better Not Cry: Stories for Christmas" by Augusten Burroughs. ARGH! Another "holiday" book! Told you they were starting to hit the shelves. I haven't read any of Burroughs other works, either, so I can't tell you if he's good or not. I do get the impression that he's a bit like David Sedaris - you either love him or you hate him.

Until next week (or the next review), keep on reading!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Week of October 19th

This will be fast - I've got too much to do and a snotty nose to boot. Sigh. Just not feelin' it this week, folks. Let's hope for a quick recovery!

"The Scarpetta Factor" by Patricia Cornwell. Looks like Cornwell is going the Patterson route with this series as all the titles now have the main character's name in the title. Just screams lazy to me. This series has been flagging lately according to the patrons, so I doubt this one will dazzle them.

"Eating the Dinosaur" by Chuck Kosterman. This is another collection of essays by Klosterman. I read his first fiction piece, "Downtown Owl", and enjoyed it. Haven't done his non-fiction though....

"Shades of Blue" by Karen Kingsbury. This woman in the James Patterson of Christian fiction. At some point, I totally expect to see another author's name included on her works, because she's putting them out at a fairly quick pace. Hmmm......

"Superfreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance" by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen Dubner. YES! The guys are back!! If you haven't read the original "Freakonomics", do yourself a huge favor and find a copy. Yes, it seems like it would be dry. No, it's not! Very fun and interesting way to look at things. Just saw the authors interviewed on Good Morning America today, and now I'm totally stoked!

"What the Dog Saw: and other Adventures" by Malcolm Gladwell. Another genius! Gladwell hit it big with "Blink", which I read, then went back and picked up "The Tipping Point". Loved both of them. Also read "Outliers" and was impressed with it. This is a collection of essays he's done for The New Yorker. Should be interesting.

All right, gotta run. Good reading to you this week, and keep your fingers crossed that my runny nose goes away soon!

Friday, October 16, 2009

"Johannes Cabal the Necromancer" by Jonathan L. Howard

"In this uproarious and clever debut, it's time to give the devil his due. Johannes Cabal, a brilliant scientist and notorious snob, is single-mindedly obsessed in heart and soul with raising the dead. Well, perhaps not soul...He hastily sold his years ago in order to learn the laws of necromancy. But now, tormented by a dark secret, he travels to the fiery pits of Hell to retrieve it. Satan, who is incredibly bored these days, proposes a little wager: Johannes has one year to persuade one hundred people to sign over their souls or he will be damned forever. To make the bet even more interesting, Satan throws in that diabolical engine of deceit, seduction, and corruption known as a "traveling circus" to aid in the evil bidding. What better place exists to rob poor sad saps of their souls than the traveling carnivals historically run by hucksters and legendary con men? With little time to lose, Johannes raises a motley crew from the dead and enlists his brother, Horst, a charismatic vampire (an unfortunate side effect of Johannes's early experiments with necromancy), to be the carnival's barker. On the road through the pastoral English countryside, this team of reprobates wields their black magic with masterful ease, resulting in mayhem at every turn. Johannes may have the moral conscience of anthrax, but are his tricks sinful enough to beat the Devil at his own game?"

Ever since I saw a short blurb about this book in a professional catalog, I've been dying to read it (no pun intended). One of my coworkers is a huge debut novel nut, and this sounded right up her alley, too. Between the two of us, we pressed for our library system to pick up this title, and they did - ONE COPY. Which is assigned to our branch, thank you very much! With good reason, too; after both of us devouring this wonderfully wicked work, we'll be recommending it to lots of our patrons.

I really loved the cross between a Faustian tale and the old Bradbury carnival of "Something Wicked This Way Comes" - it works. In fact, I'd read somewhere that the author got the idea for this after reading Bradbury's piece, wondering what sort of person would run such a carnival and what the back story would be. Johannes isn't really what you could call a nice guy, and you have to wonder if it's because he is soulless when we meet him. Maybe yes, maybe no, but he's decided that his "experiments" always go wrong precisely because he doesn't have that soul. Thus the wager with the Devil. And you know the Devil is a sneaky bastard!

The most interesting character is his brother, Horst. As the book jacket says, he's a very charismatic character, and yes, he just happens to be a vampire. He's also a living embodiment of Johannes's conscience, trying to remind him constantly that this is the Devil they're dealing with, and to be on the lookout for a double cross. He also knows the "dark secret" that fuels Johannes's desire to conquer Death, and tries at every turn to persuade him not to go down that road.

I was reminded a bit of authors such as Christopher Moore while reading this book, although I think Howard doesn't go for the actual laughs as often as Moore. While quite often funny, there's a deeper, much sadder underlying theme. I know - how often do you get that? Do yourself a favor and don't miss this carnival when it hits your town. Then tell all your friends about it, too!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Hitting the stores this week

Oh my gosh! I can't believe that the month of October is already almost half-way over! Sigh. Where does the time go? And why don't I ever have enough time to read all the books in my to-be-read pile? LOL!

Hmmm..... appears to be quite a few little gems hitting the stores this week, including of course, more editions of all things Twilight. I'm not going to list those here; if you're that big a fan, you already know about them!

"Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days" by Jeff Kinney. This is the fourth book in Kinney's hugely popular series. The book description tells me that this time around we read about Greg Heffley's summer vacation, which he's using to play yet more video games inside his house. Guess his mom is going to insist on some "family togetherness", which will certainly ruin Greg's plans. Why this is so big with the kids is beyond me - I read the first two books and I just don't get it. The stories are OK, the drawings are cute, but Greg is a first-class jerk, rude to his family, his supposed best friend, and just about every one else he comes into contact with. Whatever.

"And Another Thing..." by Eoin Colfer. Colfer takes over (with Douglas Adams' widow's blessing, thank you very much) the much beloved Hitchhiker's Guide series. Colfer is best known for his young adult work, primarily the Artemis Fowl books. I guess there was the usual kerfluffle when it was first announced that Colfer would be doing the sixth book, but once people got a chance to calm down (and again, once Adams' widow said she was OK with it), it looks like readers are warming to return of Arthur Dent. It's been so long since I've read any of the books, I doubt I'll pick up this one. Then again, you never know.

"Chronic City" by Jonathan Lethem. A "literary" sort of read. Enough said.

"Deep Kiss of Winter" by Kresley Cole. Holy crap! How did I miss that Cole had out a new book? Well, after popping into Amazon to find out more about it, I can see why. This is actually two novellas, one by Cole, the other by Gena Showalter. Yes, I'm a bit disappointed, but I'm sure Cole's story will be outstanding. And who knows? Maybe I'll like Showalter - she's pretty popular here at the library.

"Dracula: the Un-Dead" by Dacre Stoker. This is going to be one of those books. You know the kind - much-hyped, big ad campaign, perhaps some good reviews, and probably not a hit with the general public. Does anyone remember "The Historian"? I tried to wade my way through it, but gave up at the requisite 50 pages. And yes, you read the author's last name correctly; he's a direct descendant of Bram himself. I doubt I'll read this, as I'm honestly not a big fan of the original. I know - ME. Strange but true.

"Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters" by Chesley B. Sullenburger. I just scanned the review of this memoir in the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly; they gave it a C, stating that only the last 100 pages deal with the miraculous landing of the plane on the Hudson River. My response to that reviewer is to read the book title again. This is a memoir, folks, not a tale about that fateful day. I for one would be pleased to read about Sullenberger's life, the whole kit and kaboodle, as I think he's a rarity in today's world - a man of great integrity and work ethic.

"Nine Dragons" by Michael Connelly. Yet another entry in the ever-popular Harry Bosch series. Just saw the review in EW, though, and they were not kind. Doubt it will matter to those who love Harry!

"Pursuit of Honor" by Vince Flynn. Never read anything by Flynn, but he's well-liked by library patrons. Sort of writes in the legal/armed forces thriller category, if there is such a thing. LOL!

"The Trump Card: Playing to Win in Work and Life" by Ivanka Trump. Oh please! Like she'd be writing a book if her daddy was anyone other than The Donald.

"My Dead Body" by Charlie Huston. Huston is one of those awesome writers that not enough people know about. Noir mystery starring vamp detective Joe Pitt. I've heard this is supposed to be the last book in the series, which makes me sad. But I know Huston will be back with another great read soon.

Currently reading: "The Fire King" by Marjorie Liu

Monday, October 12, 2009

"The Undomestic Goddess" by Sophie Kinsella

"Workaholic attorney Samantha Sweeting has just done the unthinkable. She's made a mistake so huge, it'll wreck any chance of a partnership. Going into utter meltdown, she walks out of her London office, gets on a train, and ends up in the middle of nowhere. Asking for directions at a big, beautiful house, she's mistaken for an interviewee and finds herself being offered a job as housekeeper. Her employers have no idea they've hired a lawyer - and Samantha has no idea how to work the oven. She can't sew on a button, bake a potato, or get the #@ &# ironing board to open. How she takes a deep breath and begins to cope - and finds love - is a story as delicious as the bread she learns to bake. But will her old life ever catch up with her? And if it does...will she want it back?"

I've read a few of Kinsella's books, two of the Shopaholic series, and two of the stand-alones. I like her well enough, and had a weekend where I just needed some "light" reading - nothing supernatural, nothing too deep. Fluff, if you must call it that. Anyway, this book had been lingering in my TBR pile for a while, and seemed to be the perfect thing for such a mood.

It's a cute book. Believable? Not hardly! Samantha is a likable character, though, and I really felt for her. I thought some of the other characters could have used a bit more work, though, especially Trish and Eddie Geiger, the couple who hire her. They are what we'd term nouveau riche, having sold their garbage business a few years back. However, it's clear that they don't really know what to do with all that money, especially Trish. I found myself wanting her to start a business or do something to give herself the feeling of self-worth she had when she was just a working stiff. Also, Samantha's mother was a bit too flat, the stereotypical "strong business woman" who has "sacrificed" everything for her career and doesn't want to be embarasses by her children. Sigh.

But it was a story that I found myself relating to (no, I didn't lose a company millions of dollars!) Once upon a time, the Bookbabe was a cubicle rat, and worked in an office doing data entry and customer service. She thought it was a "real" job, and earned a pretty good paycheck. But she was miserable. In the end, she had begun working at a used book store part time, and she discovered her "real" job - working around books and the people who love to read them. She, too, had to overcome her worries about money and status, but in the end, it was all totally worth it. And I think that's why I liked Samantha's story so much - it really resonated with me. Sometimes you have to throw aside society's (and family's) expectations for your life and take control yourself. And you have to be brave enough to do what you want, trusting that the money and all that will work out for the best.

Got a spare weekend coming up? Need some inspiration if you're thinking about making that major life change? Pick up "The Undomestic Goddess", a good cuppa tea, and enjoy.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

"Guards of Haven" by Simon R. Green

This is the second omnibus collecting what would be books 4, 5 and 6 of the Hawk and Fisher series. Again, I really like Green and think he writes a good book, and this work is no different.

In "Wolf in the Fold", the team must root out the spy Fenris. However, doing so will be difficult, as Hawk and Fisher must go undercover as Quality (think upper-class). It involves quite a bit of fancy dress-up, not to mention a good deal of acting on their parts, as they head out to MacNeil Tower; there intel suggest that Fenris is holed up in the Tower. The Guards will be able to get in as distant relatives of the family; the MacNeil has recently died and his son Jamie is ascending to the position. Several other family members arrive, and soon there's all sorts of mayhem in the mansion, as it becomes apparent that Fenris is posing as a member of the family and there's an old family secret that has gotten loose, one that's starting to kill people in the Tower. Hawk and Fisher do what they do best - solve the mystery. A nice touch to this story is a small scene with Razor Eddie in a bar. Yes, that Razor Eddie of the Nightside fame, once again confirming my suspicions that Haven is London.

"Guard Against Dishonor" was an interesting read, as it marks the first time that Hawk and Fisher are split up. There's been a disastrous mission involving a drug lord, a new street drug, a pocket dimension, and the subsequent collapse of a tenement building, killing hundreds of innocent citizens. Hawk and Fisher must take the separate details while trying to lay low after the debacle. Of course, laying low isn't really in their vocabulary, not to mention there are people plotting against them, planning on them taking the fall for even bigger problems. It was a bit odd to read their separate adventures, but I also liked seeing them believe in each other, no matter what they were told by those around them. And, of course, they have to find the real culprits and clear their names.

Finally we have "The Bones of Haven", perhaps the best of the bunch. There's a lot going on in this short work (although not quite as short as normal, think this one did have a bit more than 200 pages or so). We have an extended cast of characters, including the SWAT team (Special Wizardry and Tactics team). There are several different but related events going on as well, and we get some different characters viewpoints, too. This is more several-streams-at-once style writing, and it works. All the action is building up to something horrible, something that will wipe Haven off the face of the map if not stopped. I found myself trying to read faster and faster, worried that this truly would be the end of Hawk and Fisher. My only complaint is that the ending felt, well, rather anti-climactic. It was too neatly wrapped up, almost unbelievably so, especially after that much nail-biting. Oh well, so Green had a slight misstep. Overall, still a great read.

I'm sure I haven't seen the last of Hawk and Fisher, but I don't think there are any other stories starring them right now. Green got busy with the Nightside and such; perhaps he'll return to Haven some day.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Paranormal Activity

Yes, it's a new movie, and yes, this blog is still about books, but I wanted to use it to illustrate the power of word of mouth. "Paranormal Activity" is a little film that's starting to get some big buzz. It was shot for almost nothing and has no big names. I guess Spielberg or someone heard about it and helped redo the ending, saying that was the only thing that needed some work. Anyway, I don't know if there wasn't enough money for a huge ad campaign or if they went this route to see what would happen, but there have been a few ads out there showing a test audience watching the film. You see a few people jump, some gasps, a scream, etc, while there are a few clips on the movie screen. Then the title comes up and says something along the lines of "demand it!" - meaning call your local movie house and tell them to get that sucker in there.

Well, whatever they're doing and however it started, it looks like it's working. Why? Because word of mouth is probably still one of the top five ways to market something. Proven fact! Especially for "small" things, like independent films, music, arts, etc, and yes, books. A good example in the book category would be "The Shack", a Christian fiction work that seemed to suddenly explode on the scene. In reality, there was a slow but steady buildup, and what we heard across the desk here at the library was that "someone" had recommended it to our patron, time and time again. Granted a lot of those people knew the "someone" from church, but still - it proves a point. Word of mouth works.

This brings me to my thought for today: If you find a book that you really like, one you just can't stop thinking about, one that you really believe in - GO TELL SOMEONE. Write a blog. Tell people in your local community, whether that's a church, a book club, a gym, whatever. Better yet, go to your local library or book store and ask if they have a "recommended" section, then ask if you can recommend this work (we have several patron-recommended titles on display here!) Just be sure to talk about the book and why you like it. In addition to telling people all about it, Google the author and see if you can let him/her know how much you liked it, too. Believe me when I tell you that author's need that feedback, especially if they're not a "big" name yet. Even I like to hear back on here that someone's read a post and liked it! LOL!

OK, you've all got your homework assignments. Now go out there and talk about books!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Out Today, 10/5/09

Hmmm.... looking over my list, there's not really a whole lot to look forward today. Oh well, not every week can be a banner week for books, huh?

"The Professional" by Robert B. Parker. This is book #38 - yeah, thirty-eight, in Parker's popular Spenser series. I have yet to read Parker, but my husband is a faithful follower of all his series. According to hubby dearest (and quite a lot of our library patrons), Parker writes a great book - easy to read, good characters, cool plots. You don't have to read them in order, but hubby says that it helps, as Spenser is written as a "real" person, aging, losing friends, gaining new ones, etc.

"Christmas List" by Richard Paul Evans. Oh goodie, let the holiday books begin! Look, if you follow this blog at all, you know I am not a fan of the "holiday read". There's usually not enough content in these things to merit the asking price of the book. Find it at a library near you if you really want to read it, but save your money for other, non-holiday, titles.

"Evidence" by Jonathan Kellerman. Yep, another series, this time Alex Delaware. Again, I haven't read anything by Kellerman but the guy is insanely popular with the library patrons. I have heard from several of said readers that you do need to read these things in order, so if you're not already following this series, go back and start at the beginning. Plus you might be able to get a better deal on this title by the time you get around to it!

"Half Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel" by Jeannette Walls. This one sounds very interesting, as I've never heard the "true-life novel" claim before. It's a fictionalized account of Walls' grandmother (or possibly her great-grandmother - it's early and my memory is fuzzy). Walls wrote "The Glass Castle", which has often been a book club selection, and has gained a good following. Have to keep an eye on sales of this one, see where it goes.

"New Moon: The Official Illustrated Movie Companion" by Mark Cotta Vaz. Yeah, not something I'd ordinarily bother mentioning, but I bet it's going to have some awesome pics of Taylor Lautner. Yummy! Probably get it in the library and won't be able to keep up with demand!

"A Touch of Dead: The Complete Stories)" by Charlaine Harris. This is supposed to be a complete collection of all the short stories that relate to Harris's Southern Vampire series. I'm sure most of them will be about Sookie and the vamps, but don't forget - there are other characters in the books. Maybe there's a little gem starring Jason? Or maybe an Eric scene that we know nothing about! Sad thing is I've probably read most of them already...

"Death's Mistress" by Karen Chance. This is the second book in Chance's Dorina Basarab series, a very nice complementary line to her Cassandra Palmer series. I wasn't too sure about it at first - always a crap shoot when you take a peripheral character and give them more page time. Luckily, I was very happy with the first book ("Midnight's Daughter") and I'm anxious to read this one.

I'm not going to worry about the non-fiction dropping today, mostly because none of it jumps out as being necessary, and also because I don't have much time today. Gotta run - lots to get done!

Friday, October 2, 2009

"Crimson Orgry" by Austin Williams

"Grindhouse director Sheldon Meyer has been cultivating an obsession. He has just one hellish week to shoot CRIMSON ORGY, seventy-six minutes of mayhem destined to become the world's most notorious cult movie... and just maybe the first true "snuff film" ever made. Struggling to cope with a reluctant starlet, a booze-ravaged leading man, a backwoods cop bent on revenge, a mutinous crew, a devastating hurricane, and his own inner demons, Meyer relentlessly pursues a vision of unrivaled box office horror. He gets what he's after, but at a price no one could imagine."

Yes, the title totally sounds like it should be erotica, but it's not. This was a pretty decent little book about an independent studio filming their first horror movie. Stupendous Pictures is basically director Sheldon Meyer and producer Gene Hoffman; their studio is a "grindhouse", known for making lots of films for very little money (grinding them out, so to speak). It was a very real phenomenon back in the 60's and most of the work was marketed as "nature films" to get around the censors. They were nudie pictures, pure and simple, and they made such studios famous (or infamous as the case may be) - and they made them a good bit of money for very little investment.

Along comes Herschell Gordon Lewis, one of the famous grindhouse directors, with a new movie called "Blood Feast". Yes, there was nudity - but there was also a lot of blood. It's considered by many to be one of the first "horror" films, and once it hit big, others jumped on the bandwagon. Such as our gentlemen at the fictitious Stupendous Pictures. They've hired a small cast and crew and hauled everyone to the remote Hillsboro Beach in Florida to film "Crimson Orgy". Hoffman is hoping to make big money, while it's not entirely clear what Meyer hopes to accomplish. It's obvious that the director is trying to exorcise some demons through this work, but no one is entirely certain why or how.

The cast consists of just a few players. Vance Cogburn, a bartender/actor/drunk, is playing "Frank Butler", the male lead. Opposite him is Barbara Cheston, a nude model, as "Kelly Dunhill", a reporter who will break the serial killer story wide open. Jerry Cooke is cast as the psycho killer "Ace Spade" and quickly begins demanding that everyone call him "Ace", claiming that he's using "the method" made famous by big-name actors. Julie Baylor, a Weeki Wachee Mermaid, has been cast as "Betty/victim #2"; Meyer wanted her because she can hold her breath for almost two minutes at a time, which means she'll be able to "play dead" for the camera and make it believable. There's the crew, Cliff the Grip, Juan and Ricky, who all have small parts to play in the events surrounding the movie-making.

Things don't get off to a good start, as Deputy Sonny Platt demands speaking lines in return for the use of his squad car for a scene. This means last minute re-writes for Meyer, and when it comes to film, the car isn't available. Meyer is livid, but Hoffman tells him they don't have much time and to forget about it. Barbara isn't sure what she's doing, as she's never acted before, just posed. Even stranger is that she doesn't have a full copy of the script; Meyer is giving her one scene at a time. When her co-star Vance learns of this, he becomes suspicious that all is not as it seems. Thrown in to this mix are a hurricane headed straight for Hillsboro Beach, a tragic accident that occurs away from the set, and Sherry, the barmaid at the Angler's Rest (and Sonny's girlfriend), and the tension mounts. Just what kind of movie is Meyer shooting? Can Hoffman keep his director in line? Will the hurricane wipe them out?

The book starts with a small section about the filming of "Crimson Orgy", just as if it were a real film. The big question is this: Is Meyer trying to film the first real "snuff film"? Or does it just seem that way? Some of the book works and some doesn't. I did think the author captured some of the feeling of a small movie production, especially one on a small budget. I really liked the way he worked in the real Herschell Gordon Lewis and his movie "Blood Feast"; I've read quite a bit about the grindhouses, and this all rings true in Williams' book. However, where I felt the author could use some work was in character development. There are a few key scenes where you start to get to know the characters a bit, most of them occurring between Meyer and Barbara. But for the danger that's obviously building up as you near the end of the piece, there's just not enough emotional involvement to really impact you when you get to the end.

Overall, not a bad first effort, and definitely one to pick up if you like those old grindhouse movies of the 60's.

"Swords of Haven" by Simon R. Green

"They're lovers. They're partners. They're cops. They're the battle-scarred crime busters of a never-ending urban war. Hawk rules the streets by battle-axe. Fisher cracks down on outlaws with sword and dagger. Their merciless beat is the sinister city misnamed Haven: a dark and violent town overrun with spell casters, demons, and thieves - a place where money will buy anything...except justice."

I've been reading Green for a while now, mostly his Nightside series starring John Taylor. One of the people responsible for our Collection & Development contacted me and asked if I knew anything about this series, and I said no, but go ahead and get put it in the system if you can since his other works go out well. "Swords of Haven" is a compilation of the first three Hawk and Fisher novels: "Hawk and Fisher", "Winner Take All", and "The God Killer".

As is typical of Green, the pieces aren't terribly long, all under 200 pages. The writing is straight-forward and pretty much what you'd expect from him - a world that sort of resembles ours (although I think this is supposed to be some time ago, maybe the Middle Ages?) populated by sorcerers and other beastly things. Hawk and Fisher are described as no-nonsense crime fighters and their reputations proceed them; no one is willing to go up against them, least of all the Guards themselves. They are the only two Guards on the force who can't be bought, which makes them the only honest Guards as well.

I won't waste time describing each novel here; if you've read Green, you'll like them. If you haven't read Green, this would be a good way to give him a try. What I will tell you is that I believe Haven is a predecessor of London. Why? Well, there are things mentioned in this book that are also in his Nightside series. For example, Hawk and Fisher are typically assigned to the Northside of Haven, which is the most corrupt part of the city. Northside? Nightside? You see where I'm going with this... and when I read about Hawk and Fisher having to report to the Street of Gods, I was pretty sure of the connection. Yes, that Street of Gods, the very same from the Nightside. I'm not entirely sure if Haven is supposed to be London in the Middle Ages but I think so. If not, it's definitely an alternate universe of London/the Nightside. It's nice to see Green connect his series in this manner; he's done the same with Secret Histories series, too.

Green is an excellent author, no matter who or where he's writing about. Definitely check this out, and soon.