Category: Books

“Whiskey Made Us Brave” by S.A. Cosby

S.A. Cosby is one of my favorite writers.  I’ve read three books by Cosby and each one is a winner:

Cosby recently posted a link to his short story, Whiskey Made Us Brave.  If you like crime fiction, give it a read.  It’s short, but like all great crime stories, not sweet.  I can’t wait to see what S.A. Cosby has for us next!

RIP: Sonny Barger

Sonny Barger, one of the founding members of the Hell’s Angels, died yesterday from cancer.  Sonny Barger’s notoriety as a Hell’s Angels leader (including being part of the Rolling Stones security at the Altamont concert where Marty Balin of Jefferson Airplane was knocked unconscious and audience member Meredith Hunter was stabbed to death) brought him into the public eye.  Mr. Barger appeared several documentaries about the Hell’s Angels and other motorcycle clubs, three feature films, but is probably known for his reoccurring role on Sons of Anarchy where he played Lenny ‘The Pimp’ Janowitz.  Sonny Barger also wrote or co-wrote six books.

I first became aware of Sonny Barger through his leadership of the Hell’s Angels and the wild stories and documentaries about him/them.  His addition to the cast of Sons of Anarchy added a level of authenticity to the show.  I’ve read a couple of his books.  He lived his life as he wanted.  His final message posted on his Facebook page was:

If you are reading this message, you’ll know that I’m gone. I’ve asked that this note be posted immediately after my passing. I’ve lived a long and good life filled with adventure. And I’ve had the privilege to be part of an amazing club. Although I’ve had a public persona for decades, i’ve mostly enjoyed special time with my club brothers, my family, and close friends.

Please know that I passed peacefully after a brief battle with cancer. But also know that in the end, I was surrounded by what really matters: My wife, Zorana, as well as my loved ones. Keep your head up high, stay loyal, remain free, and always value honor. – Sonny

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Sonny Barger’s family, friends and fans.

“The Untouchables” (1987) Starring Kevin Costner, Sean Connery & Robert De Niro / Z-View

The Untouchables (1987)

Director: Brian De Palma

Screenplay by:  David Mamet based on The Untouchables by Eliot Ness and Oscar Fraley

Starring:  Kevin Costner, Sean Connery, Robert De Niro, Charles Martin Smith, Andy Garcia, Billy Drago and Patricia Clarkson

Tagline:  What are you prepared to do?

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers

Elliott Ness (Costner) is a Federal Treasury agent sent to Chicago to take down Al Capone (De Niro) and his criminal enterprises.  Due to widespread corruption in the Chicago Police Department, Ness creates a team of “Untouchables” consisting of a Jim Malone (Connery) a street cop; George Stone (Garcia) a young police cadet and Oscar Wallace (Smith) a Treasury bookkeeper.  With their lives and families in danger, Ness and his Untouchables find themselves in Capone’s crosshairs as they move forward with their mission.

The Untouchables is arguably director Brian DePalma’s finest film.  It is the movie that made Kevin Costner and Andy Garcia stars.  Sean Connery won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Jim Malone.  The film was also nominated for 3 additional Oscars: Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design and Best Original Score.

I absolutely love The Untouchables.  Everything comes together beautifully – the screenplay, the director, the cast and the music mesh to create a magical movie experience.  David Mamet wrote the screenplay based on the book by (the real Elliott Ness) and Oscar Fraley.  While the film is a fictionalized account, it’s not a documentary, so let’s not pick that nit.  The film’s direction features DePalma at his peak.  There are so many memorable scenes – Ness and Malone meeting for the first time, Malone’s way of getting a Capone bookkeeper to talk, Ness’ confrontation with Capone on the staircase, Nitti and another thug at Malone’s apartment, Ness and the baby carriage, Stone saving the day and Ness and Nitti on the rooftop – to name several.

Connery is at his best and deserving of his Oscar.  Kevin Costner is perfect as the straight arrow cop who tests his limits when he discovers what he is willing to do to bring down Capone.  Andy Garcia is spot on as the cocky because he’s that good cop.  Charles Martin Smith plays what looks like a stereotypical bookkeeper until the action starts.  Billy Drago has a smaller but vitally important role as Frank Nitti, Capone’s number one hitman.

If you’ve never seen The Untouchables, you should rectify that as soon as possible.  If you have seen it, then you know I’m not exaggerating when I say The Untouchables is worthy of a 5 of 5 star rating.

SHOEDOG by George Pelecanos / Z-View

Shoedog by George Pelecanos

Trade Paperback : ‎ 240 pages
Publisher: ‎ Back Bay Books

First sentence…

The first thing Constantine noticed, as the car pulled over and slowed to a stop, was the bumblebee emblem on the grill.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Constantine left home at 17 and has been drifting around the world for almost as many years.  While hitchhiking, Constantine is picked up by an older man named Polk.  They make good traveling buddies and plan to head towards Florida, but first Polk asks Constantine to accompany him on a stop.  A man named Grimes owes Polk $20,000 and Polk intends to collect it.

Polk and Constantine meet Grimes in an office in Grimes’ mansion.  Grimes tells Polk that he can pay him after a score he has planned for the coming week.  There’s a spot for Polk if he wants in.  Then they’ll just need to find one more driver.  Polk suggests that they use Constantine, if after hearing the plan they want in.

Grimes brings everyone together. The crew consists of Gorman (something isn’t right about this guy), Grimes (has history with Polk and it may not be good), Valdez (who takes an instant dislike to Constantine), Jackson and Randolph (the one dude who seems most trustworthy).  The plan is to knock over two locations using three man teams.  Constantine is deciding if he wants in when Grimes’ young wife, Delia, brings everyone coffee.  Delia’s eyes meet Constantine and his decision is made. He’s in.  As the days go by leading up to the caper, Constantine and Delia grow closer despite the risk of what Grimes will do if he finds out.  And by closer, I mean “closer’.

After the robbery, Polk plans to collect his money and head south with Constantine.  Delia and Constantine have other ideas. They will use Constantine’s cut to make their escape.  None know that Grimes, Gorman and Valdez have plans of their own.

Pelecanos has another winner with Shoedog, a true crime noir.  It earned 4 of 5 stars.

Shoedog Hardcover
Shoedog Trade Paperback
Shoedog Kindle

RIP: Tim Sale

Tim Sale died yesterday at the age of 66.  No cause of death was given.

Tim Sale is best known for his collaborations with writer Jeph Loeb.  A few of the series that they created for DC include: Batman: The Long Halloween, Batman: Dark Victory, Superman for All Seasons and Catwoman: When in Rome.  For Marvel Comics, the duo created Daredevil: Yellow, Spider-Man: Blue, Hulk: Gray and Captain America: White.

Mr. Sale is also known for his work with Darwyn Cooke on Superman: Confidential, Grendel with Matt Wagner and Deathblow with Jim Lee.  Any comic that Tim Sale worked on was worth picking up because of Sale’s unique spin on characters.  Tim Sale won an Eisner Award in 1999 in the “Best Artist/Penciller/Inker” category.  Tim Sale also provided art for the television series Heroes.

I was fortunate to meet Tim Sale a few times at conventions over the years.  In 2011, Tim Sale did a wonderful sketch for me at MegaCon. Tim said that he wanted to do Rocky from the first movie.  He chose to draw Rocky the loan collector who worked for his friend Gazzo.  Tim Sale also added his turtles Cuff and Link. My buddy, John Higashi was responsible for making it happen.  Thanks to John Higashi, I also attended a dinner with Tim Sale and other artists.

Tim Sale was an amazing artist.  By all accounts he was a kind and gracious man.  The number of news organizations reporting his passing and remembrances from people around the world is testimony to his impact.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Tim Sale’s family, friends and fans.

DARK OF NIGHT by Jonathan Maberry & Rachael Lavin!

Jonathan Maberry is one of the best and most prolific writers working today.  His Joe Ledger series is my favorite.  Others prefer his Dead of Night/Fall of Night or Rot & Ruin series.  I’ve read them as well and wouldn’t argue against someone liking them better.  With his new novel, Dark of Night, Maberry does something he’s not done before: He collaborates with Rachael Lavin and combines characters from all three of his series!

Dark of Night: The dead rose. We fell. The survivors are trapped in a world of monsters who prey on the helpless. Some of them are zombies…but they are not the only predators who feed on pain and suffering. DARK OF NIGHT is a story of worlds in collision. Three heroes who have survived the apocalypse are in a deadly race to save a busload of children from ravenous zombies and ruthless human scavengers. This brand new novella brings together three of New York Times bestseller Jonathan Maberry’s award-winning novel series. Captain Joe Ledger (PATIENT ZERO and CODE ZERO), Officer Desdemona Fox (DEAD OF NIGHT and FALL OF NIGHT), and Rachael Elle (BITS & PIECES, a Rot & Ruin novel) are caught between an endless wave of the living dead and an army of corrupt men who want to enslave the last human survivors. Jonathan Maberry teams with debut novelist Rachael Lavin to tell a sweeping story of adventure, horror, and heroism. Flesh and Fire: In the midst of a midlife crisis, Todd is haunted by Chloe, the lover who died not long after their relationship ended. When Chloe escapes Hell in search of the peaceful rest that has eluded her, a demon named Samael is on her trail and she needs Todd’s help. While on the run Todd and Chloe face demons real and personal, soul-threatening danger, and their long-buried feelings for each other.

Dark of Night Paperback
Dark of Night Kindle

ROBERT B. PARKER’S IRONHORSE by Robert Knott / Z-View

Robert B. Parker’s Ironhorse by Robert Knott

Hardcover : ‎ 374 pages
Publisher: ‎ G.P. Putnam’s Sons

First sentence…

Virgil was sullen.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Territorial Marshall Virgil Cole and his Deputy, Everette Hitch are on a passenger train after delivering prisoners.  On board, in addition to Cole, Hitch and various passengers are the Governor of Texas, his wife, two daughters, a few bodyguards and $500,000.00 in cash!  When Bloody Bob Brandice and some cutthroats attempt steal the cash, Cole and Hitch disrupt their plans.

As the train barrels through the rainy night, Bloody Bob matches wits and blazing six guns with Cole and Hitch.  Things are looking bad for the thieves until they do something unexpected — they disconnect the train cars from the engine!  Cole, Hitch and passengers are on a runaway train as the cars with Bloody Bob, his crew and the Governor’s daughters get farther and farther away!

Robert Knott was an excellent choice to continue Robert B. Parker’s Cole & Hitch series.  Ironhorse is an easy read and starts off like a, uh, runaway train.  I’m a fan of the series and this book.  It rates 4 of 5 stars.

Robert B. Parker’s Ironhorse Hardcover

Robert B. Parker’s Ironhorse Kindle

Robert B. Parker’s Ironhorse Paperback

“The Wizard of Oz” (1925) / Z-View

The Wizard of Oz (1925)

Director: Larry Semon

Screenplay:  Larry Semon, L. Frank Baum Jr. based on The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

Starring:  Larry Semon, Dorothy Dwan, Frank Alexander, Charles Murray, Josef Swickerd, Oliver Hardy, Mary Carr and Spencer Bell.

Tagline: The Thrilling Comedy Cyclone! The Wonderful Land of Oz! The Den of Man Eating Lions! The Famous Scarecrow and Tin Man! The Startling Airplane Rescue! The 100 Foot Leap for Life! All combined in the greatest screen novelty ever made.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

The movie begins with a toymaker reading The Wizard of Oz to his granddaughter…

Dorothy (Dwan) is a just-turned 18 year old who was left on Auntie Em’s (Carr) doorstep as a baby.  In reality, Dorothy is the rightful heir to the throne in the land of Oz.  When a tornado deposits Dorothy, and three farmhands in Oz, the evil Prime Minister Kruel (Swickerd) realizes that the true ruler has returned.

Kruel sends his soldiers to do away with Dorothy and crew.  To escape, one of the farmhands disguises himself as a scarecrow, another a tin woodsman and later the third ends up in a lion suit.  Will Dorothy survive and be crowned queen?  Will Prime Minister Kruel and Lady Vishuss be deposed?  (Psst!  It’s a kid’s book, so what do you think?)

Larry Semon was a popular comedian of the day.  Semon wrote, produced and starred in this version of The Wizard of Oz.  The Scarecrow gets most film time and he’s played by, you guessed it, Larry Semon.  Semon had a love for big budgets and tons sight gags. The Wizard of Oz has both.  We get a lot of visual gags, and the ending even features Semon climbing and swinging between towers while being shot at with a canon, a leap to a rope ladder from a passing plane and more.

A young pre-Laurel & Hardy, Oliver Hardy appears in the film playing the farmhand who becomes the Tin Man.  Spencer Bell (an African-American actor) is billed a G. Howe Black and appears in a few scenes that even at that time were thought as demeaning as his billing.

The Wizard of Oz (1925) earns a 3 of 5 star rating.

RIGHTEOUS by Joe Ide / Z-View

Righteous by Joe Ide

Hardcover: ‎ 336 pages
Publisher: ‎Mulholland Books

First sentence…

Isaiah was seventeen years old when his older brother, Marcus, was killed in a hit-and-run..

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Isaiah Quintabe, who everyone calls IQ because of his superior intellect, is back.  Ten years have passed since IQ’s brother, Marcus, was killed.  Isaiah gets by taking on “cases the police can’t or won’t touch.”  They don’t pay much, but Isaiah doesn’t need much.

Out of the blue IQ gets a call from Sarita Van.  Sarita was Marcus’ girlfriend back in the day.  IQ and Sarita haven’t spoken in years.  Now she needs IQ’s help.  Sarita’s sister, Janine and her boyfriend Benny, are degenerate gamblers.  Not only are loan sharks closing in, but they’ve done something to get a Chinese crime cartel after them as well.  IQ agrees to go to Vegas to rescue Sarita’s sister and try to work out something with the Chinese cartel.

In IQ’s mind, he’ll save Sarita’s sister, come back the hero and maybe have a life with Sarita.  If only.

Lucky for IQ, his occasional partner (and former gang banger), Dodson agrees to accompany him.  Things are much worse than IQ could imagine.  Soon he finds himself at odds with a loan shark and his seven foot enforcer, the Chinese cartel and Seb, a crime lord who uses a cane made from a human femur and whose intellect rivals IQ’s.   Janine and Benny are on the run and it is up to IQ to find and save them.  He’ll be lucky if he can save himself.  Oh, and now he has information that his brother was targeted to be killed.  It wasn’t a simple hit-and-run!

Joe Ide has another winner.  Righteous rates 5 of 5 stars.

Righteous Hardcover
Righteous Trade Paperback
Righteous Kindle

Mike Flannigan’s “The Midnight Club” Teaser is Here!

Normally, The Midnight Club wouldn’t be high on my list, but Mike “Midnight Mass” Flannigan is behind this!

To those after.
To us now.
And to those beyond.
Seen or unseen.
Here but not here.

At a manor with a mysterious history, the 8 members of the Midnight Club meet each night at midnight to tell sinister stories – and to look for signs of the supernatural from the beyond. Based on the beloved Christopher Pike book series, and brought to life by the creators of The Haunting of Hill House.

RIP: Ken Kelly

Ken Kelly died yesterday at the age of 76.  No cause of death was reported.

After serving four years in the marines, Ken Kelly decided on a career in art.  He studied under his uncle, the legendary artist Frank Frazetta.  Ken Kelly’s first professional assignment was for Warren’s Vampirella magazine.  That assignment led to Mr. Kelly becoming one of Warren’s most popular and used artists.  Soon other magazine and book publishers were seeking out Ken Kelly to produce covers for them.  His art was especially suited to science fiction, horror and heroic fantasy.

Then in 1975, Mr.. Kelly was commissioned to create the cover for Kiss’ Destroyer album.  The popularity of the Destroyer cover opened up new opportunities.  Soon Ken Kelly’s art was in demand for more album covers, games, calendars, book & magazine covers and books solely dedicated to his art.

I’ve always enjoyed Ken Kelly’s artwork.  My favorites were his barbarian paintings. He made warriors that didn’t look like they’d just come out of the gym, but had instead spent time on the battlefield.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Ken Kelly’s family, friends and fans.