Monday, January 1, 2018

Book Review: Wilkie Collins A Life of Sensation by Andrew Lycett, Windmill Books, 2014, 522 pages.

Wilkie Collins is one of the most skillful and talented novelists of any time. He doesn't get his due because he is overshadowed by his immensely talented friend and colleague, Charles Dickens. And he is also seen in rather regional terms being a product of England about English society rather than a more universal scribe.

The Woman In White and The Moonstone are seminal works of sensation and mystery; works still read and, hopefully, taught somewhere today for their plot twists and rich characterization. But as this biography states in graphic detail, we discover these works of literary art are merely a reflection of the daily life of the author.

Wilkie Collins lived a quite different life than his readers would imagine and a life that was more than a simple life, it was double life; a life of scholarship and a life of sensation.

A Life of Sensation is the most thoroughly researched biography I have seen in some time. The book can bog down in short pieces because of all the information contained therein but on the whole it is rich in facts and full of utter and complete sensation.

Andrew Lycett presents a scholarly work which is largely entertaining and shocking to say the least. Fans of literature in general should read of this life so rich and they should relish a writer who, unbeknownst, to all his readership, who told us all about it.

Buy this book.

Wilkie Collins: A Life of Sensation

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Book Review: The Reporter Who Knew Too Much, Mark Shaw, Post Hill Press, 2016, 338 pages

The Reporter Who Knew Too Much: The Mysterious Death of What's My Line TV Star and Media Icon Dorothy Kilgallen

Dorothy Kilgallen was a powerhouse and she died too soon. Dorothy Kilgallen was an expert reporter, a pit-bull who was tough and smart. Dorothy Kilgallen was murdered and her research into the true story behind the Kennedy Assassination disappeared.

She did know too much.

Dorothy Kilgallen was once the Queen of all media. And I am not using this in the same vein that others do to puff themselves. She was on television, radio, had more than one column read nationwide. Her face was well known and 'A' celebrities at the time wanted to hang out with her.

Her pen and her word could mean purgatory for any talent. She was popular, loved and dead way too soon. Known as a panelist for "What's My Line?" she was one of the first to blend journalism/news with entertainment, all with the ease of a cloud.

But for all her business success amassed from the airwaves of television and radio, the pages of her books and syndicated columns, her personal life was tumultuous. Her long time marriage deteriorated as her radio partner and movie star husband's career wilted in the swill of alcoholism and one night stands while her torrid affair with singer Johnny Ray, among others, stiffened her resolve to right a wrong in the name of a dead President and collapsed Camelot.

She was on the FBI radar during her quest with columns about the flawed investigation into the assassination and the bungling work of The Warren Commission whose revelations were as green and slick as a grassy knoll.

And so our tale opens...

Author Mark Shaw, an attorney by trade, expertly prosecutes a scenario where the sudden death of Dorothy Kilgallen does not mirror that of an accident or suicide. This was a murder and the suspects lie with the parallel with the death of the young President.

Mafia? Government? Jilted husband?

There is more in the Kilgallen case that sheds light on the death of JFK than you can imagine.

For you conspiracy buffs, this a read for you. For you non-conspiracy buffs this is an eye opening ride.

I suggest you go here:

and Buy This Book.

In this age of hyper-politicization this is a must buy and must read.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Holidays Ignored, Holidays Depressed

For those of you who keep up with this blog I wish to thank you for your continued support. For those of you who check in periodically and binge, I thank you too.

Did you notice I skipped Halloween? I also skipped something special for Thanksgiving too. For that I am sorry because the THANK YOU should have been visible Thanksgiving Day.

Part of it was health issues but the rest is rooted in a deep depression of sadness, apathy and the hangover of mourning for a holiday lost. My Halloween, the Halloween of my heart, my youth and my history is all but lost.

Maybe because I am approaching my father's age and I am pissed about these damn kids on my lawn. Maybe because I don't understand change in an ever changing universe. Maybe I am tired of seeing horror icons selling cereal and immortalized in hokey masks sold with tee shirts.

And not maybe; I went to supplement my Halloween decor this year and found nothing but costumes for adults and friendly depictions of those entities that should be sending a chill up my spine.

Why? Why is this so? Why are zombies dancing? Why do I have to hear another bar of 'Monster Mash'? Why is Casper the Friendly Ghost the High Ruler of Halloween Town!?

The clerk told me in a matter of fact tone, "Scares the kids."

"Scares the freaking adults you mean." I just, deep, deep down in my soulless soul, refuse to accept this.

"But Halloween is about parties and fun. No one wants to be scared."

But Halloween just isn't the mysterious wonder it once was. The legend, the stories, the thrills...

Put aside Trick or Treating and the sick son of a bitches that are out there; put aside prospective home invaders that use a children's masks as a ploy; and the over politicization of costumes as cultural appropriation being the most ignorant...

Why do we so inclined to neuter our horror? Why do we find it necessary to laugh at these depictions? Safe spaces?

Horror is rooted in folklore; the story of our history as a people. Our nursery rhymes and bed time stories with The Sandman, the Werewolf, the Ghost, etc. are purveyors of our stories our morality tales teaching children lessons upon which they could build their character.

The monsters that followed onto the cinema, first as the immortal German silent films, brought those dream like horrors to life with imaginative tales, even more imaginative sets that both delighted and terrified their public but in the end taught values of solid morality of good versus evil.

The baton was then handed to Universal, who after a time screwed up but then came Hammer...

My point: What these icons remind us is that evil is ever present in the world and that evil can be defeated. Think about it in real life. This is an important notion we should keep in mind everyday rather than simply trivializing evil to the point of simply laughing at it while it festers and grows.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

And the Award Goes To....

Everyone I think. I mean isn't it chic these days to win an award? An award equates with competence right?

But doesn't everyone have at east one? Does that mean we are all competent and relevant and talented?

We are far from that.

I have won awards. I have never heard of a journalist or any writer out there out there who doesn't have one, or two or three or ten. Big S@&t.

And in other walks of life.....

Just consider all the Peace promoted and exercised by Yasser Arafat.

And what about the profile in courage that sums up the moral character of that Lion of the Senate, 2008 winner Edward M. (Blonde in the Pond) Kennedy.

And I can hear those wonderful Milli Vanilli tunes running in my head. In fact as I type this I am humming along (or is that humming triggering something else?), Oh thank you Shammys; I mean Grammy Awards.

As with elections the vast wasteland, both television and social media, are filled with award shows and mentions. It seems every few days someone wins a boat load of hardware. Such chosen winners are now winning 15, 20, 50, 100 awards at a time breaking all records upon records. And to that we attach legitimacy.

Kevin Spacey has two Oscars.

And us writers are just as pathetic with the on-line popularity contests run by every writing and reading site. And to that we attach legitimacy.

Once upon a time an actual musician who doesn't lip sync opened the American Music Awards. Once upon a time an man who actually revolutionized a field in the arts made a true statement as to the status of awards and that was in the 1980's.

Let me paraphrase Jerry Lee Lewis; 'Elvis Presley and I haven't won many awards, but we all know who the Kings of Rock n Roll are.'

I put my stock in a body of work and if I have to deal with an award for the moment. I put my stock on juried awards where names are not attached and the work itself is judged for merit because it can't be judged for anything else.

But even a body of work can be bastardized.

It is a fact that the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters went to Ray Bradbury in 2000 and Arthur Miller in 2001. But in 1999 Oprah Winfrey won the award and in 1988 an editor named Jason Epstein, yes that Jason Epstein took home the prize.

For you Horror writers and readers; you should aware of the Horror Writers Association, that pay for play guild that runs their own award. You should be aware as to the questions and intrigue surrounding the Stoker Awards.

Face it, most awards are not meritorious. Cary Grant never won an Oscar.

Most awards are simply window dressing to appease a political faction or to jab another political faction.

Moral of this story, when buying the house don't pay attention to the mantle pay attention to the construction.

The continuing moral: Stop with the simple linear thinking. Get to know who Arthur Miller is. I bet a lot of people have no clue who he was.

I recently asked a clerk at Barnes and Noble for a biography of Eugene O'Neill and I was met with a blank stare as the clerk then inquired from me 'Who is Eugene O'Neill?'

Read from the past to the present. Understand and study the base of your genre. Understand that many of our top men and woman of letters of today employ writers to write their award winning crap in committees and panels under the guise of teaching writing.

Pay attention to the body of someone's work not what someone said they wrote in 2015.

There are too many awards given to too many people and the only thing over saturation accomplishes is drowning the host.

Take a step back and take a deep breath. Winning awards is nice but gold freaking stars went out in kindergarten.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

The Death of the Bibliophile is Premature

As with vinyl records, print books are on the comeback. As with the obsession for fine vintages, old books and first editions have fueled the market making book collections as one of the top collectibles, or I should say 'investments' in recent years.

Used book stores are starting to pop up again and on-line auctions are thriving.

People have discovered through their rose colored glasses of technology that many e-books have been sanitized, and overly sanitized. These overly edited tomes were done so for political correctness so as not to offend or modern scholars have wished to tweak a plot because they obviously are such competent scribes and no better than the author what the work should say.

Many others have discovered that a purchase of an e-book through Barnes and Noble or Amazon constitutes a rental with the work disappearing from their library over time.

True, physical books can be pocketed or stolen from anyone's library. However, having a finite actual print edition does stave off the remaining e-book issues. And having the right people in one's life can stave off that pesky other issue.

No, holding an actual book in one's hands; the feel of the cover and the turn of the pages on the tips of the fingers is always mentioned as a huge turn on by readers young and old. It is the feel and smell of the leather. The cool and slick touch of the pages...No I don't need a robe and a potted plant. You get the idea.

Books are back in all styles, sizes, editions and thank God I can say that.

Hold your favorite one today.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Hypocrisy Of Horror: H. P. Lovecraft

Now is the time to be intellectually honest. Now is the time to ditch the linear lizard brain logic and take a brave stand.

So how many statues have you toppled today? The hurricanes are over so I assume these are back in play. So how many plaques have you savaged or defiled?

How many social media posts, of course under an assumed name because cowardice is an easy shield, have you memorialized and immortalized, repeating what your favorite professor or mentor, told you?

Where is your statue?

Where is your plaque?

Are you going to take a selfie in front of it?

Before you do we need to discuss something. The funny thing is the vast majority of the individuals involved in this uneducated, illiterate, knuckle dragging, mouth breathing bowel movement are simply dumb as posts.


It is selective and intellectually dishonest. This movement lacks all logic save for those who crave censorship and wish to control the thoughts of the mass in a manner practiced by Nazis, Communists and Fascists.

The H. P. Lovecraft for example. He 's the darling of the horror set and the awe inspiring writer of the average millennial. They idolize them. They create magazines and e-zines and anthologies emulating his brilliance. His books are collected. Long fake intellectual tomes are dedicated to his brilliance and how he is the foundation of horror literature.

But he was a racist. He was a consistent serial racist  It is a fact that he hated and that word is HATED, all people of color; all foreigners; anyone who wasn't a blue blood New England Yankee.

You will find ti in his letters. You will find it in his fiction.

So why aren't we burning his books? Why aren't we erasing him from history?

The World Fantasy Award was changed in 2016 over this issue. The brave cowards of that pop-fest changed the award and the award's name because of this. But in their sidestep they failed to decry him.

So has S. T. Joshi who excuses the prejudice as coming from a man who was the the product of his times.

Wow, how P C. How co-existing. But can't the same be said for Robert E. Lee? George Washington? Thomas Jefferson? Christopher Columbus?

Wow, how intellectually fraudulent. How fascist.

If there is a taint here it needs to be removed just as the other taints these loud mouth morons are screaming about.

So what is the test of how perfect someone has to be to survive history? Just what is the test? If we follow the logic these linear fools follow all of Lovecraft's work need to be burned. And for that matter what about horror?

Stephen King and Robert Wandrei and Robert Bloch were fans. What about their work? Why don't we just get rid of all horror writing to be sure the racial stain doesn't bleed through?

Be consistent. Think this out. How far does this slippery slope extend. THINK!!!

By erasing history and denying man's flaws and humanity involved in history is censorship and totalitarianism. It denies intellectual thought. It denies intellectual discussion. It denies who we were and we did to become who we are.

The mistakes of the past help us navigate the future for a free people with free thought and free will.

To deny this is to be butt stupid. To deny this shows a closed mindedness ripe for overlords.

The inconsistent truth here is that you believers of this idiocy are not consistent.

So take your smug selves and burn your books.

But touch mine I will exercise my rights via the Second Amendment.

Hear that?

Friday, August 18, 2017

Review: Every Book, Class, Video, Pamphlet About How to Write and why all of it is crap

So you want to be a writer. Noble enough I guess, although everyone it seems, including journalists are writing fiction these days. With the competition that thick, let me ask you; do you have something to say, do you need to purge or are you just wanting to be famous?

This is an important base line question and at the root of this.

Famous of course is the answer I hear most.

I want to be famous too. I want to live forever. I want to learn how to fly -- high. But unlike Irene Cara I need to write because I am under the gun to do so. I need to purge.

Keep this in mind.

The first rule of writing is be yourself and not someone else.

Be yourself and not a fan writing in the style of another. It shows. It comically shows especially to the least literate out there. Oh you may fool some of the people, but your representation for being so and so light will leave you hollow.

The second rule of writing is that the fame you crave may come later.....later while you are moldering in a padded box beneath the dirt.

Patience my deceased father stressed to me, particularly after he passed, is the reality and key. Promote yourself, yes, but understand people love praised and awarded shiny baubles that rust and history is littered with those popular manure drops. Read your history. Time is the best judge.

And that is the next rule: Read, read, read.

In order to to understand your craft you need to understand from whence you came. Reading the best pushes you to be better. Reading the best gives your chosen genre a context. This will give breadth to your rawness.

While you are reading DON'T read any book about how to write. Books about writing are generally written by people who have no bibliography other than writing books about writing. See where I am going?

If you have something to write ----WRITE. Do not waste your your time wrapping your brain and your creativity around failed writers' invocations and those insipid exercises about apples and bananas.

These are snacks not literary devices.

To that end let me preface this next step on the yellow brick I have belonged to writers groups. Early on when I was dumb and lacked confidence. But you will find most of these people are wannabes. They continue to work on the same project for years without ever sending it out to a publisher.

A romance writer knows nothing about horror. And frankly other horror writers who think they have channeled other crappy horror writers of their present day will only try to derail your good idea if and when they recognize it.

The rule then is writing is lonely. The story is coming from you not a committee of hacks who have never been eye to eye with anything other than their own selfish dreams.

And to that end when alone you have to write for yourself. Don't try to be popular. Everybody wants to be popular and why lose yourself in a crowd? You want to stand out.

Be thick skinned. You have to believe in what you are doing and your writing must express that. This can't be taught or manufactured; you either have it or not.

And while I have taught classes. I never really taught. I mined. I mined the souls in front of me to find that engine in each and every student to focus on the real reason we should all have to become writers: To create a long lasting art.

And it is all about art. It is all about immortality.

And it should be; out of YOUR intellect, YOUR heart and YOUR gut.

Your inspiration should be you.

Your writing should be for all time.

Shoot for that and you will never get writer's block again.