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Monthly Archives: June 2014

The Colors of Hell (1990): Bits of Molten Glass

Michael Paine, The Colors of Hell (Charter, 1990)

A sinister figure comes crashing through a stained glass window, reaching for the reader, on the book's cover.

Stained Glass Bedsheets.
photo credit: Amazon

Long long ago, in the dark ages of 2002, I reviewed Michael Paine’s novel Owl Light. It’s a fantastic book that suffered from mismarketing; Owl Light is no more a horror novel than Allan Eckert’s The Scarlet Mansion is, but that’s how Charter tried to sell it. Paine had the same problem with The Colors of Hell, which has far more in common with the archaeological thrillers of Katherine Neville (The Eight) or Kate Mosse (Labyrinth) than it does with Stephen King or William Peter Blatty.

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Bits of Colored Glass (1967): Are Useful for Blinding Yourself

Donald Faulkner, Bits of Colored Glass (Onix Publishing, 1967)

photo credit: nogoodcause.blogspot.com

We can’t show it to you because the Internet fails us (I’ll see if I can find it when I get home and take a picture).

Bits of Colored Glass, Donald Faulkner’s fourth book of doggerel, is not my first brush with one of greater Cleveland’s most infamous purveyors of awful poesy; I read The Casket and the Rose back in 2005, and it was horrific. And yet, I had another Faulkner on my shelf I had picked up at the same time. And knowing that, I couldn’t help myself. I made my bed, etc.

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Pulverizing Portraits: Lynn Emanuel’s Poetry of Becoming (2010): Danish Steel

Camelia Elias, Pulverizing Portraits: Lynn Emanuel’s Poetry of Becoming (EyeCorner Press, 2010)

A painting of Elias' that looks like a priestess manipulating twin balls of aura energy adorns the front of the book.

The High Priestess.
photo credit: Amazon

I’ve always felt a kind of connection with Lynn Emanuel’s work; I discovered the magic of poetry during my high school years in Pittsburgh at the same time I was also discovering the magic of DIY culture thanks to hanging out with the hardcore kids. So the concept of “local” already meant something special to me, and I had some vague notion of the concept that smaller is better (I would go see a show at Civic Arena one night, and then head over to City Limits, the infamous skate club that held metal and punk shows, the next night). So when I stumbled upon a Pittsburgh poet (ironically, it wasn’t until I was in college in Virginia that I discovered Emanuel’s work) thanks to a chapbook published by a press small enough that when I special-ordered it, the owner of my college bookstore actually came out of her office and yelled at me, I figured I was onto something big. I was right. That was over a quarter-century ago, and I’ve been devouring Emanuel’s work ever since. Now, finally, someone has produced a full-length critical essay on Emanuel, the first extant (that I know of). How could I possibly resist?

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Ohio Off the Beaten Path (1985): But It Only Goes So Far

George Zimmermann, Ohio Off the Beaten Path (East Woods Press, 1985)

A lighthouse graces the cover of the book.

Not my edition. Mine is so old the cover does not exist on the web.
photo credit: ebay

Picking up a quarter-century-old travel guide is not a good idea if you’re actually going to be doing any of the travelling therein. (I have gathered from checking the Internet that more up-to-date versions of this book exist, so if you end up wanting to check it out, find one printed during a time when the restaurants Zimmerman is classing as “high-end” were charging more than ten bucks for an entree.) But for the armchair sightseer they can be a lot of fun, and for my money you can’t get any better than the sorts of Roadside America books that get you away from the usual tourist destinations and into the hinterlands. Enter George Zimmerman (no, not that George Zimmerman, at least not that I am aware of), whose Ohio Off the Beaten Path does exactly that.

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Blackmailer (1952): Fauxlio

George Axelrod, Blackmailer (Hard Case Crime, 1952)

A babe on a bed. What more do you need on a book cover?

Ah, the good old days. No, the GREAT old days.
photo credit: noirboiled.blogspot.com

Ah, the dime novel. You may have never read one—the dime novel was going out of style before the majority of people now walking the planet were born—but if you read modern novels, you owe a great deal of your reading experience to the dime novel. Grab yourself a few novels written before World War II—not necessarily rarefied tomes, but the popular novels of the day. Then, right on their heels, preferably the same day, grab a few novels written in, or since, 1960, and notice the change. Not anything specific as much as the overall tone and atmosphere. Today’s books are, for lack of a better word, punchier. They’re less languid, faster-paced. Their word choice has been boiled down (and let’s not dwell too long on the 1984-ish implications of that, shall we?). All of this you owe to the dime novel. It was one of those “just a fad” things that the major leagues turned up their noses at, leaving them to be printed by small upstart presses who used leftover newsprint (one of the sources of the term “pulp novel”) to produce almost unbearably cheap books…that sold by the millions and made those young upstarts very rich people indeed. The majors were right in that it was a fad, and dime novels, which were basically printed with an expiration date (you will never find one today still in readable condition that has not been in an airtight plastic bag for the past half-century), did indeed fade out over time—though that publishing model switch over in the seventies to what we now euphemistically term “adult books” (read: porn)—but the style in which those writers worked enchanted an entire generation of young writers, and those who were still too young to be writers yet. They all wanted to be Chandler, but they all wrote like Spillane.

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Missing Pieces (1995): Puzzternity

Finally…the catch-up begins…

Norma Fox Mazer, Missing Pieces (Avon, 1995)

Jessie leans up against a tree looking reflective on the book cover.

His bark is worse than his bite.
photo credit: ebay

The only reason I had any idea who Norma Fox Mazer was when I was going through a box of my wife’s books from her junior high and high school years was that way back when I was knee-high to a grasshopper, Mazer has co-written a teen thriller with husband Harry called The Solid Gold Kid. Looking back on it, the parts I remember about it were cheesy as hell (a romance subplot developing between two teens who have been abducted? Really? Even I wasn’t that horny when I was 15!), but at the time, that book was, if you’ll excuse the pun, solid gold. So when I found Missing Pieces in the stack she was planning on sending to Half-Price Books, I kept it out and gave it a go. I wasn’t as enthused about it as School Library Journal (“…brilliant and subtle…”), but it does what it sets out to do, and that counts for something.

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Bloody hell…

The saga of the dead video card at home continues, and is exacerbated by the last couple of weeks having piled stress on stress, to the point where I’ve kind of lost sight of my schedule. I’m going to try and figure out exactly how far I’m behind and get caught up Monday, assuming I don’t have another avalanche of work like I did this week.