Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween Shoutout to Academy West Alternative Ed HS!

Happy Halloween to the troops at Academy West Alternative Ed High in Flint, MI. Like you folks who've grabbed copies of S. T. Joshi's American Supernatural Tales, these guys have been reading "The Hollow Man" in prep for Halloween. They're all in Janette Shurat's English classes -- that's Janette in the middle of the first row -- and we'll be hearing more from some of 'em in a forthcoming post.

In the meantime, here's wishing each and every one of you guys a great Halloween... if you're out tonight on the streets of Flint, just watch the skies for dark things with wings (and claws... and metal rings!).

Happy 10/31!

I figured I'd kick off the Halloween post-a-thon with an illustration for "10/31: Bloody Mary" done by fan (and friend) Kevin Nordstrom. If you're looking for some fiction to go along with your Halloween celebration, click on over to Nightmare Magazine and catch the piece -- you can read or listen, your choice... and enjoy!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Back from the Abyss: The Dell Movie Classic Mummy!

The first mummy story I ever encountered was in a comic book -- one from a stack my older brother had collected in the fifties and early sixties, which I inherited around the time Larry discovered girls, bought a used Ford Fairlane, and put comics and kid-stuff in the rear-view mirror. I always remembered the story, but the comic disappeared somewhere along the trail. Maybe in the same purge that cost me my early issues of Famous Monsters of Filmland, an episode which (in Partridge family lore) has taken on the epic proportions of the broken leg lamp scene in A Christmas Story.*

Anyway, I looked  high and low for another copy of that comic during my years as a teenage comic collector and dealer, but never found it. When I decided to write "The Mummy's Heart," I figured I'd take another crack at the search, and maybe grab some inspiration for the story in the bargain. After all, back in the day I didn't have Google at my disposal.

Different story today... about three clicks and I had it. Not only the reprint comic which (in much abused non-mint form) I'd once held in my own hands:

But also the original undead Egyptian specific edition, with a knockoff Universal mummy tale that echoed the Karloff/Chaney, Jr. flicks, but definitely went in its own direction, too:

Even better, a couple more clicks and I discovered a blog featuring the whole issue, all spiffed up and looking better than the edition I'd once held in my grubby little monster-lovin' mitts:

The Horrors of It All  Blogspot: Dell Movie Classic The Mummy (Part One)
The Horrors of It All Blogspot: Dell Movie Classic The Mummy (Part Two)

Check out the above if you want the definitive take on a mummy who can 1) sprint like Woody Strode, 2) climb buildings, and 3) get tackled like a guy running a misguided Statue of Liberty play. Seriously. Plus: this living dead Egyptian is possessed of a single eyeball that can (by turns) hypnotize and melt handcuffs. And: the square-jawed hero has an Egyptian Peter Lorre-style sidekick, always a plus. Lastly: I remember acting out the part of the story where the mummy tries to kidnap the heroine; I was the mummy, the preacher's daughter from next door was the girl. Needless to say, parental disapproval soon followed.

Anyway, rereading the Dell mummy tale all these years later wasn't exactly inspiring when it came to creating my own story, but it was fun. A little more clicking around and I discovered that Dell produced a slew of Movie Classic issues featuring the Universal Monsters crew. What I haven't found is a compilation that reprints all this stuff. Now that would be fun... and a great gift for Monsterkids everywhere. I'd definitely pony up the bucks to spend a few hours eyeballing this murderer's row:

Now, if only the good folks at Dell had gotten around to adapting Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein... or Werewolf of London... or The Old Dark House... or the Karloff & Lugosi versions of The Raven and The Black Cat!

*And, yep, we're talking issues #1 - 20 of that fabled Warren mag. Mom insisted that my Famous Monsters collection was a fire hazard. She used to tell me: "Just cut out the articles you like -- those things could burn down the whole house!" In other words, the mags were doomed. I was away at summer camp, learning to skin jack rabbits, when they became landfill. Yes. There was no recycling in those days, and summer camp was a different experience than it is today.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Mummy's Heart

A new novella, "The Mummy's Heart," is out in Paula Guran's Halloween: Magic, Mystery, and the Macabre. This one's camped out on the coffee table for the duration of the holiday season, as Ms. P has collected tales from some personal favorites (new and old): Stephen Graham Jones, the Tems, Jonathan Maberry, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, John Shirley, and Caitlin R. Kiernan. Not to mention two gents who (quite often) make me want to bust my pencils -- Laird Barron and Brian Hodge. And for bonus points: there's a WWII werewolf tale; first thing I've read by Carrie Vaughn (I'm late to the dance as usual). It was a good one. When it comes to sub-genres, WWII/spookerific mashups are a long-standing weakness of mine.

Anyway, I'll have more about "The Mummy's Heart" (and fictive mummies in general) in my next post, but for now I'll leave you with a taste of the tale itself:

The trail I'm talking about was cut by a mummy.

He did the job on Halloween night in 1963. He was mad as a hatter, and he came out of a pyramid that was (mostly) his own making. And no, he wasn't really a mummy. But that night, he was definitely living the part. Even in the autopsy photos, that shambler from the darkside was a sight to behold.

His name was Charlie Steiner and he was nearly twenty-three years old -- too big to be trick-or-treating. And Charlie was big... football-lineman big. If you know your old Universal Studios creepers, he was definitely more a product of the Lon Chaney, Jr. engine of destruction school of mummidom than the Boris Karloff wicked esthete branch. But either camp you put him in, he was a long way from the cut-rate dime-store variety when it came to living dead Egyptians.

Because this mummy wasn't playing a role.

He was embodying one.

Which is another way of saying: He was living a dream.

Charlie's bandages were ripped Egyptian cotton, dredged in Nile river-bottom he'd ordered from some Rosicrucian mail-order outfit. He was wound and bound and wrapped tight for the ages, and he wasn't wearing a Don Post mask he'd bought from the back pages of Famous Monsters of Filmland. No. Charlie had gone full-on Jack Pierce with the makeup. Furrows and wrinkles cut deep trenches across his face like windblown Saharan dunes, and the patch of mortician's wax that covered one eye was as smooth as a jackal's footprint... add it all up and drop it in your treat sack, and just the sight of Charlie would have made Boris Karloff shiver.

And you can round that off to the lowest common denominator and say that Charlie Steiner would have scared just about anyone. Sure, you'd know he was a guy in a costume if you got a look at him. But even on first glance, you might believe this kid was twenty-three going on four thousand.

Look a little closer, you'd see the important part: Charlie Steiner was twenty-three going on insane. There was no dodging that if you got close enough to spot the mad gleam in his eye -- the one he hadn't covered with mortician's wax. Or maybe if you spotted his right hand, the one dripping blood... the one he'd shorn of a couple fingers with a butcher's cleaver. And then there was his tongue, half of it cut out of his mouth with a switchblade, its purple root bubbling blood.

Charlie wrapped those things in a jackal's hide he'd bought from the back pages of a big-game hunting magazine with Ernest Hemingway on the cover. Who knew if that hide was real but Charlie believed in it, same way he believed in the little statue of the cat-headed goddess he added to the stash, along with a dozen withered red roses, his own fingers and tongue, and a Hallmark Valentine's Day card....

Monday, October 14, 2013

Another Nightmare

While I'm in Nightmare Magazine mode -- just a head's up about a story that ran earlier in the year. Check out "Blackbirds," available as a free read or a podcast... and enjoy!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Sunday Supplement 10/13/13

Lon Chaney said: "There's nothing funny about a clown in the moonlight." Apparently, there's nothing funny about a clown on a box of breakfast cereal, either. Forget Famous Monsters of Filmland, and Aurora monster models, and Vampira and Bob Wilkins. It's stuff like this that gave birth to a generation of Monsterkids. Really. A couple spoonfuls of Sugar Rice Krinkles and every kid around the table looked just like this:

Speaking of Ray Russell (and sardonic grins), test-drive this personal assessment of writerly motivation: "I would say... ego, guilt, boredom, a love of language, and the desire to entertain myself. I think it was William Saroyan who said he wrote so that he would have something good to read in his old age. That's not a bad reason."

Okay. I kind of doubt this is a kosher product, but I couldn't pass it up. "Oh, Chick!" I bought the coffee cup, too.

Macabre Republic visits the haunted Hudson Valley. Man, those are some serious Jacks!

For my $$$$$, Mondo Zombie Boogaloo is just another way of spelling "2013 Halloween Essential." Some great tracks here courtesy of Yep Roc Records; I'm already addicted to "Theme from Young Frankenstein" and "Theme from Halloween" carved up and surf-stitched and electrified into mean new monsters by Los Straitjackets. Plus "Tingler Blues" and "Demon Death" from Southern Culture on the Skids -- the latter is a mean little short story of a song with a Deadbolt vibe. Nevie Rose's faves are "Que Monstruos Son" ("Dad! It's 'Monster Mash'! In Spanish!" *) and "Goo Goo Muck." And, hey, you can never go wrong with any version of "Monster Surfing Time." That's just boss, hoss.

And last but (hopefully) not least, an American Frankenpost Flashback: Five Favorite Universal Horrors for Halloween. You don't have to wait for the big day, though... it never hurts to get an early start on your Halloween viewing.

* Viva hombre lobo... and Morticia, too!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

And Meanwhile, at the Bottom of the Bloody Box...

...I discovered a full set of the new Penguin Horror series. Thanks to Elda Rotor of Penguin for sending these. I look forward to dipping into each of 'em this October (Tia has long made a habit of reading Jackson's The Haunting every Halloween, so I'm sure she'll snatch that one).

It's especially gratifying to see Ray Russell's Haunted Castles included in this set. Russell -- the one-time executive fiction editor of Playboy who helped promote the work of such writers as Charles Beaumont and Richard Matheson -- is himself a bit of a forgotten man these days. Guillermo del Toro sums up Russell's work this way in his introduction: "Russell links postpulp literature and the Grand Guignol tradition with the modern sensibilities of America in the 1960s. Within him resides a neo-paganistic streak that is passed from Algernon Blackwood and Sax Rohmer to him and other writers of unusual proclivities, such as Bernard J. Hurwood. A fascinating combination of the liberal and the heretic... Russell is the literary equivalent of the Italian filmmaker Mario Bava, a supersaturated neo-Gothiscist who shines above the premises of his material based on style, conviction, and artistic flair."

Well said... and if you've never read "Sardonicus," you need to fix that up right now. You'll see just how right del Toro is.

Friday, October 11, 2013

A Box of Bloody Hearts...

...hit the doorstep today at Casa Partridge. I wasn't expecting it. Imagine my surprise when I knifed into a box from Penguin and encountered this marvelously gorific tableau:

Yep. There's a cover that doesn't whisper. Which is another way of saying that Penguin has done a fantastic job rebooting S. T. Joshi's American Supernatural Tales. Formerly part of the Penguin Classics imprint, now out from Penguin Horror with a new intro by Guillermo del Toro.

That means you've got great intro's times two in the new edition, as Joshi and del Toro are two of the brightest gents in the horror business. Plus tales by Poe, Hawthorne, Bierce, Lovecraft, Bloch, Bradbury, Jackson, King, etc. Nice to have made the cut here... though it does feel a little strange to be in a TOC populated by more dead writers than living.

Oh, well. Could be I'm just being morbid (who? me? really?)... but somehow it does stir visions of hitting an elevator button late one night at the World Horror Con and recognizing familiar faces as the doors slide open -- Eddie Poe with a raven perched on his shoulder, and Two-Gun Bob, and rail-thin HPL, and king-sized Karl Wagner red-eyed and red-bearded and ready to rumble one last time.

HPL says, "Room for one more, Norman."

I don't think so, guys... I'm taking the stairs.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Big Mac

Just finished a new short story. Can't say much about it right now, because the anthology is in stealth project mode pending the publisher's announcement. The good news is that the finished product should be out fairly quickly.

Apart from that, I'll just say that the story is called "Incarnadine." Imaginative port of embarkation? I had the idea that I'd write "Macbeth" in five days, masquerading as a small-town noir. Yep. In about 3,000 words, too. There's a bucketful of hubris for you.

Anyway, I gave up on the whole Shakespearean thing fairly quickly... at least in a literal sense.

But I did keep the blood.

There's plenty of that.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

10/31: Bloody Mary

Yeah. I know. It's been a long time.

But: I figured a great way to revive American Frankenstein would be with a new story of the Halloween variety by yours truly, now available online courtesy of John Joseph Adams and Nightmare Magazine. So grab yourself a mug of spiced cider and click on over for "10/31: Bloody Mary." You can read or listen. Either way, Bloody Mary's waiting just for you... along with a post-apocalyptic cyclops, a fistful of goblins, and a whole lot of gunpowder thrown in.

So enjoy. After all, it's October. The Dark Season has begun. Let's kick things into gear... and I'll be back soon.