More Better Deals by Joe R. Lansdale / Z-View

More Better Deals by Joe R. Lansdale

Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: Mulholland Books

First sentence…

I folded the check and put it in my shirt pocket and tried not to grin.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Ed Edwards is a used car salesman and a big believer in buyer beware.  Ed’s not above rolling back an odometer, telling little lies or flirting with a customer if it means a sale.  Ed’s doing okay, but is okay ever enough?  Ed dreams of bigger things than being top salesman in a two man used car lot.

When Ed’s boss sends him to repossess a Cadillac, he meets Nancy.  At first Ed just wants the caddy, but Nancy is beautiful and flirty.  When Nancy invites Ed in for a drink, he doesn’t hesitate.  Sure, she’s married, but that’s on her, right?  Unhappily married as it turns out.  Even better.  One thing leads to another and before too long Ed and Nancy’s hot affair turns to thoughts of murder.

See if Nancy’s big, dumb brute of a husband wasn’t in the picture, she and Ed could make some real money with the drive-in and pet cemetery businesses that her husband owns.  You can guess the rest… except you can’t because Joe Lansdale is writing this tale!

Joe crafts More Better Deals with the dark humor and memorable characters that we’ve come to expect from this master storyteller.  I blazed through loving every page and unexpected twist.  If you’re a fan of noir and stories like The Postman Always Rings Twice and Double Indemnity then More Better Deals is for you.  (And don’t say I didn’t warn you about a scene so creepy it will stay with you for days!)

Rating:

Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry / Z-View

Rot & Ruin by Scott Frank

Hardcover: 458 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

First sentence…

Benny Imura couldn’t hold a job, so he took to killing.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Rot & Ruin is the first in a five book series geared to teens and young adults.  Set nearly a decade and a half after the zombie apocalypse, humanity is still struggling.  Most of the surviving humans live in small fortified strongholds fenced away from the “rot and ruin” of the zombie wastelands.

Benny Imura was just 18 months old the night the zombies rose.  Both of Benny’s parents were killed. Benny would have been as well if his teenage half-brother, Tom hadn’t saved him. For that Benny has never forgiven Tom.  Benny believes Tom is a coward for running away and not trying to save his parents.

Benny spends his days talking with friends (especially Nix, a girl that has a crush on him) and dreaming about life beyond the fences that protect them.  He looks up to the bounty hunters that venture into the rot and ruin to find food, supplies and lost souls.  Benny thinks that maybe one day he’ll become a bounty hunter.

When it is discovered that a group of bounty hunters have killed two of the townspeople and kidnapped Nix, Tom and Benny head out into the rot and ruin hoping to save her.

Maberry scores again!  I look forward to reading the other books in the series.  (PS – If I was a younger reader I know I would have scored Rot & Ruin even higher.)

Rating:

Midnight of the Soul / Z-View

Midnight of the Soul is a paperback that collects the five issue mini-series published by Image Comics.

Writer: Howard Chaykin
Artist: Howard Chaykin
Colorist: Jesus Aburtov
Letters by: Ken Bruzenak
Cover Artist: Howard Chaykin

*** Beware – spoilers may be found below ***

Joel Breakstone, a GI liberator of Buchenwald and brutally damaged goods, follows a path of vengeance that leads to redemption in a violent journey into his own heart of darkness―in a spiritual adventure from comics’ contemporary master of crime and punishment, HOWARD CHAYKIN.

Joel Breakstone is having a bad night.  Of course every day and night since coming back from the war five years ago has been rough.  Breakstone can’t shake the memory of an incident that nearly killed him.  He and his buddy had come upon a Nazi about to execute a POW.  A shootout occurred and when the smoke cleared his buddy, the POW and the Nazi were dead and Breakstone was severely wounded.  He lived, but came home with a drinking problem.

But back to Breakstone’s bad night – After a bad argument with his wife, she leaves for work. Breakstone while looking for some booze finds evidence that his wife has been working as a hooker.  Still half drunk, Breakstone grabs his gun and jumps on his motorcyle to find her.

His wife is with one of her best clients, a musician under contract to mobsters.  Suddenly a man busts in and kills the musician.  Breakstone’s wife barely escapes.

Breakstone is on the hunt for his wife.  The killer and the cops are also looking for her.  Before the night is over she will be found.  Who will get to her first?  And will it matter?

I’m a big fan of Howard Chaykin stories and art.  Often Chaykin doesn’t hold back on the adult situations in his tales and this is one of those. If that’s offensive, this yarn isn’t for you.

Midnight of the Soul has a lot going on besides the hunt for Breakstone’s wife.  There is also the mystery of why the musician was murdered.  Plus Breakstone’s foggy memory of the incident that left 3 people dead and nearly killed him.  All will be resolved before the night is over.

I like that the action takes place over the course of one night.  As Breakstone tracks down his wife his journey takes him across the city to strip bars, diners, and jazz clubs.  Along the way we meet a wide variety of characters some who are also looking for Breakstone’s wife.

Chaykin is at the top of his game with the art in Midnight of the Soul.  Jesus Aburtov’s colors enhance the story without drawing attention to his work in a “look at these hues” sort of way.  Often I think Chaykin’s art works best in black and white, but not this time!  The story reminds me of an old movie with a modern sensibility (or an “R” rating).  Chaykin’s heroes, or in this case, anithero, don’t always do the noble thing, but they do what is right for their character.


Rating:

Shaker by Scott Frank / Z-View

Shaker by Scott Frank

Hardcover: 335 pages
Publisher: Knopf

First sentence…

A swarm of nearly seven hundred small earthquakes – most in the 2.0 to 3.0 range – rattled the Mojave Desert between June and September.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Following a major earthquake, Ray Cooper is sent to LA to kill a man.  Cooper has the experience and a reputation for getting the job done efficiently without blowback.  Despite the chaos the quake caused, the hit goes well.  As Cooper walks back to his car he stumbles on to a mugging. Given the option, Cooper would prefer to keep walking, but the muggers see him and things quickly escalate. An old man is killed and Cooper is shot twice as the gangbangers run away.

It doesn’t take long for the police to show up at the hospital where Cooper is recovering.  A video surfaced showing Cooper standing up to the hoods as they kill the old man. Cooper is seen as a hero!  The press is running with this angle and the video has gone viral (which is the last thing a hit man would want).  The cops and the press have questions.  Cooper knows that it won’t be long before the police are able to figure out his alibi for being in the area doesn’t hold water.  Once that happens it’s an easy connection to the man he executed a few blocks away.  Despite his weakened condition Cooper has to go on the run.

Running won’t be easy.  The gangbangers that Cooper disrespected (for the world to see thanks to the viral video), want revenge.  The cops want Cooper for questioning.  And Cooper knows that someone far scarier than him has been sent to LA to “fix” the situation.

Scott Frank has created a crime novel with twists you won’t see coming by developing a believable cast of characters.  Many authors hint at backstory, but Frank has the ability to move the story forward while at the same time showing us past events that have shaped the characters.  I look forward to more novels from Scott Frank.

Rating:

“Killadelphia Volume 1: Sins of the Father” / Z-View

Killadelphia Volume 1: Sins of the Father is a paperback that collects issues 1 – 6 of an on-going series published by Image Comics. .

Writer: Rodney Barnes
Artist: Jason Shawn Alexander
Colorist: Luis NCT
Letters by: Marshall Dillon
Cover Artist: Jason Shawn Alexander & Luis NCT 

*** Beware – spoilers may be found below ***

Featuring the show-stopping talents of Spawn series artist JASON SHAWN ALEXANDER, and the writer behind such hit shows as Wu-Tang: An American Saga, Marvel’s Runaways, and Starz’s American Gods–RODNEY BARNES.

When a small town beat cop comes home to bury his murdered father-the revered Philadelphia detective James Sangster Sr.-he begins to unravel a mystery that leads him down a path of horrors and shakes his beliefs to their core.

The city that was once the symbol of liberty and freedom has fallen prey to corruption, poverty, unemployment, brutality…
…and vampires.

But the mystery goes even further when Jimmy’s investigation leads him to uncover the source of the outbreak is long-thought dead President of the United States John Adams–a man secretly biding his time as he builds an undead army to start a new and bloodier American revolution.

There’s a reason they coin a phrase, “you can’t go home.” Welcome to Killadelphia.

Collects KILLADELPHIA #1-6

Killadelphia is a book you should be reading if you like intelligently written and beautifully drawn horror comics.

Rodney Barnes’ idea of a modern day vampire uprising in Philadelphia led by a centuries old founding father is so audacious that we’re lucky Barnes took his story past the idea stage.   Killadelphia is a very cool, very creepy tale that paints a big picture universe introduced to us through believable characters who find themselves in an unbelievable situation.

Modern day vampires?  Yeah, right.  Read Killadelphia and you’re response will become: Modern day vampires?  Yeah!  Right!

Jason Shawn Alexander provides realistic art for Killadelphia which supports the story;  you believe what you’re seeing.  The characters look like real people (some of whom are vampires).  Alexander has drawn scenes that will creep you out and perhaps inspire nightmares… which is exactly what great horror fiction should do.  I hope that Barnes and Alexander stay together as long as Killadelphia tales are told.

Luis NCT’s colors provide nuance and emphasis that enhance each scene and his contribution to the success of Killadelphia shouldn’t be overlooked.

I thought that Killadelphia would be a good comic.  I underestimated it.  Killadelphia is an exceptional comic and one all horror fans should try.


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Criminal Macabre: The Big Bleed Out / Z-View

Criminal Macabre: The Big Bleed Out is a four-issue mini-series and paperback published by Dark Horse Comics. .

Writer: Steve Niles
Artist: Gyula Nemeth
Colorist: Gyula Nemeth
Letters by: Nate Piekos of Blambot
Cover Artist: Gyula Nemeth 

*** Beware – spoilers may be found below ***

I first became aware of Steve Niles nearly two decades ago.  Niles was the author of two novels (Savage Membrane and Guns, Drugs & Monsters) featuring Cal McDonald that I highly recommend.

McDonald is a tough as nails detective who deals with things that go bump in the night. After the two novels, McDonald appeared in a number of comic book mini-series written by Niles teaming with different artists.  And that brings us to Criminal Macabre: The Big Bleed Out

Supernatural detective Cal McDonald, found wandering the streets as a disheveled vagrant, is ripped from his self-imposed retirement to resume his monster-killing career.

But Cal is reluctant to return to the fray. What has the hard-bitten investigator so shaken? It’s a long story that begins with a beautiful woman who happens to be a vampire . . . and ends with a bang.

It’s great to have Cal McDonald back.  Who doesn’t love a cynical tough guy who sees the real monsters that walk among us?

The Big Bleed Out follows McDonald as he meets and begins to fall for a mysterious woman who happens to be a vampire.  The romance doesn’t seem to have much of a chance since McDonald is normally a vampire killer.  Meanwhile, Mo’Lock, McDonald’s quasi partner, has gone into the sewers of LA to see if he can discover who/what is down there killing people.

Being a Cal McDonald fan I was excited to see his return.  This was my first time seeing Nemeth’s art and I liked quite a bit of what he brought to the table.  It was interesting to see McDonald falling under the spell of a vampiress and unintentionally venturing into a nest of them.  The romance and its eventual outcome moved at a pretty quick pace with a few surprises along the way.  And let’s not forget that Mo’Lock has his hands full with a sewer monster!  Overall, this was a fun read.

Criminal Macabre: The Big Bleed Out is a nice addition to the Cal McDonald universe.


Rating:

“Jaws” Trivia!

Dan Grant, at Top 10 Films, in honor of the 45th anniversary of the release of the first summer blockbuster presents: 45 Things About “Jaws” You Might Not Know.  Before you click over, here are three of my favorite Jaws facts as well as my thoughts on each…

4. Richard Dreyfuss’ casting – Richard Dreyfuss originally turned down the role of Hooper because he thought making the movie would be a pain in the ass. After he saw himself on big screen in the Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz he thought he was so awful that his career would be over and he immediately called Steven Spielberg to ask if he could have the role.

(Funny the difference a day or perceived poor performance can make. – Craig)

9. Percy Rodriguez’s iconic trailer voice-over – Percy Rodriguez did the voice-over in the trailer for Jaws. When the producers first came to him, they wanted an upbeat, happy-sounding and almost adventurous voice-over for the trailer. It was Percy’s idea to have a darker and brooding and ominous sounding tone. It worked a treat.

He eventually got his way and many people credit lines in the trailer like “there is a creature that is alive today which has survived millions of years of evolution” and “it was as if God created the devil and gave him (dramatic pause) Jaws”, as major reasons why people flocked to the theatre to see it.

(Watching the “Jaws” trailer attached to this fact at Grant’s post it reminded me of how, in the pre-internet days, important a trailer was to the success of a film.  The “Jaws” trailer made you want to see the film.  Much credit needs to go to Percy Rodriguez.  He was right to push for a darker, more ominous tone! – Craig)

14. Dreyfuss’ surprise – Richard Dreyfuss was so disillusioned with the movie that after his time on set was done, he proceeded to trash it on several different talk shows in the United States. But when he saw the film opening day, after he left the theatre, he jumped into Roy Scheider’s arms and exclaimed “He did it! He did it!” Roy asked him who he meant and he said “Spielberg, Spielberg actually did it!”

(Sounds like Dreyfuss was going through a period of seeing the glass half-full.  He only agreed to star in “Jaws” because he thought he was so terrible in his previous film that he wouldn’t be offered more roles.  Then filming wraps on “Jaws” and Dreyfess downplays how good it is… until he sees it with an audience. – Craig)

Walter Mosley’s Easy Rawlins Returns in BLOOD GROVE!

What’s that you say? Walter Mosley has a new Easy Rawlins novel coming out in February!

Please, tell me more.  Well, it’s called Blood Grove.  And..

Ezekiel “Easy” Porterhouse Rawlins is an unlicensed private investigator turned hard-boiled detective always willing to do what it takes to get things done in the racially charged, dark underbelly of Los Angeles.

But when Easy is approached by a shell-shocked Vietnam War veteran- a young white man who claims to have gotten into a fight protecting a white woman from a black man – he knows he shouldn’t take the case.

Though he sees nothing but trouble in the brooding ex-soldier’s eyes, Easy, a vet himself, feels a kinship form between them. Easy embarks on an investigation that takes him from mountaintops to the desert, through South Central and into sex clubs and the homes of the fabulously wealthy, facing hippies, the mob, and old friends perhaps more dangerous than anyone else.

Set against the social and political upheaval of the late 1960s, BLOOD GROVE is ultimately a story about survival, not only of the body but also the soul.

Widely hailed as “incomparable” (Chicago Tribune) and “dazzling” (Tampa Bay Times), Walter Mosley proves that he’s at the top of his game in this bold return to the endlessly entertaining series that has kept fans on their toes for years.

Ok, I’m in for the hardcover. (Some folks prefer the Kindle.)  Either way, Walter Mosley’s Easy Rawlins novels never disappoint.

Rambo Franchise Trivia!

Sam Hutchinson at ScreenRant posted Rambo: 10 Things Fans Never Knew About The Franchise.  My guess is most readers here will know most of these facts.  Here are my three favorites with my thoughts.

The Only Rambo To Receive An Oscar Nomination.
(Rambo: First Blood Part II was nominated for Best Effects, Sound Effects Editing.  That’s right, Rambo is an Oscar-nominated film franchise.  – Craig)

Rambo Was Banned In Myanmar.
(Rambo was set in Burma / Myanmar and due to the spotlight the movie brought to the treatment of many in the country, the film was banned. Hopefully some reforms came about due in at least a small part to Rambo. – Craig)

Broken Nose.
(Sly accidentally broke Alf Humphrey’s nose during First Blood filming, which is why his character is seen wearing a bandaid after Rambo’s jailhouse escape. – Craig)

To get all the facts and details click over to Rambo: 10 Things Fans Never Knew About The Franchise.

“The Last Days of American Crime” Trailer is Here! (Plus the 17 Year Journey to Make It)

Below we have the trailer to The Last Days of American Crime.  If the title sounds familiar it could be because I’ve been talking about The Last Days of American Crime for almost 17 years.  Yep, 17 years.  I’ll explain after the trailer.

As a final response to terrorism and crime, the U.S. government plans to broadcast a signal making it impossible for anyone to knowingly commit unlawful acts. Graham Bricke (Édgar Ramírez), a career criminal who was never able to hit the big score, teams up with famous gangster progeny Kevin Cash (Michael Pitt), and black market hacker Shelby Dupree (Anna Brewster), to commit the heist of the century and the last crime in American history before the signal goes off. Based on the Radical Publishing graphic novel created by Rick Remender and Greg Tocchini, The Last Days of American Crime is directed by Olivier Megaton, written by Karl Gajdusek, produced by Jesse Berger, p.g.a., Jason Michael Berman, p.g.a., and Barry Levine, with Sharlto Copley also co-starring.

Watch The Last Days of American Crime on Netflix June 5

Okay.  Let me tell you about those 17 years…

Way back in November of 2003, I posted Meet Rick Remender.  Rick was a comic writer and artist I met through my buddy, John Beatty.  John was inking Rick’s pencils on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  Rick also had an idea for a comic mini-series he called The Last Days of American Crime.  I loved the art, title and idea for the story.

In 2007, I met Rick at HeroesCon.  Not only did I get hang with him for a bit, Rick also did a Stallone sketch for my collection.  Rick said that The Last Days of American Crime was still in the works. Rick had so many projects going (Fear Agent, Sea of Red, and Strange Girl just to name three) that I had started to think that he’d never get to it.


In March of 2009, I posted the art above and the news that  “The Last Days of American Crime” would premiere later that year in a three issue [48 pages each] mini-series with art by Greg Tocchini.  Yea!  The wait was nearly over.  And how about Greg Tocchini’s art!

In April 2009, we got a look at Tocchini’s The Last Days of American Crime preview cover made for Comic-Con.

In August 2009, CBR.com ran a 17 page preview of The Last Days of American Crime.

In September 2009, CBR.com gave us another preview.  The anticipation was building…

In November 2009, the news was Sam Worthington had signed on to produce and star in a big screen adaptation of Rick Remender’s The Last Days of American Crime.  Wow!  We’d probably see The Last Days of American Crime movie in a year or so, right?

In December 2009, we got another preview of The Last Days of American Crime mini-series.

In September 2010, I posted The Not So Last Days of American Crime. Rick had announced that he had ideas for more tales set in the same The Last Days of American Crime universe!

And now nearly 17 years after that first post and almost ten years after my final post about The Last Days of American Crime we have a trailer for the movie.  How long until someone starts calling Rick Remender and Greg Tocchini overnight sensations?

“First Blood” Prequel, Anyone? (Updated)

Paolo Cubadda created the very cool art above.  I saw it at Sylvester Stallone’s Official Sly Stallone Shop on Instagram.  Here’s what they said about the art…

Amazing fan art of what a FIRST BLOOD prequel look like called Baker Team. Who would love to see the origins of John Rambo?

I think a First Blood prequel could work under the right conditions.  It would be easier as a novel but I would want to see David Morrell return to his creation.  A movie would be tougher since Sly Stallone is so associated with the character.  One thing I’ve learned over the years though is never say never.

Thanks to SZoner, Bruno Leon for providing Bruno’s name!

Ink by Jonathan Maberry is Coming!

Jonathan Maberry has a new one coming out.  As you can see from the cover above it’s called Ink.

Tattoo-artist Patty Cakes has her dead daughter’s face tattooed on the back of her hand. Day by day it begins to fade, taking with it all of Patty’s memories of her daughter. All she’s left with the certain knowledge she has forgotten her lost child. The awareness of that loss is tearing her apart.

Monk Addison is a private investigator whose skin is covered with the tattooed faces of murder victims. He is a predator who hunts for killers, and the ghosts of all of those dead people haunt his life. Some of those faces have begun to fade, too, destroying the very souls of the dead.

All through the town of Pine Deep people are having their most precious memories stolen. The monster seems to target the lonely, the disenfranchised, the people who need memories to anchor them to this world.

Something is out there. Something cruel and evil is feeding on the memories, erasing them from the hearts and minds of people like Patty and Monk and others.

Ink is the story of a few lonely, damaged people hunting for a memory thief. When all you have are memories, there is no greater horror than forgetting.

Ink drops November 17, 2020 but is available for pre-order now!

First Blood: Differences Between the Book & Movie!

Phillip Etemesi at ScreenRant posted an article that should appeal to a lot of folks who check in here.  First Blood: 10 Differences Between The Movie & The Book takes a look at, well you read the title.  Here are three of my favorite differences and my comments on each…

Escape From Jail.
In the film, the deputy sheriff decides to beat him up… The officers keep on brutalizing him… one of them comes with a razor to shave hi(m), it triggers memories of his torture in a POW camp in Vietnam. He thus fights his way out of the station while still clothes… No one dies in the process.

In the book, Rambo is not abused. He is simply locked in a cell. When Teasle shows up to cut his hair, he begins to panic. And when the deputy comes with another straight razor, he loses his mind completely. He takes the razor and slices through the deputy’s abdomen before escaping while naked. He steals a motorcycle and manages to hide from the police for the night after a good samaritan offers him shelter.

(One of the reasons that First Blood was hard to get made as a movie is because Rambo in the book killed police officers and wasn’t as sympathetic or heroic as he ultimately became in the movie.   – Craig)

Guerilla Tactics
In the book…

Rambo in the novel doesn’t value the lives of law enforcement officers. He kills most of them together with their dogs before cornering Teasle and giving him a warning.
In the movie…
Rambo takes out the entire town’s police force by himself. Using guerilla tactics, he attacks one at a time until they are all wounded. It’s important to note that he only wounds the officers in the movie and doesn’t kill them.

(Again, the book made it harder for audiences to sympathize or empathize with Rambo.  Killing a dog in a movie is perhaps the ultimate downer.  – Craig)

Fleeing From The Cave
In Morell’s book,
Rambo keeps up with his murderous ways and goes on to kill plenty of the members of the state police who had been brought in after he decimated the local police. A couple of civilians and national guard members also ned up being casualties.
In the movie,
Rambo damages plenty of property in the town but doesn’t kill anyone.

(First Blood had been floating around Hollywood for years before Sly become attached.  No one prior was able to get a handle on the character. Under Sly, Rambo became more heroic, sympathetic and less of a killer… at least until Last Blood.   – Craig)

If you’ve read this far I encourage you to click over to get the full story!

“Stand by Me” Trivia!

Jessica Fisher at GeekTyrant posted Behind-the-Scenes Facts About the Classic Coming of Age Stephen King Adaptation STAND BY ME.  Here are three of my favorite facts and my comments on each…

As with most of Stephen King’s stories, this one originally contained connections to other books he has written. Ace Merrill later re-appeared in the book Needful Things (1993), although he does not appear in the film. The dog Chopper is compared to Cujo (1983). Characters are familiar with Shawshank Prison, from The Shawshank Redemption (1994). Teddy Duchamp was actually first mentioned in King’s first book, Carrie (1976), in which Carrie destroys a gas station he once worked at.

(I love when authors create different books/movies with overlapping characters.  Elmore Leonard did it well.  Jonathan Maberry does it regularly.  Tarantino has carried the idea into movies. – Craig)

Rob Reiner considers this the best film he has ever made. This is pretty big, considering he has directed some of my favorite movies, including The Princess Bride, When Harry Met Sally, This is Spinal Tap, and A Few Good Men. But he’s not the only one who is proud of the film. King, who has been a vocal critic of many of his adaptations, also praised the movie.

(High praise indeed.  I lean towards The Princess Bride as Reiner’s best, but a rewatching of Stand by Me may be in order to verify.  – Craig)

In the shot where Gordie and Vern are running towards the camera with the train right behind them, the train was actually at the far end of the trestle with the two actors on the opposite end. The crew used a 600mm long-focus lens that, when shot at the telephoto end, compressed the image so much that it made it look like the train was right behind them.

(And that is a peak behind the curtains! – Craig)

If you’ve enjoyed these facts, check out Behind-the-Scenes Facts About the Classic Coming of Age Stephen King Adaptation STAND BY ME.