Category: Books

Zombie Survival Guide

Most ZONErs have a love for the zombie genre. We dig all things Romero. We can’t wait for each new issue of The Walking Dead. We knew about Zack Snyder [he directed the Dawn of the Dead re-make] way before 300. If you fall into this category [emphasis on gory], then you may want to check out The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead by Max Brooks.

I say you may want to check it out because, unlike his highly recommended World War Z, the Zombie Survival Guide is just that… a survival guide. Where World War Z focused on well written stories of survival in a world of zombies, the Survival Guide is what it claims to be… a manual. There’s no doubt that it’s a cool idea. Brooks should be commended for creating a fun handbook for zombie fanatics. The guide is a well thought out and entertaining… manual.

I think that fans of the genre are going to really enjoy the ZSG, but I don’t want to mislead anyone into thinking that it’s a prequel to Brook’s highly rated World War Z or even a novel about zombies. It’s survival guide… a manual.

The Zombie Survival Guide rates a C+.

Animal Factory Quinella

Ron Decker was on top of the world. Barely old enough to be considered an adult, yet he had it all — money, cars, a woman, and a thriving drug business. Thriving that it until he was busted. Suddenly it was all gone. What didn’t go to his lawyers was taken by his girl and soon enough she was gone too.

Decker ends up in San Quentin where he’s got a shot at getting out in two years if he can stay out of trouble. Trouble is, he’s young and not built for prison. Now he’s surrounded by hardened cons who can’t be trusted. A race war is brewing and Decker realizes that he’s in way over his head. When a powerful older con offers his friendship, Decker isn’t sure how to react. One wrong move and his two year stint will become a death sentence.

Animal Factory was written by real-life ex-con Eddie Bunker who not only wrote several critically acclaimed books [No Beast So Fierce and Education of a Felon, to name two], but also had a career as an actor.[probably best known for his role as Mr. Blue in Reservoir Dogs].

Interestingly enough, the book was also made into a movie starring Edward Furlong, Willem Dafoe, Danny Trejo, Mickey Rourke and Eddie Bunker and directed by Steve Buscemi.

Animal Factory the book rates a B
Animal Factory the movie rates a C+

Pike Takes the Lead

Robert Crais is one of my favorite authors. I’ve read [and enjoyed] all of his novels… and I’m proud to say that I’ve been with his sigature characters Elvis Cole and Joe Pike since their first appearance in The Monkey’s Raincoat. In each previous novel, Cole was always center stage with Pike coming in to back-up his partner. Pike was the tough, no-nonsense hardened gunman. We knew little about him other than he had a strict code of honor, he was loyal and he never backed up.

With The Watchman, Crais turns the tables and gives Joe Pike center stage when he agrees to protect a young heiress who has become the target of a hit squad. Seems she was in the wrong place at the wrong time and now the US Government wants her as a witness and a terrorist wants her dead. Pike is more than up to the task of protecting her [especially with Elvis Cole backing him]. The book is fast paced and just as good as the previous novels featuring Cole and Pike. I just wonder if long time readers are going to like the way Crais has filled in some of the blanks about Pike’s life. As for me, I can’t wait for their next “case” — no matter who is at center stage.

Hundred-Dollar Baby

Robert B. Parker’s Hundred-Dollar Baby is his 34th Spenser novel. A new one comes out every year, and when you’ve been reading them for as long as I have, each new novel is like a visit from an old friend. That’s both good and bad. It’s good because the characters have a long history and are well-defined. It’s bad because after so many years the reader can anticipate how the story will unfold. With a long-running series like the Spenser novels, the journey becomes more important than the final destination. Well… normally that’s the case.

Hundred-Dollar Baby breaks that mold. Sure, the story begins like most Spenser novels when he accepts case for a young woman [who first appeared in two earlier books, Ceremony (1982) and Taming a Sea Horse (1986)]. The story moves along in a very predictable fashion until about 3/4 of the way through when it takes on an unexpected twist. Hundred-Dollar Baby concludes with one of the most memorable endings of any Spenser novel.

If you’ve never read Robert B. Parker’s Spenser, then I’d suggest that you start with The Goldwolf Manuscript [the first in the series]. If you used to read the Spenser novels, but drifted away, then Hundred-Dollar Baby would be a good place to rekindle your friendship.

Huston Continues His Streak

Charlie Huston just keeps hitting homeruns.

No, he’s not a baseball player. Huston’s a writer. And a very good one. I told you about how much I enjoyed Huston’s writing HERE. Now he’s back with his second Joe Pitt novel called No Dominion. It’s even better than Already Dead [and you know how much I liked it]!
So who is Joe Pitt? Let’s let Huston tell you in his own words:
Joe is a kind of a detective. Kind of. In the same way he’s kind of alive. Duck around the issue as long as you want, sooner or later it’s gonna bite you. See, Joe’s a vampire. Yeah, a blood sucker. But not in the usual way, least not in the way you’re thinking from the books and the movies. Joe’s got a sickness, same sickness a lot of other poor slobs got. And all of them are creeping around Manhattan, trying to stay out of the public eye, out of the sun. Got themselves organized into Clans, each one laying claim to some turf. Wanna stay alive, gotta be with a Clan. Except Joe. He doesn’t hold with that way of life. That way is no life at all as far as he’s concerned. Ha, life, that’s funny. Sort of.
At any rate, after you check out Joe Pitt, you might want to try Huston’s Hank Thompson trilogy. [You should start with Caught Stealing, then Six Bad Things, and finish with A Dangerous Man.] They’re as good as the Joe Pitt books. And it doesn’t get much better than that!

King Loves Huston

One of the cool things about running the ZONE is getting to be one of the first to tell you about cool movies, comics, tv shows, artists and authors.

I’ve been talking up Charlie Huston since his first novel, Caught Stealing. I selected him as my favorite author of 2006 HERE. Guess who else is a Charlie Huston fan. Stephen King!
Stephen King said this about Charlie Huston in a recent interview: “When you came in we were talking about Charlie Huston, this guy who has written a trilogy. One’s called Caught Stealing and one’s called Six Bad Things and the last one, which I’m reading now, is called The Dangerous Man. I feel the same way…” …you don’t want the series to end.

Just another example of ZONErs being ahead of the pack!

Already Dead Gets New Life

Remember when I first told you here about how much I enjoyed Charlie Huston’s writing? And then here when I wrote that Huston placed 2 books in my top five for 2006? [Actually it was 4 out of the top 7, if you want to get technical about it.]

Anyway, seems like I’m not the only one enjoying Huston’s work. Already Dead has been optioned for a potential movie franchise. 

Just another example of ZONErs being ahead of the crowd!

Drink and Draw Launch Party

Remember when I told you about the Drink and Draw Social Club?

Ok. Do you remember when I told you about their cool art book [The Drink and Draw Social Club Vol. 1]?
Well, you won’t want to forget this… especially if you’re able to attend. [And if you do make it, be sure and tell Reverand Dave that the I sent ya!] Anyway, the Drink and Draw Social Club is having a launch party for their new book on February 10th from 6pm until closing at the Meltdown.Drink and Draw Social Club founders Dave Johnson, Dan Panosian and Jeff Johnson will be joined by LeSean Thomas, Josh Middleton, Felipe Smith, Jim Mahfood, Tragnark, Michael Avon Oeming, Kat Von D and many others.

If you can’t attend, you can still get a copy of The Drink and Draw Social Club Vol. 1 by clicking on the link. And if you do go, be sure and get some photos!

Drink and Draw

Artists, for the most part, live solitary lives. They usually work alone, spending long hours at the drawing board. In an effort to combat this isolation, Dave Johnson, Jeff Johnson and Dan Panosian formed the Drink & Draw Social Club. Once a week these talented artists would get together to eat, drink, draw and socialize. The idea was such a great one that more and more artists began to join in.
Soon talents like Andy MacDonald, Josh Middleton, Jim Mahfood, Lesean Thomas, Kat Von D and others began to swing by for some drawin’ and jawin’.The idea was such a natural that similar groups began to spring up around the country. Heck, even “Big” John Beatty started his “Sketch Society” last year wrapped around the same concept.Can you imagine how cool it would be to hang out in a relaxed atmosphere with these talented artists as they drew stuff that THEY wanted to see? Well, you might not be able to hang out with these talented cats, but you can see some of the cool art that their Drink and Draw sessions produced! The Drink and Draw Social Club Volume 1 is now available. Featuring over 100 pages chock full of art,! My order is in!

300: The Art of the Film / Z-View

I received my Art of 300 book today and it’s a beaut!With 300: The Art of the Film you get to go behind the scenes and see how director Zack Snyder (Dawn of the Dead) translates Frank Miller’s award-winning graphic novel to the big screen. The book includes more than 100 pages of production photos, concept art, and much, much more. What makes the deal even sweeter is that if you order using the link provided you can save over 33%!Now if the movie’s release date would only get here!

300: The Art of the Film rates an “A”

Books – Best of 2006

Last year I read a number of exceptionally well-written books. Of course there were old favorites such as Andrew Vachss, Barry Eisler, Robert Crais, David Morrell, Stephen Hunter and others. Surprisingly, the list this year is dominated by authors that I read for the first time. And when I say dominated I mean it! Literally all of the authors in this year’s top five made it on my first exposure to their work.

5. Already Dead by Charlie Huston. Modern day vampire clans are at war and Joe Pitt has a missing girl to find. Huston’s next Joe Pitt novel, No Dominion, is available now.

4. Persuader by Lee Child. I’m coming to this series late in the game, but that doesn’t make me like it any less. Child has a winner with his Jack Reacher novels. In this outing, Reacher is working undercover with the FBI to catch an international gun-runner.

3. The Road by Cormac McCarthy. A father and young son journey south through a bleak post-apocalyptic world. Food is scarce and only what they can scavenge. They must make the journey to escape the brutal winter that is almost upon them. If they don’t starve odds are one of the roaming bands of cannibals will find them. Still they press on.

2. World War Z by Max Brooks. A haunting book that Chad Hunt also recommends!

1. Stealing Home / Six Bad Things / A Dangerous Man by Charlie Huston. Yeah, he’s the same Charlie Huston that wrote Already Dead. In this trilogy we meet Hank Thompson. When we first meet Hank he’s ten years out of high school and working as a bartender in New York City. Had it not been for a badly broken leg, he would have been a big league baseball player. Now he’s the nice guy who drinks too much and lacks real ambition. That is until the night two strangers yank him over the bar and beat him nearly to death. When he gets out of the hospital he gets more visitors and another beating. Soon he’s on the run from crooked cops, mobsters and hit men. If he lives maybe he’ll get a piece of the millions of dollars that they believe he has. Six Bad Things and A Dangerous Man complete Hank’s story. I loved every page and wish that it didn’t have to end.

World War Z

Over at his blog, my buddy Chad, was talking up what an awesome book War World Z is.

And it is.

I read it a few months ago and regularly think about how cool it was. Chad had the great idea to get the audio version of the book. After seeing how much Chad enjoyed listening to it [and this is AFTER reading it], I may have to do the same. [It would be to fun listen to on a long road trip at night!]

Well, my post can’t just be about how cool Chad’s post was, can it? I guess it could, but I always like to bring something to the table. So HERE is a link to the official World War Z site. It has a lot of fun things to check out. For instance, I had a 34% chance of surviving the zombie war. Ok, maybe THAT wasn’t the best example I could have used for a fun thing… but you get the idea.

Ok… you guys check out the World War Z site and I’ll get to work on scooping Chad‘s next post.

Drive… Wheelman

There’s not much better than a good crime novel… unless it’s two good crime novels. Today I’m going to recommend two excellent ones which interestingly enough both feature a getaway driver as their main character!

Drive written by James Sallis opens with Driver [the main character] wounded and slouched against a cheap hotel room wall. Three dead bodies lay around him. From there the story takes us back showing us glimpses of how a violent childhood led to his current double-life where his talents behind the wheel have brought him to a potentially bloody end. Before his betrayal on a heist doomed from the start, Driver simply drove. He didn’t even carry weapons. Now, wounded and with a price on head, things are about to change…

The Wheelman by Duane Swierczynski opens in the middle of a bank robbery which has gone south. Still, with a little bit of luck Lennon [the driver] and the two robbers get away… briefly. What follows is a fast paced, violent, and at times humorous story of what happens when crooked cops, the Italian mob, the Russian mob, and other quirky characters take an interest in getting their hands on Lennon and the money. Swierczynski takes the story [which moves at a breakneck pace] and fills it with double-crosses, surprises and great prose.